Scotland, a land of jagged mountain tops, deep, wild seas, stunning vistas and old magic. With a rich, multilayered history, castles around every nook and corner, some of the friendliest people on the planet, delicious food, and of course, even more delicious whiskey, this small country is just a treasure trove for any wanderluster! I could spend days and days talking about the place, which has slowly but surely climbed up in my “Favourite Places to Return To” list.
I first visited when I was about 12 years old. I remember enjoying it, but I was young and my biggest ambition about the whole trip was getting a glimpse of the elusive Nessie. I was rather disappointed she didn’t show up, put a bit of a damper on my travels, haha. I revisited 16 years later, in October 2015… I was in a bad place at the time, emotionally speaking. So I did not enjoy it as much as I should have. Even so, the magic of the place still got to me, and even though I wasn’t in the happiest stage of my life (actually it was one of my lowest), Scotland still managed to get a grip on my heart-strings and pull, pull, pull… There’s just something about colours and smells there… I’m not sure I can explain it but even when the skies are grey and it’s damp and cold, everything still looks so ALIVE! Scotland smells like earth, damp grass and clean, fresh air. It takes a part of you and keeps it there. There’s a part of me still lingering in the highlands… A sad part of me… But still, a chunk of my soul still lurks in Scotland.
When I came back to Malta after my trip, my emotional situation took a turn for the worse and I spent a few months in a haze of guilt, self-hate and indecisiveness. I basically did not know what I was doing… So I deleted my Scotland photos… 😐 Yep… Either that or I lost my SD card… I’m not really sure what happened exactly, as I said, bad place… But I lost basically ALL of my beautiful, magical Scotland photos… Had only worked on and saved about 15 camera shots… Still have my iPhone photos, but not the really good stuff I took with my camera :'(.
So I’m going to work with what I have… Mediocre iPhone photos and hazy, although still beautiful memories of the my gorgeous Scottish experience. I will share with you my Top 10 Places to Visit in Scotland.
1. Isle of Skye
My absolute favourite of all Scottish experiences. Isle of Skye gets its name from the old Norse sky-a,meaning ‘cloud island’. Scotland’s second largest island is the home of what one can only describe as ‘otherworldly’ natural scenery. With jagged, rocky mountain tops, shimmering seas, and bright green moors which look as soft as felt, this is THE place for all nature lovers. Make sure to trek the Quiraing and visit the Old Man of Storr if you do visit. Also, if you want some authentic pub grub, head on over to Portree for a hearty meal and a mug of ale.
One of the world’s most dramatic cities, the Edinburgh skyline does stand to impress. With an imposing (and rather domineering) dark castle, perched atop a black mountain, looking down at a hodge-podge of medieval tenements piled high along the Royal Mile, Scotland’s capital is a sight to behold. There are several sites and attractions to visit whilst in the city. The Edinburgh Castle is a must-do, but for a thorough, comprehensive guide to the area you can visit The Official Guide to Edinburgh.
3. Glen Coe
Scotland’s most famously known Glen is as magnificent as it is wild. Three massive, brooding mountains, known as the Three Sisters guard the southern part of the glen, while the northern side is enclosed by the Aonach Eagach ridge. The road through the Glen is spectacular, making its way past deep gorges, crashing waterfalls as well as more pastoral surroundings of the glen around Loch Achtriochtan.
I know, not the most accurate of directions, but there are so many to choose from! My top five? Here you go:
- Eilean Donan Castle – Romantic and eerie; straight out of a fairy tale! Eilean Donan is a small tidal island where three sea lochs meet, Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh, in the western Highlands of Scotland – the castle sits right atop the island.
- Edinburgh Castle – A magnificent medieval castle in the city’s capital. Watching the Military Tattoo within the castle grounds (usually held in August) is the ultimate Edinburgh experience.
- Stirling Castle – One of the most historically significant, and largest castles in Scotland. The castle is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. It’s also stunning to look at and just adds a touch of magic to the city of Stirling. Also, from the castle you can get some fantastic panoramic views of the countryside and river around the city, as well as catch a glimpse of the hauntingly beautiful Wallace Monument, which I swear, looks exactly like Rapunzel’s Tower.
- Urquhart Castle – Sitting at the water’s edge and looking over the world-famous Loch Ness, this is the perfect place to get some Loch Ness monster (affectionately nicknamed Nessie) searching done! Legend has it that there’s a large underwater cave complex beneath the castle, and that’s where Nessie actually lives! ❤
- Dunnottar Castle – Definitely Scotland’s most haunting, and haunted castle, by far. This dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress close to Aberdeen, was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of Scotland’s most powerful families. The ruins sit atop a rocky outcrop right on the coast. You can walk through the grounds and so some seal watching from atop whilst you’re there!
Other amazing castles I did not get to visit (yet) include Inverarey Castle, Blair Castle, Balmoral Castle, Braemar Castle and Glamis Castle, amongst many others!
5. Climbing Ben Nevis.
Standing at 1,345 metres above sea level, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles. I really wish I could have attempted to climb this impressive mountain, but alas, my time in the area was short, and I will have to try this one on my next visit. The summit is actually the collapsed dome of an ancient volcano, and on top you can find the ruins of an old meteorological observatory which was functional and continuously staffed between 1883 and 1904. This place is a very popular attraction as most do try their luck at getting to the top, with an estimated 100,000 ascents a year. It’s important to wear appropriate footwear, as well as appropriate outdoor clothing if attempting the climb.
6. Inverness & Loch Ness
Ok, this one is a bit overdone… But still… Visit Loch Ness. There’s something so mysterious about those cold, dark waters, you’ll desperately want the Loch Ness Monster to be real by the end of your visit. You can take a boat tour of the Loch, which usually includes a visit to the tragic ruins of Urquhart Castle. There’s also a Nessie museum in the vicinity which is pretty fun, especially if you love Nessie <3. If you don’t want to explore the Loch via water, you can actually drive around it. A complete circuit of the Loch is about 70 miles, very doable. Travel anticlockwise for the better views.
Whilst in the area try to visit Inverness for a stroll along the pretty River Ness, a cruise on Loch Ness, and a nice lunch or dinner at one of the city’s excellent restaurants or pubs.
7. Loch Lomond – The Queen of Scottish Lakes
Loch Lomond is mainland Britain’s largest lake and an absolutely breath-taking place. It straddles the Highlands in the north, whilst its southern part is more broad and island-studded, fringed by woods and meadows. It’s very close to Glasgow, being about 20 miles away from the city, so it’s a very popular spot for trekking and hiking, boat rides and camping. If you love the great outdoors, this place is a definite must do!
You haven’t truly visited Scotland until you’ve actually done some sort of whisky distillery tour! Whisky is Scotland’s national drink, with the art of whisky distilling having being perfected through past generations. Distillers use pure, crystal-clear Scottish spring/stream water and plump, golden barley from the fields and transform them into a precious spirit, which is then poured into oak casks and tucked away in warehouses to mature, waiting for decades till the perfect spirit has been formed. There are fine main whiskey regions in Scotland, each displaying and developing its own unique flavours and character. Distilleries are aplenty throughout the country, but for more information about the Whisky Experience visit the Official Scotland Tourism Website.
9. The Jacobite Steam Train
Admit it! We all want to ride the Harry Potter Train! This is it! The Jacobite Steam Train is available to ride for a 84 mile round trip that takes you past a list of impressive sites. Starting near Ben Nevis, the train visits Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig; passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar, finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis! I’m ever so disappointed I missed this train during my visit. Make sure to check the train time tables beforehand so as to avoid disappointment. Booking beforehand is also ideal… It’s a very popular experience, so it’s often fully booked. Be prepared beforehand to avoid last minute disappointments.
This picturesque city is famous for the Battle of Bannockburn which saw Robert the Bruce defeat the English invaders, as well as the Battle of Stirling Bridge, a victory for Scottish independence secured by the legendary “Braveheart” William Wallace. As I’ve already mentioned, Stirling Castle is a must do when in the area, as is a visit to the Wallace Monument. The spectacular 246-step tower enjoys the most incredible views of the area, as well as artefacts said to have belonged to the great Wallace himself!
So that’s it. Ten places and things you must do when visiting Scotland. I’m sorry about the mediocre photos in this one. The ones which have no caption are my own, the rest I googled. I’m still hoping I’ll find my missing photos one day!
Please, feel free to share the article, as well as post comments! I love hearing from my followers! Have a good one!