If you’re seeking breathtaking scenery, Scotland is hard to beat. This is an enchanting land steeped in emerald forests, pristine sandy beaches, shimmering lochs (lakes), and craggy mountains. You can’t help but be captivated by Scotland’s beauty.
But with so many gorgeous spots to explore, you might be wondering where you should go on your trip. To make it easier for you, we’ve put together the best places to visit in Scotland here.
Read on to discover which of Scotland’s most beautiful locations you'll want to add to your travel wish list.
- See the most stunning sights on one of these top Scotland vacations
The crown jewel of Scotland has to be Edinburgh. This historic capital is the home of Harry Potter and the annual Edinburgh Fringe, one of the best festivals in Scotland.
Come to Edinburgh and you’ll find a medley of medieval city streets, green spaces, and rolling hills, the largest of which is an extinct volcano.
As a place where the ancient meets the modern, it’s fitting that the Scottish capital is a city of two halves: the Old and New Towns. For a taste of Edinburgh’s medieval past, explore the Old Town, discovering winding streets, crooked alleyways, and soot-stained buildings.
Walk down the Royal Mile, which stretches between Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle. You could also enjoy the view from Calton Hill, with its Athenian-inspired acropolis, or hike up Arthur’s Seat which stands guard over the city.
Head north to the New Town and discover elegant Georgian townhouses lining leafy streets. Here, and in the waterside neighbourhood of Leith, you can enjoy some of the finest food, shopping and art galleries the city has to offer.
HOW DO I GET TO EDINBURGH?
Edinburgh is easy to get to. From London you can reach the city in around 4 hours 30 minutes by train, or just 1 hour by plane.
The city is a great starting point for Scotland road trips. Pick up your rental car here and get ready to see the many stunning sights around the country!
- Visit Edinburgh on a culture and history tour of Scotland
- Related: Best castles to visit in Scotland
2. Loch Lomond
The “bonnie banks of Loch Lomond” have been enshrined in Scottish folk songs, and it's no wonder why.
This spectacular body of water, lying just north of Glasgow, has been the inspiration for countless writers, artists and musicians over the centuries.
Once you catch sight of the glittering water dotted with islands, you’ll understand why Loch Lomond is considered one of the most beautiful places in Scotland.
The loch stretches over 23 miles (37 kilometres) between Balloch and Ardlui, flanked by soaring peaks. Climb up Conic Hill or Ben Lomond for fine views all around. Look northeast and you’ll see the Trossachs National Park, with its hills rolling out into the distance.
Loch Lomond is a hotspot for water sports, including kayaking, sailing and even wild swimming. If you’d prefer to stay dry, you can book a cruise from Balloch, Luss, Tarbet or Inveruglas, or hop on one of the many waterbuses.
Around Loch Lomond’s lush green banks, you can enjoy scenic biking trails. Keen cyclists might want to try the National Cycle Network Route 7, which takes you from Glasgow all the way to Balloch, before continuing into the Trossachs.
Or to explore Loch Lomond on foot, take your pick from the many walking trails that can be found in the region. These range from easy waterside strolls to mountain hikes. You could even trek part of the West Highland Way, Scotland’s most famous long-distance walk.
HOW DO I GET TO LOCH LOMOND?
Loch Lomond is the ideal destination for day trips from Glasgow or Edinburgh.
From Glasgow you can drive to Balloch in 40 minutes, or Ardlui in just over 1 hour. From Edinburgh, the drive takes around 1 hour 30 minutes.
You can also get to Loch Lomond by train, travelling direct from Glasgow to Balloch, Arrochar & Tarbet, or Ardlui. The journey takes 45-90 minutes.
- Enjoy the outdoors around Loch Lomond on a Scotland summer tour package
- Related: Top Scottish lochs to visit
3. Loch Ness
You may already know that the world-famous Loch Ness is allegedly home to a legendary monster, but it has so much more to offer than Nessie mythology. Situated just south of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands, this long, narrow loch is a haven for sightseers and avid walkers.
To immerse yourself in nature here, head for the beautiful Foyer Falls. Or hike up Meall Fuar-mhonaidh, which offers fantastic views from its 2,297-foot (700-metre) summit.
If you’re a history buff, head to Drumnadrochit to visit the Loch Ness Centre and tour the waterside, 16th-century Urquhart Castle. Drumnadrochit is also home to the Fiddler's pub and café – one of the best places to eat on Scotland's Outlander Trail.
In nearby Fort Augustus, yet more historical delights await in the Clansman Centre, where you can learn about Highland traditions.
Lastly, Loch Ness is a fantastic place to enjoy a ferry cruise, with multiple daily departures leaving from the main loch-side settlements. Just remember to be quick with that camera if you see anything in the water!
HOW DO I GET TO LOCH NESS?
The best way to get to Loch Ness is to travel from Inverness. From here you can drive to the northern tip of the loch in just 15-20 minutes, or to Fort Augustus in 1 hour. Buses also serve the region – you can get from Inverness to Drumnadrochit in just 30 minutes.
If you’re travelling from Edinburgh or Glasgow, you can drive to Loch Ness in around 3-4 hours. Or hop on the bus or train, which takes 4-5 hours.
- Discover Loch Ness on a Scottish Highlands tour package
- Related: Scottish mythology and mystical places in Scotland
4. Isle of Skye
Step into the fairytale world of Skye, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. This ethereal island is shaped by unusual geological features, creating an otherworldly feel that will captivate you.
Come here to visit the legendary Fairy Pools, cascading waterfalls which glow green and blue in the sunlight. Explore the Fairy Glen, where the curious grassy knolls bless the landscape with a mystical atmosphere.
Another must-see spot is the Old Man of Storr, a steep rocky hill known for its distinctive, jagged rock formations. Be sure to visit the Quiraing too, a breathtaking corner of the Trotternish Peninsula that was formed by ancient landslips.
While you’re in the area you could also head to Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls, a waterfall that plunges over a cliff directly into the ocean.
Then, if you love folklore, don’t miss a trip to Loch Coruisk, said to shelter mythical creatures known as kelpies (shape-shifting water horses). The lake lies in the shadow of the Black Cuillin mountains, one of the most dramatic sights on the island.
Skye is also a place steeped in human history. Explore Dunvegan Castle, the ancestral home of the MacLeod clan, and learn about the island’s history at the Skye Museum of Island Life. Or simply sit back with a single malt at the Talisker Distillery.
HOW DO I GET TO SKYE?
You can reach Skye by crossing the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh, or by taking the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale.
From Glasgow you can drive to Kyle of Lochalsh in around 4 hours. You can also get there on the train – from Inverness the journey takes around 2 hours 30 minutes.
To get to Mallaig, you can take the train from Glasgow, a journey of 5 hours 30 minutes. Or it's a 4-5-hour drive from Glasgow or Edinburgh.
- Travel to Skye as part of a small group tour of Scotland
- Related: Scottish clan and ancestry sites to visit
Nestled on the banks of Loch Shiel, the hamlet of Glenfinnan is set in a beautiful location within the Scottish Highlands. You won’t want to miss a visit here if you’re interested in Jacobite history, Harry Potter, jaw-dropping Scottish landscapes, or all of the above.
Discover the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which towers 100 feet (30 metres) above the ground. This historical site, built in the 1890s, is part of the West Highland Railway line that runs between Glasgow and Mallaig. Admire the distinctive archways that curve through the stunning green backdrop.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll no doubt recognise the view here. Watch as the real-life Hogwarts Express – the Jacobite Steam Train – glides over the viaduct, puffs of steam rising into the air.
That’s not all you can see at Glenfinnan though. This tiny village boasts incredible views of Loch Shiel, which is bordered by rippling mountain peaks.
Visit the 19th-century Glenfinnan Monument by the water, commemorating the Highlanders who dedicated their lives to the Jacobite cause.
HOW DO I GET TO GLENFINNAN?
Glenfinnan is served by its own railway station, which offers direct connections to Glasgow. The journey takes 4 hours 20 minutes.
You might even like to ride on the Jacobite Steam Train, which connects Fort William and Mallaig between April and October.
Alternatively, it’s a 3-4-hour drive from Glasgow or Edinburgh. On the way to Glenfinnan, you could stop by Fort William and admire the UK’s tallest mountain: Ben Nevis. Take on the hike and you’d be rewarded with incredible views of Loch Linnhe and Highland peaks.
- Visit Glenfinnan on a privately guided tour of Scotland
- Related: Harry Potter locations in Scotland
6. Glen Coe
Striking views await you in the gorgeous green valley of Glen Coe. This region encompasses the small village of the same name, Glencoe, which sits on the banks of Loch Leven. Come here to find yourself surrounded by astonishing natural beauty.
The landscape was formed by an ice age glacier. It is notable for its high, rounded peaks, which slope smoothly down to the banks of the River Coe. Look up to see the famous Three Sisters of Glen Coe, a trio of peaks that will leave you in awe.
In spring and summer, the hillsides are vibrant green, clad with purple heather from late August and turning to rust and gold in the autumn and winter.
If you’re looking to delve right into the stunning scenery, there’s plenty to do. Hike some of the winding trails, such as the trek to the “Lost Valley” (Coire Gabhail) which bestows you with breathtaking views.
Or you could go for a gentle stroll through the woodland around Glencoe Lochan. This small lake is considered to be British Columbia’s Lake Louise in miniature.
In the summer you have the chance to get out on Loch Leven to kayak, sail or even swim. Come winter, you can ski and snowboard at the Glencoe Mountain Resort.
You might also like to visit the Glencoe Memorial Site, which pays homage to those killed at the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692.
HOW DO I GET TO GLENCOE?
The closest transport hub to Glencoe is Fort William train station. From here you can catch a 30-minute bus to Glencoe.
To get to Fort William, you can take the train from Glasgow. The 3-hour, 40-minute journey transports you through the remote and rugged scenery of Rannoch Moor.
Alternatively you can hop on a direct bus from Glasgow to Glencoe, which takes around 2 hours 40 minutes. To go by car, it's a 2-3-hour drive from Glasgow or Edinburgh.
- Explore Glen Coe with a Scotland self-drive travel package
- Related: Scotland’s best walks
7. Isle of Islay
The southernmost island in the Inner Hebrides is most associated with exquisite, peaty whisky. But if you dig a little deeper you’ll find Islay has far more than single malts up its sleeve.
With a population of just 3,200 people, Islay – the “Queen of the Hebrides” – has retained its windswept, untamed side.
Head to Machir Bay and Kilnaughton Bay for stretches of immaculate white sand beach. If you’re a keen birdwatcher, don’t miss a trip to the RSPB Nature Reserve at Loch Gruinart to spot barnacle geese, corncrakes and lapwings.
Soak up Islay’s scenery by walking to the ruins of Dunyvaig Castle or the scenic Singing Sands. Hike up Beinn Bheigeir, and visit the Neolithic Ballinaby Standing Stones.
Explore the quaint fishing village of Portnahaven, where you can admire the 19th-century cottages lining the seafront and visit the lighthouse. Say hello to the seals that like to bask on the rocks by the harbour.
Of course, no trip to Islay would be complete without a tour of the whisky distilleries.
Just outside Port Ellen you’ll find Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin, which produce Islay’s strongest and peatiest whiskies. Further north Bowmore and Caol Ila give their own unique spins on the iconic Islay taste.
HOW DO I GET TO ISLAY?
You can take the car ferry to Islay from Kennacraig on the west coast of Scotland. Daily departures take you to Port Ellen, in 2 hours 20 minutes, or Port Askaig, in 1 hour 55 minutes.
To get to Kennacraig from Glasgow, it's a 2-hour, 30-minute drive. Or you can take the bus, a journey of around 3 hours 30 minutes.
- Enjoy the sights and flavours of Islay on a Scottish whisky tour
- Related: Best time to visit Scotland
Planning your Scottish odyssey
This is just the start of the story when it comes to beautiful Scottish spots. You could also admire craggy sea stacks in Orkney, white sand beaches in the Outer Hebrides, and eerie sea caves on the North Coast 500.
Want to see some of these amazing places in Scotland for yourself? Nordic Visitor can make it happen.
Choose from our top Scotland packages to find a tour that suits you perfectly. Take your pick from self-drive packages, guided group tours and private tours in Scotland.
You’ll have a dedicated travel consultant to arrange and book your trip for you. All our Scotland travel experts are based in Edinburgh and know the country like the back of their hand. They’ll do all the planning while you relax and look forward to visiting Scotland.
Talk to our consultants about starting your very own Scottish adventure.