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There are a whole host of reasons why you should pay a visit to the beautiful and diverse country of Scotland that go beyond the well-known traditions and mysteries of haggis, kilts and the Loch Ness Monster. From its jaw-dropping scenery and spectacular castles, to its world-renowned arts, culture and whisky, Scotland has something to offer absolutely every taste and interest. Below are just 10 of the best reasons to experience Scotland now.
Those who are yet to visit Scotland may visualise a country blanketed by deserted landscapes: this could not be further from the truth. In between its imposing mountains and undulating walking country, you will find a series of beautiful and bustling cities, brimming with unique character and waiting to be discovered. Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, exudes elegance and is known for its tremendous culture, while being dominated by the ancient Arthur’s Seat and the idyllic 11th century Edinburgh Castle, which hosts the Crown Jewels and the National War Museum of Scotland. Other hard-to-beat cities include Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Dundee, all of which offer an abundance of striking architecture, fascinating history and enough varying attractions to keep you occupied, no matter how long your stay.
Undoubtedly one of Scotland’s most famous attractions, Loch Ness is a picturesque expanse of water stretching 23 miles across the heart of the Scottish Highlands, from Inverness to Fort Augustus. It is the country’s largest loch in terms of volume and plunges some 230 metres into the ground, carrying more freshwater than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined. Despite its impressive size, the loch is better known for its cryptozoological resident, the Loch Ness Monster. People have travelled to Scotland from all over the world since the early 1930s to try and spot the beloved ‘Nessie’, and you can do so too – either from the serene shores of the loch or while enjoying one of the marvellous Loch Ness Cruises. Loch Ness is certainly one for those who adore myths and scenery, the dramatic Urquhart Castle perches proudly on the western banks, meanwhile the children will love the immersive Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition.
Split into four groups of Shetland, Orkney and the Inner and Outer Hebrides, over 790 individual islands pepper the waters off the coast of mainland Scotland, ranging from those bordered by glistening golden sands, to rolling rural landscapes bursting with wildlife and astounding scenery. The ever-popular Isle of Skye showcases dramatic rocky outcrops, intertwining with an intriguingly rich history around a host of topics from dinosaur fossils to the Jacobite Rebellion. Keen whisky drinkers should have the Isle of Islay near the top of their list of places to go in Scotland, it hosts no less than eight working distilleries dotted throughout its stunning countryside, a heavenly place for lovers of “scotch”. Due to the fickle Scotland weather, it is not known for its sunbathing beaches or seaside trip locations, however the Isles of Barra and Lewis and Harris display some of the most attractively sparkling waters and Mediterranean-looking beaches that you are likely to find across the UK.
The magnificent Scottish Highlands gloriously occupy more than one third of the country’s land area, and it offers everything that you expect and more. It is the home of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, which is just one of a multitude of examples of the jaw-dropping scenery that you will uncover whilst venturing through the Highlands. Not only can you take advantage of the breath-taking countryside, the perimeter of the UK’s largest government area is known as the North Coast 500 and proves to be the ultimate Scottish road trip, allowing you to marvel at the wondrous coastline of this tremendous region whatever the weather. Pass a number of sublime castles packed with captivating history, or perhaps coincide your trip with the one-of-a-kind Highland Games for a truly unforgettable experience.
Scotland’s castles are nearly as abundant as its omnipresent scenery, with examples of spellbinding architecture almost everywhere you look – there has been up to 3,000 castles standing proudly across the land throughout history. From the quirky and magical to the more modern and the simply magnificent, hundreds of varying castles dominate the skylines and landscapes across this wondrous country. Edinburgh Castle and Balmoral Castle are known to be among the best castles in Scotland, meanwhile some of the lesser known, but equally impressive Scotland castles include Dunrobin on the North Coast, or the fairy-tale Floors Castle which rests within the Scottish Borders. Wherever you choose to visit here, you are almost certain to be within a stone’s throw of one of this astounding structures – all of which boast fascinating stories waiting to be uncovered.
Scottish whisky, or “scotch”, is an integral part of the country’s persona, as well as its economy, accounting for over 85% of Scotland’s food and drink exports meanwhile contributing to almost a quarter of Britain’s as a whole. There are just shy of 100 active malt distilleries across the five main whisky regions throughout Scotland; the Highlands, Islay, Campbeltown, Lowland and Speyside. Despite being nowhere near the largest whisky region, Speyside is arguably Scotland’s most renowned. Home to the worldwide-known Speyside Malt Whisky Trail, here you can learn how your favourite Speyside whiskies are made, and even discover some more – all while be able to admire some of the most awe-inspiring coastal and countryside scenery imaginable. Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Johnnie Walker are among the more popular whisky brands on offer across Scotland, while many more can be sampled at captivating festivals such as the Whisky Exchange in Glasgow.
Quality over quantity is certainly the case with Scotland’s National Parks. Hosting just two of the 15 throughout the UK, the Cairngorms sits imposingly as the largest in size, while Loch Lomond and the Trossachs has been declared Britain’s best National Park by National Geographic. Avid walkers, cyclists and lovers of the outdoors in general must add both of these idyllic expanses to their list of places to spend an enthralling expedition – enjoy all things exhilarating with opportunities for spine-tingling activities such as Segway safaris, a number of snow sports and a range of beautiful golf clubs which contribute heavily to Scotland being known as the home of golf. You can climb a series of dramatic mountains and feel like you’re on top of the world, whilst being surrounded by the jaw-dropping scenery of the landscapes below. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park plays host to a series of picture-perfect lochs, in particular Loch Lomond itself, lined by spectacular shores and offering some marvellous cruises so you can appreciate the unbeatable vistas without moving a muscle.
You don’t need to reach the summit of enormous mountains or walk miles and miles to appreciate the perplexing scenery of Scotland. The Jacobite Steam Train allows you to experience all of this from the comfort of the cosy carriage, perhaps with a delicious snack or a soothing glass of bubbly in hand to top it all off. The 84-mile-round-trip, described by many as the best train journey in the world, runs between Fort William and Mallaig on the West Coast – it starts just a stone’s throw from Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, meanwhile on the way it chugs past picturesque lochs, stunning rural landscapes and hard-to-beat coastline. Perhaps what the train is most famous for is its appearance in the Harry Potter films, referred to as the Hogwarts Express, the famous journey along the beautiful Glenfinnan Viaduct may just make you feel like a witch or wizard yourself.
A slower-paced, cultural break can also be enjoyed whilst visiting this incredible country, as it’s also extremely well-known for its captivating and eccentric festivals, arts and events. Hundreds of events run each year throughout Scotland, celebrating a multitude of different things in the fields of music, books, food and drink, film, theatre and even more. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world – this exceedingly diverse event runs throughout most of August each year, hosting 10s of thousands of performances in a plethora of areas, a one-of-a-kind experience that is sure to stick in your memory forever. Get a true taste of traditional Scotland by watching some of the unique Highland Games, running from May to September each year with over 80 events including tug-of-war, caber toss and the hammer throw being contested in many locations across the country.
Affectionately known as “Robbie Burns” across Scotland, this widely famous former poet is certainly something of a national hero. So much so, that Burns Night is held on the 25th of January each year to celebrate his accomplishments and contributions to the country’s captivating and far-reaching history. For those who appreciate archaic poetry and music, visiting Scotland on Burns Night would be something to treasure. Traditionally, family and friends would gather together and sit down to a Burns supper, during which some of Burns’ most famous work is recited – “Address to a Haggis” is read aloud whilst the haggis is being cut, before the meal is complete with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne”. To commemorate the great work of Burns, you can find memorials and statues dotted around the country, with the Scottish poet’s birthplace and house also available to visit to find out more about his fascinating life.
We boast a marvellous range of places to stay in Scotland, from which you can explore all of the remarkable attractions above, and more. Discover the best ways of getting to Scotland, as well as further recommendations of things to do, places to eat and drink, ongoing events and spectacular walking opportunities to treat yourself and your loved ones to the full Scotland experience.
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