Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this post, at no extra cost to you.
What Is Scotland Known for & Famous For
To many, the Scottish Highlands seem to be a place of permanent Medieval splendor. Kilts, taverns, bagpipes, and dancers fill our imaginations whenever the country is mentioned. But what is modern Scotland famous for?
Scotland is renowned for its ancient castles, rich history, unique cuisine, deep lochs, music, and bagpipes. The country is also known for its whisky, culture, unique accent and many more attractions.
In this article, I plan to bring you closer to the wonders of Scotland piece by enchanting piece. So if you’re planning to tour the beautiful Northern European country, read on!
The City of Edinburgh is one of Scotland’s most incredible sights. The city is made of two parts: the Georgian New Town and the Medieval Old Town.
As per the name, parts of the Medieval Old Town are over a thousand years old but still in splendid condition. Edinburgh is home to festivals, historic buildings, and lovely walking paths that suit any and every traveler.
2. Loch Ness
Loch Ness is a deep, profoundly beautiful lake in the north of Scotland. You can take boat tours on the loch from the town of Inverness (the same name as the castle mentioned in Shakespeare’s Macbeth) and decide for yourself whether the waters are as mysterious as they seem.
Loch Ness is, perhaps, the most famous Scottish loch and is well worth a trip. The mountains surrounding the loch are just as beautiful as the water, and the whole experience is sure to leave you in awe of Scotland’s eternal beauty!
3. Loch Ness Monster
The Loch Ness Monster, affectionately dubbed ‘Nessie’ by locals and believers, has been rumored to exist since a photograph from 1933 began circulating.
The depth of the lake prevents scientists and biologists from putting an end to the speculation. And as local myth has it, large creatures can comfortably live there without the risk of being discovered.
If you travel near it, you’ll hear endless stories of sightings from the welcoming locals. Whatever your beliefs, you’ll hardly be able to take your eyes off the loch–just in case the rumors have merit!
4. Edinburgh Castle
Among the most famous castles (and one of the most in-tact) of Scotland is Edinburgh Castle, nestled at the top of a hill overlooking Edinburgh. The oldest portions of the castle date back to the eleventh century, and the newest parts the sixteenth.
Many tours of this well-preserved castle are available, and a look inside will afford you a sight of the Honours of Scotland (also called the Scottish Crown Jewels), the National War Museum of Scotland, and much more!
5. Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle’s claim to fame is its age, beauty, and high-profile occupants of the past.
The Stewart kings and queens preferred this castle for banquets and christenings, and a tour of the castle now will allow you to interact with costumed Scots excited to tell you all about life in the sixteenth century!
Like all Scottish castles, Stirling provides a glimpse into the past and a view of breath-taking scenery. Stirling Castle is an excellent historical and family destination for anyone who loves a glimpse of the past.
Haggis is the national dish of Scotland and has nourished the common folk for centuries. It’s made of a lamb’s liver, heart, and lungs, minced and mixed with spices, stuffed into a sheep’s stomach, and boiled.
Though its composition may be less than mouth-watering to many, Haggis is highly nutritious and easy to eat when paired with Scotch whiskey.
Haggis is most traditionally eaten on Burns Night, the national celebration of Robert Burns, author of the poem “To a Haggis,” and during New Year celebrations.
Scotland’s many beautiful lochs (lakes) are a constant source of joy for foreigners and natives alike.
Here’s a fun fact, Loch Ness alone contains more water than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined, making it a vast sight!
Lochs are everywhere across the country, ready to be explored and marveled at for as long as time allows! Hiking to (and around) these lochs is a fun pastime for the whole family.
8. Tartan Kilts
Kilts are, perhaps, the most well-known Scottish outfit. The kilt has evolved through the centuries; it was initially a long heap of woven cloth (and the longer, the better, as the amount of fabric you could afford correlated directly to wealth) that wrapped around the waist and shoulders.
Now it’s a much shorter cloth and worn more like a skirt (though don’t tell a Scotsman I said that).
The tradition of a tartan kilt’s pattern being associated with a family or clan name is widely known but not entirely accurate. It’s true that tartan kilts are descended from traditional military and everyday garb and that commoners first weaved a tartan’s colorful pattern for everyday use.
However, the names associated with the tartans were not assigned until the 1800s. Even then, it was more a marketing strategy than giving the pattern to a specific heritage.
Nowadays, the Scottish people hold the kilt in high esteem as a symbol of national pride and noble ancestry. They are worn by musicians, people in parades, and actors who wish to honor their country.
9. Red Hair
Red hair is among the rarest hair colors in the world, and nowhere is it more common than in Scotland (though it could not truly be called “common” anywhere).
The gene for red hair must be inherited in some quantity from both parents, and historians believe it originated soon after pale skin as people moved north into less sun-lit areas.
Scottish people are not only more likely to have red hair than other nationalities, but they are also more likely to wear it with pride as proof of their hearty Scottish heritage!
Red hair doesn’t mean that people elsewhere must have ancestors from Scotland, only that they have some combination of the right genes to produce it.
10. Scottish Whisky
Scottish Whisky is among the finest in the world and is highly sought after by connoisseurs. There are five major regions of Scotland that make and distill their own whisky: Highland, Islay, Campbeltown, Lowland, and Speyside.
Each region produces whiskey from the water and barley nearby, so the taste varies between the areas though the quality stays the same.
These distilleries offer tours. So if you are a fan of malted barley whisky, you may want to try them out straight from the factory itself!
Bagpipes have a deep history in Gaelic music. There are two Gaelic terms for the types of music played by the bagpipes: the Ceòl Mór (big music) and the Ceòl Beag (little music). Ceòl Mór is slow and haunting, while Ceòl Baeg is fast and spritely – your traditional Scottish jig!
It’s unlikely that you can travel to Scotland without hearing these unique instruments, primarily because of their volume. If there’s a bagpipe anywhere in the highlands, you’ll hear its echo miles away!
12. National Parks
Scotland’s scenery is no better viewed than on a tour of Scotland’s National Parks! There are two parks, Cairngorms National Park and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, located in the eastern highlands and southern corner, respectively.
Both parks are large, beautiful, and worth a visit! Scotland also has numerous National Nature Reserves that house wildlife and exceptional scenery.
13. The Scottish Highlands
The northern highlands of Scotland are home to castles, mountains, rich history, and culture. Most of what you know from popular culture has sprung from the Scottish Highlands, and your trip would be amiss if you did not spare some time for a visit.
From stargazing to site-seeing, hiking and interacting with other tourists, your trip will be anything but boring!
Glasgow is a city full of activity, museums, pubs, and historic architecture! Its famous shopping attractions are second only to London‘s West End, making it an excellent destination for a souvenir-seeker.
Additionally, many museums in the area are free, so you get the chance to see history and art without your budget bearing the brunt of it!
15. Robert Burns
Robert Burns is one of the most famous Scots and the National Bard of his beloved country. An avid poet and songwriter from the 1700s, his lines and verses have been well-known and loved for centuries.
Burns’ house and birthplace are both thought-provoking museums that will give you insight into his life and legacy.
16. Unique Accent
Ye’re probably haird aboot th’ famous Scot’ish accent, aye?
It’s nearly impossible to write even when you grow up in the highlands (I’m absolutely serious, and this article seconds my assertion), so please forgive my honest attempt.
Nevertheless, the Scottish accent is distinctive, historic, and completely real. I hope you can understand it and that you never have to write it!
Scots – alongside English and Scottish Gaelic – is a nationally-spoken language of Scotland. It’s the official name of all Scottish dialects of Doric, Scotch, and Lallans.
The language is often incomprehensible to American- or Oxford- English speakers, but with time, you might just leave Scotland with a Scots variation of your own!
It is no surprise that many movies choose to film in scenic Scotland. As such, you can take tours of Braveheart, Skyfall, and other magical movie locations! You’ll recognize many a castle and mountain from your favorite movies!
19. Harry Potter
As briefly alluded to above, yes, many of your views of Hogwarts are actually views of Scotland! And it wasn’t just the movie that has roots in Scotland – it was in Edinburgh that J. K. Rowling first envisioned the plot of her famous books.
You can get yourself a ride on the Hogwarts Express (commonly known as the Jacobite Steam Train that follows the Glenfinnan Viaduct) and cover the same track that the witches and wizards once did on the set of the movie!
20. Glenfinnan Viaduct
The Glenfinnan Viaduct is the longest concrete railroad bridge in Scotland (380 meters). Viaducts, first invented by the Romans long before they came to Britain, are bridges that carry water or roads smoothly across hilly landscapes.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct is a historic railway as well as an architectural wonder, and tourists can still ride the train across it and marvel at the view. The peaks of the viaduct are 30 meters high, an impressive height for any bridge spanning country and hill!
21. Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall is one of the few structures that have existed in Scotland since the time of the Romans.
The Wall was built by the Roman guard as the northernmost protection against the wild tribes of Britain and is seventy-three miles long, stretching from coast to coast.
The well-kept Wall is a monument to both Roman and Scottish greatness, and if you end up near it, you cannot miss seeing it!
22. Antonine Wall
The Antonine Wall, constructed in 142 AD, had the same purpose as Hadrian’s Wall but was soon abandoned.
The remnants of the Roman guard-houses can still be toured and are revered as some of the oldest walls in the UK!
Many ditches and dams still mark the interference of the Roman empire and leave tourists without any doubt as to why the Roman Empire feared the Scots.
23. Scottish Shortbread
Scottish shortbread is a unique variety of shortbread traditionally requiring only three ingredients (though often made with more): butter, flour, and sugar.
The rise in popularity of Scottish shortbread is often attributed to Mary Queen of Scots, who enjoyed a similar biscuit recipe called Petticoat Tails.
Scottish shortbread is a delicious treat that has many variations and elaborations, which you should give a try!
Scotland has the distinction of never truly being influenced by Roman culture directly. While England became first Romanized and then Christianized, the clans in Scotland remained untamed and unconquered much longer.
The long rivalry between England and Scotland is fierce and has given rise to many wars, heroes, traitors, and rebels.
Popular culture knows William Wallace from Braveheart, but there are many other histories that remain untold. In traveling to Scotland and entering even one museum, you’ll leave with a far more comprehensive knowledge of what the Scottish people have brought to the world.
Many of the medieval castles and fortresses still around today reside in Scotland. The hills, valleys, rivers, and mountains provide the backdrops of the estates where lords, ladies, kings, and queens once lived.
Though some castles are in better shape than others, all are worth your time and attention! The more bedraggled the castle, the mightier the history.
Try, if you can, to resist dancing whenever you hear a lively, Scottish jig or reel! Bagpipes, Scottish harps, flutes, and fiddles compromise the majority of the music you’ll encounter while touring Scotland.
There are more than enough music festivals to choose from, and the history that accompanies the songs will engage your mind as much as the music does your heart.
Whether or not you enjoy the nightlife, Scotland’s pubs are worth a visit! You will have your pick of taverns and breweries in any city you choose, many of which are close by the whiskey distilleries themselves!
The wealth of distilleries ensures you’re not short of pub walks to explore, filled with scenery and a happy drink to close out the evening.
No matter how much you know about Scottish history, you’re likely to learn something new about the culture and heritage as you continue touring the country.
Art, architecture, and dance dating back hundreds of years will provide entertainment for people of any age. You’ll fall in love with kilts, whisky, and wool and never consent to leave!
29. Highland Cows
If you go down any of Instagram’s animal-related rabbit holes, you are sure to have seen a highland cow or two! Their adorable long bangs and fuzzy coats are easy to recognize, so it should not be surprising that they are one of the oldest breeds of cattle in the world.
Highland cows’ long fur keeps them safe from the freezing highland winters, and they can be found in almost every farm in the north.
These hardy cows are raised primarily for their beef, which is often considered healthier because of their low cholesterol. But plenty of highland cows are raised for the picturesque purpose of entertaining tourists!
30. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
No, it is not an actual tattoo – the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a musical showcase of the best military bands and display teams.
Sold out almost every year since its creation in 1949, the show includes pipes, drums, dancers, and the famous Lone Piper, all in front of Edinburgh Castle. It is truly a sight to behold, and if tickets are unavailable, you can tune in on almost any Scottish TV!
31. Scottish Wool
Scottish cashmere is one of the finest wools in the world. The history of wool dates back centuries, and for many, woolen garments are the best defense against the frigid winter.
Cashmere comes only from the most delicate hairs of the Hircus goat, and long years of raising the goats in the highlands and treating the wool with only the best water have led to the outright quality monopoly of Scottish wool!
32. Dunnottar Castle
Dunnottar Castle, located on the top of a cliff overlooking the sea, is ancient and regal. At different times it has hosted William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, King Charles II, and Cromwell’s entire army.
Although partially-ruined, the Dunnottar Castle is a must-see not only for its history but also for its perilous and magnificent location.
33. Fairy Pools
The famous Isle of Skye is home to the tantalizing fairy pools, a series of deep pools in the hills connected by waterfalls and streams.
After gazing upon the perfectly nestled, crystal clear waters, there can be no question of their name fitting their beauty.
You’re free to swim in the waters if you don’t fear the cold, but just a glance at them will satisfy your yearning for gorgeous landscapes.
Whether or not you end up visiting Scotland, I hope you are ready to learn more and appreciate its rich history whenever you think of it!
The country’s beauty, architecture, age, and durability cannot be overstated, and if you travel to the highlands, you’ll not be disappointed! I daresay there are sights enough for everyone to be content with a trip to Scotland!
- Visit Scotland: Loch Ness
- Visit Scotland: Stirling Castle
- Visit Scotland: Edinburgh
- Visit Scotland: Edinburgh Castle
- Britannica: Haggis
- The Scottish Tartans Museum: Generations of Highland Dress
- The Scotsman: Scots are more likely to have red hair and also to be proud of it – Professor Ian Jackson
- Visit Scotland: Scottish Traditional Music
- Visit Scotland: Highlands
- Aaron Mullins: Scottish Dialect
- Scots Language Centre: What is Scots?
- Visit Scotland: Scottish Film & TV Locations Itinerary
- Visit Scotland: Harry Potter Film and Book Locations Itinerary
- Highland Titles: Glenfinnan Viaduct
- English Heritage: Hadrian’s Wall
- History UK: The History of Scottish Shortbread
- Visit Scotland: 13 Stunning Pub Walks in Scotland
- Highland Titles: Highland Cows
- Edinburgh Festival City: The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
- Clan: Luxury Scottish Cashmere
- Visit Scotland: Dunnottar Castle
- Isle of Skye: Fairy Pools