Top Scottish attractions make in onto Loneley Planet’s must see list

THEY are been much-visited destinations for both overseas visitors and “staycation” Scots.

Now ten Scottish attractions, including Shetland’s Up-Helly-Aa festival, the Scott Monument in Edinburgh and Eilean Donan Castle in the Highlands, have been included in a list of the world’s top 1,000 sights.

A book, 1,000 Ultimate Sights, published by travel guide Lonely Planet, has compiled 100 top-ten lists of the world’s most impressive natural and man-made sights, broken down into categories such as “most bizarre”, “strangest optical illusions and mirages” and “spookiest”.

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The Up-Helly-Aa festival, where locals annually acknowledge their Norse past by setting fire to a replica Viking longship, is rated as one of the world’s “most entertaining parades”, while the “Golf Holy Grail” of St Andrews is ranked next to bullfighting in Madrid and the ancient Greek Olympic stadium as one of the world’s best “sporty sights”.

The Scott Monument, described as a “spiky Gothic fantasy with more than a passing resemblance to a Thai temple”, is named as one of the world’s spookiest buildings, while perennial tourist draw Loch Ness – or perhaps the authors are thinking of the elusive Nessie herself – is deemed to be one of the “most mysterious” sights. Also featured alongside the likes of the Grand Canyon, Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal and the Sydney Opera House is Glasgow’s Duke of Wellington statue, which is listed as one of the “most bizarre monuments” for its strange tradition of having traffic cones placed on the head of the duke and his horse. “We’re not condoning anything illegal, but gosh he looks fetching in orange,” the book’s authors say.

Neolithic Orkney village Skara Brae, which was uncovered in 1850 after a huge storm stripped the grass from a large mound, revealing the outline of a number of stone buildings, is one of the world’s most “intriguing” lost cities. Also on that list is Babylon in Iraq and Herculaneum in Italy, which, like near-neighbour Pompeii, was lost to a river of Vesuvian lava and ash in AD 79.

Glasgow’s historic Willow Tea Rooms, featuring Rennie Mackintosh designs, is ranked with Paris’s Metro signs as one of the world’s best “art nouveau” icons.

The “St Elmo’s Fire” effect at Edinburgh Castle’s Castle Rock is one of the “strangest optical illusions and mirages”, alongside the northern lights in Norway. Edinburgh’s Festival fireworks display is ranked as one of the world’s most spectacular.

“Scotland has some fantastic attractions, a rich history and stunning landscapes, so it deservedly features in Lonely Planet’s 1,000 Ultimate Sights, a compilation of the most unmissable spectacles on the planet,” said author David Else. “The likes of Eilean Donan, Up-Helly-Aa in Shetland and Edinburgh’s International Festival should be on everyone’s to-do list.”

Eilean Donan Castle is deemed by the book to be “the castle that launched a thousand tourist brochures” and is rated as one of the top “fairytale-like” castles, next to the Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria and Prague Castle.