From the whispering streets of cities beneath cities, to crumbling ancient castles and the extraordinary magic of The Highlands, Scotland is a place that’s long been shrouded in legend. The UK’s northernmost region is home to the world’s most famous sea monster, ancient clans and, love it or hate it, the battered Mars Bar – but its three most prominent cities all have their own stories to tell.
In this article we’ll explore some of the most iconic landmarks and fascinating places to explore in and around Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, and prepare you for an unforgettable journey through one of the world’s most captivating nations.
Standing watch high above the streets of the capital lies the iconic Edinburgh Castle. The oldest part of the structure, which forms just a small part of the extensive castle, has stood since the 12th century. Built on an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle has become the most popular and well-loved tourist attraction in all of Scotland. Stand in the Great Hall, where the kings and queens of yesteryear dined, or discover Mons Meg – one of the most feared guns of medieval Europe. And while you’re here, why not pay a visit to the Scottish National War Memorial?
Did you know that Edinburgh is built up from the ruins of the old town? Explore the winding streets of Mary King’s Close and discover the dark, damp reality of everyday life in medieval Auld Reekie. Speak to a literary genius or solve a manor house murder. You can even meet an unsung hero of the 1645 plague epidemic or a notorious plague doctor. Located across the road from the magnificent St Giles’ Cathedral, The Real Mary King’s Close is an unforgettable experience for the whole family.
Once you’ve had your fill of ghoulish memoirs and captivating fables, head east to Arthur’s Seat. This towering rock is part of the same extinct volcano which forms Castle Rock, and has breathtaking views of the city and beyond. Hiking up Arthur’s Seat isn’t particularly strenuous, so it’s a good place to experience the great outdoors with the kids, while seeing some of Scotland’s unique natural beauty along the way.
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Kelvingrove Museum first opened its doors to the public in 1901, and has remained one of Glasgow’s most renowned tourist attractions over the last century. With 22 enchanting galleries showcasing everything from wildlife to ancient civilisations, and with an eclectic range of artists through the ages, the museum has something for everyone.
Explore the history of whiskey on a visit to Clydeside Distillery. Located within the iconic Pumphouse building, which once controlled entry into the famous Glasgow Queen’s Dock, the distillery opened to the public in late 2017. The site can produce up to 500,000 litres of whiskey each year, and visitors are guided through 140 years of history as they discover the building’s past, present and future.
No visit to Glasgow would be complete without a trip to the famous Glasgow Green. The city’s oldest and most historic park plays host to a range of high-profile events, but is also the perfect place for a relaxing stroll during your stay. Located on the north bank of the River Clyde, the park was first established in the 15th century – see if you can spot landmarks such as Nelson’s Monument, McLennan Arch and Tidal Weir.
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Located to the east of Scotland, Aberdeen is a city that more than rivals its larger counterparts in terms of culture, history and entertainment. With its rolling hills, striking architecture and some of the most fascinating landmarks in Scotland, The Granite City is an ideal place to visit on your Scottish adventure.
To the northeast of Aberdeen is the mighty GlenDronach Distillery. One of Scotland’s oldest working distilleries, it’s nestled in a place of undisturbed natural beauty, and boasts 200 years of history. Here, visitors can learn all about the journey of single malt whiskey and discover a timeline of significant events that made the distillery what it is today.
Journey south from the city and you’ll soon find the magnificent Dunnottar Castle. This crumbling medieval fortress was first fortified in the Early Middle Ages, although most of its surviving buildings were built in the 15th and 16th centuries. Nowadays, Dunnottar Castle stands watch over the North Sea and is open to visitors, just beware the shadowy figures rumoured to haunt the grounds after sunset.
Back in the city, the Aberdeen Maritime Museum tells the story of the city’s long relationship with the sea. Explore collections and exhibitions related to shipbuilding, fishing and, of course, the history of Aberdeen as a port town.
Our Leonardo Inn Hotel at Aberdeen Airport is the perfect place to lay your head after a long day of exploring this fascinating city.
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