Despite its small size, Scotland sure packs a punch - stunning landscape, fascinating history, thriving culture and fun attractions make it a great place to visit. Whether you fancy a day trip, weekend away or a longer holiday, let us show you some fun, unusual things to do in some of Scotland's biggest cities.
Dolphin Spotting - Aberdeen
Did you know Scotland’s coastline is home to the largest bottlenose dolphins in the world? The cold waters surrounding Scotland are the perfect habitat for the sleek marine mammal, with bottlenose, white-beaked and common dolphins all playing near the Scottish coastline.
One of the best ways to spot dolphins up close is to head out on a dolphin cruise with a tour provider from Aberdeen harbour.
If you’re worried about your sea legs, it’s also possible to spot dolphins from the sea shore. They are regularly sighted from the esplanade and there’s an area to the front of Footdee which will give you great views. If you don’t mind travelling a little further, visit Torry Battery, an old military fort that overlooks the harbour entrance. You will discover panoramic views of the harbour mouth and get the opportunity to sight lots of dolphins.
If you’re lucky, dolphins won’t be the only marine mammals you see - keep an eye out for seals and even the odd whale! The great thing about dolphins in Aberdeen is that they’re about all year round, so whatever month you visit, you have a good chance of seeing them.
Getting there: From Aberdeen Central Station, the harbour is a short walk away and you can continue along until you reach Footdee, which will take around 20 minutes.
Taste a wee few drams - Edinburgh
Whether you love the fiery warmth in your belly or you’re tasting for the first time, there’s no way you can visit Scotland and not sample some whisky! As Scotland’s national drink and biggest export, whisky distilling has been perfected over generations and tastings are one of the most popular things to do in Scotland. What better place to sample a dram or two than in the Scottish capital?
Many tour operators in the city centre run ‘Whisky & Waterfall Tours’, which allow you to explore the ancient capital, enjoy highland landscapes and, of course, get the opportunity to sample a drop of the nation’s favourite drink.
If you don’t fancy a full-day tour but would still like to sample the good stuff, we recommend heading to The Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile. You’ll learn all about the story of whisky and enjoy multiple drams. Choose the food and whisky matching experience to taste four delicious canapés paired with the perfect whisky.
For something a little different, get yourselves to Rhythm ‘n Booze Whisky Club for a seriously fun tasting session. You’ll get five drams, sensory experiments (including one involving a blindfold) and live music from a local Blues band!
Jump Aboard the Waverly Paddle Steamer - Glasgow
Scotland is famed for its stunning scenery, so what better way to enjoy its mountain backdrop than by boat? And not just any boat - the Waverly is the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world! Magnificently restored with towering funnels, timber decks and shiny varnish and brass - enjoy beautiful views and admire the mighty steam engines as they propel the paddles that take Waverly through the Scottish waters.
The Waverly was built on the River Clyde in 1947 to replace the original ship which was sunk at Dunkirk in 1940, and she’s been going strong ever since! Steam "Doon the Watter" and enjoy the surrounding landscape as you visit the seaside at Dunoon or Rothesay, explore Islands Arran, Bute & Cumbrae or relax on deck as you cruise amidst dramatic loch and mountain scenery.
The Waverly visits many different destinations so whether you’re interested in ancient castles, spectacular whirlpools or Scottish islands, you’ll find a trip that suits you.
Cruises are available during the day or evening, and there are special interest cruises for bird watching or spotting sea life. You can also get connections to cycling or walking routes to help you plan a whole day of fun.
Getting there: The Waverly departs from the Science Centre, which is a 30-minute walk or 20- minute bus ride from Glasgow Central Station.
Visit the only V&A Museum outside of London - Dundee
The V&A art and design museum in Dundee will open on September 15 – and it will be making history! It will be the only other V&A Museum anywhere in the world outside London and Scotland’s first ever dedicated design museum.
V&A Dundee will explore the past, present and future of Scotland's design heritage. Offering a vibrant daily programme of design-led events, activities and initiatives, it’s sure to delight and engage audiences of all ages.
The new museum will feature permanent galleries of Scottish design, as well as an international programme of changing exhibitions showcasing the very best of design from around the world.
Designed by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who refers to it as a ‘living room for the city’, V&A Dundee stands at the centre of the £1 billion transformation of the Dundee waterfront. Inspired by the dramatic cliffs along the east coast of Scotland, the funky looking building stretches out into the River Tay.
A major new cultural development for Scotland and the UK, V&A Dundee promises to provide a place of inspiration, discovery and learning through its mission to enrich lives through design. Be one of the first to explore the museum and plan your visit now.
Getting there: V&A Dundee is just a 3-minute walk from Dundee Station.
Whichever city you decide to explore, you’ll find there’s loads of cool things to do in Scotland, so get planning your visit! Make sure you take advantage of great savings with CrossCountry Advance train tickets.
Photo credit: Ross Fraser McLean.