Scotland is a small country but it does leave a big impression on all those who are fortunate enough to pass through it. A land of emerald green fields, men in tartan kilts, bagpipe music, heather-covered hills, herds of sheep dotting the pastures, enchanting castles and fortresses and the ubiquitous scotch whiskey – all beckon the adventurer within you.
The unique flavor of this beautiful country in the northern part of the British Isles leaves a lasting impression in the minds of visitors. It is the land that inspired the epic movie “Braveheart.” It is truly a place that promises something for everyone.
Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city and with around half a million people, it’s the second most populated city in the country. It is a great place to start your Scottish sojourn.
In addition to being an important center for education and scientific learning, Edinburgh is an equally important financial hub in Great Britain, second only to London. Because of its museums, theatres, and concert and exhibition halls, it is also an important center for arts and culture.
Edinburgh’s famous flower clock on Princess Street was the first of its kind in the world. It was made in 1903 and is made up of some 24,000 flowers.
Scotland has a proud legacy of poets and writers and Edinburgh is home to some important monuments commemorating them.
The Scot Monument on Princess Street, honoring Sir Walter Scot – the greatest master of historical novels – was made soon after the great man’s death. Designed by self-trained architect George Meikle Kemp, the Gothic style structure is 61 meters high, with 287 stairs leading to the building’s top – a great vantage point for an uninterrupted view of the city.
Edinburgh is famous for its more than 700 pubs, most of them concentrated on Rose Street, a.k.a. the ‘street of pubs’ – as the locals prefer to call it. In addition to alcoholic beverages, these pubs also serve excellent food.
Visit the Royal Museum of Scotland to understand the history of the city.
Fringe Festival is the most important festival of Edinburgh, held in August every year. It features amateur artists, musicians, mimes, and acrobats.
The Fringe is almost immediately followed by another significant annual event, the Military Tattoo (military parade).
The Edinburgh Castle, Museum of Scotland, Scottish National Gallery, Calton Hill, HMY Britannia, Museum of Childhood, Nelson Monument, Scottish National Portrait Library, and the Scottish Storytelling Center, are some of the other Edinburgh attractions that also demand a look.
Named after the patron saint of Scotland, St Andrews is a place of pilgrimage and the religious center of the country. The city’s cathedral – the biggest in Scotland until the reformation – is still impressive, even in ruins.
St Andrews was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which has been called Andrews’ Cross ever since and it’s on the Scottish flag too.
The city is a major golf center and home to the British Golf Museum which illustrates the 500-year-old history of the game. St Andrews boasts some of the most elegant courses on the coast.
On the wall of the ancient Royal Club hangs a painting of Mary Stuart with a golf club in her hands. The club, which is modest from the outside but gorgeous inside, is patronized by some of the city’s top snobs.
The Queen, who liked to enjoy the pleasures of life, faced criticism from her contemporaries for indulging in sports activities alongside men – a strict no-no for a woman, even more so for a queen.
Located on the banks of River Clyde, Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland and also known as the “Second City of the Empire” because back in the day, it was an industrial powerhouse of the North and the workshop of England.
With its Victorian and modernist architecture, Glasgow, today, is the nation’s cultural hub. The city is home to famous museums, the magnificent Scottish Opera, the National Theatre of Scotland as well as some other intriguing landmarks.
The Clock Tower of the original city dominates the Glasgow Cross, the original medieval center of the city. Today, George Square is the heart of the city, known for its statues of famous figures from history.
George Square is surrounded by prominent buildings, including the City Chambers and the Headquarters of the City Council. Not too far from the square, you will find many places worthy of a visit, such as the Gallery of Modern Art and the Royal Concert Hall, in addition to lots of interesting Edwardian and Victorian, as well as, modern architecture.
Glasgow Cathedral is a fine example of a large church that has survived since the medieval period in Scotland.
Behind the cathedral, atop a steep hill, is the Necropolis – a cemetery known as the “City of the Dead,” which offers a beautiful view.
A visit to the city would be incomplete without a walk along Clyde River.
Glasgow also boasts big parks such as the Glasgow Green, home to the famous Nelson’s Memorial. It is also one of the major venues for open-air events.
Inside the park, you will find the People’s Palace and Winter Gardens as well as a folk museum and a Green House
The Kelvingrove Park, just next to the West Brewery, is another green area of the city. By virtue of being located adjacent to one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country – The University of Glasgow, it is particularly popular among students.
The most prominent landmark in the park, however, is the Kelvin Grove Art Gallery and Museum holding the city’s grandest public exhibitions.
Modern buildings in Glasgow include the Clyde Auditorium and a multi-purpose indoor arena – the Hydro.
Glasgow is home to three big football stadiums. Hampden Park serves as the national stadium; Celtic Park is the home ground of the Celtic Football Club and next to it, stands the Velodrome and the Ibrox Stadium.
Loch Ness, the most famous lake in Scotland, can be found in the picturesque valley of Great Glen. Compared to its 37-kilometer length, the lake is considerably narrow with an average width of just 2.5 kilometers.
One wonders if it’s only a myth that a monster lives in the dark depths of Loch Ness. Although the legend of the monster dates way back, it became a world sensation only in 1933 when the first photographs of it were seen.
Since then, besides amateur observers and people obsessed with it, serious scientists have gone on expeditions to find the monster of the lake. While their equipment may have sensed a moving object in the lake several times, they were never able to record it with a motion picture camera.
If locals are to be believed, a similar creature lives in Loch Morar. It may well be the same creature that inhabits Loch Ness, as geologists believe that the lakes are connected to each other with caves.
Loch Lomond is Scotland’s biggest lake and a favorite with day trippers. The lake and the surrounding areas have been declared a nature reserve.
Queen Elizabeth Park and West Highland Way, the famous hiking route, are located on the east shore of the lake.
The lake is flanked by mountain ranges with peaks as high as 1000 meters. The top of the Duncryne Mountain is the best vantage point in the area for a great view of the spectacular countryside.
Sailing, traveling by motorboat, diving, and fishing are popular activities at Lake Lomond. Motorboats and jet skis can be rented from the neighboring villages of Luss and Tarbet.
The beautiful town of Stirling is of great significance to Scottish history because this is where Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace fought the British for independence and triumphed.
A few years ago, a new statue was dedicated to the freedom fighter. It stands at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the monument and the Rock of Abbey Craig.
The face of the statue bears an uncanny resemblance to Hollywood star Mel Gibson, not a coincidence by any means since the actor played the role of William Wallace in the multiple-Oscar-winning film “Braveheart.”
Sterling is also famous for its annual Highlands Festival which draws a lot of people.
In the city, despite its ruinous condition, the House of the Earl of Mars is worth a visit.
The Holy Rude church is where King Jacob VI was crowned king and should be on the must-see-attractions list of visitors.
Located on a 75-meter high volcanic hill, the Stirling Castle is another recommended attraction for visitors because housed in the old royal buildings is the War History Museum with exhibits and memorabilia from conflicts all around the world.
You can also look at the palace of Jacob V and the Parliament Hall as well as the Royal Chapel.
A statue of King Bruce, as he places his sword into the scabbard after the battle of Bannockburn, stands proudly in the square in front of the entrance of the castle.