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Scotland’s top 20 most-visited attractions

Did you know that over 56 million visits were made to Scotland’s visitor attractions in 2014?

That’s not surprising to us, there’s a wealth of amazing sights spread right across the country. From awe-inspiring museums and galleries, grand heritage properties and imposing castles to aroma-filled distilleries and fun outdoor activity centres, Scotland truly is bursting with fascinating places to visit.

We’ve compiled a list of 20 of the most-visited attractions below. If you find that there are some that you haven’t been to yet, isn’t it time for you to discover them for yourself?

1. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SCOTLAND

National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Set on Edinburgh’s Chambers Street, National Museum of Scotland is a treasure trove of ancient artefacts and precious objects. It’s the most popular attraction in the UK outside of London and offers a great, year-round programme of temporary exhibitions. Don’t miss the 10 recently opened galleries covering science, design and fashion.

2. EDINBURGH CASTLE

Edinburgh Castle seen from Princes StreetEdinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a true icon of Scotland and has dominated the skyline of the capital for centuries. Unusually, it’s set atop of an extinct volcano. It takes the title of Scotland’s most-visited paid-for attraction.

3. SCOTTISH NATIONAL GALLERY

Scottish National Gallery in EdinburghScottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

Scottish National Gallery houses Scotland’s national collection of fine art from the early Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. The walls are adorned with masterpieces, from Raphael, Velázquez and Vermeer to Monet, Cézanne and Van Gogh, as well as works of Scottish artists.

4. LOCH LOMOND SHORES

LOOKING OVER TO VISITORS SILHOUETTED AGAINST THE PICTURE WINDOW OF THE VIEWING GALLERY CAFE IN DRUMKINNON TOWER AT LOCH LOMOND SHORES WITH A VIEW TO LOCH LOMOND AND BEN LOMOND (A MUNRO AT 3195') VISIBLE BEYOND,

Drumkinnon Tower, Loch Lomond Shores

Those bonnie banks of Loch Lomond have a very special allure, so it’s no surprise that hundreds of thousands of people flock to Loch Lomond Shores every year. It’s the perfect day trip destination with its offering of family attractions, fun activities and quality shops.

5. KELVINGROVE ART GALLERY AND MUSEUM

HEADS - THE SCULPTURE / ARTWORK DESIGNED BY SOPHIE CAVE, IN THE EXPRESSION COURT OF THE KELVINGROVE ART GALLERY AND MUSEUM, GLASGOW. PIC: P.TOMKINS/VisitScotland

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

You’ll want to keep coming back to this museum time and time again. Set next to a classic Victorian park by the River Kelvin in Glasgow’s west end, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum houses a staggering 8,000 objects in over 22 beautiful galleries.

6. RIVERSIDE MUSEUM

Riverside Museum and Tall Ship

Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship, Glasgow

Opened in 2011, the spectacular Riverside Museum sits on the River Clyde and is home to the Glasgow Museum of Transport. It is full of fascinating objects and vehicles which tell the story of Scotland’s past and present.

7. ST GILES’ CATHEDRAL

A visitor takes a photograph with a mobile phone, in the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle, in St Giles' Cathedral, Royal Mile, Edinburgh. Picture Credit: P.Tomkins / VisitScotland

St Giles’ Catherdral, Edinburgh

Located halfway down the historic Royal Mile, the framed crown spire of St Giles’ Cathedral is one of the most recognisable features of Edinburgh’s skyline.

8. GRETNA GREEN FAMOUS BLACKSMITHS SHOP

The world famous old blacksmith's shop, marriage room, Gretna green, Dumfries and Galloway.

Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop

This historic building in Dumfries & Galloway is probably one of the most romantic of Scotland’s attractions. Check out the Gretna Green Story Exhibition and find out about the countless loved-up couples who have come to the to elope over the centuries.

9. THE HELIX

The Kelpies, Helix Park by Falkirk

The Kelpies at The Helix, Falkirk

Located in between Falkirk and Grangemouth, The Helix is a vast parkland space and home to the The Kelpies by Andy Scott. These two enormous horse head sculptures are a testament to the area’s equine-powered heritage and have to be seen to be believed.

10. ROYAL BOTANIC GARDEN EDINBURGH

The interior of one of the glasshouses at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Midlothian

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Founded in 1670 and considered to be one of the finest gardens in the world, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh offers 72 acres of peace and tranquillity and is only a stone’s throw from the bustling city centre.

11. EDINBURGH ZOO

Tian Tian, female Giant Panda at Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo

With over 1,000 animals from every corner of the globe, including giant pandas, a visit to Edinburgh Zoo is a fantastic family day out. Meet the penguins at the famous Penguin Parade and get closer than ever before to chimpanzees on the Budongo Trail.

12. GALLERY OF MODERN ART

The interior exhibition space of the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow.

Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow

Housed in the stunning neo-classical building in Glasgow’s Royal Exchange Square, at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) you can gaze upon contemporary artworks that are the result of the interests, influences and working methods of artists from around the world.

13. NATIONAL WAR MUSEUM

National War Museum

National War Museum, Edinburgh

Set within the walls of Edinburgh Castle, the National War Museum is filled with exhibits and artefacts that tell the tale of the impact of war on Scotland’s history, identity and reputation abroad.

14. EDINBURGH BUS TOURS

A MacTours City Tour - part of Edinburgh Bus Tours. Seen here on George IV Bridge with the National Museum of Scotland visible beyond, in the city centre of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Bus Tours

The third most popular paid-for attraction in Scotland, Edinburgh Bus Tours provide a selection of themed open top tours that take you to some of the city’s most remarkable sights and attractions.

15. THE FALKIRK WHEEL

The Falkirk Wheel, the world's only rotating boat lift, connecting the Union Canal and the Forth & Clyde Canal

The Falkirk Wheel

A feat of engineering, the Falkirk Wheel is the world’s only rotating boatlift, and is used to connect the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in central Scotland. Take a boat trip on it and experience soaring through the air.

16. STIRLING CASTLE

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

Not only one of the finest and best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the whole of the UK, Stirling Castle was also the favoured residence for many of Scotland’s kings and queens.

17. GLASGOW BOTANIC GARDENS

Glasgow Botanic Gardens and the Kibble Palace

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Head to Glasgow’s West End to discover a beautiful oasis of green space at the city’s Botanic Gardens. Don’t miss the Kibble Palace, an exquisite Victorian glasshouse.

18. THE PEOPLE’S PALACE MUSEUM

People's Palace

The People’s Palace, Glasgow

Situated on historic Glasgow Green, the People’s Palace is filled with relics and interactives which tell the story of Glasgow and its people, while the adjacent pretty Winter Gardens is filled with exotic palms and plants.

19. EILEAN DONAN CASTLE

Eilean Donan Castle on Loch Duich at Dornie

Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh, Highlands

Could Eilean Donan be the most photographed castle in Scotland? Situated in a stunning lochside location near the Isle of Skye, it’s no wonder photographers love to get out their cameras when they visit!

20. DUNDEE CONTEMPORARY ARTS

Dundee Contemporary Arts

Dundee Contemporary Arts

Centrally located in the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design and known as the DCA, Dundee Contemporary Arts boasts a cinema, trendy eatery, a print studio and plenty of space for a range of thought-provoking temporary exhibitions.

What’s your favourite attraction in Scotland? Join the conversation and share your views on our online community forum or find more ideas and inspiration for things to see and do in Scotland.

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Amy Robertson

Amy is a content executive at VisitScotland. Hailing from the west coast of Scotland, she's rather fond of music festivals, coastal walks, whisky and coal fires.

Comments

  • GP

    My husband and I have just returned from a holiday in strathpefferand we have thoroughly enjoyed it . We usually holiday on the west coast of Scotland. We must admit that the rugged mountains of Glencoe can’t be beat. It’s the most haunting and spiritual place that we have visited

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