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16 BRILLIANT Places To Visit In Scotland [2021 GUIDE]

Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
/
Last Updated:
January 21, 2021
Looking for inspiration on all the best places to visit in Scotland? Look no further! We've rounded up 16 great places to visit based on where we've gone..
places to visit in Scotland
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Scotland is packed with beautiful places to visit and you could honestly spend months and months exploring everything this wonderful country has to offer! 

But, if you’re limited on time, then this guide should help.

I’m going to take you through all the best places to visit in Scotland, based on where we have personally visited so far! 

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When is the best time to visit Scotland? 

Scotland is the sort of place that offers something all year round, but different seasons have their perks. 

For example, if you visit in summer, you’ll have a higher chance of great sunshine, but you’ll be surrounded by midges.

If you don’t know what midges are, they’re the most annoying little mite/fly ever.

We get them in Ireland in the summer too and they love blood, so they lovvvee to bite, and honestly, despite attempts at creams and sprays, they still bite! 

Also, summer is, of course, the busiest season, so it’ll be busy at most of the attractions. 

We visited in autumn time and I can honestly say it was perfect. 

We got very lucky with the weather and only experienced around a week's worth of rain in the six weeks we visited. 

It was cold but bearable, and I absolutely love being surrounded by autumn colours.

Plus there are two more benefits of visiting in Autumn: no midges AND a lot fewer tourists!

best time to visit scotland

Getting around Scotland: What’s the best option?

  • Train: Scotland has a pretty decent train network and you can make it all the major sights in Scotland via train, plus the views on the trains are going to be spectacular. So if you don’t have a driving license, or simply don’t want to drive, then this is a good option. 
  • Drive: We 1000% recommend driving around Scotland if you get the chance. It was easy for us because we toured Scotland in our self-converted campervan, but it’s super easy to rent a car or campervan in Scotland to make your own road trip. When you drive you gain the ability to explore much more, discover unknown places and experience wild camping in Scotland!
READ: Best road trips in Scotland (+ suggested itineraries) 
scotland road trip

16 Best Places to Visit in Scotland 

1. Glen Coe (my favourite place in Scotland!)

Glen Coe Scotland

If you asked me where my favourite place to visit in all of Scotland is….I would say, Glen Coe.

The whole area of Glen Coe constantly had my face in shock due to the beauty that I was witnessing.

I swear it felt like I was transported to another country.

It’s just a stream of dramatic mountains, lakes, rugged beauty and more. It was honestly such a magical place to visit and if you only have time to visit one place make it Glen Coe, it’s truly one of the most magical places in Scotland. 

Things to do in Glen Coe 

  • Visit the Famous James Bond picture point (Co-ordinates here) 
  • Check out the Glencoe mountain resort (if it’s in season, then ski or snowboard!) 
  • Check out Rannoch Moor viewpoint 
james bond glen coe
Great fun!
Where to stay in Glen Coe

Airbnb: Stay at the Bunkie, Minard Cottage for a cosy stay close to all the best sights in Glen Coe. Book it here.

2. Fort William

Fort William jacobite

Fort William is probably one of the most well-known places to visit in Scotland.

It’s one of the first big towns in the Scottish Highlands and a popular tourist destination thanks to being home to the UK’s tallest mountain: Ben Nevis.

It’s also home to a ski centre so is a popular place for families to visit! 

We really liked Fort William and if the season was right we would have attempted to climb Ben Nevis, but even if you’re not there for the mountain itself, there are still lots of beautiful walks and views in this area to experience. 

Fort William is also the starting point for one of the world's most famous train rides: The Jacobite.

Harry Potter fans will recognise it as the Hogwarts Express, and this train ride will take you through the beautiful countryside, crossing some iconic Harry Potter filming locations such as the Dumbledore's Grave and the Glenfinnan Viaduct!

Things to do in Fort William 

  • Climb Ben Nevis 
  • Visit the Ben Nevis Ski Centre (go up the cable car to the mountain restaurant!) 
  • Ride the Jacobite steam train 
Where to stay in Fort William

There are lots of great hotels in Fort William, but the Ben Nevis Hotel & Leisure Club has a heated indoor pool, perfect after hiking Ben Nevis!

Book here.

READ: Riding the Jacobite: 1st Class Experience

3. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs national park

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs national park
EPIC wild camping spot in Scotland

Loch Lomond has so much to offer every type of traveller visiting Scotland.

We loved spending time in this park, and when we visited in October, the season had finished for camping permits so we were able to wild camp in some beautiful spots! 

Loch Lomond is packed with amazing views, wonderful waterfalls, gorgeous hikes and abandoned castles.

There is something for everyone.

We loved the Three Lochs Forest drive located within the Trossachs National Park.

It was amazing and we got to wild camp in an amazing spot with no one else around! 

The Ben Lomond peak is the highest in the area, so it’s worth a hike! Bradley did this and found it really enjoyable! 

This is definitely one of the best places to visit in Scotland for families! 

Things to do in Loch Lomond 

  • Climb Ben Lomond 
  • Take the Three Lochs Forest Drive 
  • Take a boat cruise across Loch Lomond 
Where to stay in Loch Lomond

Balloch is a great central town to stay in and the Queen on the Loch offers stylish rooms. Book here.

READ: How to hike Ben Lomond

4. Cairngorms National park

Cairngorms National park

We visited the Cairngorms National Park in December so some of the mountains were beginning to showcase snow, which was super exciting.

This is the largest national park in the UK so it’s another popular place to visit in Scotland and it’s no surprise why.

It’s absolutely beautiful and there’s so much happening at the Cairngorms National Park!

From skiing or meeting local reindeers, you’ll not go bored and you’ll be surrounded by beauty the entire time. 

There are lots of cute towns in this area too, but Aviemore is a good hot spot to visit stock up on snacks, petrol, and rent ski gear, or hiking gear if you need it! 

But my all-time favourite place to visit within the Cairngorms national park area is the quaint town of Braemar. 

This is everything I wanted from a Scottish town, it’s adorable and oozes charm.

Go to the coffee shop called “The Wee Bothy” for amazing coffee, shortbread and lovely staff! 

I could live there! 

Braemar is also home to Braemar Castle which is super cool!

Visit at night time when it’s lit up for a unique experience. 

Things to do in Cairngorms National Park 

  • Visit the Cairngorm Mountain for skiing (or get the cable car to the top for epic views!)
  • Visit the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre (this area has the highest proportion of reindeer in Scotland) 
  • Check out the Queen's Scottish residence at Balmoral Castle
Cairngorms National park
The wee bothy!!
Where to stay in the Cairngorms National Park

I suggest you stay in the town of Braemar because of it's charm, and this is the most famous hotel there! Book it here.

5. Isle of Skye

isle of skye

We’ve only visited one island off Scotland so far, and that’s the Isle of Skye, but it lived up to our expectations and more!

The Isle of Skye is connected via the “Skye Bridge”, so it’s super convenient to get too. 

This island feels totally different from other parts of Scotland and is truly rugged and ready!

We spent almost a week on the Isle of Skye visiting all the hot spots including the Old Man of Storr, the Fairy Glen and so much more.

We even got to stay on a private island with its very own lighthouse, which was one of the coolest places I’ve ever visited and one of the best places to stay in Scotland (especially if you’re celebrating something!)

The Isle of Skye should be top of your Scotland itinerary! 

When you visit via the Skye bridge, you should definitely make a stop at the Eilean Donan Castle- it’s seriously cool and was free to walk around when we went.

Things to do on the Isle of Skye

  • Stay on your own private island 
  • Hike the Old Man of Storr 
  • Discover Kilt Falls and dinosaur prints
It's a pretty epic stay!
Where to stay on the Isle Of Skye

Stay on your very own private island of course. Book the Eilean Sinnoach Lighthouse cottage.

READ: Ultimate Isle of Skye Road Trip Itinerary

6. The North Coast 

Duncansby head

If you’ve decided to road trip the iconic NC500, which is Scotland’s answer to route 66, then you’ll find yourself passing the North Coast of Scotland! 

We loved the North Coast because again, it offers something unique to other parts of Scotland.

There are lots of great towns along the way, and we can recommend a stop at BettyHill for cute coffee shops and friendly locals. 

When you visit the North Coast you’ll have to stop at John O Groats since it’s the furthest point on mainland UK.

Visit the colourful houses, grab a coffee and then go searching for dolphins, sharks and seals! (We saw seals) 

Things to do on the North Coast of Scotland 

  • Visit Smoo Cave (a free, but REALLY cool cave - one of the more unique attractions in Scotland!)
  • Visit Duncansby head and stacks (be prepared for wind!)
  • Visit the John O Groats beer distillery 
Where to stay on the North Coast of Scotland

How about staying in an old tea house? Pretty cool! Book it here.

READ: Driving the NC500: 3, 5 and 7 day itineraries

7. Glasgow

glasgow scotland

We’ve visited Glasgow twice now, and it will always make my list of the best places to visit in Scotland!

I may struggle with the accent, but the people, the sights, the atmosphere is all worth it. 

Glasgow is an awesome place to have a city break.

The university grounds are beautiful in Autumn, the Kelvin grove Art Gallery & Museum is amazing and there are so many great pubs and bars for buzzing nightlife. 

Things to do in Glasgow

 Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum 
Where to stay in Glasgow

There are so many amazing hotels in Glasgow, you can search for them all right here.

8. Galloways (SW Coastal route)

southwest coastal route scotland

If you want to visit an area of Scotland that’s not overly touristy, then a road trip to the South West Coast should be top of your list.

The Scottish tourism board actually created a road trip called the SouthWest 300, which you can probably guess is a 300-mile road trip of the SouthWest Coast!

Bradley and I did it and we loved this area of Scotland.

The hub of the area is the Galloways National Park (where you can actually go searching for stars at night), but this area of Scotland is breathtaking but didn’t feel overly busy to me.

There are so many castles and tea rooms here- I LOVED it!

I’d say this is one of the more unique places to visit in Scotland in comparison to everywhere else we visited. 

Things to do on the SouthWest Coastal route

  • Visit the Galloway Lighthouse (It’s the most south-westerly point in Scotland and you can see 3 other countries from here!) 
  • Visit the beautiful Culzean Castle (one of my favourite castles in Scotland)
  • Visit Caerlaverock Castle (awh-mazing!)
Where to stay near Galloways National Park

Skerrow Cottage is in the heart of the park and close to lots of the great South west coast attractions. Book it here.

READ: South West 300 Coastal Route: Things to do and see

9. Inverness 

Inverness city

Inverness is probably my favourite city in Scotland (that I’ve been too so far). 

I love that it’s a city, but it’s small.

It’s basically the capital of the Scottish Highlands but it’s charming and quaint.

You could easily see all the best sights here in a day if you’re short for time, but what’s nice about this city is that you can just wander around and explore without the worry of getting lost. 

I also love that Inverness isn’t overpriced, so if you’re looking for one of the more cheap places to visit in Scotland, then Inverness won’t break the bank!

Things to do in Inverness 

  • Check out Inverness Castle at sunset 
  • Visit the largest second-hand bookstore in Scotland (really cool attraction in Inverness!) 
  • Shop at the Victorian Market 
oldest second hand book store in scotland
This book shop was so cool!
Where to stay in Inverness

There are some great hotel deals in Inverness that you can book right here.

READ: One day in Inverness: an itinerary

10. Loch Ness

loch ness in scotland

You can’t go to Scotland and NOT go in search of Nessie!

Before we visited Scotland this was definitely one of my bucket list places to visit.

Just because I’ve heard so much about it.

I really wanted to do a Loch Ness cruise and learn more about the myth of Nessie, but we visited during Covid times and they weren’t running due to low visitors! 

But it’s still a cool place to visit in Scotland and we even got to wild camp right on the Loch Ness lake, which was pretty cool.

Since this is only a short drive from Inverness, it’s often a popular day trip for visitors. 

Things to do in Loch Ness

  • Take a loch cruise and search for Nessie (Book your tour right here!)
  • Check out Urquhart Castle
  • Walk around the loch (there are various small walking trails) 
Where to stay in Loch Ness

Lots of great Airbnbs available, and this Luxury Croft overlooks Loch Ness on it's own private deck, amazing! Book it here.

11. Stirling 

stirling scotland

Stirling is a really cool city in Scotland since it’s sort of created around this awesome castle.

It’s a charming city full of character, and I’m pretty sure I counted like 16 coffee shops on my visit.

We wandered the old town, grabbed some lunch and just took in the sights.

We also did a walk just outside the city centre and got epic views from Sterling from above.

I think this is a beautiful place to visit in Scotland if you’re looking for a romantic city break! 

Things to do in Stirling

  • Visit Stirling Castle (it’s not cheap though!)
  • Wander the cobblestone streets of the Old Town
  • Visit the National Wallace Monument 
drone view of sirling
Where to stay in Stirling

Stirling has a wide range of hotels available that you can book here.

12. Oban

oban

Bradley and I sort of stumbled across Oban because we needed to get a replacement on our van tyre, but it was definitely worth the drive.

Known as the seafood capital of Scotland, this town is a tourist hot spot in the summer months.

It’s small but mighty! 

We wandered around the town, checking out the shops and views of Ballimore and the Isle of Mull.

We also checked out the McCaig's Tower which was really unique and felt like I’d been transported to Rome! 

Things to do in Oban 

  • Catch an awesome view at the McCaig's Tower
  • Eat seafood at one of the seat front restaurants
  • Visit the Oban Distillery 
Where to stay in Oban

Since it's a popular tourist town, there are lots of hotels to choose from.

Check them out here.

13. Glenfinnan 

glenfinnan viaduct

Glenfinnan is 100% one of the most beautiful places to visit in Scotland.

Not only can you go to the Glenfinnan Viaduct and catch a view of the Harry Potter train coming across the tracks, but there are so many beautiful walks and sights in this area.

Just across the road from the Viaduct, you’ve got the Glenfinnan Monument with simply amazing views across Loch Shiel and if you drive a little further down the area you’ll come to Loch Eilt which was used a lot in the Harry Potter movies. 

Things to do in Glenfinnan

  • Catch a view of the Jacobite Express crossing the viaduct 
  • Visit the Glenfinnan Station Museum 
  • Taking a cruise on Loch Shiel 
One of my favourite Scotland photos...
Where to stay in Glenfinnan

Cabin Camas Tana is the ultimate place to stay in Glenfinnan; pure Scottish vibes!

Book it here.

READ: Complete guide on visiting the Glenfinnan Viaduct

14. Mallaig 

mallaig

Mallaig is a port town in the Scottish Highlands that is significant due to the workings of the town.

You can either drive there or visit as part of a ride on the Jacobite Express, but it’s worth visiting this small area.

It's a one way in, one way out sort of road, but you can get ferries to other islands in Scotland from here, including the Isle of Skye.

This small town is now home to tourism, but once was thriving fishing, working village.

Now you can visit one of the coffee shops, grab a bite to eat, take a walk around the harbour and pick up some souvenirs! 

Things to do in Mallaig

  • Visit the Mallaigh Visitor centre 
  • Take a walk around the Pier 
  • Grab some fish & chips 
Where to stay in Mallaig

Glenwood glamping pods are a great choice!

Book your stay here.

15. Applecross 

applecross driving

Applecross is one of the towns made famous by the NC500, but what’s really unique about this pace is that it’s literally in the middle of nowhere.

You drive across an epic mountain pass and eventually, you’ll come to the very small town of Applecross.

It’s raw, it’s beautiful and randomly, it’s home to a hotel, Michelin guide restaurant and lots of deer.

This is one of the best places to visit in Scotland by car and you can’t get there via public transport. 

Things to do in Applecross

  • Drive the epic mountain pass known as Bealach na Bà
  • Dine at the Applecross inn
  • Take one of the many walking trails on offer 
town of applecross
Where to stay in Applecross

The Applecross Inn of course! Book your stay here.

If that's sold out, Fearnmore House not far from Applecross. Book this Airbnb here.

16. Edinburgh

 Edinburgh city

Last but not least on our Scotland travel guide is to visit the capital city of Edinburgh.

I have yet to visit, and we REALLY wanted to when we were in Scotland, but due to travel restrictions, it just wasn't possible.

But Bradley has been and he says it's fantastic, so I've no doubts it's one of the best places to visit in Scotland.

Things to do in Edinburgh

  • Visit the iconic Edinburgh Castle
  • Shop at the historical Victoria Street
  • Check out the National Museum of Scotland
victoria street  Edinburgh city
Where to stay in Edinburgh

It's a capital city so there is lots of choice in hotels. You can explore them all right here.

So there you have it, my guide to the best places to visit in Scotland. I hope you’ve found this guide helpful or inspirational in planning your next Scottish adventure. If you have any questions, please do drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you! 

Happy travels, 

Cazzy 

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