We all know that Scotland is one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries on the planet. If you need convincing, just look at these stunning images Instagram users have uploaded below, revealing the diversity and richness of Scotland’s nature, culture and history.
Asides from being remarkable places, all 13 of the sites below have one very important thing in common. Can you guess what it is? Here’s a hint: all have captured the attention of the world’s most prestigious cultural, scientific and educational organisation in the world. That’s right, UNESCO.
To date, UNESCO has deemed a total of 13 locations in Scotland – officially recognised as designations – worthy of protected UNESCO status. Impressive stuff.
What’s more, Scotland is now the first country in the world to boast it’s own UNESCO Trail which brings together all 13 of its wonderous sites in an accessible digital format.
In short, it’s never been easier for visitors navigate between the natural, cultural and technological marvels, scattered the length and breadth of the Scottish mainland and islands, which make the country such a special place to explore.
Discover where Scotland’s UNESCO Trail can take you.
THE MUSEUM OF EDINBURGH
Step inside this vivid yellow 16th-century house in the Canongate of the capital’s Royal Mile and delve into the weird and wonderful history of Edinburgh. Fascinating objects on display include the collar and bowl that once belonged to famous terrier Greyfriars Bobby. The Renaissance building of the museum is as much a draw as any of the artefacts. It’s just one of the amazingly well-preserved architectural features which make up the historic heart of Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town. A jumble of narrow closes and wynds, stacked tenements and sharp spires, the Old Town stands in stark contrast to its spacious and symmetrical sister, the 18th century New Town. Together they form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Explore the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh.
STANDING STONES OF STENNESS
These mysterious monuments have stood on Orkney for at least 5000 years. Just why they were erected remains unknown but it may be they served a religious or astronomical purpose. What is for certain is that they are possibly the oldest of their kind on the British Isles. The stones are just one of four sites which form the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They date from a time when one of Scotland’s earliest civilisations was starting to take shape. These include the equally iconic Ring of Brodgar, the chambered Cairn of Maeshow, and a collection of eight homes which form the community of Skara Brae.
Explore the Heart of Neolithic Orkney.
Spectacular outdoor art is a feature of many Scottish landscapes and the UNESCO Trail is no exception. Meet Silvanus at the Nethercroy site of the Antonine Wall, a colossal head of a Roman centurion named after the Roman god of the woods. He’s dramatic reminder of a time when the land was cut through by this formidable barrier patrolled by 7000 soldiers. Constructed by Emperor Pius in 142 AD it marked the most northerly frontier of the Roman Empire. Today several remnants of the wall survive which can be visited.
The landscape of Shetland is among the most dramatic on earth. Just look at the coast of Eshaness with the uninhabited island of Dore Holm with its natural arch in the distance. Shaped over a millennia by shifting sea, sand and powerful winds, the archipelago’s unique geology lends the island vast swathes of natural drama. It also supports an incredibly rich biodiversity, including an array of rare flora and fauna, as well a unique way of life honed by generations of islanders. Recognised as a UNESCO Global Geopark, Shetland’s wild and captivating beauty is simply unlike anywhere else in the world.
Explore Shetland Global Geopark.
The Forth Bridge is one of Scotland’s most iconic monuments. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Recognised for its engineering and technological ingenuity – it was the first structure of its kind in the world to be constructed from mild steel, the Forth Bridge has stood the test of time. Today it sees over 200 trains cross it from the Lothians to Fife in either direction without having to drop their speed below 80 km an hour!
Explore the Forth Bridge.
Literature has been the beating heart of Edinburgh’s cultural life for centuries. In fact, Edinburgh is the only city in the world to erect a huge monument to an author. Measuring at 60 meters the Scott Monument is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, the author of the Waverley novels and Rob Roy. It’s just one striking example of how much writers are revered here. It’s a special part of the city’s character which has seen UNESCO honour it as a UNESCO City of Literature.
Explore Edinburgh, City of Literature
This small, remote archipelago of five volcanic islands is one of UNESCO’s most fascinating World Heritage Sites. Its landscapes are legendary and the story of the self-sustaining community which lived off the land right up until 1930s is a captivating one. You can still glimpse the ghostly remains of the last inhabited village on its largest island Hirta by the bay. The highest sea cliffs in the UK are also found here, along with the other immense jagged sea stacks, which host one of the world’s largest colonies of gannets. Visits to Kilda are restricted but plans are underway for a visitor centre.
Learn more about St Kilda.
New Lanark changed the world. In fact, many of the progressive social values which shaped society and the working world today were birthed here by its founder Robert Adam. This industrial village was built around the welfare of its mill workers rather than its profit margins, and remains very much frozen in time. You can take in the full scale and careful construction of Adam’s vision from the Roof Garden. It’s the largest of its kind in Scotland measuring 9,000 square feet. The view of the surrounding countryside isn’t bad either.
Explore New Lanark.
Creativity and innovation have long been the heart and soul of Dundee, a UNESCO Creative City. Once world-renowned for ship building and textiles, Dundee has slowly transitioned into a design hub where major strides are being made in everything from medical technology to the gaming world. The architecture of V&A Dundee honours both the city’s industrious past, invoking images of the ships which were built on the waterfront, as well as it’s forward-thinking spirit. Step inside Scotland’s first design museum and discover how design has shaped the world we live in today.
Explore Dundee, City of Design.
GALLOWAY FOREST PARK
Spanning 300 square miles, Galloway Forest Park is a among the largest forests in the UK, where visitors enjoy activities ranging from bird watching to rock climbing. It’s also a Dark Sky Park thanks to it’s crystal-clear night skies. What many don’t realise is that it comprises just part of a much larger natural wonderland protected by UNESCO, the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve. It’s a vast area covering swathes of south Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes, rich in geological wonders and teeming with wildlife. It also boasts its own unique culture and heritage marked by a vibrant creative scene and a respect for the environment.
BEALACH NA BA ROAD
The twists and turns of the Bealach na Ba road are just about as thrilling as the scenery of Applecross Peninsula in the Highlands. It’s part of the Wester Ross Biosphere, a vast area home to some of the most spectacular and unpopulated landscapes in the UK. It encompasses mountains, beaches, fairy glens, romantic castles, and Scotland’s most famous driving route, the North Coast 500.
Explore Wester Ross Biosphere.
This futuristic-looking structure is the musical crown jewel of Glasgow, a city so renowned for its live music scene and legendary venues that it boasts the title of UNESCO City of Music. The OVO Hydro is the only UK venue of this scale built for live entertainment. Echoing the Greek and Roman amphitheatres of the Classical age, its stunning exterior of translucent inflated cushions are created from a high-tech film designed for the space industry. At night they turn luminescent with the glow of coloured light emitted from within as the evening’s gig gets underway.
Explore Glasgow, City of Music.
Gazing out across the rugged landscape of Sutherland is to bear witness to Scotland’s prehistoric past. Forming part of the North West Highlands Geopark, discover a landscape of outstanding beauty with a geological lineage which stretches back 3 billion years. Here you’ll find some of the most precious geological artefacts in the world. Surprisingly accessible, the geopark is located just five hours by car from Edinburgh and Glasgow and encompasses 100 miles of the popular North Coast 500 route.
Explore the North West Highlands Geopark.