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A summary of some interesting places to visit in Scotland by way of three regional tours, each keeping a week in mind. The first two descriptions have links to follow for more details. And there are plenty more options on the right.
This one could start from Inverness, the Highland capital, a popular choice for those considering their own list of places to visit in Scotland. Travel through the eastern edge of the northern Highlands by way of the attractive period piece of Cromarty, an old Scottish burgh, then on through Tain to Dornoch. The route then continues to Thurso, going out next day to Orkney.
Orkney’s unique heritage of prehistoric sites definitely qualifies for several ‘must sees’ and Skara Brae and Maes Howe have to be on the list of places to visit in Scotland.
Both Kirkwall and Stromness (alleyway detail - left) are characterful towns, full of interest, with the quality craft and jewellery shopping in Kirkwall perhaps a surprise. (It’s the cruise ship market!) You should spend at least two nights on Orkney, certainly more if you want to see any of the other islands, for example, Hoy, for its naval history, birdlife and stunning cliff scenery. Or Rousay for its amazing archaeology. Getting to Orkney is easy, with a choice of ferry routes.
On returning to the mainland of Scotland, head west, where the scenery soon changes into classic northern Highlands, with a real air of adventure and as near as you can come to remoteness in mainland Scotland. You almost forget there’s a 24 hour Tesco only a couple of hours’ drive to the south in Inverness! If you have any ancestral connections, then you may want to learn more about the Highland Clearances at somewhere like Strathnaver Museum at Bettyhill. Or you can continue to the far north-west corner at Durness – where John Lennon, of all people, used to holiday.
Turning the corner for south, the scenic qualities are still spectacular – more so if you coincide with a settled period of weather, when the silvery light and pale rock add tremendous atmosphere to these old northern places. An excursion to Handa island is an option, if you’re in the slightest birdy. Continue south for Ullapool but the Lochinver loop is also well worthwhile – check your map. From Ullapool it’s little over an hour to return to Inverness.
Follow this link, for the Vikings themed tour round the north of Scotland, which expands the above summary.
This is an itinerary that is just a bit quirky. It isn’t too weather dependent and it gives an insight into some aspects of the Scotland brand: for example, its associations with royalty or whisky. It also poses the question - where is Scotland? This really means where could you find the essential Scotland or the real Scotland. The driving distances are reasonable as well, so it should be quite relaxing. This suggested tour heads north from Perth or Dundee along the edge of the Grampian hills to the valley of River Dee. (In terms of places to visit in Scotland, for an authentic experience of Scotland, if I had one day here and had to choose between Glen Muick near Ballater and nearby Balmoral Castle, the glen would get my vote very time.)
Tour north-eastwards and the bare coast of Buchan comes into view. It's one of the most distinctive places to visit in Scotland (which is not always the same as picturesque, though the coast is spectacular in places). Bracing is the tourist brochure word - yes, you'll probably need a woolly hat unless it's high summer. This is Troup Head from the east, above Rosehearty.
Next, it’s over the moors to the edge of malt whisky country around the River Spey, and a substantial loop that takes in some of my favourite beaches anywhere in Scotland. A final hop west reaches Nairn on the often sunny Moray Firth, from where there is plenty of choice to see key places in Scotland’s story including Culloden, where Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated. (Nairn is a golf resort that was once a favourite with Charlie Chaplin, of all people!) The return from the north goes through the scenery of the central Highlands down the A9. Let’s call it six days if you’re going to be relaxed about this.
For more information, go to the tour outlined above and get one possible answer to the question ' Where is Scotland?'
This is another ‘time it right’ tour. Skye is called ‘The Misty Isle’ for good reasons but it’s still high on the list of places to visit in Scotland. From the Great Glen north of Fort William, the A87 crosses the spine of Scotland via the magnificent mountains in Glen Sheil in the area known as Kintail. It then reaches the western seaboard, passing the much photographed Scottish icon of Eilean Donan Castle to reach Kyle of Lochalsh.
From here the route goes across the Skye Bridge. Broadford offers a good range of accommodation and places to eat and is also near the cul-de-sac road down to Elgol, for one of the finest views in Britain. The Cuillin Hills also look spectacular from the Glenbrittle area (below) - just one other reason why Skye makes it on to a ‘must see’ list of places to visit in Scotland.
The Trotternish peninsula to the north is also worth the journey, and having done this you have further Skye choices to make, perhaps including Dunvegan Castle and/or the Sleat area in the south of Skye. Probably all of this needs three days on the island.
(Above) The White Sands of Morar (at Tougal), by the road to Mallaig.
Then it’s off the island at Armadale via the ferry to Mallaig. Good accommodation choice here. Back on the mainland, with recent improvements, the ‘Road to the Isles’ (or, in this description, ‘from the Isles’) is now simply a delight. There are the famous white sands at Morar – again, featuring high on any list of places to see in Scotland; next the little community of Arisaig (pause for refreshments, perhaps), then further on the Glenfinnan Viaduct, now associated with the Harry Potter movies. You’ll enjoy Ben Nevis views on the approach to the busy town of Fort William. Return to Glasgow is via Glencoe and Rannoch Moor.
For some more suggestions take a look at these tours from Edinburgh. Or take a look at the page (or two) on Galloway touring. Or combine a Scotland visit with an opportunity to improve health and brain function. By the way, Scotland is a popular place for touring by bike as well. Here are couple of accounts of places to visit in Scotland by way of cycling around the Southern Hebridean and the Outer Hebridean islands on Scotland's western seaboard.
Take a look at the right-hand column above for a further selection of places to visit in Scotland.
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Places to visit In Scotand
You will also get some inspiring ideas from the pictures of Scotland here.
And here are some specific locations and topics:
St Abbs We like the cliffs and the birdlife and the breezes.
Crianlarich All the signposts seem to point to it.
Balquhidder in Rob Roy country. A real Highland glen.
Crieff - an old-established Scottish resort town.
Aberdeen (in the 1950s when it was 'the Silver City')
Berwick-upon-Tweed (well it’s almost in Scotland and we like it.)
A warning about Edinburgh parking.
Scotland’s cities - lots of choice here.
Walk the Cateran Trail - explore the cattle raiders' road.
Discover Galloway - it's well worth it.
Scotland in Three Days