Talking about Scotland conjures up stereotypical images. Tartan kilts, haggis and whiskey to name a few. Whilst all of these things are very present in Scottish society – it’s not uncommon to see a kilt-wearing scotsman partying in a club – Scotland is so much more than this. Here’s 7 reasons to pack your woollies and venture up to the northern isles:
1. The Fringe Festival
Although not necessarily thought of as a cultural hotspot, Scotland has some wonderful artistic exports. A prime example of this is the Edinburgh Fringe, a festival occurring annually in Scotland’s capital city. A chance for Scotland to showcase it’s best offerings in comedy, art and drama, the festival brings a great atmosphere to the city, making it a great time to pay a visit.
2. Natural Beauty
Scotland’s beauty lies in it’s diversity. From the craggy mountains of the highlands to the stretches of spectacular coastline that rival the Norwegian fjords, Scotland is naturally stunning. Rent a car and drive from north, watching the landscape change as the temperature drops. Schedule in time to visit some of Scotland’s beautiful beaches that rival any tropical coastline. West Sands beach in St Andrews, the film location for the Chariot’s of Fire beach run, is just one example of Scotland’s stunning coast.
3. Skiing and Surfing
This diversity in natural environment provides some unique opportunities for outdoor activities. Scotland is the home of the UK’s only natural skiing spot – The Cairngorms. A cheaper and interesting alternative to the expensive slopes of the Alps, the Cairngorms are well worth a visit. Another uniquely Scottish experience is surfing on Isle of Tiree, located in the Inner Hebrides. Make sure to pack your thick wetsuit; board shorts and bikinis won’t cut it in cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Another popular Scottish activity? Golf. If golf is your thing, head to the Old Course, the home of the sport, in St Andrews or Gleneagles, to experience world class golfing with spectacular views.
In addition to surfing and skiing, Scotland is a locus for hiking. The mountainous peaks of the highlands draw in many visitors each year; sights such as Ben Nevis (the UK’s highest mountain) and the West Highland Way popular with hikers and ramblers alike. Make sure to pack your hiking boots and conquer a munro. Great exercise rewarded with panoramic views of the natural surroundings – what’s not to love?
One of the most polarising food items that ever existed – haggis – finds it roots in Scotland. Although the idea of haggis tends to scare people, it’s actually delicious, and only a small part of the Celtic cuisine. Scotland, in fact, boasts 16 Michelin star restaurants, and is a popular destination for chefs due to the country’s plethora of fresh produce, in particular, its world class seafood.
Scots love a party, and their alternative to New Year’s Eve, Hogmanay, is no exception. Huddled together under the cold Scottish sky, people ring in the new year with fireworks and choruses of Auld Lang Syne. Experience another uniquely Scottish tradition dancing in a ceilidh – a traditional Scottish dance. A uniquely Scottish experience, Hogmanay is one not to miss.
Scotland has a long and illustrious past, and there are many historical sights well worth a visit when traveling in the country. Visit Scotland’s oldest university, the University of St Andrews (600+ years old) and learn about odd sounding traditions such as raisin weekend and the may dip. Pay a visit to Edinburgh Castle and learn about the Scottish wars of Independence, or head to Loch Ness in the Highlands to try and get a glimpse of the fabled Loch Ness monster.