25 essential things to do on a visit to Scotland

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If you haven’t ticked these off your list yet, it’s time to get cracking.

With so much fascinating history, interesting cultural activities and breathtaking scenery, there are countless unique experiences that can only be had in Scotland.

To get you started, here are 25 quintessential Scottish things that you shouldn’t leave the country (or this earth) without doing for yourself.

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Whisky tasting on the Isle of Islay

Sip famously peaty Ardbeg, rich Laphroaig or smokey Lagavulin whisky straight from the source, at the respective distilleries on the beautiful Isle of Islay.

Climb Arthur’s Seat

Scale the 250 metre high summit of the Arthur’s Seat that has stat at the heart of Edinburgh for millions of years, and enjoy the incomparable view of the city and beyond.

READ MORE: 25 exhilarating outdoor things to do in Scotland

Walk the Flodden Wall

Visit Greyfriars Kirkyard in central Edinburgh to see the remains of the Flodden Wall, which was completed in 1560.

The wall was around 1.2 metres thick and 7.3 metres high, enclosed an area of just under 140 acres, and cut the bulk of the city off from the rest of the world.

Eat fresh seafood in Oban

Between March and November, enjoy freshly caught and expertly prepared Scottish seafood right on Oban’s seafront and take in the gorgeous view while you eat.

Take a train across the Glenfinnan Viaduct

Immortalised in the Harry Potter films, you can travel across the stunning Glenfinnan Viaduct in Inverness-shire by train, between the stations at Glasgow Queen Street and Mallaig.

Tour the Tennent’s brewery

Founded in 1740, Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow has been producing one of Scotland’s favourite drinks, Tennent’s Lager, since 1885.

Visitors can tour the brewery for 90 minutes, learning about the history of the brand, as well as sampling some tasters along the way.

Visit Edinburgh Castle

One of Scotland’s most iconic sights, Edinburgh Castle watches over the city from its volcanic vantage point.

Admire it from afar, then visit to explore the decadent Great Hall and dank dungeons, see the One O’Clock Gun go off and even admire the Crown Jewels.

Watch whales on Mull

You’ll be in with a chance of spotting minke whales, basking sharks, dolphins and porpoise (not to mention plenty of seabirds) if you visit the breathtaking Isle of Mull.

The prime time to visit is between April and September.

Attend a gig at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom

Known locally as the Barrowlands, or the Barras, this world renowned dance hall turned music venue is loved by many famous artists and bands, including David Bowie, Public Enemy and Stiff Little Fingers.

Still showcasing some of the biggest acts after decades of live shows, attending a gig at this atmospheric venue, flanked by a typically Glaswegian crowd, is an experience of a lifetime.

Bag a Munro

A Munro is a mountain in Scotland measuring more than 3,000 feet, and there are 282 of them in the country, stretching from the Trossachs right up to the very top of the mainland.

To ‘bag’ a Munro, you simply have to pick your mountain and successfully hike to the summit, but make sure to do your research and always keep yourself and others safe.

Spit on the Heart of Midlothian

Paved into the cobblestones outside St Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, the Heart of Midlothian is a heart-shaped mosaic that sits where the 15th century Old Tolbooth once stood.

The Tolbooth was once used as both a prison and a public execution site.

It is tradition to spit on the heart for good luck as you pass by, something which may have originally been started by locals showing disdain for the former prison.

Ski or snowboard in the Cairngorms

Three of Scotland’s five skiing and winter sports resorts are located in the Cairngorms - the Cairn Gorm Ski Centre, Glenshee Ski Centre and The Lecht Ski Centre.

The area holds some of the longest-lying snow patches in Scotland, making it the ideal place to strap your skis or snowboard on and hit the slopes.

Hunt for the Loch Ness monster

First reported in the sixth century AD, the Loch Ness Monster (or ‘Nessie’) has supposedly been spotted many times since by those living in or visiting the Highlands.

Cruise across the Loch on a boat trip, or walk the shores and see if you can spot Nessie for yourself.

Eat fish and chips in Stonehaven

While Anstruther in Fife is often praised for serving up the best fish and chips in Scotland, Stonehaven near Aberdeen is another great place to go for a delicious fish supper.

After you’ve eaten, make sure to stop by the picturesque ruins of Dunnottar Castle and take in the view.

Walk across the Forth Road Bridge

Recently closed to cars and lorries, the Forth Road Bridge between South and North Queensferry is still open to public transport, motorbikes, cyclists and pedestrians.

Walk the east footpath from one end to the other, take in the view and treat yourself to a pub lunch afterwards.

Explore Europe's most complete Neolithic village

Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands is a stone-built Neolithic settlement which was occupied from roughly 3180 BC to around 2500 BC.

Older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, the extraordinarily well preserved site is a fascinating place to visit.

Celebrate Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Throwing perhaps the most famous New Year celebration in the world, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party is a totally unique experience.

See famous acts perform live in Princes Street Gardens, try your hand at traditional ceilidh dancing, and watch stunning fireworks fired from Edinburgh Castle at midnight.

See the world’s only rotating boat lift in action

Opened in 2002, the Falkirk Wheel connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal.

A feat of engineering, the structure is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world, and you can see it up close and personal by booking a seat on a boat that travels between the two canals.

Scour the skies for golden eagles

The Isles of Harris, Mull, Rum and Skye are all great places to spot the rare but beautiful golden eagle in flight.

Find a quiet and comfortable spot to spend at least half an hour, and scan the skyline.

Drink a pint at the oldest pub in Scotland

The site of the Sheep Heid Inn in Edinburgh is said to have been home to a watering hole since around 1360, and is widely considered to be the oldest pub in the country.

Stop in for a bite to eat, a drink and, of course, a game or two in the bar’s unique Victorian skittles lane.

READ MORE: 25 things to do in Edinburgh before you die

Discover Glasgow’s street art

Home to countless creative people, Glasgow is a place with art at its heart - and on its walls.

Wander the city’s urban mural trail (with the help of the Council’s handy map) and admire the famous faces, majestic animals and sporting moments immortalised by several talented street artists.

See a movie inside the Screen Machine

The Screen Machine is a mobile cinema that regularly visits more than 30 rural communities across the Highlands and Islands, Western Isles, Argyll and Bute and North Ayrshire.

Originally launched in 1998, the travelling operation was recently refurbished and shows the latest blockbusters in its stylish cinema.

Tour the birthplace of Scotland’s Bard

Pay a visit to Dumfries and Galloway and step inside the house where Robert Burns wrote some of his best known poems.

Scotland’s national poet spent some of his last years in the house, and some of his personal belongings, original manuscripts and his writing desk and chair are still there.

Walk to Cramond Island at low tide

At high tide, Cramond Island near Edinburgh is cut off from the mainland, but when the tide is out, it is possible and safe to walk along the raised causeway to the island.

It is important to time your visit right so that you don’t end up stranded on the island.

Try a deep fried Mars Bar

A bit of a Scottish delicacy, the deep fried Mars Bar (which is exactly what it sounds like) is said to have been created in 1995 in the Haven Chip Bar (now the Carron) in Stonehaven.

Since then, chip shops all across the country have begun to serve this calorific treat, so you can try it no matter where you are in Scotland.