The regions of Scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland’s hilly capital city, is a treasure trove of history, culture, and unique experiences. Nestled between seven hills and boasting a skyline dotted with Gothic spires and towering monuments, it’s a city that effortlessly blends ancient and modern.
Begin your journey in the Old Town where you’ll find the Royal Mile, a historic road leading from Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle, and then stop by St Giles’ Cathedral to immerse yourself in its beautiful architecture and thousand-year history.
Just a stone’s throw away is the New Town with its elegant Georgian buildings on Princes Street which is perfect for a shopping spree or to enjoy a tranquil moment in nearby Princes Street Gardens.
Edinburgh’s not just about history, though. It’s a vibrant cultural hub, home to world-renowned festivals like the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival.
Fancy a laugh? The city’s comedy scene is second to none, with venues like The Stand offering rib-tickling performances from many of the country’s rising comedy stars.
For nature lovers, there’s Arthur’s Seat, an ancient (and thankfully extinct) volcano located in Holyrood Park. A climb to the top rewards with breathtaking views of the city where you’ll see another hill with superb views in the near distance – Calton Hill.
And of course, no trip to Edinburgh would be complete without sampling a dram of Scotch at the Scotch Whisky Experience.
As you savour the complex notes of Scotland’s national spirit you’ll realize that Edinburgh isn’t just a city; it’s an experience that stays with you long after you’ve left its cobbled streets.
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Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, is alive with vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and a warm, friendly charm that’s as unique as they come.
Nestled on the River Clyde, Glasgow is a city that teems with tourist attractions and is home to a rich tapestry of history, art, and entertainment.
Did you know that Glasgow is a UNESCO City of Music and hosts over 130 music events a week? If you’re a music lover you’re in for a treat at venues like The Barrowland Ballroom and King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut which are must-visits, having seen the likes of Oasis and Ed Sheeran before they hit the big time.
And let’s not forget the city’s world-class museums and galleries. You absolutely cannot visit Glasgow without stepping into the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum as it houses one of Europe’s greatest art collections and is completely free to enter.
For a breath of fresh air, the city’s ‘dear green places’ are a perfect destination. Glasgow has one of the highest numbers of green spaces per square mile in Britain, the jewel of which is the Botanic Gardens, closely followed by Pollok Country Park.
So, there you have it. A city buzzing with life, steeped in history and brimming with culture. Glasgow truly is a city that leaves you with a longing to return.
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The Scottish Highlands is an enthralling expanse of rugged beauty that seems to have leapt straight out of a fantasy novel.
This majestic region covers the northern two-thirds of Scotland and is a tapestry of towering mountains, sparkling lochs, and haunting glens that stretch as far as the eye can see.
If you find yourself in this beautiful region you’ll soon realise you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to outdoor activities.
You could hike the mighty Ben Nevis, the tallest peak in the UK, or explore the eerie beauty of Glencoe, a place steeped in history and folklore that’s set within one of the least-inhabited areas in Europe.
Loch Ness, with its murky depths and legendary monster, is another must-visit. This loch’s peat-stained waters invite you to take a boat trip to see Urquhart Castle – one of the most important fortresses in Scotland – in between trying to catch a glimpse of Nessie.
And if whisky’s your thing, then a distillery tour is a must. The Highlands are home to some of Scotland’s most revered distilleries such as Macallan and Glenmorangie where you can learn about the art of whisky making and, of course, sample a dram or two.
The Highlands are also packed with vibrant culture. You can immerse yourself in history at the Culloden Battlefield or wander around the fairy-tale Eilean Donan Castle. If you happen to swing by in summer, don’t miss out on the Highland Games, a spectacle of traditional Scottish sports.
The allure of the Highlands lies in its untouched wilderness, the echoes of its history, and the warmth of its people, and it’s a place that invites you to take the road less travelled to seek out your own adventure.
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Outer Hebrides and Inner Hebrides
Ah, the Hebrides, those emerald jewels sprinkled across Scotland’s west coast. These islands are split into two main groups: the Inner Hebrides, closer to the mainland, and the Outer Hebrides, a bit more remote, but no less enchanting.
You’ll find yourself awestruck by the craggy peaks surrounding the Old Man of Storr and you’ll find yourself falling in love with pretty villages like Portree.
Other Inner Hebridean islands like Mull enchant with wonders like the mighty Ben More mountain and the splendid Duart Castle, while the Isle of Islay, highly regarded for its peat-infused whisky, is home to eight distilleries that soak up the essence of the island’s salt-sprayed coastline from Loch Indaal to The Oa.
Next, let’s hop on a ferry to explore the Outer Hebrides. The landscapes here are even wilder and the beaches are even whiter, especially on the Isle of Harris which is famous for the extraordinary turquoise waters of Luskentyre Beach which overlooks the wilderness of Taransay Island.
Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, is a delightful harbour town that’s home to Lews Castle, and you can also wander through ancient history at the Callanish Standing Stones – Scotland’s answer to Stonehenge.
There are also the islands of North Uist and South Uist, Benbecula, Barra, and remote islands like Vatersay and Eriskay to explore, so it’s fair to say that the Hebrides offers one of the most diverse experiences for tourists in Scotland.
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Central Scotland, Tayside and Fife
Central Scotland, Tayside, and Fife are three regions in the heart of Scotland that all have their own unique allure.
This part of the world is steeped in history and stunning landscapes yet it’s one of Scotland’s least-visited areas, making it an ideal destination for anyone looking to explore the country away from any crowds.
Central Scotland is a tapestry of lush green valleys and ancient castles and is home to superb attractions like the Wallace Monument and The Kelpies, as well as the historic city of Stirling with its beautiful castle and delightful city centre.
As for Tayside, it’s an often-missed place of natural beauty. Nestled on the edges of the Highlands and the Lowlands, it offers a mosaic of rolling hills and meandering rivers.
Dundee, known as the ‘City of Discovery’, is Tayside’s gem, featuring attractions like the V&A Dundee, a world-class museum showcasing Scotland’s contribution to design, and the McManus, one of the best small museums in the country.
Venture further into the Kingdom of Fife and you’ll be greeted by the charming fishing villages of the East Neuk as well as the town of St. Andrews which golf lovers will recognise as the birthplace of the sport.
Whether it’s the rugged beauty of Central Scotland, the tranquil charm of Tayside, or the historic allure of Fife, there’s something for everyone in each of these regions.
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Revel in the spirit of Scotland by exploring Strathclyde, a magical region that offers a perfect blend of history and breathtaking landscapes.
Situated in the southwest of Scotland, Strathclyde is famous for having one of Britain’s most diverse landscapes which includes a vast national park that sits alongside one of Britain’s largest cities.
Kick off your journey in Glasgow, Strathclyde’s beating heart. Glasgow is a city that’s brimming with character and families can lose themselves in the enormous green spaces of Kelvingrove Park before immersing themselves in the wonders of science at the interactive Glasgow Science Centre.
But Strathclyde isn’t just about city life. Step out into the wild and behold the natural splendour of Loch Lomond, the largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain, take a leisurely boat trip on Loch Katrine, or if you’re feeling adventurous, lace up your boots and walk the West Highland Way.
Argyll and Bute, meanwhile, brims with ancient castles like the iconic Inveraray and it’s well known for its charming coastal towns like Oban which offer the freshest seafood you’re likely to find anywhere in Scotland.
The region is also steeped in history, with the ancient ruins of Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran and the grandeur of Balloch Castle Country Park serving as reminders of Strathclyde’s storied past.
In Strathclyde, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, an outdoor enthusiast, or a city slicker, this region has something to offer all interests and ages.
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The Lothians, situated in the region surrounding Edinburgh, offer tourists the perfect cocktail of natural beauty and vibrant city life.
Imagine rolling hills, picturesque coastlines, and ancient castles all within a short drive of each other and you’ll have a good idea of what East Lothian, West Lothian, and Midlothian can offer you.
East Lothian, widely regarded as the sunniest region in Scotland, is a haven for beach lovers. The golden sands of Gullane and Yellowcraig are a perfect backdrop for sandcastles and romantic strolls while Tantallon Castle, standing majestically on a cliff a few miles south of North Berwick, whispers tales of bloody battles and medieval sieges.
Next, swing by Midlothian to discover a wonderland of rolling hills and hidden-away lochs, with the Pentland Hills Regional Park offering numerous hiking and cycling routes a short distance from the must-visit Rosslyn Chapel, a 15th-century architectural masterpiece that is featured in The Da Vinci Code.
Now, on to West Lothian, another region near Edinburgh that’s filled with a magical mix of history and industry. The ancient Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, is located close to the cutting-edge engineering marvel of The Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift.
And for a wild day out, the Five Sisters Zoo is a must-visit family attraction with over 180 species of animals, a soft play area, wildlife talks and keeper experiences.
But what’s a trip to Scotland without a wee dram of whisky? Glenkinchie, arguably the finest distillery in the Lowlands, provides the perfect opportunity to sample Scotland’s famed ‘water of life.’
The Lothians are an enchanting blend of the old and the new, the urban and the rural. Whether you’re a family looking for somewhere to keep the kids happy or just someone looking for an unforgettable adventure, these regions are a must-visit.
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Grampian, located in the northeast of Scotland, is a place where rugged coastlines hug mountainous terrains, offering a diverse landscape that’s a genuine delight to explore.
Named after the majestic Grampian Mountains that dominate its western skyline, this region is a paradise for nature lovers, castle enthusiasts, and outdoor adventurers alike.
Imagine waking up to the sight of the sunrise reflecting off the impregnable walls of Dunnottar Castle – one of the most dramatic fortresses in the country – before exploring quaint fishing villages like Stonehaven which offer a charming backdrop to enjoy delicious freshly-caught seafood dishes.
There are also iconic historic buildings like Balmoral Castle – the summer residence of the Royal Family – and Fyvie Castle, a 13th-century marvel furnished with lavish Edwardian decorations.
And let’s not forget about Aberdeen. Known as the ‘Granite City’, Aberdeen is famous for its busy harbour as well as its university (one of the oldest in the world), and Footdee which is one of the best-preserved traditional fishing villages in Britain.
If culture is what you crave, the Aberdeen Art Gallery, with its impressive collection of local and international art, is a must-visit. The granite city also hosts the famous Aberdeen International Youth Festival which is a vibrant celebration of music and arts that’s guaranteed to leave a smile on your face
The region is also home to Speyside, one of the oldest and most prestigious whisky-distilling areas in the world with an incredible 50 distilleries all producing subtle variations of Scotland’s most popular export.
In a nutshell, Grampian is a delightful medley of scenery, history, and culture. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or a culture vulture, this region has something to offer you.
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The Scottish Borders
Tucked away in the southeastern corner of Scotland, the Scottish Borders has long been a favourite with travellers looking for a different experience to that offered by the capital city of Edinburgh which lies a short drive away to the north.
This region is a wonderful mix of verdant forests, charming market towns, rolling fields, and rich history that all work together to draw visitors back year after year.
The town of Melrose in Roxburghshire, home to Melrose Abbey, is a real highlight. The abbey is believed to be the final resting place of the heart of Robert the Bruce but it’s perhaps best known for its lavishly decorated masonry.
Jedburgh Abbey, meanwhile, is equally attractive though it’s sadly roofless and lies in ruin. The abbey is open to tourists courtesy of Historic Environment Scotland which allows free entry to this and many other historic sites for an annual membership fee.
The Scottish Borders is also a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The region boasts the Southern Upland Way, a long-distance footpath that stretches coast to coast, as well as the 7stanes mountain biking centres which promise exhilarating rides through forests and hills.
The pick of these forests has to be Glentress which has an excellent visitor centre, cafe, bike shop and many other visitor facilities.
And let’s not forget the undeniable charm of the Border towns and villages like Cove, Hawick, and Galashiels which are full of traditional shops, cosy pubs and cafes that are perfect for a leisurely day out.
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Dumfries & Galloway
Dumfries and Galloway lies in the southwest corner of Scotland and is well known for its fascinating history that goes all the way back to the time of the Celts.
The region is swathed in green landscapes that are dotted with delightful towns and just the occasional castle peeping through the trees, and it also has a glorious coastline with miles of sandy beaches that rival anywhere else in the UK, with the added bonus that there are very few crowds wherever you go in the region.
One of the most famous past residents of Dumfries and Galloway was Robert Burns, the national poet who spent the last years of his life in Dumfries.
You can follow his trail around the town, stopping by his house and Ellison Farm (his former home), before raising a glass to the ‘ploughman poet’ in one of the many traditional pubs in the town.
If you’re more of an outdoorsy type, Dumfries and Galloway won’t disappoint.
This region has some of the best forests in Scotland, the highlight of which is Galloway Forest Park which is a wild playground for hikers, bikers, and even star gazers as it’s one of the UK’s two Dark Sky Parks where you’re guaranteed to see the night sky free from the distractions of man-made light pollution.
And let’s not forget about the food! The region is highly regarded for its dairy farms and the locally-made cheeses and ice creams are a mouthwatering delight that have won awards up and down the country.
Dumfries and Galloway is like that favourite book on your shelf. It may not boast the fame of Edinburgh or the Highlands, but once you start looking you just won’t be able to stop.
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FAQs about the regions of Scotland
How many counties are there in Scotland?
There are 32 counties in Scotland. These are:
Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, Shetland Isles, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirlingshire, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian, Western Isles.
What are Scotland’s regions?
The regions of Scotland are:
Strathclyde (including Glasgow), Dumfries & Galloway, Scottish Borders, Lothian (including Edinburgh), Central Scotland, Fife, Tayside, Grampian, Highland, Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney.
What is the smallest county in Scotland?
Clackmannanshire is the smallest county in Scotland. It is also the smallest county in Britain. Clackmannanshire (often abbreviated to Clacks) has a total size of 61.4 square miles, or 159 square km. The population is around 51,000.
How many cities are there in Scotland?
There are 7 cities in Scotland. These are:
Inverness: Location – Highland. Size – 26.6 sq km. Population – 47,000.
Aberdeen: Location – Northeast. Size (including council area) – 185.7 sq km. Population – 198,000.
Dundee: Location – Southeast. Size – 51.8 sq km. Population – 150,000.
Stirling: Location – Central. Size – 16.7 sq km. Population – 38,000.
Glasgow: Location – Southwest. Size (including council area) – 175 sq km. Population – 632,000.
Edinburgh: Location – Southeast. Size – 119 sq km. Population – 507,000.
Perth: Location – Central. Size – 17.5 sq km. Population – 47,000.