Territory

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 arched roof. Powerful echo effect inside the cave. 85 m long, up to 23 m high.

Fingal's Cave, Argyll and Bute
Smoo Cave

Highland

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

Highland

This landmark rather belongs in the realm of legends – but it is the most famous legend about cryptid (legendary, scientifically unrecognized creature) in the world. Nessie is a supposed creature living in Loch Ness – a large lake in the Scottish Highlands. By many considered 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 proofs for the existence of Nessie.

Loch Ness Monster, screenshot from the film

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
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
Maeshowe

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 grave built of stone slabs weighing up to 30 t. Rear wall in the central chamber is illuminated in winter solstice. Built before 3000 BC. Contains numerous runic inscriptions left by Vikings.

Broch of Mousa

Shetland Islands

The best example of broch – prehistoric dry stone tower, great achievement of ancient constructors. Possibly the best preserved prehistoric structure in Europe, built sometimes around 100 BC. Conical tower is 13 m high, has preserved intramural stair.

Architecture wonders

Rosslyn Chapel

Midlothian

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

Highland

Beautiful medieval castle on an island in the lake, connected to the mainland over 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

Angus

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. story about 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 centres in Western Europe, established in 563 and serving as a centre 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 medieval street network and numerous old buildings. Contains numerous underground passages, 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 in the site of former castle. Below the castle are sea caves. Stories about ghosts.

Culzean Castle, South Ayrshire
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 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, tower house itself – from the 17th century. Reportedly haunted by piper without hands. During the renovations in 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. 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, basing on earlier structure from the 16th century. Built in the site of ancient gatherings of the Picts and possible site of early Christian church. Fine collection of interior items. Here was located Stone of Scone (now in Edinburgh Castle) – the crowning stone of 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 authentic state. Small fort built around 1320, present structure – around the 1440ies. Abandoned in the 1840ies but repaired in 1908.

Castle Stalker, Argyll and Bute
Craigievar Castle

Aberdeenshire

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

Floors Castle

Scottish Borders

Large country house, built in 1720s. It is possible that the building includes late medieval tower house. In the 19th century supplemented with Neo-Gothic turrets and battlements. House has also paintings by Matisse, 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, constructed in 1901. Most visited museum in United Kingdom outside London. Art galleries include numerous valuable works of Italian Renaissance, French Impressionists, Dutch Renaissance.

Dunfermline Abbey

Fife

Old Benedictine monastery, founded in 1128, now only ruins and important church building remain. The magnificent Romanesque – Gothic church was built in 1128 – 1250. In south and west walls Norman doorways with intricate carvings. Many representatives of 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 of the world.

Cawdor Castle

Highland

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 large complex of structures. Stories about ghost sightings in the castle.

Fyvie Castle

Aberdeenshire

Impressive castle, started in 1211 but for most part 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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