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How to explore Scotland’s UNESCO Trail

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Scotland is host to the very first UNESCO digital trail in the world, bringing together 13 designations of cultural significance in an accessible digital format.

Launched in 2021, this epic digital trail was designed to showcase Scotland’s history, music, literature, nature, science and cities that are recognised and accredited by UNESCO. The 13 sites covering the four corners of Scotland are made up of two Biospheres, three Creative Cities, six World Heritage Sites and two Global Geoparks.

This trail helps to introduce people to these awesome sites in a more responsible way and hopes to encourage visitors to stay longer, visit throughout the year and make more sustainable travel choices while being taken on a cultural journey throughout the country.

Scotland is host to some of the most amazing natural gems, human ingenuity, stunning architecture and breathtaking landscapes with lots of fabulous businesses and communities to meet who live and breathe at these sites. Take a look at Scotland's 13 designations below and start your UNESCO trail planning today!


Wester Ross Biosphere

Situated in the northwest of Scotland, this 3000 sq miles area includes a wonderful collection of unspoiled habitats that live perfectly alongside each other. Although the area is remote you can see Highland crofting communities working with the land creating a more sustainable way of life. There are deserted sandy beaches, stunning sea lochs and snow-capped mountains and these are best seen by cycling, walking or on the sea. Why not try our 10-night Northwest Coast Wilderness cruise to get the best chance to see how truly unique and breathtaking this UNESCO biosphere is.

Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere

Scotland’s very first UNESCO biosphere has a stunning landscape of hills, moors, beaches and communities. The area not only has dark skies status, it is also a vibrant area with outdoor adventure and cultural attractions and was where Vikings, Christian communities and Roman soldiers once lived.

Creative Cities

Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature

For centuries Edinburgh has been at the heart of storytelling. It’s no wonder it has been awarded the world’s first UNESCO city of literature. Sir Walter Scott’s monument is proudly displayed in the city while Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns and JK Rowling among others have used the city as inspiration for their literature. Edinburgh has some of the best literary attractions such as the Writer’s Museum and the National Library of Scotland and also hosts the biggest literature festival in August each year. It is the perfect place to enjoy a short city break before coming aboard one of our cruises with regular trains and buses to our departure points.

Glasgow UNESCO City of Music

Glasgow was named the first ever UNESCO city of music in 2008 and it’s no surprise with over 100 music events every single week. Celtic Connections is hosted every January while The OVO Hydro welcomes tens of thousands of revellers at every concert. The city is one of the friendliest in the world and music plays a big part. Visit King Tuts, SWG3 or iconic Barrowlands for an unforgettable city break. Regular trains and buses to all our departure points leave from Glasgow so why not stay in this fabulous city and become immersed in the cultural and musically gifted city.

Dundee UNESCO City of Design

Dundee was once famous for its shipbuilding and textiles, or even Oor Wullie and Dennis the Menace. It’s now home to Rockstar North’s Grand Theft Auto and recently opened V&A, Scotland’s first design museum. The innovative city has a thriving creative sector and brilliant visitor attractions such as Verdant Works, which celebrates its industrial past.

World Heritage Sites

The Forth Rail Bridge

The Forth Rail Bridge is the world’s longest cantilever bridge and spans the Firth of Forth. It is easily recognised across the globe for its distinct three sections and red steel, fitted with over 6 million rivets. The bridge was given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2015, just two years before the new Queensferry bridge was opened. Around 200 trains cross it every day, and regular trains to Inverness cross here so why not choose our 6-night Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal cruise with an Inverness departure to experience this engineering wonder.

Old and New Towns of Edinburgh

Discover the beautiful architecture of the medieval old town and the Georgian new town of Edinburgh. Wind through the narrow walkways between towering tenements of the old town and marvel at the ordered grid symmetry of the new town.

Antonine Wall

This engineering marvel was built around 142 AD by Emperor Antoninus Pius and is known as the most northerly frontier of the Roman Empire. It is best seen along John Muir Way, a walking route from the east to west coast through central Scotland.

New Lanark

This award-winning restored 18th century mill village, founded by David Dale, a banker and entrepreneur, and Richard Arkwright, an inventor of industrial cotton spinning. A pioneer in social reform, it brought in shorter working days, an end to child labour and the introduction of free medical care for its workers. Visiting the site will let you see into the past and learn about the village and its buildings.

St Kilda

This remote archipelago, although once inhabited by hardy islanders until a mass evacuation in 1930, is now only home to thousands of seabirds and a handful of National Trust members and researchers. Made up of five islands, this striking landscape is beautiful and dramatic. The islands are best seen from the sea to truly witness the geology and history and our 10-night Outer Hebrides and St Kilda cruise is the perfect cruise for this!

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney

This world heritage site dates back to around 5000 years ago and is made up of four sites – Skara Brae, Maeshowe, The Stones of Stenness and The Ring of Brodgar. Large monuments standing 6m tall, stone circles and neolithic settlements help to give an amazing view into the past and what life was like for prehistoric settlers on Orkney. These sites are best seen slowly to really take in the sites so a 6-night cruise with a stop ashore pre and post cruise is the perfect way to explore all that Orkney has to offer. Why not try our 6-night Orkney – A Voyage Through Time cruise, the ideal way, from the sea.

UNESCO Global Geoparks


This global geopark has an abundance of geology from shifting sands to an extinct volcano with some of its 100 geosites dating back 3 billions years ago. The incredible array of landscapes is dotted with ancient settlements with 4000 years of human history.

North West Highlands Geopark

This area of the north west coast of Scotland covers 2000 square kilometres and is home to the oldest rock in Europe dating back 3 billion years. Early settlers made this their home before anywhere else in Europe and it’s no wonder with its beautiful sandy beaches, moors, forests and rocky mountains. It is accessible by car or bike and even better by boat – with daily trips ashore on our 10-night Northwest Coast Wilderness or our 10-night A Coastal Odyssey cruise you can truly witness this incredible landscape.

The digital trail can be viewed at www.visitscotland.com/unesco-trail.

Tags: Glasgow / Cruise Itineraries / UNESCO / North West Coast / Orkney / Edinburgh / Dundee / St Kilda / Shetland /

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