There are two things we absolutely love about Scotland – its history and its scenery – so why not combine the two? Scotland is bursting at the seams with fascinating historic attractions, and many of these also boast spectacular walking routes, trails and paths nearby. From Orkney and Inverness, to the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh, there are plenty of walks with historic attractions across the country, but here are just a few we know you’ll love.
Westness Heritage Walk, Orkney
Just off the northern coast of mainland Scotland, you’ll find the enchanting Orkney Isles. One of these magical islands is Rousay, which is home to over 160 archaeological sites you can explore. Here you can venture on the Westness Heritage Walk which covers thousands of years of history in just 1-mile-long coastal trail. Endeavour on a journey from the first Stone Age settlers, and the Pictish Iron Age, to the Viking invaders, the time of the Earls and the crofting clearances of the 1800s. This walk will take you past some fascinating structures and locations, including the Midhowe Cairn, Midhowe Broch, The Wirk, Skaill Farm, Blackhammer Tomb and more.
Kilmartin Glen, Lochgilphead
Only a 2 hour drive from Glasgow, Kilmartin Glen near Lochgilphead is one of the world’s most significant archaeological landscapes, featuring structures such as Stone Circles, Standing Stones and more. Come along and head to the Kilmartin Museum where you can journey through over 6,000 years of history in the areas. Home to collections and exhibitions which feature artefacts such as the Benderloch Urn, and Shuna Sword, there is so much local and ancient history to learn about.
St Andrews, Fife
St Andrews is a picturesque coastal town in Fife that boasts medieval streets, traditional buildings, a historic university, and its world-famous golf course. Head to St Andrews Cathedral and wander around the remains of Scotland’s largest and most magnificent medieval church, and make sure you climb to the top of St Rule’s Tower for spectacular views across St Andrews and Fife. Nearby St Andrews Castle is a striking fortress which is perched on the coastline and features a bottle dungeon – one of the most famous castle prisons in Britain. Once you have explored until your heart’s content, head on to West Sands Beach for a peaceful wander along glorious golden sands stretching for almost 2 miles.
Culloden Battlefield, Inverness
Culloden Battlefield is one of the most powerfully moving and historically significant sites in Scotland. Stroll around the battlefield and learn about the final Jacobite rising in the interactive visitor centre. Afterwards head over to the Clava Cairns, only a 30-minute walk away, and explore this well-preserved Bronze Age site, complete with ring cairns, kerb cairns, standing stones and a complex of passage graves which date back 4,000 years.
Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail, Fort William
The Glenfinnan Viaduct Trail is an excellent short walk which visits the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct and boasts superb views of Loch Shiel along the way. However, the going can be fairly steep in some places. The path climbing above the viaduct and down to the station is a hill path which has been improved recently and the rest of the route is on easy footpaths. The viaduct is one of Scotland’s most iconic attractions and is easily recognisable from the famous Harry Potter films where Harry and his friends travel aboard the Hogwarts Express.
Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
Holyrood Park is only a short walk from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and features 640 acres of parkland next to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Head up the ancient volcano of Arthur’s Seat, walk around the park to visit the medieval 15th century St Anthony’s Chapel, marvel at the 150 ft cliff face of Salisbury Crags, and keep your eyes peeled for birdlife around Duddingston Loch.
Scottish Crannog Centre, Perthshire
Discover what life was like 2,500 years ago at the Scottish Crannog Centre – a beautiful reconstruction of an ancient loch dwelling in the heart of Perthshire. Perched on the largest loch in Perthshire, Loch Tay stretches for 15 miles and is surrounded by the impressive Ben Lawers mountain range – making it the perfect location to go exploring. There are various walks around the loch and nearby areas which range in length and difficulty so the whole family can enjoy this picturesque part of Perthshire.
The crannog itself is now under renovation after it was sadly destroyed by a fire. You can still visit the museum and Iron Age village, or book a tour to discover more. Check the Scottish Crannog Centre website for updates on the new visitor centre which is currently in development.
Loch an Eilein, Rothiemurchus
Nestled in the heart of the Rothiemurchus Estate in Aviemore, Loch an Eilein is a popular destination for the keen walkers and mountain bikers. The loch is surrounded by ancient Caledonian pine forests, creating a historic atmosphere to wander through. Take a leisurely stroll around the loch and stop to admire the 13th century island castle along the way, or challenge yourself and venture from the loch onto a trickier trail deeper into the estate.
The Whithorn Way, Dumfries & Galloway
Journey on this 149-mile long distance Whithorn Way from Glasgow to Whithorn which has been walked by countless of pilgrims over the centuries. There are 13 sections of the trail, each covering dozens of historical attractions, passing through incredible landscapes and stunning scenery along the way. Plan ahead and conquer all 13 or pick and choose your favourites to explore, it’s all up to you!
Balmoral Cairns, Ballater
Explore the historical Balmoral Cairns which the Royal family once built on the Balmoral Estate in the 1850s to commemorate the marriages of Victoria’s children. This circular walking route stretches for 6 miles, taking roughly 2.5 – 3 hours to complete, and boasts incredible views over Deeside and Balmoral Castle along the way. Afterwards, why not pay a visit to the castle for a guided tour and explore the exhibitions, grounds, and gardens? Note: the cairns and castle can only be visited during certain months, so please check ahead.
Borders Abbeys Way
Nestled in the heart of the Scottish Borders, the Borders Abbeys Way joins up the magnificent Kelso, Jedburgh, Melrose, and Dryburgh Abbeys on a scenic 64.5-mile circular route. Passing through the historic towns of Kelso, Jedburgh, Hawick, Selkirk and Melrose, this route can be divided into five sections of roughly equal distance, so you can complete which ever sections you like, or organise your trip and venture round the full route.