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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 14/07/2021

Edinburgh Castle has been named as the most awe-inspiring city sight in Scotland. The iconic landmark was voted number one in a poll we created to find out what Scots feel in awe of when visiting Scotland's seven cities: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth, Inverness, Dundee, Stirling, and Aberdeen.

Edinburgh Castle bagged the top spot with over a quarter (26%) of votes. This was followed by the view from Arthur’s Seat in the capital (18%) and the National Wallace Monument in Stirling (16%). Voters picked seeing the SSE Hydro, Glasgow, aglow as the fourth most awe-inspiring sight (10%). And rounding out the top five was Stirling Castle (8%). 

The poll was commissioned after a recent research paper highlighted upcoming tourism trends in the wake of COVID-19. One of these was the opportunities for awe trend which sees visitors inspired to travel to places or take part in activities that invoke awe.

According to a study published in the journal Emotion, awe is a positive emotion triggered by an awareness of something much larger than the self. This can be in the form of nature, art or a collective act from concerts and festivals, and can enhance feelings of generosity, wellbeing and humility. 

The results of the survey varied in different locations. Voters in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, South West Ayrshire, the Highlands and Islands and Aberdeen selected Edinburgh Castle in top place whereas the view from Arthur’s Seat was top for those living in Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders. The National Wallace Monument was number one for those in the Perth, Dundee, and Fife areas.

The other sights Scots were asked to vote on were: view from the top of The Law (Dundee), Leakey's Bookshop (Inverness), V&A Dundee alongside RRS Discovery, the view from Inverness Castle, the entrance to the Riverside Museum (Glasgow), Andy Scott's leopard sculpture in Marischal Square (Aberdeen), The Black Watch Castle & Museum as seen from North Inch Park (Perth), NuArt city-wide murals (Aberdeen), and the frontage of the Salutation Hotel (Perth).

Participants could also choose something else as the most awe-inspiring city sight. Suggestions included: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Aberdeen Harbour, St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, the Duke of Wellington Statue in Glasgow, and the Scott Monument in Edinburgh.

Our cities are brimming with awesome sights, making it difficult to choose between them but the public has spoken.

Each of these attractions offer something for everyone as restrictions ease and all are worth a visit – especially when research shows that gazing upon awe-inspiring places helps to improve wellbeing.

This poll shows just some of the many special spots we can enjoy in our cities across Scotland, as well as the well-known rural sights.

As we recover from the impacts of the pandemic, there will be a focus on protecting mental health and going on holiday or attending an event will prove popular ways to do that.

We know that rural experiences and destinations are proving popular with visitors. With this in mind, it is our urban areas that may face challenges and we would encourage visitors to explore our urban destinations. With many incredible historical sights, new innovations, wide-open green spaces and country parks found in and around our cities, visitors don’t have to head exclusively to the countryside for that awe-inspiring experience.

Tourism is a force for good – creating economic and social value in every corner of Scotland and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it. We all deserve a holiday, and Scotland, and all it offers, will be the perfect antidote after a challenging year.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive, VisitScotland

Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it’s great to hear our landmarks across the city and our green and blue spaces in and around the capital have been recognised.

Our capital has something for everyone including amazing outdoor experiences for adventure seekers, family fun nature trails or tranquil walks along our waterways as well as amazing hospitality and culture offerings, an inspiring history and so much to uncover around every corner to keep you and the family entertained.

It’s why people come back to Edinburgh again and again. Through our ForeverEdinburgh – The Story Never Ends campaign we’re encouraging both residents and visitors alike to rediscover the tales of our past and create new memories for the future. Where else can you walk in the footsteps of ancient philosophers, poets and royalty, and stride up an extinct volcano for red hot views?

Adam McVey, Council Leader, City of Edinburgh Council

We are absolutely delighted that not one, but two, of our properties in care have made the top of this prestigious list. Edinburgh Castle is most certainly awe-inspiring and continues to be hugely symbolic of Scotland and its rich fascinating history. The views of the castle, which is so much a part of Edinburgh’s skyline, are of course just a taster of what lies behind the castle walls where you can feel and experience hundreds of years of history.

Stirling Castle is another one of our properties that also made the list as one of Scotland’s most inspiring sights with its stunning backdrop against the Ochils – the scene for some of the most famous events in Scotland’s history.

We are very proud of this accolade voted by the people that live in Scotland and would encourage everyone to explore why these iconic castles remain the most recognised landmarks in Scotland.

Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism, Historic Environment Scotland