Sure, it seems a little ungrateful to be sitting here in beautiful, warm New Zealand writing about how I’d rather be elsewhere – especially an elsewhere that’s a rainy 9 degrees Celsius according to Google – however once the travel bug has bitten it’s really hard to let go of that wanderlust. Over the last couple of decades Scotland has been immortalized by filmmakers. From the ancient clans of Braveheart and Outlaw King to the family friendly sass of Disney’s Brave to the edginess of Trainspotting, there’s more interest than ever in visiting but can you expect from the real thing?
Scotland is one of my favourite places on earth, it’s packed with so much history, nightlife, amazing cities and beautiful countryside I can’t imagine ever getting bored here. If you have never been, it’s definitely a bucket list country. There is so much to explore in Scotland you could spend a year here and still not see it all so it’s important to have a plan of exactly what you want to do and how you’re going to travel around. I can only really talk about places I have actually visited so this article is by no means exhaustive, but I’m hoping to give a good idea of why you should put Scotland your list of places to visit.
One of the most breathtaking places on Earth has got to be the the Isle of Skye, the largest of a group of Islands called the Inner Hebrides. The scenery is breathtaking and if you’re on a mission to discover your Scots ancestry, Skye is packed full of Clan history and has the highest number of fluent Gaelic speakers. It’s pretty much peak cultural immersion. Animal lovers will be able to check out golden eagles, red deer and real live dinosaur footprints. Yep you did read that correctly, prints from Ornithopod dinosaurs were left in the rock at Staffin Beach about 165 million years ago.
Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital and as a tourist this is the city you will likely gravitate around. The city itself is built on seven hills and the sometimes steep winding, medieval streets are pretty fascinating and fun to explore, not so much fun if you’ve had a few beverages at one of the many pubs or restaurants around the city and you end up practically rolling back to where you’re staying. Some must dos in Edinburgh are: The Elephant House, where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books. Billed as the “birthplace” of the series, patrons leave Harry Potter themed messages in the bathrooms.
If you happen to be there at Christmas don’t forget to check out the Christmas markets. European Christmas markets are one of my favourite things, shopping, fairy lights, and hot, boozy drinks. I’m not sure how that could get better.
Whiskey lovers need to check out the Bow Bar. Now I’m no expert on malts or aging but they’ll happily explain everything while you slip into a fuzzy haze. I recommend taking lots of photos because your memory will likely be a bit patchy.
Eating out is not an issue here and there are plenty of incredible restaurants to choose from. If you’re feeling fancy book in at Timberyard, 21212, or the Gardeners Cottage. For those on a bit more of a budget I checked out Quay Commons, Origano (best pizza ever!) and Baba. All were totally amzing. Scotland’s reptutation for food isn’t strong (think deep fried mars bars) however Edinburgh is a true foodie city.
After a night on the booze and food, get down to the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art for a culture injection. There is one main gallery then two buildings housing rooms of modern installations and paintings plus a sculpture garden to take a stroll in if strolling is your jam.
Due to Scotland’s long history there are no shortages of castles and stately homes to have a nosy at. Of all of them, my favourites so far are (in no particular order) – Castle Fraser rocks beautiful grounds, A Cinderella perfect aesthetic (complete with turrets) and a sweet murder/ghost story including – All together now – “She still walks the castle at night”. The full package.
Kelburn Castle is a giant canvas for an amazing mural that covers part of its exterior walls, however it’s the castle grounds that really excited me. Pretty waterfalls, a hidden forest and a cute gingerbread house. I want to move in!
Finally Kilchurn Castle is the ultimate place if you’re after windswept and dramatic. It stands in ruins but it’s location at the water’s edge looking over Loch Awe creates a magical atmosphere.It is truly one of the most awe inspiring paces I’ve ever been. Would 10/10 recommend wearing something billowing and letting your hair down so you can live out your super secret medieval princess fantasy while there.
This article covers just a few places to see in this incredible country. Let us know your favourite places in the comments