Scotland is a stunner of a country to explore! It’s one of those places that you can visit and have totally different experiences, no matter what type of travel you love. This, on top of the fact that there’s a heap of the best places in Scotland that are dotted all across the country make it a totally amazing spot to explore.
Now, I might have a pretty big soft spot for Scotland, especially after living there for six years. And, although I can’t say I ever tried a fried Mars Bar, I certainly did lots of travelling. This is exactly why I wanted to share some of the best places in Scotland you should think of visiting on your next trip.
Whether it’s a trip around the Kingdom of Fife, a jaunt in the Highlands or a city break in Edinburgh or Glasgow; I’m almost guaranteeing you that you’ll have the best time! That’s even before you even think to explore the islands of Scotland, too.
Anyway, enough rambling about why I love Scotland so much! Take a look at some of the best places in Scotland to visit.
Just make sure to bring me back some shortbread and Scottish tablet. It’s delicious and I miss it so much.
Have the most epic time exploring the best places in Scotland.
1.) St Andrews
Well, I couldn’t mention the best places in Scotland and not include my old home, St Andrews!
Perched within the Kingdom of Fife, it’s one of my favourite places in Scotland and is so much more than just a famous golf course. Yes, it has that and it’s incredible to go golfing but there’s also a lot of history in this small town, too.
Once here, make sure to explore the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral and take a wander around the castle, too. You can actually go in the secret tunnel that was built hundreds of years ago.
Afterwards, take a wander around the University Grounds and see the Hawthorn tree that Mary Queen of Scots planted at Quadrangle at St Mary’s.
Oh, and make sure not to walk over Saint Salvator’s PH that’s cobbled into the ground. This is a spot where a heretic was burned at the stake in the 1500s and apparently unleashed a martyrs curse. To this day, no student of St. Andrews (me included) would ever walk over the PH sign. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
If it’s a city break you’re after, then Edinburgh is easily one of the best places in Scotland to visit; and not just because it’s the capital.
Once here, make sure to ramble your way up Arthur’s Seat and see the views across the city and the Firth of Forth.
It’s a stunner around sunrise or sunset. Alternatively, if you don’t fancy a little hike, pop over to Mary Queens Close on the Royal Mile. It’s part of the Royal Mile that’s now underground and is totally eerie to see. You get to see all the old houses and streets that are now underground.
Oh, and don’t forget to pop over to Edinburgh Castle (obviously) and stop off in Grassmarket for an afternoon tipple, too. There’s a heap of bars in Edinburgh to visit.
3.) Isle of Skye
The islands of Scotland are honestly stunning. That being said, with about 800 (in total) to choose from, it can be pretty difficult to narrow down some firm favourites.
That being said, the Isle of Skye is easily one of the best places in Scotland to visit on a trip around the Highlands. Not only as it’s totally easy to get to (by car, via the bridge) but also as there is so much to do.
Once here, make sure to head on one of the best Scottish hikes to the Storr. It’s relatively easy if you’re used to hiking and not too strenuous. That being said, it’ll still take you a few hours there and back so make sure to plan accordingly.
Afterwards, head across to the likes of; Dunvegan Castle, the Fairy Pool and Armadale Castle that we visited before taking the ferry across to Mallaig.
Oh, and don’t forget to visit the dramatic coastline around Neist Point. It’s stunning.
Now, the best way I can think to describe Glasgow is that it’s like Edinburgh’s crazy, fun-fuelled sister!
Glasgow is a totally vibrant city and pretty incredible to visit for a long weekend. Plus, it only takes a short time to visit on the train from Edinburgh, too.
Once here, make sure to explore the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, wander around George Square and see the Hunterian Art Gallery. It’s the oldest museum in all of Scotland.
I have to be honest, the first time I visited Dundee, way back in 2006, I can’t say I liked it very much. Though, recently, we revisited and spend a few days in the city and totally loved it.
Once here, make sure to explore the V&A Dundee (as mentioned) and pop over to the McManus Art Gallery, too. Oh, and don’t forget to visit Broughty Castle that’s about halfway between Dundee and Carnoustie.
For a light lunch, pop into the Flame Tree Café that serve up some tasty avocado on toast. Oh, and for dinner, head to the Gidi Grill that serves up some tasty West African and Caribbean favourites. We loved it.
Oh, yeah, and it’s really easy to visit St. Andrews if you’re already in Dundee and have a car. It’s about a 25-30 minute drive and well worth it to visit my old stomping ground! It really is one of the best places in Scotland.
6.) Glamis Castle
Okay, so, Glamis Castle is another one of the best places in Scotland to visit that’s within easy reach of Dundee. You see, it’s only a 20-minute drive (north) and well worth it if you love Scottish Castles.
Built way back in the 14th Century, Glamis Castle has been kept within the Lyon family for generations.
Once here, take a tour inside the castle, explore the rooms and secret areas and learn more about all the little features this castle has. It’s totally stunning and well worth a visit; especially as it was the childhood home of the Queen Mother.
Now, Applecross might only be a tiny place but it’s easily one of the best places in Scotland to explore on the Wester Ross Coastal Trail. Not only does it have some incredible white sandy beaches but it also has some prehistoric mounds that are dated back thousands of years.
The whole drive around this area is totally incredible, even if the roads are narrow, you’ll love it.
Just make sure to keep your eyes peeled for some Highland Coos, too.
Nestled down the Fife Coastline, Crail is a tiny fishing village that has a charm all of its own.
Now, it’s relatively easy to visit if you take the coastal road from St. Andrews and follow the road to Crail itself. It’ll take less than 20-minutes and is a perfect little stop before heading further down the coast to Anstruther, too.
Now, it’s likely you’ll only spend an hour, or so, here (it is tiny) but make sure to pop into a few favourite spots. The Crail Harbour Gallery And Tearoom are totally lovely and have some gorgeous views.
Plus, pop into Reilly’s Shellfish if you fancy some of the tastiest fresh seafood in Fife. It really is one of the best places in Scotland if you love quaint little villages.
Perched within the dramatic Glencoe Valley, Glencoe and the surrounding region is easily one of the best places in Scotland to visit for its dramatic natural beauty.
After exploring the shores of Loch Leven, stop off for lunch at the Lochleven Seafood Cafe (in Onich) that has the best seafood platter around.
If it’s a Scottish hike you’re after, head on a shorter 3-km hike around the Glencoe Lochan trails that are relatively easy for a lazy afternoon.
That being said, if you want more of a challenge, pop on the Buachaille Etive Beag hike that’s around 8 km. Whichever you choose, hike safely and always follow local advice. After all, no one likes a careless hiker.
10.) Crathes Castle
Now, I know I keep going on about Scottish castles, but they’re honestly some of the best places in Scotland to experience the country’s history. And you know what, Crathes Castle is no exception there.
Built back in the 16th Century, Crathes Castle is about a 30-minute drive from Aberdeen and well worth a gander when heading west.
On the tour, you get to learn more about the castle, ti’s grounds and interesting little facts about why the stairs are all different levels. Apparently, this wasn’t from lazy builders but to disorientate an attacker that would try and enter the castle.
11.) St. Kilda
Probably one of the most remote islands in Scotland to visit, St Kilda is an exceptional place to visit.
Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a national preserve, St Kilda has thousands of years of history to explore.
Now, it’s not going to be your average day trip to visit St. Kilda, but you can book a tour with Go To St. Kilda that operate from the Isle of Skye. Expect a long day (as it’s around 40-km away) and a price tag of around £250-300 per person.
That being said, it’s well worth it as you’ll get to spend around 3-4 hours on the island and see Hirta’s sea cliffs that are the highest in all the UK.
12.) Dunnottar Castle
Said to have been occupied since the middle ages, Dunnottar Castle is one of the best places in Scotland to see some of the country’s history.
Perched around 25-minutes, down the coast, from Aberdeen. It’s a great little spot to visit if you’re looking for a day trip.
Once here, spend some time exploring the castle grounds and learn more about one of its famous residents. An actual lion!
Okay, Anstruther holds a special place for me! It was my go-to place on a weekend trip whilst living in St. Andrews. You see, not only is Anstruther totally quaint (and very small), it’s a gorgeous area for a sunny afternoon stroll.
Oh, and don’t forget to pop into the Anstruther Fish Bar that’s been awarded as being one of the best fish and chip spots in all of the UK. Even royalty have visited for their fish and chips!
14.) The Shetland Islands
So, the archipelago of the Shetland Islands is one pretty remote area of the UK to visit. That being said, it’s also well connected as it has an established population that lives on the island. This all makes it easy to visit if you’re fancying a different kind of island adventure.
If you can, try and coincide your visit with the largest Viking fire festival in Europe, Up Helly Aa. During this festival, you’ll see fire professions, the burning of Viking vessels and a heap of celebrations that happen. After all, it’s one of the best places in Scotland to see this.
Once here, take a stroll around the historic pier and fishing area and pop on one of Calum’s Seal Trips that we loved. You get to go around the area by boat and you’ll almost be guaranteed to see the seals. You’ll also see Duncraig Castle from the shore, too.
Afterwards, pop over to Plockton Inn to rest up. We stayed here for a night and grabbed some lobster and haggis in their restaurant. Totally loved the food.
Just shy of Applecross, you can easily visit Torridon before (or after) visiting Applecross on your drive through this region of the Highlands. Now, if you love a bit of an adventure, this is easily one of the best places in Scotland to visit.
Not least because you can go kayaking in the loch and it’s so beautiful. Just make sure there’s no wind; it’s so much harder on a blustery day.
Afterwards, pop over to Lower Diabaig, too. It takes around 15-minutes in the car ( from Torridon) but it’s totally worth it for the gorgeous landscapes and historic little hamlet by the loch.
Oh, and pop into Gille Brighde Restaurant that’s overlooking Loch Torridon, too. It’s a family-run foodie spot that serves up some of the tastiest lunches in the area. We loved it.
17.) Castle Tioram
Perched on a tiny island in the middle of Loch Moidart, Castle Tioram is a stunning castle ruin that is totally gorgeous.
Now, you won’t be able to access the ruins themselves (as they’re unsafe structurally) but you can see it from the shore. It’s a totally stunning area to explore and the perfect place to watch the sunset in the Highlands, too.
We stayed near Dalnabreac and it’s quite easy to miss the tiny turnoff to find Castle Tioram (Google Maps location here), especially as it’s in dense woodland.
That being said, after about 20-minutes of slow driving, you’ll get to a little car parking spot with some epic views over the loch.
Just be sure to wear long-sleeved tops. We visited in September and got bitten so many times by little nats.
18.) Eilean Donan
Perched in the western Highlands of Scotland, Eilean Donan is one of the most iconic castles in Scotland. Plus, It’s quite easy to visit Eilean Donan after (or before) visiting Plockton as it’s not too far away.
Established back in the 13th Century, there is so much history to see at Eilean Donan. Just make sure to leave enough time to explore the castle itself.
Now, it can get a little busy here (on weekends) but you can certainly miss the crowds by arriving in the morning or law afternoon (like we did).
Inverness was our very first stop in the Highlands of Scotland and our entry point (via the Caledonian Express overnight train from London) to explore the area.
Now, being one of the smaller cities in Scotland, Inverness is a great springboard spot to visit places like the Cairngorms or even heading west or north towards places like Wick, too.
Once here, make sure to explore Inverness Castle and head out on Moray Firth to spot some dolphins, too. We were unlucky, we didn’t see any as it got really foggy but it’s well worth a try.
20.) Drive the NC500 Trail
Driving the NC500 is probably one of the best road trip routes in Scotland to follow for a taste of the Highlands.
Starting in Inverness, it will take you all the way up to John o’ Groats, before heading down the north-west coast to places like Applecross and the stunning Bealach na Ba Road.
Now, the trip in itself will take at least a week to complete (more if you want a really chilled time) but it’s well worth it. For me, it’s one of the unspoilt areas of the UK that’s so beautiful to explore. It’s easily one of the best places in Scotland to explore.
21.) Loch Ness
Okay, so Loch Ness is probably the most famous loch in the whole world and the best places in Scotland to try and spot Nessie! You know, the Loch Ness Monster.
Beleive the legend (or not), I still spend a good deal of time watching the Loch waters to spot Nessie! Now, for me, Loch Ness isn’t the most dramatic of all the lochs in Scotland but it is a spot you should definitely visit for a few hours; especially when on the route (north) back to Inverness.
Perched in the eastern Highlands, the Cairngorms is an unspoilt region of Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park.
Now, the Cairngorms is one of the best places in Scotland to visit if you love the outdoors. You see, you’ve got everything from quad safaris, hikes and even bike routes through the mountains that we loved.
We loved exploring the Cairngorms.
23.) Loch Lomond
Part of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, Loch Lomond is one of the best places in Scotland to visit when in Southern Scotland.
Once here, make sure to explore the banks of Loch Lomond itself, visit the Bird of Prey Centre and hike the Beinn Dubh trail, too.
Afterwards, head over to Fruin Farm that serves up some of the tastiest dinners in the area.