10 Reasons Scotland Should Be On Your Bucketlist
From towering mountains and misty glens to vibrant cities and buzzing nightlife, Scotland's beauty and culture is well worth seeing. Here are 10 reasons that Scotland needs to be on your bucketlist.
1. Experience the Fiery Up Helly Aa Festival
Scotland has the best fire festival in the world – in my opinion, anyway. Up Helly Aa is a Viking-themed fire festival that happens every year, on the last Tuesday of January.
Celebrating the middle of winter, and the end of Yule, the traditions of Up Helly Aa festival aren’t that old, but the fire part definitely is – it goes back to the Viking history of the islands.
The modern celebrations have a torch-lit parade and a replica of a Viking long ship being hauled through the streets of Lerwick.
2. Search for Nessie at Loch Ness
The Loch Ness Monster is probably one of Scotland’s most famous exports.
People have seen strange things in the loch for nearly 1,500 years – the earliest references to a monster are in the 6th century – so this isn’t a new phenomenon.
Whether it’s just an optical illusion, a surviving dinosaur or even a vengeful Kelpie (A Scottish water demon), the Loch Ness Monster definitely reflects the mysterious nature of the loch.
Loch Ness is certainly impressive to explore. The largest freshwater loch in the Great Glen, Loch Ness is also one of the deepest, reaching an impressive 755 ft, and the surrounding, ancient forests are full of rare wildlife, like red squirrels, pine-martens and otters.
It isn’t difficult to reach Loch Ness – it’s just outside the Highland town of Inverness, on the road to Fort William!
3. Play Golf Where it was Invented
Golf fans from across the world make the pilgrimage to the Old Course links in St. Andrews every year.
The Old Course links in St. Andrews are a site of pilgrimage for golf fans from across the world. The first game of golf is believed to have been played here in the early 15th century.
Today, the world’s governing body of golf, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club (commonly known as the R&R) is based here, reflecting that ancient association.
While golf can be seen as a sport reserved for affluent people in other countries, in Scotland it’s widely seen as a sport for everyone, reflecting the country’s egalitarian streak.
4. Sample Real Whiskey at Laphroaig
Who can say they’ve really experienced Scotland if they haven’t tried whiskey? And I don’t mean your standard, supermarket whiskey – I mean real whiskey.
Luckily there’s a lot of whiskey distilleries that you can visit to gulp down the important facts about this treasured national drink. My top choice would be the Laphroaig distillery on the island of Islay, just off the West Coast, which has one of the best tours.
Laphroaig’s whisky is described as being very rich, with a smoky, peat-tinged flavor.
5. Explore the Lives of the Scottish Royalty at the Ancient Royal Capital of Stirling
Edinburgh might be the modern capital of Scotland, but the nearby city of Stirling was where Scotland’s kings and queens were crowned. It’s one of the oldest royal ‘burghs’ in the country, and it is rich in history. Stirling Castle, which dates from around the 11th century, is an imposing fortress to this day, built on the remains of an ancient volcano!
6. Marvel at the Beauty of the Athens of the North
Auld Reekie – or the city of Edinburgh, as it’s known by outlanders – is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the UK. When the New Town of the city was built in the 17th century, architects looked to ancient Greece for inspiration, resulting in some astounding buildings being built in Edinburgh. The city was christened the ‘Athens of the North’ to reflect that. Whilst you’ll see this influence just walking around, check out specific buildings like the Royal Scottish Academy, The Burns Monument and the National Monument.
7. Gaze in Amazement at 5,000-Year-Old Houses in Orkney
Older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza, the ancient site of Skara Brae in Orkney has some of the oldest houses that have been discovered. It’s even been named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Revealed after a storm in the 19th century, these neolithic dwellings were sunk into the ground to protect them from the harsh climate and they feature stone furniture, beds, and even a hearth. They’re remarkably well-preserved for something that’s over 5,000-years-old!
8. Get Married at Gretna Green!
Okay, okay, so maybe don't get married on a whim but definitely check it out. Gretna Green has been a hotspot for people getting married since the 17th century. When there were differences in the legal systems between England & Scotland it became the British-equivalent of Las Vegas when it came to runaway marriages.
The famous Blacksmith shop where couples would get married, and the anvil that served as an altar, is still there and is worth paying a visit!
9. Try Haggis
Scotland’s national dish, haggis is served with mashed neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes).
Admittedly, it isn’t made from the most appetizing ingredients, but it has a deliciously nutty taste. It’s made from the heart, lungs and liver of a sheep. Minced, mixed with oatmeal, onions and salt and pepper, it’s traditionally cooked in the sheep’s stomach.
Haggis is available on a lot of restaurant menus throughout Scotland – from small pubs through to posh bistros.
10. ...or a Feep-Fried Mars Bar in Aberdeen
Can you say you’ve visited Scotland if you haven’t tried that other national dish – the deep-fried Mars bar?
Clocking up an artery-clogging 2,000 calories, the deep-fried Mars bar isn’t actually as widespread as you’ve probably been led to believe! For example, after living in Glasgow for 5 years, I’ve only been able to find two restaurants in the whole city that offer them.
The best place to try it would be where it was invented – the Carron chip bar in Stonehaven, just outside of the city of Aberdeen.
Have you been convinced to visit Scotland? Check out our Ireland, Scotland, & London trip!