Feel like you’ve gone too long without a holiday? Then it’s time to plan the trip of a lifetime. Between Scotland’s ancient castles, dramatic mountains, and lush highlands lies the magical promise of experiences old and new.
Immerse yourself in the historic epicentre of the country, Edinburgh, or coast through the highlands on a rail journey you will never forget.
So many islands, highlands, and scenic drives - where do we even begin?
Scotland is home to some of the most scenic rail journeys in the world, and we recommend hopping on three of them. Sit back and relax on the dazzling train ride from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. Marvel at the 42 miles of the West Highland line stretching from Fort William to Mallaig. Finish up with a trip on the steam-hauled Strathspey Railway - you’ll feel as if you have journeyed back in time!
Suggested tour: Scottish Highland Railways
When you think of Scotland, you might think of peaty whisky, resonant bagpipes, and rolling hills of green. You would be forgiven for not immediately thinking of dolphins. The Moray Firth - a triangular inlet to the north and east of Inverness - is renowned for its population of 190 bottlenose dolphins. Take a cruise around the inner Moray Firth to catch one of these magical creatures bursting over the surface of the North Sea.
Wildlife enthusiasts will absolutely love this area because the dolphins are rarely alone. The boat trip will give you the precious opportunity to spot other wildlife including whales, seals, otters and ospreys.
Suggested tour: Best of the Scottish Highlands
The isle of Skye tops most travellers Scotland lists. Why? Its well-preserved castles, rugged coastline, unusual peaks, and colourful waterfront villages are hard to look past. It’s best discovered on an adventurous road trip. Begin your Skye journey with a look at the cinematic Eilean Donan Castle on the shores of Loch Duich, a spot you might just recognise from a number of major films.
Pass through the famous Cuillin Hills, which are often covered in a mysterious layer of mist, and stop at the next castle of the journey: Dunvegan Castle. Rumoured to be the oldest continuously occupied family home in Scotland, you will feel truly immersed in history here.
End your trip in Portree, the isle’s main town. The harbourfront is postcard-perfect with vibrantly painted homes lining the water.
Suggested tour: Hebridean Island Adventure - 6 days
Now for a night to get pulses racing. Take your spot at Edinburgh Castle for an evening performance of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Marvel at the spectacle of massed pipes, drums, and colour, and enjoy the skill and tradition of performance teams from all around the globe. A sight not to be missed is the lone piper silhouetted against the black sky as they patrol the battlements above.
Make the most of your trip to Edinburgh and wander the cobblestone streets to some of the city’s most famous sites. Be sure to check out Princes Street and Jenners (the world’s oldest department store), St Giles Cathedral, the Sir Walter Scott monument, and the ever-bustling Royal Mile.
Suggested tour: Loch Lomond & the Edinburgh Tattoo
Now for an unusual one. Lying off the coast of the uninhabited island of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides is one of the world's most famous sea caves. Known to the Celts as ‘The Cave of Melody’, Fingal’s Cave cave is 72 feet tall and 270 feet deep, formed of hexagonal columns of basalt. The symmetry is truly otherworldly.
The cave has inspired creative minds all over the world, with everyone from Pink Floyd to Jules Verne to William Wordsworth writing about the cave. Hop on a cruise and head to Fingal’s Cave to hear the eerie echo of Atlantic Ocean waves crashing against the ancient rock.
Suggested tour: Scottish Isles & Faroes Cruises
You didn’t think we were going to put together a Scotland bucket list without Nessie, did you? Even if it’s the last thing you do, get to Loch Ness. While the loch is the site of an age-old cryptozoological mystery, it’s also quite the natural beauty - and an underrated sunset spot.
Take a boat trip to see the very best of the area (and to give yourself a fighting chance of seeing the monster living in the dark waters). If you have time, keep an eye out for the cormorants and ospreys on the wooded shores and maybe even venture past the dramatic ruins of Urquhart Castle, which still boasts prison cells and a watchtower. You might also fancy walking or cycling the new Loch Ness Trail which loops around the loch.
Suggested tour: Best of the Scottish Highlands
Without doubt one of the most picturesque and breathtakingly beautiful parts of Scotland, the Scottish Highlands boasts some of the finest views and scenic journeys in the UK
There are few places on the planet that offer as much to photographers as Scotland does. The region is renowned for its photography spots for good reason; even the most well-travelled professionals are sure to be awe struck.
For scenic holidays in the great outdoors, there are few better places than Loch Lomond. Scotland certainly isn't lacking in spectacular views, but here you'll find the scenery is simply unrivalled.
There are few places left on the planet that feel truly wild and unexplored. Among those that do exist, the Scottish Highlands are surely the ultimate in untamed beauty.
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