- The Borders Abbeys: The evocative ruins of four great ruined abbeys—Kelso, Dryburgh, Jedburgh, and Melrose—are rich reminders of the monastic communities that once thrived along the border with England but were laid asunder over a few turbulent centuries by armies and religious reformers. Elaborate carvings, faded frescoes, and moss-covered stonework attest to the abbeys’ onetime wealth and power.
- Bridges across the Firth of Forth: Romans lined up 900 boats to get across this almost 2-mile-wide, fjord-like waterway between Edinburgh and the Fife region, and in more recent times Scottish engineering has come to the fore with three spectacular spans. The Forth Rail Bridge was a marvel of Victorian achievement when it opened in 1890, and the Forth Road Bridge was the longest suspension span in the world outside the U.S. upon completion in 1964. Queensferry Crossing, opened 2017, now has the distinction of being the longest triple-tower cable-stayed bridge in the world.
- The Scottish Parliament: Love it or hate it, you won’t leave Edinburgh without forming an opinion of the seat of the Scottish Parliament, opened in 2004 at the foot of the Royal Mile in front of the Salisbury Crags. The work of late Catalan architect Enric Miralles is said to reflect upturned boats, Scottish landscapes, even a famous 1790s oil painting, the Skating Minister. Inside the debating hall, 129 Scottish MPs exercise their newly acquired (as of 1998) powers to legislate.
- Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin: What from the outside looks like just another pleasant country church reveals a world of magic in the stone-carved nave, where farmers dance with skeletons, angels play the bagpipes, and green men peer out of foliage. Making the place all the more intriguing are the Holy Grail and a piece of the cross on which Christ was crucified, alleged to be hidden deep within a sealed vault. Little wonder the chapel was the setting for the final scene of the blockbuster book and film The Da Vinci Code.
- Skara Brae: Scotland has no shortage of quaint old homesteads, but none have the provenance of this cluster of eight houses that Neolithic farmers erected on the island of Mainland, Orkney, roughly 5,000 years ago—that’s long before the pyramids or Stonehenge were built. Hearths, built-in stone seats and cupboards, even primitive toilets show off what were then all the modern comforts.
- Old and New Towns, Edinburgh: With wynds (alleyways), closes, and a jumble of leaning tenements and proud merchants’ houses, the capital’s medieval heart tumbles down a ridge from Edinburgh Castle. Your wanderings down narrow lanes may lead you into another world altogether, the elegant and orderly streets and squares of adjacent, Georgian-era New Town.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.