Scotland, land of Celtic myth, history and breathtaking beauty, has countless treasures crammed into its relatively compact territory – from big skies to ancient architecture, from spectacular wildlife to superb seafood and to top it all incredibly friendly, hospitable and down-to-earth people.
Outside the ancient and beautiful UNESCO World heritage capital city, Edinburgh, and other urban centres like Glasgow, once home to the largest shipping industry in the world but now a lively city of art, culture, great dining and bars, the visitor is entranced by mountains glistening with the silver threads of icy rivers and waterfalls tumbling from highlands to lowlands. Here you’ll find villages with stations where you need to put your hand out to request that a train stops and then suddenly, around the next mountain corner, a landscape peppered with gleaming lochs and expansive vistas.
Scotland has some of the last significant wilderness areas left in Western Europe. Here you can see golden eagles soar above the lochs and mountains of the northern Highlands, watch minke whales off the coast of Mull and spot otters tumbling in the kelp along the shores of the Outer Hebrides. Scotland is also an adventure playground: you can tramp the sub-arctic tundra plateau of the Cairngorms, sea kayak among the seal-haunted mystic isles of the Outer Hebrides, mountain bike on world-class trails near Scotland’s highest mountain, trek along the valley or mountain trails and balance along tightrope narrow ridges between the peaks of the great Cuillins on Skye or take a speedboat ride into the legendary white water of the Corryvreckan whirlpool.
Scotland is a land with a rich and multilayered history. A place where every corner of the landscape is steeped in the past. A deserted croft on an island shore been testament to generations past. These moors were once battlefields, caves that sheltered outlaws and rebels. The land boasts hundreds of castles, from the massive historic citadels of Edinburgh and Stirling to forbidding tower houses to the elaborate fortresses of Caerlaverock and Craigmillar. Scotland’s castles testify to an often turbulent past full of the sort of legend, intrigue and tragedy that inspired Game of Thrones, including the Red Wedding, as well as other popular series like Outlander. The battles that played a pivotal part in the building of these castles. The nation is remembered and brought to life at sites such as Bannockburn and Culloden.
Visitors discover that Scotland’s restaurants can now compete with the best in Europe. Top-quality local produce means that you can feast on fresh seafood mere hours after been caught, beef and venison that was raised just a few miles away from your table, and vegetables that were grown in your hotel’s organic garden. Then there’s the uisge-beatha, the water of life or Whisky (no ‘e’) to top it all off. Savour a ‘wee dram’ of single-malt whisky and appreciate the rich, complex and evocative taste of Scotland.
Culturally too Scotland punches above its weight, from the poetry of Robert Burns to the modern crime fiction of Ian Rankin or even the songs of Emeli Sandé, Scotland’s cultural exports to the world are many and appreciated as much as the famous whisky, tweed and tartan. You certainly can’t beat reading Burns’ poems in the village where he was born or enjoying an Inspector Rebus novel in Rankin’s own Edinburgh pubs, or catching the latest Scottish bands at a music festival. Museums like Dundee’s Discovery Point and V&A, Glasgow’s Kelvingrove and Aberdeen’s Maritime Museum celebrate the enormous influence of Scottish engineers, inventors, artists, explorers and writers and in shaping the modern world. Discover why, as one historian put it, this is the country that invented the modern world.