When you speak about Scotland you imagine a land that is full of history but that also has unmistakable beauty. These Scotland landmarks I’m sharing with you today encompasses all of that and more. I hope you’re ready for a quick overview that will have you booking your tickets, or getting excited if you’re already booked!
Growing up in Scotland, a lot of these Scottish Landmarks were not something I thought too much about – they were just there! Now I’m older and visit Scotland most years, with a bit more of a tourist mindset, I appreciate them a lot more!
Of course, not all will be easy to tick off on just one visit. They are spread all over the country so you’ll either need to be tenacious or be content to come back and explore more!
Here’s the list of 22 Scotland Landmarks you should try to visit:
- Edinburgh Castle
- The Kelpies
- Forth Rail Bridge
- Glenfinnan Viaduct
- Eilean Donan castle
- Balmoral castle
- Loch Ness
- Skara Brae
- Ben Nevis
- Arthur’s Seat
- John o’Groats
- Discover ship in Dundee
- Kelvingrove Art Gallery
- Melrose Abbey
- Rosslyn Chapel
- Stirling Castle
- Falkirk Wheel
- Fingal’s Cave
22 Scotland Landmarks – map
Location: top of the Royal Mile, Old Town, Edinburgh
We can’t talk about the landmarks of Scotland without thinking about probably the most famous castle in the entire country – Edinburgh Castle.
Built on an extinct volcano, it overlooks the capital city and is a draw for tourists from all over the world. You can see it from many aspects of the city as well so no matter where you are you’ll be able to tick this one off.
There has been people using this area for many years before there was the castle that you can see now. It dates from the 11th century so is around 1000 years old now!
Listen out for the one o’clock gun that fires every day except Sunday!
Location: The Helix Park, Falkirk, Central Scotland
A relatively new Scottish Landmark but one that has captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike.
These sculptures stand around 30 metres high and they are a wonderful sight – based on the Scottish legend of Kelpies or water horses. They are part of a wider park area so plenty of space to let kids or dogs run around and have a picnic if the weather has been kind to you.
Falkirk isn’t too far away from Edinburgh so a trip to see the Kelpies is an easy day trip.
If you are there in the evening as the sun goes down (or earlier if you’re in Scotland in winter) you’ll see them put on a light show!
Forth Rail Bridge
I used to go over the road version of the bridge every week as a child and the delight at being able to see the wonder of engineering across from us never waned.
The rail bridge is a UNESCO world heritage site and was built in the late 1800s. It connects the county of Fife to the Lothian area and the city of Edinburgh.
Painted a distinct red it’s one of Scotland’s most recognisable landmarks. In Scotland a never ending job is said to be just like painting the Forth Bridge – by the time you finish you have to start again!
You can see the bridge from the town of South Queensferry (on the Edinburgh side) or North Queensferry (in Fife).
Location: Glenfinnan, west coast of Scotland near Fort William
Another railway bridge and one that is a similar age but has really gained popularity in recent years with the Harry Potter films. Glenfinnan Viaduct is the curved bridge in the Scottish Highlands that the Harry Potter train travels over.
It overlooks a sea loch and the setting is just magical. Even more so when a steam train travels over – yes you can actually travel on a Harry Potter train across from it! Ok, it’s not exactly the same train but it’s pretty close!
As well as being a must visit site for anyone who loves Harry Potter it’s an interesting place for history enthusiasts too. Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived here as the beginning of the Jacobite rising – you can see a monument and there’s a visitor centre to learn more too.
Eilean Donan castle
Location: West coast of Scotland, near Isle of Skye
James always calls this the Highlander castle as it was used in that iconic film (and many others) – Eilean Donan is one of the most photographed castles in the country and almost always used on postcards, books and in films!
The castle dates back to the 13th century but what you can see now is the restoration of ruins that began in the early 1900s. It was a lot different for many years!
Eileen Donan is quite out of the way on the west coast of Scotland. Many people visit on a trip to the Isle of Skye since it’s on the way to there or as a highlands road trip around the country.
Location: Ballatar, Grampian region
The Highland home of the Queen is Balmoral Castle which is deep in the countryside – you can just imagine her and the rest of the royal family out stalking deer up here!
Location: Near Inverness, Highlands
Home to the famous Loch Ness monster, Nessie! Many people come to Loch Ness in the highlands to explore and see if the legends are true. You just can’t help keeping your eyes peeled in the hope that you’ll see her!
Situated close by to the city of Inverness in the Highlands it’s an easy day trip from there if you want to get into nature and explore. As well as looking for monsters you can chase the elusive red squirrel and look for many waterfalls in the area.
Location: Scottish Highlands, near Fort William
Glencoe is one of my most favourite spots and it’s because of the real sense of mystery about the place.
As you drive the A82 to Fort William you’ll drive straight through Glencoe and the hills simply tower around you as you travel onwards. It can feel oppressive, especially if the weather is grey and cloudy.
There are many hikes and walks to do in the area and if you want to learn about the geology and history of the place make sure to pop in to the Glencoe visitors centre. The history is of interest to anyone looking to learn about Scottish clans, specifically the MacDonalds – many were massacred in the area.
Location: Orkney, Far North of Scotland
Way off the beaten path for many of Scotland’s visitors, Orkney is an archipelago to the north of the country. It’s easily visited from the mainland but even so, many won’t make it here so if you want a quiet spot…
Skara Brae is an ancient site on Orkney that has a really interesting discovery story. It was unknown to everyone until a really bad storm washed away some of the soil and unearthed a hidden village.
Location: Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, North West coast of Scotland
Another ancient Scottish landmark and again somewhere that is quite off the beaten track. It’s a popular site but the fact that it’s on an island in the far north west of the country stops many people from visiting.
Callanish is an area of standing stones that have been dated to have being built over 5000 years ago.
It’s a beautiful area to explore with some of Scotland’s most stunning beaches too!
Location: Near Fort William, Highlands
Not only Scotland’s highest mountain but the highest in the whole of the UK. Ben Nevis attracts walkers and climbers all year round and the area as a whole is even home to ski slopes in the winter months.
If you want to explore the mountains in this part of Scotland you’ll want to base yourself in the town of Fort William.
I can’t tell you much more about climbing Ben Nevis – there’s no way I am fit enough to consider it! I do know that many people make the climb though you do need to be prepared.
Looking for another hill to climb? Arthur’s Seat is much more easier to get to than many of the highland hills and mountains and great if you want to escape the city of Edinburgh for a while.
It’s towards the east of the city and can be reached from the bottom of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Be prepared for stunning 360 degree views of the city, the coastline and the surrounding countryside.
The most northern tip of Scotland is a draw to many who want to say they made it this far North.
It’s also a draw to many who make long distance walks – the longest being from the most southern tip of the UK in Cornwall.
Get your picture taken with the famous signpost and see how far away you are.
RRS Discovery ship
Located on the banks of the River Tay in Dundee is the RRS Discovery. This ship is steeped in history as the ship explorer Scott and Shackleton were voyagers on. It went to the Antarctic as a research ship and the knowledge brought back was immense.
You can see the ship and discover more about it in the small city of Dundee which is where Discovery was built.
Location: Near Inverness, Highlands
This piece of history, where the Jacobite’s failed in their quest to put Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne, is just a stone’s throw away from the city of Inverness and so easily done as a day trip.
You can see the markers on the ground that showed where the bodies of the clan members were buried. It’s a sombre and moving place.
If you don’t know much about the history of Culloden or need a refresher then you’ll love the visitors centre which helps you get your head around what was happening in Scotland at the time.
Outlander fans (the tv series and books) are often drawn to here as it’s a prominent part of the storyline – look out for the Clan Fraser marker.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
One of Glasgow’s top attractions, Kelvingrove Art Gallery has something for everyone.
It has a number of exhibitions to visit and enjoy with many being concentrated on specifically Scottish themes including Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the famous designer.
The building is stunning too and there’s plenty of outdoor space to enjoy – a great place to visit when on a trip to Glasgow.
Location: Melrose, Scottish Borders
We’ve spent a lot of time exploring the Scottish Borders and by far my favourite town is Melrose with its stunning rose coloured abbey.
Melrose Abbey is now a ruin but you can still see a lot of detail in the building. One quirky bit of history there is that it’s supposed to be the place where Robert the Bruce’s heart was buried. It’s marked in the grounds.
Melrose is not far from Edinburgh and so makes a really good day trip from there and if you are interested in abbeys there’s actually 3 other different Scottish Border Abbeys to explore nearby.
Location: near Edinburgh
Rosslyn Chapel was featured in the film Da Vinci Code which helped to put it on the map of some of Scotland’s most famous landmarks.
It’s not far from the centre of Edinburgh and can be easily reached by public transport if you’re just visiting the city.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
Location: Royal Mile, Edinburgh
Another Royal landmark in Scotland to visit and one that’s perfect for city break visitors as this one is in the centre of the capital.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is a working palace and the Queen uses it when visiting Scotland on royal business. For that reason it’s important to check before you plan to visit in case it’s closed which it does when she’s there.
When she’s not there you can explore some of the rooms including some of the original building where Mary, Queen of Scots stayed.
Location: Stirling, Central Scotland
Stirling Castle is located in central Scotland and so it’s a perfect landmark to add on to a trip to the capital since it’s easy to get to by public transport – trains take around an hour from Edinburgh.
Perched high on a hill and with some stunning hills all around, Stirling Castle is a beautiful sight to see. The town is small enough to explore too on a day trip.
Location: Falkirk, Central Scotland
One of my favourite places to go when we used to live in Falkirk – it was such a quirky landmark and a nice place to watch the world go by, and the boats!
If you don’t know and can’t tell from the picture, the Falkirk wheel is a interesting piece of engineering which connects two different canal networks (Forth and Clyde to the Union Canal) in Scotland.
The canals were at two different heights and the wheel turns to bring boats from one to the other. You can use the wheel if you have your own boat, if you’re hiring one or you can simply go on a trip that takes place a number of times a day.
It’s close to the Kelpies and is a good addition to a trip there.
Location: Isle of Staffa, west coast
Finally we come to another of Scotland’s unique landscapes. The west coast of Scotland has a lot of islands to explore so you’ll never be short on ideas on places to go.
The Isle of Staffa is home to Fingal’s Cave, a geological wonder that may remind some of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.