Sailing Scotland’s epic engineering

Date published: 03 June 2020

From soaring steel horses that glow in the night sky to breathtaking bridges that have inspired countless artists, Scotland is home to some elegant, epic and often audacious engineering – and there’s no better way to discover these manmade wonders than by undertaking a sailing adventure!

We all need to stay home at the minute, but that doesn't mean we can't dream. Grab your free Sail Scotland brochure, plan your own unforgettable adventure sailing Scotland and make sure you share them with us on social media by tagging them with #MustSeaScotland or uploading them to our gallery when you do have the chance to explore when all this is over!

Bell Rock Lighthouse


The Bell Rock Lighthouse – also known as Stevenson’s Lighthouse – is the world’s oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse. Built on an isolated reef almost a dozen miles off Scotland’s east coast that’s 16 feet underwater at high tide and only exposed for few hours at low tide, it’s often regarded as the most outstanding engineering achievement of the 19th century. Sail past its defiant, 115-feet-tall white tower as the waves crash at its base and you’ll see why.

(c) Kognos, Wikimedia Commons

The Falkirk Wheel

Forth & Clyde / Union Canal

Elegant, audacious, and utterly enchanting – The Falkirk Wheel is a soaring symbol of the regeneration of Scotland’s historic canal network and a marvel of modern engineering. Linking the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal some 35 metres above, the world’s only rotating boat lift replaced the 11 locks that once carried countless vessels between the two waterways and must be seen to be believed. Nowhere else on the planet can you sail through the sky, held up in the heavens by a combination of graceful engineering and the same power as it would take to boil eight kettles!

The Forth Bridge

Firth of Forth

Spanning the 2.5 kilometres between the coasts of Edinburgh and Fife, the Forth Bridge is one of the most dramatic man-made structures in Scotland. The iconic red steel bridge is one of the nation’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and has been featured in a range of TV programmes, advertising and films - including the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock classic The 39 Steps (as well as its remakes). Needless to say, sailing beneath the three towers of the cantilever bridge, which soar more than 100 metres into the sky, is an utterly cinematic experience!

Fancy sailing more of Scotland's cinematic landscapes? Check out our guide to #SailHollywood!

St Giles’ Cathedral


Edinburgh’s iconic Royal Mile boasts some incredible and historic buildings, but St Giles’ Cathedral, with its distinctive crowned steeple dominating the skyline and its intricate stained glass windows staring out onto the cobbled streets, stands above them all – quite literally. Built almost 1000 years ago, it’s one of the capital’s most beautiful buildings, inside and out. If you’re paying a visit, be sure to take the rooftop tour and see Edinburgh from the heavens!


Neptune’s Staircase

Caledonian Canal

Take a trip to beautiful Banavie near Fort William to see the majestic Caledonian Canal’s iconic staircase lock flight – Neptune’s Staircase. This amazing feat of engineering, overlooked by Ben Nevis, raises the canal by 19m (62ft) over a quarter of a mile of continuous masonry and takes around 90 minutes for a boat to travel up or down the locks. Built by famed engineer Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822, it’s the longest staircase lock in Scotland and the perfect location to enjoy a spot of ‘gongoozling!’

(c) Moonshadow Yacht Charter

Stirling Castle


Edinburgh may have the grandeur, Eilean Donan may have the looks, but when it comes to history, nothing tops Stirling. The town’s titular castle, where the Wars of Independence were fought and won, where for three centuries monarchs ruled in regal splendour, and where it’s said the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots still haunts the cavernous halls, has the epic, dark, poetic history of Scotland scored into its soaring stone. Head for the Firth of Forth, moor up and experience it for yourself.

Looking to delve into the dark heart of Scotland? Check out our guide to its most-haunted sites! 

V&A Museum


Set on the banks of Dundee’s River Tay and just a short walk from Captain Scott’s RRS Discovery, the V & A is Scotland’s first design museum. It might only be recently opened, but the design of this new landmark is already proving iconic. Nearly 2,500 cast-stone panels form its eye-catching façade and you might just find the design familiar – it’s inspired by the dramatic cliffs along Scotland’s east coast.

(c) V&A Dundee

The Kelpies

Forth & Clyde Canal

Clad in almost 1000 shimmering steel panels, standing the same height as six and a half double decker buses, and weighing more than 600 tonnes, The Kelpies are the world’s largest equine sculptures. Designed by Scottish sculptor Andy Scott, The Kelpies form the gateway to the historic Forth & Clyde Canal in Grangemouth near Falkirk and serve as monumental tributes to the horse-powered heritage that was vital to the early industries of central Scotland. Visit at night to see the sculptures’ light show – it’ll take your breath away!

(c) VisitScotland