Scotland tourism is all about magnificent scenery of soaring rocky mountains, rolling green hills, romantic lakes and rugged coastlines, a dramatic land scattered with picturesque cottages and historic castles.
This is a spectacular walking country if you are either weatherproof or lucky in your timing.
The country also offers wild urban cultures in both Glasgow and Edinburgh, especially
the world's most intensive arts experience, the Edinburgh Festival
- and particularly its delightfully bonkers 'Fringe' element.
And finally Scotland is a place to meet fine, interesting and mostly hospitable people, though tread warily around a Scot after he's had a few drinks.
Ben Wyvis, Scottish Highlands in winter.
• Unpredictable weather, often wet or cold or both.
• Limited local cuisine.
• Voracious midge (like small mosquitoes) attacks in the summer
in the countryside, especially near fresh water.
• Scotland has very short daylight hours in the winter.
• The Scottish accent can be tricky to understand.
May-September, especially August for the Edinburgh Festival.
January-March (wet, cold, grey, and very, very short of daylight). Many small
museums close November-March.
Edinburgh has an accommodation problem around Hogmany (Dec 29-Jan
2) and during the Festival (August), so, book rooms well in advance.
Edinburgh, capital of Scotland
Things to see
***Edinburgh, a dramatic city with
the world reputation for its cutting-edge arts scene. See Edinburgh
City Guide or Edinburgh
***The Scottish Highlands, another set of splendid
landscapes, wilder and more dramatic than the Lake District, covering
two-thirds of Scotland, with mountains, glens (valleys) and lochs
(lakes). Ideal for hiking and driving - apart from attacks by biting midges when near water, which is almost always.
The highlights are the Great Glen, across from *Inverness
to Fort William (both are obvious bases for the Highlands),
Nessie-spotting at *Loch Ness, climbing
**Ben Nevis, Britain's highest peak, and walking around ***Glen
Coe - it's astonishingly beautiful and comes with a tragic history.
*** The Hebrides islands are a pain to get to but wonderfully scenic and lacking in crowds, cars and new millennium stress. This is the place for solitude, splendour and superb beaches.
**Glasgow, a big industry city with
a bad reputation, but actually one of the most cultured and lively
urban spaces in the UK. There's some remarkable architecture by C. R.
Mackintosh and brilliant museums and galleries - especially the
Burrell Collection of art and antiquities.
**St Andrews, a university town with
the famous old golf course - the Royal & Ancient Golf Club -
that is a mecca for golfers.
***The Borders, a tranquil pastoral
area with delightful towns such as **Melrose, Kelso and Peebles.
The highlights are Abbotsford House (Sir Walter Scott's house),
Floors Castle (the Scotland's biggest inhabited castle), Traquair
House (the oldest inhabited house). Ideal for walking, cycling,
**Stirling, a compact and historic
town with an imposing castle, is a perfect base for outdoor
activities in the Trossachs lowland countryside - ' Rob Roy country'.
**Famous Castles: Eilean Donan near
Kyle of Lochalsh, Floors in Kelso on the The Borders, Urquhart
by Loch Ness, Cawdor (Macbeth) near Inverness.
Try to stay in a castle-become-hotel if you can afford it. e.g.
Leslie Castle, Insch, Aberdeenshire or Borthwick Castle, North Middleton,
*The Orkneys and Shetlands islands are a flight away further north, good for
viewing seabirds such as gannets and puffins and prehistoric sites.
If lucky you could see the Northern Lights from there.
Dec 31-Jan 2, Hogmanay, a truly wild New Year's celebration.
Last Tuesday of Jan, Up-Helly-Aa (Viking fire festival) in Lerwick,
End of Jan, Burns Night (celebration for Scotland's greatest poet
with special dinner)
May, Mayfest, the UK's 2nd largest arts festival in Glasgow.
May- August, Highland Games, traditional sport, folk music and dance,
Most of August, Edinburgh International Festival, and the more wacky
Fringe Festival, certainly the UK's and maybe the world's best arts
festival. See Edinburgh
Early Sept. Braemar Royal Highland Gathering/Games.
Things to do
Walking and Hiking: Especially try to travel the Duke's Pass
between Callander and Aberfoyle in the Trossachs, The West Highland
Way (95 miles from Glasgow to Fort Williams via Loch Lomond and
Glen Coe) and the Great Glen Way.
Climbing: Mt. Ben Nevis (1,344m), Britain's
highest peak, and mountains more peaks and cliffs.
Bird-watching: Orkney Isles, Shetland
Fishing: The Borders, Deeside and masses
of private rivers or public seas.
Biking: Heaps of spectacular small,
quiet roads in the Highlands, the Borders, the Trossachs (esp. from
Callander to Balquhidder), and so on...
Skiing: Aviemore, UK's biggest skiing
centre has some good runs if global warming doesn't kill off the
Golfing: From the wonderful, mad old
Edinburgh city centre Brunswick Links to St Andrews, there are more
than 400 golf courses in Scotland
Nightlife & Entertainment: Edinburgh
or Glasgow are very lively, otherwise forget it.
Floors Castle, the Scottish Borders
The more affluent or romantic visitors should certainly stay at least a couple of nights in a Scottish castle, many have been beautifully converted and are fascinating places to stay. The smaller castles in Scotland (i.e. not Floors castle!) are often privately owned Bed and Breakfast places with the owners doing the grunt work such as serving drinks, so the experience can be quite sociable.
Naturally there is a range of
hotels, hostels and self-catering accommodation available but somehow bed and breakfast in Scotland is ubiquitous, ranging from superbly converted Georgian mansions to modest farm houses (in addition to castles), with prices to match.
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