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Wonders of Scotland

Dwarfie Stane, Orkney Islands
Dwarfie Stane / , user Grovel / CC BY 3.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

Some of the wonders of Scotland are well known internationally but nevertheless, most people do not realize how rich and distinctive is the cultural and natural heritage of this country.

Among the highlights of Scotland can be mentioned:

  • Castles. If the United Kingdom has some of the best castles in the world, Scotland has some of the best in the United Kingdom. Much of the effect is created by the expressive scenery around the castles.
  • Palaces. Scottish palaces (most of them modestly called – "houses") often are preserved in excellent state. Often these palaces contain very valuable art collections.
  • Ancient settlements and megalithic monuments. Scotland is the home of the best-preserved prehistoric architecture north of the Alps.
  • Cliffs and sea caves. In many locations of Scotland, the rugged cliff scenery creates a harsh Nordic mood of unique beauty.

Council areas of Scotland

Scotland consists of 32 council areas.
  • Aberdeen City
  • Aberdeenshire
  • Angus
  • Argyll and Bute
  • Clackmannanshire
  • Dumfries and Galloway
  • Dundee City
  • East Ayrshire
  • East Dunbartonshire
  • East Lothian
  • East Renwrefshire
  • City of Edinburgh
  • Falkirk
  • Fife
  • Glasgow City
  • Highland
  • Inverclyde
  • Midlothian
  • Moray
  • Na h-Eileanan Siar (Outer Hebrides)
  • North Ayrshire
  • North Lanarkshire
  • Orkney Islands
  • Perth and Kinross
  • Renfrewshire
  • Scottish Borders
  • Shetland Islands
  • South Ayrshire
  • South Lanarkshire
  • Stirling
  • West Dunbartonshire
  • West Lothian

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 25 wonders of Scotland

Geological wonders

Fingal’s Cave

Argyll and Bute

Highly unusual sea cave, formed by basalt columns and overlaid with an arched roof. Powerful echo effect inside the cave. 85 m long, up to 23 m high.

Fingal's Cave, Argyll and Bute
Fingal’s Cave, Argyll and Bute / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Smoo Cave


Combined sea cave and stream cave, 83 m long. At the sea it represents a very impressive, 15 m high and 40 m wide grotto. River enters the cave with a 20 m tall waterfall.

Biological wonders

Loch Ness monster


This landmark rather belongs in the realm of legends – but it is the most famous legend about a cryptid (legendary, scientifically unrecognized creature) in the world. Nessie is a supposed creature living in Loch Ness – a large lake in the Scottish Highlands. Many consider this to be a surviving reptile similar to plesiosaurs. Attained worldwide fame in 1933 although supposedly mentioned already in the 6th century AD. Numerous search expeditions with state-of-the-art technologies have found some unexplained phenomena but no convincing proof for the existence of Nessie.

Loch Ness Monster, screenshot from the film
Loch Ness Monster, screenshot from the film of ©Tim Dinsdale, 1960. Although Dinsdale was confident that this was the monster, it could be just a boat.

Archaeological wonders

Ring of Brodgar

Orkney Islands

Circle of standing stones inside of a henge. Developed around 2500 – 2000 BC. Northernmost circle henge in Britain. The diameter of the stone circle is 104 m – the third largest in the British isles.

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands
Ring of Brodgar / Paddy Paterson, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Skara Brae

Orkney Islands

Impressive, extremely well preserved Neolithic settlement. Occupied in 3180 BC – 2500 BC. Remaining ten stone houses.

Skara Brae - unique Neolithic village in Orkney Islands
Skara Brae – unique Neolithic village / yellowbook, / CC BY 2.0.

Orkney Islands

Enormous Neolithic cairn and passage grave. Represents a grass-covered, 7.3 m high and 35 m wide mound with a ditch around it. Inside the mound are passages and a grave built of stone slabs weighing up to 30 t. The rear wall in the central chamber is illuminated on the winter solstice. Built before 3000 BC. Contains numerous runic inscriptions left by Vikings.

Broch of Mousa

Shetland Islands

The best example of a broch: a prehistoric dry stone tower, a great achievement of ancient constructors that was built sometime around 100 BC. Possibly the best-preserved prehistoric structure in Europe. The conical tower is 13 m high and has preserved intramural stairs.

Architecture wonders

Rosslyn Chapel


Construction of the extremely ornate and symbolically rich chapel started in 1456. Recently gained unexpected popularity due to speculative theories regarding Freemasonry and the Knights Templar.

Eilean Donan Castle


Beautiful medieval castle on an island in the lake, connected to the mainland over a stone bridge from the early 20th century. Originally built in the 13th century to defend from Vikings. Demolished in 1719, restored in 1919 – 1932. Very picturesque structure.

Glamis Castle


Ancient, legendary castle, inhabited by lords of Glamis since 1372 (although existing before). Exquisite plasterwork ceilings in several rooms. Place, where William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth takes place. Unusual and weird stories about this castle, f.e. a story about the Monster of Glamis – a crippled child kept in the castle away from other people.

Iona Abbey

Argyll and Bute

Once one of the largest religious centers in Western Europe, established in 563. It served as a center for the spread of Western Christianity. 48 kings of different Western European countries are thought to be buried here.

Edinburgh Old Town

City of Edinburgh

This part of Edinburgh has retained a medieval street network and numerous old buildings. Contains numerous underground passages, and very narrow streets. Edinburgh Castle rises above the city, adding special charm. Many buildings are very tall for their time.

Culzean Castle

South Ayrshire

This enormous house was built in 1777 – 1792 on the site of the former castle. Below the castle are sea caves. Stories about ghosts.

Culzean Castle, South Ayrshire
Culzean Castle, South Ayrshire / , user StaraBlazkova / CC BY-SA 3.0
Tantallon Castle

East Lothian

Impressive ruins of a medieval fortress, towering above steep sea coast. Constructed in the middle of the 14th century, in ruins since 1651. Unusual structure, basically consisting of a single, over 15 m tall and 90 m long wall, delimiting a narrow promontory. This old structure together with the rough sea and coastal cliff landscape provides very impressive sights. Stories and images of ghosts.

Duntrune Castle

Argyll and Bute

Possibly the oldest continuously occupied castle in Scotland, built in the 12th century. Curtain wall from the 13th century, and the tower house itself – from the 17th century. Reportedly haunted by piper without hands. During the renovations in the 1950s really found a skeleton without hands.

New Lanark

South Lanarkshire

Industrial village, developed by David Dale – cotton mill owner in 1786. His son-in-law Robert Owen planned the village in such a way as to make the life of workers as happy as it is possible. The village consists of rows of communal houses and public institutions – school and others.

Scone Palace

Perth and Kinross

Palace in late Georgian Gothic style, constructed in 1808, based on earlier structure from the 16th century. Built on the site of ancient gatherings of the Picts and a possible site of an early Christian church. Fine collection of interior items. Here was located the Stone of Scone (now in Edinburgh Castle) – the crowning stone of the early kings of Scotland.

Castle Stalker

Argyll and Bute

Massive four-story keep–tower on a tidal islet on Loch Laich. One of the most picturesque Scottish castles, preserved in its authentic state. A small fort was built around 1320, present structure – around the 1440ies. Abandoned in the 1840ies but repaired in 1908.

Castle Stalker, Argyll and Bute
Castle Stalker, Argyll and Bute / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Craigievar Castle


Well preserved, compact castle building. This seven-floor building was started in the early 17th century and completed in 1626. A great example of Scottish Baronial architecture. Adorned with beautiful plasterwork ceilings and other art valuables.

Floors Castle

Scottish Borders

Large country house, built in the 1720s. It is possible that the building includes a late medieval tower house. In the 19th century supplemented with Neo-Gothic turrets and battlements. House has also paintings by Matisse, and Gobelins tapestries.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Glasgow City

One of the great art collections of Europe, housed in a beautiful Spanish Neo-Baroque building. It was constructed in 1901. Most visited museum in the United Kingdom outside London. Art galleries include numerous valuable works of the Italian Renaissance, French Impressionists, and Dutch Renaissance.

Dunfermline Abbey


Old Benedictine monastery, founded in 1128, now remains just the ruins and an important church building. The magnificent Romanesque–Gothic church was built in 1128 – 1250. In the south and west walls Norman doorways with intricate carvings. Many representatives of the royal family are buried here.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

City of Edinburgh

Old botanical garden, established in 1670. Very rich plant collections from all over the world, one of the richest herbariums in the world.

Cawdor Castle


Well preserved medieval tower house, still in use. Some parts of the castle may have been built around 1380, but the main part is constructed after 1454. Initially, it was a tower house, but over the centuries expanded into a large complex of structures. Stories about ghost sightings in the castle.

Fyvie Castle


An impressive castle. Its construction started in 1211 but for the most part, it was built later. Very impressive spiral staircase, collections of armor, and portraits. Site of legends, reportedly haunted.

WorldYellow Recommended books

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Scotland

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Scotland is your in-depth guide to this unique country. Explore all that Scotland has to offer, from the streets of Edinburgh to the wind-swept highlands and lochs, from golf trips and whiskey tours to impromptu ceilidhs in cozy pubs.

Rick Steves Scotland

Whether you take the high road or the low road, with Rick Steves on your side, Scotland can be yours!

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