With a blast of bagpipes, let us begin our tour of Scotland – home to breathtaking scenery, a rich history and some of the friendliest folk in the world.
Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital, with a charming medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town with lush gardens and neoclassical architecture. The centrepiece is Edinburgh Castle, set high on the hill and housing Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny.
In Edinburgh you’ll find cranking nightlife and the vibrant Hogmanay street party (which heralds in the new year). If you ever want to have your view of ‘cultural’ radically redefined, visiting Edinburgh for their famous Fringe Festival during August should do the trick.
Bookended by Charlotte Square at one end and St Andrews Square at the other, Edinburgh’s George Street is lined with the type of gracious Georgian architectural gems that the Scottish capital is so well known for.
Situated in the city’s New Town, the term is relative: the confection of grand townhouses, imposing bank buildings and wide squares were created from 1767 to the 1830s to ease the overcrowding in the Old Town, the ancient warren of tenements and closes crowding The Royal Mile.
Nowadays these buildings house some of the Scottish capital’s most desirable boutiques, restaurants, bars and hotels.
Glasgow suffers a little from being the second city of Scotland, without the impressive royal history of the capital.
But one thing it has to itself is Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the lauded architect and local son who created some of the city’s most distinctive architecture, including the Glasgow School of Arts and The Lighthouse (originally built as The Glasgow Herald offices).
Glasgow also homes a wealth of experiences across the arts that makes it one of the most culturally significant on the planet.
Scotland has some incredible museums, Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum, and Edinburgh’s Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art being three of the best.
Road trips are a great way to see this part of the world. Scotland’s North Coast 500 is a newly-launched 500-mile route that circles around the country’s northern wilds, past dune-backed beaches, turreted castles, towering mountains and windswept grasslands.
The Scottish Hebrides boast some of the most beautiful scenery the UK has to offer. They are also super remote, so you feel like you’re miles away from anyone.
The hiking in Scotland is some of the best you’ll ever get to experience. From the highest peaks of Sgurr Choinnich Mor to the craggy terrain of Bidean nam Bian, it’s like being in Lord of the Rings.
Scottish food doesn’t always have the best reputation (thank you, haggis) but there are many bizarre but scrumptious foods you should explore. Scotland produces some of the world’s best seafood, including lobster-like langoustines; creamy, cooling oysters of the Gods and of course, incredible salmon. Scottish berries are also often considered the best on earth – strawberries, raspberries and brambles (‘blackberries’ to non-Scots) are particularly sweet and juicy. Pair them with some thick, yellow Scottish cream and you’re laughing. Don’t fancy self-catering? Check out Inver in Argyle for locally foraged food from a former Noma chef, or Alchemilla in Glasgow for fresh, Scottish produce with a Middle Eastern bent.
It’s a surprising fact to many that Scotland has regularly ranked highly in competitions looking for the world’s best beaches (Traigh na Teampail on Harris and Sandwood Bay in Sutherland in particular). Think clean, clear turquoise waters and pure white sand. And nobody else around. Sure, they’re not the warmest waters in the world, but that’s what makes them so peaceful.