The U.K. houses some pretty spectacular places — one of which is Scotland. With its dark and Gothic-like architecture within its cities, and its vibrant green landscapes within its countryside, it’s no surprise that the whole country played a hand in the development of a certain famous story about wizards, dragons, and castles. When you take a trip through Scotland, you can’t help feeling like you’ve dived into the Harry Potter series. To get the ultimate cultural, natural, and even magical experience, we’ve compiled the top 10 places to visit in Scotland.
No trip to Scotland would be complete without visiting the Highlands, where you’ll find some of the world’s most spectacular and underrated mountain ranges. Often, you can treat yourself by visiting a castle that overlooks the surrounding areas. These castles were built during the medieval period and still shine through thanks to their strong foundations.
When planning a trip to the Highlands, we recommend stopping in the Western village of Glencoe. Here, you’ll get some of the best views in all of Scotland.
Also, if you’re a Harry Potter fan who’d like to see a magical locale, you can head to Glenfinnan Viaduct. This gorgeous structure is familiar to anyone who grew up watching the Hogwarts Express stream across the Scottish landscape, and just beside it, you’ll even find Loch Shiel, which doubles as the Black Lake in the films.
When visiting Scotland, you’re bound to stumble upon some lochs, and it’s not a bad idea to make time to visit some of the most incredible ones. Scotland houses many lakes and is famous for one in particular: Loch Ness. Whether you choose to make your way up to the massive Loch Ness in hopes of catching a glimpse of Nessie (the famous lake monster) or prefer to visit lesser-known but equally beautiful ones, make sure to pack some swimwear — these lakes are perfect for swimming and boating.
Scotland is a part of an island, and as a result, it’s mostly surrounded by ocean. The coastline of Scotland is vast and beautiful, and it directly supports the Scottish lifestyle and culture. Make sure to try some seafood and to visit some of the country’s famous port cities, islands, and peninsulas.
We recommend planning a trip up to Fort Williams just an hour or two north of Glencoe. This village sits at the base of Ben Nevis, the U.K.’s highest peak.
The Hebrides is an archipelago that sits on the northwestern coast, and some of Scotland’s most famous spots lie in this cluster of islands. If you are looking to explore the coastal side of Scotland, this is the perfect region to stop in. Here, you’ll find tons of Scottish wildlife such as the Highland cows, sheep, and reindeer. If you are looking to try some of the finest whisky in the world, you’ll also find that here.
ISLE OF SKYE
Four hours north of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Isle of Skye is tucked away in the northwestern corner of Scotland and is the most famous Hebridean island. This area is known for its quaint landscape and fairy pools. Here, you’ll find some spectacular views, swimming holes, and a variety of waterfalls. Skye is also home to some beautiful castles.
Getting here involves driving a great distance from the nearest airports and some of Scotland’s major cities, and even crossing a large bridge that connects the island to the mainland. Locals and visitors highly recommend planning a visit though.
Popularly known from the Shakespearean play “Macbeth,” Inverness is the capital of the Highlands, sitting at the base of the mountain ranges and along the River Ness. This beautiful city houses 19th-century cathedrals and the famous Inverness Castle. Check out the variety of local Scottish vendors in the indoor Victorian Market, go on the Highland Whiskey Trail, or check out the famous Highland Games during the summer months.
Probably the most Gothic-like city you’ll come across when traveling through Europe, Edinburgh is known for its dark-stoned grandeur and hilly streets. You’ll find tons of fun activities within the city. Whether you decide to relax in the Prince’s Street Garden right at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, catch a glimpse of the royal crown jewels of Scotland, or explore the Royal Mile (which provides a variety of souvenir shops, local vendors, and restaurants), the capital of Scotland is not a place to miss.
Edinburgh is also home to a few more Harry Potter locations. This is the city where J.K. Rowling has lived for years, and here, you’ll find a cafe where she penned part of the series, the hotel where she finished writing “Deathly Hallows,” and even a street that looks strikingly similar to Diagon Alley.
Known for its more Victorian-style architecture, Glasgow is another one of Scotland's most popular cities. Home to some major art hubs, this city is the perfect place to be really immersed in the Scottish culture. Walk along the seaport, explore all the Scottish history and art museums, or visit the famous Glasgow cathedral
Stirling is one of the more traditional Scottish villages and is located just about an hour out of Edinburgh. Visit the famous Stirling Castle, where you can witness a reenactment on the lifestyle of some of Scotland’s earliest inhabitants, or stay within the walled-in city and enjoy tea like a true local.
Located in central Scotland, this national park is known for its forest, lochs, and hills that prepare you for the Highlands of Scotland. Getting here allows you to drive through small Scottish villages and experience the true countryside of Scotland. So if you’re dreaming of small cottages, rocked walls, and enchanted looking forests, this region of Scotland is perfect for you!
Dreaming of Scotland — or another incredible European country? Travel to Europe with Acanela! We’d love to show you around this gorgeous continent, which is full of castles, cobblestones, and plenty of other amazing sights.
Post written by Sophie Coderre