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Scotland, with its rugged highlands, historic cities, and rich cultural tapestry, offers a travel experience like no other. There are so many great things to do in Scotland, you can easily spend weeks exploring the country. We did just that and after spending weeks driving around the cities and through the Scottish Highlands, we’ve experienced all the best this country has to offer. There were so many things to do in Scotland, it is safe to say we were never bored.

Imagine rolling green landscapes shrouded in mist, ancient castles, and the vibrant sounds of festivals that bring the arts to life. It really is as great as everyone says it is.

Here’s what’s coming up:

  • Majestic castles
  • Breathtaking hikes
  • Festivals the country is famous for
  • Scenes straight out of Harry Potter

This country is straight out of a fairytale. We felt like we were going to see trolls in the hills, Vikings in the fields, and mermaids in the ocean the whole time. Scotland should be on the top of any outdoor enthusiasts travel bucket list – it really is that great! So, let’s dive into all our favorite things to do in Scotland.

Things to do in Scotland

1. Explore the Scottish Highlands

Ah, the Highlands, the most picturesque place we’ve been and hands down an absolute must do when visiting the country. We can confidently say driving through the Highlands was one of our favorite things to do in Scotland. We spent days driving around the Highlands as part of our UK road trip and it was epic. Glencoe Village, Glenfinnan, Loch Lomond… ugh we could go on forever. The Highlands literally feel like you stepped into a postcard. With towering mountains and valleys, you feel like you’re walking through history. Seriously, we half expected Vikings to pop up from the mountaintops in the middle of a battle.

This Highlands Tour from Edinburgh is a great way to see the Highlands and even see the Hogwarts Express. If you’re in Glasgow and eager to explore the Highlands, this day tour will take you to Loch Ness and the best of the Scottish Highlands.

2. Marvel at the Isle of Skye

Honestly, we were going to put this as #1 on our list because really, if you’re going to do 1 thing in Scotland, let it be Isle of Skye. Hands down, this is the most beautiful place in the country and by far one of the best things to do in Scotland. 

Picture this: rugged landscapes, fairy pools that beckon with crystal-clear waters, and a sense of serenity that’s hard to find anywhere else. The Isle of Skye is an escapade that should be on every traveler’s list. We caught a day trip from Inverness and were swept away by its beauty.

If you’re up north in Inverness, this is a great Isle of Skye day trip. If you’re starting from Edinburgh, consider stretching the magic with a 3 day Isle of Skye tour to really soak it in. If you’re in Glasgow, you can take this 3 day tour of Isle of Skye and the Highlands.

3. Take a scotch whiskey tour

We were in Scotland over Myles birthday so we made it a point to go on a Whiskey Distillery Tour in Scotland and it was amazing. Our favorite was Glenturret which dates back to 1775. What an amazing experience. Tasting a bit of scotch whiskey is practically a right of passage and one of the bucket list things to do in Scotland. 

When we were there, they had a few barrels that weren’t labeled and found years later in the back of the warehouse. As they didn’t have a label, they couldn’t sell it so we got to taste Whiskey more than 30 years old. What an experience!

4. Ride the Hogwarts Express

Calling it the Jacobite may be accurate, but where’s the fun in that? Watch the famous steam train chug along the West Highland Railway Line and come into the terminal.

Get all the Harry Potter vibes as you watch the train chug along the beautiful Highlands. Head to Glenfinnan to see this epic steam train in action. Even if you aren’t going to ride the train, it’s worth a visit! Boarding the train feels like stepping into a story – and you can book your own narrative here: Hogwarts Express Tour.

The Jacobite in Scotland is the famous Hogwarts Express from Harry Potter, the photo shows the steam train entering the station. Ride this on a trip to Scotland

5. Search for Nessie

Heard of the Loch Ness Monster? One of our first experiences once we reached Scotland was stopping at a cafe and talking to this giant biker guy (seriously – I understand why they call these people Vikings) and him telling us  “ya got to visit ol’ Nessie”. We took that local recommendation to heart and found venturing around Scotland Loch’s to be one of the bet things to do in Scotland.

If you’re up for it, a boat trip at dusk is pure magic – just you, the water, and maybe Nessie for company. When we were at Loch Ness, we were FREEZING and we traveled in August – supposedly the warmest season. Bring layers!

If you’re coming from Edinburgh, explore the Highlands and Loch Ness and even take a cruise on the Loch on this day tour.

6. Head north to Inverness

Inverness is such a beautiful town in northern Scotland. Samara’s best friend went to school here for a while so we knew we needed to explore this charming town. 

While admittedly our trip here started with Samara stalling the car on the bridge into town a few times trying to drive standard on the wrong side of the road in our rental car. While it started stressful, the town was a lot of fun to explore. It’s a great base to explore the Highlands and believe us, the city’s charm is as potent as a good Scotch.

If you just want a taste of the city, try this Inverness Highlands Tour from Edinburgh.

A photo of the sunset over Inverness in Scotland with a Scottish Loch in the foreground

7. See Scotland like your favorite movie

Ever wanted to step right into your favorite scene? Whether you’re tracking Jamie and Claire’s love story on an Outlander tour or walk the streets that inspired Harry Potter on this Harry Potter walking tour.

8. Visit the Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle isn’t just a castle; it’s a narrative in stone. If you’ve visited London and visited Buckingham Palace, think of this as the Scottish equivalent. We wandered through the royal hall, stood where the Queen’s coronation happened, and saw where the battles took place. Feel the history for yourself with this castle tour.

9. Go hiking in the Cairngorms

The Cairngorms National Park is full of unbelievable rugged beauty. While we love hiking, this area should be on your list no matter what level of a hiker you are. This is a must see for nature lovers with the park’s trails offering a serene escape into the wild side of Scotland.

10. Sleep under the stars

On our last trip to Scotland, we decided to take a road trip through the country. We found out Scotland has a right to roam, unlike the rest of the UK. This means that you can sleep on government-owned land. We took full advantage of this and car camped under the stars in the middle of the Scottish Highlands, ugh dreamy!

11. Attend a festival

  • Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Come August, Edinburgh transforms into a cultural hotspot. The Fringe Festival is the ultimate showcase of creativity, from stand-up comedy to experimental theater. It’s a must for the artsy soul. We were lucky enough to be there for a festival and it was seeing the city at its best.
  • Celtic Connections: Get your fix of folk music in Glasgow. The city’s January chill is warmed by the strumming guitars and heartfelt songs of Celtic Connections.
  • Highland Games: Experience Scottish tradition at its most vibrant. The Highland Games are a spectacle of strength, agility, and community spirit.

Things to do in Edinburgh

12. Explore the Edinburgh Castle

Dominating the skyline, Edinburgh Castle is a symbol of Scotland’s resilience. The daily firing of the one o’clock gun is a tradition not to be missed. Visiting the Edinburgh Castle is not to be missed and should be at the top of your list of things to do in Scotland

A photo of downtown Edinburgh showing the Edinburgh castle and a double decker bus hop on hop off bus in Scotland. A must do on a trip to Scotland

13. Explore Edinburgh's underground

Dive beneath the city’s surface with this city tour. Explore the hidden tunnels and hear tales that will make your skin crawl. These underground tunnels are one of our favorite things about traveling to Europe.

14. Walk the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile – man, where do we start? It’s the beating heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, and every step on those cobbles is a step through history. Do yourself a favor: give yourself extra time to duck into the cozy pubs in this area. Prepare to see some kilted bagpipers along your way – seriously this is like the picturesque Scotland.

15. Take a city tour of Edinburgh

Seriously this city is unlike any other we’ve ever seen. Do yourself a favor and take a hop on hop off city tour through the city. Discover the city’s enchanting nooks and crannies of this historic capital.

16. Take a true crime walking tour

If you read our things to do in London post, you know we love a good true crime. After doing the Jack the Ripper tour in London, we’re now addicted to true crime walking tours in the cities we visit. This Edinburgh Dark Side tour is a great way to immerse yourself in some true crime.

Things to do in Glasgow

A modern transit system with historic buildings in the background. A must see on a trip to Scotland

17. Take a city tour

When traveling the UK, taking these double decker hop on hop off buses is really the best way to see a city. While these are iconic in London, they’re actually all over. Taking this hop on hop off city tour through Glasgow is a great way to soak up the city.

Thanks for stopping by!

Scotland is one of the most amazing places we’ve visited. You will have no trouble finding all the best things to do in Scotland. The Scottish Highlands are straight out of a fairy tale and the country itself has so much to offer. From the sweet Scottish whiskey to the gothic architecture and historic castles, you will have so much fun here. We rarely get to visit a country where the reality is as authentic as you’re made to think, not yet heavily influenced by travel.

Whether you’re in the city or the countryside, there are so many great things to do in Scotland! We had so much fun on our Scotland road trip, we highly recommend this northern country to every traveler.

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Things to do in Scotland collage of photos including the Edinburgh castle, downtown Edinburgh, the Scottish Highlands and a whiskey distillery.
A photo of the Edinburgh Castle in downtown Edinburgh
A collage of the best things to do in Scotland including the Hogwarts Express, downtown Glasgow, an old castle in Scotland and downtown Edinburgh
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