I must confess I fell in love with Scotland before I ever set foot on its lands. My love affair began while reading the Outlander about 8 years ago and I have wanted to visit Scotland ever since. I thought about and romanticized it so much that quite frankly I did not know if my high expectations would be met. I was afraid that all the buildup in my head would just lead to disappointment. But regardless I embarked on my journey and arrived in Scotland via train (and not the standing stones) in June 2016. To my relief, this small country with its untamed dramatic beauty, majestic castles, turbulent history, fresh food and fantastic drink, not only met my expectations but surpassed them. So here is my list of top 10 reasons (in no particular order) why you should visit Scotland:
1. The People
Scotland has the warmest, friendliest and most helpful people I have encountered while traveling. Oh and did I mention they are honest? Well thank goodness they are because I left my GoPro not once but twice in highly visited areas and both times they were turned in and recovered by me hours after the fact. But my forgetfulness is a topic for another day…. One of my favorite parts of traveling is meeting new people. In shops, in pubs, at cafe’s, the B&B owners or hotel staff, our bus tour guides, pretty much everyone I met in Scotland was friendly, kind, and more than willing to talk and share a bit of their country with us. For example, we loved the time we spent with Matt from A.C.E. Target Sports not only did he provide a great archery and then an axe throwing session but it felt like we were spending time with a friend. Meeting Scots is a great reason to visit Scotland.
2. The Food & Drinks
Let’s just say it is not all haggis and shortbread and surprisingly not all whiskey either. Although I must confess I did try both the haggis and the whiskey and well….. you can find out more about that experience in a later post – coming soon!!!
a. The Food: There are more than 10 Michelin rated restaurants in Scotland. From fresh seafood to mouthwatering steak Scotland seems to have it all. I actually did not eat in any Michelin rated restaurants but that does not mean my food was bad, on the contrary, I did not have a bad meal while there. So if a Michelin rated restaurant is not your style or in your budget, don’t fear because there is plenty of great tasting, locally sourced food to be had at all price levels.
b. The Drinks: I tasted some great Whiskey while in Scotland but one of the most uniquely Scottish drinks I had and that everyone in Scotland seems to enjoy is Irn Bru – pronounced Iron Brew. It is a neon orange soda the locals call “The Brew”. If you have ever tasted Inca Cola (a Peruvian soft drink) then the taste of Irn Bru should be a bit familiar to you.
Enjoying the great food and drink is a great reason to visit Scotland.
3. The History
Scotland is steeped in history and much of it is blood and war. I could feel it at the moors of Culloden, and learned about it in each castle I visited, and I even got to reenact it at the Battle of Bonnockburn near Stirling (we actually got to change history during our session. I will explain in a later post). You can also see prehistoric landmarks around the country such as the Neolithic dwellings of Skara Brae which predate the Egyptian Pyramids, or ancient standing stones like the Ring of Brodgar, or prehistoric burial cairns such as Clava Cairns near Culloden battlefield.
Enjoying the historic sites and learning about Scotland history is a great reason to visit Scotland.
4. The Castles.
Scotland is a land of castles, a land where kings and queens reigned. These castles dominate the Scottish landscape. From ruins to beautifully maintained structures it is easy to imagine the perfect setting for any romance novel or fairy-tale. Many of the castles have activities for the children to do to keep them entertained as they explore.
Want to know which castles were my kids favorite? Then read this post and find out my daughters’ top picks.
Visiting the beautiful castles and ruins and feeling like you are in a fairy tale is a great reason to visit Scotland.
5. The Culture & Festivals.
Scotland has a very unique and distinctive culture. The bagpipes, the kilts, the traditional dancing, and the highland games (which were all getting ready to start and unfortunately I missed them) all are notable examples of what has come to symbolize Scottish culture. Scotland also has amazing festivals. For three weeks in August Edinburgh is overtaken by one festival after another celebrating its culture, arts, music, theater and so much more. While we were there they were already preparing the Edinburgh castle for the Edinburgh Tattoo and you could already see different street performers entertaining the already growing crowds.
Here is a link to check out the different festivals. Also check out the bag piper on the streets of Edinburgh playing the Outlander’s theme song (Skye Boat song) below – so dreamy:
Participating and enjoying some of Scotlands great cultural events and festivals is a great reason to visit Scotland.
6. The Views
From city to country and from lochs to mountains some of the most spectacular views and scenery can be found in Scotland. I would venture to say it is some of the best I have ever seen. It is rugged and uncompromising, yet has a mystical aura that seems like a fairy-tale come to life.
Enjoying the breathtaking views of the Scottish landscape is a great reason to visit Scotland.
7. Wildlife and Nature.
Scotland possesses such beautiful and undisturbed wildlife from land animals such as the traditional highland coo, to deer, hares and sheep; to sea creatures like puffins, seals, wales and dolphins and even those that fly like eagles and hawks. And for those who love nature and the color purple like me the sight of bluebells, heather or thistle is just like seeing heaven.
Check out the best place in Scotland to see the Puffins. And you will also get to see some more pictures I was able to take of these cute birds.
Being able to see the varied flora and fauna and having great animal encounters out in the wild is a great reason to visit Scotland.
8. The Hikes.
You can join the locals and go Munro Bagging. Munro’s are mountains over 3000 feet high. According to Visit Scotland there are 282 Munros. If these seem like to much of a challenge there are plenty of less strenuous walking trails and hikes all throughout Scotland. A great source to help you plan is Walking Highlands. Whichever hike you do you are in for a treat. Scotland has some of the best hikes in the world.
Want to find out more about the hiking in Skye? Check out my favorite hikes in Skye and see why I think this is a must visit destination in Scotland.
Hiking some of the best trails with incredible views is a great reason to visit Scotland.
9. The Sports
If you are a golfer then this is heaven on earth. Scotland is known as the birthplace of Golf and has some of the world’s best and most famous golf courses like St. Andrews, where the first known game was held. But aside from Golf there are many outdoor sports you can enjoy while here. Archery, Clay Shooting and even Axe throwing. Rafting and boating. Horseback riding or mountain biking. Scotland is one of the world’s top adventure playgrounds.
Playing golf or enjoying some fishing, camping or archery are great reasons to visit Scotland.
10. The Weather.
You might think I am crazy for mentioning the weather. Yes, it does rain in Scotland, but it is because of that rain that it is so beautifully green. Plus the mist and grey skies have their own beauty and give the scenery an aura of mystery. The Scots do have a saying that is incredibly true – “if you don’t like the weather then wait 10 min”. You can truly experience dramatic changes in weather multiple times during the day. My advice is to just be prepared with multiple layers and always have a rain coat with you.
I have to say I love Scotland, crazy weather and all.
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If the 10 reasons listed above are not good enough there is always Harry Potter. Need I say more?