Summer is fast approaching, and as part of our 25th anniversary, what better way to get ready for the sun (fingers crossed), than by counting down the 25 best places to visit and things to do in Scotland this summer! If you're still needing your summer holiday inspiration, read on.
Probably one of the most iconic sights in Scotland. If you've ever looked up a picture of a Scottish castle, or even just things that you need to see when you visit us - you'll have no doubt seen an image of Eilean Donan Castle.
Situated in the cross-section between Loch Long, Loch Duich and Loch Alsh, not far from the Isle of Skye, the castle stands proudly on its own island which is connected to the mainland near Dornie by an arched bridge. The castle has a super interesting history, with the first fortified structure being built in the early 13th century. Since then, it has grown, shrunk, and changed ownership and control often, until the 1700s. Then, it was destroyed by the English government who used over 300 barrels of dunpowder to blow it up after they had heard it was being used as a base before a Jacobite Uprising. The castle we know and love today is a restoration, but it should still definitely be on your list of places to visit this summer.
Eilean Donan Castle
It's not Balamory, or Tobermory for that matter, but with its colourful buildings we can understand why you could get them mixed up.
The town of Portree is situated on the Isle of Skye and despite its size, it's actually the capital of the misty isle. With those iconic painted buildings, it's extremely photogenic, especially in the summer sun or during those long summer evenings as the golden sun reflects on the water below. Portree is the perfect hub for all of your Skye adventures. Whether you want to see the Old Man of Storr, Dunvegan Castle, Kilt Rock, or spot wildlife up at Broadford. Luckily, when you visit Skye with us on any of our extended tours, Portree is your base, so you will have plenty of time to take in the sights, explore the streets, taste the local cuisine, and meet plenty of friendly faces.
You can spend time in Portree on any of our Skye tours, or spend the night there on our extended tours like our new 2-day Isle of Skye, Fairy Pools and Highland Castles tour from Inverness.
To help you find accommodation on Skye during our extended tours, you could always use the Skye Connect website, unless you choose for Timberbush Tours to find accommodation on your behalf.
Situated on the northwest coast of Scotland, this picturesque fishing village is the perfect spot on a summer's day. Not only does the village have a marina full of ships and views of the small isles, it is also the starting point for the Jacobite Steam Train (or the Hogwarts Express to some of us), and you are able to see it depart on its adventures as it heads off across the country and over the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Spend some time here with some fresh seafood as the sea air does you the world of good.
You can visit Mallaig on our Glenfinnan, Mallaig and Glencoe Adventure from Glasgow.
Arguably one of the most mythical and magical places in Scotland. The Fairy Pools can be found on the Isle of Sky and have a mysterious quality to them, with their vivid waters and atmosphere in the area. On Skye you will find plenty of references to fairies, with one legend saying that a Clan Chief married a fairy princess, who unfortunately had to return to the fairy world via the Fairy Bridge. While I can't guarantee that you will spot any fairies while you're there, you will see crystal clear waters with the dramatic Cuillin Ridge as a spectacular back drop. You might want to wear comfortable shoes though.
You can visit the Fairy Pools on our 2-day tour Isle of Skye, the Fairy Pools and Highland Castles from Inverness.
The Fairy Pools
Not far from Inverness sits the imposing Fort George, a medieval fortification constructed shortly after the 1746 Battle of Culloden as a base for King George II's army. There is so much to explore here, from the main rampart which encloses a space the size of five football pitches, the largest regimental museum in Scotland outside of Edinburgh, or exhibitions of how soldiers lived there in the olden days. Whilst you're there on a summer's day, you can also look out into the Moray Firth and try to spot dolphins. A must visit for anyone with an interest in Scotland's military history, the fortification is still in use today as an active army base and is home to the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
You can visit Fort George on our brand-new tour from Inverness - Fort George, Culloden and the Cairngorms National Park.
Fort George's Entrance
As the largest National Park in the UK, you won't have a hard time finding something to do or somewhere to explore in the Cairngorms National Park. Due to its massive size, and variety of landscapes like mountains, forests and lochs, the park is home to an abundance of wildlife, and is a must-visit location if you want to spot animals like wildcats, pine martens, ospreys or even golden eagles. With scenic towns like Aviemore to use as a base for your exploration, it could be a great spot to visit this summer, especially if nature, hiking, and hillwalking are your ideas of an adventure.
You can visit the Cairngorms National Park with Timberbush Tours on our brand-new Fort George, Culloden and the Cairngorms National Park tour from Inverness.
Loch an Eilein in the Cairngorms National Park
You take the high road, and we'll take the low road, but we should all meet on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond this summer. Loch Ness gets a lot of attention, but we love Loch Lomond just as much.
Loch Lomond is the greatest loch by surface area in Great Britain, and is only behind Loch Ness as the second largest loch in Great Britain by volume. With scenic villages like Luss dotted along its shores, and cruises going out to explore its waters, it's a beautiful spot with plenty to do. What's even better, is that it's only about 30 miles from Glasgow so it is super easy to reach. Of course, visiting it on tour with us is the best way to do it (wink wink).
You can visit Loch Lomond on our Loch Lomond, the Trossachs National Park and Stirling Castle tour from Glasgow.
Perhaps the world's most famous loch, there's a good reason so many people flock to visit it every year. Despite it being the home of a very famous individual called Nessie, the loch offers so much more than that. With boat tours and water activities available, there is plenty to do. On a summer's day or evening, it also offers exceptional views and there's nothing quite like enjoying a dram by the banks of the loch.
You can visit Loch Ness on many of our tours like Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands from Glasgow.
Loch Ness as seen from Urquhart Castle
If you're at Loch Ness, you might as well pay a visit to one of Scotland's most famous castles, Urquhart Castle. Formerly one of Scotland's largest castles, Urquhart has had a pretty rocky history, with regular raids by opposing sides as the Scots and the English battled for its control. During the Jacobite Risings, the last of the government troops that had been stationed there blew the castle up, so now all that remains are its ruins - which are still pretty impressive. With an excellent visitor centre and plenty to explore, the ruins of Urquhart Castle are a great place to visit and offer some of the best views up and down Loch Ness, perfect for a summer's day.
You can visit Urquhart Castle on our tour Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands from Edinburgh.
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, Glenfinnan is an essential visit for you. The iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct is the very same bridge that you see the Hogwarts Express travelling across in the movies. On tour with us, you are able to see the Jacobite Steam Train cross the viaduct and get that essential photo, just keep an eye out for dementors or two teenage boys in an out of control flying car. The Glenfinnan area is rich in history for everyone else though, the 1745 Jacobite Rising began here by Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Glenfinnan Monument stands proudly on the shores of Loch Shiel to commemorate. Loch Shiel is also an important spot for Harry Potter fans, as that is where scenes of the Black Lake were filmed, again, keep an eye out for Grindylows.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct and Jacobite Steam Train
One of the only spots on this list that I actually think might look better on a cloudy summer’s day than a sunny one, but we’re in Scotland after all so there’s a strong chance that there will be clouds there when you visit. Glencoe valley is a glen in the highlands that were carved out millions of years ago by glaciers and volcanoes. It is an imposing sight to stand in the glen and look up at the prehistoric mountains. The area also has a dark history, in 1692, a violent massacre occurred when over 30 men, women and children of Clan MacDonald were betrayed by the Campbell clan after they were offered Highland hospitality.
The largest equine structures in the world, the Kelpies are an impressive sight to behold. Located just outside Falkirk, not far from Edinburgh. The two sculptures represent one of Scotland’s most famous mythological creates. To learn more about the fearsome creatures, you can read our blog here. On a summer’s day though, there’s nothing quite like having a wander round the Kelpies and the nearby canal. If you’re feeling particularly fit, you can cycle there all the way from Edinburgh. I would personally go on the coach with us though.
You can visit the Kelpies on our tour Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle and the Kelpies from Edinburgh.
Fans of Outlander will no doubt recognise Culross, this is the base for the village of Cranesmuir. The colourful yellow walls of Culross Palace are hard to miss in the summer sunshine, as well as the beautiful streets of the town. Situated on the banks of the Forth, it can be a lovely place to spend a summer’s afternoon, all while following in the footsteps of your favourite Outlander characters.
You can visit Culross on our Outlander, Palaces and Jacobites Experience tour from Edinburgh.
It’s hard to escape distilleries in Scotland, but with good reason, there’s nothing quite like a good Scotch whisky. Summer is the perfect time to visit a whisky distillery, as so many of them take part in whisky festivals or have open days where you can pick up a rare whisky, some merchandise from your favourite distillery, or simply soak up the atmosphere. If it’s a bit of a rainy summers day, you could do a lot worse than spending some time in a distillery and doing a tour or a tasting. Even if you’re not particularly keen on whisky, it’s still a fascinating process to learn about and plays such an important role in our history. With Timberbush Tours, you can visit Glenturret Distillery, Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery, or even Glenkinchie Distillery – the lowland home of Johnnie Walker.
Visit the Glenturret Distillery and Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery on our Ultimate Whisky Experience from Edinburgh and visit Glenkinchie Distillery on our Rosslyn Chapel, the Scottish Borders and Glenkinchie Distillery tour from Edinburgh.
Dewar's Aberfeldy Distillery
Okay, this isn’t in Scotland, but we can still take you there so it definitely counts, right? The Alnwick Gardens are situated in the north east of England in Northumberland. There’s nothing quite like a sunny day at the Alnwick Gardens. Watch the magnificent fountain and get photos of the Grand Cascade, take in all of the beautiful flowers as you meander along the paths, stop and smell them if hayfever isn’t an issue for you like it is for me. If you’re feeling brave, you can even explore the Poison Garden, which is home to some deadly, literally, species of plants, with people known to have fainted in there before. Don’t forget your sun cream though, it can be easy to get carried away as you lay back on the lawn and take in the scenery.
You can visit the Alnwick Gardens with us on our Holy Island, Alnwick Castle and the Kingdom of Northumbria tour from Edinburgh.
The Alnwick Garden Fountain and Grand Cascade
The street that is home to our Edinburgh Departure Point, you don’t get much more iconic than the Royal Mile. Flanked by history with Edinburgh Castle at the top and the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom, the street is a must-visit for anyone coming to Edinburgh. Whether you want to buy a souvenir for your friends at home, taste some of the world’s best whiskys, or begin an exploration of Edinburgh’s ghoulish history, there is so much to do on the Royal Mile. In Summer, it truly comes alive, and during the Fringe, it is almost the hub of Edinburgh, with street performances up and down the entire length of it. Consider exploring it the next time you get off one of our Edinburgh tours at Lawnmarket, you never know what you’ll see!
You can explore the Royal Mile after any of our Edinburgh tours, explore them here.
The Royal Mile and St Giles Cathedral
The very top of mainland UK, John O’Groats is a must if you want to be among those who say they have been to the very top of the country (not including Orkney or Shetland, sorry). On a summer’s day, what awaits you here is expansive views over the Atlantic Ocean, or is it the North Sea, they’re connected so surely it’s all just the same thing? Get a photo of that iconic signpost and work out just how far away from home you are, grab some chips and try to spot some local wildlife, you might even spot a killer whale or a dolphin playing in the ocean.
You can visit John O’Groats on our John O’Groats, Dunrobin Castle and the Far North tour from Inverness.
When you look at Dunrobin Castle, you could easily think you were looking up at a French chateau, but you’re not, you’re looking at a beautiful castle in the north of Scotland. The most northerly of Scotland’s great houses, it has been continuously inhabited since the early 1300s and has also been used as a naval hospital and a boys’ boarding schools. It is also the home of Clan Sutherland, so if you are visiting Scotland to trace your ancestors or find out a bit more about your heritage, you might want to pay a visit here if there are Sutherland’s in your family. If ornithology is your thing, there are also daily falconry shows on the castle lawns. Not as keen on birds, you can also find a museum, a shop and a tearoom, allowing you to grab a souvenir for your loved ones and refuel before you continue your adventures.
You can visit Dunrobin Castle with us on our tour John O’Groats, Dunrobin Castle and the Far North from Inverness.
The Gateway to the Isles, Oban sits on the west coast of Scotland. Home to around 8,000 people, this seaside town is full of character. You could spend hours just sitting on the main promenade, watching the wildlife like ducks play in the water, the fishing boats and ferries on their way in and out of the harbour. There’s a lot more to do here though, such as paying a visit to the Oban Distillery, or taking a walk up to McCaig’s Folly, the structure you will see overlooking the town that bears a striking resemblance to the Colosseum in Rome, just a wee bit smaller. You could even go a bit further out of town and experience some history at Dunstaffnage Castle. It really is the perfect seaside town on a summer’s day, and there’s definitely a few great fish and chip shops to keep you going.
You can visit Oban on our tour Oban, Glencoe and West Highland Castles from Glasgow.
Another beautiful seaside town on the west coast of Scotland, Inveraray is a wee bit smaller than Oban, but still full of things to do to. If castles are your thing, then Inveraray Castle is a must. The home to the Duke of Argyll and his family, the chiefs of the Clan Campbell, since the 18th century. You might also recognise the castle and its iconic turrets from the series Downton Abbey. If you’re more into the history of those slightly less fortunate than castle-dwellers, you could always visit Inveraray Jail. A former prison and courthouse, it has been extremely well-preserved and you can experience what prison life would have been like over 150 years ago for yourself. With stunning views over Loch Fyne and plenty to see, do, and eat – Inveraray is a perfect wee place to visit this summer.
At the foot of Loch Ness sits Fort Augustus. The small village offers fantastic views looking up the Loch, and you might even spot Nessie as she comes down to explore. It is also home to the Caledonian Canal’s Fort Augustus Locks. This impressive feat of engineering allows boats to change level and helps connect everything from Inverness, down to Loch Linnhe by Fort William. If you’re interested in your clan history, you can also visit the Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre which explains the history of the canal and gives you a taste of 17th century weaponry.
You can pass through Fort Augustus on our Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands tour from Edinburgh.
The Locks of the Caledonian Canal at Fort Augustus
The capital of the Highlands, Inverness is the United Kingdom’s most northerly city and has everything you could want out of a city. A beautiful castle, bustling streets and it gives you access to the north of the country, the perfect base to explore places further north like John O’Groats and Dunrobin Castle. With a river running straight through the centre, it can be the perfect place for a walk, or to spend the evening before a busy day of touring the next day.
Inverness is one of our departure cities, explore its tours by clicking here.
3 bridges, spanning 3 centuries and representing the very best of Scottish engineering throughout history. The Forth Bridges are an iconic sight, whether you’re flying past them as you land at Edinburgh Airport, staring up at them as your explore South Queensferry with an ice cream, or travelling over them in one of our coaches at the beginning or end of your tour, they are bound to impress you.
If you’ve been up into the Highlands on one of our Edinburgh tours, chances are you will head back over the bridges to Edinburgh.
The Forth Bridge
Our Glasgow tours depart from 19 Killermont Street, bang in the heart of Glasgow city centre, across from Buchanan Bus Station. That means, after your tour, you are perfectly situated to go and explore the city. Whether that’s strolling down Buchanan Street and Argyle Street and hitting the shops, or taking a stroll further out to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. There’s something for everyone in Glasgow and there’s a huge buzz to the city in summer when the sun is shining. With a reputation for being one of the friendliest cities in the world, you never know who you’ll bump into while you explore its streets.