Travelling and being a tourist can be pretty expensive. Apart from plane or train tickets, there are also costs for accommodation, food and activities.
It makes sense to try and do some free activities while visiting a new destination. When it comes to free things to do, Scotland has plenty on offer.
Scotland is already worth a visit just for its rich history and culture. The bonus of free activities makes it so much more exciting!
Read on to learn about all the free things to do and see in Scotland. Activities on the list will make families, couples and solo travellers happy that they decided to visit the country of the unicorn.
Best Free Galleries and Museums
Scottish National Gallery – Edinburgh
The National Gallery is home to some of the most amazing local and international artists. It lets you get up close and personal with the artwork – you can even see the brush detailing!
It is home to famous artworks from Monet, Van Gogh, Raphael and Da Vinci. There is also art on display from Scottish artist William McTaggart.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery – Edinburgh
The National Portrait Gallery not only houses gorgeous exhibitions, but it is also beautiful on the outside.
You can stand for quite a few minutes on Queen Street and marvel at the beauty of the building.
Once inside, you can admire murals and portraits of notable characters from history. These include Mary Queen of Scots, James Hutton and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Plenty of portraits inside the gallery depict Scottish heroes from the past.
National Museum of Scotland – Edinburgh
This is one free museum you must not miss. The National Museum is full Scottish history as well as the local history of Edinburgh.
The museum is a great spot on a winter’s day. From historical artefacts to Dolly the Sheep, you are sure to find something intriguing at the museum.
Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art – Glasgow
The Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) is one of the most-visited art galleries in the country. Yes, it gets more visitors annually than many of the national galleries in the city’s capital!
Before entering GOMA, you will be greeted by a statue of the Duke of Wellington. The statue has become quite a sensation on the internet, possibly due to the traffic cone on his head – a hilarious contradiction of the neoclassical museum building behind him.
The museum only opened in 1996, but the building in which it stands has been around since 1778. It was originally built as the home of an incredibly rich tobacco trader.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – Glasgow
The Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum is the perfect destination when visiting Glasgow.
Over 8,000 artworks and artefacts are constantly changing throughout the 22 galleries. You can find art, wonders of the natural world, and historic armour at the museum.
Make sure you seek out Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross.
Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture – Edinburgh
The Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture is housed in the Royal Scottish Academy Building. The Academy has constant exhibitions and informative talks on its schedule, and many of these are free to attend.
The Academy is a place of study, with many aspiring artists and architects in attendance.
Scottish Parliament – Edinburgh
Visiting government buildings may not seem like the most exciting proposition while on holiday. But these buildings are gorgeous inside and out!
Also, it is actually a little-known fact that Scotland has its own parliament.
Visitors to the parliament can book free walking tours or self-guided tours through the buildings. Both options are completely free!
Best Free Outdoor Attractions
Hike Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park – Edinburgh
Arthur’s seat is one free attraction you do not want to miss when you visit the city.
It resulted from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. Since then, things have calmed down a bit, and visitors can now climb it for views of the city.
You can see the entire city centre from the summit, including Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace.
Although the main car park at Arthur’s Seat has to be paid for, if you drive past St Margaret’s Loch, you will find a free car park. Within 30 minutes from where you park, you will be at the top of the viewpoint.
Walk the Royal Mile – Edinburgh
If you want to save money but not be boring, then walk along the Royal Mile. This cobblestoned street is one of those “must-see” tourist attractions when you’re in Edinburgh.
It is located in the heart of the city and crosses the Old Town. On your way, you will see boutique stores, cathedrals, local pubs, and many historic buildings. It will take you all the way up to the Castle.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – Edinburgh
The Royal Gardens are completely free to enter. It is one of those free things that you simply cannot miss!
You will find local and indigenous plants and flowers in the botanical gardens. Not only is it home to several botanical collections, but continues to conduct research into plant conservation.
There are also often events held at the gardens. You can enjoy a Christmas get-together, live music and educational talks – all for free!
Visit the Lochs
You may have to pay for transport, but most lochs and surrounding national woodlands are free to visit.
Some noteworthy lochs to include in your itinerary are Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve (1 hour from Glasgow) and Lochaber Geopark (Fort William). You can also try to spot Nessie at Loch Ness (Inverness).
National Parks – Scottish Highlands
If you are seeking the best parks, then head over to the Scottish Highlands. This natural, sparsely populated area consists of mountainous terrain. These mountains are covered in lush pine forests, and at the base of the mountains, there are hundreds of lochs.
It is one of the most remote places in the UK and is the ideal place to escape to while visiting the country. Make sure to keep an eye out for adorable Highland cattle while admiring the stunning scenery!
Some noteworthy parks include Glencoe National Park, Cairngorms National Park and The Trossachs National Park.
Princes Street Gardens – Edinburgh
The Gardens are one of the best free attractions in Edinburgh. If you are visiting the city and want peace and quiet, head over to the Gardens for an escape.
Pack a picnic or grab your favourite novel and relax on the sprawling lawns in the shade of the trees.
Are all the museums in Scotland free?
You can explore many museums, castes, galleries and historic sites in Scotland for free! There are also several outdoor areas and gardens that have free admission. All of the museums on this list are free, and this is not an exhaustive list. There are plenty more to see and do for free in Scotland!
What is the most popular tourist attraction in Scotland?
Edinburgh Castle is undoubtedly the most popular attraction in Scotland. People come from all over the world to visit the Castle! Although it is a paid-for attraction, you can still walk around the castle for free.
How many days should I spend in Scotland to see all the free attractions?
With so much to do and see, we recommend you allow yourself 10 days to explore Scotland and all the free things to do there.
It is nearly impossible to create a list of all the free things to do in Scotland! Any of the attractions and experiences on this list will be well worth your time.
We hope you have a wonderful time while visiting Scotland following some of the recommendations we made.