The top 8 sights in Scotland - according to Lonely Planet

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Scotland is rich with historical sights, from neolithic tombs to 20th century floating vessels - with such a choice its easy to become overwhelmed when travelling around our country.

Travel experts Lonely Planet, however, have shortlisted eight must-visit historical sights for tourists visiting Scotland’s bonnie shores.

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1. Edinburgh Castle

Much of Scotland’s history was forged at this fortress precariously built on the peak of an extinct volcano, last seeing military action during the ‘45 Jacobite rebellion.

The iconic castle is synonymous with the capital and is rather unsurprisingly named at the top visitor attraction in Scotland.

The travel guide proclaims: “the brooding, black crags of Castle Rock, rising above the western end of Princes St, are the very reason for Edinburgh’s existence.”

“This rocky hill was the most easily defended hilltop on the invasion route between England and central Scotland, a route followed by countless armies.”

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2. Culzean Castle and Country Park

Situated in South Ayrshire, this 16th century structure is majestically perched on the banks of the Firth of Clyde.

Once owned by the Marquess of Ailsa and the chief of Clan Kennedy, the magnificent castle is today the pride of National Trust Scotland.

Lonely Planet rank the dramatic castle as Scotland’s second best sight, highlighting “the great play area for kids, which re-creates the castle on a smaller scale, as well as a re-creation of a Victorian vinery, an orangery, a deer park and an aviary.”

3. Maeshowe

This neolithic chambered cairn situated on Mainland Orkney is unheralded compared to other historic sights in the country, but is certainly worthy of its place on Lonely Planet’s list.

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The tomb is other worldly in appearance, resembling a green igloo from a distance - and once over the entrance’s threshold, you’re transported back millenia to the stone age.

Lonely Planet describes the structure’s most fascinating feature.

“By chance or design, for a few weeks around the winter solstice the setting sun shafts up the entrance passage, and strikes the back wall of the tomb in spooky alignment.”

Skara Brae is situated on Orkney's Mainland (Photo: Shutterstock)

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4. Skara Brae

Also located on Orkney’s Mainland and listed on Lonely Planet’s list of top sights is Skara Brae.

This neolithic settlement is immaculately preserved and situated pleasantly above the Bay of Skaill.The travel guide reserves particular praise for the interactive exhibits which compliment the extraordinary site.

“There’s an excellent interactive exhibit and short video, arming visitors with facts and theory, which will enhance the impact of the site.

“The official guidebook, available from the visitor centre, includes a good self-guided tour.”

5. Stirling Castle

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Stirling’s fortress has played a hugely significant part in Scotland’s history, with the holders of the keys to the castle often controlling the fate of the country.

Like Edinburgh castle, the strategically placed structure was built on a once roaring volcano. Today, the castle is home to a fascinating and charming range of exhibits.

Lonely Planet notes that “there are magnificent vistas from the ramparts towards the Highlands.”

6. Scottish Parliament Building

Inaugurated in 2004, the extraordinary parliament building is divisive to say the least.

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Despite its detractors, however, Lonely Planet believes that the Enric Miralles designed building is a must-visit for those staying in the capital.

In particular they recommend a visit to the extraordinary debating hall.

“This magnificent chamber is the centrepiece of the parliament, designed not to glorify but to humble the politicians who sit within it. The windows face Calton Hill, allowing MSPs to look up to its monuments.”

7. Scone Palace

Situated in the heart of Pertshire, Scone Palace was once the crowning place of Scotland’s kings.

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The sprawling Georgian structure is situated in pleasant verdant grounds which features a labyrinthine maze.

Ranked seventh on the Lonely Planet’s list of sights to visit in Scotland, the travel guide noting the importance of the regal structure.

“‘So thanks to all at once and to each one, whom we invite to see us crowned at Scone.’ This line from Macbeth indicates the importance of Scone (pronounced ‘skoon’) as the coronation place of Scottish monarchs.”

Scone Palace was once the site of the crowning of Scotland's kings (Photo: Shutterstock)

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8. Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia, is Lonely Planet’s second recommendation based in Edinburgh.

Launched in 1953, the regal vessel was the transport mode of choice for the Royal Family for the second half of the 20th century. Today it rests by Ocean Terminal in Leith.

“Britannia is a monument to 1950s decor, and the accommodation reveals Her Majesty’s preference for simple, unfussy surroundings,” notes Lonely Planet.

“There was nothing simple or unfussy, however, about the running of the ship. When the Queen travelled, with her went 45 members of the royal household, five tonnes of luggage and a Rolls-Royce that was carefully squeezed into a specially built garage on the deck.”