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  • Writer's pictureIne Vandenwyngaert

Scotland Travel Guide: 10 Amazing Places To Visit in Scotland

Updated: Jan 15

Scotland is the most northerly part of the four areas that make up the United Kingdom. It’s known for rugged landscapes defined by mysterious lochs, magical mountains, and gothic castles. Scotland also has a strong culture featuring Celtic music, traditional kilts, and sophisticated whiskies. It’s a true land of extremes, where the rainy and windy weather conditions pose challenges to live and explore, but the beautiful landscapes and friendly people make it a rewarding travel destination. In this Scotland travel guide, we highlight the 10 best places to visit, including things to do, places to stay, and places to eat for each destination. We also share some road trip itinerary suggestions at the end.



 

Check out our video about Scotland to see the best places to visit through our camera!



Table of Contents


Important Things To Know


Best time to travel to Scotland


Scotland’s high season runs from July to mid-September. This is when you will find the best weather but also most crowds. Days are longer, the weather is warmer, and hotel and car rental prices are at their highest. That said, it can still rain any given day and time! So you should always be prepared and carry a rain jacket.


The shoulder season is from May-June and mid-September-October. We traveled to Scotland during November and wouldn't recommend that time of the year as it rained most of our time.

Getting To & Around Scotland


Most international flights arrive at the Edinburgh Airport (EDI), though many European cities also connect to Aberdeen International Airport, Glasgow International Airport, and Glasgow Prestwick International Airport.


The best way to get around Scotland is by rental car, though keep in mind that they drive on the left side here, with the steering wheel on the right. There are also many roundabouts and with multiple lanes they can sometimes be very confusing! We found it particularly challenging driving around the busier cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow.


Alternatively, you can take buses and trains between major cities and towns. However, it's difficult to get around the national parks and islands by public transportation. You can browse train routes and schedules at the official ScotRail website.



isle of skye waterfall
Isle Of Skye - A difficult place to navigate without your own car

Cost and currency


Scotland is part of the UK, and uses the Pound Sterling (£). We used our credit card all the time and never carried any cash. Credit cards seem to be accepted anywhere!


The cost of traveling around Scotland is high. Expect to pay between $80 and 250$ USD per person per day. The cost of food, transportation, accommodation, and activities is high, but you can easily reduce costs by spending some nights camping or cooking your own meals.



Safety in Scotland


Scotland is an incredibly safe place to visit. People are generally friendly and ready to help. As with most major cities, be careful at night as petty crime and pickpockets can be a problem.



Plugs


Scotland uses the same plugs as the rest of the UK, which is the plug type G (three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern). This is different from the standard plugs in Europe or the US. We recommend purchasing a travel adaptor before traveling to Scotland.



Best Places To Visit in Scotland (+ places to stay & eat)


If you're traveling to Scotland and want to save time searching for directions to all of the places we mention in this article, then look no further than our custom map. Simply click on a point in the map below to get directions there for yourself!


10. Edinburgh


Edinburgh is located in the south-east and it’s Scotland’s most beautiful and interesting city. This is the place to take in the unique Scottish culture, with a vibrant pub scene and intriguing historic sites. Visit Edinburgh Castle to learn about its turbulent past, hike Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat to take in the beautiful scenery, or catch a live show at one of the many pubs along the Royal Mile. One thing is for sure: you won’t get bored here!


Where to eat & drink

  • Albanach: good pub food, try the "haggis" there.

  • BrewDog: go for live music

  • Jolly Judge: small but local pub (drinks only)

  • The Advocate: during the week they have great deals such as 2 meals for the price of 1

  • Scotsman's Lounge: pub with live music

  • Dishroom: the best Indian food in our opinion (though very expensive)

  • Union of Genius: if you're a soup lover just like us, you have to try this place

  • The Outsider Restaurant: great food, made from fresh local products


Where to stay

  • Straven Guesthouse: If you want to visit Edinburgh but don't want to stay in the city centre, this beautiful guesthouse is perfect for you. It is in Portobello, 50 meters from the beach and it is only a 15-minute drive by car or bike and 20 minutes by bus.

  • Aparthotel Adagio Edinburgh Royal Mile: With its perfect location in the old town, this hotel is a gem.

  • Kick Ass Grassmarket (18+): Excellent location in the old town, but more affordable double rooms and hostel rooms with bunk beds for solo travellers!


Edinburgh at sunset

9. Stirling


Located about 40 miles or 64 kilometers to the west of Edinburgh, Stirling is known for its medieval castle. Stirling Castle is one of Scotland's most important castles thanks to its strategic position guarding a crossing point on the River Forth. Two of the major battles in Scotland's struggle for Independence were fought nearby. It's also worth strolling around the city itself and exploring other attractions, such as the National Wallace Monument, the Stirling Smith Art Gallery, the Old Town Jail, and Cambuskenneth Abbey.


Where to eat & drink

  • Brea - Scottish Restaurant: Scottish cuisine, burgers and vegan options.

  • Dempsey's Diner: great place for breakfast

  • Molly Malones: live music and beers


Where to stay


stirling castle scotland place to visit
Stirling castle

8. Loch Lomond & the Trassachs National Park


Situated approximately 60 miles or 96 kilometers to the west of Edinburgh, Loch Lomond & the Trassachs National Park is the oldest national park in Scotland. It’s one of the most popular places to visit thanks to its proximity to urban areas as well as a wide variety of activities. From taking a boat tour on Loch Lomond to hiking or biking one of the many trails, there’s a lot to do here. The West Highland Trail is a popular long-distance hike that crosses the entire park. Other beautiful but shorter hikes include Ben A’an in the Trossachs and Conic Hill on the east bank of Loch Lomond. We spotted many highland cows on the Conic Hill hike, making the trek extra rewarding!


Where to eat & drink

  • Clachan Inn: Also has great pub food!

  • Perch Café Restaurant: high quality food and great wine

  • Oak Tree Inn: great for lunch


Where to stay


Loch Lomond is huge, so there are many different areas you can stay in! We recommend staying near Balmaha, as that's where most of the action takes place.


Hiking at Conic Hill
Hiking at Conic Hill

7. Glencoe Valley


Glencoe Valley is located in the Scottish Highlands in western Scotland. The area is known for its impressive mountain scenery, beautiful waterfalls, and trails that climb steep peaks, such as the Pap of Glencoe or Aonach Eagach Ridge, which requires a bit of rock climbing and scrambling experience. The road through the Glencoe Valley takes you through the heart of an ancient volcano and the drive is spectacular. Beautiful stops include the Three Sisters Viewpoint and Glencoe waterfall.


Where to eat & drink

  • Glencoe Gathering: Local Highland bistro & pub

  • The Laroch Restaurant and Bar: casual bistro & pub


Where to stay


Three Sisters Viewpoint
Three Sisters Viewpoint

6. Glen Nevis


Located right outside the town Fort William, Glen Nevis is one of the most spectacular and beautiful glens in the Highlands. Above all, it’s home to Britain’s highest mountain: Ben Nevis, which is an impressive day hike. But you can also take in this dramatic scenery via the public road or other shorter trails. We hiked to the impressive Steall Falls, one of the three highest waterfalls in Scotland. This 2.1 mi or 3.5 kms out-and-back trail only takes 1 to 1.5 hours to complete. It’s also a filming location for a number of Harry Potter films, serving as a stunning backdrop and the place where Harry takes on the Hungarian Horntail dragon in the Goblet of Fire.


Where to eat & drink

  • Garrison West: Located in the Garrison Hotel, this pub has some great food and drink options

  • The Crofter Bar and Restaurant: pub/restaurant with simple comfort food

  • The Fort Coffee Collective: fantastic coffee and comfy sofas


Where to stay


5. Glenfinnan Viaduct


Only a stone's throw away from Glen Nevis and Fort William, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is a must-visit in Scotland! Made famous in the Harry Potter films, this 21-arched viaduct is set amongst some of Scotland’s finest scenery, overlooking Loch Shiel and the Jacobite Monument. One way of exploring this area is on foot and another way is by embarking the Jacobite Steam Train, also referred to as Hogwarts Express, which travels between Fort William and Mallaig! We did both and prefer walking the Glenfinnan Viaduct Circular Trail to really enjoy the beautiful scenery.



Where to stay

There isn't much out here besides a visitor center that offers coffee and tea. It's best to stay, eat, and drink in Fort William when visiting this area. Find our recommendations regarding accommodation options under Ben Nevis.



The Glenfinnan Viaduct
The Glenfinnan Viaduct

4. Inverness


Inverness is the northernmost city in the United Kingdom and is regarded as the cultural capital of the Scottish Highlands. Similar to Edinburgh, the city has a fantastic pub scene with great live music in the evenings. Some of the main highlights of the city include the Inverness Cathedral, Leaky’s Bookshop, and a walk to the Ness Islands. But one of our favorite things to do there was actually taste Whisky from different areas around Scotland. Find more things to do in our Inverness Travel Guide.


Where to eat & drink

  • The Mustard Seed Restaurant: this restaurant has one of the best steaks in the city!

  • River House: great local seafood

  • Cafe One: good local cuisine

  • Highlander: great live music, also serves food

  • Hootananny: great live music and food

  • Gellions Bar: oldest pub in Inverness


Where to stay


inverness scotland
Walking at the ness islands

3. Loch Ness


Located only a short drive from Inverness, Loch Ness is one of Scotland's most famous places. This freshwater loch is home to the legendary monster called Nessie, which is said to live in the deep, murky waters. The visibility is exceptionally low due to a high peat content in the soil, but there have been various claimed Nessie sightings over the years. And although many of the encounters have been discredited over time, it’s still a thrill to head to the lake. Fort Augustus is situated on the southern tip of Loch Ness, offering boat tours and spectacular views. But if you want to learn more about this legend, head to the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition. Also make sure to check out the ruins of spectacular Urquhart Castle. This is one of the most picturesque scenes in Scotland and a must-visit in our opinion. There are many day tours from Inverness that cover both the castle and lakeshore.



Where to eat & drink

  • Monster Fish & Chips Co: Located in Fort Augustus, this fish & chips place is great for a quick and cheap lunch

  • Papa G's: Another great, simple lunch spot in Fort Augustus

  • The Italian Job: Italian restaurant near the castle


Where to stay


It's best to stay in Inverness and explore Loch Ness for the day, as it's a lot more affordable.


Urquhart Castle

2. Eilean Donan Castle


Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most photographed castles in the world for a good reason. It’s perfectly situated on a small island with a charming curved bridge connecting it to the mainland. It really looks like something straight out of a fairytale. The fortifications of the castle were first built in the middle of the 13th century and four different versions of the castle have been built since then. It’s a great stop on your way to the Isle of Skye, which we’ll get to next.



eilean donan castle

1. Isle of Skye


The Isle of Skye is located off the West Coast of mainland Scotland. It’s home to some of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes shaped by jagged mountain peaks, towering sea cliffs, and large stretches of greenery. It’s no wonder that tourists have been drawn here for centuries. Some incredible sights include the Old Man of Storr, Quiraing, the Fairy Pools, Fairy Glen, and Kilt Rock. You can find more information about this magical island here.


Where to eat & drink

  • The Caledonian Cafe: Located in Portree, this place offers great coffee and classic comfort food (like burgers!)

  • Fat Panda Takeaway: Chinese takeaway place

  • The Chippy Portree: Takeaway fish & chips

  • Sea Breezes: seafood restaurant but more pricey, located on the waterfront of Portree


Where to stay

  • Kinloch Ainort Apartments: this place is awesome. It had all we needed and was beautifully decorated. We loved the kitchen and comfy beds. The apartments also have Netflix which was a bonus as it was raining quite a bit when we were on the Isle of Skye!

  • Broadford Lodges Skye: this place has an amazing location. Price/quality is super good!


Old Man Of Storr Hike


Road Trip Itineraries And Other Places To Visit

We also included a few itinerary options on the screen here in case you want to use them to guide your own trip. It’s best to rent a car to get to these places and you can find great car rental deals here.


7 Day Itinerary

  • 2 days in Edinburgh

  • 1 day in Glencoe Valley

  • 1 day at Glenfinnan Viaduct & Eilean Donan Castle

  • 3 days in Isle of Skye


If you have 10 Days, add:

  • 1 day Glen Nevis

  • 1 day Loch Ness

  • 1 day Inverness


If you have 14 days, add:

  • 2 days at Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park

  • Spend 1 more day in Edinburgh

  • Spend 1 more day in the Glencoe Valley


If you have more time in Scotland or you would like to see more castles, urban areas, or islands, it’s worth checking out other beautiful destinations that we didn’t mention. Some of these places include:

  • Isle of Islay

  • Glasgow

  • Cairngorms National Park

  • Dunnottar Castle & Aberdeen

  • Oban


More Scotland Resources


Scotland can be difficult to plan for. So we've pulled together a mix of resources we've created as well as other top Scotland resources from around the internet for you:


 

Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Trip To Scotland


 

Free Giveaway


Did you enjoy our article on the best things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland? Download our free giveaway and spark your wanderlust with our top 100 travel destinations around the world!



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Hi! We are Ine & Zac. An international travel couple from Belgium and the US. We created World Wild Hearts to inspire new adventures and help you plan your next trip. Use these tips, stories, and guides to inspire your next adventure of a lifetime!

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