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Scotland’s 10 greatest man-made wonders that you simply MUST visit

We’re not lying when we say that Scotland is bursting with wonderful man-made wonders. When you combine an artistic flair with a can-do spirit the results can be spectacular.

Here are the top 10 man-made wonders in Scotland, as voted for by you*. The Scottish equivalent of the Seven Wonders of the World spans some of the most eclectic and diverse sights, from a 12th century monastery and iconic medieval castles to landmarks of Victorian architectural prowess and engineering feats of the 21st century.

Get that pen ready because you’re gonna want to whack all of these bad boys onto your bucket list!

10. Melrose Abbey

Melrose AbbeyMelrose Abbey, Scottish Borders

Lying in the Tweed Valley in the charming town of Melrose, it’s easy to see why this ever-glorious ruin, with its lavishly decorated masonry, opens up this list.

It was founded by King David I in 1136, with the surviving remains of the church dating to the early 15th century, and is believed to be the burial place of Robert the Bruce’s heart. Admire the exterior’s hand-crafted decoration and view objects found during previous excavations.

Melrose Abbey is also often referred to as one of Scotland’s most beautiful buildings thanks to its sense of romance and charm. We heartily agree – do you?

9. Bell Rock Lighthouse

Bell Rock Lighthouse, AngusBell Rock Lighthouse, off the coast of Angus

Nearly 200 years after it was first built, the Bell Rock Lighthouse, popularly known as Stevenson’s Lighthouse, still stands – proudly flashing its warning light.

Located off Scotland’s east coast on a partially submerged reef, this impressive stone tower is the world’s oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse and has not required a single repair or alteration to its stonework or design since the day it was built.

It’s often regarded as the most outstanding engineering achievement of the 19th century, and rightfully so. Make sure you visit it on your next trip to Scotland!

8. Scott Monument

People sunbathe on the lawn in Princes Street Gardens, with Scott Monument in the backgroundPrinces Street Gardens, with Scott Monument in the background

This Gothic memorial to literary beacon Sir Walter Scott in the heart of Edinburgh is not only the largest monument to a writer in the world, it’s also a gallery that houses an exhibition on his life and works amongst its sandstone walls.

Completed 170 years ago, this soaring beauty is over 200 ft high and its highest gallery is reached by climbing a spiral staircase of 287 steps to the top. From there you can enjoy superb views of the city and the surrounding countryside. You can even get a certificate to prove you made it to the top!

Take some time to appreciate the exterior side of Scott Monument, too, which is decorated with 64 carvings. All the statuettes represent characters from Scott’s novels. How many can you name?

7. Caledonian Canal

Caledonian Canal at Fort Augustus where it joins Loch Ness, HighlandsCaledonian Canal at Fort Augustus where it joins Loch Ness, Highlands

Masterminded by Thomas Telford, the great Scottish engineer, the Caledonian Canal is considered by many to be one of the greatest waterways in the world.

Running just over 60 miles, it stretches from Inverness to Corpach near Fort William, slicing through the length of the majestic Great Glen and taking in some of the most breathtaking scenery that Mother Nature has endowed Scotland with. If you’ve not explored it yet, do it and savour a taste of the Highlands at their most dramatic.

Interestingly, only one third of the entire length is man-made, while the rest is formed by various lochs, including Loch Lochy and Loch Ness.

6. Falkirk Wheel

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

‘A rotating boatlift?’ we hear you ask. Yep! This wonderful, mechanical marvel raises vessels and connects the Forth & Clyde Canal and the Union Canal in central Scotland. It’s the only construction of its kind in the world!

Once vital for transportation, today the Falkirk Wheel is an iconic landmark that stands as a testament to the historical importance of Scotland’s waterways, as well as being an example of extraordinary engineering.

Climb onto a boat and soar gracefully 35 m in the air before smoothly landing on the Union Canal, and visit the newly revamped visitor centre where you will learn about the workings of this mighty wheel. Did you know… it only takes the power of about eight toasters for a full rotation?

5. Stirling Castle

Stirling CastleThe entrance to Stirling Castle

Mounted high on a volcanic outcrop, Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s grandest castles and was once a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens. Well, that’s hardly a surprise… Step into its enchanting interiors and you’ll see why.

From its sumptuous halls and beautiful gardens to the splendid Royal Palace which has recently been meticulously restored to its original Renaissance glory, a visit to Stirling Castle guarantees a grand and memorable day out. You will walk in the courtyard once frequented by Mary Queen of Scots, James V and Mary of Guise, and the kids will love playing dress-up in the palace vaults and meeting costumed courtiers, bodyguards and servants. The palace exterior, studded with beautiful sculptures, and its commanding views deserve a special mention, too.

4. Glenfinnan Viaduct

The Jacobite steam train passing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct at the head of Loch Shiel, Lochaber, Highlands of ScotlandThe Jacobite steam train passing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Lochaber, Highlands

Part of the legendary West Highland Line between Fort William and Mallaig (which is widely regarded as one of the greatest railway journeys in the world), the Glenfinnan Viaduct needs little introduction.

This iconic structure is made up of 21 arches that curve around the valley. It overlooks the Glenfinnan Monument and the waters of Loch Shiel and is surrounded by some of Scotland’s most splendid scenery. Simply picture-perfect!

You can admire it from the train (vintage steam trains also run in the summer months) or from a distance. Either way, it’s a great experience – not just for Harry Potter fans.

3. The Kelpies

The Kelpies at The HelixThe Kelpies at The Helix towering above the Forth & Clyde Canal, near Falkirk

Designed by the Scottish sculptor Andy Scott, The Kelpies are the largest pair of equine sculptures in the world. Towering one hundred feet high above the Forth & Clyde Canal, the two colossal, glinting horse heads never fail to impress.

Made of 300 tonnes of shimmering galvanised steel each, those mighty metal beasts are a feat of engineering. Situated just off the M9, they mark the gateway to Scotland’s canals and are a monumental tribute to the horse power heritage that was vital to the early industries of central Scotland.

Perfect for a day out, or visit at night when they’re prettily lit up. Mesmerising! Did you know you can even go inside to marvel at the complexity and the engineering which created these fantastic pieces of art?

2. Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle and the Balmoral Hotel clocktower at sunriseEdinburgh Castle and the Balmoral Hotel clocktower at sunrise

This stunning fortress dominates Edinburgh’s skyline and is unquestionably Scotland’s most famous castle. An unmissable part of any visit to the city.

Set atop a craggy extinct volcano, at the top of the cobbled and atmospheric Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle is part of a World Heritage Site, and houses the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny and Mons Meg. Get there in the early afternoon and you can also see (and hear!) the famous One O’Clock Gun!

It’s no fairytale castle, but when you see it you will understand why over a million visitors pass through its gates each year. It’s even been voted the UK’s best heritage attraction for a few years in the row!

1. Forth Bridge

The Forth Bridge in South Queensferry at sunsetThe Forth Bridge in South Queensferry at sunset

And the winner is… certainly deserved!

The Forth Bridge is one of Scotland’s major landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a world-beating example of industrial engineering.

Whether it’s the sheer scale, innovative workmanship or architectural and engineering prowess, this magnificent railway bridge continues to impress 21st century visitors as much as it did when it was first erected and opened in 1890.

It was designed on the cantilever principle, with its three towers over 100 m high, and stretches one and a half miles over the Firth of Forth, connecting the coasts of Edinburgh and Fife. A truly spectacular sight to behold!

 

What a list it is! We sure live in a beautiful world. In the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016, why not discover these breathtaking man-made wonders? Who knows, maybe some day you will travel to see them all – we challenge you!

* These 10 wonders were announced as the results of recent research carried out by VisitScotland which included a survey of 2025 UK adults.

Comments

  • Phill Firmin

    I enjoyed the content of this marketing site – I have never seen any of these attractions as yet, but it has inspired me to perhaps make the effort now that I have retired! Thank you.

    • Hi Phill. Thank you for your kind words. Scotland is truly an amazing country, full of fascinating places to visit – we hope that you get to experience some of them soon! If you need help with planning, you’ll find lots of useful information and inspirations on our website and our iKnow Scotland Community forum at https://community.visitscotland.com/. Enjoy your time in Scotland when you come! 🙂 – Aldona

  • Sophia campbell

    Love Stirling Castle, the story of the tapestries and mary Queen of Scots, then the Glenfinnan viaduct that even wizards and witches love our monuments !!!

    • Hi Sophia. Very true indeed! It’s nice to step back into the sumptuous world of the kings and queens at Stirling Castle – a great day out for the kids and not only; the Glenfinnan Viaduct must be one of my personal favourites, though – there’s just something enchanting about it… hmm, think it’s time I revisited – have never seen the viaduct in full autumn colours! – Aldona

  • Maureen Ainsworth

    We have been so lucky to have seen most of these, and these are only a few of the wonderful places and things to see in Scotland. Not to mention the magnificent views round most corners. Combined with the warmth of the people, it’s got to be one of the most wonderful of places on earth.

    • Hi Maureen. You’re totally right! Scotland is very unique in many ways, and our people and breathtaking views are certainly some of them. Will we be too cheeky if we try to convince you that we are the most wonderful place on earth? 😉 – Aldona

    • Judith Ann Webster

      I agree with you totally. Hard to decide what is the most special thing about Scotland – the people, the natureal beauty, the castles & ruins, the history, the food, or the endless fields of purple.

  • Judith Ann Webster

    Spent a month there and wished every day that I didn’t have to go back to the US. The only flaw I see in Scotland is the immigration laws as I want to spend my retirement years there and they have stopped allowing that classification of immigration.

    • Hi Judith. I’m sorry to hear that, though I hope that this won’t put you off from coming to visit our beautiful land again! – Aldona

      • Judith Ann Webster

        Oh, I do plan on coming back. Wild horses couldn’t stop me (and we have thousands in the states). Just will have to mix my sightseeing with some earnst job hunting so I can get a Tier 2 immigration status. Know any schools in the Highlands looking for a teacher, guareenteed for 5 years of service, willing (& US qualified) to teach any grade level?

  • jim harbourne

    I do not believe that St Andrews is not included in this list.

    • Hi Jim. We agree that the remains of St Andrews Cathedral are very impressive indeed and certainly should be on everyone’s list of places to see in Scotland. The views across St Andrews and Fife from the top of St Rule’s Tower are breathtaking, too! – Aldona

      • jim harbourne

        you also failed to acknowledge,The most visited golf course in the World.

  • Duncan Curtis

    Been going to Scotland every year for the last 25 years, hoping to go for the next 25 as well, this year I visited several of the highlighted sites also Kingsbarns the finest man made links I have ever seen. Also Glen Coe the finest god made site in Scotland….in my opinion.

    • Hi Duncan. Wow. That’s what we love to hear! We hope to keep exciting you with more hidden gems every time you come to Scotland – Kingsbarns Golf Links is just one of the many delights! Hmm, we actually think that there’s so much out there that one lifetime is not enough to experience all the beauty that Scotland holds. Hope to see you again soon! 🙂 – Aldona

  • Frank William Lomax

    I have visited scotland many times, worked there over many years and have driven the whole coast road from east to west but have still never seen numbers 3,4,6,9 or 10. which says something for a Bucket List on say a LeJog trip. The result, on the basis of both Degree of Difficulty and of Beauty, is about right for me. The Wallace Monument and the Crinan Canal would have probably made my own list.

    • Hi Frank. Why not change that then and come soon to see what you’ve missed out so far? Here’s a fact for you: numbers 3 and 6 are very close to each other and can be easily visited in a day! And they’re only a short drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow 🙂 The cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats sounds amazing, too! Sounds to me like you’ve got wonderful holiday plans when you next come to Scotland! – Aldona

  • Brian Midgley

    How could the Wallace monument not be included or Scotts view above horse shoe bend of river Tweed. Dryburgh Abbey burial place of Earl Haig or his home nearby, “Bemersyde” So much has been missed!!!!! Abbosford Sir Walter Scotts home Scotts view, featured in Sunday Post 1963/4 I think, acknowledged 3rd finest view in Scotland. 1st was Queens view on Loch Rannoch(think) and although memory a little clouded at 86 yrs. Commando memorial Spean Bridge was I think No7..

    • Hi Brian. We totally agree with you about Scott’s View and Queen’s View – they are both some of the most breathtaking views you get in Scotland and would probably made it to the top ten natural wonders in Scotland, but this specific research looked into buildings and constructions made by human hands. Dryburgh Abbey and Wallace Monument are magnificent sites – there’s no doubt in that, and we recommend everyone sees them, too, but there could only be so many winners. 🙂 – Aldona

  • Richard Green

    My wife & I love mountain walking. We camped in Glen Nevis and on Skye for our honeymoon in may 1977, even spent a night on top of Ben Nevis. We lived in Midlands then, now live in Ireland but plan to go again to celebrate our 40th next may

    • Hi Richard. If you love walking, then it doesn’t get any better than the paths and routes that you find in Scotland. With our varied landscape from gently rolling hills to rugged mountains, one will find that Scotland’s hills and mountains offer the perfect balance of relaxation and challenges. We look forward to welcoming you back soon! – Aldona

  • heavenlyjane

    How is it possible that none of the Neolithic sites in Orkney didn’t make this list? Mae’s Howe or Skara Brae are the ultimate manmade wonders.

    • JOHN TOWNEND

      Who cares about Neolithic sites in Orkney? I’ve visited some and found them very uninteresting. Sorry but Glenfinnan Viaduct and Forth bridge have so much more historical expertise.

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