Lonely Planet’s Scotland Top Ten - things to do in Scotland

30 March 2015
imports_CESC_isle-of-skye-from-badicaul-geograph.org.uk-970861-47898_03569.jpg Lonely Planet’s Scotland Top Ten - things to do in Scotland
Lonely Planet shares its ‘Scotland Top Ten’ of places to visit and things to do. ...

Lonely Planet shares its ‘Scotland Top Ten’ of places to visit and things to do


In a country famous for stunning scenery, the Isle of Skye takes top prize. From the craggy peaks of the Cuillins and the bizarre pinnacles of the Old Man of Storr and Quiraing to the spectacular sea cliffs of Neist Point, there’s a photo opportunity at almost every turn.

Walkers can share the landscape with red deer and golden eagles, and refuel at the end of the day in convivial pubs and top seafood restaurants.


Scotland’s capital may be famous for its festivals, but there’s much more to it than that. Edinburgh is a city of many moods: visit out of season to see the Old Town silhouetted against a blue spring sky and a yellow haze of daffodils; or on a chill December morning with the fog snagging the spires of the Royal Mile, rain on the cobblestones and a warm glow beckoning from the window of a pub.


Despite being less than an hour’s drive from the bustle and sprawl of Glasgow, the bonnie banks and bonnie braes of Loch Lomond – immortalised in the words of one of Scotland’s best known songs – comprise one of the most scenic parts of the country.

At the hearts of Scotland’s first national park, the loch begins as a broad, island-peppered lake in the south, its shores clothed in bluebell woods, narrowing in the north to a fjord-like trench ringed by 900m high mountains.


The best way to really get inside Scotland’s landscapes is to walk them. Despite the wind, midges and drizzle, walking here is a pleasure, with numerous short and long-distance trails, hills and mountains begging to be tramped.

Top of the wish list for many hikers is the 96-mile West Highland Way from Milngavie (near Glasgow) to Fort William, a challenging week-long walk through some of the country’s finest scenery, finishing in the shadow of its highest peak, Ben Nevis.


The allure of Britain’s highest peak is strong – around 100,000 people a year set off up to the summit trail, though not all make it to the top. Nevertheless, the highest Munro of them all is within the reach of anyone who’s reasonably fit. Treat Ben Nevis with respect and your reward (weather permitting) will be a truly magnificent view and a great sense of achievement. Real walking enthusiasts can warm up by walking the 96-mile West Highland Way first.


Scotland is one of the best places in Europe for seeing marine wildlife. In the high season (July and August) many cruise operators on the west coast can almost guarantee sightings of minke whales and porpoises, and the Moray Firth is famous for its resident population of bottlenose dolphins.

Basking sharks – at up to 12m, the biggest fish to be found in British waters – make another common sighting. Tobermore and Eastdale (near Oban) are top departure points.


Scotland’s biggest city lacks Edinburgh’s classical beauty, but more than makes up for it with a barrelful of things to do and a warmth and energy that leave every visitor impressed. Edgy and contemporary, it’s a great spot to browse art galleries and museums, and to discover the works of local hero Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Add what is perhaps Britain’s best pub culture and one of the world’s best live music scenes and the only thing to do is live it.


Blue-grey lochs shimmer, reflecting the changing moods of the weather; swathes of noble woodland clothe the hills’ majestic glens scythe their way into remote wildernesses and salmon leap upriver to the place of their birth.

In Perthshire the heart of the country, picturesque towns bloom with flowers, distilleries emit tempting malty odours and sheep graze in impossibly green meadows. There’s a feeling of bounty of nature that no other place in Scotland can replicate.


Scotland invented the game of golf and is still revered as its spiritual home by hackers and champions alike. Links courses are the classic experience here – bumpy coastal affairs where the rough is heather and machair and the main enemy is the wind, which can make a disaster of a promising round in an instant.

St Andrews, the historic university town, is golf’s headquarters, and an alluring destination for anyone who loves the sport.


The Highlands abound in breathtaking views but the far north west is truly awe-inspiring. The coastal road between Durness and Kyle of Lochalsh offers jaw-dropping scenes at every turn: the rugged mountains of Assynt, the desolate beauty of Torridon and the remote cliffs of Cape Wrath. These and the nooks of warm Highland hospitality found in classic rural pubs make this an unforgettable corner of the country.


This feature is an extract from Lonely Planet’s revised Scotland guide, which is out now and available from the Lonely Planet shop at £13.99. The guide includes 3D illustrations, scenic driving tours, a walking guide and golf trips, as well as comprehensive visitor attractions guides, and ideas on where to eat and places to stay.

Read the History Scotland guides to top ten attractions in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Images: Skye © D J Macpherson; Edinburgh © Ad Meskens; Loch Lomond © Hans Musil; West Highland Way © Bobbyandck; Ben Nevis © Graham Ellis; marine wildlife © Rene; Glasgow © Michael Hanselmann; Perthshire © W L Tarbert; golf © Phillip Capper; Highlands © Trevor Rickard

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