16 Things to See & Do in Scotland!

I’m sure most of you are aware by now that I’m from Scotland and if not, hey, now you know! 🙂 I’ve visited the major cities in Scotland many times, living in a few of them but even though I’m familiar with my country, there are still so many things I haven’t done or seen!

So far on this blog, I’ve talked about all the places I’ve been (mostly in Europe) in my life so I decided to write a little closer to home and tell you about my “Scottish Bucket List”. There are so many lists on the internet with varying suggestions of things you must experience in Scotland and my list isn’t exhaustive but this is what I’ve come up with so far. I’m sure I’ll add to it in the future!

1. Visit The Scottish Crannog Centre, Loch Tay

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Crannog Centre is open April to October. According to the website, crannogs are described as “a type of ancient loch-dwelling” that served a multitude of purposes. They were in use from 5,000 years ago up until the 17th century! I learned about crannogs through a course I was studying at the UHI (University of the Highlands & Islands) and I just thought they were really fascinating. The centre is a reconstruction of a crannog but I’d love to visit and find out more about what it was like to live in one!

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Crannog – Credit to transcotland.com

2. Visit Corrimony Chambered Cairn, Inverness-shire

This circular Bronze Age stone structure served as a chamber tomb, which was surrounded by standing stones. Standing stones seemed to have caused confusion throughout the ages as archaeologists and the like try to understand their purpose and I guess I find this interesting too! The Corrimony Chambered Cairn is not too far away from where I’ve stayed throughout my life and I’ve noticed the sign for it many times over the years. It’s somewhere I’ve wanted to visit but I haven’t had the chance yet. Due to it being a bit off the beaten track, it would require a car of which I haven’t had the luxury.

3. Take a boat cruise, Loch Ness

I have lived near Loch Ness for nearly all of my life and I still have not been on a boat cruise. I think the loch is incredible, not just because of the Loch Ness Monster legend, but because it is the largest loch in Britain (by volume not surface area), the second deepest loch in Scotland, contains more water than the rivers and lakes of England and Wales combined, and supposedly could submerge the world’s population over 10 times! That’s pretty impressive stuff! The views from Urquhart Castle of the loch are also pretty amazing but I’d love to experience that from on the loch itself.

There are multiple Loch Ness Cruises originating from different towns and at different costs. Check out the various offers here, here, and here, if you’re interested!

4. Visit Maeshowe around the Winter Solstice, Orkney

Maeshowe is another chambered cairn from the New Stone Age dating back to around 2800 BC. It is famous for the “midwinter alignment” whereby in the lead up to the winter solstice, the setting sun’s rays shine precisely through the entrance passage to light up the interior of the cairn. There are many theories discussing the significance of this phenomenon – representing fertility, rebirth, continuation of life, or a form of calendar – but regardless of the purpose, it was still an incredible feat to achieve. The phenomenon can be watched through live cameras here but I’d love to experience it in person, having visited Orkney and Maeshowe twice.

More information: http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/maeshowe/solstice.htm

5. Visit Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie

I’ve been to the Isle of Skye a few times, one of them being for a Gaelic summer school at the Gaelic College, Sabhal Mor Ostaig. Eilean Donan is a 13th century castle just 10 miles from the Skye Bridge, situated at the point where 3 lochs meet, its image is iconic of the Scottish Highlands. As with most castles, it holds a lot of history, particularly with having seen the Jacobite Rebellion in the 1700s. I would love to visit as I think castles are fascinating anyway but there’s something just so intriguing about this one, I can’t quite explain it.

eilean-donan-castle-dornie

Eilean Donan Castle – Credit to eileandonancastle.com

6. Visit the Fairy Pools, near Carbost (Skye)

Another place I have wanted to visit for some time! When I was at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, I had really hoped to be able to go but it didn’t work out as it’s not the easiest place to get to without a car. The Fairy Pools are a natural waterfall phenomenon at the foot of the Black Cuillins near River Brittle that, from pictures, look absolutely stunning with its vibrant blues and greens. It does require some walking from the car park but it supposedly only takes 20 minutes to get there with impressive views along the way. It’s meant to be quite magical so I’d love to check it out.

Useful walking guide: https://www.isleofskye.com/skye-guide/top-ten-skye-walks/fairy-pools

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Fairy Pools – Credit to VisitScotland

7. Walk up the Old Man of Storr, northern end of Skye

The Old Man of Storr is supposedly the most famous and popular walk on the Isle of Skye with its rock pinnacle, the ‘Old Man’, being seen for miles. The Storr is part of the Trotternish ridge and was formed from a landslide. When I was staying in Flodigarry (14 miles north) for the summer school, some friends did this walk but I wasn’t too sure about it at the time. Now I wish I’d joined them! The views look amazing and the round trip takes about 1 hour 15 minutes, though I think I’d allow a bit more for me doing it since I’d probably be a bit of a wimp and take breaks!

Useful walking guide: https://www.isleofskye.com/skye-guide/top-ten-skye-walks/old-man-of-storr

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Old Man of Storr – Credit to Visit Scotland

8. Walk the Great Glen Way, the Highlands

The Great Glen Way is a 79 mile (127 km) journey between Fort William and Inverness, along the natural fault line. There are some pretty fantastic sights along the way, including Ben Nevis, the Caledonian Canal, and impressive views of Loch Ness, Loch Lochy and Loch Oich. It can take 5-6 days to complete it in one go or you can do it in smaller sections and take a bit longer. I know a few people who have done this walk and said it’s amazing and I’d love to check it out for myself!

Useful walking guide: https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/great-glen-way.shtml

9. See the Northern Lights, anywhere in Scotland

Again, despite living in Scotland my whole life, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis here (I saw them on a plane once). To be fair, I’ve always lived in towns or cities that are pretty well lit up which make it difficult to see the Northern Lights. They’re such a beautiful phenomenon so I definitely want to see them in person in my home country some day!

northern-lights

10. Climb a Munro

“Munro bagging” is a popular past-time for many Scottish people and for visitors to the country. “Munros” are Scottish mountains that are over 3,000 feet in height, named after Hugh Munro and there are 282 of them. Ben Nevis is the tallest of the munros at over 4,400 feet! I’m not sure if I fancy trying to climb all of them but I’d like to at least give one of them a go. If you’re considering it yourself, make sure you’re fully prepared for it and don’t end up in a sticky situation like this.

A list of Scottish Munroshttps://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/munros/munros-height

11. Ski on the Cairngorms

I’ve been up to the top of the CairnGorms at Cairngorm National Park using the funicular railway (the only one in Scotland) before but I’ve not been skiing yet. Well, ever, actually. I think it’d be a pretty amazing experience so I’d love to give it a go! If you don’t fancy skiing (or snowboarding) you can go on various walks (CairnGorm is also a munro) or you can check out the restaurant at the top and enjoy the impressive views.

Check out the Visit Cairngorms website for more info.

12. Take a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train to Mallaig

Um, hello, it’s the Hogwarts Express, what’s not to love? Unless you’re not a fan of Harry Potter…In which case, it’s still a pretty cool thing to experience. The train leaves from Fort William and ends up in Mallaig (a fishing port), passing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct which was used in the Harry Potter films, in addition to offering sights of Ben Nevis and Loch Morar along the way. It’s a bit expensive but I think/hope it would be worth the money for the experience!

For tickets and more information, visit their website here.

glenfinnan-viaduct-train

Glenfinnan Viaduct – Credit to fortwilliam.co.uk

13. Go on a ghost tour on Halloween, Edinburgh

At university, my friends and I always said that we would do this but it just never happened, whether due to cost or university commitments around the time. I’m a big fan of ghost stories and there are so many ghost tours in Edinburgh. I’m particularly interested in doing the Mary Kings Close tour as it’s meant to be really good.

Take your pick from the list.

14. Experience the Up Helly Aa fire festival, Shetland

I’m not sure if there’s an easy way to sum up Up Helly Aa so I’m going to link to their official website so you can look it over yourself. There is a larger festival held in Lerwick with smaller ones in rural areas of Sheltand. It dates back to the late 19th century and supposedly marks the end of the yule season. There are events throughout the day and evening so there’s plenty to see and do. I’ve always wanted to go as it looks so cool! The next Up Helly Aa will be held on 30th January 2018.

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Torchlit procession at Up Helly Aa – Credit to David Gifford, shetland.org

15. Go to the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh

I’ve had some friends perform at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh and it’s something that’s always intrigued me. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is held in August and caters to many different interests from comedy, circus, and dance to opera, music, musicals, and exhibitions – there’s something for everyone. Last year, there were over 50,000 performances across almost 300 venues over the 3 weeks of the festival so there is more than enough variety! I don’t know if I’d just go for a few days or spend a bit longer there but I’d love to go have a look one day.

16. Visit a local whisky distillery

I visited the Highland Park distillery on Orkney a few years ago and although I don’t drink a lot of whisky (Scottish and I don’t drink whisky – shocking, I know!) I really enjoyed learning about how they made the whisky, what made it different for others, and enjoying a wee dram as a taster. There are so many distilleries in Scotland with many of them being in Speyside (Benromach, Cragganmore, Cardhu, Glenfarclas, and Macallan, to name but a few!) and Highland and I’d really like to experience a few of them!

Glenfarclas-Distillery-Stills.jpg

Glenfarclas Distillery – Credit to wildcatwhiskies.com

So, that’s my bucket list so far. As I said at the top, I’m sure I’ll add to it in the future as I think and hear of more things to do! I’m hoping that once I have a car, I’ll have the means and flexibility to achieve some of this bucket list! Wish me luck!

Links to other Scotland bucket lists:

Buzzfeed’s “21 Life Changing Things Everyone Must Do in Scotland”

The Telegraph’s “15 Extraordinary Things to Do in Scotland”

Lonely Planet’s “Top Things to Do in Scotland”

Wanderlust’s “25 Things to Do in Wild Scotland”

Alternatively, check out Visit Scotland’s website


Have you been to any of these places? What is on your Scottish bucket list? Any recommendations from your neck of the woods? Tell me in the comments below!
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