As well as information about the area, here are some tourist attractions and places of interest to visit with direct links to their websites.
More specific places:
Caerlaverock Castle – Dumfries: The epitome of the medieval stronghold with its moat and twin towered gatehouse
Craigievar Castle – Alford: A fairytale castle with iconic tower house. Amongst the best preserved and loved in Scotland
Culzean Castle – Near Maybole: Romantic 18th century castle with superb panoramic views over the Forth of Clyde
Duart Castle – Isle of Mull: The oldest lived in castle on Mull, home of the Chief of Clan Maclean
Dunvegan Castle – Isle of Skye: Oldest continually inhabited castle in Scotland; the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years
Edinburgh Castle: Perched on an extinct volcano overlooking the city. Home to the Scottish crown jewels – and the famous Stone of Destiny
Eilean Donan Castle – Kyle of Lochalsh: On an island where three great sea lochs meet – one of the most visited & important attractions in the Highlands
Fyvie Castle – Turrriff: Ghosts, legends and folklore are woven into the tapestry of Fyvie’s 800 year old history
Glamis Castle – Forfar: The childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Inveraray Castle: Unique piece of architecture blending Baroque, Palladian and Gothic
Stirling Castle: One of the grandest castles, a jewel in Scotland’s crown. A centre of art, culture and celebrity in the 16th century
Floors Castle – Kelso: The largest inhabited castle in Scotland, now home to the Duke of Roxburghe. Designed and built by William Adam
Scone Palace – Perth: Now the family home of the Earls of Mansfield – once the centre of the ancient Celtic Church and the crowning place of kings, including Robert the Bruce and Charles II
Castle of Mey – Thurso: Built in the 1560s, this most northerly inhabited castle was bought by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1952
Blair Castle – Pitlochry: Blair Castle has been the ancient home and fortress of the Earls and Dukes of Atholl for more than 700 years
Arduaine Garden – Oban: Set in an area of outstanding natural beauty and historical interest
Benmore Botanic Gardens – Dunoon: A magnificent mountainside setting with 120 acres of flowering trees and shrubs
Branklyn Garden – Perth: Outstanding rhododendrons, alpines, herbaceous and peat garden plants
Crarae Garden – Inverary: A unique 100 acre Himalayan garden planted around a steep sided Crarae burn
Dawyck Botanic Gardens – Peebles: One of the world’s finest arboreta
Pitmedden Garden – Ellon: Extensive herbaceous borders and over 40,000 plants in summer months
Greenbank Garden – Glasgow: Within easy reach of the city and includes fountains and a woodland walk :
Inveresk Lodge Garden – Musselburgh: Secluded garden with wooded and wildlife areas
Threave Estate – Castle Douglas: 64 acre ornamental garden with interest throughout the year
Inverewe Garden – Poolewe: One of the world’s greatest gardens, a beautiful and tranquil place with views of the Highlands
Logan Botanic Gardens – Stranraer: Scotland’s most exotic garden. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, southern hemisphere plants flourish in this plantsman’s paradise
Pitmedden Garden – Ellon: Stunning Great Garden contains thousands of colourful annuals with adjoining Museum of Farming Life
Priorwood Garden – Melrose: Orchard containing historic apple trees and the only dedicated dried flower garden in Scotland
Royal Botanic Gardens – Edinburgh: World renowned for its horticultural excellence, these 70 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds provide a tranquil haven just one mile from the city centre
Malleny Garden – Edinburgh: Ideal garden to visit for a few hours of quiet contemplation amidst beautiful surroundings
Geilston Garden – Cardross: On the banks of the Clyde with walled garden and a burn winding through the wooded glen
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura: A treasure house of history in an 18th century windmill telling the history of the land and people of Dumfries and Galloway
Savings Bank Museum – Ruthwell: Charts the history of the community self-help project launched by Rev. Henry Duncan in his parish in 1810, eventually becoming known as the Trustee Savings Bank (TSB)
Mull of Galloway RSPB Centre – Stranraer: Discover local birds and wildlife on Scotland’s most Southerly reserve. A designated Site of Special Scientific Interest
Heads of Ayr Farm Park – Ayr: Find activities for all ages, meet the animals and have lots of fun, whatever the weather
Preston Grange Museum – Prestonpans: Exhibits showing the contribution this area made to Scotland’s industrial revolution
Summerlee, Museum of Scottish Industrial Life – Coatbridge: Set in 22 acres around the site of the nineteenth century Summerlee Ironworks with many attractions for all the family, including Scotland’s only operational heritage tramway and recreated mine
The Royal Yacht Britannia – Leith: A magnificent ship – the seagoing home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family – a great piece of Bristish history that should not be missed
Edinburgh Dungeons – Edinburgh: A great family day out, enjoy scary rides, live shows at the scariest attraction in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Zoo: The largest and most exciting wildlife attraction in Scotland – meet over 1,000 wonderful animals in a beautiful parkland setting, including the giant panda
Our Dynamic Earth – Edinburgh: Take a journey through our planet’s past, present and future with interactive exhibits and outstanding technology. An exciting, fun and engaging day out
Deep Sea World – North Queensferry: Scotland’s national aquarium, a spectacular underwater safari
The Falkirk Wheel: The world’s only rotating boat lift – enjoy the stunning views of the spectacular surrounding scenery
Glasgow Science Centre: Scotland’s leading Science attraction offers great fun, hands-on science adventures and days out for all the family
The Hill House – Helensburgh: Sits high above the river Clyde filled with Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s furniture and design and formal gardens
Loch Lomond Sea Life Centre: See all the different fish including a Giant Pacific Octopus and Scotland’s largest collection of sharks
Highland Folk Museum – Newtonmore: Award winning ‘live’ museum of 80 acres where visitors can have ‘hands on’ experiences of various crafts and skills
Highland Wildlife Park – Kingussie: Discover Scotland’s wildlife and endangered animals of the world’s mountains and tundra
Satrosphere – Aberdeen: Science and discovery centre with over 50 hands-on interactive exhibits
Grampian Transport Museum – Alford: Follow the history of travel and transport in North East Scotland with dramatic displays and working exhibits
Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary – Oban: Open a window into a watery wonderland…teeming with amazing sea creatures of astonishing variety
Morning Landrover Safari – Glencoe: Be transported off the beaten track to give you three hours of history, geology, wildlife and more
Harry Potter Steam Train – Fort William: Travel on one of the trains and along the line used in the films, over the Glenfinnan Viaduct to Mallaig
Nevis Range Mountain Experience – Fort William: A year-round mountain ski resort in the Highlands with Britain’s only mountain gondola
Seaprobe Atlantis – Kyle Of Lochalsh: Glass bottom boat trips offer an amazing insight into the underwater world of the waters of Lochalsh. Even whales, dolphins and sharks having been spotted on this trip which is rich in wildlife
Caithness Horizons – Thurso: An enthralling attraction for uncovering the secrets and intricate treasures of this distinctive, northerly county
Strathspey Steam Railway – Aviemore: A relaxing day in the highlands, a 20 mile trip along part of the original highway through woodland, over moorland and by great sweeps of the River Spey
Landmark Forest Adventure Park – Carrbridge: A year round theme park with nature trials, the wild water coaster ride and a steam powered sawmill
INTERESTING INFORMATION ABOUT THE AREA
From its untamed, lowering mountains of the oldest rock on earth, through the secret glens, across crystal clear lochs to its rich, rolling hills, the landscape of Scotland mirrors the passion and rugged independence of its people.
We’ll start our tour in the Lowlands, which, despite its name, includes plenty of wild upland country. It is the land south of a line from Loch Lomond to Stonehaven, with fertile, wooded valleys, winding rivers and stern hills.
The Border Country’s sheep-dotted hills look peaceful now but its past has been savage and turbulent. The ruins of medieval abbeys at Melrose, Dryburgh, Kelso and Jedburgh bear witness to centuries of turmoil.
On to one of the great cities of the world. Edinburgh has been described as pure theatre with its sweep of spires and battlements, crags and classical architecture. Keeping watch over the city, clinging to its volcanic ledge, is Edinburgh Castle. It is home to Scotland’s crown jewels, which include the oldest crown in Europe, and also the Stone of Destiny, the ancient crowning seat of the Scottish monarchs. The Royal Mile leads through the Old Town to the Palace of Holyrood House. On to the elegant ‘New Town’ of handsome Georgian houses and into the ravine to Dean village, a community apart. If you visit Edinburgh in late summer you’ll share it with one of the world’s most important arts festivals.
Down the River Clyde to Glasgow, once known as the Second City of the Empire – after London – because of its industrial past. Stunning Victorian architecture reflects its era of prosperity with its shipbuilding, ironworks and cotton mills. The People’s Palace gives an insight to the fascinating social history of the city, while the Burrell Collection and the Science Centre are foils to Glasgow’s rebirth.
Dating back at least to the 12th century is another of Scotland’s great castles rising high above the town it protects. Stirling Castle, on its rocky crag, is one of the country’s finest examples of Renaissance architecture.
Further into wild Caledonia and on to Inverness – the capital of the Highlands. It’s an ideal base for exploring the Cairngorms, which make up the highest landmass in Britain. The horror of the battle of Culloden and its aftermath is best appreciated on a misty morning. As the sun burns through, see Loch Ness at its finest…you might even spot Nessie taking in the view! On down the Great Glen and the Caledonian Canal to Fort William, then a deep breath and up Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain…all 4,408 feet of it.
The awesome scenery around Glencoe, compared by Charles Dickens to “a burial ground of a race of giants”, masks another Highland horror. The Massacre of Glencoe was part of the bloody aftermath of the failed Jacobite Rebellion and saw the glen named the Glen of Weeping.
Let’s enter the wilderness of Wester Ross and share with red deer, wild cats and goats and golden eagles some of the oldest mountains on earth. The rocks used to build the abandoned crofts – another sad testament to the Highland Clearances – are more than 600 million years old.
More gentle is the refined Victorian spa town of Strathpeffer, not far from the Falls of Rogie. Thousands of wealthy visitors, joined by royalty, would take the waters, which were believed to ward off or even cure tuberculosis.
Northwards to Cape Wrath, standing guard against the worst the North Atlantic can summon up, and on to John O’Groats…876 miles from Land’s End. Just east of the village are the spectacular cliffs and rock stacks of Duncansby Head. John O’Groats is Britain’s most northeasterly mainland village and looks across the Pentland Firth towards Orkney. The isles of Orkney are among Europe’s most important archaeological sites, featuring Skara Brae, a complete Stone Age village. Further north, just six degrees south of the Arctic Circle, are the rugged Shetland islands. Shetland’s midwinter festival, Up Helly Aa, celebrates its Norse heritage with the burning of a replica Viking longship.
We turn back southwest to the stunningly beautiful sea lochs and isle of Jura, and Mull, Tobermory and Mallaig, then over the sea to Skye and the Western Isles.
The Cuillins dominate Skye, and the fleeing Bonnie Prince Charlie said of these ice-ravaged mountains: “Even the Devil shall not follow me here”. A road bridge links the island to the mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh.
Still beckoning westward are the isle of Lewis and Harris, divided by a range of mountains offering first rate hill walking and views. To the south, the Uists, Benbecula and Barra, have long, white, sandy beaches facing the Atlantic.
Fore! We cannot forget Scotland is widely recognised as the home of golf, with its shrine at St Andrews. Its history and culture can be traced back to 1457, with the 550 courses offering challenges galore.
And a wee dram afore ye go. Follow the various whisky trails around the mainland and the isles and learn a great deal of history…and why the brew – the water of life – has travelled the world. Slainte mhath!