Scotland is becoming more and more popular and people from all over the world find interest in this wonderful country that we live in. I love my little weekend adventures in Alba (Gaelic for Scotland) and I enjoy taking unique and wonderful pictures of the places I visit. If you haven’t done so already, head to my Instagram and Facebook and follow me for daily updates with awesome pictures of unique perspectives of both popular and less known places around Scotland!
Recently I have been sharing my images to various Scotland groups around Facebook and in the discussion panels of these forums I see more and more people asking for suggestions about what would be the best places to visit in Scotland.
Since I’ve been travelling up and down this country for the good part of more than 3 years I think I know of a few places and I am writing this wee article to illustrate them. Hope you enjoy it and hope that this convinces you (if you aren’t already) to visit this amazing country!
So here are (for now) my top 5 places to visit in Scotland!
1. Isle of Skye
So let’s kick things off with what is arguably my favourite destination in Scotland. My partner and I love it so much that we’ve already visited twice and still want to go back. I am talking about Isle of Skye.
Isle of Skye is the 4th largest island in the United Kingdom, second largest in Scotland, with Lewis and Harris coming in first. It is (to my knowledge) the only island accessible by driving over a bridge (Isle of Skye bridge was built in 1992, same year I was born – coincidence??). It can take roughly 5 hours to drive from Glasgow to the main town of Portree but if you are so inclined, you can still get to Skye via a ferry from Glenelg to Kylerhea or from Mallaig to Armadale. Driving over Skye Bridge will obviously be quicker and cheaper but not as scenic!
As for things to do on Skye, there is a whole website dedicated to it but I will focus on a few places which we visited and have left their mark on us. I will go into full detail in my next article about Isle of Skye so this will be just a quick glance over.
By far our favourite place on the island was Neist Point Lighthouse. You drive to Waterstein where there is a car park and then to get to the lighthouse, you walk on a wee path for about 40 minutes. I guess it left such an impact in our hearts because we arrived right before sunset and by the time we got to the lighthouse it was already quite dark and there was nobody there. All we could see was the dark void of the see and the smallest glimpse of the Outer Hebrides.
Our second favourite place there has to be Talisker Beach and the Whiskey that comes with it. Talisker is the first whiskey that got me into liking this type of drink and for those who like their scotch I cannot recommend it enough.
Our third favorite place is Fairy Pools. It is an awesome walk alongside the Allt Coire na Banachdich stream where in certain crevices the water accumulates into little pools – hence the name.
2. Isle of Iona
This is a very small Island, accessible from Isle of Mull, so you need to take two ferries to get to it. It’s not that expensive though as the ferry to Iona is for passengers only and costs a few quid. There will be cars on it but they only allow locals or service vehicles to drive on and off the island in order to conserve the island’s beauty.
You can trek the island in just one day, so be prepared with good footwear, water and food. There are shops on the island, just at the ferry terminal so you can restock if you want.
The best thing on the island for us were the beaches, with our favorite being Traigh an t-Suidhe for it’s beautiful golden sand and turquoise waters.
3. The Cairngorms
Voted as one of the top 20 places to visit on Earth by National Geographic Traveller Magazine, The Cairngorms National Park is the largest national park in the UK and it offers visitors everything from castles and distilleries to hill walking, climbing and winter sports.
Our top activity here would be to visit the Cairngorm Reindeer herd so you can walk amongst them, feed them and if you are lucky and they like you, even pet them! It is a lovely experience, great for families and kids. If you are more adventure inclined, you can summit Ben Macdui, the tallest peak in the Cairngorms and the second tallest in the UK, right after Ben Nevis. There are also a variety of ski slopes you can tackle such as Cairngorm Mountain, Glenshee or the Lecht 2090.
Another amazing hidden gem in the Cairngorms is the Balmoral monument. This is a pyramid (also known as a cairn in Scotland) erected by Queen Victoria in the memory of her husband, Prince Albert after his death in 1861. During the walk, you can also find many other cairns erected in the memory of other royal family members.
4. Fort William and Lochaber
Another fantastic destination in Scotland is the area around Fort William (Glencoe, Fort William, and Glenfinnan). This is one of the most popular areas and I find myself driving here all the time. Not only that, if you are going anywhere up north, you will inevitably pass through Glencoe and Fort William.
Although we covered Ben Macdui (Cairngorms) and briefly mentioned Ben Nevis (Fort William), my favourite looking mountain in Scotland, and possibly the most photogenic one has to be Buachaille Etive Mor. If you are on the A82 heading to Glencoe or further up north, you should stop and admire this beautiful bit of rock! There are also plenty of hill walks around it so you can plan an entire day’s worth of adventure just around it. My favourite walk is definitely Buachaille itself. It is hard, long but definitely rewarding. There’s detailed information about how to do it on the Walking Highlands website.
Another lesser known walk in this area is the Steall Falls walk. It’s not too long but it takes you on the side of the mountains and treats you to beautiful views all the way to the main point of attraction, Steall Falls.
And finally, if you are a Harry Potter fan, you cannot pass Fort William, without a quick (1 hour..) detour towards Glenfinnan, home to the Glenfinnan monument and the Glenfinnan Viaduct which was featured in the Harry Potter films!
I can’t do a top 5 places in Scotland without at least mentioning the city that has become my home, Glasgow. I moved here in 2011 to study at the University of Glasgow and fell in love with the place since. The people, the views and the food make Glasgow an amazing city, full of activities, shops and restaurants for your heart’s content.
A great highlight in Glasgow would be of course the vibrant city centre where you would be hard pressed not to find the restaurant/shop you are looking for. It is always bustling with people, always vibrant and fast paced, a total gem of modern civilisation in the heart of Scotland.
Another great place to visit would be Kelvingrove Park, with its Art Gallery and Glasgow University. While you are in the area, head over to Byres Road for even more amazing boutique restaurants and shops!
If you are visiting Scotland in 2019, it would be almost silly not to stop for a day or two in this wonderful metropolis!
Since you made it all the way down here, there is one little gem, that only locals know about that I would like to share with you! If you find yourself in the west of Scotland in Ayrshire, you MUST try what is probably THE BEST ice cream in Scotland (personal opinion). Located on Montgomery Street, Irvine, Vanilla Joes has, in my opinion, the most amazing ice cream ever and I encourage you to come along and try it!
With that being said, I hope you’ve enjoyed my top 5 places to visit in Scotland. These are just 5 of my favorite places in this wonderful country and of course there are many others. If you are looking to come here for the first time, you should definitely check any of these out!
For some great travel guides you can also read these 2 awesome books:
Insight Guide Pocket: Scotland: https://amzn.to/2SurZY1
Berlitz Pocket Guide Scotland: https://amzn.to/2SB8tJa