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9 Free UNESCO Attractions to Experience in Scotland

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It’s no surprise that Scotland boasts incredible attractions and unmissable sites, but did you know some of these locations are part of the UNESCO Trail?

Encompassing 13 designations dotted across the country, you can explore ancient cities, stunning feats of engineering, biospheres, geoparks, heritage sites and more. Within these designations there are a wealth of attractions and things to see and do, many of which are free to enjoy!

1. Mousa Broch, Shetland

The best preserved broch in Scotland, Mousa Broch is just one of the magnificent pieces of archaeology you can find here. Explore the wonders of natural Shetland with a trip to its Global Geopark where you can uncover masses of ancient geology and natural sites. Located north of the Scottish mainland, Shetland offers a vast archipelago of various landscapes where you can see up close the detailed geology and archaeology of the island.

Mousa Broch dates back to 300 BC and features a winding staircase to the top, with panoramic views of the stunning scenery nearby. The broch is only open during the summer months but free to visit.

Visit Mousa Broch

Explore Shetland Global Geopark


2. Live Music, Glasgow

As the UK’s first UNESCO City of Music, you won’t be far from live music performances and events in Glasgow.

Throughout the week our city bars boast some great free live music opportunities that will get your toes tapping and even singing along to all the well-known tunes. Glasgow’s bars are friendly and welcoming with all the music genres making an appearance, from traditional Scottish songs to lively jazz jingles, all of which will get you out your seat. You might even hear renditions of some classics too!

As you explore Glasgow’s city streets, you may even come across buskers or local up-and-coming musicians playing and singing away too.

Find live music in Glasgow’s bars

Explore Glasgow, City of Music


3. V&A Dundee

Dundee. A UNESCO City of Design, home to the only V&A museum outside of London, and Scotland’s only dedicated design museum, you’re definitely in for a treat here. Free to visit, V&A Dundee hosts a range of changing exhibitions throughout the year that are free to enjoy.

As well as changing exhibitions, you can also explore various displays, take part in family-friendly workshops, or ‘drop-in’ to hands on activities. You’ll also be met by stunning views across Dundee’s waterfront and the River Tay.

Find out what’s on at V&A Dundee

Explore Dundee, City of Design


4. Balmacara Estate & Woodland Walks, Kyle of Lochalsh

A hidden gem nestled away in Wester Ross, Balmacara Estate boasts immaculate scenery and woodlands with plenty of trails and walks to uncover. Head for a wander with the family, or take on a more challenging climb with friends, the opportunities are endless here.

Ancient roundhouses, historic monuments, coral beaches, and windswept moorlands are just a few of the natural wonders you can find across the 2500 hectares at Balmacara Estate.

Wander through Balmacara Estate

Explore Wester Ross Biosphere


5. Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve

Journey to south west Scotland where you can explore the stunning sights of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere. Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve is home to an abundance of wildlife across the various landscapes found here, including peregrine falcon, red and black grouse, red deer and feral goats. Explore this unique Scottish wilderness and marvel at the jaw-dropping views over the Cree Estuary and across the border.

Book a self-guided tour with a range of experiences and opportunities to uncover, from dark sky parks and nature, to history and culture, there’s plenty to explore.

Visit Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve

Explore Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere


6. Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

Step back in time to ancient Orkney with this magical landmark. Dating back to 2,000 BC, these standing stones have had archaeologists puzzled for years as to why they were erected thousands of years ago. The likely reasoning would have been as an astronomical observatory, a religious shrine or for rituals. It’s a real sight to see and experience, especially during a sunrise or sunset.

The Ring of Brodgar is one of many Neolithic sites you can find on the Orkney Isles and alongside the Stones of Stenness, Maeshowe and Skara Brae, they make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, which was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999.

Visit the Ring of Brodgar

Explore the Heart of Neolithic Orkney


7. Forth Bridge Viewpoints

An attraction that needs little introduction, the Forth Bridge has been an iconic part of the Scottish landscapes for centuries. Constructed in 1890, the Forth Bridge connects North and South Queensferry by rail and was later joined by The Forth Road Bridge in 1964 and the Queensferry Crossing in 2017.

There are many vantage points and locations in and around the area that boasts immaculate views of the bridges. You can also follow along the Forth Bridges Trail so you can get up close to this magnificent feat of engineering and explore the viewpoints along the way too.

Visit the best Forth Bridges Viewpoints

Explore The Forth Bridge Heritage Site


8. The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s city centre can be split up into the Old and New Towns by its distinct architecture and design of the city’s grand buildings.

The Old Town encompasses the iconic closes and wynds of the Royal Mile, and Edinburgh Castle, to name a few, all of which have historic stories to tell and a gruesome past to uncover. When the Old Town became unfit for purpose, the upper-class residents of Edinburgh built a newer and more modern area of the city to live in, the New Town. These Georgian era buildings boast grand high ceilings and intricate detailing, with broad avenues and open squares.

Explore the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh


9. Edinburgh, City of Literature

Speaking of Edinburgh, did you know that Scotland’s capital is a designated UNESCO City of Literature? Across Edinburgh you can enjoy a range of literature themed attractions, suitable for everyone from the established poet to the wee ones learning how to read.

  • The Writers Museum and Makars Court – a fascinating museum showcasing the lives and work of some of Scotland’s great literary figures, including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Scottish Poetry Library – this unique library is a national resource and advocate for poetry, specifically for Scottish poetry and poets.
  • Scottish Storytelling Centre – John Knox House – an intricate venue with a passion for Scottish culture, it incorporates contemporary design and entertainment with medieval architecture and more for everyone to explore.
  • National Library Of Scotland – delve into Scotland’s history and culture with over 24 million printed items, around 100,000 manuscripts and more than two million maps, available at this hidden gem of information.

Explore Edinburgh, City of Literature


That was just a taster of the free attractions and sites you can visit along Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, but there are plenty more to discover. Where will you go?