By Lottie Gross
For a small country, Scotland packs in an inordinate amount of beauty to its varied mainland and surrounding isles. Its glens and lochs and mountains all make mesmerizing, spectacular views, and the craggy coastline has pretty seaside villages and Caribbean-worthy beaches.
The country has serious charm year-round, too, so it needn’t just be a summer or spring holiday. In winter, book yourself into one of the many lodges with hot tubs in Scotland, get a glass of bubbly and stare out at the gorgeous landscapes from the cozy comfort of the 39-degree water, while in summer, Scotland's own route 66—called the North Coast 500—is full of beautiful pitstops. It's definitely one of the most stunning UK staycation destinations.
If you’re planning a trip and want to be blown away by this country, these are some of the most beautiful places in Scotland.
Isle of Skye
There is no doubt about it—the Isle of Skye has to be one of the most enthralling and beautiful places in Scotland. Come to discover exciting seafood, fascinating history, and brilliant walks, and stay for the mesmerizing scenery. The dramatic rock formations on the Storr are a spellbinding scene, with jagged pinnacles jutting upward from the ground – the remains of an ancient landslide.
Elsewhere, the Fairy Pools are a stunning set of small waterfalls and with bright turquoise waters beneath—ideal for a bracing dip on a hot summer’s day—and the Fairy Glen is a truly magical landscape to walk in.
Cities aren’t traditionally thought of as beautiful, but the Scottish capital has a unique visual allure and there are numerous spots to get fantastic views. If you’re feeling active, hike to the top of extinct volcano Arthur’s Seat for sweeping views over the city.
Or, stay closer to town and head up to Calton Hill for sunset—the views up Princes Street and beyond to the castle are sublime. There’s more to this city than lovely looks, though, with plenty of great things to do from galleries and museums to shopping and live music. And of course, you'll need to take a trip to Edinburgh Castle, one of the most majestic castles in Scotland.
From skiing to hiking to kayaking on lochs, the Cairngorms is a veritable adventure playground for adults and kids. But beyond the fun is a variety of landscapes and scenic views that make this mountain range one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. Bring the car or hire a vehicle and hit the Snow Roads scenic route from Blairgowrie to Grantown-on-Spey, where views of Corgarff Castle, Glen Lui, and the Linn of Dee make for a compelling drive.
Elsewhere, the likes of Loch Morlich and Loch an Eilein are stunning bodies of water—the latter has a 13th-century castle on an island in its center—and the towering mountains all around make for majestic viewing.
The Isle of Islay is known for its whisky. A smattering of distilleries create their own versions of the drink here and you can visit their stills and tasting rooms to get an idea of how diverse the offering is.
But aside from a wee dram, Islay has excellent views to soak up. Perhaps the finest of which is Saligo Bay, with its bright white-sand beach, grassy dunes, and stunning ocean vistas. On a fair-weather day, come at last light to see the sky turn all manner of pinks, reds, and oranges before the sun sinks below the horizon.
This tiny village just northwest of Edinburgh isn’t your typical beauty spot—in Scotland, it’s the beaches, munros, lochs, and glens that often steal the show. But Culross’s compact, historic center is a truly gorgeous place to while away an afternoon. It’s one of the finest examples of a royal burgh in the country, preserved as such by the National Trust Scotland. Homes built in the 17th and 18th centuries line tight little lanes and the Abbey is a beautiful 16th-century construction.
This archipelago in Scotland’s far north, beyond John O’Groats, is a remote and wild place. The rugged islands have striking coastlines, with sights like the Old Man of Hoy—a dramatic sea stack—and Marwick Head, where an RSPB nature reserve is home to up to 25,000 nesting seabirds during the summer months. Look out for fulmars, puffins, razorbills, and kittiwakes, plus the occasional Arctic skua.
Loch Shiel, the Highlands
This long, thin body of water is home to one of Scotland’s most famous attractions—the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The impressive arched railway bridge was built in the late 19th century and was made world-famous when it hosted the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films. The view of this piece of structural engineering overlooking Loch Shiel, a huge body of deep blue water surrounded by hills, is iconic. Head up the lower slopes of Beinn an Tuim for a spectacular view away from the crowds.
Lottie is an NCTJ-trained journalist, an experienced travel writer and an expert in creating compelling digital content.
Lottie has been in the travel writing business for nearly a decade and has writing and photography bylines at The Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, the i and National Geographic Traveller. She's done broadcast work for BBC Radio 4 and have contributed to a number of guidebooks and coffee table titles during her career.
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