Places to Visit in Scotland
- All of Scotland's Five-Star Tourist Attractions
The Scottish tourist agency, VisitScotland has a grading scheme covering over 900 attractions across the country. A 5 star award is the highest accolade and only a small percentage of the best locations achieve this level in recognition of an exceptionally high standard of facilities and services for visitors.
VisitScotland staff visit the attraction and assess the factors appropriate to the type of attraction / facility, reflecting the various visitor experiences. such as the attitude and efficiency of staff, provision of information, cleanliness, catering (where applicable).
While many of these (like Edinburgh and Stirling Castles) are no surprise, some are not so well known to tourists from either home or abroad. So here are all these first class attractions, with links to where you can find out more about them. Have a virtual tour or plan for that vacation!
Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Shiprow, Aberdeen
Bringing the history of the North Sea to life, there are multimedia displays and exciting exhibitions on the offshore oil industry, shipbuilding, fishing and clipper ships. You can experience what it is like being on an oil production platform and lots more interactive exhibits.
Aberlour Distillery, near Elgin, Moray
Visitors are shown into a warehouse where they can nose and taste six different whiskies, four of which are cask strength. They can then purchase a 70cl bottle of bourbon or sherry cask strength whisky which they fill themselves straight from the cask, cork and capsule the bottle, label and number the bottle which will be registered in a ledger.
Arbroath Abbey, Angus
The substantial ruins of a monastery founded by William the Lion in 1178 who is buried in the Abbey. Parts of the abbey church and domestic buildings remain, notably the gatehouse range and the abbot's house. The Abbey is famously associated with the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320, which asserted Scotland's independence from England. There are displays on abbey life in the ground floor of the Abbot's House, and on the declaration of Arbroath in the ground floor of the Gatehouse.
Arnol Black House, Isle of Lewis
A traditional Lewis thatched house, fully furnished, complete with attached barn, byre and stackyard. A peat fire burns in the open hearth with the smoke filtering out through the roof. A furnished 1920s crofthouse is also open to view. New visitor centre with interpretative displays.
Established in 1823, this Lowlands Malt Distillery is situated between Glasgow and Loch Lomond, at the foot of the Kilpatrick Hills, overlooking the famous River Clyde. Its spirit is made by the unique Triple Distillation process, whereby the spirit is not distilled twice, as elsewhere in Scotland, but instead, distilled three times. Auchentoshan has been extensively refurbished since its acquisition by Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd in 1984. Take a guided tour of the distillery, sample a wee dram, and browse round the gift shop which stocks our full range of Auchentoshan Lowland Single Malt Whiskies and a selection of branded merchandise.
Balmoral Castle, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire
Access to the grounds and the ballroom only when the monarch is not in residence. Coffee shop and unique souvenirs available from the gift shop.
Blair Castle, Perthshire
The ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl and home to the Atholl Highlanders, the last remaining private army in Europe. Family treasures fill over 30 rooms, portraying Scottish life over 700 years. After a tour of the castle you can enjoy the variety and tranquility of the grounds and gardens which form part of one of Scotland's great estates.
Bowhill House & Country Park, Selkirk, Scottish Borders
Home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry, the 18th, 19th century house in beautiful countryside has an outstanding collection of paintings, superb silverware, porcelain and French furniture. Relics of Duke of Monmouth, Queen Victoria and Sir Walter Scott. Exhibition of life of James Hogg. Refresh yourself with home baking in the licensed Minstrel Tearoom and visit the restored Victorian kitchen.
Bowmore Distillery, Islay
The joys of three malting floors in a traditional whisky distillery to see and savour. Attractive buildings and the opportunity to nose the `angels share’ in the traditional warehouse.
British Golf Museum, Bruce Embankment, St Andrews, Fife
A wide collection of golf memorabilia, telling the history of British golf from the earliest times to the present day. There are 17 galleries from the origins of golf through the Open Championships to modern golf.
Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries, Dumfriesshire
"Caerlaverock" (lark's nest) is an imposing, historic castle, in a lovely setting, surrounded by a moat and with marvellous views of the Solway Firth from the battlements. With a children's adventure park, two model siege engines, and nature trail in its grounds.
Cardhu Distillery Visitor Centre, Knockando, Aberlour, Banffshire
Located between the villages of Knockando and Craigellachie, high above the river Spey. The whisky made here is used in the making of Johnnie Walker's Red and Black Label brands.
Cawdor Castle, Nairn, Inverness-shire
Not just a great castle but gardens, an ancient wood, a duck pond, a 9-hole golf course, restaurant, shops - and a Shakespeare/Macbeth connection.
Chatelherault Country Park, Near Hamilton, South Lanarkshire
Chatelherault was designed by W.M. Adam in 1732 and includes a Georgian Hunting Lodge, visitor centre, gallery, shop, cafe, gardens, river and woodland walks, adventure playground and Ranger Service.
Clydebuilt Scottish Maritime Museum, Braehead, Glasgow
The story of the River Clyde and the contribution it made to the development of West Central Scotland brought to life at Clydebuilt. The latest technology is used to lead you into the past - 18th century tobacco lord John Glassford recounts his own tale, the river flows through its own changing history from meandering stream to mighty waterway and a giant stage set recreates the building of a liner in the 1940's.
Cruachan Power Station, Dalmally, Argyll
This is a working power station which unusually pumps water at night to a storage area so that it can be used during the day to generate enough electricity to power a city the size of Edinburgh. A unique 30-minute guided tour takes you 1km underground past tropical plants into the machine hall. Learn about electricity and its production at Cruachan, through touch screen technology, video graphics and interactive displays.
Culzean Castle and Country Park, South Ayrshire
Culzean isn't just the "jewel in the crown" of the National Trust for Scotland, it is the crowning glory of the heritage organisation and rightly the most visited property in the trust's portfolio. Fine, historical architecture, glorious views, wildlife, formal gardens, woodland trails and excellent catering facilities. In my view, Culzean is worth six stars at least!
Dawyck Botanic Garden, Near Peebles, Scottish Borders
Dawyck Botanic Garden has a huge collection of trees and shrubs and Dawyck boasts a world famous arboreta with mature specimens of Brewer's Spruce, the unique Dawyck Beech and some giant trees from North America. In the spring, there are highly scented azaleas and unusually hardy rhododendrons. There is also an abundance of wildlife and, if you are lucky, you might see a red squirrel or a colourful woodpecker.
Discovery Point, Dundee, Angus
The sailing ship "Discovery" which took Robert Falcon Scott to Antarctica is the centre-piece of this visitor centre. But in addition to exploring the restored ship there is an interesting exhibition ashore.
Duff House Country House Gallery, Banff, Banff-shire
An out-station of the National Galleries of Scotland, Duff House houses a rich collection of paintings, furniture and works of art in a Baroque house designed by William Adam. It is situated in parkland and also features the Gothic Mausoleum of the Duff family.
Understandably, this is the most popular tourist attraction in Scotland. Not just because it is in the capital but because it has so much on display in a fabulous setting. The picture here was taken in winter time, after a fall of snow made the castle look even more attractive.
Glamis Castle, Angus
Looking like a Walt Disney icing-sugar encrusted fairy-tale, Glamis Castle was originally a 14th century keep which has been extended extensively over the years. The 9th Earl became a Bowes-Lyon when he married a Yorkshire heiress. The late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother came from this family and spent much of her childhood at Glamis. There is a large park, nature trail and an Italian-style garden.
Glasgow Science Centre, Pacific Quay, Glasgow
The gleaming titanium crescent overlooking the Clyde has three floors packed with hundreds of interactive exhibits that will fascinate you. The Science Mall also plays host to interactive workshops where you can get up close and personal with Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches, make hot air balloons or build your own rocket to launch. You can also visit the Science Show Theatre, the lab and Planetarium - one of the finest planetaria in the world. Next door is the large-screen Imax cinema and the 400 feet high Glasgow Tower gives a bird's eye view of the city and the river Clyde.
Began operating on Christmas Day 1887 and five generations later the distillery is still owned and managed by the Grant family. It is the only Highland Single Malt that is distilled, matured and bottled at its own distillery.
Glen Grant Distillery, Rothes, Banffshire
Built at the northern end of Rothes in Moray, Glen Grant is the second-best-selling malt whisky, due to a domination (70%) of the Italian malt whisky market. There are traditional wooden vats and large copper stills and Major Grant's Study brings the distillery to life in a most surprising way. A woodland path takes you through the garden to the heather thatched dram pavilion and tumbling waterfall beyond.
Glenkinchie Distillery, Pencaitland, Tranent, East Lothian
South of the village of Pencaitland in east Lothian, 10 miles from the centre of Edinburgh, there is a museum of distilling which includes a scale model of a distillery.
Glenlivet Distillery, Ballindalloch, Banffshire
Off minor roads from the B9136, south of the village of Glenlivet. It was the first Highland distillery established after the Excise Act of 1823. Glenlivet was purchased by Seagrams of Canada in 1977.
Glen Ord Distillery, Black Isle, near Inverness
Glen Ord distillery was founded in 1838, making it one of the oldest in Scotland. Visitors can purchase "The Singleton Of Glen Ord"©, matured in European oak. It is sold mainly in Asia and is not available anywhere else in the UK. Glen Ord continues to malt its own barley and to use the long fermentation and slow distillation methods followed there for generations.
Highland Park Distillery, Orkney
Founded in 1798 by notorious smuggler Magnus Eunson, Highland Park is one of only six remaining distilleries in Scotland which malts its own barley. So visitors have the opportunity to see the entire process at the distillery from malting to distillation.
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