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Destinations & Inspiration

Scotland travel guide: The best things to see and do in Scotland

Lydia Altman
By Lydia Altman - 17 minute read

Keen to find some soli­tude and space so that you can take a breather from the hec­tic pace of every­day life? Want to explore vast land­scapes and the most breath­tak­ing nat­ur­al beau­ty? Or are you ready to let loose in a famous­ly vibrant city like Glas­gow or Edin­burgh? There are hun­dreds of rea­sons why Scot­land is a major tourist attrac­tion – and these are just some of them!

To begin with, if you’ve nev­er been to Scot­land, then the cap­i­tal city of Edin­burgh should be high on your list. The famous medieval archi­tec­ture of the Old Town and the neo­clas­si­cal New Town com­bine seam­less­ly to pro­vide the city with a UNESCO World Her­itage sta­tus – and as it’s home to around 40,000 stu­dents, you can be sure of plen­ty of fun bars, pubs and restau­rants! Some of the key attrac­tions in Edin­burgh that you should see include Edin­burgh Cas­tle and The Roy­al Mile, while the annu­al Edin­burgh Fes­ti­val Fringe and Mil­i­tary Tat­too are expe­ri­ences that you’ll nev­er for­get. Edin­burgh is also known for host­ing some of Scotland’s best whisky tast­ing expe­ri­ences, so find your pre­ferred haunt (and tip­ple!) in this list of the best whisky tast­ing bars in Edinburgh.

If you’re look­ing for a home swap in Edin­burgh, we have many great prop­er­ties to choose from, like this love­ly court­yard apart­ment based only min­utes away from attrac­tions like the Roy­al Mile. If you decide to stay here, the host rec­om­mends try­ing Num­ber 1 at Bal­moral for a swanky din­ner and Café Roy­al if you fan­cy a cocktail!

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Edin­burgh Streets

Next on the itin­er­ary should be St Andrews, where there are plen­ty of things to see and do. Fol­low in the foot­steps of the roy­als who attend­ed St Andrews Uni­ver­si­ty by enjoy­ing one of the University’s vis­it­ing days or stretch your legs with one of many stun­ning walk­ing routes in the area. Vis­it Scot­land has a great list of the best attrac­tions in St Andrews such as the ruins of St Andrew’s Cathe­dral or tak­ing a guid­ed walk of the Old Course at St Andrews – a must-do for any golf enthusiast.

Glas­gow is also a great option for a city break in Scot­land, plus it is known for being the largest sea­port in Scot­land. There are many fab­u­lous attrac­tions in Glas­gow such as Glas­gow Cathe­dral and The Corinthi­an Club. Fan­cy try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent and slight­ly quirky? Then vis­it The Sara­cen Head — an age-old pub where the skull of the last witch of Scot­land resides (spooky!) For lots more unusu­al attrac­tions in Glas­gow then check out The Cul­ture Trip’s great list.

If you’re head­ing to Scot­land to enjoy the stun­ning and famous scenery, look no fur­ther than the Scot­tish High­lands. There are tons of fab­u­lous walks that you can go on. To make the most of the expe­ri­ence, con­sid­er hir­ing a car or take your own car and dri­ve the North Coast 500, Scot­land’s biggest road trip mea­sur­ing over 500 miles. The route begins in Inver­ness and flows along the dra­mat­ic coastal edges of the North High­lands in one round trip. This great home swap prop­er­ty is one of many gor­geous options in the region. Appar­ent­ly you can see the North­ern Lights in win­ter! Alter­na­tive­ly, browse one of these per­fect­ly-locat­ed homes!

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The Scot­tish Highlands

Scot­land is dot­ted with thou­sands of lochs, but one of the most icon­ic is Loch Duich in the West­ern High­lands of Scot­land. It’s a gor­geous spot for hik­ing and pic­nick­ing, but its real lure is a tiny island that boasts Eilean Donan Cas­tle. This stun­ning cas­tle is con­nect­ed to the main­land through a sim­ple foot­bridge and looks like some­thing out of Game of Thrones. In fact, the cas­tle has been used for many films, includ­ing James Bond! And if that has whet your appetite for a dose of cul­ture, then take a look at Vis­it Scotland’s list of the most beau­ti­ful cas­tles to see in Scot­land. To make the most of the nat­ur­al beau­ty of the High­lands, make sure you round off the expe­ri­ence by stay­ing in a stun­ning home swap like this log cab­in, which even has its own hot tub. Wind down after a long day of explor­ing with a drop of High­lands malt!

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Loch Duich, West Highlands

Nature lover or an adren­a­line junkie? Then con­sid­er climb­ing the UK’s high­est moun­tain, Ben Nevis! Locat­ed near Fort William, Ben Nevis was once a giant vol­cano which col­lapsed in on itself mil­lions of years ago – pack your stur­di­est hik­ing boots, and only attempt the hike if you’re an expe­ri­enced walk­er. Locat­ed only an hour’s dri­ve away is this love­ly coun­try­side prop­er­ty based in the town of New­ton­more. As the ide­al base from which to explore and immerse your­self in the Scot­tish coun­try­side, this love­ly home swap is cen­tral­ly locat­ed in the High­lands, and is a great spot to do road trips to Inver­ness, Loch Ness and even to the Har­ry Pot­ter Steam Train. If you decide to stay here, our local mem­bers sug­gest vis­it­ing The Spey­side Dis­til­leries which is only an hour’s dri­ve away or The Dal­whin­nie Dis­tillery, where you can try some real Scot­tish whisky.

If you’re look­ing to avoid the crowds and tourists that some­times gath­er at Ben Nevis, then Braeri­ach or Cairn Toul might pro­vide you with the chal­lenge you’re seek­ing. A mem­ber of the Love Home Swap team has pre­vi­ous­ly tack­led these moun­tains, and make the fol­low­ing sug­ges­tion for Lon­don-based home swap­pers who are keen to expe­ri­ence a hik­ing week­end. She said: I got the sleep­er train from Lon­don Euston at 9pm and woke up in Aviemore at 7:30am the next morn­ing. I head­ed straight for the trails, but if I’d stayed on the train, I could have gone to Inver­ness — so you have lots of options to explore! It’s a super acces­si­ble place to vis­it from Lon­don, for a min­i­mal cost.”

Of course, hik­ing and cities aren’t for every­one – but Scot­land has miles and miles of the most beau­ti­ful coast­line to explore. For a prop­er­ty that’s com­plete­ly off the grid and away from the main attrac­tions (but still immersed in amaz­ing scenery), try this breath­tak­ing Love Home Swap property:

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This home offers mes­meris­ing views of the sea from the com­fort of your own kitchen and liv­ing room. Built on the site of a for­mer Edwar­dian beach pavil­ion, this detached property’s hill­side perch com­mands far-reach­ing coastal views, while a pri­vate path leads down to soft gold­en sands at Cold­ing­ham Bay. Surfers love this beau­ti­ful spot – though if you’re new to the sport, you can grab some lessons at the ultra-chilled St Veda’s Surf Shop. Pre­fer to stay on dry land? Then con­sid­er walk­ing The Creel Path, a love­ly 3.5‑mile cir­cu­lar route that will take you to the attrac­tive fish­ing har­bour at St Abbs.

For lots more ideas, then Vis­it Scot­land has com­piled a use­ful guide to 12 of the best beach­es in Scot­land, while The Chaot­ic Scot blog is an invalu­able resource for tour­ing both the main­land and the islands. Want to find out which are the 20 pret­ti­est towns in Scot­land? Then head to Watch Me See. And don’t for­get to tick some of Scotland’s most icon­ic foods off your list with Big 7 Travel’s Scot­tish Food­ie Buck­et List!

This beau­ti­ful coun­try has so much to see, do and explore, so this is just a taster of the amaz­ing expe­ri­ences you can have on a trip to Scot­land. From the gor­geous scenery of The High­lands to the amaz­ing his­tor­i­cal archi­tec­ture in Edin­burgh, you could eas­i­ly spend a year here, and still have thou­sands of must-sees’ to tick off the list! If you’re plan­ning a trip, then you might find our round-up of the Top UK Love Home Swaps of 2020 use­ful, and if you’re still mak­ing your mind up on where you want to go,?take a look at our blog? for more trav­el inspi­ra­tion and guides. Already been to some of the places men­tioned (or are you a local?!) then share your swap tips on our social media chan­nels using our Love Home Swap hash­tag — #welove­home­swap. And don’t for­get that we always want to hear about your best trav­el expe­ri­ences! If you’d like to share your sto­ry or sug­ges­tions with our com­mu­ni­ty, then? get in touch? with us, or pop into? our friend­ly Face­book groups? to fire up a con­ver­sa­tion with like-mind­ed travel-lovers.