Celebrated for its deep, fascinating history, striking mountains, stately castles, and misty lochs — not to mention its mythological monsters — Scotland is arguably the most ruggedly beautiful of all four United Kingdom nations. Like its southern neighbor, England, it has its fair share of major cities — Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow, to name a few — but there’s also a wealth of smaller gems scattered across the glens and valleys of its incredible landscape — if you know where to look.
Whether you’re seeking the finest dram of whisky (it’s been distilled here since the 15th century and always spelled without an “e” to set it apart from the American stuff) or simply want a break from the grind in some spectacularly romantic surrounds, these are the small towns in Scotland you should add to your next U.K. itinerary. (Kilt and sporran optional).
Kilchurn Castle, Dalmally
With hundreds of examples from which to choose, there’s certainly no shortage of great locations to capture a memorable castle photograph.
Shown here is Kilchurn Castle, perched on the shores of beautiful Loch Awe in Dalmally.
Famous as one of the most picturesque valleys in all of Scotland, Glencoe — also known as Glen Coe — is home to some of the most quintessential of Highland scenery.
Here, you’ll find everything from quaint thatched cottages to rushing waterfalls, mountain peaks, and native wildlife, just waiting to be photographed.
Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie
Thanks to its location at the point where three sea lochs meet, there are no shortage of vantage points from which to grab a fine photo of Eilean Donan Castle.
As you can see from this image, the use of drone photography creates an even more dramatic view.
Calton Hill, Edinburgh
Situated at the opposite end of Princes Street from Edinburgh Castle, Calton Hill offers some of the most pleasing views over the city.
It’s a delightful area to explore on foot, camera in hand, as you explore its many monuments.
Nothing says, “I’ve been to Scotland!” quite like a photo of a Highland cow. While these fascinating creatures can be seen roaming across glens throughout the country, locations such as the Trossachs near Stirling are relatively easy to get to from Edinburgh and Glasgow.
With the addition of a mountainous backdrop, these photos will make a great keepsake of your Scottish vacation.
Neist Point, Isle of Skye
Another great island destination to explore and photograph is the Isle of Skye.
Accessible via a bridge from the mainland, be sure to include a visit to Neist Point for a dramatic photo, like this one of the old lighthouse, one of 12 still operating on the island.
Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness
The stunning views over Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness, as seen in this photo, are considered some of the most romantic in all of Scotland.
And hey, you might even see the loch’s famous monster.
Not only is Loch Lomond one of Scotland’s most picturesque lakes, it’s also one of the easiest to get to thanks to its proximity to Glasgow.
In addition to a camera, take your hiking boots, as Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park features numerous great trails. You’ll find plenty of interesting things to do around Loch Lomond.