Things to Do in Scotland - page 2
First settled as a missionary post around 730 AD, Dunkeld was where Celtic monks set about converting the Pictish tribes to Christianity. By the middle of the ninth century, the town was Scotland's capital and the base of Kenneth MacAlpin, widely recognized as the first King of the Picts.
Over the following centuries, a massive gray sandstone church was built in Norman and Gothic styles to house the bishopric of Dunkeld, one of the most powerful in Scotland. Its tower once stood 96 feet (30 meters) high, but this, along with the rest of the cathedral, was destroyed in the Protestant Reformation of 1560.
Today the photogenic ruins sit in manicured grounds above the banks of the River Tay; the choir at the eastern end of the cathedral was restored in the early 20th century and is once again used for services. A ninth-century carved Apostles' Stone depicting Christ's disciples stands in the chapter house; this was rescued from use as a gatepost following the destruction of the cathedral.
Tucked away along the rhododendron-clad banks of the River Braan, just west of historic Dunkeld, the Hermitage is an idyllic woodland walk through Craigvinean Forest, created in the 18th century and little changed today.
Passing through a gorge amid Douglas firs (including Scotland's tallest at 60 feet (18 meters), an easy 15-minute stroll reaches the Black Linn falls, which are overlooked by the Georgian folly of Ossian's Hall, so-named after a third-century hermit. A step further on is Ossian's Cave, created to represent the hermit's dwelling place. Both were built for the Duke of Atholl in 1757; the Hermitage walk has since been enjoyed by the likes of poet William Wordsworth, painter JMW Turner and Queen Victoria. However, the follies fell into disrepair in the early 20th century before being donated to the Scottish National Trust and renovated in 2008; today Ossian's Hall once more contains a magical Hall of Mirrors. A 1770 stone bridge and a totem pole carved from a magnificent Douglas fir sit nearby.
The Hermitage walk is connected to a hiking network around Dunkeld, and although lovely at any time of year, is at its most glorious in fall, when the deciduous trees turn golden and the Black Linn waterfall is at its most spectacular.
On the banks of the River Tay, Discovery Point is home to the RRS Discovery, a former Antarctic research vessel. Learn the Discovery’s story, from the ship’s construction to its many voyages, including the Discovery Expedition of 1901–04, when Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton first journeyed to the Antarctic.
The Quiraing is a hiking trail on the Isle of Skye in northern Scotland. The trail is a loop covering a distance of about 4.2 miles. It passes through spectacular Scottish landscapes and is part of the Trotternish Ridge. This ridge was formed by a massive landslip, which created cliffs, plateaus, and rock pinnacles. If you enjoy taking pictures, bring your camera to capture the scenery you'll see along the way. You'll be able to see the water as well as the many strange and beautiful land formations in the area.
The path starts through steep grassy slopes, and crosses rock gorges and streams. Parts of the trail are covered in loose gravel. Along the way, you will pass large rock formations, climb over rock walls, and walk near the edges of cliffs. It is a fairly difficult trail, and it is not recommended in bad weather due to visibility and trail conditions.
A historic quarter in central Glasgow, Merchant City has a vibrant atmosphere thanks to trendy bars and restaurants, boutique hotels, and designer shopping. Extending from Merchant Square to Royal Exchange Square, this district is popular for a city stroll or people watching at a sidewalk cafe. It’s also home to the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA).
Housed in a converted 18th-century Cotton Mill on the banks of the River Teith, the Deanston Distillery boasts a scenic location for whisky tasting and thanks to its close proximity to Stirling Castle, it’s fast become a popular destination for whisky enthusiasts. Established in 1966, the distillery has earned a reputation for its use of hydro-energy and lays claim to the title of Scotland’s only self-sufficient distillery, with electricity generated on-site.
Visitors can enjoy a range of tours at the Deanston Distillery, learning about the history of the distillery; taking a peek at the copper stills, maturation warehouse and open mash tun; or strolling the 18th-century ‘workers’ village located nearby. All tours include the chance to taste Deanston’s renowned single malt Scotch whisky, but there are also opportunities to indulge in an expert-led whisky or whisky and chocolate tastings in the Deanston Tasting Room.
Scotland's largest island, the Isle of Skye is a pocket of wilderness jutting off the coast of the West Highlands. The area is a treat for nature lovers, with its dramatic sea cliffs, windswept valleys, and glittering lochs.
Among the tall green grass and purple heather between Loch Harray and Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar standing stones thrust from the earth like rusting giants’ swords.
At 340 feet (104 meters) in diameter, 27 of the original 60 stones survive, making this the third-biggest stone circle in Britain. Thought to have been built around 2000-2500 BC, this was one of the last of such monuments to be built in neolithic Orkney. Excavations of the site have revealed lots of pottery and animal bones, so it seems like cooking and eating around the still visible hearth was the order of the day here 5,000 years ago.
Famous for its perfectly circular shape, the beauty of the Ring of Brodgar is that, unlike Stonehenge, you can get right up to the stones. As you wander, look out for Viking graffiti on some of the stones: 12th-century runic carvings from the Norse invaders can be seen on quite a few. Just a few hundred meters away, you can also visit the neolithic Barnhouse settlement, discovered in 1984.
Scotland’s oldest and most famous working distillery is found in the heart of Perthshire and produces the UK’s number-one blend of malts, The Famous Grouse. The Glenturret Distillery opened in 1775 and has changed hands many times since then. In the late 19th century, it was owned by Matthew Gloag, who was invited to provide the drinks for a royal banquet in honor of Queen Victoria. For the great occasion, he created a whisky using the purest of water from the Perthshire hills and finest local malted barley, and utilized handmade oak casks to flavor his whisky. He called it The Grouse, with his son adding the ‘famous’ in 1905. The distilling process perfected by Gloag is still used today, as are the rotund, copper pot stills and the casks – seasoned with sherry or bourbon – where the whiskies are aged for a minimum of three years. They are then ‘married’ with several other single malts for a further six months to create the perfect, consistent blend and each year 43 million bottles of Grouse are exported to 94 countries.
Tours of The Glenturret include tastings and the chance to bottle your own single malt (an experience launched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2014). The revamped restaurant sells the best of local produce and there’s also a souvenir store selling Glenturret single malts as well as The Famous Grouse plus branded glassware and clothing.
Perched above the city of Stirling on a chunk of volcanic rock, this mighty Scottish fortress has seen it all, from attacks by Robert the Bruce to the coronation of the infant Mary Queen of Scots to the premiere of the movie “Braveheart” in 1993. In addition to the impeccably recreated Royal Palace interiors and the sheer amount of history held within its robust walls, the castle also offers superb views over Stirling and Scotland’s green hills and valleys.
More Things to Do in Scotland
The Isle of Arran sits off the western coast of Scotland. Since the line the divides the Scottish Highlands from the Lowlands runs through the island, its landscape reflects this, and the island is often referred to as Scotland in miniature. The northern part of the island is more rugged and mountainous and sparsely populated. The southern part of the island has more rolling hills, and the majority of the island's population reside here.
The island boasts many attractions for visitors. Castles, such as Brodick Castle and Lochranza Castle, are located on the Isle of Arran. There is also a heritage museum where you can learn some of the island's history. Some people come to climb Arran's highest peak, Goatfell, which stands at 2,866 feet, while others choose to hike the more leisurely Coastal Way. Nature lovers will enjoy the beautiful scenery on the island, including waterfalls, rocky coastlines, and wildlife. It's also a popular place for water activities such as sea kayaking.
When 550 Italian soldiers were captured in the scorching North African desert back in 1942, it must have caused them quite a shock to be sent in winter to the Scottish isle of Orkne. The POWs were sent here in order to build the “Churchill Barriers,” a series of causeways that would protect the British Grand Fleet in the Scapa Flow harbor. By 1943, the homesick workers requested a chapel where they could worship. What did they get? Two Nissen huts, which they were told to join end-to-end and labor over outside work hours.
What happened next is a beautiful symbol of peace, faith and the power of human ingenuity even in wartime. Local Orkney artists provided brushes and poster paints to decorate the huts; bully beef tins were converted into makeshift candle holders; wood scavenged from shipwrecks was used to create furniture; a car exhaust was covered in concrete to create a Baptismal font. Slowly but surely, those two steel sheds became the Roman Catholic chapel of the Italians’ dreams.
The main man behind the chapel’s decoration was POW Domenico Chiocchetti, who painted a false frontage so that it really looked like the Roman Catholic churches of home. He was so dedicated to the project that when everyone was sent home in 1944, he stayed on to finish the project.
In 1960, Chiocchetti returned to Orkney from his home in Moena, Italy, to assist with a restoration projection of the chapel. When he left three weeks later, he wrote a letter to the people of Orkney: "The chapel is yours, for you to love and preserve. I take with me to Italy the remembrance of your kindness and wonderful hospitality.”
Flanked by the Lomond Hills in central Fife, the former royal burgh of Falkland is known for its twisting streets and centuries-old stoned houses. Dominating the town center is the famous Falkland Palace. Once the hunting lodge of the Stuart Monarchs, the palace was a favorite summer resort of Mary Queen of Scots.
Built by French masons on behalf of King James V, on a visit you’ll get to see its famous buttresses and turrets, and in the gardens lies Britain’s oldest royal tennis court, built in 1539.
The village is also known for its old horse market, Falkland Cricket Club, and famous golf club. Fans of the TV series Outlander may also recognize Falkland’s streets as the setting for the show’s opening scenes filmed in World War II.
Housed inside a striking sandstone Victorian edifice, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of Scotland’s most-visited cultural attractions. Works by Dali, Botticelli, and Monet are counted among its collection, alongside more eclectic items such as a taxidermy elephant, a Spitfire airplane, and a magnificent Lewis pipe organ.
Set among the wooded countryside of Aberdeenshire, the 16th-century Crathes Castle is known for its ties to Robert the Bruce. The tower house’s interior features original painted ceilings, portraits, and antique furniture, while the 593-acre (240-hectare) estate encompasses walled gardens and parkland threaded by marked trails.
The Culloden Battlefield was the site of one of the last battles to take place on British soil. On April 16, 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army of 5,000 Jacobite Highlanders faced off against the Duke of Cumberland and 9,000 Hanoverian government troops. Though the Jacobites fought valiantly, they were ultimately defeated, resulting in the elimination of the Scottish clan system and the suppression of Highland culture. Today, the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre retells the events of that fateful day through interactive exhibits that put travelers in the thick of the action.
Set amid splendid gardens at the foot of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official Scottish residence of the British royals, who first decamped here from nearby Edinburgh Castle back in the 15th century. The complex grew from a 12th-century abbey, whose ruins can still be seen on the grounds, into a full-fledged Baroque palace complete with elaborate plasterwork, sumptuous furnishings, and a number of tapestries. The palace is perhaps most famous for having hosted to the rather unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots, whose beloved secretary was slaughtered here by her jealous second husband.
The origins of Drum Castle, one of Scotland’s oldest tower houses, can be traced back to the 14th century. Home to the Irvine family for more than six centuries, Drum Castle, Garden & Estate—now owned by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS)—features a medieval grand hall, a Jacobean mansion house, a Victorian-era library, and an ancient oak forest.
The official church of the Church of Scotland, St. Giles Cathedral and its famous crown spire tower over the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town. With a history stretching back over 900 years, St. Giles is renowned for its beautiful stained glass windows, ornate Thistle Chapel, and busy concert calendar.
The iconic Forth Bridge is a cantilever railway bridge that arches over the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Situated 14 kilometers from Edinburgh’s city center, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was designed by English engineers, John Fowler and Benjamin Baker. The bridge and its associated railway infrastructure is owned by Network Rail.
The distinctive red bridge, which links the villages of South Queensferry and North Queensferry, was opened by the Prince of Wales in March 1890, although was only classified as a UNESCO site on its 125th anniversary in 2015. The bridge spans a total length of almost 2500 meters and is an iconic symbol of Scotland’s engineering and architectural prowess and ingenuity. It also transports approximately 200 local and intercity trains across the Forth every single day.
When in Scotland, you don’t have to head to the Highlands for a taste of good whisky—you don’t even have to leave the Lowlands. The historic Glengoyne Distillery dates back to 1833 and is renowned for its award-winning malt whiskies, distilled at a third of the usual rate and matured in sherry oak casks.
Set on the shore of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle (Caisteal na Sròine) attracts many visitors that come here in hopes of glimpsing Nessie, the loch’s fabled aquatic monster. The ruined medieval fortress, which was destroyed in 1762 to prevent it from becoming a Jacobite stronghold, now houses a visitor center that exhibits objects found amid the ruins.
Once Scotland's largest cathedral, the 12th-century ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral stand as a testament to its former magnificence. Sprawling along the coast of Fife, just a stone’s throw from St. Andrews Castle, the evocative ruins afford impressive views along the coast.
One of several peaks in the long-extinct volcanic ridge that towers behind Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat offers hill walking in the heart of the city. Set within the 640-acre (260-hectare) Holyrood Park, it’s also the site of a 2,000-year-old hill fort. On a clear day, the summit promises spectacular views of the cityscape.
- Things to do in Edinburgh
- Things to do in Glasgow
- Things to do in Inverness
- Things to do in Kirkwall
- Things to do in Lerwick
- Things to do in Stirling
- Things to do in Oban
- Things to do in Fort William
- Things to do in Aberfeldy
- Things to do in Aviemore
- Things to do in Northern Ireland
- Things to do in Ireland
- Things to do in The Scottish Highlands
- Things to do in Belfast
- Things to do in North East England