10 Revolutionary Scottish Inventions and Inventors

There has been a high calibre of famous Scottish inventors who have helped shape the world that we live in today. From everyday household items to groundbreaking scientific research, we’ve created a list of Scottish inventions and their inventors along with some ideas for great days out associated with them.

  1. The pedal bike Kirkpatrick Macmillan

    Inner Forth cycle route - Forth Bridges

    © Inner Forth Futures/This Way Up Media

    Taking your bike to new places is always an exciting prospect, plus it’s an eco-friendly way to see Scotland’s sights. It all started when Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a blacksmith from Dumfries, created the first pedal-driven bike, the velocipede. Since then, it has evolved into the modern-day bike that we know and love today. Kickstart your cycling adventure with these fantastic suggestions:

    John Muir Way, cycling day trips, East Lothian – the 134-mile (215 km) coast to coast walking and cycling route stretches from Helensburgh in the west of Scotland to Dunbar in the east – the birthplace of the renowned environmentalist and conservationist John Muir.

    Kirkpatrick C2C, South Scotland – Starting in Stranraer and finishing in Eyemouth, the route celebrates Scotland’s rich history of innovation and offers experienced cyclists 250 miles (402 km) of breathtaking landscapes, historic tweed mills, romantic ruined abbeys and much more.

    Round the Inner Forth – the 62-mile (100 km) route takes you on a whistle-stop tour around the Forth Estuary on a mix of quiet roads and traffic-free tracks.

  2. The pneumatic tyre John Boyd Dunlop

    Landyachting on West Sands beach

    Keeping the wheels turning on our list of Scottish inventions is John Boyd Dunlop. Born in Ayrshire, Dunlop was a veterinary surgeon by trade and a handy man when it came to making rubber devices. His hobby quickly turned into creating a clever invention, the first pneumatic tyres for his son’s tricycle. His invention was picked up by a group of cyclists and the rest is history. Check out these fantastic experiences for a wheely good time!

    Knockhill Racing Circuit, Dunfermline – get behind the wheel and feel like a Formula 1 driver as you take a spin in your very own race car while participating in lots of motorsport activities.

    Landyachting with Blown Away, St Andrews – land yachting combines sailing and motor racing into one. Enjoy a fun day out at West Sands beach in St Andrews, where you’ll be given a full demonstration on how to sail a land yacht while honing your steering skills.

    4x4 Adventures Scotland, Loch Lomond – you’ll be given the keys to a Land Rover Defender helping you to tackle the most challenging terrains with half and full-day experiences available to book.

  3. The fridge William Cullen

    The Original Cake Fridge & Takeaway & Gift Shop

    The fridge has been a saviour when it comes to keeping our food nice and fresh without spoiling. It’s all thanks to William Cullen. In 1748, Cullen demonstrated his discovery of artificial refrigeration at Glasgow University by using a pump to create a small vacuum over a container of diethyl ether. When the diethyl ether began to boil, it absorbed the heat from the container’s surroundings, causing it to cool. However, Cullen’s marvellous creation received a cold reception and it took many years before people began using fridges. Today, there are more than 500 million fridges across the globe.

    If you’re holidaying in Shetland and looking for a tasty pick-me-up, make sure to visit the Original Cake Fridge, where the fridge is restocked daily with fresh cakes and bakes.

    Key facilities
    • Parking
    • Hearing Loop
    • Accessible Parking Or Drop-off Point
    • Accessible toilets
    • WiFi
  4. Telephone Alexander Graham Bell

    Red telephone box in Pennan

    © VisitAberdeenshire

    The telephone is probably one of the greatest Scottish inventions of our time. Helping us to stay in touch is Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the first ever telephone. The initial idea stemmed from his mother and wife, who were profoundly deaf, which led him to experiment with hearing devices. He was later granted the first patent for the telephone in 1876.

    Visit Scotland’s Secret Bunker in St Andrews, which housed its very own broadcasting studio with telephone switchboards during the Cold War. This helped to ensure that in the event of a nuclear strike, emergency broadcasts could be transmitted. Scotland is also home to an iconic red telephone box in the village of Pennan in Aberdeenshire. It made its big screen debut in the film Local Hero and it’s still in service if you fancy making a call.

  5. Kaleidoscope David Brewster

    Kaleidoscope at Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

    © Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

    When it comes to Scottish inventions, there are a few on this list which are quite surprising, including the birth of the kaleidoscope! Invented in 1816 by Scottish scientist Sir David Brewster, a kaleidoscope creates a beautiful myriad of colours and patterns by bouncing light off angled glass lenses or mirrors and onto colourful bits of glass or other small objects.

    You can find lots of kaleidoscopes at Camera Obscura in Edinburgh. As you enter, you’ll be transported to the Giant Kaleidosphere, which uses mirrors, lights and coloured patterns that create lots of interesting designs and shapes. Make your way to the fourth floor at the Kaleido-Draw, where the whole family can enjoy creating unique, symmetrical patterns. If that’s not enough, head to the fifth floor and look through the Fibre Optic Kaleidoscope.

    Key facilities
    • Pets Welcome
    • Hearing Loop
    • WiFi
  6. The Mackintosh coat Charles Mackintosh


    Here in Scotland, we’re likely to experience four seasons in one day. When it comes to outdoor wear, we’re always well prepared whatever the weather. In 1823, Charles Mackintosh had the clever idea of sandwiching a layer of liquid rubber made with naphtha between two layers of fabric. Since then, the Mackintosh was born, designed to be water resistant while remaining flexible and wearable.

    The Mackintosh has become a staple in everyone’s wardrobe over the years. If you’re looking to follow this stylish trend, be sure to check out Dick’s in Edinburgh. The independent clothing and homeware shop in Stockbridge have a vast collection of Mackintosh coats in different colours to choose from. Happy shopping!

  7. Dolly the sheep - the first mammal to be cloned Roslin Institute

    National Museum of Scotland

    You might associate Scotland’s wildlife with fluffy Highland cows, red deer and golden eagles. However, a certain sheep has made a big name for itself in the past. Dolly the sheep was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. She was grown from a single mammary cell which contained all the information to create a whole new sheep. Dolly died in 2003 but can be seen on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

  8. Dunlop cheese Barbara Gilmour

    Dunlop Dairy

    Who doesn’t love a bit of cheese? One was even invented by a Scot! In the early 18th century, Barbara Gilmour manufactured a type of cheese made from unskimmed milk from Ayrshire cows. Her recipe was that good, her neighbours started to make it and Dunlop cheese soon generated a buzz across Scotland. Today, you can find this particular cheese in various cooking recipes and it’s also nice with a wee dram of whisky.

    Fancy a day out on the farm? Head to Dunlop Dairy and learn more about how Dunlop cheese is made. After your tour, stock up on your favourite cheeses and enjoy a spot of afternoon tea. You’ll even be given a warm welcome from the resident cows and goats.

  9. Television John Logie Baird

    The Three Sisters

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

    Outlander, The Traitors and The Buccaneers are just some of the TV shows that have helped promote our bonnie country on the small screen. It’s all thanks to the inventor John Logie Baird, who demonstrated the first working television back in 1926. That’s not all, Baird also achieved the first transatlantic television transmission and is responsible for inventing the first colour television. Definitely worth a round of applause! Become the main character in your very own Scottish adventure and discover some of the most iconic film and TV locations, from St Ninian’s Cave which featured in the Wicker Man to the impressive Three Sisters in Glencoe seen in Skyfall.

    Visit The Buccaneers locations

    Find Outlander filming locations

  10. Colour photograph James Clerk Maxwell


    © Visit Kelso

    Sometimes all you need is a little splash of colour. Often referred to as the ‘Father of Modern Physics’, Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell is responsible for the world’s first colour photograph. In 1855, Maxwell introduced the three-colour method and conducted an experiment to show that all colours can be made by an appropriate mixture of red, green and blue light. During a lecture in 1861, he revealed the first colour photograph of a tartan ribbon.

    Colour photography makes it possible to take beautiful pics of Scotland. Whatever time of year you’re visiting, photos are the best souvenir to take home and reminisce until you come back.

    Here are a few destinations where you can snap up some great shots:

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