I have always wanted to study in Scotland. Even before knowing what studies I wanted to pursue after high school, I knew that at some point, I would try to move to this country. I was always fascinated by the history of this place, and the landscape is absolutely breath-taking.
We are now entering a new lockdown, here in Aberdeen. The situation may look morose, but I hope that this post will give you some inspiration and bring you joy. It is based on my travels before the pandemic. The times may be hard, but we need to stay optimistic: we are in a beautiful country full of wonders, and hopefully, we will soon be able to explore it again.
So, come with me as I present you 5 different regions of Scotland that are must-sees – at least according to me. This article will not mention the Aberdeenshire region, because the blogging team wants to dedicate a whole article to it.
- 1. Okrney Islands (visited 2019)
There are ferries in Aberdeen that will take you directly to Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkney Islands. If you have the opportunity to travel there, I would highly recommend it to you. The sights of the Orkney Islands are wonderful, and the region is full of history.
Indeed, the Orkneys are mainly known for its prehistoric archaeological sites. For instance, Skara Brae, surely the most well-known and famous location of the archipelago, is an impressive ancient stone-built Neolithic settlement. Similarly, still on the mainland, you can find the Ring of Brodgar (see photo 1), which is a Neolithic cromlech, a stone circle. This site is wonderful to visit on a sunny day, and Loch Harray, that is right behind the cromlech is also absolutely beautiful.
If the prehistoric times are not your cup of tea, there are also plenty of locations to visit that refer to the Middle Ages, when the Orkney Islands were under the domination of Norway.
The islands are in themselves breath-taking. The cliffs above the sea are impressive and majestic. I encourage you to just wander around and find hidden gems. The second picture was taken from an isthmus we stumbled upon. It was deserted, and hauntingly beautiful during the sunset. There were even several seals playing in the sea.
- 2. Lochaber (visited 2015 and 2019)
Lochaber may be my favourite region of Scotland. From the vast lochs to the beautiful mountains and the sea, this region has it all. It is also in this county that you will find Scotland’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, that culminates at 1,345 meters. If you are feeling courageous, the ascent can be done in around 5 hours. Alternatively, the Nevis Range mountain resort enables you to go to the top of Aonach Mòr, an adjacent mountain, that offers wonderful views of Ben Nevis. The walks up there are incredible (see picture 2, a view from Aonach Mòr on the city of Fort William).
My favourite places of all, and I love them for their simplicity, are the towns of Duror and Kinlochleven. With a view on the mountains, the cities are very peaceful. I wholeheartedly recommend you stop by and enjoy the beach of Cuil Bay (see photo 1). It is also an exceptionally beautiful location to spend a few nights if you are into camping.
Talking about beaches, if you are not afraid of several miles drive, the most impressive one may be Sanna Bay, at the very end of the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The journey to get there is a little rough, but totally worth it.
- 3. Isle of Skye (visited 2015)
The Isle of Skye is maybe the most famous location of Scotland, when it comes to enjoying the outdoors. And it is famous for a reason: the sights are extraordinary. There are wonders everywhere! If you like hiking, the Isle of Skye is the right place for you: from the Cuillins in the south, to the Quiraings in the north, you have a lot of mountains to explore. The well-known Old Man of Storr (see photo 2), a monolith of 55 meters, was born as a result of the erosion of those mountains.
The city of Portree, in the south, is also a must-see. With all its colourful little houses, the town is very picturesque. Further to the north, you will also find Dunvegan Castle, the castle of the Scottish McLeod clan. It is very impressive, and you can even spot seals there.
If you fancy a hike next to the sea, then I definitely recommend you go to Neist Point’s lighthouse (see photo 1). The views from there are beautiful, and the walk is lovely. Just be ready: the weather is often a little bit rough here, especially the wind!
- 4. Isle of Mull (2018)
The Isle of Mull if perhaps less well-known than the Isle of Skye, but according to me, it is as beautiful. The town of Tobermory (see photo 1) resembles the one of Portree, because of all those charming colourful houses, but to me, Tobermory is even more lovely. It is quieter, and less touristic. There is a very small and quaint museum in the city, that will tell you the story of this place.
Going farther inland, you will discover wonderful landscapes, like these little lochs in the middle of the mountains (see photo 2). It is an absolute pleasure to just stop by somewhere and explore around the area for a while. Everything on this island is worth seeing.
From the Isle of Mull, you can also take a boat that will take you to the Isle of Staffa, and particularly to Fingal’s Cave. The landing is only possible in good weather, but even the sights from the boat are worth it. This cave, and more broadly the Isle of Staffa, is remarkable because of its basalt columns. Solidified lava of ancient eruptions led to the creation of geometrical patterns on the basalt columns that are incredible. This place resembles the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, but I would say that the Isle of Staffa is even more impressive because it is located in the middle of the sea.
- 5. Argyll and Bute (visited 2016)
The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is located in the Argyll and Bute region. Loch Lomond (see photo 2) is the largest loch in Scotland by surface area. If its name rings a bell, it is maybe because of the famous and lovely Scottish song The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond that tells a part of the story of the Jacobites, the members of the Jacobitism movement that refused the union between Scotland and England in the 17th and 18th century. The Argyll and Bute region is full of history, and this makes this place even more special to me. To admire Loch Lomond, the little town of Luss if very popular. Alternatively, you can also stop by Tarbet, which is quieter but as beautiful (see photo 1).
Further to the west, you will find the city of Inveraray and its impressive castle. I strongly encourage you to visit this castle if you ever have the opportunity to do so. The weapons room is impressive, and I am sure that it is a visit that you will remember forever. Historically speaking, this castle is also very interesting. It is the home of the Campbell clan, the clan that was involved in the Massacre of Glencoe, against the clan MacDonald, in 1692. The story of this tragic is even beautifully sung by the Corries, in their song Massacre of Glencoe.
There are countless other incredible places that I did not have the time to mention here. Scotland is truly one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and I feel so lucky to be able to study here. I hope this post gave you some ideas to prepare your future trips in this amazing country, once it becomes possible again.