Mystery and Magic – Exploring Scotland’s Historic Sites
The best of Scotland’s mysterious attractions
Scotland has recently been voted the most beautiful country in the world in an international poll for travel stalwart Rough Guides. And well it might deserve the accolade, for its breathtaking scenery (as in the above photo of the Rock Stacks of Duncansby), dramatic mountains, lochs (lakes), iconic culture and fascinating history have few rivals anywhere on the planet.
It truly is a magical experience to visit, and so intrepid travelers Agness and Cez from eTramping have kindly offered up a few travel tips of the mysterious historic sights Caledonia can boast, providing a strong argument for the country’s aforementioned title. Read on Macduff!
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more well-known conspiracy theory than this one, as “Nessie” hunters flock to the Scottish Highlands every year to try and catch a glimpse of this mysterious beastie. The Loch Ness Monster is an age-old tale of an enormous, dinosaur-like creature lurking in the deep and dark waters of Loch Ness, located just south of the city of Inverness. As well as the monster’s legend, the area is steeped with natural beauty in its own right, with the views over the ruins of Urquhart Castle being particularly spectacular.
A must for history buffs, the site of the infamous 1746 battle of Culloden holds more spooky tales of mystery than you can shake a bloody claymore at. It was here that the doomed Jacobite uprising was put to the sword thus putting an end to a religious civil war in Britain. The tour around the battlefield is essential, led by knowledgeable guides in full highland dress and armed to the teeth with the weapons of the time. The stories of the spirits of soldiers still haunting the moor will send chills down your spine.
Scotland’s capital is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world, dominated by the imposing Edinburgh Castle – a military barracks resting high on a rock in the heart of the city. It’s seen its fair share of action over the centuries, and as a result, has its fair share of ghost stories too. Rumour has it that a headless drummer boy walks the walls as a warning when the castle is about to come under attack.
The Scottish Crown Jewels are kept under lock and key here, and it’s a focal point of the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival that takes place in August each year. The castle is one of the finest historic sights on earth, and the city has so much to see and do, it’s not to be missed.
The Wallace Monument
Braveheart has a lot to answer for. If you mention anything about Scotland around the world you’re likely to be met with a shout of “FREEEEDDDDOOOOMMMM!” The 1995 Mel Gibson epic did wonders for the Scottish tourist industry, driving folks in droves to visit film locations, and in turn learning about the real William Wallace – Scotland’s national hero. Along with Sean Connery. The phallic shaped Wallace Monument (no accident) just outside of Stirling is a great place to start, and the nearby city and castle are equally breathtaking. Ask about the ghost of the pink lady if you pay these old stones a visit.
If you’re looking for a truly supernatural experience in Scotland, you’d go far to beat a visit to a cemetery. The country is full of them, but perhaps the most well know is Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh. Reported to be the most haunted graveyard in the world, all kinds of apparitions and ghosts are said to inhabit the place. Yet it’s perhaps most famous for the heartwarming and child friendly tale of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier who stayed by his master’s grave for 14 years. They are both buried here, and there’s a charming statue to the faithful pooch in the centre of town too. Man’s best friend indeed.
Eilean Donan Castle
Easily one of the most picturesque castles you’re likely to find anywhere, Eilean Donan is no stranger to the limelight, oft the star of the small and the big screen. Dating back to the 13th century, the castle is reached by a footbridge connected to the mainland, nestled in the waters of three sea lochs. A seat of the Clan Mackenzie, the castle is a popular spot for weddings given its romantic setting, but there’s a headless soldier said to wander around near the gift shop. Not particularly good for business really.
The highest mountain in the British Isles is located close to Fort William on the west coast of Scotland. It has attracted hikers and climbers for centuries, and with an established trail to the top many inexperienced mountaineers, tempted by a deceptively simple climb, often succumb to the mountains volatile weather systems. Bloodcurdling screams have been heard on the air, which is reputed to be a creature who hunts anyone foolhardy enough to ascend to the summit. The surrounding glen is stunning, but if you are thinking of making the climb, make sure you know what you’re doing, as we wouldn’t want you to join the ghosts here.
We’ve had plenty of mystery, let’s finish with a little magic. You might well recognize The Glenfinnan Viaduct from the films of a certain Harry Potter, as the route is featured as that of the Hogwarts Express in J.K Rowling’s stories. It’s set in an area of breathtaking natural beauty, on the West Highland Railway Line, at the head of Loch Shiel. The viaduct has twenty-one stone arches, curving over the floor of the glen, and its little wonder it was chosen as a filming location. It is possible to take a steam train for a trip over the viaduct and along one of the most beautiful railway journeys in the world. Book well in advance though – those HP fans get everywhere.
Scotland is an extremely special place that keeps bringing visitors back time after time, and it really is little wonder it was voted the most beautiful in the world. Even in writing the article, it inspires us to want to go back and explore even more of the historic sights scattered throughout its incomparable landscape. It’s nice to have a wee dram o’ whiskey at the end of the day too.
Have you been to Scotland? Tell us about a special place you might have experienced there.
Thanks to Agness and Cez for this guest post.
Meet Agness and Cez – adventurous travel duo of eTramping – a source of knowledge for everyone who looks for intensive and unique travel experiences across the world.
Hailing originally from Poland, they have been exploring the world since 2011 and it doesn’t seem like they are planning to stop anytime soon! They love to visit unique travel destinations such as Tibet, North Korea or Antarctica. Follow their adventure on Instagram & Facebook to get travel inspired.
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Some of it looks like a fairytale. Appreciate the stories that go with the scenery.
Thanks a lot, Ken! 😉
Love this! We visited Scotland for the first time this year and absolutely loved it. Our favorite was Stirling Castle, but we did enjoy Edinburgh Castle as well. I could live there :-).
Stirling Castle is really remarkable, Kem! Glad you loved Scotland. 🙂
I’d love to visit Scotland someday. Eilean Donan Castle looks fantastic. Though I’d imagine it might be like when I visited Germany. Castle fatigue eventually set in after seeing so many of them 😉
We hope you get there even sooner than expected, Jeri. 🙂
I’ve not yet been to Scotland, but it’s definitely on my list! I’ve pinned the post for future reference.
We hope you’ll find the post useful very soon, Doreen. 😉
One of my favourite places in the world Scotland is full of amazing history and places to discover
We couldn’t agree more with you. Michele! 🙂
It was a pleasure contributing to your blog, Donna. Thanks for having us here. Scotland and its historic sites are truly magical and definitely worth exploring. 😉
Agness, it was pleasure to have this post. The only one of these sites I’ve seen was Edinburgh Castle and that was decades ago! I’d love to see all the other magical sites.
We’ve never been to Scotland and I’m not sure why. It’s so beautiful and there’s so much history to discover. Guess we’ll have to add it to the 2018 travel plans.
Sue, I look forward to reading about your experiences if Scotland makes it into your 2018 plans.
I agree. Scotland is spectacular and you have not even included the Isles and Lehring. But my own awesome experience was my 2014 wedding at the Guthrie Castle. The two families of the bride and groom shared the castle’s rooms, enjoyed the weekend, and toured the countryside as part of the couple’s festivities!
Carol, your wedding does sound awesome.
Scotland is sure on my list of places to visit–for the above reasons and because I love single malt scotch. 🙂 Thanks for the brief rundown on some great things to see.
Rose Mary, I hope you get to see some of these places and enjoy some single malt scotch.
Scotland has been at the top of my list since getting involved with the series Outlander. Thanks for pointing out all these additional places. It certainly is a gorgeous country!
Alison, I hope you get to see some of these places soon.
Nice look at some cool Scotland historical attractions. I am trying to trace my McCool ancestry from Northern Ireland to Scotland so that I can explore it with knowledge of an ancestral homeland.
Charles, tracing your ancestry will make the exploration so much more meaningful.
Scotland was my first solo trip many years ago. I love the islands, Skye and Mull. In fact, I am looking at a framed picture of the Isle of Mull, which is waiting to go on a wall in my new condo. I have fond memories of Scotland and tried my hardest to find Nessie, but he was as elusive as ever 🙂
Nancie, how nice it will be to have that memory on your wall.