Someone asked me to tell them about visiting 🏴 “Scotland” 🏴…..so I did and thought it was worth blogging about…..!!
So my mind turned to Scotland from my perch 36,000 feet over France, en-route to my own vacation isle of Crete…..a nice way to spend time on the flight! A previous Customer asked me if I could describe what was available in Scotland that would “satisfy their sense of adventure”.
In short, although I have mocked and teased the country and its people in the past I absolutely love Scotland and the Scottish people will be positively bereft when I finish in this travel business, thus, not returning to Scotland regularly.
As far as a “sense of adventure” is concerned, everyone has different ideas about that. Are we talking about hiking? Cycling? Climbing Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain…..you can actually walk up! Or sailing through the Caledonian canal that splits Scotland in half from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east.
A social sense of adventure might include a night out drinking in the rougher pubs in Glasgow – could be fun but it’s a city, frankly, I normally recommend avoiding!
Basically Scotland has something for everyone – you can fly into Edinburgh if you choose although I think it’s nice to fly into Manchester and take the road north past Hadrian’s Wall and through the Kielder Forest into Scotland – the back way in! (see video above) Then the road north, to Edinburgh is hilly and very quaint.
Whatever your interest, Edinburgh is a MUST – a stunning city, architecturally, the “Old Town” being built on the remains of an old volcano. You can have a private guided tour here or pick up a “free tour” where the guide relies on tips. There is hill walking inside the city where you can have a fantastic view of the city from Holyrood Park and Calton Hill.
Edinburgh is “the home of Harry Potter” – the author wrote the first books here, at The Elephant House, and she gained the inspiration for the form of the buildings in her books like Hogwarts from structures around the city.
Edinburgh Castle is amazing and should you decide to visit while “The Festival” is going on (many people choose to avoid it because the city is extra busy then) you would be treated to just about every form of entertainment you can imagine – some free! Edinburgh Festival is the biggest festival of music and drama in the world and includes the famous “Tattoo” which you can see on YouTube.
On the seedier side, and every city has its problems, the movie “Trainspotters” was based in Leith, the port of Edinburgh. Although still a characterful and cosmopolitan area, Leith is now better known for its high quality cuisine like the internationally renowned “Kitchin” (spelt correctly) and the nearby fantastic seafood restaurants. It is also the place where the Royal Yacht, Britannia, is moored for the public to visit and witness the opulence our monarch enjoyed while on the high seas!
Besides the Edinburgh Festival, August sees the array of “Highland Games” that take place across the Highlands, north of Edinburgh. But this month is the busiest of the year and you need to visit in August deliberately, not by accident as there will be many more people about.
North of Edinburgh is roughly split into east and west. The east is more fertile and there is field upon field of crops – mainly barley for the beloved Scottish Whisky!! Whisky is a major industry in the Highlands from the smallest and last distillery using “traditional” methods near Pitlochry (see photo above of the traditional but tiny Edradour distillery) to the Glenmorangie Distillery which looks more like a chemical plant.
Also to the North East there is “The Kingdom of Fife” with its spectacular coastline….rather like Cornwall with its fishing villages like Crail (above). You can even visit Scotland’s “Secret Bunker” from where the country was to be governed in the event of nuclear war…..!! Clearly not so “secret” now but interesting.
But one of the major attractions in Fife is, of course, the golfing Mecca of St Andrews with its plethora of golfing venues. You can even get a shot of yourself on the little bridge on the Old Course if you’re brave enough to ignore the shouts of the players…..the course is “public”!!
There are plenty of other golf courses including Carnoustie, Royal Dornoch, Royal Troon, Trump Turnberry and Gleneagles. Don’t forget it’s a Scottish game invented in Scotland !!
The northern part of Scotland is divided from the south by The Great Glen – a 62 mile long valley that follows an ancient geological fault from Fort William running north east to Inverness which includes the infamous Loch Ness (above) with its monster. If you are into sailing or boating you can travel through the Caledonian Canal from east to west through lochs and through man made canals culminating in cruising the length of Loch Ness.
The North East coast of Scotland to John O’Groats, the northern most point on the British mainland is totally different, topographically, to the west with gentle rolling countryside bordering the North Sea. Meanwhile, the North West is a rugged coastline of mountainous scenery, fiords, sparsely populated with fishing villages. Popular with visitors in the summer for its sheer beauty although the weather is more rainy than the east. The coastline from Ullapool down to Ayr is simply stunning. And Dumfries, in the far south west of the country, with beautifully dramatic hills and vistas, is often overlooked by visitors in the perceived clamber to get to the north.
Above / Below – The Isle of Skye
And then there are the islands – all the way up the west coast you have islands and promontories like Aaron, the Mull of Kintyre, Islay, Mull, on up to The Isle of Skye – “the misty Isle”. Then you have the Outer Hebrides islands which are not quite so accessible. Most people visiting the west coast want to visit Skye which is a fascinating place, with a way of life far removed from what most of us are familiar with.
A nice way to get there is to take the “Harry Potter” steam train, “The Jacobite” from Fort William to Mallaig, across the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct and past Loch Shiel (both used extensively in the movies). You can then take the ferry from Mallaig to Skye and, if you are lucky and the weather looks kindly on you, you will see the island at its best with some of the most stunning coastal scenery you will see anywhere…..as long as you are prepared to brave the tiny, winding, single track but two way roads to get you there!!
Returning south you can take the route across the Skye bridge and take a route passing the most photographed castle in Scotland, Eileen Donan, returning to Fort William (which is a total dump so don’t think about staying there ask me for alternatives!!) and the south through Glencoe known for its waterfalls and trails as well as the infamous massacre of 1692.
There is a delightful and less well known detour down to Loch Etive where the movie “Skyfall” was filmed and where the wild deer will eat from your hand.
Rather than just driving south to what is in my view the rather disappointing Loch Lomond (the Loch is obscured by trees on much of the route beside it) there are other more attractive detours around Glen Orchy where you may see people panning for gold and then on through Inveraray.
So…..for those interested in visiting Scotland and wondering what it has to offer, I hope I have been able to present a few ideas?
Of course, finally, Scotland is all about Castles and there are zillions to visit including the more formal at Edinburgh and Stirling to the quieter venues at Cawdor, Braemar, Balmoral (when The Queen isn’t visiting), Blair, Inveraray and more. If you want to B&B in a real Scottish Castle and have dinner with the Laird, we can even arrange that too at Duns (see photo above)!!
I hope this has been a pretty comprehensive description but if you have questions, do ask.
British Tour Guide
Let’s Tour England and Scotland !
The area around the Talla Reservoir shows Visitors who don’t visit the Highlands, what the Highlands are like !!