The first port of call for most travellers to Scotland is the funky capital city that’s chock full of friendly Scots boozing in bars, pubs serving steaming plates of haggis and great sights to check out like Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle, rising from the cliffs and looming over the city. See Visit Edinburgh for more info.
Often overlooked, Glasgow is just as worthy of a visit, especially for its dearth of tourists, thriving music scene and pub culture.
You can’t visit Scotland without checking out the haunting Loch Ness, a giant and insanely deep lake wedged between towering mountains and the supposed home of the mythical beast, the Loch Ness Monster. See the official Legend of Nessie site for more mythology and sightings.
The other thing you simply have to do is order a plate of haggis. It’s basically made from minced sheep’s blood and guts, but actually tastes like peppery sausage — and it’s damn tasty, believe it or not. The Scots serve it with ‘neeps ‘n tatties’. That’s turnips and potatoes to the rest of us.
Up Helly Aa
That’s the name of the Viking fire festival held off the north coast of Scotland at the remote Shetland Islands. The scenery is simply magnificent, and the festival is like nothing you have ever seen. It’s virtually tourist free, and involves a solid 24-hours of partying, a giant torch-lit parade of locals dressed as marauding Vikings, and the burning of a Norse longship. See the Up Helly Aa website for more.
Taking the plunge
Scotland is an adventure paradise. The place is chock-a-block with tour operators running adventure activities from canyoning and caving to extreme mountain biking and quad biking.
Climbing Ben Nevis
The UK’s highest peak is a tough slog through snow and ice using crampons, rope and ice axes in winter, while in summer the snow disappears to make it a scenic and challenging hike.
Virtually every tour of Scotland will involve a stop off at ancient monuments to the Celtic culture found in Britain before the arrival of the Romans. Expect to see haunting stone circles and marker stones.
Try on a kilt
And it’s got to be the Scottish way — with no undies.
A cheeky drop
Boozing is a national tradition in Scotland and the Scots love a drop of the amber ale. They’re also famous for Scotch whiskey, so make sure you stop off for a distillery tour and a few cheeky samples.