What is the number 1 thing to see in Scotland?

Scotland, a land of hauntingly beautiful landscapes and rich history, offers a plethora of sights that captivate travellers from around the globe. Among its many treasures, one stands out as the ultimate must-see destination. This article delves into the heart of Scotland’s allure, exploring the number one attraction that is essential on any Scottish itinerary.

Key Takeaways

  • Edinburgh Castle is not just a historic fortress but also home to Scotland’s Crown Jewels and the legendary Stone of Destiny.
  • The enigmatic waters of Loch Ness hold more than the myth of Nessie, with the atmospheric Urquhart Castle ruins offering a glimpse into Scotland’s past.
  • The Isle of Skye’s Fairy Pools and the Old Man of Storr provide an otherworldly experience, set amidst tales of folklore and breathtaking natural beauty.
  • The Royal Mile in Edinburgh encapsulates the city’s historic essence, from the regal Holyrood Palace to the spirited Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
  • Scotland’s number one sight is a blend of majestic scenery, historic landmarks, and vibrant culture, offering an unforgettable experience for every visitor.

Edinburgh Castle: A Historic Fortress

Edinburgh Castle: A Historic Fortress

The Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny

Within the confines of Edinburgh Castle, the Crown Jewels of Scotland, also known as the Honours of Scotland, represent a pinnacle of Scottish history and identity. The Stone of Destiny, an ancient symbol of Scottish monarchy, is among the most cherished items.

Visitors are often captivated by the rich history surrounding these artefacts. The Crown Jewels were used in the coronation ceremonies of Scottish monarchs, while the Stone of Destiny has a storied past, having been used in the inauguration of kings.

The Stone of Destiny has recently made headlines, as it was ceremoniously moved from its long-standing home at Edinburgh Castle.

The significance of these treasures is underscored by the elaborate security measures and the reverence with which they are displayed. Here’s a brief overview of what you’ll see:

  • The Crown: Crafted for James V in 1540, adorned with gold and precious gems.
  • The Sceptre: Given to James IV by Pope Alexander VI in 1494, symbolising royal authority.
  • The Sword of State: Commissioned by James IV in 1507, it’s a masterpiece of Renaissance craftsmanship.

St. Margaret’s Chapel and the Great Hall

Within the walls of Edinburgh Castle, St. Margaret’s Chapel stands as the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, a testament to the city’s rich history. This intimate chapel, dedicated to the mother of King David I, is a place of serenity amidst the bustle of the castle grounds.

The Great Hall, constructed by James IV in 1511, is a masterpiece of Scottish architecture. Its grandeur is evident in the hammerbeam roof and the display of weapons and armour, which evoke the hall’s past as a place of important state ceremonies and parliamentary gatherings.

  • Oldest building in Edinburgh Castle
  • Dedicated to Queen Margaret
  • Example of Romanesque architecture

The Great Hall is not only a historical treasure but also a living venue, hosting various events throughout the year.

When planning your visit, consider the availability of taxi services and ride-sharing options to ensure a smooth experience at this iconic Scottish landmark.

Panoramic Views of Edinburgh

Standing atop Castle Rock, visitors are treated to a breathtaking spectacle of Edinburgh’s skyline. The vantage point from Edinburgh Castle offers a unique perspective of the city’s historic and modern landmarks. From this height, one can gaze upon the lush Princes Street Gardens, the Gothic spires of St. Giles’ Cathedral, and the distant hills that cradle the city.

Edinburgh is not just a feast for the eyes but also a tapestry of history woven into the very fabric of its streets. A visit to the castle is incomplete without taking a moment to absorb the panoramic views that have watched over the city for centuries.

The castle’s esplanade serves as a natural viewing platform, providing an unobstructed panorama that is especially enchanting at dusk, when the city lights begin to twinkle.

For those keen to capture the essence of Edinburgh, here are some of the best spots to include in your itinerary:

  • Arthur’s Seat for a natural high point
  • The Scott Monument for a Gothic backdrop
  • Camera Obscura for interactive vistas
  • Calton Hill for a classic Edinburgh snapshot

Loch Ness and the Great Glen

Loch Ness and the Great Glen

The Mystery of Nessie: Loch Ness Monster

The Loch Ness Monster, affectionately known as Nessie, has captured the imagination of locals and visitors alike for decades. Sightings of this elusive creature have been reported since the 1930s, stirring a blend of intrigue and scepticism around the world.

The legend of Nessie is deeply ingrained in Scottish folklore, with numerous theories attempting to explain the sightings. While scientific evidence remains inconclusive, the mystery continues to be a significant draw for the Loch Ness region.

  • First recorded sighting in 1933
  • Surge in interest after a 1934 photograph
  • Ongoing debates between believers and sceptics

Despite the lack of definitive proof, the Loch Ness monster remains a symbol of the unknown and a testament to the enduring power of myth.

Urquhart Castle Ruins and Visitor Centre

Perched on the banks of Loch Ness, the Urquhart Castle ruins offer a glimpse into Scotland’s mediaeval past. The castle’s history is as deep as the loch’s waters, with tales of noble families and fierce battles. Today, visitors can explore the remains of the great hall, the towers, and the dungeons that once held prominent figures.

Urquhart played a significant role in the Wars of Scottish Independence and changed hands between the Scots and English several times. The visitor centre provides detailed exhibits and an audio-visual experience that brings the castle’s rich history to life.

The panoramic views from the castle’s battlements are truly breathtaking, stretching across the loch and the Great Glen.

  • Explore the castle ruins and imagine life during mediaeval times.
  • Visit the modern visitor centre for historical insights.
  • Enjoy the stunning views of Loch Ness and the surrounding highlands.

Cruising on Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal

Embarking on a cruise along Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal offers a serene escape into the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Feel the mystique of the deep waters and the tranquillity of the surrounding landscape as you glide through one of Scotland’s most iconic settings.

Loch Ness is not just about the legends; it’s a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the elusive otters, eagles soaring overhead, and the occasional deer by the water’s edge.

  • Experience the calm of the canal waters
  • Marvel at the rugged beauty of Loch Ness
  • Discover the rich history and biodiversity

The journey through the canal is a testament to Scotland’s engineering heritage, offering a unique perspective on the country’s natural and man-made wonders.

Whether you’re seeking the thrill of a potential Nessie sighting or the peace of a leisurely boat trip, cruising on Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal is an unforgettable Scottish adventure.

The Isle of Skye: Natural Beauty and Folklore

The Isle of Skye: Natural Beauty and Folklore

The Fairy Pools and the Old Man of Storr

Nestled amongst the dramatic landscapes of the Isle of Skye, the Fairy Pools are a series of crystal-clear, enchanting blue pools and waterfalls that offer a magical experience for visitors. The allure of these natural wonders is the clarity of the water, which is cold enough to take your breath away, should you choose to take a dip.

Hiking to the Fairy Pools is a must-do activity, with the route providing spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. The journey to the pools is as rewarding as the destination itself, with opportunities to spot local wildlife and flora along the way.

  • Start at the car park near Glenbrittle
  • Follow the clearly marked path
  • Cross the stepping stones
  • Enjoy the various pools and waterfalls

The Old Man of Storr, another iconic Skye landmark, is a majestic rock formation that dominates the landscape. It is steeped in myth and legend, adding to the mystical atmosphere of the island.

The hike to the Old Man of Storr is a challenging yet invigorating adventure, with panoramic views that are truly unparalleled. The pinnacle of the Storr, visible for miles around, serves as a beacon for those seeking the essence of Skye’s rugged beauty.

Dunvegan Castle and the Cuillin Hills

Dunvegan Castle, the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, stands proudly on the Isle of Skye, offering visitors a glimpse into the island’s storied past. The ancestral home of the Clan MacLeod has been a pivotal stronghold for over 800 years, housing an array of clan relics and heirlooms.

The Cuillin Hills, a rugged and dramatic range, provide a breathtaking backdrop to the castle. Their challenging terrain is a siren call to climbers and hikers from around the world. The Cuillin are divided into the Black and Red Cuillin, each with its own unique character and allure.

Visitor Information:

  • Opening Times: Vary seasonally
  • Admission Fees: Adult £14, Child £9
  • Facilities: Gardens, boat trips, seal watching

The experience of exploring Dunvegan Castle is complemented by the natural grandeur of the Cuillin Hills, making it an unforgettable visit on the Isle of Skye.

Local Culture and Hebridean Seafood

The Isle of Skye is not only a feast for the eyes but also for the palate. The rich local culture is deeply intertwined with the sea, giving rise to a culinary tradition that celebrates the bounty of the surrounding waters. The Hebridean seafood is renowned for its freshness and quality, with dishes that are as simple as they are delicious.

  • Herring
  • Pollack
  • Shellfish

These are just a few examples of the seafood that local fishermen bring to the table, ensuring that visitors can enjoy the authentic taste of the island. Many of these fishermen are also crofters, maintaining a way of life that has shaped the island for centuries.

The connection between the land and sea is palpable in every bite of Skye’s seafood, which is not just food but a story of tradition and survival.

Whether you’re dining in a cosy pub or a high-end restaurant, the seafood here is a true reflexion of Skye’s heritage. It’s an experience that goes beyond mere sustenance, offering a glimpse into the heart of Hebridean life.

The Royal Mile: Edinburgh’s Historic Heart

The Royal Mile: Edinburgh's Historic Heart

Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament

At the foot of the Royal Mile lies the magnificent Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Here, visitors can explore the State Apartments, the historic apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the beautiful palace gardens. Adjacent to the palace stands the Scottish Parliament, a modern architectural marvel contrasting with the ancient grandeur of its neighbour. The Parliament is open to the public, and visitors can join a free guided tour or see parliament in action, depending on the day of the visit (booking essential).

The juxtaposition of the old and new symbolises the evolving nature of Scottish identity and governance.

For those interested in the workings of Scottish politics, the Parliament’s public galleries allow an insight into the legislative process. The innovative design of the building reflects the transparency and accessibility of the Scottish political system.

The Real Mary King’s Close and Ghost Tours

After delving into the eerie past of Edinburgh with a ghost tour, you can lighten the mood by visiting the city’s traditional pubs. These establishments are steeped in history and offer a warm, convivial atmosphere, perfect for enjoying a pint of local ale. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe transforms the Royal Mile each August, bringing an explosion of creative energy and performances from around the world.

  • Sample a range of Scottish whiskies and craft beers.
  • Listen to live folk music and mingle with the locals.
  • Experience the vibrancy of street performers and artists during the festival season.

The Royal Mile is not just a historical treasure but also the epicentre of Scottish culture and festivity, especially during the Fringe.

For those interested in the arts, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is an unmissable event. It’s the largest arts festival in the world and showcases a dizzying array of talent across all forms of performance.

Traditional Pubs and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

After exploring the historic and spectral depths of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, a visit to one of the many traditional pubs offers a warm respite. Here, visitors can sample a variety of Scottish ales and whiskies, each with its own story and heritage. The convivial atmosphere is the perfect precursor to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival, transforming the city into a hub of creativity and performance. From street performers to avant-garde theatre, the festival has something for everyone. The experience is often described as unforgettable, with shows and acts spread across hundreds of venues.

The Festival Fringe is not just an event; it’s a celebration of culture, art, and performance that engulfs the entire city.

  • August: The prime month for the Festival Fringe
  • Venues: Over 300 spread across the city
  • Shows: Thousands, ranging from comedy to opera

Whether you’re clinking glasses in a cosy pub or marvelling at a groundbreaking performance, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile offers a blend of tradition and festivity that is truly unique.

Step back in time and explore the rich tapestry of history along Edinburgh’s iconic Royal Mile. From the majestic Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, this historic stretch is the pulsating heart of Scotland’s capital. Don’t just read about it; experience it for yourself. Visit our website to discover more about the Royal Mile and plan your unforgettable journey through Edinburgh’s past. Your adventure through time awaits at [YourWebsite.com].


In the end, choosing the number one sight to see in Scotland is a subjective matter, as the country is replete with stunning landscapes, historic landmarks, and cultural treasures. However, the overwhelming allure of Edinburgh Castle, a historic fortress that dominates the skyline of the capital city, often places it at the top of many travellers’ lists. Its rich history, architectural grandeur, and the panoramic views it offers of Edinburgh make it an unmissable experience. Whether you’re a history buff, a lover of nature, or simply someone in search of the quintessential Scottish experience, Edinburgh Castle embodies the spirit and heritage of Scotland in a way few other places can. As you plan your Scottish adventure, make sure to leave ample time to explore this iconic symbol of Scottish identity and the myriad of stories it holds within its ancient walls.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most iconic attraction to visit in Scotland?

Edinburgh Castle is considered the most iconic attraction, offering a glimpse into Scotland’s rich history and providing stunning views over the city of Edinburgh.

Can you see the Crown Jewels at Edinburgh Castle?

Yes, the Crown Jewels of Scotland, which include the Crown, Sceptre, and Sword of State, are on display at Edinburgh Castle, alongside the famous Stone of Destiny.

Is there a real monster in Loch Ness?

The existence of the Loch Ness Monster, known as Nessie, remains a mystery and a subject of folklore. While many have claimed sightings, there is no scientific evidence to prove its existence.

What can you do on the Isle of Skye?

The Isle of Skye is renowned for its natural beauty, with attractions like the Fairy Pools, the Old Man of Storr, and the Cuillin Hills. Visitors can also explore Dunvegan Castle and enjoy the local culture and seafood.

What is the Royal Mile in Edinburgh known for?

The Royal Mile is the historic heart of Edinburgh, known for its connection to royalty and parliament, as well as its vibrant cultural scene, including ghost tours, traditional pubs, and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Is it possible to take a boat trip on Loch Ness?

Yes, boat trips on Loch Ness are a popular way to explore the area and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Great Glen and the Caledonian Canal, with the added bonus of possibly spotting Nessie.