Scotland may be small, but with such a rich history, it’s home to a wealth of significant historical sites. From Edinburgh’s Old Town and Glasgow Cathedral, to Skara Brae in the North, here are 10 sites you have to visit.
Situated in the historical town of Arbroath, this 12th century abbey was originally founded in memory of religious martyr Thomas Becket. It’s famously remembered as the site where one of the most significant documents in Scottish history, the Declaration of Arbroath, was written in 1320. Addressed to the pope, the letter asked that Scotland’s independence from England be recognised and for Robert the Bruce to be instated as the country’s lawful king. Today visitors can take part in an audio tour while soaking up the atmosphere of the site long associated with Scotland’s sense of independence.
Older than both the Pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge, Skara Brae is a stone-built Neolithic settlement located on the southern shore of the Bay o’Skaill in Orkney. Due to the sand that covered it for over 5000 years, it remains the best-preserved prehistoric village in all of Western Europe. Visitors can get a real insight into what life in the village would have been like by exploring the houses and viewing the original furniture and other artefacts.
Edinburgh Old Town
Scotland’s capital is especially historical rich and you can see so for yourself in the city’s Old Town. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, the area is complete with tall buildings and narrow alleys, also known as ‘closes’, that tell the city’s densely populated past. The Royal Mile runs through the heart of the Old Town, stretching from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. Here you can find St. Giles Cathedral and the Mercat Cross.
Just south of Stirling lies the town of Bannockburn. In 1314, Bannockburn was the site of one of the most significant battles of the Scottish Wars of Independence: The Battle of Bannockburn. Although it didn’t bring overall victory in the war which would go on for 14 more years, it did see Scottish King Robert the Bruce triumph over the largest army ever to have invaded Scotland. Visitors of the onsite heritage museum can learn more about the battle via a 3D experience and can view some of the armour worn by the soldiers.
With an array of brightly coloured cottages and cobbled streets, Culross is considered as one of Scotland’s most picturesque villages. Originally built as a fishing port, Culross is also one of Scotland’s most historic sites as many of the well-preserved buildings have been standing since the 16th century. The town was recently used as a filming backdrop for the hit TV show Outlander. Visitors can wander through the streets and explore the houses, castle and herb garden which is filled with authentic historic plants.
Serving as both the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots and the place where almost every Scottish monarch either lived or was crowned, Stirling Castle is one of the best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the UK. Throughout the Scottish Wars of Independence, Stirling and its castle were intensely fought over and exchanged hands many times. The Castle remains a symbol of Scottish national pride. In recent years, Historic Scotland has recreated the palace interiors to look how they would have when King James V was on the throne. Costumed actors also intermingle with visitors to really bring the past to life.
Glencoe is easily one of the most scenic locations in Scotland. This site is a U-shaped glacier valley that was formed in the Highlands around 420 million years ago. Glencoe is known for its bloody history in relation to the Jacobite uprising in the late 17th and early 18th century. Nowadays, it is a popular destination for outdoor adventure. Visitors come to soak up the beautiful views by hiking or cycling along one of the many trails and there is an abundance of cottages to stay the night.
Renowned for being one of Scotland’s most magnificent medieval buildings, Glasgow Cathedral is the only cathedral in mainland Scotland to have survived the reformation of 1560. Built on the site of where Glasgow’s patron saint, St Mungo, is believed to have been buried, it marks the birthplace of the city. The Cathedral is home to one of the finest post-war collections of stained-glass windows in Britain.
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
Affectionately recognised as Scotland’s National Bard, Robert Burns was an 18th century poet whose work is still recognised and celebrated around the globe today. The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum allows you to visit the village where Burns lived and the cottage where he was born and raised. Visitors to the area can also see the historic landmarks such as The Brig O’ Doon and the Auld Kirk, both featured prominently in his poetry.
Old Course at St. Andrews
The origins of golf are unclear and debated, but it’s widely accepted that Scotland is the home of golf. It’s believed that the sport was first played in St Andrews in the early 15th century, making the Old Course the oldest golf course in the world. For this reason, avid golfers from all over the world make the pilgrimage to St. Andrews to play the course. While it is open for everyone, tee times tend to sell out months in advance.
Discover the history of Scotland through our historical and cultural packages. We have a variety of different packages which allow you to visit some of Scotland’s most significant sites.