This version of the full UNESCO Trail begins in Inverness and takes you first to the Outer Hebrides to learn about St Kilda. Then you're heading into the north of Scotland to explore the two designations before travelling to the isles of Orkney and Shetland in the north.
The trail then returns to the mainland and Edinburgh to explore the east of Scotland and four designations, before heading west to Glasgow and the three designations in this area. Finally you'll enjoy the biosphere in south Scotland.
Getting to Inverness
Start point: Inverness
Inverness Station receives regular services from London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Vehicles are available for collection at Inverness Airport, or hubs in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
If travelling by road from the south, the A9 is the main route, connecting the city with Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and many other towns.
Inverness Airport has daily flights to and from destinations across the UK and Europe, including London Gatwick and Heathrow, Bristol, Manchester and Amsterdam.
Journey one - Outer Hebrides
Travelling to Outer Hebrides
From Inverness, you can take a bus to Ullapool which takes just over an hour.
The Calmac ferry runs from Ullapool to Stornoway on Lewis, and takes 2 hours 30 minutes.
There are also flights to Stornoway or Benbecula with Loganair, or you can land on the world’s only beach airport on the Isle of Barra.
Once you arrive, local bus services connect major villages, and there are plenty of great organised tours and taxi services that you can take advantage of. Make saving on ferry journeys between islands and take advantage of HopScotch tickets issued by CalMac.
Driving is the most popular way for people to explore the Outer Hebrides, but you can also explore the islands on a cycling holiday.
St Kilda UNESCO World Heritage Site
- A remote archipelago off the coast of the Outer Hebrides, composed of five islands
- People lived and thrived on these islands until 1930, just as on the main Outer Hebridean islands, sharing a distinctive culture
- Remarkable for its striking landscape, unique human story, geographical position, oceanic climate and inter-dependent ecosystems
Read more about St Kilda UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Follow the Outer Hebrides journey for tips on what to do during your trip at these four designations, with ideas on where to stay, places to eat, and local tips.
Journey two - North Scotland
Travelling back from the Outer Hebrides to Wester Ross
Travel to the north of Scotland
Ferry – 3 hours
Travel from Lewis back over to Ullapool on the Calmac ferry.
Plane – 30 minutes
Fly from Stornoway or Benbecula to Inverness.
Travelling from Inverness
Take the train to Achnasheen, Strathcarron and Kyle of Lochalsh from Inverness.
The Westerbus service operates between Inverness and Gairloch from Monday to Saturday. It stops at all the major settlements along the route of the A832 which is the main route through the area.
Wester Ross has four main communities Ullapool, Gairloch, Lochcarron and Kyle of Lochalsh; all can be reached from Inverness in about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere
- A place of astounding natural beauty and eco-diversity, where communities live in harmony with the land and sea
- A natural playground formed by some of the oldest geology in the world
- Each habitat provides for an incredible array of rare wildlife and plant species of international significance
Travel around north Scotland
Due to the secluded location on the north west corner of Scotland, the geopark is best explored using a private vehicle. There are local buses to Ullapool, Scourie, Kinlochbervie and Durness.
Visit the North West Highlands Geopark travel section for more details on travelling up, and useful information such as available petrol stations.
North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark
- A striking example of different rock geologies
- Home to the earliest evidence of life to be found anywhere in Europe
- Explore white sandy beaches, rocky mountain ridges, atmospheric rock caves, and grass, peatland, moors and forest
Follow the north Scotland journey for tips on what to do during your trip at the biosphere, ideas on where to stay, places to eat, and local tips.
Journey three - Northern Isles
Travel to Orkney
Take the bus from Durness to Thurso. From there you can take a taxi to Scrabster, or catch a connecting bus onto Gill’s Bay.
Pentland Ferries from Gill's Bay to St Margaret's Hope, Orkney (1 hour) is the quickest sailing, and the most environmentally-friendly passenger ferry of its type in Scotland, thanks to the new purpose-built catamaran MV Alfred.
You can also sail with NorthLink Ferries for 1.5 hours from Scrabster to Stromness in Orkney.
During the summer, there is a third ferry route for foot passengers from John O’Groats to Burwick.
Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Thousands of years ago, the prehistoric people of Orkney built monuments out of stone
- Those domestic and ritualistic monuments still survive today, giving incredible insights into society and spiritual beliefs
- Gives a real sense of place, in how the sites relate to the landscapes and the changing light and weather
Travel to Shetland
Take the overnight ferry from Kirkwall in Orkney to Lerwick in Shetland, running four nights a week.
You can also take a plane from Kirkwall Airport to Sumburgh Airport, which takes around 40 minutes.
Shetland UNESCO Global Geopark
- This land has travelled from near the South Pole, across the equator, to its current spot at the crossroads of the North Atlantic and the North Sea
- The geology of the islands influences every part of life
- Some of these rocks range from 3 billion to just over 300 million years
Follow the northern isles of Scotland journey for tips on what to do during your trip at the biosphere, ideas on where to stay and places to eat, and local tips.
Journey four - Central East Scotland
Getting from Shetland to Edinburgh
From Shetland you can fly directly back to Edinburgh with Loganair.
Or you can take the ferry back to Aberdeen, which takes around 13 hours. You can then travel directly back to Edinburgh by train – taking around 3 hours – or by bus – taking around 3 hours.
You could follow the Angus Coastal Route from Aberdeen around the coast to Dundee, picking up the Fife Coastal Route around the east coast back to Inverkeithing. It’s then a short drive back to Edinburgh.
Or you could take the Deeside Tourist Route through the Cairngorms National Park, heading south to Perth. It’s then a 1 hour drive back to Edinburgh.
Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature
- The world’s first City of Literature
- Home to the world’s largest literary festival
- Only city in the world with a 60 metre-high monument to a great writer
Read more on Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature.
Old and New Towns of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage Site
- This UNESCO site is home to 4,500 buildings
- The Old Town was considered unfit for purpose in the 18th century
- The spacious Georgian New Town created a new standard of living
Read more on the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Travelling to the Forth Bridge
Time – 30 minutes
You can travel out to Queensferry to see the Forth Bridge by train from Edinburgh to either North Queensferry or Dalmeny, and then walk down to the Forth Bridge and view it from the waterfront.
There are regular bus services from Edinburgh to both North Queensferry and Queensferry, plus a stop at the south end of the Forth Road Bridge, and the Ferrytoll Park and Ride.
Check out how to get to the Forth Bridges for more detail.
The Forth Bridge UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 130 years old, it stands beside the Forth Road Bridge and Queensferry Crossing
- A true feat of engineering, renowned throughout the world for its technical ingenuity
- Made from over 50,000 tonnes of mild steel, with over 6 million rivets
Read more on the Forth Bridge UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Travelling to Dundee
Time – between 1 hour 30 minutes and 2 hours
Travel to Dundee Train Station directly from Edinburgh or the Forth Bridge stops, which takes about 1 hour 30 minutes.
You can also take the new Ember electric bus from Rosyth, or a Stagecoach bus directly from Ferrytoll Park & Ride to Dundee. You can also take a local bus to Halbeath Park & Ride and then the Megabus or Citylink to Dundee. The buses take just under 2 hours in total.
Driving – join the Fife Coastal Route at Inverkeithing and head right around the Fife coast before finishing at the Tay Road Bridge for Dundee.
Dundee UNESCO City of Design
- A city of transition, moving from textiles and shipbuilding to a cutting-edge multidisciplinary hub of design
- The original home of Rockstar North, creators of Grand Theft Auto
- Uses design and creativity to solve problems, uplift communities and create change
Read more on Dundee UNESCO City of Design.
Follow the central east Scotland journey for tips on what to do during your trip at these four designations, with ideas on where to stay and places to eat, and local tips.
Journey five - Central West Scotland
Travel to Glasgow from Dundee
Time: Under 2 hours
You can take the train directly from Dundee to Glasgow.
You can take a number of different bus services, directly from Dundee to Glasgow.
You could follow the Fife Coastal Route right to the end in Kincardine, and then follow the M876 and M80 directly to Glasgow.
Glasgow UNESCO City of Music
- Over 100 music events take place in the city every week
- A legendary music scene across a variety of venues from contemporary to classical, Celtic to country
- Famed for the enthusiasm and energy of its audiences
Read more about Glasgow UNESCO City of Music.
Travelling to the Antonine Wall
When you’re visiting sites and places connected to the Antonine Wall, there are many ways to get around.
- This part of central Scotland is well-served by public transport links including rail and bus.
- There is an extensive cycle path network.
- You’ll find several locations along the iconic John Muir Way, a long-distance walking route which runs from Helensburgh to Dunbar.
- You can even travelhttps://unesco.stage.visitscotland-assets.wsdev.org/admin/entries/main/52631?site=default&draftId=534&fresh=1# by water, as the Forth and Clyde Canal runs parallel for much of the wall’s route.
Frontiers of the Roman Empire, The Antonine Wall UNESCO World Heritage Site
- An ambitious engineering project which struck fear into the hearts of Scotland’s native tribes
- Once lined by 17 forts and patrolled by 17,000 soldiers from all corners of the empire
- Took advantage of the defensive features of the landscape, using high ridges and steep drops to create a formidable barrier
Travelling to New Lanark
Travel to Lanark
- The nearest train station is Lanark and trains run every hour from Glasgow Central to Lanark
- There is also a bus service between Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow and Lanark
Travel from Lanark to New Lanark Visitor Attraction
- Local buses and taxis are then available at the bus stance, adjacent to Lanark railway station and Lanark iCentre
- There is an electric shuttle-bus service, which does a circuit around Lanark and the surrounding area
The heritage site is around an hour's drive from Glasgow. The town has a large free car park, and a second electric shuttle-bus service runs from the car park to the top of the hill and back.
New Lanark UNESCO World Heritage Site
- The cotton mill was thought to be the largest industrial facility in the world
- It became a world-renowned blueprint for the ideal working and living environment for workers and their families
- The award-winning restored mill village shows this progressive story in a series of buildings, exhibitions and attractions
Read more about New Lanark UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Follow the central west Scotland journey for tips on what to do during your trip at these four designations, ideas on where to stay and places to eat, and local tips.
Travel to south Scotland
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Travel from Glasgow on the Carlisle line to Kirkconnel or Sanquhar within the biosphere. You can travel from the city to places just outside of the biosphere too, such as Dumfries or Stranraer.
You can easily catch a bus from Glasgow Bus Station, which runs regular services to Dumfries. The local bus service will take you between towns within Dumfries & Galloway from the main bus station in Dumfries.
The biosphere is home to the Galloway Tourist Route, which would take you from Ayr right into the heart of the area. The South West Coastal 300 also circles and then travels through the north of the biosphere.
Ayrshire is home to the Coig, a series of five driving routes. The Shire runs for over 130 miles, with the south part of the route cutting through the north of the biosphere.
Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere
- 5,000 square kilometres of hills and moors, originally formed by glaciers
- It’s a natural playground, full of outdoor adventure and geological wonders
- The biosphere landscape has inspired creative talent for years, from Robert Burns to Andy Goldsworthy
Read more about the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere.
Follow the south Scotland journey for tips on what to do during your trip at the biosphere, ideas on where to stay and places to eat, and local tips.
From the south of Scotland, you could take public transport from Dumfries bus or train stations directly back north to Glasgow, or head south to any number of UK cities and towns.
Head back to Glasgow to fly from the international airport.