Last week I wrote about the importance of being a tourist in your own country, and, well, I should really take my own advice with that, huh?

With that in mind, here are five of my favourite things to see in Scotland: or in this part of it, at least. For this list, I’ve stuck mostly to the central and east coast areas, purely because those are the places I visit most often. Please don’t take that as an indication that there’s nothing to see in the rest of the country, though: in fact, in keeping with my ‘make every day feel like a vacation’ post, I’m going to make it my goal to see as many places in Scotland as I can and report back. Deal?

For now, though, here are five of my favourite things to see in Scotland…

seacliff-beach

01. Seacliff Beach, East Lothian

A lot of people visit the pretty coastal town of North Berwick (and with good reason, too: in fact, I love it so much I’m determined to make it my future home…), but not so many venture further along the coast to Seacliff: probably because it’s one of those hidden gems that most people don’t even know about. To be fair, Seacliff is pretty hidden: you get to it via a narrow dirt track, which cars can just get along without falling over a cliff edge, and it feels a bit like you shouldn’t actually be there. It’s worth the trip, though, because when you emerge from the woods onto the golden sand of the almost-deserted beach, you’ll feel like you’re the first person to ever stumble across it, and you’ll want to stay there forever. Or until it gets too cold, anyway. And it WILL.

Seacliff is home to one of the country’s smallest harbours, and also has some of the best views you’ll get of the ruined Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock. Love it.

jupiter-artland

02. Jupiter Artland, Wilkieston, West Lothian

Jupiter Artland is an art gallery with a difference: the difference being that most of it is outdoors, and it’s … well, it’s an experience, basically. A good one, though. And also a kinda creepy one at times: you walk through the woods, past sculptures of scary little girls and mysterious dark pits, and eventually come out into the beautiful sculpted hills in the image above. There’s much, much more to it than that, though: I wrote a post about our visit a couple of years ago, but the exhibits change regularly, so you never know what you might find. The park does close during the winter, unfortunately, so make sure it’s open before heading out there!

Cramond Island, Edinburgh

03. Cramond Island, near Edinburgh

Cramond Island is an uninhabited island near Edinburgh, which is reached by a causeway during low tide. (Yes, you will get trapped there if you don’t pay attention to the tides. No, it hasn’t happened to me yet, but there’s still time…) Walking across the sea bed feels pretty eerie on its own, but the island, when you reach it, is right out of The Famous Five, basically. It’s small enough to walk around fairly easily, and pretty enough to make you want to take a million photos and post them all to Instagram, even although you know it’ll start to annoy people. There’s not much to see on the island itself, other than what remains of some WW2 fortifications, but it’s worth the walk for the views alone – and you never know, you might get to have a ripping, Enid Blyton-style adventure. Especially if you’re still there when the tide starts to come in.

Once you’re off the island, the village of Cramond itself is a cute little place (and another contender for the position of Amber’s Future Home, actually), with some nice little restaurants and cafes: oh, and there’s normally an ice cream van down by the beach, too…

Dean Village, Edinburgh

04.  Dean Village, Edinburgh 

Despite living near Edinburgh my entire life, and actually living IN Edinburgh for a few years, I actually only discovered Dean Village last year, much to my shame. Although the name suggests a remote location, it’s right in the heart of the city, and is a World Heritage Site – a fact that won’t surprise you in the slightest when you walk down the hill, and realise you’ve just taken a step back in time. Now, if you’ve been to Edinburgh, you’ll know that there are many areas of the city which feel like that, but Dean Village is quite unique, with its Elizabethan-style buildings and narrow, cobbled streets. It really feels like being on the set of a movie or something, and it’s really quite strange when you look up and see the modern buildings of the New Town rising up behind it. It’s well worth a visit, and you can read my post on it here.

New Lanark Word Heritage Site, Scotland

05. New Lanark World Heritage Site, Lanarkshire

New Lanark is basically a mill town, but it’s also a social experiment, and a fascinating example of 18th century social planning. The village was built by mill owner and philanthropist David Dale, to house the mill workers and their families, and although the conditions these people lived and worked in seem horrific by our modern standards, it was actually way ahead of its time, and living there would’ve been considered a pretty sweet deal to working-class Scots of the age.

The buildings have all been preserved as part of the World Heritage Site, and many of them are open to the public, with tours and exhibits showing you what life was like. It’s a bleakly beautiful setting, right on the Falls of Clyde, and no matter how bad your week has been, I promise you’ll leave there feeling nothing but gratitude that you’re not a mill worker in 18th century Scotland…

Top 5 Things to see in Scotland

So tell me: what are your favourite things to see in Scotland – assuming you’ve been here? 

18 Comments
  1. Hi Amber, we (husband and I) are talking about taking an overnight train from London and traveling up to Scotland next year. I always wanted to properly visit Scotland, I’ve been to Edinburgh when I was young but we had a little bit of bad luck so we (parents and I) had to come home early. xx

    1. I know so many people who live in/near the city and have never heard of it – I used to live in Stockbridge, which is right next to it, and I was STILL none the wiser!

  2. Oh, what a FANTASTIC post!!! Thank you sooooo much…I adore every single place here and I love your town, such a charming place… Three years ago, we spent a week holiday in Edinburgh. We walked for hours and couldn’t get enough of it!! We visited the castle, Dean Village (btw, shame on you…ha ha), the The Scotch Whisky Experience, and we went to fabulous pubs (so cute) and had delicious food.
    I found Scots friendly, warm and with a strong sense of humour….that reminds me of a person I know (a reddish hair lady)….
    The sun is shining in my town today… hourrah!!!

  3. I loved to go hiking in the Cairngorm Mountains (and hiking in general, but there I met some super sweet reindeers on Cairn Gorm and enjoyed some great views)…Scotland is also great for some longer tours. Furthermore I visited some Whisky Distilleries and found a great Whisky Shop in Tomintoul (the best Souvenir). I also enjoyed the Highland Games in Braemar, where I caught a picture of Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, who were passing by just in front of me… (I am not some royalty fanatic, but I still keep this picture…). These three things came to my mind immediately, plus my lovely stay in Edinburgh. I enjoyed my stays in Scotland very much.

  4. I’ve driven from Cornwall to Scotland twice, the first time we visited Inverness via Edinburgh, and the second trip we went straight to Inverness. I love The Isle of Skye, Elieen Doonan and Glen Afric. I love what ive seen of Scotland so far

    (appologies ahead of time, ive probably mispelt all those names)

  5. I laugh when I read your ” Oh darn, back in Scotland” post after visiting Cali because Scotland was NUMBER ONE on my life list and the first big overseas trip I made. The grass is always greener, hey?! ( I’m from Canada, BTW.)

  6. All these places look lovely. I’ve been to embarrassingly few places in Scotland; but I think Edinburgh is possibly one of the best cities anywhere. I also thought Blair Castle was pretty fantastic.

  7. My husband and I travelled to Scotland a few years ago to visit his Scottish relatives (Clan Fraser), and we travelled around the Grampians. Besides enjoying the “whisky trail,” highlights from our trip include climbing up to the fort on Dunnideer (including a memorable picnic lunch amidst the ruins), visiting the Dunnottar Castle, and soaking up the history at Culloden. My travel post about our trip to Scotland is here at http://librarianforlifestyle.com/2013/06/07/travel-flashback-scotland-spring-2008/ 🙂

  8. I’m planning a visit to Scotland, and this is just the kind of information I was looking for! I’ve already been in Ireland and I can’t wait to tick this off my Bucket list too 😀

  9. I really enjoyed Edinburgh when I visited. And Stirling castle was very neat to see. The driving experience we had in Scotland was pretty memorable as well. “You all drive on the wrong side of the road!” (Spoken like a true American, right!?) I loved all of it, and really wished we had more time on our castle tour, day trip – several days were needed. We made it only to three that day, Stirling being the last we saw. I have a nice-sized framed black and white picture of Blackness Castle, that my husband took, hanging in my living room that reminds me daily of your beautiful country. I hope to go back and see your suggestions. 😀

  10. We’ll be staying in East Lothian for a couple of weeks next summer, so I’ll definitely try to visit some of these places! Wow, I remember visiting New Lanark on a primary school trip! xxx

  11. This is really good information to know. My husband and I are seriously considering moving to Edinburgh in a few year’s time, so I will most certainly be looking out for these (and am now very excited to explore).

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