Are you looking to discover some of the best experiences that Scotland has to offer? Here is our Scotland bucket list: the 20 things you must do in Scotland before you die.
From dramatic scenery, intriguing cuisine, an epic history, and vibrant culture, Scotland has stolen the hearts of many a wanderlust-stricken soul and has long played a starring role in film, television, and literature.
Offering an abundance of memorable and authentic experiences, this spectacular country will not leave any visitor dissatisfied. There is something for everyone in the audience!
So, if you are planning that epic trip to Scotland, you are in the right place for a ‘wee’ bit of inspiration, here are 20 things to do in Scotland before you die.
20. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow – visit a popular Scottish attraction
First on our list is a firm favourite between locals and visitors alike. Located in the vibrant city of Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is an absolute must-do before you die!
With 22 themed, state-of-the-art galleries to explore, housing everything from Salvador Dalí’s masterpiece ‘Christ of Saint John of the Cross’, to an Asian elephant called Sir Roger, this is a place that needs a place on your Scotland itinerary.
Address: Argyle St, Glasgow G3 8AG
19. Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh – discover the hidden histories of Scotland’s capital city
Next on our list is a wander through Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland’s captivating capital city. Historical tours of the grounds are available where you can learn about martyred Covenanters, infamous ghosts, grave robbers, and of course, Edinburgh’s iconic Greyfriar’s Bobby, the devoted Skye Terrier whose wholesome tale has captured the heart of many.
Address: 26A Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QE
18. Callanish Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis – be transported back to times long ago
Our next Scotland bucket list item takes us to the Isle of Lewis, the most northerly island in the Outer Hebrides. Rich in prehistoric remains, the isle is home to the magnificent Callanish (also known as Calanais in Scots Gaelic) Standing Stones.
The stone complex attracts visitors from across the globe for their mystic intrigue, and of course, their appearance in the popular Starz TV series, Outlander, based on a series of books by author Diana Gabaldon.
Address: 12m west of Stornoway off the A859 Isle of Lewis HS2 9DY
17. The Kelpies, The Helix – appreciate a fantastic feat of Scottish engineering
If you are seeking a leisurely day out, a visit to The Kelpies in Falkirk is ideal. Based on the mythological beast, The Kelpies are a breath-taking feat of engineering, and visitors can appreciate them up close during the guided tour!
Address: Visitor Centre The Helix FK2 7ZT
16. Inveraray Castle, Argyll – explore the ancestral home of Clan Campbell
Located in scenic Argyll, Inveraray Castle is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell and is an iconic, must-see attraction for visitors to Scotland. Visitors can discover the history of Clan Campbell, explore the castle, and enjoy spectacular vistas of the Inveraray Estate.
The castle was chosen as the location for the Downtown Abbey Christmas 2012 episode, as the home of Lord and Lady Flintshire, parents to Lady Rose. In the episode, Inveraray was shown at its best, however, to fully appreciate the castle and its grounds, a visit in person is a must.
Address: Inveraray PA32 8XE
15. Iona Abbey, Isle of Iona – a sacred site off Scotland’s coastline
Next on our Scotland bucket list is to catch a ferry to one of the country’s most sacred sites. The isle of Iona has been a significant site of Christian worship since AD 563, and it is thought that the famous Book of Kells may have been partially created here, along with many other great works of medieval art.
Discover Iona’s treasures at the Abbey Museum, visit St Columba’s Shrine, the longest-standing structure in the abbey, and explore St Oran’s Chapel, the nunnery and Reilig Odhráin, a graveyard where ancient Scottish kings are said to have been laid to rest.
Address: Isle of Iona PA76 6SQ
14. The National Wallace Monument, Stirling – visit a national monument erected for a national hero
Our next bucket list item takes us to a distinctive national landmark in Stirling, overlooking the site of Scotland’s victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. The National Wallace Monument is dedicated to none other than Sir William Wallace, Scottish patriot, and Guardian of Scotland.
Visitors can climb the monument and enjoy fascinating exhibits and displays, including the Wallace Sword, and the Hall of Heroes. Braveheart enthusiasts beware, you will be roaring “FREEDOM!” the whole way home!
Address: Abbey Craig, Hillfoots Rd, Stirling FK9 5LF
13. The Elephant House – be inspired at one of Scotland’s most magical sites
Next on our list is a world-famous café, known as a place of inspiration for writers like Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall-Smith, and J.K Rowling who wrote much of her early novels in Edinburgh’s iconic café The Elephant House.
This café is a favourite amongst fans of the wizarding world and budding writers, and regardless of your literary tastes, we recommend that you experience for yourself the magic (and coffee!) at this charming establishment.
Address: 21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN
12. Loch Ness, Inverness – uncover the myth and legend of Scotland’s famous loch
Our next thing to do in Scotland is a trip to the mysterious and controversial Loch Ness. Visit the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition and prepare to be captivated by explorations, rumours, and hoaxes about what may live in the loch’s murky depths. Who knows? Maybe you will have your encounter with the wonderful ‘Nessie’!
Address: Drumnadrochit, Inverness IV63 6TU, United Kingdom
11. Jacobite Steam Train, Fort William To Mallaig – one of the best ideas for your Scotland Bucket List
Described as the greatest railway journey in the world, this 84-mile round trip promises dramatic scenery and idyllic views.
The train crosses the iconic 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct (a location made famous in the Harry Potter films) which overlooks Loch Shiel and the Jacobite monument. If you are lucky, time permitting, the train may pause on the viaduct, to allow passengers to take in the spectacular view. All aboard!
Address: Fort William PH33 6GD, United Kingdom
10. Cairngorm Mountains National Park – explore the heart of the Scottish Highlands
Next up on our Scotland Bucket List is a trip to the wonderful Cairngorm National Park. A dream for lovers of the outdoors, there is no shortage of things to do and sights to see.
However, no trip is complete without attempting to reach the summit of the two most iconic peaks, Ben Macdui and Cairngorm. So, what are you waiting for? Strap on your boots, grab a map and get walking!
Address: Grantown on Spey PH26 3HG
9. The Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye – discover an enchanted realm off-the-beaten-path
On the tranquil Isle of Skye there lies a magical landscape just waiting to be explored. The Faerie Glen (or Fairy Glen) is located on the west die of Trotternish at Balnacnoc, above Uig and believe us, it is well worth a visit.
The glen features small grassy hills, small ponds and winding roads give the place a miniature fairy-tale feel. The otherworldly qualities of this enchanting landscape will still be calling to you long after you leave!
Address: Highland Skye
8. The Orkney Islands – witness a rare spectacle
Are you still with us? Great! Our next Scotland bucket list item takes us to the splendid Orkney Islands, where dramatic coastlines, charming heritage, and mind-boggling natural phenomena will make you fall head-over-heels with these alluring isles.
Orkney is also in a superb position to capture an unobstructed glimpse at a truly rare spectacle, the northern lights, the famous Aurora Borealis. The isles are also home to several prehistoric marvels at the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Address: Orkney, Scotland
7. The Carron Fish Bar – sample the unofficial national dish of Scotland
Now, one of the most important things you must do in Scotland is to sample the unofficial national dish of the land – the deep-fried Mars Bar.
The perfect place to do this is at The Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, the birthplace of the delicacy.
Address: 1 Allardice St, Stonehaven AB39 2BN, United Kingdom
6. Fingal’s Cave, Isle of Staffa – explore an uninhabited island like no other
A trip to the Isle of Staffa, off the west coast of Scotland, is a once in a lifetime experience that you cannot pass up. This beautiful uninhabited island is famous for its dramatic sea caves and puffin population.
Fingal’s Cave is a highlight of a trip to Sraffa featuring iconic basalt columns formed 59 million years ago! The trip lasts approximately 3 hours and is a truly remarkable experience.
Address: Isle of Staffa
5. Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – the quintessential Edinburgh experience
No visit to Scotland is complete without a visit to Edinburgh Castle. The historic fortress which dominates the Edinburgh skyline serves as a military station and is home to the Scottish War Memorial, the Crown Jewels, and the Stone of Destiny.
Phenomenal tours of the castle are available and each year, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place on the esplanade, featuring a series of military tattoos, artistic performances, and firework displays.
Address: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG
4. West Highland Way – a walk on the wild side
The West Highland Way is a linear 96 mile (154 km) long walking route, running from Milngavie north of Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands.
The route takes in a huge variety of breath-taking scenery along the way, from rural parks to loch-shores and wild open moorlands to steep rugged mountains. This is truly a walk on the wild side and the perfect Scottish escape for avid hikers.
Address: W Highland Way Milngavie Ardoch House, Glasgow G62 6PB, United Kingdom
3. Glenfiddich Distillery – enjoy a ‘wee dram’ of the world’s most awarded single malt Scotch whisky
Glenfiddich Distillery is one of the last family-owned distilleries in Scotland and is also home to the world’s most awarded single malt Scotch whisky.
Tours of the distillery are available on which you can learn about the tradition and history behind this iconic whisky. Better yet, you will have a chance to enjoy your own ‘wee dram’, one of the key highlights of the tour!
Address: Dufftown, Keith AB55 4DH
2. Haggis at The White Hart Inn – taste a Scottish delicacy at Edinburgh’s oldest tavern
Scotland is known to surprise its visitors with unique experiences and the same can be said for its intriguing cuisine. The national dish of Scotland, haggis, is comprised of sheep’s pluck (lungs, liver, and heart), onion, oatmeal, and spices, and has long fascinated visitors, and with good reason!
Although the delicacy is not everyone’s cup of tea, it would be a mistake not to sample the dish. The White Hart Inn in Edinburgh is the city’s oldest pub, established in 1516, and is well-known for its authentic Scottish cuisine and award-winning haggis.
Address: 32 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2JU, United Kingdom
1. The Outer Hebrides – capture the essence of Scotland
Top of our Scotland bucket list is to experience the unforgettable Outer Hebrides. This diverse chain of islands will steal your heart and soul with their unique and authentic way of life.
Capture the essence of Scotland as you witness the preserved Gaelic culture that thrives in the region and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of these isolated isles. Experience the warmth of Hebridean hospitality, and the rich tradition that meets you at every corner.
Address: Outer Hebrides, Isle of Harris, United Kingdom
Sarah Ní Bhealáin is a 23-year-old Irish writer born and bred in County Wicklow. After graduating from University College Dublin with a masters degree in history, she is now working in a sales and marketing support role. Sarah loves all things hiking, heritage, and history, and she is always looking for an excuse to plan her next road trip across Ireland. Chances are you will usually find her reading, writing, or halfway up a hill somewhere exploring some old ruins.