11 things to do in Scotland

Blog 4 May 2015

Not sure what to do on your visit to Scotland? Our guest blogger Ian Simm, from Palmerston House Educational Services, is here to lend a hand!

Itinerary of the Top 11 things to do in Scotland

Having read a number of ‘Top ten things to do in Scotland’ lists recently, we decided to put together a list of our own.

Just to be different, and because we go that extra mile to ensure we give our visitors the best possible experience, we decided to expand it to the ‘Top 11’ itinerary we would arrange for you, if time and money were of no object.

Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh

Britannia was used for 40 years by Britain’s Royal family on official state visits. It now resides in the Port of Leith, and is a 5-star visitor attraction. Tours show visitors the luxury enjoyed by the Queen on foreign tours, and the café’s Afternoon Tea adds a taste of Imperial opulence. We recommend Birtannia as one of the top sights in Scotland’s capital.

Royal Mile

The Royal Mile runs from Edinburgh Castle down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Starting at the bottom, we stick with royalty at Holyrood, the Queen’s residence in Edinburgh. When none of the Royals are staying, it’s open to the public as a museum. The building’s history is as rich as it is fascinating. Home to Scotland’s kings and queens for more than 400 years, the palace is well worth a visit.

After that, head past the Scottish Parliament and meet up with a guide from Mercat Tours. Exploring Edinburgh’s Old Town with one of these storytelling tours (either by day or at night) is fun and informative and brings the city’s dark history to life.

This should take you up to the Castle Esplanade, where you can enjoy a fabulous view of the city before going on to visit Edinburgh Castle. If you’re tired from all the walking, pop into The Scotch Whisky Experience for a ‘wee dram’.

Explore Edinburgh's dark history through story telling with a tour beneath the Old Town.

North Berwick and Seabirds

Heading east from Edinburgh and through East Lothian, the town of North Berwick is an affluent spot on Scotland’s Golf Coast. On a clear day, take a walk through the Lodge Gardens and up North Berwick Law for a fantastic view of Bass Rock, home to the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets.

Those who want to get closer to the action can jump aboard a fascinating high-speed Seafari from the Scottish Seabird Centre to snap some fabulous photos of the birds. Once back on dry land, we recommend you stop for Fish & Chips at Duck’s in Kilspindie on the way back along the coast.

St. Andrews

An hour or so north of Edinburgh is the university town of St. Andrews. Now best known for its golf courses and as the place that Prince William met Kate, St. Andrews is home to the third oldest university in the English-speaking world.

We recommend lunch at the Jigger Inn, which is part of the Old Course Hotel, one of Scotland’s top hotels and well worth a visit. Take a walk across the golf course, past the main part of the university, where you might see students in their traditional red gowns milling around near St. Salvator’s Hall. From there, head past the castle, along the cliffs to the harbour, but wrap up warm!

A trip to St. Andrews wouldn’t be complete without a round of golf, and where better than the Old Course?

Interested? Pick Timberbush Tours’ St Andrews & The Fishing Villages of Fife day tour.

Adventure in Aberfeldy

From St. Andrews, you’ll head northwest to Aberfeldy. The area is well known for white water rafting and canyoning as well as highland safaris. If you need something to settle your nerves before rafting, the Dewar’s whisky distillery is just outside town.

For those looking for something more sedate, we enjoy the Watermill Bookshop in the town centre. It has a great café downstairs, where you can treat yourself to freshly made cakes while you browse the books.

Jacobite steam train, Mallaig and Knoydart

Harry Potter fans will love this. So should everyone else for that matter!

Head northwest to Fort William, where you will board the Jacobite Steam Train. Following in Harry’s footsteps across the Glenfinnan Viaduct, you can enjoy fabulous views of Loch Shiel. On arrival at Mallaig, grab a high speed water taxi and head for Knoydart. Once there, get a table at the Old Forge pub. Being 18 miles from the nearest road – Knoydart is only accessible by boat, or a long walk through the mountains – the Old Forge is the most remote pub on mainland UK. It’s also got fantastic seafood, so you’re in for a treat!

If you book far ahead, you might even be lucky enough to get the Hide at Knoydart House for the night. Perfect for a couple looking for a secluded getaway.

Inveraray and Loch Fyne

Upon returning to Mallaig, jump back on The Jacobite head for Fort William, which sits at the bottom of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain.

From there, the road takes you southeast to the town of Inveraray on the banks of Loch Fyne, a sea loch with some of the best oysters in the country.

Take a walk through the town’s whitewashed buildings, then head east along the loch to the Loch Fyne Oyster restaurant, but don’t forget to pick up a bottle of Loch Fyne liquor before you do!

Only got time for a daytrip? Book Timberbush Tours’ West Highland Lochs, Mountains & Castles tour.

Isle of Arran

From Loch Fyne, it’s less than two hours by car along winding coastal roads to Ardrossan. Once there, we’re back on the water, taking the ferry across to the isle of Arran. While on the island, whether you prefer to spend time in a luxury spa in Brodick, take a yoga course and spiritual retreat on the Holy Isle or even join in with the island’s rich variety of adventure sports, you should not miss the beautiful sandy beaches. Don’t be fooled by the clear blue water though, you’ll need a thick wetsuit if you’re planning to go for a swim!

Glasgow and the Old Firm

Returning to the mainland after Arran, it’s a short trip up to Glasgow, where keen shoppers can enjoy the city’s wide variety of shopping centres and boutiques.

While in the 1990 European City of Culture, don’t miss out on one of sport’s biggest rivalries – Rangers vs. Celtic. In Glasgow, this is more than a football match. It’s passionate, heated and loud. Whenever the two meet, it is guaranteed to produce one of the best fan experiences in world football.

Code breaking at Rosslyn

From Glasgow, it’s less than an hour to Edinburgh. South of the city, you’ll find the village of Roslin and its famous Rosslyn Chapel.

A major location for filming the DaVinci Code, here you can admire the chapel’s magnificent architecture and complex symbolism as well as discovering the alleged links with the descendants of Jesus.

Pick Timberbush Tours’ Rosslyn Chapel, Scottish Borders & Glenkinchie Distillery daytrip, sit back and relax, while your guide makes sure you see the best southern Scotland has to offer.

Go to a Ceilidh

Just in case you’ve not had enough of the Scottish experience, get yourself a kilt and head along to a traditional Ceilidh (Scottish dancing) at the Ghillie Dhu at Edinburgh’s West End. We can’t guarantee sunshine during your trip, but we can guarantee that this will be a lot of fun!

The accompaniment of a live folk band is sure to make the night both unique and memorable.

The itinerary makes for a very busy couple of weeks, but if you didn’t already love Scotland, we’re confident you will after you’ve enjoyed our Top 11!

Palmerston House Educational Services is proud to collaborate with Timberbush Tours in creating bespoke educational and cultural visits to Scotland.

Guest Blogger Ian Simm is Co-ordination and Client Relations Manager at Palmerston House Educational Services, based in Edinburgh.

by Ian Simm