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10 things not to miss on your visit to Scotland

10 things not to miss in scotland

I’ve lived in Scotland for nearly three years now and there are always new things to discover. You may tell from my Ultimate Scottish Bucket List, which has nearly 100 items. But after three years, I’m starting to feel like I know this place. Locals sometimes tell me I’ve visited more of Scotland then them and the Brit is always up to humour me with my adventures around his home country – especially to places he’s never been or went to as a child.

This month I’m sponsoring the lovely Kaelene and since she’s heading to Scotland later in the year, I thought today I would put together my top 10 must-dos when you visit Scotland!

1. Visit one of the many isles of the country

Whether it’s the gorgeous Isle of Skye, the Isle of Orkney, the Isle of Mull, the Isle of Arran or even the tiny Isle of May, make sure not to miss it. The island life and the island landscapes are so different from the mainland and the people even nicer. Everywhere is on my list (as they say) and to share with you, I enjoyed the Isle of Iona the most.

isle iona

2. Visit the New and Old Town of Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a beauty. And it definitely grows on you as well. It is moody and dark in the rain and it is splendid in the sun. You can walk the wider streets of New Town, where you will find many many cafes, shops and restaurants, or head over the hill to the Old Town, with the wynds, alleyways, tiny shops and all the history.

edinburgh

3. Taste the drink and food of the nation

As everyone knows, Scotland rhymes with haggis and whisky. Visit a distillery, or head over to a pub for a tasting of the water of life. My favourite is the creamy whisky liqueur – a Scottish Bailey’s if you wish – Arran Gold. As for food, there are many things that say Scotland, like Cranachan (traditional dessert), haggis (you can have vege haggis too don’t worry!), oats (whether in cakes, desserts, or porridge), or even fish and chips!

jamie's scottish night haggis

4. Dance the night away at a ceilidh

Ceilidhs are my favourite kind of nights out in Scotland! It’s a folk dancing with a live band that usually calls the dances so that you know what you’re doing! Grab a partner, listen attentively, and have fun spinning around the dance floor to some traditional Scottish music.

ceilidh dancing

5. Visit the West End of Glasgow

The city centre of Glasgow is lovely, especially if you walk toward the water or go see the Necropolis or the museums, but truly the West End of Glasgow is where you want to go. It has the gorgeous buildings of the ancient University of Glasgow and the Kelvingrove gallery. It has windy streets lined by trees with bookshops, tiny shops and fresh food stalls.

glasgow west end skyline

6. Go admire or hike up a munro

I’m saying either one because I’ve still not hiked a munro and perhaps you won’t have time during your visit, but admiring them is definitely easy – from the train, the car, or even from the boat you may take on the loch. They are gorgeous and truly shape the Scottish landscape.

highlands

7. Ride a steam train and pretend you’re heading to Hogwarts

Okay this one is super specific, mainly because I think it was one of the coolest things I’ve done in Scotland. The steam train is such a lovely mode of transport – it takes you back to the olden days, but also drives you through gorgeous country sides and by the seaside.

jacobite 6

8. Do a day trip to a small coastal town

I am highly biased, but I think that small towns get you an amazing experience of the Scottish culture. I would obviously recommend St Andrews – it’s an easy day trip from Edinburgh – but there are so many all around the country. You can head to one of the many gorgeous and award-winning beaches, catch a glimpse of the sealife and you can eat the lovely freshly caught seafood.

mallaig boats

9. Visit a castle or a palace or a ruin

This goes almost without saying – there is so much history in Scotland! From the battlefield of Culloden, to the palace where ancient kings used to be crowned on the stone of destiny, to the famous castle of Edinburgh, to the many ruins hidden at the far corners of the country, there is so much to discover.

typical scottish weekend 10

10. Go admire one of the lochs

Did you know that there are over 30,000 lochs in Scotland?? That is a lot to choose from and a lot of beauty to behold. Though Loch Ness can be cliche (you can after all also go to Loch Tay, Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine, among others), one of my favourite moments in Scotland to date is walking the castle ruins of Urquhart and admiring the gorgeous Loch Ness.

admire loch ness

Which one would be at the top of your list? Ever visited Scotland? What would be your best tip?xx

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  • Joanna – Me-And-My-Itchy-Feet

    Scotland is one of my yet unfulfilled dreams. I’d love to visit the isles, see the lochs, climb the mountains and ride the train (as if) to Hogwarts!

    • Oh well I hope you make it here one day!! πŸ™‚ All of it is beautiful!! And that Hogwarts train even better πŸ˜€

  • I do love a good ceilidhs! xx

  • I don’t know to much about Scotland but I have to say, I LOVE the old school castles and that would be high on my list to visit!

    • I didn’t know much about it before I moved here but it’s been great to discover! And you’d definitely have loads of old castles to visit πŸ™‚

  • we were lucky that our hostel had a complete Scottish breakfast (including haggis!) so we go to try it! and we took a day trip to Alnwick castle instead of visiting more of Scotland, which I don’t regret.. it gives us an excuse to go again!,

    • Aw amazing! Though not sure I’d be able to swallow that in the morning haha And I dream of seeing Alnwick! Was it worth the visit? And you should definitely come back to Scotland πŸ™‚

  • I can’t wait for our trip!

  • Seriously, best list ever. It has me kicking myself that I’m not planning to go to beloved Scotland this summer! (sigh) I’m all about those isles and coastal cities! Your favorite drink sounds reeeeally good, by the way!

    • Aw thanks! Well for another year then – the isles and castles and seaside towns aren’t going anywhere πŸ™‚

  • Wow, these tips sound great and your photos are gorgeous! I’ve only been to Edinburgh and from there did little day trip into the Highlands. Getting that little taste of the countryside has me really wanting to explore more of Scotland’s natural beauty one day!

    Oh and ceilidhs sound so fun! Sounds like square dancing meets Scottish culture πŸ™‚

    • Aw thank you so much! You’re so right – the natural beauty of Scotland is so unique, it always leaves me wanting more πŸ™‚

  • This is such a good post!! Scotland has long been on my travel wishlist because it seems like such an interesting culture with beautiful landscapes, and this post proves it!! The isles sound so wonderful. And I want to ride the hogwarts steam train!

    • Scotland is lovely! If you’re ever back this way in Europe πŸ™‚ The mountains and seaside and the islands and the monuments are all so amazing to see and visit! And that train was such a highlight of 2015 for me πŸ™‚

  • Love that castle picture – it reminds me of the adventures we went on as we drove through Ireland last year!! I’m definitely looking forward to exploring Scotland some day – it looks beautiful!

    • Aw I need to make it to Ireland soon!! And I wouldn’t be surprised that Scotland would be both similar and very different all at once πŸ™‚

  • Scotland has been on my Bucket List for ages!! Especially since Kris is from Scotland, I think it’d be nice to take a trip back to where he was born and then a really awesome road trip afterwards haha. The “visiting the past” is just my pretence for a trip!

    I receive that comment from many Belgians… I think when you live somewhere, you just don’t tend to see it, it’s the same for me and the UK – when I got back these days I kick myself for not seeing more of it when I live in it!

    I’m all for hills, castles, seaside towns and chips – Scotland has my heart already! I love steam trains! I haven’t been on one in a long time, I think I need to rectify this!

    • Kris is from Scotland? Oh I didn’t know – you guys should definitely make it a big visiting trip! It’s so easy to get immersed in the culture and the landscapes – it’s all very natural, you know? You’d definitely enjoy it πŸ™‚

  • WHY DIDN’T I HAVE THIS LIST WHEN I WAS IN SCOTLAND?? I love all these suggestions and have done quite a few.. but dancing in a Ceilidh would’ve been AMAZING. I’m actually hoping for a return within the next few years. Ideally, I would love to live in Scotland. Sigh, the dream.

    • haha sorry about not posting it sooner πŸ˜‰ glad to hear you did a few though! Very good sign! Ceilidh dancing is the absolute best!!! You can be awful and still be a part of it and have the most fun. I highly recommend it for when you’re back πŸ˜‰

  • Awesome list – plenty for me to come back for! I think my number one Scotland tip is be prepared for all sorts of weather, haha. And factor in time just to soak in the gorgeous countryside – so beautiful!

  • Such great tips! I’ve only been to Scotland twice, but I did get to see some of the islands and loved how beautiful they are! πŸ™‚

  • Lots of ideas in here. My husband wants to go to Scotland, so, I will have to show him this post. Have a great week!

    • Aw coming to Scotland is never a mistake I can definitely recommend it (though I’m obviously biased!). Even after nearly three years I’m not bored of it! πŸ™‚

  • I just had haggis for the first time at a Burns Supper and almost puked…oh my goodness, so gross! hahaha

    • hahahaha I never had real haggis as I don’t really eat red meat – the idea of it just doesn’t go with me though!!

  • I’ve been to Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow. I’d love to do Highlands:) #travel tuesday

    • You’ve definitely seen a lot of the central belt then πŸ™‚ The Highlands are absolutely gorgeous!! For next time πŸ˜‰

  • This is an awesome list! I’ve only done Edinburgh and Glasgow, and you’re on point with that advice, for sure. Thanks for sharing on Travel Tuesday!

  • What a wonderful list!! I so want to go back to Scotland now… That photo of the ruins is epic! I’m so pleased to have discovered your blog πŸ™‚

  • Thanks for this awesome guide! I already pinned it for later when I come and visit this beautiful country. And what amazingly beautiful pictures you got. Visiting from #TravelTuesday

    • Aw thanks for your kind words and for pinning it! Hope you come visit – it’s just a gorgeous country that has so much to offer!x

  • Clare Thomson

    I love your description of yourself as a ‘book sniffer’! I think so many of us bookworms are! A great list of things to do in Scotland. I loved Glasgow and the isle of Skye – but there’s so much more to this beautiful country as you say.

    • hahaha aw thanks! It was weird when i met fellow bookworms who also sniffed books – totally happy it’s not just me! You’re right, there is just too much to do in Scotland – I still haven’t been to Skye, hopefully one day πŸ™‚

  • I’d love to visit Shetland and the Orkneys! They seem to have something magical about them πŸ™‚

  • I’ve never been but I’d love to hit up the coastal town first.. for the fresh sea food and refreshing sea breeze. Looks like a lovely way to spend time in Scotland.

  • I was lucky enough to do several of these things when I last visited Scotland, but I never went to a Ceilidh! That sounds awesome! I will have to drag my husband to one when I next visit. πŸ™‚

    • Aw that’s so great that you were able to do so many of them! And yes, ceilidh are sooo awesome! My man doesn’t really dance, but he does ceilidh because it’s you can have so much fun because it’s silly and all about people πŸ™‚

  • Ahh this list has me dying to go to Scotland! The last five in particular look so amazing.

  • Em

    I wish I’d had this list when we visited Scotland two Christmases ago! You really do make it look enticing. And great photo of you on the train – big smile πŸ™‚

  • Looks so beautiful! I can’t wait to go one day.. Pinning for later πŸ™‚

  • Ah! Wish I could go! One of my students is graduating and moving to Scotland next year, so I’ll have another reason to come visit!

  • This post makes me wish I was immortal and had all the time in the world to explore all of these things. I feel lucky to have done some of them, but I’d love to hike up a munro, ride the Hogwarts steam train (!!!), visit a coastal town (I’d like to do this in England, too!), and visit some old ruins.

    • hahaha aw I definitely know what you mean – I want to see it all too!! And it’s pretty cool that the list you just wrote down is basically also feasible in England – though replace with munros with whatever English people call them πŸ™‚

  • Brilliant post! I’d also say visit the north coast (where I live) as its such wonderful, unexplored part of the country. But I 100% agree with your choices above – for such a small country, there’s so much to discover!

    • Oh I definitely agree with you! I think it’s a bit harder when you’re on a short visit, but I’ve enjoyed visited the most northern part of mainland and plan on driving the North Coast 500!