From brushes with royalty to spectacular train journeys, Scotland offers terrific things to do that should be on every traveller’s bucket list. Here’s our pick of the best things to do in Scotland, all of which can be enjoyed on our Spirit of Scotland tour.
Ride one of the most scenic train journeys in the world
Described as one of the greatest railway journey in the world, the Jacobite steam train’s 84 mile round trip takes in an impressive list of superlatives.
The journey begins a stone’s throw from the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, it calls in at Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig; passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar before finally arriving at the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis!
Passing by rushing rivers, jagged mountains and some of Scotland’s prettiest lochs enroute to the seaside town of Mallaig, passengers have a leisurely hour and a half to explore this charming harbour town before returning to Fort William. The train also pauses to allow passengers to take in the views from the iconic 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct, familiar to anyone who is a Harry Potter fan!
Explore a floating Palace
Voted Britain’s best attraction for 2020, the Royal Yacht Britannia was home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family for over 40 years, sailing over one million miles around the world.
Now berthed in Edinburgh, you can follow in the footsteps of royalty to discover the heart and soul of this incredible ship and Royal residence. A ship of real contrasts, it’s fascinating to compare the homely royal bedrooms, drawing rooms and private sun room with the pomp and ceremony of the 32-seat state dining room where the Queen entertained powerful figures such as Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Ronald Reagan.
Below decks this was a working Royal Navy ship and you can explore the Bridge, Engine Room and the Royal Navy’s only permanent laundry service – the 240 Officers and Yachtsmen changed uniform up to six times a day, so the laundry worked non-stop.
Ride an Engineering Marvel
Reputed to be inspired by a Celtic double headed spear, a vast turning propeller of a Clydebank built ship, the ribcage of a whale and the spine of a fish, what can’t be denied is that the Falkirk Wheel is a real wonder of modern design. Built to link the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals, a journey that used to take 11 locks and nearly a day to transit now takes amazed visitors just minutes!
The 600 tonne gondolas hold 500,000 litres of water, enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool, yet raising them the 35 metres takes just 1.5 kWh, the equivalent of boiling eight kettles!
Search for the Loch Ness Monster
Scotland boasts over 30,000 lochs. The scenic beauty alone of these lakes and fiords would be enough to merit a visit, but when you consider they are also rich in history and legend, a cruise on the tranquil waters becomes unmissable.
With so many to choose from who could pick a favourite, but of course the most famous loch of them all is Loch Ness. 23 miles long, deeper than the North Sea and containing more water than all of the lakes of England and Wales combined, this vast loch is reputedly home, of course, to Scotland’s shyest monster! Whether Nessie appears or not on a cruise of the loch you’ll enjoy incredible views of the dramatic castle ruins on the banks of the loch, and hear stories about the history of these shores. Look out for Bona Lighthouse, Aldourie Castle, and the spectacular Urquhart Castle
Meet a Ghillie on the Isle of Skye
Skye, Scotland’s second largest island boasts an eye catching tapestry of rolling moors, jagged mountains, tranquil lochs and towering cliffs. Huddled amongst the scenic grandeur lie imposing castles, charming harbours, cosy pubs and a thriving arts scene.
Your most memorable moments though may be your encounter with local legend Mitch, a professional ghillie or traditional fishing and hunting guide. Mitch , one of Scotland’s last ghillies, will regale you with stories of his life on Skye, as well as the island’s histories, and share some insights into his life as a ghillie and the foraging and wilderness techniques he employs in his role.
Discover a Design Genius
Architect, designer, water colourist and artist , Charles Rennie Mackintosh was one Britain’s most important influences on European design movements such as Art Nouveau and Secessionism. Born in Glasgow this city, more than any other, bears the imprint of his genius. Learn all about Mackintosh on a visit to the Lighthouse and enjoy lunch at the elegant and airy The Willow Tearooms where every aspect from architecture to cutlery was designed by Mackintosh himself. Round off your Mackintoshfest at Hill House, an elegant family home in Helensburgh which is considered one of his greatest works. Every detail, inside and out, was created by Mackintosh and his wife Margaret MacDonald.
Tour a Whisky Distillery
With hundreds of distilleries occupying almost every corner of the country and a history stretching back to the 15th Century, no trip to Scotland is complete without a visit to a distillery to sample this iconic drop. And where better to do so than amongst the gentle hills and sparkling waters of the beautiful Isle of Mull? The Tobermory Distillery has been making single malt for over 200 years and rests in a particularly picturesque harbour which gazes out over the water to the colourful harbour of Tobermory.
Live out your Braveheart Fantasies
One of the most significant castles in Scottish history, Stirling Castle was built in the 15th century and until the Union of the Crowns in 1603, almost every Scottish monarch had either lived, been crowned or died here. A roll call of iconic Scots have walked these halls from Robert the Bruce and William Wallace to Mary Queen of Scots. The castle is also built on top of an extinct volcano providing fabulous views of the surrounding city and some famous battlefield sites, including William Wallace’s great victory over English forces at Stirling Bridge in 1297. That’s the battle you see in Braveheart. It didn’t pan out quite the way it did in the movie but hey that’s Showbiz!
Encompassing Scotland’s dramatic Highlands, great glens and idyllic islands, the 11-day Spirit of Scotland itinerary is packed with incredible experiences and led entirely by a Blue Badge National Escort.
From riding the iconic Jacobite steam train to cruising two of the country’s greatest lochs and touring the Royal Yacht Britannia, discover the very best of Scottish heritage, culture, engineering and landscapes. Take in the full scale of Scotland’s majesty, from energetic Edinburgh to magical Mull and scenic Skye, and immerse yourself in the dramatic history of this proud and spirited country, with visits to the castles and battlefields that shaped its tumultuous past.
Spirit of Scotland
11 days from £2615pp
Edinburgh (2N) - Stirling (1N) - Inverness (3N) - Oban (2N) - Glasgow (2N)