This version of the full UNESCO Trail begins with exploring the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, with details of how to travel there from Glasgow, Belfast or Manchester. Next we're heading to the three designations surrounding Glasgow, before travelling off to the islands of the Outer Hebrides to learn about St Kilda.
The trail then returns back to the mainland and the two designations of north Scotland, before setting sail once more over the sea to the islands of Orkney and Shetland. It finishes with the four designations in the east of Scotland.
Getting to south Scotland
Sail from Belfast in Northern Ireland to Cairnryan in Dumfries & Galloway with Stenaline, in just over 2 hours.
From Cairnryan you can take a bus into Stranraer, and from there travel on to some of the biosphere communities.
Trains run in the east of Dumfries & Galloway from Manchester up to Carlisle and through Gretna Green, Annan, Dumfries, Sanquhar and Kirkconnel.
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.
Journey one - south Scotland
Travelling around south Scotland
You’ll also find a good network of local bus services connecting almost all the region’s villages and towns, making it easy for you to reach biosphere communities and the visitor attractions between - all while enjoying stunning landscapes along the way.
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.
Journey two - Central West Scotland
Travel to Glasgow
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Travel on the Carlisle line to Glasgow from Kirkconnel or Sanquhar within the biosphere. You can travel from places such as Dumfries or Stranraer to Glasgow as well.
You can easily catch a bus from Dumfries Bus Station, which runs regular services to Glasgow. The local bus service will take you between towns within Dumfries & Galloway to the main bus station in Dumfries.
The biosphere is home to the Galloway Tourist Route, which would take you as far as Ayr. You can then drive onto 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 travel 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.
Journey three - Outer Hebrides
Travel to the Outer Hebrides
Travel back to Glasgow from the biosphere, before heading onto the islands of the Outer Hebrides.
Train – 3 hours
You can take the train from Glasgow Queen Street directly to Oban.
Bus – 3 hours
Citylink run a service directly from Glasgow Bus Station to Oban.
Ferry – 5 hours
The ferry runs from Oban to Castlebay on Barra.
Other options for getting to the islands
Ferries also run from:
- Mallaig to Lochboisdale on South Uist
- Uig on Skye to either Lochmaddy on North Uist or Tarbert on Harris
- Ullapool to Stornoway on Lewis
Flights – 1 hour
Fly to Stornoway on Lewis, Benbecula or the world’s only beach airport on Barra with Loganair, directly from Glasgow Airport.
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 the biosphere, ideas on where to stay and places to eat, and local tips.
Journey four - North Scotland
Travel to the north of Scotland
Ferry – 3 hours
Travel from Lewis 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 and places to eat, and local tips.
Journey five - 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 six - 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.
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.
From Dundee, you can take the train or bus directly to either Glasgow or Edinburgh and south to many UK cities and towns.