Scotland's Bucket List Ideas

Make some iconic memories in Scotland with these bucket-list ideas - meeting a Highland cow, taking an epic train ride and getting in with the crowd at a Highland games.

  1. Meet a Highland coo Across Scotland

    Highland Cows on Mull

    Our iconic Highland cows are hardy, docile, hairy and lovable so it’s no wonder so many people want to meet them!

    They originate from the Scottish Highlands but you’ll find them right across Scotland, including:

  2. Go Nessie-spotting in Scotland Loch Ness

    View of Loch Ness from Urquhart Castle

    The beautiful waters of Loch Ness are well worth a visit – travel amongst the charming villages and admire the beautiful rolling countryside. It’s easy to head out on the Loch Ness water by booking a boat trip to see if you can spot the great Loch Ness Monster.

    You might not be lucky enough to see Nessie, but there’s plenty you can spot in the surrounding countryside – look out for red squirrels, roe deer, dragonflies, and ospreys.

    Want to tick more lochs off your list? Check out:

    • Loch Maree – the south shore of this loch is Beinn Eighe, the UK’s oldest National Nature Reserve.
    • Loch Muick – lies within the Balmoral Estate beside King Charles’ much-loved mountain, Lochnagar.
    • Loch Tay – home to the recently reopened Scottish Crannog Centre, which celebrates the Iron Age settlement.
  3. Travel on an epic train ride Across Scotland

    Glenfinnan Viaduct

    © Airborne Lens / Liam Anderstrem

    Scotland is home to some of the world’s most iconic railway journeys. Picture sitting back in comfort, soaking up the stunning views of the mountains, the sun glistening on a loch, passing by a charming town with welcoming locals.

    Train journeys around Scotland include:

    • West Highland Line – known to millions for taking Harry Potter to Hogwarts. Pass over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct and see Loch Shiel, Loch Eilt and Ben Nevis.
    • Borders Railway – this line is 30 miles long (49 km) and passes over and through 140 bridges and tunnels, including the majestic Newbattle (sometimes called Lothianbridge) Viaduct in Newtongrange and the beautiful Redbridge Viaduct near Tweedbank.
    • Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway – this heritage railway offers the chance to board a vintage steam or diesel-hauled engine along the Forth Estuary, through woodlands, past waterfalls and over the Avon Viaduct.
  4. Tackle a long-distance walk Across Scotland


    Spend a week following one of our long-distance walking routes.

    You have to bag a Munro (climb a hill over 3,000 ft) while in Scotland, but for the true bucket list experience, pick a long-distance walking route to follow.

    • Speyside Way - walk from the beautiful Moray coast in the Cairngorms National Park.
    • West Island Way - take the weekend on Bute to explore beaches, moorland and forest.
    • Southern Upland Way – pack your biggest bag, and tackle Scotland’s longest, which runs from the west of Dumfries & Galloway to the east of the Scottish Borders for 212 miles.
  5. Experience a Highland games Across Scotland

    Cowal Highland Gathering

    A Highland games is a great way to learn about Scotland – how we’re competitive but welcoming, creative yet historic, and mostly a whole lot of fun! Head along to watch the caber toss, tug o’ war and hammer throw, marvel at the music and Highland dancing, and visit the food and craft stalls.

    It’s a great way to spend a day outdoors and to mix with all the locals. There are some great events to choose from:

  6. Plan a scenic drive Across Scotland


    © Visit South West Scotland / Damian Shields

    The North Coast 500 has won numerous awards and graced the magazine pages as one of the most epic driving routes. If you’ve got this on your bucket list, then make sure to leave enough time to really appreciate the scenery, to stop off in the Highland communities, and to take the less travelled roads off the main circuit.

    Fancy something a bit different? Why not try the South West Coastal 300? Miles of beautiful coastline along quiet country roads, coastal towns to explore, and incredible scenic spots just off-route within the Galloway Forest Park.

    Scotland has a whole range of driving routes from short 38 miles through the Clyde Valley to the 158 miles around the North and West Highlands.

    But you don’t need four wheels to tackle these – many of the routes can be cycled as well, including the North Coast 500.

  7. Witness an iconic fire festival Shetland

    Up Helly Aa

    © VisitScotland / Luigi Di Pasquale

    Up Helly Aa is a fire festival, inspired by Shetland’s Viking past. The archipelago’s communities come together for a night of guising (dressing up), carry burning torches through the streets and dance the night away to traditional Shetland music.

    The main Lerwick festival is now quite well-known, but there are a series of community-led festivals held between January and March.

    While you’re in Shetland, don’t miss the chance to kayak along the shoreline, watch for wildlife from otters to orcas, and visit incredible historic sites like Jarlshof.

  8. Follow in the Footsteps of Harry Potter Glenfinnan

    Glenfinnan Viaduct

    Scotland is a great destination to tick off some family bucket list ideas. If you're a fan of Harry Potter, head to Edinburgh where you can follow in the footsteps of J.K Rowling as she brought the infamous book series to life. You can also explore Greyfriars Cemetery and Victoria Street within the city to find other places of inspiration, or why not venture on the Harry Potter Walking Tour of Edinburgh? Or head further afield to hop onboard the Jacobite Steam Train* in Fort William and enjoy the journey Harry and his friends took on their way to Hogwarts.

    * Please note that the Jacobite Steam Train is only running the morning service at this time. There is no Harry Potter coach and reduced First-Class capacity.

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