Castles, Whiskey and Kilts: Your Guide to Exploring Scotland
Despite a history that reaches into the past, Scotland remains somewhat of a mystery for many travelers. As a place Hadrian failed to conquer, what lies beyond the wall lives in peoples’ imaginations long before they set foot on the country’s plush soil. With a capital defined by jagged hills and old stone buildings, and lochs said to roam with creatures of legend, it is no wonder Scotland is seen perpetually as the perfect backdrop for an adventure. With so much to explore, it can be tricky to know where to start. Whether it be deep in whiskey distilleries, or lost in winding castle hallways, a tour around Scotland will be one you will never forget.
The Coastal Capital: Edinburgh
With Old Town boasting the best of Medieval architecture, and New Town encompassing extravagant, dark brick buildings, you’d be forgiven for thinking Edinburgh was anything other than a glimpse into a storybook past. As the place where the Scottish crown jewels are held safely in the striking Edinburgh Castle, it’s impossible not to be enchanted by your surroundings. Although Edinburgh looks beautiful, there is far more to it than stretching views and scenic walks. In fact, behind the wooden doors of the Scotch Whiskey Experience, you can unlock one of Scotland’s most famous exports. As something that is bound to add fun to any tour, you can trace how the finest Scottish whiskey is made in the heart of the capital, before trying a taste and taking home a bottle for yourself. With warmth in your veins and a scarf wrapped around your neck, you can attempt the climb up to Arthur’s Seat to see the best views over the entire city, where the silver-blue sea sits in the distance.
Natural Wonders: Loch Ness
The touch of natural splendour in Edinburgh is enough to awaken the adventurer in anybody, but you can immerse yourself fully into the Scottish landscape by taking a tour around some of its most treasured natural wonders. A trip to Scotland would not be the same without visiting the iconic Loch Ness. With sweeping panoramas and still waters, it’s hard to envision how the legend of the Loch Ness monster came to be. In any case, having such a story accompanying you on countryside hikes will help put a rosy glow in your cheeks. Hiking here is an unbeatable experience at any time of the day, but sunsets over the water will create an ethereal glow over the famous Urquhart Castle. If you can make your way up to the 16th-century marvel, you will find some of the best views over the entire loch. To give your legs a rest, it is always recommended to go on a boat trip through the water on calmer days, which will enable you to capture shots of the hills that you might not otherwise be able to see.
Seaside Towns: St. Andrews
Rolling hills and serene lochs are not all the Scottish scenery offers visitors. With a collection of seaside towns and peaceful beaches, you can step away from the crowds to find a home on the Scottish coast. One of the most loved of these towns is St. Andrews. A place dappled by history and mountain views, you can find some of the best beach walks in the country here.
At the end of the day, wandering through the lamppost-lined streets and catching the sun dip down over the ruins of St. Andrews castle will be the perfect addition to your trip. To see technicolor houses running along the Western shores, a trip over to Oban will give you a different but welcome experience of Scotland’s varied seaside landscape. The Oban Distillery is a popular tourist attraction here, and one that shouldn’t be missed. As the home of rocky viewpoints, Oban is the ideal place to unwind in the sharp, Scottish air. Although McCaig’s tower is one of the best lookout spots over the town, a trip here wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Inner Hebrides. On these islands, sights of dolphins and seals are not uncommon, especially off the coast of the Isle of Mull.
The Second City: Glasgow
Further inland and away from the choppy sea lies Glasgow, the cultural melting pot of Scotland. As a distinctly different city to the well-known capital, Glasgow offers a sublime blend of modern and historical architecture, as well as a whole host of museums showcasing the history of the city. Although often overlooked by explorers, there is much inside the city and in the surrounding natural areas to add a truly special touch to every tour. It is also home to some of the most vibrant bars in the United Kingdom, where you can be sure to create wonderful nights out with fellow travelers. Of course, you should reserve a small part of your tour to try the Scottish delicacy of haggis.
Days spent walking along the river are already a scenic feat, but the Riverside Museum lights up in the night to become the pulsing heart of the city. Glasgow Cathedral gives you the dose of history you’ve been waiting for, and in the winter months, you can hear the traditional sounds of Celtic music permeate the air as the Celtic Connections Festival comes to life. On blissful autumn days, you could even try following the River Clyde out to the west coast, where countless lochs and stunning natural sights will greet you along the way.