Scotland is an amazing country. From beautiful scenery to some of the kindest people in the world, Scotland is slowly becoming a really popular tourist destination. Maybe you’ve seen it on social media, or, maybe you’ve heard it in the news, but Scotland, particularly the Highlands and the Islands, is now on Lonely Planet‘s top places to visit for 2019.
Scotland is rich in culture and traditions which have been carried over from generation to generation, since the 12th century! Each generation contributed in their own way to Scotland’s heritage and now there are over 50 million people on the planet who have some sort of Scottish descent.
In keeping with my previous article, “What Is It Like to Live in Scotland“, here are 9 reasons why you should have Scotland on your holiday list.
As cliché as it is, to the majority of people, thinking of a Scottish man, entails him wearing a tartan kilt while playing the bagpipes. Of course, not everyone here is capable of playing the bagpipes, not to mention, the song of bagpipes isn’t something you hear every day. When you do, however, it is (to me at least) an extraordinary combination of uplifting and sad tunes and every time I hear one, I can’t help but ask people to stop cutting onions right next to my face! To fully experience a truly magnificent display of bagpipes playing, drop by in August for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo!
Besides that, you can hear the beautiful melody of bagpipes at a variety of official events and social gatherings, such as awards ceremonies, weddings or a national event, such as the Highland Games!
The Highland Games
The Highland Games is probably the most Scottish sporting tradition. It takes place between the months of May and September and it has competitors display their strength and skill in over 80 different sporting events, such as the hammer throw, tug of war or the infamous caber toss, where the competitor has to toss a 5.94 meter long, 79kg caber (a bit of Larch tree with one end much heavier than the other) as many times as they can in 3 minutes!
Part of the tradition for the Highland Games is for the competitors to wear the traditional garment – the tartan kilt!
The Tartan Kilt
Tartan kilts are the national dress for Scotland. They are made of thick wool which is woven in various rectangular patterns. It started being used around the 1500s and it was a full-length garment which one could use to cover both the lower and the upper parts of the body, with the upper part draped over the shoulder. The more modern version of the kilt is shorter and only covers the bottom half of the body, down to the knees. It is believed to have originated 200 years later and it was useful for people living in the highlands as it facilitated moving across the treacherous terrain.
When Highlanders used to live in clans, due to the geographical separation, it became a tradition that each clan have their own weave of tartan for their kilts.
Nowadays, kilts are only worn at more important events such as weddings and ceremonies but the tartan weave representative of each person’s “clan” or descent is still implemented. However, if you are just visiting but still want to try one on, or even get one, you can do so at many places such as The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre in Inverness, or the Tartan Weaving Mill in Edinburgh.
Museums and Galleries
Scotland has many things to offer, and sometimes, all it has is rain and gloom. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things to do inside while visiting Scotland. One of the best things you can do while here is to visit Scotland’s numerous museums and art galleries, as they are a great place for inspiration, learning, relaxation and culture. The vast majority are free and offer a great collection of various art, from paintings to clothes from various eras and from classic cars to supersonic jets. Some of my favourite museums across Scotland are Edinburgh’s National Gallery, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Riverside Museum, The McManus and, my favourite, the National Museum of Flight. There are many others, and, thankfully, some passionate madman made a list of them on Wikipedia!
You can easily spend hours, if not days (yes, days – I’m looking at you Edinburgh National Gallery!!) in Scotland’s museums and let yourself get carried away on the tartan fabric of time while exploring history, science and art!
Pronounced “keɪli”, the Ceilidh is a traditional Scottish or Irish dance and it also stands for social gathering. It is now heavily replaced by pubs and clubs but ceilidhs are still being held for keeping the Scottish traditions alive. If you are visiting Scotland, this is a must on your to-do list, as you’ll get to meet locals and have an absolute blast (and workout) while doing it!
Nowadays, in pretty much any country in the world you go to, you will be able to find food that is familiar to you and Scotland is no exception. There are plenty of cuisines to chose from such as Italian, Mexican, Indian etc and most Scottish cities are bustling with hundreds of restaurants for you to go and enjoy.
But there is food specific to Scotland – the Haggis! This is Scotland’s national dish and it comprises of a savoury meat pudding, served with mashed potatoes and mashed turnips (haggis neeps and tatties) bathed in a delicious whisky sauce. You can find this dish in a lot of restaurants, especially if you find yourself in well-known tourist areas and it is another absolute must do when visiting Scotland.
To add to the authenticity, a lot of the food produce is sourced locally and Scotland is also known for its high-quality beef (Aberdeen Angus), Stornoway Black Pudding, Scottish Wild Salmon or Orkney Scottish Cheddar. If you can, do pop into local farmer’s markets, butchers and fishmongers to get yourself some of the most delicious food on the planet!
Of course, indulging in Scotland’s culinary feast cannon be complete without washing it down with a “wee dram”! Scotland is renowned for its Scotch Whiskey and I highly recommend you visit a few distilleries and taste/buy some whisky. You won’t regret it. Whisky is so popular that there are now organised whisky tours for you to chose from and enjoy. My favourite whisky has to be Skye, not just for the taste, but also for the memories associated with that island. Every once in a while, when I want to remind myself of my visit to Skye, I pour a little dram!
Don’t drink and drive though! And you shouldn’t drink the whisky until you’ve experienced one of my favourite things about this country – the roads. There are so many great roads to go for a drive on here, that I need to make a separate article about them. They are just that good! If within means, I highly recommend renting a car (even a sports or exotic car) while you are out here so that you can enjoy some of the most beautiful driving roads in the world!
A special highlight would have to be North Coast 500. In a previous article, I mentioned how this infamous route can be done in the course of a long weekend. While my recommendation works best for someone who already lives here, it would be so much more engaging if you planned it out and did it over the course of a week, especially if you are only visiting Scotland (it can be a holiday in its own right). There are so many engaging roads and detours alongside the route that it would be worth spending a lot more time to properly enjoy the scenery.
And last but not least, although extremely biased, I have to say that Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Its scenery spans from beautiful plains to ancient hills and mountains and stunning beaches. You can pretty much find any type of landscape you want within miles of each other. The Cairngorm mountains can offer amazing trails to hike during summer or slick skiing slopes during winter, all while the Hebrides can take you from vast plains to Mediterranean – like beaches. There is everything for everybody!
My favourite place in Scotland so far is the Isle of Skye but there are many more that are just as beautiful. I encourage you to visit this wonderful country and find your own little corner of Heaven!
So there you have it! These are my 9 reasons why I think you should visit Scotland in 2019. I hope you enjoyed this little read and I hope to see more and more people visiting this country and experiencing what it has to offer.
The majority of the links in this article are to provide you with more in-depth information about visiting Scotland. I did not get paid or asked to direct you to those links, it’s just information that I find particularly useful if you are planning on coming here.
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