The country north of Hadrian’s Wall is known for kilts, castles, whisky and Wallace, but Scotland has so much more to offer the first-time visitor. Here’s a quick roundup of our favourite Scottish destinations to include on your itinerary when you head to experience your first taste of Bonnie Scotland. Hae a guid journey!
The capital of Scotland and the seat of Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh is a grand old city with plenty of soul. Full of dark, gothic buildings like the famous Scott Monument on Princes Street and the ancient stronghold of Edinburgh Castle that holds watch over the city, Edinburgh has a singular ambiance that walks a fine line between convivial and awe-inspiring. The best way to really see and feel the city is to set out on foot – stroll the Royal Mile, wander through the National Gallery of Scotland, drop in at Holyroodhouse Palace or take a leisurely walk to Arthur’s Seat, where you can enjoy remarkable views over the entire city. Drop in at a few pups along the way to sample some local whisky (remember to drop the ‘e’ – that’s Irish!) and maybe even try some haggis!
The National Wallace Monument
Made famous by the sweeping Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart, the story of how Sir William Wallace lead Scotland to victory over the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge is an epic tale for the ages. The National Wallace Monument stands outside the city of Stirling, overlooking the scene of this pivotal battle, and offers visitors an opportunity to learn more about this widely heralded Scottish patriot and martyr, who would ultimately become known as the Guardian of Scotland.
One of Europe’s finest towns, St Andrews is a place of history, learning and culture, a wonderful coastal resort, and also known for some pretty spectacular golf courses. Visit St Andrews Castle, Blackfriars Chapel and the Martyrs’ Monument for a spot of culture; make your way to Eden Mill or Kingsbarns Distillery to wet your whistle and learn more about the whisky trade; or go on guided walks of the Old Course if you want to follow in the footsteps of some golfing greats.
The Highlands are the physical manifestation of Scotland as most people see in their mind’s eye before they set out on a Scottish adventure. It’s an amazing amalgamation of culture, history, architecture and unparalleled scenery. Think big skies, mind-blowing landscapes, superb food and hospitable people – an unpredictable, untameable destination that weaves a singular kind of magic. Enjoy jaw-dropping views, pass through the countless scenic mountains, forest paths, rivers, lochs, wildlife hotspots, friendly villages of the renowned Cairngorms National Park and so much more!
Loch Ness is a freshwater loch (lake) well-known the world over, perhaps more so for the mythical Loch Ness monster than anything else. Overlooking the beautiful loch are the stark remains of Urquhart Castle, which was built in the 1230s. Seized by the English in 1296, the castle was sacked by the MacDonald Lord of the Isles in 1545 and was abandoned in 1689. The wild beauty of the remains make for spectacular photo opportunities.
Isle of Skye
Renowned for its rugged landscapes, picturesque fishing villages and medieval castles, the stunning Isle of Skye is connected to Scotland’s northwest coast by bridge and the largest island in the Inner Hebrides archipelago. Skye is a world-class destination for walkers and climbers of all persuasions and has a rich history that covers everything from dinosaur fossils and clan warfare to the Jacobite Rebellion and Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Ben Nevis is the highest peak in the British Isles, and close to the town of Fort William. Fondly referred to as ‘Ben’ by the locals, this imposing peak sits majestically at the head of Loch Linnhe, it’s imposing presence emphasised by the fact that it begins its rise from sea-level to tower 4,406ft (1,344m) above the town. If you are planning to make your way up the mountain footpath with friends or on your own you may want to consider the benefits of a guided walk – Ben Nevis can be quite intolerant of ill-prepared ramblers.
Eilean Donan Castle
Situated on an island at the point where three great sea lochs meet, Eilean Donan Castle is known as one of the most iconic images of Scotland and highly regarded visitor attractions throughout the Highlands. The first fortified castle was build on the island in the 1200s and has since been rebuilt no less than four times as Scotland’s feudal history unfolded over the centuries. The castle was restored to its former glory in the early 1900s by Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap who bought it after it had lain in ruins for the better part of 200 years. Today visitors can explore nearly every part of the castle to learn more about the structure and the history of the region.
Scotland is a gorgeous, wild, sweeping country and true jewel in the crown of Great Britain. A destinations sure to revive the wanderlust in even the most seasoned traveller. Turas math dhut!
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