The 15 Best National Trust for Scotland Places to Explore

Malleny Gardens

It’s lucky that the National Trust for Scotland looks after some of the most remarkable spots in Scotland more than 8 National Nature Reserves to experience, 300,000 precious objects to discover, 76,000 hectares of land to explore and over 100 historic houses, castles, ancient monuments, gardens, parks and nature reserves.

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Discover the top 15 National Trust places in Scotland that are simply a must-visit. From historic castles to stunning landscapes, these destinations offer an unforgettable experience for travelers seeking to delve into Scotland’s rich heritage and natural beauty.

Whether you’re captivated by majestic architecture or enchanted by breathtaking vistas, these carefully curated locations are sure to leave a lasting impression on your Scottish adventure. Don’t miss out on exploring these remarkable treasures!

Table of Contents

Malleny walled gardens
Malleny walled gardens

Here are some of my favourite National Trust for Scotland locations and sites across Scotland

1. Glencoe, Highlands

Scotland is a real hiker’s paradise, particularly Glencoe. This is partly thanks to the excellently signposted hiking trails, which are never far from idyllic inns that serve up regional specialities.

Then there’s the diversity of the landscapes, from spectacular peaks to rolling hills and mystical forests.

Glencoe is a remarkable destination, with the locals putting in hardwork to preserve its majestic views, vibrant culture and sustainable economic activities.

No description can re-create the impact of seeing Glencoe for the first time. It has long been one of the most loved places in Scotland.

What is Glencoe famous for? It’s known equally for its awe-inspiring views, it is a place of history, wildlife, adventure, myth and drama. 

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has cared for Glencoe since 1935. NTS is the largest member organisation in Scotland.

As a conservation charity, they are supported by more than 300,000 members and are funded largely by donations to protect the things that make Scotland special.

On February 13, 1692, 38 members of the MacDonald clan were murdered by a regiment of soldiers (acting on behalf of the government) after they had welcomed them into their homes.

The tragedy of the Glencoe Massacre still has the power to evoke powerful emotions.

The most recent project of NTS is a replica 17th-century turf house at the Glencoe Visitor Centre.

Here, you can experience Clan MacDonald’s way of life in this unique showcase of traditional building crafts along with a breathtaking mountain backdrop, just outside the visitor centre.

The project was part of the Trust’s five-year, £57 million programme to improve the visitor experience and the condition of the heritage in its care. It’s thanks to the generous supporters and donors from all over the world that NTS has been able to make it possible!

As a conservation charity, NTS rely on the generous support of visitors, members and donors to help to continue important work in protecting Scotland’s rich heritage.

Click here if you would like to take part and become a supporter

2. Inverewe Gardens, North West Highlands, NC500

Inverewe gardens were created by Osgood Mackenzie who purchased the estate of Kernsary with help from his mother in 1862. From then until his death in 1922 he transformed the land into spectacular gardens and woodlands.

His daughter Mairi continued till 1952 when she gifted the gardens to the National Trust for Scotland.

This awesome garden has a wide variety of plants, like rhododendrons, azaleas, trees, and shrubs thanks to the mild climate and sheltered position.

You can enjoy breathtaking views of Loch Ewe and even take a boat trip. There’s also a fun kids’ trail and plenty of wildlife to see.

And don’t forget about the stunning walled garden! It’s definitely worth checking out in any season, but May, June and July are the best.

Clachaig Inn historic pub in Glencoe Scotland
Clachaig Inn historic pub in Glencoe Scotland

3. Threave Garden Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

A grand Scottish Baronial house set in 26 hectares of world-famous gardens including 200 varieties of daffodils. It’s a Special Protection Area for breeding waders and wintering wildfowl.

Home to the Scottish Bat Reserve with two marked bat paths. Also, ospreys have been featured for several years, either by passing through or nesting. The gardens are superb.

There are glasshouses, a sculptural garden, a nature reserve, a walled garden and a secret garden

4. Dollar Glen, Stirlingshire

This glen walk in Scotland is absolutely incredible! It’s hands down one of the most awe-inspiring and breathtaking experiences you’ll ever have.

The beauty of nature surrounds you, with towering mountains, cascading waterfalls, and lush greenery at every turn. It truly is a hidden gem and an unforgettable journey through this stunning glen in Scotland!

Located just outside the village of Dollar is a beautiful wooded area that leads up to the Ochil Hills. You’ll find walking trails that take you through this peaceful glen, following two streams called the Burn of Sorrow and the Burn of Care.

These streams meet below Castle Campbell (Historic Scotland), which used to be owned by the Earls of Argyll. Together, they form what is known as Dollar Burn. The walk through the glen is moderate, although in some parts can be strenuous.

Dollar Glen
Dollar Glen is National Trust for Scotland location
Dollar Glen and the view of Campbell Castle
Dollar Glen and the view of Campbell Castle

5. The Hermitage, Dunkeld, Perthshire

This scenic route will take you through captivating Perthshire forests with magnificent waterfalls, such as the awe-inspiring Black Linn.

The path starts 1.1 miles from Dunkeld and has an attractive 1.5-mile woodland trail, which can be expanded further to an 8-mile journey along the enchanting Hermitage and Fiddler’s Path.

The riverside route then continues to visit the dramatic Rumbling Bridge before a return through more open countryside with attractive views.

Keep an eye on the red squirrels which are protected animals in Scotland, or salmon jumping in the River Tay.

The Hermitage, like the rest of the Big Tree Country woodlands and parks, also have the biggest trees, including spectacular and towering Douglas firs.

A must-visit is Ossian’s Hall; here the River Braan crashes down into deep pools and the hall offers stunning views of the waterfalls of Black Linn.

6. Falkland Palace, Perthshire

Falkland Palace, located in Fife, Scotland, served as a country retreat for the Stuart monarchs. It was used as a hunting lodge where the royal family enjoyed activities such as deer and wild boar hunting.

Mary, Queen of Scots particularly cherished her time at Falkland Palace and found joy in immersing herself in nature, enjoying the woods and parks surrounding the palace.

Falkland Palace, constructed between 1501 and 1541 under the reigns of James IV and James V, replaced earlier castle and palace structures that originated in the 12th century.

It houses the King’s and Queen’s rooms, which have been carefully restored by the Trust.

These rooms boast period features, reproduction 16th-century furnishings, painted ceilings adorned with intricate designs, and royal arms prominently displayed.

Situated within the premises is the oldest real tennis court in Britain, dating back to 1539.

It’s a historical gem that adds character to the surroundings. Additionally, the garden, meticulously designed and constructed by Percy Cane from 1947 to 1952, features an array of shrubs and trees, showcasing a delightful variety.

For those interested in herbs, there is even a small herb garden to explore and appreciate.

Falkland Palace a member of the National Trust for Scotland
Falkland Palace a member of the National Trust for Scotland

7. Culross Palace and Village, Fife

Culross was used in series 1 and 2 of Outlander and featured as the fictional village of Cranesmuir and also the Jacobite encampment in series 2.

The Royal Burgh of Culross is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and has been used for several filming scenes in the Outlander movie.

Culross played a base for the fictional Cransemuir in season 1 and suddenly became a popular tourist attraction. It’s a pretty village and I would recommend at least half a day to visit  

8. Gladstone’s Land, Edinburgh

Gladstone’s Land is a captivating journey back in time to the opulent life of a wealthy merchant in the seventeenth century.

Impeccably restored in the late 1930s, this magnificent house museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the daily lives of Edinburgh’s residents in the Old Town over four centuries ago.

Prepare to be transported and fascinated by the rich history and exquisite details that await you at Gladstone’s Land

The Gladstone House
The Gladstone House is part of the National Trust for Scotland
The Gladstone House.
The Gladstone House.

9. Culloden Battlefield, Inverness

If you’re interested in Scottish history or are a fan of Outlander, a visit to the Culloden Battlefield just outside of Inverness is a must. 

Culloden, the site of the last battle, fought on British soil. It became a place of Victorian pilgrims.

There is a memorial cairn, simple stones marking mass clan graves, the desolate Field of English, the well of the Dead and one of the battle survivors- Old Leanach Cottage with its thatched roof. 

The battlefield also includes a museum highlighting the history of the Jacobite Risings. The visitor centre tells the story in an innovative and interactive way. 

The Jacobite Rising of 1745 was a rebellion led by Prince Charles Edward Stuart to reclaim the British throne for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart.

However, on the sorrowful morning of April 16, 1746, the Jacobites fought their final battle.

It’s a battle that changed Highland culture forever. Whether you know much about the Risings or not, this museum is immersive and full of interesting facts and stories

10. The Hill House, Helensburgh, Loch Lomond

“It is not an Italian Villa, an English Mansion House, a Swiss Chalet or a Scotch castle. It is a Dwelling House,” said Mackintosh to Blackie family on the completion of their house.

In the stunning location on the top hill in the Helensburgh village overlooking Loch Lomond The Hill House (box house) is one of Charles and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh’s most famous works.

Commissioned to design a country house by the Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie in 1902, Mackintosh was already well established locally for his many public buildings in Glasgow

The house gives you a good insight into how the Blackie family lived in the early 1900s. The house was a masterpiece of architecture, but foremost it was the family home of Blacks and their five children.

Since the National Trust for Scotland restored it in the minute detail originally specified by the architect, you can once again marvel at the triumph of light and shadow, of dark wood and elegant friezes and many ‘Arts and Crafts’ features now considered characteristic of Mackintosh.

The Hill House- a box house
The Hill House- a box house

11. Glenfinnan Monument, Highlands near Fort William

I find myself going back to Glenfinnan countless times, and each visit is as special as the first one. It is one of the most memorable spots in the Highlands.

In 1815, a memorial was erected here at the head of Loch Shiel, near the place where Prince Charles Stuart had landed in 1745 and raised his standard, in honour of the Highlanders’ sacrifice in the Jacobite cause.

From the viewpoint above the visitor centre, the vista down the loch, surrounded by the mountains, is something one never forgets.

The visitor centre exhibition provides an excellent background on the Rising, battles, and aftermath.

12. St Abb’s Head, Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

St Abbs takes the name from Ebba, a sister of King Oswy of Northumbria. She founded a religious community here in the 17th century.

It’s said that when St Cuthbert visited her, he was in the habit of immersing himself in the sea for long periods- not for recreation but as a means of prayer and the seals came and stayed by his side.

You can still bathe and, very likely, you’ll see the seals. The walk from the village to the headland is just a mile and a half but is not to be missed.

The dramatic cliff scenery is the most spectacular of the whole coast. St Abbs reserve is a natural breeding area for seabirds, guillemots, razorbills and sometimes puffins.

St Abbs village
St Abbs village
St Abbs_National Trust for Scotland location
St Abbs_National Trust for Scotland location

13. Brodie Castle, Moray, near Inverness

The rose-coloured Brodie Castle has been the ancestral home of the Brodie Clan for over 400 years, although their family seat has been here since the 12th century.

The castle houses a magnificent collection of furniture, ceramics and artwork, including works by 17th-century Dutch masters and 20th-century Scottish Colourists.

Stunning springtime daffodils in all its glory are all around the ground carpeted with over 100 varieties.

Daffodils are a huge part of the history and heritage of Brodie Castle as Major Ian Brodie, the 24th Brodie of Brodie and clan chieftain, was one of the greatest pioneers in daffodil hybridisation.

Brodie Castle
Brodie Castle

14. Malleny Gardens, Balerno, Edinburgh

A hidden little gem of a world of tranquillity as you pass through the beautifully adorned wrought-iron gate. The walled Malleny garden reveals a breathtaking sight – towering 400-year-old yew trees,  named Four Evangelists-carefully shaped and maintained with exquisite precision.

Adding to the charm are Victorian greenhouses and meticulously cultivated rose plantings that transport you to a bygone era.

The captivating beauty of the Walled Garden comes alive with a vibrant burst of colours during the summer and early autumn.

The 17th-century house situated in the garden was built for Sir James Murray of Kilbaberton around 1635. The House has two Georgian reception rooms added in 1823 and are opened by the Friends of Malleny on occasions during the summer.

The best to experience the garden during the summer months, when vibrant blooms and lush greenery are in full bloom, and the rose’s scents are everywhere, but in autumn, the garden is beautiful too. Woodland walks nearby.

Malleny Gardens
Malleny Gardens

15.The Georgian House, Edinburgh

The Georgian House, a fascinating house-museum built in 1796, is an absolute gem located on No 7 Charlotte Square.

It offers visitors a captivating glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the wealthiest residents of the New Town. Step inside and immerse yourself in the grandeur and elegance of this historic masterpiece.

Prepare to be transported back in time and experience firsthand how these privileged individuals lived their lives with the utmost luxury and sophistication

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About me
Scotland Itinerary planning

My name is Kate and I created Scotland Itinerary Planning to give you those life-changing experiences right in the beautiful country I call home.

I’m proud to live in Edinburgh, Scotland, one of the world’s most beautiful capital cities. Living in Edinburgh has provided me a base to explore extensively around this magical little country.

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