Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Highlands, Scotland
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Beauty Wrapped Up in Tartan

This wee land in the United Kingdom has a mythical appeal all its own. The streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow are rich in culture, while the many castles open a window to the past. Visitors can take a swing at the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews; discover otherworldly landscapes in the Highlands; and search for the elusive Loch Ness Monster.

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Ancient Edinburgh Castle
Ancient Edinburgh Castle

Ancient Edinburgh Castle

The glorious Edinburgh Castle has been perched on this rocky hillside overlooking the city for over a thousand years. Queen Margaret, one of Scotland's patron saints, died here in 1093, and the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots, took up residence in the 16th century. Now a military fort, the castle houses the Stone of Destiny and Scotland's crown jewels. 960 1280

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Gallery Trio

Gallery Trio

Three more free-entry institutions, Scotland's national galleries, are dotted around the capital. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is housed in a dynamic duo of buildings west of downtown; the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is tucked just off Princes Street; and the jewel in the crown, the Scottish National Gallery, with its Rembrandts, van Goghs and Monets, holds court right on Princes Street. 960 1280

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Birds' Eye Views: Arthur's Seat

Birds' Eye Views: Arthur's Seat

Fantastic photo opportunities await all those who clamber up the 3-mile trail to the top of this long dormant, 822-feet-high volcano. Just a mile from Edinburgh Castle, the craggy hill still has remnants of a prehistoric fort visible on its summit. The trail starts at the foot of the Royal Mile. 960 1280

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Back Street Social: Rose Street

Back Street Social: Rose Street

Another shopping street, but one with a more social slant, Rose Street runs parallel to Princes Street for 4 busy blocks. It's a narrow lane, packed with pubs, cafes and fashion stores, jammed with shoppers by day and revelers by night. 960 1280

  

Another Capital Address for the Queen: The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Another Capital Address for the Queen: The Palace of Holyroodhouse

This palace was originally built by King James IV in the early 1500s and is still Queen Elizabeth II's official Scottish address today, but it's better known as having been backdrop to the soap opera-like life of the tempestuous Mary, Queen of Scots. She got married here twice and saw her second husband murdered within these walls. Today, visitors can explore the State and Historic Apartments and visit the art gallery, cafe and store. 960 1280

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Politically Correct: The Scottish Parliament

Politically Correct: The Scottish Parliament

It's not all ancient wonders around here. The Scottish Parliament opened in 2004, a jagged, modern anchor at the foot of the ancient Royal Mile. Built after the Scottish Parliament reconvened after 300 years, it offers events and exhibitions on art, politics, science and influential Scots. 960 1280

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All Aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia

All Aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia

The Queen's former floating residence bobs at the docks of Leith now that it's not off doing diplomatic duty around the world. Visitors can explore all 5 decks, see the Royal Apartments and stop for afternoon tea and cake in the Royal Deck Tea Room. 960 1280

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A Royal Treat: Princes Street

A Royal Treat: Princes Street

A broad boulevard lined with upscale stores on its north side, Princes Street's south side is dotted with parks, monuments and museums. Its cafes make stunning spots to sit and look up at Edinburgh Castle, looming above. 960 1280

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Playtime at the Museum of Childhood

Playtime at the Museum of Childhood

The Museum of Childhood has been entertaining Scottish kids in this historic 18th century building since 1957. With collections of toys, games, clothes and books that date from the 18th to 21st centuries and a puppet theatre, it's an ideal rainy day stop on the Royal Mile. 960 1280

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The Castle Hill: The Royal Mile

The Castle Hill: The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile links Edinburgh Castle with the Palace of Holyroodhouse, located a mile below. Steep, cobbled and flanked by tall, narrow buildings that date as far back as the early 1500s, the ancient street and myriad dark lanes that wind off it look like the set from Harry Potter. It's not a coincidence that J.K. Rowling wrote her wizard books just off this historic street. 960 1280

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Leith's Reborn Docklands

Leith's Reborn Docklands

Edinburgh's port since the year 1329, Leith lies at the point where the Water of Leith reaches the Firth of Forth and the North Sea. Once a rough and rowdy neighborhood, today Leith is awash with hip bars, chic eateries and boutique hotels. 960 1280

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Two-for-One: The National Museums of Scotland

Two-for-One: The National Museums of Scotland

A real bonus for those on a budget or saving their sterling; entry to Edinburgh's main museums are free. The National War Museum is housed at Edinburgh Castle, while the newly reopened National Museum of Scotland covers it all, from wildlife to world cultures and the wonders of science. 960 1280

subberculture, flickr  

Gallery of Modern Art
Gallery of Modern Art

Gallery of Modern Art

The diminutive but fascinating GOMA is tucked neatly into a former Carnegie Library in the heart of Glasgow's Merchant City district. Four floors offer changing exhibitions of Scottish and international works, from Andy Warhol to David Hockney to local celebrity Jim Lambie and rising Glasgow star Victoria Morton. The most popular modern art gallery in Scotland, it also has a great café, library and store. 960 1280

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Secrets of The West End

Secrets of The West End

The leafy West End is home to the University of Glasgow, which opened its doors in 1451. Divided into several different areas, top West End stops are shopping and café hub Byres Road and up-and-coming Finnieston. Just off Byres Road, and tucked behind the station for Glasgow's tiny subway system, quaint cobbled Ashton Lane is crammed with bars and restaurants. Hidden down a covered alleyway off a social stretch of Argyle Street, Finnieston's Hidden Lane is a brightly colored warren of artists' studios with a secret gem tearoom. 960 1280

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Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral

An ancient medieval cathedral in the city center, building started on Glasgow Cathedral in 1136 and there's been a place of worship on this spot ever since. The Cathedral Precinct is also home to St. Mungo's Museum of Religious Life and Art, named after the city's patron saint, and Provand's Lordship, Glasgow's oldest house, built in 1471. Nearby, the spooky, ancient Necropolis's 50,000 graves sprawl across a bleak hillside overlooking the city. 960 1280

  

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

One of Glasgow's bevy of free museums, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is the city's main museum and art gallery dates back to 1901 and is the most visited attraction in the UK outside London. Known particularly for its impressive Dutch Old Masters, French Impressionists and Scottish art, Kelvingrove also boasts 8,000 other items, including armor, taxidermied lions, tigers and bears, and a Spitfire fighter plane. 960 1280

  

Take the High Road to Loch Lomond

Take the High Road to Loch Lomond

It's the biggest stretch of freshwater in the UK and it's just 20 minutes drive north of Glasgow, making it the city's backyard. Now part of a 720-square-mile national park, Loch Lomond is a wonderland for picnicking, waterskiing, hiking and fishing. 960 1280

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The Riverside Museum of Transport

The Riverside Museum of Transport

Made up of a striking modern building with jagged, gleaming, zinc waves along its exterior and a 19th century tall ship bobbling alongside, this cutting edge museum opened in 2011. Tracing Glasgow's contributions to road, rail and seafaring, exhibits span travel from steam trains to skateboards. 960 1280

  

The Second City of the British Empire

The Second City of the British Empire

Twice-daily tours showcase the splendor of the opulent City Chambers and provide an eye-opening peek at Glasgow's past wealth, power and position as the Second City of the British Empire. Tours take in the Beaux Arts building's soaring archways, dramatic marble staircases, mosaic-tiled vaulted ceilings and gilded cornices, which explains why the 1888 structure has been used as a film stand-in for both the Kremlin and Vatican. 960 1280

  

Glasgow School of Art

Glasgow School of Art

Designed by Scotland's beloved Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Glasgow School of Art is a fanciful building, full of Art Nouveau flourishes and unexpected design. Tours of the working art school take visitors behind the scenes and display both art and architecture. 960 1280

  

A River Walkway

A River Walkway

The name "Glasgow" is the Scottish Gaelic for "dear green place," so it should come as no surprise to find the city has so many great public parks. The best ones -- the Victorian-era Botanic Gardens and 34-acre Kelvingrove Park -- are in the West End, linked by the wandering riverbank River Kelvin Walkway. 960 1280

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The Merchant City

The Merchant City

For designer wears, the Merchant City and its main thoroughfare, Buchanan Street, are the top shopping destinations in Scotland. Among the best spots to stop, the stylish, covered courtyard mall Princes Square has lovely Parisian details - and a smorgasbord of places to enjoy tea and cake. 960 1280

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The Burrell

The Burrell

Sprawling across a lush, grassy estate on the south side of the city, which is also home to Pollok House, White Cart River and 100 hairy Highland Cows, the modern Burrell Collection displays the artworks collected by shipping magnate Sir William Burrell. Burrell’s collection of items ranges from 5,000-year-old Egyptian jewelry to ancient Chinese pottery and 19th century French paintings. 960 1280

Burrell Collection  

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Perched on an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle is an instantly recognizable fortress and a powerful national symbol. 960 1280

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Kilt Rock and the Mealt Waterfall

Kilt Rock and the Mealt Waterfall

The observation point for views of Kilt Rock – located between the towns of Portree and Staffin on the Isle of Skye – resemble the pleats of a kilt.  The Mealt Waterfall falls nearly 180 feet into the rocky coast below. 960 1280

Arthur Hsu  

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

In the western Highlands, Eilean Donan sits at the meeting point of 3 lochs: Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh. Tourists can tour nearly every corner of the castle, which was rebuilt in the 20th century. 960 1280

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Lock Portree

Lock Portree

Portree is the largest town on the Isle of Skye. Take a walk around Loch Portree and stop by a pub for a dram of whisky or a pint of ale. 960 1280

Arthur Hsu  

University of Glasgow Cloisters

University of Glasgow Cloisters

Pass through the University of Glasgow Cloisters beneath Bute Hall, the main building. And make sure you take a moment to appreciate the neo-gothic architecture seen in the archways and pillars. 960 1280

Arthur Hsu  

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle in the Highlands of Scotland may be in ruins, but the location couldn't be more beautiful overlooking Loch Ness. 960 1280

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Culzean Castle

Culzean Castle

Renovated in the 18th-century, Culzean Castle is not only one of Scotland’s most beloved castles, but it also has an expansive estate, with a beautifully landscaped garden that runs right up to the Firth of Clyde coastline. 960 1280

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Scottish Traffic Jam

Scottish Traffic Jam

The perfect way to see the Scottish countryside? Rent a car for a scenic drive, but beware, this may happen to you. 960 1280

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Johnstons of Elgin

Johnstons of Elgin

Take a free, guided tour of 200-year-old Scottish mill Johnstons of Elgin to see cashmere transformed from fiber into beautiful scarves and other garments. 960 1280

Johnsons of Elgin  

Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey was founded in 1136 but largely destroyed 2 centuries later. The expansive ruin and lavish masonry are unsurpassed in Scotland. 960 1280

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Loch Ness

Loch Ness

See it? The Loch Ness Monster? No? Well, hoards of tourists still visit in hopes of getting a glimpse of the mystery and take in the spectacular scenery.   960 1280

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National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland

You'll find everything you've ever wanted to see from Scotland at the National Museum in Edinburgh, from dinosaur bones to a milk bottle once carried by Sean Connery. 960 1280

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St. Andrews Links

St. Andrews Links

Perhaps the oldest standing golf course in the world, St. Andrews has become a bucket-list trip for avid golfers around the world. Originally built in 1457 with 22 holes – changed to 18 holes in 1764-- this famous course is a huge source of pride for the country Scotland.  960 1280

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Skara Brae

Skara Brae

Uncovered by a storm in 1850, the prehistoric village of Skara Brae presents a remarkable picture of life around 5,000 years ago, before Stonehenge was built. 960 1280

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Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

This forbidding structure, surrounded on 3 sides by steep cliff dropping down 250-ft, was chosen for its strong defensive purposes. It was built in the 12th century, but evolved into its current form during the 15th and 16th centuries; when it served as the fortress for the Scots. 960 1280

Alex Janssen, flickr  

Cawdor Castle

Cawdor Castle

Explore Cawdor Castle's lush gardens, and you'll see it's a still-lived-in structure, as opposed to decaying ruins. 960 1280

Vicky Brock, flickr  

Inverlochy Castle

Inverlochy Castle

Spend a night at picturesque Inverlochy Castle, one of the most luxurious hotels in Europe. It has 17 private rooms with views of the grounds and surrounding Grampian Mountains. 960 1280

Inverlochy Castle  

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

A stunning red-sandstone structure, part cathedral and part castle, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum houses one of the greatest civic collections in Europe, with works by Rembrandt and Monet, among others. 960 1280

StaraBlazkova, Wikimedia Commons  

Atholl Highlanders
Atholl Highlanders

Atholl Highlanders

Members of the Atholl Highlanders -- Europe’s only legal private army -- participate in the Open Tug O' War at the Atholl Gathering at Blair Castle in Perthshire, Scotland. The earliest recorded highland games were held during the reign of Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland nearly 1,000 years ago. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

Ballater Highland Games in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Ballater Highland Games in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

A sword-dancing event takes place at the Ballater Highland Games in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, as a piper provides musical accompaniment. The original highland games decreed that young men should gather to hold tests of strength so the best of them could be enrolled in royal service. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

The Lonach Highlanders

The Lonach Highlanders

The Lonach Highlanders, a society formed in 1823 to preserve Highland dress and Gaelic language, march once a year to open the Lonach Highland Gathering in the Strathdon area of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

The weight-throw event

The weight-throw event

In the weight-throw event, a weight ranging from 14 to 56 pounds (depending on the event) is thrown by either its handle or a chain. It can be thrown using any technique, although a spinning technique is the most popular. Here, a man participates in the Newtonmore Highland Games and Clan Macpherson Annual Rally in Newtonmore, Scotland. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

The weight-over-bar event

The weight-over-bar event

In the weight-over-bar event, like the one pictured here at the Newtonmore Highland Games and Clan Macpherson Annual Rally, the athletes toss a 56-pound weight over a horizontal bar. The catch is they can only use one hand. They are allowed 3 attempts at different heights, and the highest successful toss with fewest misses wins. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

Newtonmore Highland Games and Clan Macpherson Annual Rally

Newtonmore Highland Games and Clan Macpherson Annual Rally

A pipe band competes at the Newtonmore Highland Games and Clan Macpherson Annual Rally. The Newtonmore gathering was first held in October 1945 as a welcome home to the village’s returning servicemen after 6 years of war. Their first games were held in a small arena beside the 17th hole of the Newtonmore golf course. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

World Highland Dancing Championship

World Highland Dancing Championship

The world’s biggest Highland Games are the Cowal Games held in Dunoon, Argyll, Scotland. These games are also home to the World Highland Dancing Championship where dancers gather from the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa to compete in this form of traditional Scottish dance in its homeland. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

Atholl Gathering at Blair Castle

Atholl Gathering at Blair Castle

Members of the Atholl Highlanders dance during the Atholl Gathering at Blair Castle. The Atholl Gathering prides itself on having held onto many of the old Scottish traditions, and the grounds of Blair Castle make for a perfect afternoon for the spectators as well as the participants. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

The McGlashen stone

The McGlashen stone

The McGlashen stone tests the athletes’ strength when they have to lift it onto a whisky barrel. For centuries, a young man was considered a man when he was able to lift his clan's testing stone to waist height. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

The caber-toss event

The caber-toss event

In the caber-toss event, a long, tapered pine log is held upright and hoisted by the competitor who balances it vertically. Running forward, the competitor tosses the caber so that it turns end over end. In a successful toss, the caber is as close as possible to vertical and the athlete is said to have “turned the caber.” 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

The Scottish hammer throw

The Scottish hammer throw

A competitor prepares his swing in the Scottish hammer throw, where a round metal ball attached to the end of a wooden shaft about 4 feet long is whirled about the competitor’s head and thrown over the shoulder. Hammer throwers sometimes even wear footwear with flat blades to dig into the turf so they don’t lose their balance mid-throw. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

Inverness Highland Games in Scotland

Inverness Highland Games in Scotland

Most Highland Games include piping and drumming competitions, ranging from solo piping, pictured here on the Eden Court lawn during the Inverness Highland Games in Scotland, to solo drumming, small ensemble and pipe band competitions. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

Atholl Highlanders

Atholl Highlanders

The pipes and drums of the Atholl Highlanders sound as they march from Blair castle to the field at the start of the Atholl Gathering held annually in Perthshire, Scotland. First employed as the personal bodyguards of the Duke of Atholl in 1839, the regiment is now purely ceremonial. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

Highland Games  13 Photos

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