18 Beautiful Places in Scotland

Scotland is absolutely stunning. If the weather were more reliable it would be absolutely jammed with tourists. The beauty of Scotland is that the weather changes at a pace so even at its worst often blue skies can be literally just moments away.

This is not an exhaustive list of beautiful places in Scotland – there are so so many. I have been to Scotland at least 7 times covering Edinburgh and Glasgow, the less-visited south west coast regions of Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire, Glen Coe, Ben Nevis and the Highlands and the centre of Scotland. So these are the 18 most beautiful places that I have visited in Scotland.

18 Beautiful Places In Scotland

1. Culzean Castle – Ayrshire

Culzean Castle is big. The size of the grounds of this castle is quite staggering. It will take several minutes to drive through from the entrance to the parking area.

thingstodoinayrshire

Once out of the parking area there is a large complex with the Home Farm Restaurant. There are 40 buildings across the Culzean Castle estate.

There are then a couple of paths you can follow to Culzean castle itself. There are castle tours – don’t miss the knife collection.

culzeancastlescotland a beautiful place to visit in scotland

A great Instagram opportunity is the little boat launch. There are also several other walks etc throughout the grounds of Culzean Castle.

2. Brig o Doon – Ayr

The Brig O Doon is the most photogenic of the many Robert Burns activities in Ayr. Ayr was home to Scotland’s most famous poet Robert Burns. The town sports a museum, his birth home, a grave, a walk but prettiest of all is the lovely Brig O Doon bridge, thought to have been built in the 15th century.

brigodoon2

When you walk down to the bridge on the Alloway side of the water you will walk past a lovely pub called the Brig o’ Doon House Hotel. The pub has a lovely garden with amazing trimmed trees that are also worth a look and a photograph.

Read more about Ayrshire in my post on the 12 Top Things to do in Ayrshire.

3. Knockinaam Lodge – Dumfries & Galloway

I fell in love with Knockinaam Lodge. It is located very near the most southwestern tip of Scotland and has a very magical, hidden away feel. This Scotland luxury hotel is tucked away behind a cliff next to the sea.

dumfries-things-to-do

The small cove and beach at Knockinaam Lodge Scotland are absolutely gorgeous. And then there are the 30 acres of gorgeous gardens – and a walking path to super cute Portpatrick.

Knockinaam Lodge is steeped in history. Sir Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower met here during the Second World War. John Buchan visited Knockinaam Lodge and based some of his famous novel The 39 Steps around the area.

knockinaam lodge

This Scottish hotel is a well-known spot for artists and writers to be able to escape and explore their creativity. I can completely see why. There is something very peaceful yet magical about this special area on the West Coast Scotland.

4. Visit the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse – Dumfries & Galloway

The Mull of Galloway is the most southerly point of Scotland’s mainland and one of the best things to do in Dumfries and Galloway. The Mull of Galloway Scotland Lighthouse was built by Robert Stevenson in 1830 and stands 99 metres above sea level.

mull of galloway lighthouse

It is possible to climb to the top of this Scotttish lighthouse and see the view from the balcony. There is also an exhibition on the ground floor of the Mull of Galloway.

It is possible to do a nice almost circular walk around this Scotland lighthouse from the parking area. Don’t miss the view from the Lagvag viewpoint – this was my favourite.

things-to-do-in-dumfries-and-galloway

There is also a cute coffee house Gallie Craig which sits right on the cliff and provides stunning views. The easiest way to get to the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse is by car along the A716 – follow the brown tourist signs from Drummore.

If you are taking the train the closest station is Stranraer which is 35km away. The nearest bus stop is at Drummore which is 8km away. A car is definitely the best option.

5. Portpatrick – Dumfries & Galloway

Portpatrick Scotland is a picture-perfect town set on a small bay on the west coast of Scotland. Pastel coloured houses and buildings line the bay. Once a port, Portpatrick is now a seaside resort.

portpatrick restaurant

There are some great options when it comes to Portpatrick restaurant choices. I chose to have a delicious seafood lunch at Campbells Portpatrick and can highly recommend their seafood tempura.

campbells portpatrick

The Crown Hotel and the Port Pantry in Portpatrick also come with good reviews. Don’t miss visiting this lovely little town in Scotland – it is extremely photogenic.

6. Logan Botanic Gardens – Dumfries & Galloway

The wonderful microclimate of the south west of Scotland means that plants can be grown here that would not thrive in other areas of Scotland. Logan Botanic Garden is known as Scotland’s Most Exotic Garden and is one of the key attractions in Dumfries and Galloway.

things to do in dumfries and galloway

Logan Botanic Garden features plants from South and Central America, Southern africa and Australasia that are rarely seen in the United Kingdom.

There are some lovely walks, a Walled Garden, fish pond and the award-winning Potting Shed Bistro for some lunch. If you’re heading to Logan Botanic Gardens in west Scotland in May have a look at this post about Visiting the Garden of Cosmic Speculation – it is only open one day of the year.

British Rail Passes for Overseas Visitors

Rail is a brilliant way to get around Scotland. The BritRail Central Scotland Pass covers the key central cities in Scotland – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Fife Station. If you’re planning on exploring the Highlands and the islands of Scotland then a better option is the BritRail Scottish Freedom Pass.

7. Take the Southwest coastal drive 300 route

Any stories about driving around Scotland normally focus on the justifiably wonderful North Coast 500 road which runs through the jaw-droppingly beautiful Scottish Highlands

things to do in dumfries and galloway

The Southwest Coast Drive 300 Scotland route is considerably less well known – but in many ways just as beautiful.

The route is just over 300 miles and is circular so you can start it in many different spots. A good place to start the South West Coast Drive 300 is Lockerbie.

scottish sheep with a black face
I do love Scottish Wildlife!

The South West Scotland 300 can then be followed to Dumfries and then all along the coast to the Mull of Galloway and back up through Girvan.

Read more about Scotland’s least visited region in my post on 11 Things to do in Dumfries and Galloway.

8. House for An Art Lover – Glasgow

house for an art lover glasgow
Sculptures at House for an Art Lover

House for an Art Lover Glasgow is just outside the centre of Glasgow. The house is an art gallery, exhibition space, a lovely restaurant, studio and visitor attraction.

glasgow house for an art lover

It was designed by Glasgow’s most famous architect, Rennie Scott Mackintosh, as a country retreat. The house sits within the 169 acre ground of Bellahouston, one of Glasgow’s oldest and loveliest parks.

house for an art lover
Inside House for an Art Lover

I so loved my visit to House for an Art Lover. I went to see a couple of exhibitions, including a recreation of some of Rennie Scott Mackintosh’s lovely work, had a great lunch and very much enjoyed wandering the grounds.

Read more about Glasgow in my post on the top Glasgow tours and day trips.

9. Edinburgh Castle

There can be few castles in the world as magnificent as Edinburgh castle! It perches literally on the top of Edinburgh. Don’t leave Edinburgh without visiting Edinburgh castle. 

view over edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle sits on the top of Edinburgh

National Trust Passes cover entry to a large number of major attractions & stately homes in the UK.

The Historic Scotland Explorer Pass covers more than 75 properties & the Scottish Heritage Pass covers over 120 properties between April 1 and October 31.

10. Arthur’s Seat – Edinburgh

Arthur’s Seat is home to one of the best views over Edinburgh. It takes about 30 minutes to walk up to the top. Do be careful with the weather as boy is it windy on a windy day.

11. Glen Coe

When you leave Glasgow head north on the A82 main road. This drive takes you through the stunning Glen Coe. It is frequently commented on in travel books for good reason – it is absolutely beautiful.

best things to do in scotland highlands

But it is always about the light and the weather when it comes to photography – and you have to be quick in Scotland.

12. Eilean Donan Castle – The Isle of Skye

The stunning Eilean Donan Castle is literally on the A87 road not far before it heads over to the Isle of Skye. The castle is on a small tidal island that is located where three different lochs meet and it is extremely photogenic.

tour scottish highlands

Capture it both from a distance and up close. Plus, you will pass Eilean Donan Castle again on your way out of the Isle of Skye.

13. Drive the A87 and B roads around the top east side of The Isle of Skye

This was one of my favourite activities on the whole trip – thanks to Mitchell from Skye Ghillie. The scenery in this area of the Isle of Skye was absolutely majestic – although of course, it was constantly changing with the weather.

scottish highlands attractions

Depending on the weather your first stop can be Quiraing – a very scenic rock formation. There is a walk to the prison but the weather was not on my side so we didn’t risk it.

what to do in scottish highlands

The Old Man of Storr is also great for photos and is perhaps the most famous walk on the Isle of Skye as well as its icon. The Isle of Skye is one of the highlights of this Scotland Itinerary 7 Days.

tours to isle of skye from glasgow
The Isle of Skye

Driving along the coast and you’ll then hit the stunning and windy Kilt Rock – so named as it does resemble a tartan print. Then head inland to the picturesque Fairy Glen.

Movies have been filmed here and it does have a genuinely magical feel – and a lot of sheep.

⇒ Looking to explore the South and South West of England? Check out my posts on Ockenden Manor Spa in Sussex, wonderful Things to do in Winchester, a Day trip to Brighton, Exeter Cafes, Exmouth Boat Trip options, 9 The Crown Filming Locations you can visit, Fun things to do in Cardiff, 7 Boutique Hotels in Cornwall Places to visit in South Wales, Where to Stay in the Cotswolds, Cotswolds Tour from London, Luxury Hotels Yorkshire and spa hotels South West England.

14. Ben Nevis

Sure Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK. But it’s up and back in the day. And I’ve done Kilimanjaro. I’d climbed Snowdon the year before and whilst it was a big day it was manageable.

I really didn’t think climbing Ben Nevis would be that big a deal. I was very wrong.

views from the climb up Ben Nevis
Views from Ben Nevis

Fort William is the outdoor capital of the United Kingdom. There is rock climbing, ice climbing in the winter, trekking, canoeing, kayaking – you name it and Fort William probably offers it.

The reason that Fort William has become the outdoor capital of the United Kingdom is that it is home to Britain’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis.

guide-ben-nevis

I have written a separate blog post on climbing Ben Nevis which I highly recommend you read if you’re interested in taking on the mountain.

The key things to remember are that the weather can change unbelievably fast, it is quite a challenging climb and I highly recommend you go with a guide or in a group.

nevis-hiking-trips

15. Boat Trip Ullapool

The highlight of my trip to Ullapool was heading out on the loch on a boat trip. I went at Easter time and it was quite cold – I think this may have been one of the first boat trips of the season.

Best things to do in the Scottish highlands hotels attractions activities
Local Seal

However, we did see lots of birdlife and quite a few seals and get some stunning views of the loch and general area. Shearwater Cruises and Seascape Expeditions both run boat trips from Ullapool harbour.

It’s a small seaside town – really just one street of shops, bars and a petrol station. We used this as a base for two nights and then drove south and explored.

16. Durness Beach

I discovered the beach at Durness when I took a stroll from our B&B. It is literally called Durness Beach which makes it easy. There is a very picturesque dilapidated church just before you hit the beach.

Best things to do in the Scottish highlands hotels attractions activities
Durness Beach

And then just walk and walk along the beach and into the dunes. I went at sunset and this was a fantastic time for photos.

The cute Smoo Cave is also worth a visit. Smoo Cave is one mile east of Durness so this is a perfect stop on your way out of Durness.

⇒ Heading to London? Check out my posts on 13 Unusual Experiences in London, the best London Food Tours, my virtual London Travel Blog, some great Earlsfield restaurants, 14 Things to do in Notting Hill, restaurants near Clapham Junction and Victoria Station restaurants, 16 Famous Landmarks in Europe, a mad hatter afternoon tea party and a day trip to Brighton and Cotswolds tour from London options.

17. Thurso

Thurso is the most northwesterly town in the UK and sits on the ocean on a beautiful spot called Thurso Bay which is lovely for a walk. Nearby attractions include the Castle and Gardens of Mey and Castle Sinclair Girnigoe.

scottish sheep

18. Dunnet Head and John O’Groats

So I thought that the top of the UK was John O’Groats – it turns out it depends on how you define top. The most northerly part of mainland Britain (very specific) is actually Dunnet Head.

So obviously that needed to be visited. However, to be complete we also felt we needed to head to John O’Groats as well. They’re conveniently close together but there is a lot more going on at John O’Groats.

Best things to do in the Scottish highlands hotels attractions activities
It is rather windy at the top!

John O’Groats has the signposts for photos, coastal walks, and boat trips – including those that can take you to the nearby Orkney Islands. Dunnet Head is a raw and wild nature reserve. It has some stunning cliffs and masses of birdlife.

Dying to visit Scotland? Don’t miss my posts on the perfect Scotland 7 Day Itinerary with the Isle of Skye and my 10 Day Scotland Itinerary which includes the Scottish Highlands.

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This beautiful places in Scotland post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.

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