If you’re looking for your next destination with stunning landscapes, exciting events and a rich culture, Scotland is your answer! Tucked away in the northernmost part of the U.K. (it’s only an hour plane ride from England to Scotland), this small country has many big things to offer. From medieval castles to cinematic hikes, Scotland is a fascinating place to be for anyone who is seeking a great adventure.
Curious about what’s in store for you in Scotland? Here are eight reasons why Scotland is bucket list worthy.
P/S: If you’re taking a flight from London, make sure to check out this London itinerary!
1. Iconic television and film locations (including the Hogwarts Express!)
Scotland has an impressive resume for hosting popular films and television shows. Whether you’re a huge fan of Game of Thrones, a James Bond lover or just a fellow Potterhead (like yours truly , this is the perfect chance for you to live out your dream of stepping into your favorite films.
If your lifelong fantasy is to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, make sure to hop onboard the Jacobite Steam Train. It runs across the Glenfinnan Viaduct from Fort William to Mallaig as famously featured in the Harry Potter film series. The scenic route of endless greenery and wide-open skies is as breathtaking in reality as it is on screen.
If you’re a train lover, here are 6 other train journeys you should definitely take!
Calling all Game of Throne’s fans – do you recognize this castle? Featured in the eighth season of the award-winning show, Doune Castle served as Winterfell, the Stark’s family ancestral home. And if you’re a true British tv and film junkie, you may have also seen this castle in ‘Outlander’ all throughout the first season as well as ‘Monthy Python and the Holy Grail’.
Other places that have inspired and appeared in films are Rosslyn Chapel in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and Dunnottar Castle in Pixar’s animated feature ‘Brave’. So, seize the opportunity and visit these locations to have your very own movie star moment!
Though the presence of the Muslim community in Scotland is still relatively small, Edinburgh is a Muslim-friendly hub that has various eateries and facilities catered for the comfort of Muslim travelers.
The Mosque Kitchen is a family-friendly restaurant that is not only known for its cheap prices but big portions too. Located near Nicolson Square Gardens (a small park in the city centre of Edinburgh), the restaurant offers an Indian menu of sorts - curries, pakoras, naan bread and other vegan options. If you’re looking for an affordable meal, make Mosque Kitchen your pit stop.
Also located in the area of Nicolson Square Garden, Kebab Mahal is a place to fill your belly. Besides their skewers, this restaurant specializes in traditional tandoori and curry dishes as well. A little further down the road, uncover another eatery by the name of Roti where authentic Pakistani cuisine and Indian tapas are served.
If you’re hoping to meet the local Muslim community, drop by the Edinburgh Central Mosque. It took over 6 years to build and remains to be the only one in Edinburgh. The Islam Edinburgh Festival is held here every year for the entire month of August and is open to the public to learn about Islam.
3. Breathtaking trails and hikes
Outdoor enthusiasts will find Scottish lands to be purely majestic. Whether it’s winding rivers or lush hills, it is the perfect place for you to embrace the beauty of nature.
Arthur’s Seat is a popular choice among locals and visitors as a hiking trail. Situated in the city of Edinburgh, this extinct volcano sits in the center of Holyrood Park. Don’t worry if you’re not the fittest traveler as Arthur’s Seat has different routes to the top. Just choose whichever course that suits your fitness level the best. Regardless of which path you take, the panoramic view of the city is guaranteed to hit the sweet spot.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, hiking in the Scottish Highlands is the way to go. Tackle one of the highest peaks in the Highlands - Ben Nevis at 4,411 feet above sea level - or walk The Great Glen Way, a trail stretching 118.5 km across the Highlands.
#HHWTTip : Scottish weather is unpredictable all year round. You may experience warm sunshine, harsh sleets and pouring rain in a space of several hours. So, remember to bring various outerwear!
Scotland is filled with numerous man-made attractions that will surely make your jaw drop.
The Scott Monument is a gothic memorial in honor of Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish literary figure. Learn all about the novelist’s life and work in literature at the second largest monument to a writer in the world. While you’re there, look out for the impressive marble statue of Sir Walter Scott himself along with his beloved dog!
A stunning image you’re going to want on your Instagram feed is of The Kelpies in Helix, the world’s largest equine sculptures. Built by Scottish sculptor, Andy Scott, these artistic works of art make a great daytime visit as well as during the night. Make sure to explore the site thoroughly by wandering the insides of these sculptures. The sheer size of the Kelpies and the look of its sleek stainless steel is not something to be missed.
5.Unique Scottish Traditions and Events
A big part of traveling is to experience a different culture from our own. In Scotland, there are plenty of opportunities for you to have a front row seat of the Scottish lifestyle. Depending on what time of the year you choose to visit, you’ll be able to participate in some of their unique traditions!
What better way to understand a foreign culture better than through music? Enjoy Celtic Connections, a Glasgow based music festival that runs a total span of 18 days. Held annually in the beginning of the year, you get to witness world-class musicians such as Cherish the Ladies and Judy Collins perform a variety of tunes, which includes Gaelic, folk and trad music.
Ring in the New Year like a true Scott by joining the festivities of Hogmanay in different cities. You can find torchbearers marching through Edinburgh and men in kilts swinging fireballs in Aberdeen. Fiery spectacles are a guarantee to making your New Year celebration an unforgettable one. These immersive experiences will not only enhance your Scotland trip but also have you saying Scottish phrases like ‘Gaun yersel’ (Translation: Go for it) in no time.
Stargazing is something everyone should do once in their lifetime. Luckily, Scotland can make that wish into a reality, as there are many great spots for you to admire a star-freckled sky.
Maxpixel- credit: Stars over Isle of Coll
Acknowledged as a Dark Sky Island, Isle of Coll is the place you want to be to experience a peaceful environment with unpolluted skies. The absence of streetlights allows the stars to shine even more and, in the winter, when it gets particularly dark, the Aurorae Borealis can be seen.
Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park is another place for you to observe a generous sprinkle of stars against a dark sky. The International Dark-Sky Association recognizes it as Britain’s first and the world’s fourth Dark Sky Park. Drop by the visitor centres at Glentrool, Kirroughtree and Clatteringshaws for some of the best viewing points in the park to observe a magnificent night sky.
Scotland prides itself on its rich historical background that reflects in their language, lifestyle and especially their landmarks.
When people mention standing stones, you would probably think of the Stonehenge in England. But did you know that the Calanis Standing Stones in the Isle of Lewis existed much earlier? This archeological site features 13 stones standing in a ring formation, which now shares its land with a visitor centre that has an exhibition, a gift shop and a café.
The National Museum of Scotland is another historical spot that is a must-visit in the city of Edinburgh. With multiple galleries, you can learn all about how Scotland came to be from prehistoric times to the present day. There are also sections of the museum dedicated to the stories of humanity from across different continents.
Another way to learn about Scotland’s colorful history it to take a stroll through Dean Village. This hidden gem of a village transports you to a different place and time with its cobblestone roads, green oasis and Water of Leith running through the center. What used to be the home of mill workers and their families in 1886 has now become an unfrequented tourist spot.
8.UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Scotland is wealthy in many aspects and this includes UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This prestigious organization has crowned Scotland with not one, not two, but SIX sites that hold global, historical and cultural importance.
Forth Bridge is the most recent addition and was noted by the organization as an innovative industrial creation. It opened in 1890 and was the world’s longest single cantilever bridge span until 1919. Catch a ferry at South Queensferry to admire this amazing engineering work up close!
Check out another World Heritage Site by traveling 9 miles east from Forth Bridge and find yourself in the city of Edinburgh. Here, two completely different townscapes exist: Medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town. Edinburgh’s Old Town holds the Royal Mile where Edinburgh Castle can be found right at the end of the street. Though it may not be anything like Elsa’s ice castle (remember Disney’s Frozen?), it is every bit as impressive.
Calton Hill is one of the many visual delights of Edinburgh’s New Town. This hill that shares its World Heritage Site status with the Old Town sits in the center of the city. For those who love a good sunset, you should make your way to Calton Hill at dusk and soak in the view of the whole city bathed in golden glow.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab that pen and place Scotland on your bucket list today! This dreamy country will have you planning your second visit even before your first is over.