Rugged, colorful, and feisty, Scotland stands apart. From its stony architecture to its unmanicured landscape to the more laid-back nature of its people — and their peculiar fondness for haggis — Scotland is distinctly not England. A proud identity unites the sparsely populated country, all the way from the southern lowlands, which border England just north of Hadrian's Wall, up to the Norwegian latitudes of the rocky Highlands and remote islands. Outside its main cities, Scotland's sights are subtle, but the misty glens, brooding countryside castles, and warm culture are plenty engaging. It's easy to fall in love with the irrepressible spirit and beautiful landscape of this faraway corner of Britain.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Edinburgh Proud and endlessly entertaining Scottish capital, with an imposing castle, attractions-studded Royal Mile, excellent museums, and atmospheric neighborhoods.
▲▲ Glasgow Scotland's fun and funky biggest city — gritty but gentrifying, and packed with gregarious locals, edgy culture, and a treasure trove of 20th-century architecture.
▲▲ St. Andrews Beach town that hosts Scotland's top university and the world's most famous golf course, plus top-notch industrial museums in nearby Dundee and charming coastal scenery in the East Neuk.
▲▲ Oban and Inner Hebrides Handy home-base town of Oban, with boat trips to the isles of Mull, Iona, and Staffa.
▲▲ Inverness and Loch Ness Regional capital with easy access to more Highlands sights, including Culloden Battlefield (Scotland's Alamo) and monster-spotting at the famous Loch Ness.
▲▲ Isle of Skye Dramatically scenic island with craggy Cuillin Hills, jagged Trotternish Peninsula, castles, a distillery, dynamic clan history, and the colorful harbor town of Portree.
▲ Stirling Site of one of Scotland's top castles (home of the Stuart kings) overlooking a historic plain, with great sights nearby — from giant horse heads and a Ferris wheel for boats at Falkirk to Highland scenery in the Trossachs.
▲ Glencoe and Fort William Stirring "Weeping Glen" of Glencoe offering some of the Highlands' best scenery and hikes, plus the transit-hub town of Fort William and the historic "Road to the Isles."
▲ Eastern Scotland Grab-bag of sights between Inverness and Edinburgh, including the whisky and hillwalking mecca of Pitlochry, a look at early Iron Age crannog life on Loch Tay, the distilleries of Speyside, the Queen's Scottish retreat at Balmoral Castle, and cliff-capping Dunnottar Castle.
Northern Scotland Some of the Highlands' best get-away-from-it-all scenery along Wester Ross and the north coast, plus the fascinating Orkney Islands — with Scotland's best prehistoric sites, evocative Old Norse history, and WWI/WWII naval harbor.