Things to Do in Scotland - page 4
The Clava Cairns—or the Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Balnuaran of Clava—are all that remains of what was once a much larger Bronze Age burial complex. Dating back 4,000 years, the evocative cemetery site retains original features, including passage graves, standing stones, and ring cairns (stone circles).
Occupying a 16th-century house with a bright red and yellow facade, the Museum of Edinburgh (formerly Huntly House) tells the rich history of the city, from prehistoric times to the present day. Among the star exhibits is the collar and bowl of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who kept watch at his master’s Edinburgh grave for 14 years.
Set within the city’s oldest park, historic Glasgow Green, the fascinating People’s Palace documents the social history of Glasgow, recounting tales of city life from 1750 through to the 20th century. Adjoining the red sandstone Victorian museum building is the Winter Gardens, a Victorian-era greenhouse packed with tropical plants.
Propelled into the limelight by Dan Brown’sThe Da Vinci Code, this 15th-century chapel is well worth a look, even for those with no interest in Knights Templar conspiracy theories. The Gothic exterior—with its flying buttresses, pinnacles, and pointed arches—hides an elaborate interior, full of stone carvings rich in symbolism.
With a history dating back to the early 1800s and a reputation for producing some of Scotland’s mostfamous malt whiskies, the Laphroaig distillery is a top choice for whisky lovers and one of severalrenowned distilleries on the Isle of Islay. Laphroaig’s biggest claim to fame is its distinctive single maltwhisky, the only one in Scotland to bear the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales, and allegedly HisRoyal Highness’ favorite whisky.
Today, the Laphroaig distillery is open to visitors for tours and tastings, and whisky enthusiasts can learnabout the traditional methods, visit the malting floors, mash house and stills, and sample a dram ofwhisky. There’s also a visitor center and shop, where visitors can learn the history of Laphroaig andpurchase whiskies and souvenirs.
Tucked away between the many attractions of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the looming tenement building known as Gladstone’s Land is easily overlooked, but behind its unassuming façade is one of the capital’s most fascinating historic gems.
The six-story complex was developed by wealthy local merchant Thomas Gledstanes in 1617 and was renowned as one of the first ‘high-rise’ buildings of its time. Now preserved as a National Trust property, Gladstone’s Land has been restored to its former glory, offering visitors the chance to step back in time to 17th-century Edinburgh. Along with the original painted ceilings and beams, and an impressive collection of antique furniture, highlights include a traditional ‘luckenbooth’ shop-front, a 16th-century kitchen, a spinet and a selection of old maps and photographs of Edinburgh.
At a remote spot in the Cairngorms National Park, Dalwhinnie is one of the most famous names in Scotland’s lucrative whisky business. Thanks to the purity of local snow-fed water and its proximity to a former drover’s road crossing the Highlands, Dalwhinnie Distillery has been producing whiskies in its signature white-washed facility with its matching pair of pagodas since 1897. The distillery is best known for its smooth, heathery, 15-year-old malt and its traditional production methods, which include barley harvested in Scotland. The “Uisghe Beatha,” or “water of life” is then mixed in copper stills, condensed in traditional wooden worm tubs and aged in oak casks.
Dalwhinnie Distillery is often visited on whisky tours that include visits and tastings at a number of distilleries in central Scotland and the Scottish Highlands. Travelers may tour the facility to see the distillers at work, learn about Dalwhinnie’s whisky traditions, sample classic single malts and opt for gourmet chocolate pairings.
Famous for its distinctive flavored whiskies and high alcohol content (often bottled at above the minimum40%), the Ardberg Distillery has been producing whisky since 1815. Despite closing down temporarily in1981, the distillery reopened in 1997 and has rebuilt its reputation as an innovator in the Scotch whiskyscene. Ardberg even hit the headlines in 2011, when it sent a cask of whisky to the International SpaceStation – an experiment to monitor the effects of zero gravity on whisky maturation.
Today, the Ardberg Distillery is open for guided tours, and visitors can explore the 19th-century distillery,view the natural water source and sample whiskies in the Chairman’s Study. Also onsite is a holidaycottage, Visitor Centre and the Old Kiln Café.
The Glenkinchie Distillery is a classic lowland distillery in Scotland, one of six distilleries in the Lowland region. Originally founded in 1837, the distillery today produces the well-known Edinburgh Malt, a light, fruity, dry whisky. The distillery closed in 1853 and was converted to a sawmill until 1890, when it was re opened by a group of brewers, blenders and wine merchants from Edinburgh and Leith. It stopped malting its own grain in 1969 and turned the malting floors into a museum of whisky featuring a miniature replica of the distillery. It now hosts more than 25,000 visitors each year, including many who stop at the distillery as part of a tour from Edinburgh, taking in the Roslyn Chapel and the Melrose Abbey as well.
Visitors to the distillery will tour the old malting room, the mashing, fermentation and distillation rooms, the distillery cellar and, finally, the bar. At the end of the tour, visitors are able to taste the Glenkinchie single malt whisky and receive a coupon for three pounds off a bottle of whisky.
With a history dating back to 1881 and a reputation for producing some of Scotland’s finest smoky maltwhiskies, the Bruichladdich Distillery has long been a popular destination for whiskey lovers. As one ofseveral distilleries on the Isle of Islay, Bruichladdich distinguishes itself by producing gin as well aswhiskey, and still using its traditional Victorian–era machinery for milling and mashing.
Regular tours of the Bruichladdich Distillery allow visitors to learn about the historic art of whiskeyproduction, watch the unique process in action and see the giant fermentation vats, before sampling someof the legendary whiskey.
More Things to Do in Scotland
Though the pedimented and pillared Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) building is very much classical, the collection of challenging contemporary artworks contained within it are anything but. The gallery’s art collection spans the 1950s to the present day, with artists including David Hockney, David Shrigley, and Andy Warhol all represented.
Founded back in 1779, the Bowmore Distillery holds the prestigious title of the Isle of Islay’s oldestdistillery and the first of the island’s eight renowned distilleries is often the starting point for whisky-tasting tours. The distillery now has holiday cottages for guests onsite, as well as an award-winningvisitor center and a tasting area within the legendary Bowmore No. 1 Vaults - the underground maturationwarehouse, where the whisky is aged in oak casks.
Tours of the Bowmore Distillery are also possible and visitors can learn all about the whisky distillationprocess, watch as the grain is milled and the malt is smoked used a traditional peatfired kiln, anddiscover how the distillery produces 2 million liters of whisky each year, before sampling a dram of thecelebrated Single Malt.
Maeshowe Chambered Cairn is a chambered tomb in northern Scotland that is more than 5,000 years old. It is considered to be the finest Neolithic building in northwest Europe due to its design, stonework construction, and use of massive individual stones. At first Maeshowe appears to be just a large grassy mound, but visitors can enter from a single door. A 33 foot long stone passageway leads into a small stone chamber in the center. The chamber is only about 15 feet across. Three side rooms made of single slabs of stone are attached to the main chamber. The entire structure was designed so that light would shine down the passageway at sunset every day from three weeks before to three weeks after the shortest day of the year.
At least 3,000 years after Maeshowe was closed up, Norsemen broke into the chamber. They left behind light-hearted runic graffiti all over the walls. It is the largest collection of runic inscriptions outside Scandinavia and serves as a reminder that Orkney was under Norwegian rule until 1468.
Machrie Moor Standing Stones (Machrie Moor Stone Circles) is a collection of six prehistoric monuments dating back to the Neolithic period and the early Bronze Age. They were found and first recorded in 1861 by Irish naturalist James Bryce, who numbered them from 1 to 5. In addition to the standing stones, there are hut circles, ancient cisterns and burial cairns on site. It is believed that the most prominent stone circles were strategically placed so as to be as widely visible from every vantage point nearby. Rising starkly from the middle of rural fields, the three tallest pillars are made of red sandstone with the tallest at 18 meters. It is estimated that the stones were used for astrological purposes, often representing legendary figures in ancient folklore. The mystery and ancient history surrounding these stone structures makes for them particularly fascinating to visit. Summer Solstice is a notable time to see them, as they are specifically lit at sunrise at this time — which historians claim may point to their significance.
Set atop the Ayrshire cliffs, this sprawling neoclassical mansion is one of Scotland’s most famous stately homes—it even appears on the back of the Scottish 5-pound note. Designed by 18th-century architect Robert Adam, Culzean (pronouncedCullane) boasts palatial interiors and grounds that encompass woods, follies, and even beaches.
Sweeping through the heart of the Style Mile in Glasgow city center, Buchanan Street hosts some of Scotland’s best shopping, bars, restaurants and cafes.
A hodgepodge of high street and designer names tucked inside some of Glasgow’s grandest Victorian buildings, Buchanan Street is especially busy on Saturdays, when the young and glamorous hunt out new fashions and street performers entertain the crowds.
At the north end is the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and the Buchanan Galleries shopping mall, which hosts more than 90 brand-name stores. Toward the southern end, the refined Art Nouveau atmosphere and designer goods of Princes Square draw ladies who lunch. One of the most upmarket retail streets in the United Kingdom, Buchanan Street is also home to the flagship House of Fraser department store, which boasts Scotland’s largest beauty hall and is conveniently located right across the street from Princes Square.
Fans of the late Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh will love Buchanan Street’s Willow Tea Rooms, replete with the iconic designer’s signature high-backed chairs. Look out for Nelson Mandela Place as you shop ‘til you drop; in 1986, the handsome square was named after Mandela in protest of his imprisonment by the South African Apartheid regime.
Standing proud against the fearsome storms that ravage the north coast of Lewis is the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse. Designed by Scottish lighthouse engineer David Stevenson in the 1860s, the watchtower wasn’t automated until 1998, making it one of the last in the British Isles to lose its lighthouse keeper.
While you can no longer go inside, there are information plaques outside, and it’s interesting just to see the lighthouse in all its exposed red-brick glory instead of the usual white.
A birdwatcher’s paradise, look out for buzzards, gulls and the occasional puffin soaring around the cliffs. Also, take a close look at the crags being buffeted by the North Sea, some of the oldest exposed rock in Europe, created up to 300 million years ago back in the Cambrian period. While you’re here, follow the coast southwest past the lighthouse. You’ll soon see a natural sea cave, known as the Eye of the Butt.
Often referred to as the “ship that never sailed,” Blackness Castle is a 15th century fortress sitting on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, not far from Edinburgh. With a long, narrow shape resembling a ship, the castle has been used as a residence, prison, artillery fortification and fortress over the centuries. Technological innovations were made in the 16th century and a cast iron pier with a gate and drawbridge was added in 1868. When the castle was restored between 1926 and 1935, most of the 19th century additions were removed and the medieval era features of the castle were restored.
Though most of the buildings are empty today, the castle is open to the public as a historic monument. An exhibition provides insight into the history of the castle, including information about the powerful Crichton family, for whom it was built. Visitors can also climb the towers or the curtain wall of the castle for sweeping views of the Firth of Forth; the best views are from the central tower. The castle has also been featured in the “Outlander” television series and is a stop on many “Outlander” themed tours.
As every Scot knows, Bannockburn was where King Robert the Bruce led Scottish forces to victory over a much larger English force led by Edward II in 1314. Moviegoers may remember the decisive battle from the end of the filmBraveheart.
This event, so critical to the development of Scottish national identity, is now marked by an imposing equestrian statue of Robert, from where you can survey the surrounding countryside. There is also a more modern monument at the spot where soldiers camped on the eve of the battle. The Bannockburn Heritage Centre explains the historical importance of this conflict amidst the long, fraught relations between Scotland and the “Sassenachs” to the south.
Holy Isle(Eilean Molaise) is located in Lamlash Bay off the Isle of Arran on Scotland's western coast. The island has a spiritual heritage dating back to the 6th century. Today there is the Centre for World Peace and Health on the north end of the island which has ongoing retreat programs and courses. The center welcomes overnight guests. There is also a closed Buddhist retreat on the south end of the island. There is also a hermit cave from a 6th-century monk and evidence of a 13th-century Christian monastery.
Some visitors come to Holy Isle to learn about meditation, yoga, tai chi, cooking, gardening, and other forms of relaxation. Others come here to enjoy the unspoiled natural scenery as an escape from their every day lives. Parts of the island are divided into natural reserves. Some areas are for birds and animals, while others are set aside for a native tree planting program. Visitors are asked to stay on the pathways.
Built in 1471 as the home to a hospital chaplain, this grey-stone house is one of just a few surviving medieval buildings—and the only surviving medieval residence—in all of Glasgow. Provand’s Lordship now serves as a museum, with period-accurate rooms filled with antique furnishings and displays relating to the history of the house.
So expansive are the collections of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One) that they need not one but two enormous buildings to house them: Modern One and Modern Two. Modern One, occupying a 19th-century building, features a collection of 20th-century works, including pieces from Tracey Emin, Matisse, Picasso, and Lichtenstein.
Together with the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One, the Modern Two houses Scotland’s national collection of contemporary art. Originally named the Dean Gallery, the 19th-century building hosts a permanent collection of dada and surrealist works, as well as a re-creation of the studio of Scottish sculptor Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.
Spanning the Firth of Forth between Edinburgh and the Kingdom of Fife, the Forth Road Bridge opened up in 1964 and runs parallel with the famous Forth railway bridge. As well as offering the quickest driving route from the capital to the Scottish Highlands, the Forth Road Bridge also has cycling and walking lanes that are open to the public.
The Forth Road Bridge is perhaps best known for its dramatic views of the neighboring Forth Bridge, the world's longest cantilever bridge and recently inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The striking red bridge is one of Scotland's most famous architectural icons and a remarkable feat of modern civil engineering, dating back over 125 years.
- 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