Home to lots of wonderful countryside and dramatic landscapes, Scotland lies in the north of Great Britain and is famous for the majestic lochs and age-old castles that are dotted about the gorgeous Scottish Highlands.
With the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the North Sea to the east, Scotland has a long and rugged coastline for you to explore, with the breathtaking scenery of the Orkney and Shetlands islands and the wild mountainous Hebrides all lying offshore.
With sweeping valleys, expansive forests, and lively cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh on offer, Scotland really does have something for everyone to enjoy.
1. South West
Mostly made up of rural areas and scenic countryside, the lowlands of the South West of Scotland are a very picturesque part of the country, with the ‘Glasgow Riviera’ being particularly worth checking out.
Contrasting delightfully with the rambling farms and fields that coat the region in a sea of green, the Clyde coast is home to lots of charming seaside towns and villages. Ayr, the birthplace of the famous poet Robert Burns, attracts many visitors, who come to see the monuments and museums dedicated to Scotland’s national icon.
While the laidback towns of Largs and Girvan are also lovely to wander around, it’s the spectacular Isle of Arran that is the undoubted highlight; its sweeping valleys and majestic peaks make for some fantastic hiking. Additionally, nearby Holy Island certainly warrants a visit, as its stunning scenery is home to a Buddhist monastery and a community of monks, as well as great hiking trails.
Lying in the southeast corner of the country on the border with England, Borders boasts a stunning array of different landscapes. Its rugged mountains and hills were once the setting for numerous battles and skirmishes against the English.
Due to its proximity to the south, the Scottish Kings of old were very keen to stake their claim on the region, building numerous watchtowers and forts, as well as the beautiful ‘Border Abbeys’ of Dryburgh, Kelso, Jedburgh, and Melrose – all of which are definitely worth stopping by. The region is awash with history, and lots of grand stately homes are also on show, with those of Mellerstain and Paxton particularly impressive.
While visiting the pretty towns and historical sights that are dotted around the region, one could hardly fail to notice the beautiful nature that greets you wherever you go. The Pennine Way, Southern Upland Way, and St Cuthbert’s Way all rank among the nation’s most scenic trails, with plenty of wild and remote natural environs to be enjoyed along the coast.
3. Central Belt
Home to both Glasgow and Edinburgh, the Central Belt is where the majority of the population are found. While parts of it are very urbanized, you can still find more than enough stunning scenery and countryside, with the region stretching right across the country – from Scotland’s North Sea coastline to its Atlantic one.
Edinburgh and Glasgow are understandably the main draws with their myriad of amazing sights, such as Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat, and Glasgow Cathedral, not to mention their wide range of beautiful buildings and architectural styles. However, cities and towns such as Stirling and Paisley are also well worth visiting for their historical sights and scenic settings.
The Central Belt also has some gorgeous countryside to explore, while its rugged coastline is home to lots of quaint, wind-swept fishing villages. The fabulous Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park lye in the west of the region, straddling the border with the Highlands.
The most famous region in the whole of Scotland, the Highlands are home to some of the most majestic scenery imaginable. It’s here amongst the rugged loch and mountain-riddled glens and valleys that the stereotypical image of bagpipe-playing Scots wearing kilts and tartan arose.
While Loch Ness, Loch Lomond, and Ben Nevis count amongst its most famous sights, the region is blessed when it comes to its natural wonders. Loch Lomand, the Trossachs National Park, and Cairngorms National Park are full of incredible scenery and wildlife.
Due to its picturesque landscapes, the Highlands are a great place to go cycling or hiking, with lots of lovely paths weaving their way amidst the charming glens and mountains. Dotted here and there are some fantastic castles for you to visit, with those of Dunrobin and Eilean Donan amongst the very best. Towns and cities such as Inverness, Inveraray, and Mallaig act as gateways to the awe-inspiring natural sights all around you.
5. North East Scotland
Centered around the cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, and Perth, North East Scotland is home to much of the country’s North Sea coastline. All along its wind-swept shores, you’ll find steep cliffs, rocky outcrops, and desolate beaches with quaint fishing villages and scenic coastal paths.
Most people head to its three major cities, which are bursting with museums, galleries, and historical sights. However, the interior is also well worth checking out for its many mountains and hills, which contrast stunningly with its endless heaths and forests.
History too abounds; a number of magnificent castles can be found throughout North East Scotland, with those of Crathes, Fraser, and Fyvie very impressive. The ruined Dunnottar, overlooking the coast, and Balmoral, the private property of the royal family, are two of the region’s most popular attractions.
Scattered along the northwest coast of Scotland, the rugged and remote Hebrides are home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the British Isles, with glorious mountains lying alongside beautiful beaches and lush landscapes.
The bountiful nature on show is in large part due to the constant drizzle, which lends a glimmering sheen to the startling rock formations and fields. The sparsely populated isles are a great place to go hiking, while watersports are increasingly popular.
Divided into the Outer and Inner Hebrides, the many gorgeous islands are reached either by ferries; the scenic trips across the sparkling waters to places such as Barra, Lewis, and St. Kilda will live long in the memory, with the Isle of Skye being the undisputed highlight of the lot.
7. Orkney Islands
Lying to the north of mainland Scotland, the Orkney Islands are a beautiful part of the country to explore. With over 70 islands scattered around the archipelago, the only question is: where to begin?
Mainland, where the majority of the region’s people live, is home to attractive towns such as Kirkwall, Stromness, and Stenness. Other islands such as Hoy and South Ronaldsay are also well worth visiting, and lots of ancient settlements and burial cairns lie in wait.
In addition to this, the North Isles’ remote location and unspoiled scenery make them a haven for birdwatchers, who flock to their shores. Wherever you go in the Orkney Islands, you’ll be greeted with peaceful green pastures and fertile fields, with lochs and rocky inlets lying amidst the lovely scenery.
8. Shetland Islands
Located even further north than the Orkney Islands, the sparsely populated Shetland Islands are the northernmost point in Great Britain. Due to their remote location, the hundred or so islands that make up the archipelago are ideal for people looking for a very peaceful holiday.
As most of the islands are quite low-lying and utterly devoid of trees, people in the past had to build out of stone. Consequently, quite several archaeological sites can be found scattered around, with those at Walls and Jarlshof the most impressive.
While there aren’t many towns of note for you to visit, those of Lerwick and Unst are charming and feature centuries-old historic sights and incredible scenery. The Shetland Islands have lots of desolate yet strangely beautiful landscapes on show.
Tucked away among its many fjords and inlets, you’ll find a plethora of wildlife, with boat trips around the archipelago both a popular and necessary pastime if you want to move from one island to another.