Landmarks in Scotland

Places to Go

Landmarks in Scotland

For a country whose national animal is a unicorn, it’s unsurprising that you can expect some pretty magical things to see and do when you visit.

Oh yes, from giant horses to fairytale castles, Scotland’s famous landmarks are as enchanting as they are fascinating. You can tour the dramatic North Coast 500, stopping at every cave, beach, and castle you pass, or you can build an unforgettable itinerary that takes you across the whole of Scotland’s incredible landscape, from lochs and mountains to legendary isles.

Naturally, exploring cavernous caves and ancient stone circles can be hungry work. Luckily, Scotland is home to some exceptional eateries where you can fill up on local delicacies and home-brewed ales – not to mention a slew of distilleries for a real Scottish whisky.

Ready to explore the many wonderful landmarks in Scotland? Here are just a few to get your wanderlist started…

 

The Kelpies, Stirlingshire

A giant statue of a horse's head in Scotland

Celebrating one (or should we say two) of Scotland’s famous mythical creatures, The Kelpies offer a totally unique sight amidst the wild and natural beauty of Scotland. Standing at an impressive 30 metres high, they are the largest equine statues in the world (even if they’re technically shape-shifting water spirits). You’ll find a visitor centre, complete with a gift shop, café, and information on the towering horses, at the base of the sculpture – the perfect spot to enjoy a coffee and slice of Dundee cake while you discuss your favourite Scottish folklore.

 

Smoo Cave, Highlands

The massive rocky interior of Smoo Cave in Scotland

Steeped in history, from Vikings to highwaymen, Smoo Cave in Durness is one of Scotland’s most impressive natural landmarks and a family favourite when it comes to days out. Even before you enter the giant cave, the yawning entrance, which stands at 50 feet high, offers a jaw-dropping sight. The cave itself burrows deep into the limestone cliffs, providing plenty of fascinating nooks to explore. Guided tours take you further into the cave, while the initial cavern is free to enter. There are some incredible coastal walks around Smoo Cave, giving you a breath-taking tour of Scotland’s north coast, ideal for those looking for a leg-stretch during the iconic NC500 road trip.

 

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Highlands

A red steam train going along the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, you’ve probably seen the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct on screen in the Harry Potter films, where it carries the Hogwarts Express through the dramatic Scottish countryside. Today, you can still see this magical sight when the famous Jacobite Steam Train chugs across the viaduct on its daily journey. To visit the viaduct, head to Glenfinnan Monument, which sits by the waters of Loch Shiel. From here, you can walk to the top of the tower, or you can climb the hill behind the visitor centre for unrivalled views across the viaduct – make sure to time your visit with the steam train for that extra spark of magic (or climb aboard the train yourself to see the viaduct in action)! We also recommend visiting in autumn when a riot of colours cover the surrounding landscape.

 

Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire

The historic castle of Balmoral surrounded by green lawns and trees in Scotland

With 65 castles on offer, Scotland boasts plenty of grandeur, and none more so than the Royal Family’s Scottish seat at Balmoral, which has been in the Royal Family since 1852. The gardens and grounds open to the public for various dates throughout the year, providing a fascinating and beautiful spot for a walk. Dogs are welcome in the outdoor spaces and there are multiple walking routes you can explore, including a trip up to Albert’s Pyramid. Balmoral holds a rolling roster of exhibitions in its ballroom, which explore and celebrate many facets of the Royal Family, while a cosy café waits in the grounds to ply you with coffee and cake.

 

Ben Nevis, Highlands

A stony path leading up the side of Ben Nevis mountain in Scotland

Claiming the title of tallest peak in Scotland (and the whole of the UK for that matter), Ben Nevis is often at the top of people’s Scottish bucket lists. Oh yes, whether you’re eager to climb the rocky giant, or you want a mountainous photobomb, old Ben makes for a grand destination indeed. As Scotland’s highest peak, it will be of little surprise that the routes to the top are listed as difficult, with the stony ascent promising a hearty adventure.

The peak’s northern side is also a celebrated spot for rock and ice climbing, creating an action-packed playground waiting to be explored. There are lots of guided tours you can join, which offer encouragement, guidance, and knowledge throughout the climb. For example, did you know Ben Nevis is an old volcano that collapsed in on itself? After your climb, head into Fort William for a pub visit complete with some haggis, neeps, and tatties – the ultimate Highlander refuel!

 

Loch Lomond, Stirlingshire

Someone walking along the banks of Loch Lomond, with the huge body of water behind them

Boasting sweeping views, the likes of which have inspired many a song over the years, the bonny banks of Loch Lomond are one of the best sights in Scotland. The mesmerising loch can be found in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park and promises a giddy list of outdoor activities on offer. If you fancy making the most of the impressively large loch (it actually has the largest surface area in Scotland and is deep enough to cover Big Ben two times over), wild swimming, canoeing, boating, banana boats, and even a water trampoline can be found in the refreshing waters.

For walkers, plenty of stunning routes wind their way around the banks and across the surrounding national park, offering plenty of opportunities to stretch the legs while filling up the camera roll. Of course, you can always simply stop by with a basket full of Scottish goodies for a pretty spectacular picnic – Loch Lomond is a beautifully blank sheet on which to build an unforgettable itinerary.

 

Stirling Castle, Stirlingshire

A bird's eye view of the massive Stirling Castle in Scotland

If you’re looking to truly step back in time, there is no greater place than Stirling Castle. Not only is the famed fortress an important remnant of Scotland’s history – it was a beloved residence of the Stewart kings and queens for many years – but it now boasts a myriad of vibrant exhibitions, costumed characters, and incredibly preserved rooms, so you can walk through the halls of history – the kids can even try on some period costumes!

Join one of the fascinating tours to learn all about life behind these ancient walls, or explore the castle at your own pace, taking in everything from the eye-catching great hall to the exceptional tapestries, which offer a colourful sneak peek into the past. The Queen Anne Gardens are a beautiful spot to soak up some Scottish sun, and the Unicorn Café promises a delectable array of fresh local bakes.

 

Glen Coe, Highlands

The towering mountains and deep valley at Glen Coe in Scotland

The Scottish Highlands are renowned for their epic scenery, but perhaps the most spectacular spot is the famous Glen Coe valley. Formed over millions of years through volcanic and glacial activity, it’s easy to see why Glen Coe and the surrounding Lochaber Geopark have affectionately earned the title of ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’. From the tallest of the Monro mountains to the area’s incredible biodiversity and geological significance, naturalists will love visiting the famed valley – as will the walkers!

Oh yes, with 37 miles of carefully maintained footpaths, Glen Coe is a true walkers’ paradise. You’ll find a wonderful mix of routes and terrains, from mountainous climbs to sweeping strolls across the valley’s floor. Of course, a visit to Glen Coe wouldn’t be complete without a walk through history, in honour of the area’s sorrowful past. The National Trust for Scotland’s incredible reconstructed 17th-century turf and creel house offers a glimpse into what life was like in the valley, and the visitor centre boasts an in-depth look at the valley’s rich and vivid history, including the tragic Glencoe Massacre.

 

Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

The famous stone stacks at the Old Man of Storr in Scotland

From the shimmering depths of the Fairy Pools to the rugged beaches that make up the coastline, the Isle of Skye is a shining beacon of fantastical scenery and unforgettable walks. Of course, when it comes to walking this fairytale isle, the most popular by far is that of the Old Man of Storr, which is named for the iconic pinnacle of rocks that act as your oh-so-dramatic goal. Whether the rocks are the thumb of a long-lost giant (as legend suggests) or simply an impressive geological feature, they make for an unmatched backdrop to any walk.

The walk itself is just over an hour in length, perfect for those wanting a quick but jaw-dropping ramble. With such beautiful scenery, you may want to enjoy plenty of camera breaks (otherwise known as breathers) during the steeper portions of the walk. The Isle of Skye boasts many incredible landmarks and walks, making it the perfect day trip destination.

 

Calanais Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis

The ancient standing stone of Calanais in Scotland

Another rocky feature to draw you to Scotland’s bonny isles are the incredible Calanais Standing Stones off the coast of the Scottish Highlands. Standing proud on the wild and wonderful Isle of Lewis, the stones offer the chance to explore one of the country’s best-preserved Neolithic monuments. Predating England’s Stone Henge and boasting an age of at least 5,000 years, the Calanais Standing Stones are as much a mystery as the UK’s other Neolithic monuments.

They stand in a fascinating shape, forgoing the usual circular formations in favour of an intriguing cross-like structure. Were they once people now turned to stone? Perhaps they were an astrological observatory of some kind, or a temple? Whatever their original purpose, today they act as a magical foothold for the past to shine through, connecting us to myth, legend, and the surrounding landscape that wraps around the ancient stones.

 

Get your camera ready and spend your Scottish stay exploring the many wondrous landmarks that pepper the ancient landscape, before returning to your cosy lodge in Scotland.

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