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Scotland: Places to See

Lowlands

Scotland's Lowlands occupy the area between the English border and the Highland Boundary Fault, a region of rolling hills, peaceful ruins and thriving cities. Much of Scotland's celebrated literary heritage is associated with the Lowlands.

Lively Edinburgh is Scotland's capital city and home to a wide range of historical and cultural attractions. In medieval Old Town, visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official royal residence, and view the Scottish Crown Jewels at majestic Edinburgh Castle. The castle and palace are connected by the Royal Mile, a thoroughfare filled with shops, attractions and street performers. Nearby, a climb up the extinct volcano of Arthur’s Seat provides panoramic views of the city.

Georgian New Town offers Scott Monument, a 200-foot Gothic spire honoring the life of Sir Walter Scott, and Calton Hill, a scenic lookout dotted with monuments and a replica of the Parthenon. Together, the Old and New Towns are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every August, the population swells as the city hosts the world-famous Festival Fringe and Edinburgh International Festival as well as the Military Tattoo.

To the south of Edinburgh, stop in historic Melrose to visit the home of Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford House, and explore its impressive library of rare works.

Pretty St. Andrews is a small town on Scotland's east coast that is known around the world as the birthplace of golf. The town is also home to the University of St. Andrews, the oldest university in Scotland. Stirling, the "Gateway to the Highlands," has been the location of many historic battles for Scottish independence. Visit the Wallace Monument and iconic Stirling Castle.

Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city and a thriving cultural hub. It was designated a UNESCO Creative City for its music, boasting a live music scene that’s among the best in Britain. Glasgow flourished during the Victorian era, and much of this heritage can still be seen in the city’s architecture, including the Gothic cathedral, the impressive City Chambers and George Square.

Highlights south of Glasgow include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of New Lanark and Falls of Clyde nature reserve. At the Scottish-English border, visit the small village and romantic hot spot of Gretna Green, famous for holding runaway marriages.

Highlands

The sparsely populated Highlands of Scotland have been culturally distinct from the Lowlands since the Middle Ages and bring to mind images of clans and tartans, kilts and haggis. The Highlands are home to spectacular and often rugged scenery, including mountain ranges, national parks, lochs and glens.

Drive along the "bonnie, bonnie banks" of Loch Lomond or cruise the blue waters of this scenic "Queen of Scottish Lakes." Loch Lomond is Scotland's largest lake and is overlooked by Ben Lomond and other Highland peaks.

At 23 miles long and as much as a mile wide in many places, Loch Ness is Scotland's most renowned lake. The Loch is home to the mythical Loch Ness monster, Nessie, whom many visitors claim to have seen through the years. Take in the breathtaking scenery and keep an eye out for Nessie or see the medieval ruins of Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness.

Haunting Glencoe is the site of the 1692 massacre of the Clan MacDonald by the Clan Campbell. Visit the Clan Memorial and enjoy the valley’s magnificent scenery. To the north of Glencoe is Fort William, which sits at the southern end of the scenic Great Glen, a series of lochs and glens that stretch across the Highlands. Visit the Commando Memorial in Fort William and enjoy views of Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest mountain.

Inverness is the capital of the Highlands and the site of 19th-century Inverness Castle, which now houses a local court and the Victorian Market. The nearby Ness Islands are a delightful spot for a walk; wander paths shaded by trees and spotted with birds, deer and other wildlife. Head to Moray Firth to see bottlenose dolphins.

East of Inverness, visit Culloden, where the final defeat of the Jacobite Rebellion took place. Iconic Eilean Donan Castle was once a stronghold against the Vikings and now offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and lochs.

Islands

Scotland's wild northern and western coastlines are dotted with a number of island groups, each steeped in its own unique culture and heritage. The Orkney Islands have been inhabited for some 8,500 years and boast a wealth of archaeological treasures. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Skara Brae, a Neolithic village believed to have been inhabited from around 3,100 B.C., then continue to the prehistoric Ring of Brodgar. The lively capital of Kirkwall is Orkney’s largest town and enjoys Norse and Scottish influences.

The two island groups of the Inner and Outer Hebrides lie off Scotland's west coast. The Isle of Skye is the northernmost island of the Inner Hebrides. Visit Dunvegan Castle and the charming capital of Portree, which sits in a sheltered bay offering views of the Cuillin Hills.

Make your way to the Isle of Mull, also in the Inner Hebrides, to explore Duart Castle. Iona, a small island just off the coast of Mull, is one of Scotland's most sacred sites and the birthplace of Celtic Christianity. Visit charming Iona Abbey, the burial site of 48 early Scottish kings, including Duncan who fell victim to Macbeth.