In pictures: 10 Scottish locations that should be World Heritage sites

The Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, The Grand Canyon; these are just three of the stunning 1073 UNESCO World Heritage sites being celebrated today as part of The International Day for Monument and Sites.

Currently there are 6 World Heritage Sites in Scotland. These are St Kilda, Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, New Lanark, the Antonine Wall, the Heart of Neolithic Orkney and the Forth Bridge.

However, there are several sites of cultural, historical and geographical importance in Scotland worthy of recognition from UNESCO.

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The Isle of Iona

Situated off the southwest coast of the Isle of Mull, Iona is an island paradise with its white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

The Isle has been home to a community since 563 when Saint Columba is rumoured to have founded the island’s monastery and is regarded by many as the symbolic centre of Scottish christianity.

Its gorgeous abbey is regarded as the best preserved Middle Age ecclesiastical building in the west of Scotland and contains unique features including one of the best preserved 9th Century crosses in Great Britain.

The Old Course at St Andrews

Should the Isle of Staffa be recognised as a World Heritage site?

According to UNESCO criteria, a site qualifies for World Heritage status if the site is “directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs… of outstanding universal significance.” Fervent followers of golf might argue that their game is of “universal significance” - and like it or loathe it, the game is a living tradition of huge significance to many.

St Andrews is widely believed to be the oldest course in the world and is referred to affectionately by players of the game the world over as the “Home of golf”.

The sport is believed to have first been played on the lush patch of Fife coast in the 15th century and has become the site of some of the game’s most iconic moments.

Arbroath Abbey

Should the Isle of Staffa be recognised as a World Heritage site?

Founded in 1178 and consecrated 21 years later, Arborath Abbey has played a significant part in Scottish history.

The now ruined sandstone building was the site of the declaration of Arbroath - a declaration of Scottish independence made in 1320.

MSP Alex Johnstone described the declaration as “a literary work of outstanding universal significance” in 2005, when a campaign was launched to earn the Abbey World Heritage status.

The Flow Country

The Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland is one of two Scottish sites under consideration for World Heritage status. The vast expanse of wetland and peatland is the largest of its kind in Europe, covering roughly 1,500 square miles.

The natural site is a breeding ground for a variety of species of bird.

Shetland’s Iron Age Settlements

The iron age settlements of Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof are also under consideration for World Heritage recognition.

Situated on the south of Shetland, the immaculately preserved drystone homesteads “provide some of the most significant examples of the European Iron Age in an area outside the Roman Empire”, according to UNESCO.

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The Isle of Islay

The majestic Isle of Islay is home to flint arrowheads dating from 10,800BC some of the earliest examples of human presence in Scotland, as well as remnants of ancient crannog settlements.

The island is also concentrated with some of Scotland’s oldest whisky distilleries. Bowmore distillery, allegedly founded in 1779, claims to be the oldest existing distillery in Scotland, though this claim is disputed.

Even without Bowmore’s claim, however, Islay’s whisky-rich history is worthy of recognition by UNESCO, given the drink’s popularity.

The Isle of Staffa

Over the years the unique Isle of Staffa has provided inspiration for poets and writers, with visitors including Queen Victoria and Felix Mendelssohn.

The most prominent feature on the island is Fingal’s Cave, a sea cave made up of hexagonal colums of basalt: one of the most stunning sites in all of Scotland.

The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland - a similar formation of basalt - has already been recognised by UNESCO. Surely the Isle of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave are also worthy of inclusion?


Glenfinnan is an area of historical and architectural significance.

The banks of Loch Shiel were the location where Prince Charles Edward Stuart raised his royal standard and launched the 1745 Jacobite Rising.

The Glenfinnan Viaduct, an iconic concrete span comprising of 21 arches, overlooks the monument and Loch Shiel. The structure is a fine example of Victorian ingenuity and architecture.

The two sites combined with their beautiful setting make them worthy of consideration by UNESCO.

Glasgow School of Art

The Glasgow School of Art is perhaps the finest example of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s work.

According to UNESCO a site can be considered for World Heirtage status if it represents to represent “a masterpiece of human creative genius.”

Given Mackintoshs’s influence on the European Art Nouveau and Secessionism movements, consideration of his masterpiece would be justified.

Cairngorms National Park

The Cairngorms are Great Britain’s largest national park and are a unique patchwork of habitats, protecting some of the UK’s most endangered species, including the wildcat. The mountain range is also the most southerly site in Europe visited by the Arctic Snow Bunting.

As well as being a haven for wildlife, the national park is home to a large portion of the native Caledonian Forest, an ancient expanse of caledonian pine trees. This importance to native flora and fauna would makes the Cairngorms National Park warrants World Heritage status.