Look up anywhere in Edinburgh's old town and you'll see Edinburgh Castle, seeming to grow out of the blackened cold volcano that forms its plinth. There's evidence of human habitation on this spot that dates back to 900 BC, and the Castle has been a royal stronghold since the Middle Ages.
Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is Scotland's largest island, and justly famous on the tourist circuit. However, most visitors stick to the beaten track, and if you've a longing for solitude it won't take you long to find your own corner of this little paradise.
Linlithgow Palace is the classic romantic ruin, steeped in royal history and set beside a picturesque loch. It was begun in 1424 on the site of another palace that burnt down. Its halcyon period was during the reign of the Stuarts, who used it as a pleasure palace; it was particularly popular amongst the queens. Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I lived there as babies.
Princes StreetGracious Princes Street, with its epic length, gardens, stellar shopping, and knockout views, is the central vein of Edinburgh and one of Europe's great thoroughfares. It’s also at the center of the city’s world-famous Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) celebrations, which revolve around a massive street party. If you’re newly arrived in Edinburgh, a stroll along it is one of the finest ways to orient yourself.
Why Princes Street? Because it’s named after two of them – the sons of King George III. The street was hewn out as part of the building of the New Town in the 18th century. The Nor Loch, once a defence for the Castle was drained to make the gardens.
Yes, it's Scotland's deepest loch. And yes, it has its own brooding Highland charm. But without the fable-or-fiction mystique of the Loch Ness monster, this would be just another picturesque stop on the Scottish nature trail. As it is, Nessie continues to pack them in.
The legend of the Loch Ness Monster in the Scottish Highlands is often regarded as a myth, despite anecdotal sightings and reports of a giant sea-serpent or dragon inhabiting the waters of the Loch. The first photograph of the Loch Ness Monster was published in 1933, while a sonar reading in 1954 seemed to confirm the presence of some kind of underwater creature.
Who doesn't burst into song when they hear the words 'Loch Lomond'! A must-do day trip destination from Glasgow, this beautiful lake is perhaps only beaten in fame by Loch Ness.
Take a drive around the leafy western shore, and notice how the northern stretches of Loch Lomond morph from lowland to more stark highland landscapes, overlooked by the lofty 974 m (3,195 ft) heights of Ben Lomond.
Along with Calton Hill and Castle Rock, Arthur's Seat forms part of the ridge of cold volcanoes that give such drama to the Edinburgh skyline. The mountain sits in Holyrood Park, 650 acres (260 hectares) of wild parkland just a short walk from the Royal Mile.
So you can be shopping for Argyle socks one moment and roaming around lochs and moorland the next! From some angles, the mini-mountain resembles a sleeping lion. It’s perhaps seen at its best in the mellow light of sunset.
In a country of castles, Stirling Castle may just be the ultimate royal stronghold. In fact, it was once rumored to be the home of King Arthur and his knights. Like Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle dominates the surroundings, looming over it from a plug of volcanic rock. This impressive pile has seen it all, from a sacking by Robert the Bruce to the coronation of the infant Mary Queen of Scots to the premiere of the movie Braveheart in 1993.
The Palace of Holyrood House, most often called Holyrood Palace, faces Edinburgh Castle along the length of the Royal Mile. Like its majestic companion, it's riddled with some of Scotland's most potent history.
The Abbey in the grounds was founded in 1128, and the palace itself is baroque.
These days Holyrood Palace is the Scottish residence of Queen Elizabeth II, but it's probably best known for its association with another royal figure, Mary Queen of Scots