1. Visit a castle – There are hundreds of castle all through the country, after all Scotland is a country steeped in history and the various castle are a large part of this rich history. There are a variety of different options from the ancient Aberlour Castle ruins which date back to 1200’s to the majestic Edinburgh Castle which sits towering over Edinburgh and is home to the crown jewels of Scotland. No matter which part of the country you visit there probably will be a castle close by and if you are really keen you can even stay in one such as the luxurious Inverlochy Castle Hotel which was rated as one of the best hotels in Europe. If you want a few suggestions then a few of my personal favourites are Eilean Donan (pictured above) which I believe to be one of the the most visually stunning castes in the country, Stirling Castle which is amazing for exploring offering a great visitor experience and Urquhart castle which has an amazing location looking out over Loch Ness.
2. Enjoy some local food – You should definitely try some haggis, just don’t ask how they make it and you will be fine (if your vegetarian they do have veggie options)! If you want a true scottish dish then try some haggis, neeps and tatties which is haggis with potatoes and turnips to the non Scots! Another suggestion is to have something deep fried (we love to deep fry stuff in Scotland), this could be anything from a deep fried mars bar to a deep fried Pizza, my personal favourite is getting some deep fried haggis in a whisky sauce! If neither of those seem appealing then another scottish dish you could try is some cullen skink which is best described as a creamy fish soup which tastes delicious!
3. Party in Edinburgh on Hogmanay – Hogmanay is the Scottish word for New Years Eve and in Edinburgh there is one of the worlds biggest and best street parties. I mean lets face it along with the Irish who knows how to party better than a bunch of Scots?! The main party takes place along Princes Street and Princes Street gardens where there is a live band, it is a ticketed affair these days (and getting more expensive each year which is a bit of s shame) so do buy tickets in advance. There are of course loads of other parties going on throughout the city which you can also many of which have their own live bands and entertainment but just make sure that at the bells you have a view of the castle where there is a huge fireworks display that is not to be missed.
4. Climb a Munro – To the uninitiated a munro in Scotland is a mountain which is over 3,000ft (914m) and there are a total of 282 of these in Scotland. There are some truly spectacular landscapes on offer within Scotland and what better way to enjoy some of these than climbing a munro and getting a panoramic view from over 3,000ft. Thus includes Ben Nevis in the Highlands, which at 4,409ft (1,345m) makes it the tallest mountain in Britain. It is actually a very good climb for all ages and abilities as there is a well laid out path which takes you all the way to the top (just take a few breaks along the way!).
5. Drink some whisky – Affectionately referred to as water of life, Scotland has some of the best whiskies in the worlds (or Scotch to the tourists). A good way to learn more about whisky and get a taste is to visit of of the hundreds of distilleries spread throughout the country. There are 6 distinct whisky regions in Scotland Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands, Islands, Campbelltown and Islay and the malts from each region have their own distinctive flavour from the smokiness Island malts to the peatiness of an Islay malt. The speyside region has the highest concentration of whisky distilleries anywhere in the world and it is home to some of my favourite drams (scottish word for a measure of whisky). If you cant make it to a distillery then dont worry its not hard to find a bar in Scotland with some single malts to try.
6. Attend the world largest arts festival – The fringe festival is an annual event in Edinburgh which lasts for almost the whole of August attracting thousands of performers from all around the world. There are hundreds of daily shows some of which are ticketed and others which are free and these encompass everything from renditions of shakespeare to some puppets doing pulp fiction. A great thing about the fringe is that anyone can take part and perform which means there are professional performers and amateurs who perform making it an ideal place for new talent to be discovered. This can lead to some unexpectedly great shows and also to some absolute disasters but that is all part of the unique experience on offer at the festival. All during the month there is a great buzz about the city, especially along the royal mile where performers go to hand out flyers to help promote their shows and even give some mini performances to entice you in with many of them in a range of colourful costumes which make for an interesting sight!
7. Find Nessie – One of the most elusive creatures on the planet, the legendary Loch Ness Monster (Nessie to the locals) is hidden somewhere within 22.5 miles of Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. There are a variety of boat trips which go out along Loch Ness but I always enjoy the Cruise Loch Ness trip from Fort Augustus where they have sonar equipment on board to give you the best chance of finding her (they also have a bar on board which is also rumoured to increase your chances of finding her). There is also the Loch Ness exhibition centre at Drumnadrochit (drum to the locals) which gives you a history of Loch Ness and some of the most famous sightings.
8. Take the worlds shortest flight – This unique flying experience is operated by Loganair and it will take you from Westry to Papa Westray with a flying time of a mere 180 seconds (which is longer than it takes me to down a pint!). It only costs around £17 for the flight and the flights run pretty much everyday, weather permitting. This is also a good excuse to explore Orkney Islands which is a really beautiful part of the country.
9. Jacobite Steam Train (Harry Potter railway) – Ok, confession here i have never seen Harry Potter or read any of the books, i know im such a muggle (no idea what that means) but the Glenfinnan viaduct and Jacobite steam train are synonymous with the movies having features. The train ride goes from Fort William to Mallaig and even if you are like me and know nothing about harry potter it is worth doing as the views are amazing, especially if you get a nice sunny day and if you have time try to spend some time in Mallaig as its beautiful part of the country.
10. Play golf in St Andrews– I grew up near St Andrews which worldwide is known as the “home of golf” with golf having been played there for over 600 years and it having a total of 7 golf courses which includes the world world famous Old Course. If you are an enthusiast then there is a ballot system for playing on the old course due to the demand but you can play any of the other 6 courses easily enough. If you are not a huge gold fan there are a few fun options like the himalayas putting green in St Andrews which is suitable for everyone and the driving range.
There are of course many other great reasons to visit Scotland and please feel free to share your favorite reasons for visiting Scotland in the comments section below.