Ireland & the United Kingdom On Paths Less Traveled
Scotland possesses an undeniable magic that lingers with you long after you’ve returned home, where your fond memories of the scenic splendor, welcoming people, the myths and legends of the land, the music of its street pipers and that famous Scottish creativity will forever call you back to this enchanting destination. If you find yourself wrapped up in such reveries, or if you’ve yet to experience your first Scottish adventure, now is the ideal time to book your visit.
In a country famed for its mountains, glens and lochs, the Scottish have an innate connection to the landscape. Getting out to the islands is a great way to get in touch with the landscape, and for us, the Isle of Lismore is a best-kept secret. The remote nine-mile island is located in Loch Linnhe and accessed by a small passenger ferry from Port Appin. Sites around Lismore, which is Gaelic for “the great garden,” include several lochs and castle ruins, as well as the Lismore Lighthouse, built by the grandfather of author Robert Louis Stevenson. With only 180 inhabitants, the island is very peaceful and can be explored by foot or bike without worrying about large volumes of traffic.
And yet, you don’t have to dash to Scotland’s remote regions to enjoy its natural areas. For a local in Edinburgh, escaping to climb Arthur’s Seat is pure joy. Although not as big as our Munros in the Highlands, it’s the perfect “backyard” for any city dweller who needs to feel more fresh air in their lungs. Jog the three-mile loop around its base or simply take a picnic to a quiet, sunny spot. It’s a real haven literally at the base of the Royal Mile.
Further outdoor adventures can be had walking the beach-laden Fife Coastal Path—perhaps stopping in Anstruther for scampi and chips—or heading to Glencoe in the Highlands. The Highlands really capture the essence of everything that is Scottish, from the imposing mountains and roaring waterfalls to mirror-like lochs and heather-covered glens. It’s as impressive and awe-inspiring on a dark and misty winter’s day as it is on a glorious summer evening.
Compared to the size of its population, Scotland has had an outsized influence on the world, specifically in areas such as science, engineering, medicine, exploration, the arts (particularly writing) and beyond. While you can find evidence of Scottish innovation—the adhesive postage stamp, pneumatic tire and ATM, to name a few—anywhere in the world, experiencing this ingenuity in its natural setting only adds to the appreciation of the brilliant Scottish people.
Scotland is perhaps most famously known for the invention of golf, created in the 15th century and now one of Scotland’s most popular exports. Visitors will be exposed to golf wherever they go in this beautiful country, but nowhere more than St Andrews. Known as “the home of golf,” St Andrews is a charming medieval town where you can play a round on one of seven public courses at St Andrews Links. One of these, the Old Course, is a par-72 course that has hosted The Open Championship more than any other course and is the oldest golf course in the world. Lucky for players everywhere, it remains a public course, open to anyone who wants to swing a club on hallowed grounds.
And of course, Scotland has contributed much to the world of literature, including the works of Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, Alexander McCall Smith and Irvine Welsh.
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS
Should you find yourself in Scotland in January, it’s considered a must to attend a traditional Burns supper, a celebration of the life and works of poet Robert Burns. At the event, you’ll tuck into a plate of haggis, a quintessential Scottish dish made with sheep offal that’s traditionally eaten after a reading of Burns’ poem “Address to a Haggis.” Haggis is a Scottish must-try and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Our preferred way is with the traditional “neeps and tatties” (turnips and potatoes), mashed and with a creamy whisky sauce.
Those spending the holidays in Scotland would do well to join the thousands of revelers that gather for Hogmanay, or Scottish New Year’s Eve. The Scots know how to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next. The street party in Edinburgh is world famous. Dating back to the Vikings, the celebration includes pipes, drums, flaming torches and fireworks, plus, of course, a few renditions of the famous New Year’s Eve song “Auld Lang Syne.” Sung around the world on the 31st of December, it was written by Scottish bard Robert “Rabbie” Burns, who is still alive and well in the hearts of many around the globe. We also recommend finding a cèilidh (a gathering for traditional dance and storytelling, pronounced “kay-lee”) on Hogmanay.
BEST TIME TO GO
Scotland is busiest during the summer, when the days are longer and warmer. To avoid the crowds, visit in spring, when everything comes into bloom, or early autumn, when the colors start to change.