Scotland is an amazing place to visit, particularly if you have Scottish ancestors. By traveling to your ancestral homelands, you can build a connection with your ancestors, grow to understand and appreciate your cultural heritage, and fall in love with a new place.
Scotland, famously known for its kilts and bagpipes, boasts a rich history, picturesque landscapes, and cultural depth. Start planning your trip with the following 20 things to do when you visit Scotland.
Keep an eye out for asterisks, which identify UNESCO World Heritage sites that are noted worldwide as being culturally or naturally significant locations.
Scottish Cultural Experiences
Participate in Scottish festivals for a taste of how the Scots celebrate, or visit museums for insight into Scotland’s history.
Celebrate Scottish and Celtic culture in the Highland Games, held annually in the spring and summer. Participate in competitions, or enjoy exhibitions of Scotland’s cultural arts.
St. Andrew’s Day
As a remembrance in late November of the beginning of Scotland as a nation, St. Andrew’s Day celebrates traditional Scottish culture. You will find traditional foods, music, poetry, and dancing.
National Museum of Scotland
The aim of the National Museum of Scotland is to preserve the past and present of Scotland, making it the perfect place to explore your cultural heritage.
Hogmanay is the last day of the year and is a celebration of the new year. It is a 2-day event that is all about visiting friends and family and symbolic gift-giving, with a particular emphasis on the first person of the year to visit a home.
The People’s Palace
The People’s Palace originally served as a cultural center for the people of Glasgow. Today, it serves as a museum, with a collection of memorabilia that give insight into life in Glasgow.
Scottish Historic Sites
These sites include well-preserved buildings, including some from thousands of years ago, influential developments, and areas of cultural significance.
*Heart of Neolithic Orkney
This historic location depicts life in Scotland around 5,000 years ago. You’ll have the chance to see a unique chambered tomb, the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar (which are ceremonial stone circles), and a small village known as Skara Brae.
When it opened in 1890, the Forth Bridge was the longest bridge in the world. It was an important milestone in style and engineering, and it still serves as a functional railway bridge.
The development of New Lanark, a small mill town, marked an important cultural shift in favor of the working class. Robert Owen’s leadership in the 19th century worked to humanely meet the needs of workers and inspired similar changes in the Industrial Revolution.
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village
Fully abandoned in the 1970s, the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village became a conservation area that now allows you to spend the night in traditional Scottish stone homes, allowing you to more fully experience how your Scottish ancestors likely lived.
*Old and New Towns of Edinburgh
Two historic districts are uniquely nestled together in Edinburgh, the 15th-century medieval old town and the 18th-century neoclassical new town. Both feature many important buildings, including the Edinburgh Castle, and both have had a lasting impact on Europe.
While it is now a ruin, Melrose Abbey still bears the intricate artistry used in its construction. Legend claims that the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce was taken on a tour of the Holy Land and then returned and buried in Melrose Abbey.
Nature in Scotland
Landscapes have the unique ability to tell a history of the earth and the people who have lived there. There are too many stunning scenes in Scotland to list them all, but these are some of the top sites worth a stop.
Loch Ness is a freshwater sea inlet located in the Highlands of Scotland. It is famous for rumored sightings of the Loch Ness monster in its waters and has served as inspiration for many cultural phenomena.
St. Kilda is a volcanic group of islands that has remained uninhabited since 1930. There, you’ll find large colonies of puffins and gannets, some of the tallest cliffs in Europe, and ruins from over 2,000 years of human life in the islands’ stormy conditions.
The Shetland Geopark boasts the largest variety of geology in any area its size, and it truly tells a tale of how the land was formed. The rocks here tell a history of the ocean opening and closing, mountains forming and eroding, and climates shifting. You will also see an extinct volcano, the tallest cliffs in Britain, and the edges of the Great Glen Fault.
Climb to the top of the Ben A’an hill, and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of Lochs Lomond and Katherine and the Trossachs National Park.
Bow Fiddle Rock
This unique rock formation resembles the tip of a bow sticking out of the coastline. If you visit in May or August, you will get a chance to watch the sunrise through the arch of the bow.
Castles in Scotland
Scotland is renowned for the sheer number of castles it has as well as the quality of the castles. It would almost be a crime to visit without seeing some of these castles. Learn more about incredible Scottish castles here.
How has your Scottish heritage impacted you? Learn more about cultural heritage and its lasting impact as you prepare for your trip. Record your experiences with FamilySearch Memories to preserve your experiences for future generations.
*UNESCO World Heritage Site