Scotland covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it boasts a generous diversity of scenery including rolling hills, lochs with and without monsters, mountains, beaches, fabulously preserved period architecture and, we’ll just address the cuisine situation right away, internal organs of sheep cooked in part of a carcass. Granted haggis is the national dish of Scotland, but we’ll give it pass because you can also get battered deep-fried Mars bars at every fish and chips shop and they also have whisky ice cream. And, the country’s national animal is a unicorn! How cool is that!
If you’re interested in visiting a country featured in James Bond and Harry Potter movies, the travel advisors at GetAway Travel can get you there! And, we promise, no one is going to hold you down and make you try haggis.
There are things to see and do everywhere
Scotland has consistently been voted the most beautiful country in the world edging out Canada, New Zealand and Italy. It is a relatively small country, which means you can pack a lot of sightseeing and activities in without a lot of travel time. The tallest mountain in the UK is in Scotland, Ben Nevis. There are more than 700 islands off the coast of Scotland and several, including the Isle of Arran and the Isle of Skye, are a sort of micro-Scotland with great scenery, historic sites and colonies of wildlife including seabirds, seals, red stag, golden eagles and humpback whales. You can hit the beach, tour a castle, explore charming towns, attend major art and cultural festivals, dine and shop.
Some of the world’s best gin and whisky distilleries are in Scotland which makes sense since whisky is the national drink of Scotland. You can tour Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh, Glenlivet near Ballindalloch and Macallan near Aberlour. You won’t get tired of trying whisky since it is different throughout the country. There’s Highland, Lowland, Islay, Spreyside and Campbell, regions and each has a distinctive flavor because of the water used and the processing. There is also plenty of craft beer options to explore.
Capital Edinburgh is a cultural destination
Edinburgh, in addition to being home to some fabulously preserved architecture from the medieval times to the 18th century, is also the headquarters for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a 25-day extravaganza of art and cultural performances held at the stunning Edinburgh Castle. Enjoy comedy, cabaret, opera and pretty much any other “cultural” performance you can imagine.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has nothing to do with body ink and everything to do with the pomp and pageantry of military music and tradition. There’s a new theme every year, but every year you can also enjoy military displays, marching bands, bagpipers and mock battles.
While you are in Edinburgh you can tour the Royal Yacht Britannia. The queen’s personal yacht is now a museum and the state apartments and royal bedrooms are open to visitors. Talk to your GetAway Travel advisor about booking a table on the Royal Deck Tea Room and enjoying a traditional high tea.
St. Andrews is about an hour from Edinburgh and it’s a top golf destination. If you can’t get a tee time on the course, drop into the British Golf Museum. The University of St. Andrews has some great old buildings showing off some well-preserved medieval architecture. There are art galleries and a natural history museum on the university grounds.
Enjoy the coastal cities of Aberdeen and Glasgow
Aberdeen on the North Sea has some fascinating old homes and commercial buildings. They are made from a unique local granite that has some sparkle to it — hence the city’s nickname “Silver City.” There’s plenty of green space in this pedestrian-friendly city and don’t miss the amazing inside green space at the David Welch Winter Gardens in Duthie Park. The 44-acre indoor garden is one of the largest indoor gardens in Europe with hundreds of domestic and exotic plants.
If you’ve got time for shopping go to Old High Street.
Glasgow is another pedestrian-friendly town with a lot of green space. Check out the Glasgow Cathedral and the Glasgow School of Art. The Riverside Museum on the waterfront explores the history of transportation from vintage steam engines and trams to cars and sea-going vessels. If you have a chance, take in a theatrical performance at the King’s Theatre or an opera in the Theatre Royal. There is local art on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and works of the old masters on display at the Glasgow Style Gallery.
Tell me about lochs and the highlands
A loch is a partially landlocked part of the sea. The land surround means the lochs have a surface that is very nearly smooth as glass. Drop by the Loch Ness and see if you can get a glimpse of the reclusive Nessie and while you are there do some sightseeing in the ruins of the Urquhart Castle. The Loch Lomond is the largest body of fresh water in the UK and it is nicknamed the “Queen of the Scottish Lakes.” Take a boat tour or short cruise and visit the Lomond Bird of Prey Centre.
Revel in the romance and sublime scenery of the Highlands, most recently featured in the “Outlander” series. First, the Highlands is the mountainous upper half of Scotland. The Castle Sween near Argyll in the Highlands is the oldest castle in Scotland.
The West Highland Museum is in Fort Wiliams. The city is named after the fortifications that were built in the 17th century. The museum houses a vast collection of furniture, paintings and art pieces, weapons and Highland costumes. Near Fort Williams is the Glennfinnan Viaduct. Take a steam train ride on the longest mass concrete bridge in Scotland. Enjoy the spectacular natural beauty and know you are taking the route that dozens of wizard wannabes took on the way to Hogwarts.
Drive the Glen Etive Road in the Highlands for some leisurely sightseeing. But be warned, Etive is Gaelic for “fierce one.” The 12 miles of road winds and twists. Parts of the James Bond thriller “Skyfall” were filmed in nearby Glencoe.