Scotland may only be a small country, but its diminutive size is no match for the wealth of natural and man-made wonders that make it a destination that is always full of surprises and draws visitors back time after time. In fact, there are few other places on Earth that boast such a rich and varied tapestry of natural, historic and cultural treasures, certainly within the confines of its borders, making Scotland a country that you simply can’t fail to fall in love with!
Here’s a rundown of the main reasons to love Scotland:
SCOTLAND’S (NOT ALWAYS) HORRIBLE HISTORY
Visit Scotland and you’re surrounded by history. From grand stately homes to dominant castles and ancient stone circles to great metal works of the Industrial Revolution, the country’s heritage is there to be discovered. From the earliest prehistoric settlers to the violence of Viking invaders and the innovation of the 19th century, every period of history is an integral part of the Scottish landscape, giving the visitor an unforgettable insight into the past.
Scotland’s landscapes are as varied and inspiring as they are synonymous with the country, which is why visitors return time after time and rarely become fatigued with their surroundings. Scotland is, of course, renowned for its impressive mountain ranges and mysterious yet beautiful lochs, but acres of dense woodland fringing fertile farmland and expansive sandy beaches are also a must-see on any visit to the country.
The castles of Scotland – once numbering over 3,000 – are synonymous with the country’s powerful, and often bloody, history; the ones that remain today are an unmissable window into the past and so varied in design and stature that it’s a challenge to know where to begin! From French-style chateaux, such as Castle Fraser (famously featured in The Queen), to the rambling fortresses of Kilchurn and Dunnottar, Scotland’s castles are an instant hit for visitors of all ages.
GOLF COURSES FIT FOR A PRESIDENT
Scotland: the home of golf. For over 600 years, Scotland has been at the forefront of the game and remains a premier location for PGA tournaments and amateur enthusiasts alike. With over 550 courses from which to choose, including links courses, parkland and heathland, all set amid dramatic landscapes, it’s little surprise that Scotland is a first-choice golfing destination for everyone from US presidents to holidaymakers.
A BOOKWORM’S FAVOURITE LITERARY SCENE
For hundreds of years, Scotland’s finest authors and poets have inspired readers across the globe with their works, and a walk through the breath-taking landscape of Scotland is a perfect way to connect with the literary heritage of the country. Visitors are also drawn to Edinburgh for its countless bookshops ranging from the mainstream to the quirky, and the city’s International Book Festival which features new and established authors hoping to make their mark.
EXPANSIVE SANDY BEACHES
Scotland may be famous for its towering mountains and dense forests, but its fantastic sandy beaches are among the best in the UK. They may not boast the temperate climate of other destinations, but their tranquillity and purity are rarely surpassed. Camusdarach (Morar), West Beach (Berneray) and Eoligarry (Isle of Barra) are simply unmissable.
LIGHTHOUSES OF SCOTLAND
For nearly 400 years Scotland’s lighthouses have guided vessels safely away from the precarious rocks and cliffs that make its coastal landscape distinctive; today, over 200 lighthouses remain in operation, offering visitors fantastic views and a chance to delve into the country’s maritime history. Many lighthouses are surrounded by nature reserves, offering the opportunity to witness rare species in their natural habitat, while it’s even possible to enjoy an overnight stay in a renovated lighthouse.
Whether you’re visiting Scotland for a short break or longer stay, island-hopping should certainly be on your itinerary. From the peaty whiskies distilled on Islay to the sea eagles that soar over Mull or windsurfing off Tiree to the deserted beaches on Colonsay – every island offers something different. Scenic boat trips from the Scottish mainland offer a pleasant and effortless journey to the islands.
A FLOURISHING FOOD SCENE
Scottish food and drink are among the finest in the world and offers the visitor a mouth-watering and unforgettable culinary experience, whether dining at a top-class hotel or an intimate country pub. With the Atlantic Ocean on the doorstep, it’s little wonder that fresh seafood is a national dish, while the fertile soil of the Scottish hills provides a rich and flavoursome crop to suit every taste –best served with locally-brewed ale, whisky, beer or cider!
UP CLOSE WITH NATURE
You don’t need to be a dedicated naturalist to appreciate Scotland’s resident wildlife and, with their safety and wellbeing in mind, it’s possible to enjoy an up-close view of their natural habitat. Whether it’s the world-famous golden eagles soaring over the peaks of the mountains, friendly dolphins rising over the sea surrounding the islands or wild stag ambling through the Highlands, visitors are guaranteed a fantastic photo opportunity.
THE OUTLANDISH OUTDOORS
For visitors seeking a little more in the way of thrills, Scotland can rarely be beaten for sheer variety alone. From hiking across the mountainous landscape – perhaps combined with wild camping and an unsurpassable view of the Milky Way from an accredited Dark Sky park – to canoeing or kayaking along the River Tay, there are innumerable opportunities to take advantage of the great outdoors. With wildlife tours, island-hopping cruises and climbing expeditions also available, visitors can choose from an extensive range of activities to learn or perfect.
Whisky, the national drink of Scotland, has enjoyed such huge success that it can be consumed all over the world, but for a more authentic experience, combine a tour of the country with a visit to a traditional country pub to savour the varieties on offer. Alternatively, a tour of a distillery, where the freshwater is expertly combined with locally-grown barley and matured for three years, is a perfect opportunity to learn more about the process of creating a world-famous Scotch as well as enjoying a sample or two!
Scottish culture is captivating, engaging and at the cutting edge – so much more than bagpipes, although of course they have their place in the country’s cultural heritage. But with world-famous events such as the Edinburgh Fringe, summer music festivals across the country, outstanding architecture and traditional and contemporary art galleries, Scotland’s cultural vein runs deep.
A LAND OF MYSTERY
Scottish folklore has been a rich source for storywriters and artists for hundreds of years. Nessie may have recently been disproved but that won’t stop the swarms of visitors who flock to the world’s most famous loch hoping to catch a glimpse of the monster. For other tales of the unexpected, Fingal’s Cave, the Corryvreckan Whirlpool and the Ghost Piper of Clanyard Bay offer a window into Scotland’s stranger side of life.
Scotland boasts over 200 festivals every year, featuring everything from Celtic music to comedy and literature to sport. Up Helly Aa, held every January on Shetland, features an impressive torchlit procession and burning of a galley, while at the opposite end of the year Hogmanay showcases live music, street parties and fireworks for visitors from the world over. With a plethora of events throughout the calendar, there’s a festival for every taste.