Scotland is the vision of your imagination and more. The rich history of Scotland gives us haggis, bagpipes, castles, folktales, Robert Burns, the kilt, the Loch Ness Monster, whiskey, Macbeth and porridge. This history is interlaced into everyday life and can be celebrated by touring the surprising landscapes of Scotland. Visit any of the dynamic cities, however, and you will also see Scotland soaring ahead in its modern art and culture scenes. The vibrant mix of modernity and history makes Scotland a country of diversity and infectious spirit.
Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, is undoubtedly one of the most attractive cities in the world. Wrapped around rocky hills and wild scenery, Edinburgh looks out over the sea and shines from any camera angle. August is the month to visit Edinburgh as it hosts the annual Fringe Festival- the largest arts festival in the world. Spread across the city over August, the Fringe is huge hosting over 50,200 performances in 294 different venues. Countless performers take to a variety of stages to perform their talents. Theatre, comedy, dance, circus, opera, spoken word, musicals and lots of children’s shows attract eager audiences year after year. Reviews of the Fringe are always complimentary, raving about the innovation and creativity of each performance in a city bursting with life.
For Edinburgh truly is bursting with life, and if you do visit the Fringe it’s also essential to explore the other gems of the city. Separated by an impressive craggy cliff are the medieval old town and the elegant Georgian New Town, both unique but equally as charming and vibrant. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995, the Old Town is steeped in history. Edinburgh Castle is certainly the first point of call, and iconic landmark and home to the Scottish crown jewels. Other sights include St Giles Cathedral, wandering the vast Royal Mile and exploring the little curiosity shops and cafes on the Grass Market. Wandering through the Old Town you will inevitably stumble across Arthur’s seat, an imposing peak in Holyrood Park. If you fancy a tiresome climb up, the views are well worth it over the beautiful city landscape. Neoclassical buildings and lush gardens make up Edinburgh’s New Town. The huge variety of modern shops and restaurants line Princes Street, George Street and the streets behind that could fill hours and hours exploring.
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Glasgow is huge in size and character, being famed for its rapid growth in arts and culture over the years. Situated on the River Clyde in Scotland’s western Lowlands, Glasgow is filled with stunning Victorian and art nouveau architecture and certainly rivals Edinburgh for its beauty in parts. A charming aspect of Glasgow, is its ease in blending elegance and sophistication with a spit and sawdust and earthy character. Glasgow’s art scene is tremendous, home to award-winning museums and galleries like the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. As well as this, the prominent theatrical buzz around the city is exciting for locals and visitors as Glasgow proudly houses the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and National Theatre of Scotland. Live music can be found in any quirky pocket of the city, catering for all tastes and Glasgow’s big clubs are celebrated across the country by students in particular. Further than this, the bustling area surrounding Glasgow’s train station offers fantastic shopping and dining opportunities.
Glasgow’s most celebrated architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh began creating an astonishing portfolio of local buildings in his 20’s and carried on for years. These include Glasgow School of Art, Willow Tea Rooms and Queen’s Cross Church and his legacy is strong city-wide and should be celebrated with a tour of his work. Another notable building, for J.K. Rowling fans, is the University of Glasgow itself, having inspired the setting of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series. The green spaces of Glasgow are often as beautiful as the buildings, despite the unpredictable weather. Any of the parks are worth a wander and the Royal Botanical Gardens are stunning.
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Visit the Scottish Highlands and you will experience the true Scotland of your imagination. The rugged landscape is steeped in history and culture. Scotland’s weather is completely unpredictable and this means the highland landscapes are constantly shifting, offering a unique experience for each visitor. Cairngorms National Park is the largest in Britain, and it packs all the wild nature of Scotland into one space. Hillwalking, rock climbing, animal spotting, orienteering, pony treks and the surprise of an excellent ski resort. Crashing waterfalls and hidden lochs are also waiting to be explored and admired whilst enjoying a picnic. Loch Eilein was actually voted Britain’s best Picnic Spot in Warburton’s competition and has a remarkable 13th Century island castle.
To delve into the mystery of the highlands, visit Loch Ness and join the thousands of people simultaneously disbelieving and hoping to catch a glimpse of ‘Nessie’. Loch Ness is the largest body of water in Britain by volume and its vastness is overwhelming enough to inspire fear of a monster living in its depths. ‘Nessie’ was first seen by St. Columba in the mid-7th century and since then there has been thousands of reporting’s of sightings. Join a boat tour on the Loch and admire Urquhart Castle by the water.
More guaranteed sightings can be found off the coast of Moray Firth, home to around 190 resident bottlenose dolphins. Other wildlife you may catch glimpses of includes, an abundance of birdlife, otters and both common and grey seals. Many people overlook the wild coasts of Scotland, but they truly are awe-inspiring. In particular, the islands are exceptional and a rewarding visit. Each one is different in character. Isle of Islay is famous for whisky, home to eight working distilleries. Jura is untouched beauty and Staffa caters for the desires of every geology lover with Fingal’s Cave. Adventure can be found on Tiree, a hotspot for windsurfing and basking sharks can be spotted off the shores of Coll. A tour of the islands is unpredictable and exciting.
Scotland’s wilderness offers challenges in abundance but visitors come back time and time again to complete its biggest challenge- Ben Nevis. Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles, located in Lochaber at the end of the Grampian Mountains. There are an estimated 125,000 complete and a 100,000 partial, ascents per year up the mountain tracks. Ben Nevis’s main attraction is the collection of 600m high cliffs of the north face which harbour some of the best scrambles and rock climbs in the UK. Ben Nevis derives from the Gaelic ‘Benn Nibheis’ translating as ‘Venomous Mountain’ and you’ll begin to understand this as you zig-zag up the mountain and your legs burn. The experience and the unbeatable views and worth the aches the next day
Scotland offer endless opportunities thrills, fine food, culture and beauty. Join a whiskey tour, delve into the past of one of Scotland’s best-loved authors Robert Burns, enjoy the unique music of the bagpipes and devour a Scottish breakfast complete with haggis. Whilst the bigger cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow are the obvious choices to explore, the smaller cities like Perth, Dundee and Inverness are also charming in their own way.
Why do you love Scotland? Let us know in the comments below or Tweet us @RHSunglasses.