If it's a warm welcome and a wealth of historic beauty you're after, look no further than a trip to Scotland. From the bustle and excitement of the Edinburgh Festival to the tranquil splendour of the Highland lochs, there is something for everyone. Here's my top 10 of our favorite Scottish historic sightseeing locations.
This iconic castle dominates the skyline over the Scottish capital, perched as it is on an extinct volcano. Housing the Scottish Crown Jewels and a wealth of history there is plenty to explore.
As you leave the castle you can stroll down the Royal Mile, the main street that stretches all the way from the Castle gates downhill to the Palace of Holyrood, residence of the Queen when she is in Edinburgh.
The Royal mile itself has countless attractions to explore including; the national Museum of Scotland, John Knox’s house, The Mary Kings Close, and St Giles cathedral to name just a few.
Nestled on the cliff top overlooking St Andrews harbour, the cathedral ruins date back to 1158.
St Andrews cathedral was once the home of Catholic religion in Scotland, before it was ransacked and ruined during the reformation of the mid-16th Century. The stunning cathedral has been a site of worship since the 700s when the relics of St Andrew were reported to have been brought ashore from Europe.
On 16th April 1746, the final Jacobite Rising came to a brutal head in one of the most harrowing battles in British history.
Jacobite supports seeking to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British thrones gathered to fight the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops. It would be the last pitched battle on British soil and in less than an hour 1600 men were slain, 1500 of them Jacobites. The state of the art visitor’s centre offers a richly researched, stimulating and sensitive narrative to the background of the conflict from both perspectives.
Located on the noth-eastern Trotternish peninsula on the Isle of Skye, the Old Man of Storr is a large free standing rock pinnacle, popular with hillwalkers for the stunning views of the island and the mainland.
For the adventurous he 3.8km walk up and down to the hill takes just over an hour to complete. A short drive along the Trotternish ridge brings you to the Quiraing, This winding hilltop pass provides stunning views along the Trotternish ridge and across the sea to the Torridon Mountains on the mainland. For the more adventurous a short walk takes you into the heart of this landscape formed as the land slips away towards the sea.
Built in 1815 the Glenfinnan monument was created to honour the fallen Jacobite clansmen. Still standing tall on the eastern edges of Loch Shiel, take a guided tour to the top and hear stories of this poignant reminder.
Just a short distance away is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, part of the west Highland Railway. The stunning landscape in which the viaduct is located has led it to be a popular location for film producers, and is instantly recognisable as the Hogwarts Express travels across it in the Harry Potter films.
Loch Ness, famed as the home of the Loch Ness Monster, is th second largest loch in Scotland by surface area, but due its great depth, 230 meters in places, it is the largest by volume. This long, narrow loch stretches 23 miles from Forth Augustus in the South to Inverness in the North. Urquhart Castle, one of Scotland’s most visited castles, sits on the shores of Loch Ness. The castle ruins date back to the 13 th century, and it played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence of the 14 th Century.
The castle was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces and soon fell into disuse an decay. The castle can be reached by road, being just a 1 mile outside the village of Drumnadrochit. Alternatively, take one of the several boat trip that tour the loch and stop at the castle.
This pair of 30-meter high metal horse head sculptures depicting Kelpies (shape-shifting water spirits) stand either side of the eastern entrance to the Forth and Clyde canal. The sculptures, designed by sculptor Andy Scott, were opened to the public in 2014 and are now a firm favourite with visitors. Just a short distance along the canal, you can marvel at the engineering masterpiece that is the Falkirk wheel. This rotating boat lift connects the Forth and Clyde canal to the Union canal.
Loch Lomond is the largest lake in Great Britain by surface area, stretching nearly 23 miles in length and over 4 miles in width in places. Located just 15 miles north-west of Glasgow, Loch Lomond & the Trossachs national Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Marking the boundary between the lowlands of central Scotland and the highlands of the north, the shores are overlooked by several peaks over 3000 feet, the most notable being Ben Lomond. Take in the beauty of the area made famous in the popular folk song The Bonnie Bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.
This glen, of volcanic origin, in the highlands of Scotland is simply stunning.
The main A82 road that winds its way through the glen, with towering mountain peaks either side is regarded as ‘one of the classic Highland journeys’. The village of Glencoe, situated at the foot of the glen, is famed for the ‘Massacre of Glencoe’ which took place on 13th February 1692. Thirty-eight men of the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by government forces on grounds that they had not been prompt in swearing allegiance to the new monarchs, William II and Mary II.
Stirling Castle is one of the largest and important castles in Scotland, both historically and architecturally. The castle perches atop castle hill, a volcanic outcrop, and is surrounded on 3 sides by steep cliffs.
With the main parts of the castle dating back to the 15th century, Stirling Castle has been used as the royal residence of several of Scotland’s kings and queens over the years. There have been at least 8 sieges of Stirling castle and it is no accident that the famous battles of Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn took place within sight of the castle walls.