Stirling Castle

Perched above the city of Stirling on a chunk of volcanic rock, this mighty Scottish fortress has seen it all, from attacks by Robert the Bruce to the coronation of the infant Mary Queen of Scots to the premiere of the movie “Braveheart” in 1993. In addition to the impeccably recreated Royal Palace interiors and the sheer amount of history held within its robust walls, the castle also offers superb views over Stirling and Scotland’s green hills and valleys.

Stirling Castle ranks high on the agenda for visitors to Scotland. Many visitors explore the castle on day trips from Edinburgh and Glasgow, which typically also visit other Scottish Highlands highlights such as Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Loch Ness, Glen Coe, and whisky tasting experiences. Travelers should book castle tickets in advance to avoid long lines and sold-out dates.
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Edinburgh Castle

With its fortress walls, cobbled promenades, and winding stone steps—has loomed over Scotland’s capital city for more than 1,000 years. Steeped in history, the former royal residence is now a museum, featuring detailed exhibits; period artifacts, such as the Scottish Crown Jewels; and dark dungeons that illuminate the castle’s storied past.

Explore Edinburgh Castle on a time-saving skip-the-line walking tour or delve into the history of this iconic fortress on a private tour. See the room where the macabre 15th-century Black Dinner took place; admire the Stone of Destiny; take a photo with the massive Mons Meg cannon; visit the room where Queen Mary gave birth to King James IV; and find mysterious graffiti left behind by prisoners of war.

Many Edinburgh city tours also include a visit to the castle, whether you want to explore by private mini-bus, vintage taxicab, or on a hop-on hop-off bus tour.m
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Royal Mile

The atmospheric Royal Mile thoroughfare cuts through the historic core of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, extending for slightly more than a mile from Edinburgh Castle all the way to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Both sides of the partly pedestrianized street are bordered by historic granite buildings bearing shop display windows piled high with symbols of Scotland, from tartan to whisky to shortbread. In between the former tenements and taverns are darkened arm-width-wide alleyways, known locally as closes.

Because it penetrates the very heart of Edinburgh’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town and is home to so many of the city’s star attractions, including St Giles’ Cathedral, the Scotch Whisky Experience, and Camera Obscura, the Royal Mile is a staple on Edinburgh sightseeing tours. Classic walking tours, Harry Potter–themed tours, and tours of the underground Real Mary King’s Close all cover portions of the Royal Mile, as do hop-on hop-off and ghost bus tours. Visitors based in Glasgow can take day tours to the city to see Edinburgh’s biggest attractions, among them, of course, the Royal Mile.
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Edinburgh Old Town

The historic heart of Edinburgh, UNESCO-listed Old Town, is home to the city’s most visited sights. Its central artery is the Royal Mile, which connects Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and is lined with top attractions including St. Giles Cathedral, Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, and the Scottish Parliament Building.

Most every visitor who sets foot in the city of Edinburgh will spend some time in Edinburgh Old Town, as it’s where many of the must-see landmarks and historic sites are located. Walking tours of the city typically begin on the Royal Mile and cover a wide array of themes, from history, mysteries, and photography to ghosts, Sherlock Holmes, and Harry Potter. Other sightseeing tours of Scotland’s capital, including tours by car, rail, and bus, also stop at Old Town attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and Canongate Kirk.
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Grassmarket

Steeped in history, the Grassmarket is located directly below Edinburgh Castle and is just a minute’s walk from the famous Royal Mile and the National Museum of Scotland. A vibrant and historic area, here visitors can soak up the medieval atmosphere while marvelling at one of the most iconic views in the city, the mighty Edinburgh Castle.

A stroll over the George IV Bridge leads to the Greyfriars Bobby statue and through some of Edinburgh’s oldest and most famous streets, including Candlemaker Row, Victoria Street, and West Port.

The Grassmarket was traditionally a meeting point for market traders and cattle drovers, with temporary lodgings and taverns all around. It was also once a place of public execution, and a memorial near the site once occupied by the gibbet was created in 1937 to commemorate more than 100 people who died on the gallows in a period known as The Killing Time.

Nowadays, the old market area is surrounded by pubs, clubs, shops, and two large hotels. Most buildings in the area are Victorian, with several modern buildings on the area’s south side.

The Grassmarket is located in Edinburgh’s Old Town, which has a wealth of food, shopping, and accommodation options for visitors. Various walking and themed tours are also available.
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The Forth Bridge

The Forth Bridge, the distinctive red-hued cantilevered railway bridge that arches over the Firth of Forth close to Edinburgh, is one of Scotland’s most recognizable symbols. A triumph of engineering, the bridge is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its 1,709-foot (521-meter single cantilever span is the second-longest in the world.

The bridge, which has a total length of 8,094 feet (2,467 meters), spans the Firth of Forth between the villages of South Queensferry, in the Scottish region of West Lothian, and North Queensferry in Fife. You can get a good view of it by traveling over one of the other two bridges that cross the Forth. You can cross both the Forth Road Bridge and Queensferry Crossing by vehicle and you can also cross the Forth Road Bridge by foot or bicycle.

Many guided tours leaving from Edinburgh to the Highlands and other Scottish regions go north over the bridge, which is a great way to incorporate the bridge into your visit without having to make an additional trip. Alternatively, you can see the bridge from the ground in either North or South Queensferry, or from the water by taking a boat tour.
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Central Scotland Tours

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Edinburgh Tours

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Glasgow Tours

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Isle of Lewis Tours

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Kirkwall Tours

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North East Scotland

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Aberdeen Tours

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Dundee Tours

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St Andrews Tours

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Portree Tours

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Shetland Islands Tours

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Lerwick Tours

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Southern Scotland Tours

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Ayr Tours

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Stirling Tours

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The Scottish Highlands Tours

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Aviemore Tours

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Fort William Tours

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Invergordon Tours

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Inverness Tours

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Laggan Tours

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Loch Ness Tours

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Oban Tours

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Scrabster Tours
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Loch Ness

While visitors flock to Loch Ness hoping to catch a glimpse of its elusive and eponymous monster, Loch Ness—a lake in the Scottish Highlands—is worth the trip even if you don’t believe the rumors. Vast and surrounded by magnificent Scottish scenery, Loch Ness is a popular boating and sightseeing spot.

Loch Ness is most often visited during day trips from Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen that incorporate other Highlands attractions such as Urquhart Castle, Stirling Castle, Caledonian Canal, Glencoe, Rannoch Moor, Cairngorms National Park, and even Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain.

Shorter half-day trips, which typically include boat tours on the lake, typically depart from Inverness, while cruise-ship passengers can take shore excursions from Invergordon. Motorized boat trips are the most common way for visitors to scour Nessie’s lair, though it’s also possible to paddle a canoe or kayak out on the loch, or even take a self-guided cycling trip.
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The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Set amid splendid gardens at the foot of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official Scottish residence of the British royals, who first decamped here from nearby Edinburgh Castle back in the 15th century. The complex grew from a 12th-century abbey, whose ruins can still be seen on the grounds, into a full-fledged Baroque palace complete with elaborate plasterwork, sumptuous furnishings, and a number of tapestries. The palace is perhaps most famous for having hosted to the rather unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots, whose beloved secretary was slaughtered here by her jealous second husband.

For anyone hoping to get a taste of the royal experience in Edinburgh, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is an essential stop. Visitors often glimpse the palace during walking tours of Edinburgh’s UNESCO-listed Old Town, as well as on hop-on, hop-off bus tours. Some city tours include admission to the palace so travelers can explore the state apartments and Mary’s Bedchamber with the aid of an audio guide. Palace ticket holders can join guided tours of the Holyrood Abbey ruins, which take place several times daily, or buy combination tickets to the palace and the onsite Queen’s Gallery, which hosts temporary art exhibits from the royal collection.
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Isle of Skye

Scotland’s largest island, the Isle of Skye is a pocket of wilderness jutting off the coast of the West Highlands. The area is a treat for nature lovers, with its dramatic sea cliffs, windswept valleys, and glittering lochs.

It’s possible to visit the Isle of Skye on a full-day tour from Inverness, stopping at sights such as Fort William, Glencoe, and Eilean Donan Castle along the way. To experience everything the island has to offer, spend a night or two on the island—multi-day tours from Edinburgh or Glasgow are popular options that will give you plenty of time to visit Portree, the island’s largest town; take in the views from the Old Man of Storr; and explore top attractions such as the Faerie Glen, Dunvegan castle, and Kilt Rock.
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