You may not be able to pronounce anything written in Gaelic, but you’ll definitely understand the wild beauty of Scotland. Situated on the northern top of the island of Great Britain, Scotland is both familiar and other-worldly. For a truly Scottish experience, focus your journey on traditional local and national encounters.
Boat on Loch Ness
Whether you are lounging on a Thailand cruise or taking in the sites from a Venetian gondola, exploring an area by sea gives you a special perspective. Boating on Loch Ness is no different. Based out of the village of Drumnadrochit, the ship the Nessie Hunter is a perfect vehicle for touring the 22-mile freshwater lake, home to the alleged and elusive Loch Ness monster. After the loch tour, stop by The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition for a multimedia presentation and various displays about the myth and science behind the hunt for Nessie. For young travelers, a visit to Nessieland with its gift shop, miniature golf, walking trails and caves are a magical way to keep the adventure alive.
Find Your Tartan
A Scotsman wearing a plaid kilt at a wedding or party is an iconic look, and for a good reason. Tartans used to be a way to signify clan allegiance and now they denote family pride or just an eye for style. In Edinburgh alone, there are several excellent stores that specialize in custom kilts. If your surname is Scottish, search your family tartan online and then decide whether that’s the plaid for you before heading into Kinloch Anderson or Nicolson Kiltmakers to discuss your fashion needs.
Kick Up Your Heels at a Ceilidh
The word ceilidh is a broad term used for any type of informal festival, but now it refers mostly to dancing. There are plenty of festivals to be had across the country. Celebrate St. Andrew’s Day, the patron saint of Scotland, in late November with fireworks, music and a ceilidh. Find a Hogmanay ceilidh on New Year’s Eve. The All Scotland Accordion and Fiddle Festival each August in Perth is sure to include traditional music and dancing. If you don’t like big crowds, check out groups like the Edinburgh Ceilidh Club to find out what’s going on locally in each town. Of course, most dances and festivals feature the iconic bagpipers in some form or another.
Eat and Drink like a Scot
A trip to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without trying traditional Scottish foods. Because of its long coastline, seafood plays a large part in the Scottish diet. Lobster, salmon, trout, mussels and oysters are all abundant and fresh in the cold waters of the north Atlantic. Roasted grouse, fresh from the moors, is a treat during the hunting season. To truly experience Scottish food, however, you must try at least one forkful of haggis, a sheep’s chopped liver, heart and lungs mixed with flavorful spices and baked or boiled.
It’s amazing that so much flavor and character can be pulled from just malted barley, yeast and water aged in an oak cask, but that’s exactly the recipe for single malt Scotch whisky. Only distilleries in Scotland can legally use this name for the alcohol they produce. Highland Park Distillery in Kirkwall in the Orkney archipelago claims Viking roots and a long history of whisky making – since 1798. The tours feature plenty of history and plenty of drinking. Head to the Speyside region in northeastern Scotland for the most bang for your buck. Fifty distilleries dot this small region including the world-famous makers of Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.
Tour a Castle
There are literally hundreds of castles to tour across Scotland in all different stages of disrepair and magnificence. Choose to hear the ghosts found in ruined structures such as Castle Sween, east of Edinburgh, whose bellicose history includes a siege from Robert the Bruce in the 1300s. Another castle just down the road is Castle Stalker (which means hunter or falconer in the original Gaelic). This beauty has been lovingly restored by a family that claims relation to the main builder in the 1450s. Tours are offered daily. If you really want to slide up the social ladder, book a tour at Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, the Scottish vacation home of Queen Elizabeth.
There are so many things to do in Scotland that the problem will be trying to decide what to do now and what to save for your second visit. Experience this awesome country through truly Scottish adventures.