From volcanic peaks and long sea lochs to ancient landslides and mystical castles, West Scotland offers a landscape filled with drama. 

If you’re looking for the best places to visit on the west coast of Scotland, you’re truly spoiled for choice. 

On the southwest coast, you’ll find one of Europe’s stargazing locations. Further north are the West Highlands which are characterized by rugged mountains and wild glens. 

Lively port towns brim with whisky and fresh seafood while scenic railways traverse the landscape. 

Across the sea, Scotland’s Inner and Outer Hebrides have some of the best beaches, wildlife and scenery in the country. 

Read on to discover 17 of the best and most beautiful places to visit in West Scotland and some of my favourite spots you won’t want to miss. 

Map of Scotland’s west coast

Places mapped by Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android

Mainland Scotland 

Wondering how to get around? If you don’t drive, the West Highland Line will be your best friend when touring the west coast of Scotland, alongside long-distance coaches and buses.

1. Glen Coe 

The craggy mountain of Buachaille Etive Mor with a snow-capped mountain at the back and waterfall running down the side. A small white farmhouse sits in the foreground in Glen Coe.
Glen Coe is one of the best places to visit near the west coast of Scotland – Photo by Rumman Amin

One of the most famous places in Scotland, Glen Coe is a valley ringed by steep mountains. It’s located in the West Scottish Highlands close to the shores of Loch Leven. 

Its dramatic landscape is characterised by ancient volcanic lava floes and glaciers that shaped the land thousands of years ago. Don’t worry, all volcanoes are long extinct! 

Glen Coe is a popular place to go hiking with famous peaks including, Buachaille Etive Mor and Bidean nam Bian.

You can also stop for a coffee at Glencoe Village. There’s a Glencoe Folk Museum with traditional, 18th-century thatched cottages and a Visitor Centre where you can learn about the brutal massacre of Clan McDonald in 1692. 

Highlights

  • Climb up Buachaille Etive Mor and Bidean nam Bian
  • Visit the Glencoe Folk Museum and Visitor Centre 

2. Fort William 

A jetty juts out into a Loch Linnhe near Fort William on a misty day. Fort William is one of the best places to visit on the west coast of Scotland for hiking.

Fort William is a town located on the shores of Loch Linnhe, a sea loch which sits partway along the Great Glen Fault. Its most famous neighbour is Ben Nevis, aka the highest mountain in the UK. 

The town is referred to as the Outdoor Capital of Scotland thanks to having iconic landmarks such as Ben Nevis, Glen Nevis Valley and Glen Coe nearby. 

Fort William is one of the best places to stay on the west coast of Scotland for exploring the West Highlands and islands. Visitors often make the town their base on their way to the Isle of Skye – I did! 

You can also ride the Jacobite Steam Train (the Hogwarts Express for some). It starts from Fort William and travels to Mallaig via the Glenfinnan Viaduct.   

Highlights

  • Ride the famous Jacobite steam train (aka the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter). It’s one of the most popular things to do in West Scotland!

3. Ben Nevis 

View of Ben Nevis from a train carriage near Fort William. A white cottage in the foreground and the peak of Ben Nevis appears over a mountainous ridge behind.

Standing at 1,345 metres above sea level, Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain in the UK. It belongs to the Grampian Mountains, one of the three main mountain ranges in Scotland. 

Ben Nevis is located on the western end of the Grampians and towers over Fort William. It’s a popular hike and it takes about 7-8 hours to reach the summit and climb back down again. 

It’s not a trail to take lightly though. Always bring the right equipment and do a group tour if you’re not confident on your own. 

If you would prefer a more relaxed walk, ride the Nevis Range Mountain Gondola nearby. It takes you up Aonach Mòr Mountain (the 8th tallest mountain) and offers spectacular views of Ben Nevis and the Great Glen. 

Highlights 

  • Hike up the tallest mountain in Britain (safely and weather conditions permitting)
  • Ride the Nevis Range Mountain Gondola for an easy way to get great views 

4. Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park 

A girl in a red jacket stands and looks down on a loch from a hilltop. The grey loch is dotted with islands. View from Beinn Dubh on Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond & the Trossachs is a national park which spans 720 sq miles across its four main areas. It features high mountains in the highlands to the north and rolling hills in the lowlands of the south. It’s a must-stop on your West Scotland itinerary. 

Loch Lomond is the largest lake in Great Britain by surface area and the second largest by volume after Loch Ness. It resides in the shadow of Ben Lomond mountain which is popular with hikers. 

An easier walk is the smaller Conic Hill. It’s fairly steep but it rewards you with gorgeous panoramic views of the loch and surrounding mountains. 

The national park is situated about an hour north of Glasgow and is connected by the West Highland Line. 

Highlights 

  • Do a one-hour boat trip on Loch Lomond 
  • Climb Ben Lomond for panoramic views of the Trossachs National Park (moderate difficulty) 

5. Glenfinnan 

View from a red steam train (the Jacobite) going over the cement arches of Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland.

Glenfinnan is a small hamlet in Lochaber on the edge of Loch Shiel. 

It’s famous for the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a railway viaduct on the West Highland Line which the Jacobite train trundles over depending on the season. The best place to watch it is at Glenfinnan Viewpoint. 

The area is also home to the Glenfinnan Monument which was erected to remember the Jacobite Rising in 1745 and the Highlanders who lost their lives in the Battle of Culloden. 

Glenfinnan has a visitor centre where you can grab a bite and some beautiful walking trails around the local area. 

Highlights 

  • Photograph the Jacobite train going over Glenfinnan Viaduct. The viaduct is still pretty cool too!
  • Visit the Lone Highlander at the top of Glenfinnan Monument 
  • Take a stroll along Loch Sheil for serious Harry Potter vibes 

Editor’s tip: This group tour from Edinburgh takes you to Glenfinnan, Fort William and Glencoe on a full-day tour. It’s handy if you’re short on time and want to see the best of the West Highlands.

6. Oban 

View of Oban with McCaig's Tower on the hill above. Known as the Seafood Capital, Oban is one of the best places to visit on the west coast of Scotland.

Tucked on the Firth of Lorn, Oban is a resort town which is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Isles.’ You can catch a ferry from here to the Isle of Mull and the Outer Hebrides. 

Oban is still a destination in its own right. Scotland’s Seafood Capital is packed with award-winning seafood restaurants, making it one of my favourite places to see on the west coast of Scotland. 

There’s also a whisky distillery, McCaig’s Tower, Dunollie Castle, Dunstaffnage Castle and more to explore. 

Highlights 

  • Eat seafood! Fuss-free Oban Seafood Hut absolutely knocks it out of the park (or sea?) with the best fresh catch of the day
  • Have a wee dram at Oban Distillery 
  • Take a ferry to the Inner Hebrides 

7. Eilean Donan Castle 

View of Eilian Donan Castle and its bridge on a grey cloudy day.
Photo by Grace Zhu

On the road to the Isle of Skye on a small islet where three sea lochs collide is Eilean Donan Castle. The 13th century castle is a strategic fortress and photographing it has become one of the best things to do on the west coast of Scotland. 

It’s joined to the mainland by a bridge (the fourth version) and is set against a stunning backdrop of the forest-covered Kintail Mountains. 

The site was first established in 634 CE by Bishop Donan as a monastic cell. It was later turned into a fortress in the 13th century by Alexander II to ward off Viking invasions. 

It was used in a Jacobite revolt in 1719 and its ruins were restored between 1912 and 1932. You can buy a ticket and have a look inside but many people say it’s not worth it. I can’t comment as I’ve only seen it from the road!

Highlights 

  • Take a photo of the famous castle 

8. Mallaig 

View of the harbour in Mallaig on the west coast of Scotland.

Mallaig is a small port town on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands. It’s the last stop on the West Highland Line and the only stop for the Jacobite Steam Train. 

You can catch a ferry from Mallaig to Armadale on the Isle of Skye which is a short distance across the Sound of Sleat. 

There are some excellent seafood restaurants, a bakery and a heritage centre here. The Mallaig Circular Walk is a pretty stroll or you can walk up to the Morar Cross. 

Highlights 

  • Eat fresh seafood. The Cornerstone is popular for its scrumptious fish and chips 
  • Go beach hopping in the local area. The closest one is Camusdarach Beach 

9. Ullapool 

A mountain rises up from the coast near Ullapool on the northwest coast of Scotland.
Photo by K B

Tucked on a sheltered sea loch on the west coast of Northern Scotland is Ullapool. The port village only has about 1500 inhabitants but it’s still one of the largest settlements for miles around. 

Ullapool is one of the stops on the famous North Coast 500 (NC500), a scenic 516-mile road trip around the North Coast of Scotland starting and ending in Inverness. You can also get a ferry here to Stornaway on Lewis and Harris. 

Things to do in Ullapool include mountain biking, wildlife boat trips, golfing, kayaking, hiking and taking art lessons at Bridgehouse Art. 

Highlights 

  • Use this pretty fishing village as a base from which to explore the Northern Highlands 
  • Ullapool is also a stop on the famous North Coast 500 road trip in Scotland 

10. Glasgow 

The terracotta coloured building of Kelvingrove Museum with a manicured lawn and hedges on a cloudy day in Glasgow.
Kelvingrove Art Museum on a rainy day

Glasgow is a port city on the River Clyde in the western lowlands of Scotland. If you’re thinking “Hmm but is it REALLY on the west coast?”

I’ve included it here because I consider it a gateway to Scotland’s west coast – particularly for non-drivers like me! 

It’s also a great place to start your Scotland west coast road trip. 

The city is the start of the West Highland Line, a scenic railway line which runs to Oban or further north to Mallaig. It links up many of the places in this guide. 

As for Glasgow itself, the Cultural Capital of Scotland is home to the Scottish Ballet, the National Theatre of Scotland and a lively music scene. It’s also known for its Victorian and Art Nouveau architecture. 

Highlights 

  • Explore Glasgow’s West End, one of the ‘coolest districts in the world’ according to Time Out
  • Take a walking tour of Glasgow City Centre with top sites like the Botanical Gardens, Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow Cathedral and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

11. Dumfries & Galloway 

The lighthouse on the edge of the Mull of Galloway on the southwest coast of Scotland.
Photo by Paul Levesley

Dumfries & Galloway is one of the top places to visit in South West Scotland. The council area extends from the Scottish Borders and juts out into the Irish Sea, extending to the Mull of Galloway.  

It’s a bit of an underrated gem. It might not have the dramatic highlands of the north but if you love castles, stargazing, history and hiking, you’ll want to stop at Dumfries & Galloway. 

The area is home to Galloway Forest Park, the UK’s only Dark Sky Park and one of over 100 designated dark sky places worldwide. On a clear night, you can see over 700 stars and planets with the naked eye! 

Another must-see is the ruins of Caerlaverock Castle on the Solway coast. The 13th-century castle is surrounded by a moat. 

The Mull of Galloway is Scotland’s most southerly point and it’s a beautiful spot for beaches and walking. For Robert Burns enthusiasts, the Burns House Museum in Mauchline is dedicated to the poet. 

Highlights 

  • Go stargazing! Galloway Forest Park is one of over 100 Dark Sky Places in the world and it’s one of the best places in the UK to enjoy the night sky
  • Go castle hopping! There are around 100 castles here with the top ones including Drumlanrig Castle, Cruggleton Castle, Dunskey Castle, Threave Castle and Caerlaverock Castle 

Scotland’s West Islands 

Island-hopping is one of the top things to do on the west coast of Scotland. Most of the main islands are accessible via the Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) ferries. Visit the website to book tickets and find the most up-to-date information on timetables. 

Some like Skye are reachable by road and others like Lewis and Harris have tiny airports. 

12. Isle of Skye 

Fairy Glen stone circles from above on the Isle of Skye, one of the most popular places to visit on the west coast of Scotland.

The Isle of Skye is probably the most famous of all Scotland’s islands. It’s the largest island in the Inne Hebrides and it’s joined to the mainland by the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh. 

Skye’s rugged landscape attracts millions of visitors every year and it’s a must-do on your west coast of Scotland itinerary. 

Some of its most beautiful scenery is on the Trotternish Peninsula, where you’ll find the Old Man of Storr, Fairy Glen, Kilt Rock and an ancient landslide known as the Quiraing. 

Other popular landmarks here include Neist Point Lighthouse, Fairy Pools, Dunvegan Castle, Talisker Distillery, Skye Museum of Island Life and Sligachan Old Bridge. 

The main town on Skye is Portree at the base of Trotternish. 

Highlights 

  • Explore the Trotternish Peninsula including Fairy Glen, the Quiraing and the Storr 
  • Visit Fairy Pools and Dunvegan Castle 

Editor’s tip: You will need some form of wheeled transport (bike or car!) to see the best of Skye. If you don’t have either, I recommend getting to Portree by bus and then doing a full-day tour of Skye from there.

13. Isle of Mull 

The colourful houses of Tobermory surrounded by trees and with a harbour in front on the Isle of Mull.

The Isle of Mull is the second-largest island in the Inner Hebrides. It lies just off the west coast of Scotland with Kilchoan to the northwest of it and Oban to the south. 

Mull is characterised by hills and lochs, and its lone mountain Ben More. It also has some beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters that look almost tropical. The not-so-tropical breeze gives it away though… 

The main town on Mull is Tobermory with its colourful houses, award-winning fish ‘n’ chips and pretty coastal walks. Don’t miss out on Isle of Mull Cheese Glass Barn, a cafe with a living vine growing inside it. 

From Mull, you can also take a boat to Staffa and the Treshnish Isles or to Iona just off its coast. 

Highlights 

  • Visit Tobermory, the capital of Mull (and the inspiration for Balamory if you watched that children’s TV programme way back when)
  • Eat at Isle of Mull Cheese Glass Barn, this beautiful cafe is one of the best places to visit on the west coast of Scotland for foodies 

14. Iona 

Iona Abbey with Mull behind on a grey day in Scotland.
Photo by William Gibson

The tiny island of Iona located just off the Ross of Mull is best known for being the site of one of the oldest known Christian religious centres in Western Europe – aka Iona Abbey. 

In 563 CE, St. Columba and his companions came to Iona from Ireland and founded the monastery. It became one of the most influential religious sites in the British Isles. It’s still a place of pilgrimage today.

Iona also has a community with restaurants, art galleries, sandy beaches and a graveyard which is the final resting place of about 48 medieval kings from Scotland, Norway and Ireland. 

Even Shakespeare’s notorious King Macbeth is buried here!

Highlights 

  • See Iona Abbey, one of the oldest Christian religious centres in Western Europe 

15. Treshnish Isles 

A large basalt rock cave on Staffa Island in the Treshnish Isles in Scotland.

Are you a puffin fan? Get yourself to the Treshnish Isles. The archipelago of small, uninhabited islands and skerries is located to the west of the Isle of Mull. 

They’re a haven for marine life and seabirds including puffins which make a home on Staffa from April to July. 

Staffa is also famous for its intriguing Fingal’s Cave made out of hexagonal basalt rock. The cave has surprisingly good acoustics and it was the inspiration for the composer Mendelssohn’s Hebrides overture. 

You can do a tour of the Treshnish Isles from Tobermory on Mull or Oban on the mainland. You’ll see minke whales, dolphins, cormorants, seals and more!

Highlights

  • Walk inside Fingal’s Cave on Staffa. It’s known for its incredible natural acoustics
  • See the puffins of Staffa (seasonal) and the sea life of the Treshnish Isles including whales and dolphins. It’s one of the top places to visit on the west coast of Scotland for wildlife lovers

16. Outer Hebrides 

White sands and golden grasses of Luskentyre Beach on Harris in the Outer Hebrides with mountains behind.
Photo by Nils Leonhardt

Endless white sand beaches, turquoise waters and ancient Neolithic history are key features of the Outer Hebrides. 

The chain of interconnected islands on the outer edge of the west of Scotland includes Barra, Uist, Lewis and Harris. The islands are inhabited and the biggest town is Stornaway on Lewis and Harris. 

Some of the best things to do in the Outer Hebrides include the Bronze Age Callanish Standing Stones, Luskentyre Sands, Gearrannan Blackhouse Village as well as hillwalking, wildlife spotting and boat tours. 

Another archipelago in the Outer Hebrides is St. Kilda. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated 40 miles west-northwest of North Uist. If you can make the distance, it’s one of the most rewarding things to do on the west coast of Scotland. 

It’s been uninhabited by humans since 1930 but over a million seabirds have made it their home instead. 

Highlights 

  • Visit Luskentyre Sands in Harris. Enjoy soft white sands and crystal-clear waters. It’s rated as one of the best beaches in the UK 
  • See the Callanish Standing Stones and other Neolithic sites in Lewis

Editor’s tip: Confusingly, Lewis and Harris is one big island but you might come across ‘Isle of Lewis’ and ‘Isle of Harris.’ The Harris part is to the north while the Lewis part is to the south. 

17. Islay and Jura 

A horned highland cow stands near a fence on Islay with Jura in the background.
Photo by AJ Wallace

Enjoy your whiskies? Islay and Jura offer the perfect conditions for whisky production. Currently, there are nine working distilleries on Islay and one on Jura. 

The two southernmost islands in the Inner Hebrides are separated by the Sound of Islay, a channel which is less than a mile wide. They’ve both been inhabited since 10,000 BCE!

Islay has rolling hills, a rugged coastline and more people than Jura. Jura is less populated but features mountains and red deer. 

Highlights 

  • Go distillery-hopping on Islay, one of the best places in Scotland for Scotch whisky
  • Go hiking on Jura and see Barnhill, the house where George Orwell finished his most famous novel, 1984 

The best places to visit on the west coast of Scotland: Final thoughts

The bumpy basalt rock of Staffa island with grass on top in the Treshnish Isles.

If you’re still wondering, “Where should I go on the west coast of Scotland?” You can’t go wrong with starting from Glasgow and following the West Highland Line north to Mallaig. From there, it’s up to you. 

The west of Scotland is home to some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes. From ancient landslides and volcanic peaks to white-sand beaches and glass-like lochs, it’s got it all. 

Add historic castles, skies free of light pollution and remote islands inhabited for millennia and you’ll have no trouble falling in love with Scotland’s west coast. 

I hope this guide has inspired you to visit some of these places on the west coast of Scotland and see this beautiful corner of the world for yourself.


Looking for more Scotland travel tips? Check out these posts!

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