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Tours of Scotland since 1907

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Scotland A to Z

Go on a whirlwind tour of all that Scotland has to offer with our handy A-to-Z guide. Grab your favourite beverage and settle in as you learn all about Scottish locations, history, battles and terminology too.

Pillared circular stone monument to Robert Burns in Alloway on sunny day with blue sky

A - Alloway

This is the perfect example of a ‘chocolate box village’ that’s steeped in history and will forever be synonymous with Scotland's National Poet, Robert Burns.

Burns was born in a cottage now part of the main street of Alloway, and took inspiration from his surrounding environment for his famous poem ‘Tam O’Shanter’.

You can even see the Brig O’Doon yourself when you visit Alloway, a truly Scottish experience.

B - Bannockburn

This famous battle took place in 1314. In a war between Scotland and England, Robert the Bruce was victorious over King Edward II and the Scots were eventually granted independence. A trip to Bannockburn can help bring this monumental event to life, especially if you pay a visit to the Bannockburn Visitor Centre.

C - Clans

Quintessentially Scottish, meaning family or children in Gaelic. We associate clans with different parts of Scotland, and surnames can also be representative of a particular clan too. Being part of a clan can feel like being part of a big group that all have a shared common interest, and a way to identify with your Scottish roots too.

D - Dreich

This famous Scottish word which started off life in 1420, where it was used to mean something was slow or tedious. Fast forward a few (hundred) years and it’s now a very popular Scottish word used to mean dreary or unpleasant weather.

Edinburgh castle pictured sitting on rock amidst trees and flowers in Princes Street Gardens

E - Edinburgh

This grand city is the capital of Scotland and just about the right blend of old and new.

From the Royal Mile and the Palace of Holyroodhouse to the iconic Edinburgh Castle to the modern shopping areas with cafes and bars, there’s something for everyone when it comes to Edinburgh.

There’s even Arthur’s Seat for the adventurous amongst us and not forgetting the Royal Yacht Britannia, where you can pretend to sail the oceans like a King or Queen.

F - Forth Bridge

This iconic crossing of the Forth estuary is a UNESCO World Heritage site. A magnificent red steel structure that still takes the title of the world’s longest cantilever bridge even though it opened in 1890.

We’ll let the numbers do the talking here: it’s 2467m long and the highest point is a whopping 137m above the foundations. Created using 53,000 tonnes of steel, 6.5 million rivets and 240,000 litres of paint, it is now used as a crossing by 200 trains every day and 3 million passengers a year. Amazing! The three Forth Bridges shown crossing the Forth on a bright day with blue sky

G - Glen Coe

This awesome valley is a haven for hillwalking and mountaineering. It’s also another Scottish location that’s oozing with history, especially when it comes to two clans -the Campbells and MacDonalds. The massacre of Glen Coe is infamous for the way it happened, when the Campbells killed 38 of the MacDonalds after staying peacefully with them as their guests, beforehand.

When you visit you’ll be able to see the monument that was constructed in honour of the MacDonalds, in the village of Glencoe.

Close up of a brown Highland Cow

H - Highland Cow

The Highland Cow, or ‘Hairy Coos’ as they’re affectionately known, is one of our favourite Scottish inhabitants. Natives to Scotland, the Hairy Coo is distinctive in appearance with it’s hairy coat and big horns.

They can be found in lots of different colours, from dun to red, black and even silver.

Hairy Coos are also a very old breed, appearing during the Neolithic Era. In fact, they’re the oldest cattle breed (registered) in the world.

I - Inverness

Known as the “Capital of the Highlands”, Inverness boasts a Victorian Market, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Inverness Castle and of course, the River Ness.

Due to the location of this city, Inverness can also act as a gateway to lots of other iconic sites including the Culloden Battlefield - where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite Uprising came to a bloody end - and the seaside town of Nairn, a favourite holiday spot of Charlie Chaplin.

Of course, we couldn’t talk about Inverness without mentioning Loch Ness and the world renowned Loch Ness monster…more on this coming later!

J - John O’Groats

The most northerly village in the United Kingdom is termed the ‘end of the road’.There’s spectacular scenery, wonderous wildlife and a charming coastal village to explore. You’ll also get the chance to take a photograph with that famous sign postand experience the Ness and Stacks of Duncansby too. If you’re lucky, you’ll also be able spot Orkney. A visit to John O’Groats is highly recommended on your tour of Scotland.

K - Kilchurn Castle

Picturesque ruins of Kilchurn Castle with mountains and sky in background, shown reflected in still water

Overlooking Loch Awe, Kilchurn Castle in Argyll and Bute is now a ruin, but offers a majestic sight. At one point it was the home of the Campbells of Glenorchy. Built by Sir Colin Campbell in the 1400s, this impressive castle at one point featured 5 stories, a courtyard, a tower and even a prison.

It held strong during the Jacobite Rebellions although some lightning ended up taking off the top of the tower – which you can see sitting in the courtyard to this day.

L - Loch Ness

This mysterious loch contains the greatest freshwater volume in the UK, is kept company by Urquhart Castle and is a hotspot for cruises too. However we know that you’ll probably know it best for the Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie, a creature rumoured to call Loch Ness home since the 6th Century.

First spotted by Saint Columba, numerous other sightings have been reported over the years, and some photos taken too. A financial reward was even offered for catching Nessie, whilst some other individuals tried to lure the monster out with a ‘lady monster’ complete with fake eyelashes and make up!

Needless to say, the mystery of the Loch Ness monster remains and is likely to do so for years to come.People walking along path to Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness

M - Munros

Scotland is famed for our mountainous landscapes. The tallest mountains are known as Munro’s after Sir Hugh Munro who listed all of Scotland’s peaks over 3,000 feet (914 m) in 1891 . In Scotland you can find Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, as well as 17 of Britain’s tallest peaks. There’s 282 Munros (3000ft high) up for grabs, and for those of you wanting something slightly less taxing there’s Corbetts(2500-3000ft) and Grahams (2000-2500ft) too.

N - National Parks

There are two National Parks located in Scotland – the Cairngorms National Park, the biggest in the UK, and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. These parks are a great way to get close to nature and experience amazing Scottish scenery and wildlife.

O - Orkney Islands

Made up of 70 different islands, Orkney is a combination of ancient history (prehistoric villages, the Vikings and stone structures), wildlife (dolphins and orcas), beautiful scenery (cliffs and coastal lines) and natural phenomena (the Northern Lights).

P - Parliament

The Scottish Parliament can be found at the foot of Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile, just across from the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Designed by the Spanish architect, Enric Miralles, it was opened by HM The Queen in October, 2004. It’s where you’ll find Members of the Scottish Parliament debating, where statements and policies are created and where the First Minister and cabinet ministers and secretaries are questioned. You also have the option to visit and even watch live goings on in the chamber too.

Trees, the clear water of Loch Tummel and blue sky with white clouds at Queen's View

Q - Queen’s View

One of Scotland’s most famous viewpoints Queen’s View is located in the heart of Highland Perthshire.

Here you’ll be greeted with amazing views of Loch Tummel and the Schiehallion mountain, possibly along with some confusion.

Why? The origins of Queen’s View has still not been 100% confirmed. Although thought to be named after Queen Victoria following a visit to the area in 1866, others believe the name originates from an earlier visit by Queen Isabella of Scotland, the wife of the mighty Robert the Bruce.

R - Rob Roy

He’s been written about by Sir Walter Scott, but he is in actual fact a real historical figure that led a very colourful life. Also known as the Robin Hood of Scotland, Rob Roy MacGregor was a man of many guises.

He supported the Jacobite Rebellion calling for the return of King of the House of Stuart, became outlawed and then pardoned and married Mary, also a MacGregor.

You can visit lots of attractions across Scotland that have links with Rob Roy, like Sir Walter Scott’s home, Abbotsford, where you can see his gun. Take a cruise on Loch Katrine to see Factor’s Island, where Rob Roy imprisoned the Duke of Montrose’s factor then visithis grave in the little village of Balquhidder.

S - Skye

Man standing on small rock looking at the crags of the Old man of Storr on the Isle of Skye

Visitors to Skye, the largest of the inner Hebridean islands, will be greeted with jaw dropping views, wildlife including eagles, dolphins and red deer and even dinosaurs. Well, dinosaur fossils at the very least!

The castles of Clans MacDonald and MacLeod are also based in Skye, along with 12 Munros and the Trotternish Ridge - a hillwalkers paradise.

And of course, you can’t forget about the links of the Jacobite Rebellion and Bonnie Prince Charlie with Skye…it’s iconic Scotland at its very best.

T - Torridon

A small village in the Northern Highlands that’s in the company of stunning scenery and amazing natural life. See some of Mother Nature’s finest work with mountains made of Torridonian sandstone (that’s over 750 million years old), Lewisian Gneiss (over 2600 million years old), plant life, lochs and wildlife.

U - Unicorn

Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn because, according to Celtic folklore, it represented purity and innocence together with supremacy and power.

This mythical creature appeared on the Scottish Royal Coat of Arms in the 12th Century. In 1603 King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England and Ireland. To demonstrate that the countries were united he replaced one of the unicorns with a lion, the national animal of England.

As the unicorn is the strongest of all animals, it appeared on the crest in a chain to symbolise the power of the King.

V - Vikings

The Vikings left their legacy in Scotland after arriving to raid the land. The role of the Vikings in Scotland isn’t well understood due to a lack of records, but we know that their involvement was sometime between the 8th and 15th century.

Some well-knownScottish place names actually originated from the Vikings including Orkney, the Shetlands and Caithness. In fact, the Vikings may even have been involved in the establishment of Alba, now better known as Scotland.

W - Whisky

Close up of whisky glass with selection of Islay whisky bottles in background

Whisky is Scotland’s national drink and one of our largest exports.

Scotch whisky can only carry this title if it’s been aged in Scotland for a minimum of 3 years and bottled here too.

Home to over 100 distilleries, Scotland is dedicated to this golden drink, even devoting an entire month to whisky!

May is officially whisky month and plays hosts to lots of themed events and festivals. You’ll never find a better time to sample some of the malt and grain whiskies on offer, and see why it’s so popular here in Scotland and in another 175 countries too.

Y - The Young Pretender

Prince Charles Edward Stuart was affectionately nicknamed Bonnie Prince Charlie. He is famed for being the leader of the second Jacobite rebellion in 1745. After his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 he fled and managed to evade capturefamously using a disguise to sail “Over the sea to Skye” with the help of Flora MacDonald. Eventually he returned to France and despite only being in Scotland for a year, he is now irrevocably tied up with our history and is thought of as a Scottish hero.

Z - Edinburgh Zoo

Close up head and shoulder shot of a tiger

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland plays host to over 800,000 visitors every year.

Edinburgh Zoo has been open since 1913 and plays an important role in the conservation of lots of animals.

With over 1000 rare/endangered animals and giant pandas, penguins, monkeys and tigers, this attraction is situated just outside the city centre and is a truly great day out for the whole family.

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Tour Scotland with Scottish Tours. Discover the highlights of Scotland on a tour to Loch Ness, The Scottish Highlands, Skye and Loch Lomond.