Green landscapes, castles, and drams of whiskey
It’s no coincidence that Americans make up almost one-quarter of Scotland’s international visitors—and it’s not only for the kilts and bagpipes. Year after year, people flock to the land of the Scots for its epic landscapes, age-old castles, and single-malt whiskey, best enjoyed in the warmth of a local pub. From south to north, across its 30,000 square miles and population of five million people, bonnie Scotland packs history, nature, and hospitality into a blend that will have you visiting time and again.
There are many ways to enjoy the land of the Scots. On the one hand, you could enjoy the urban joys of Edinburgh and Glasgow—the former enchants with its gothic architecture and endless history, while the latter thrills you with its port-city appeal and creative renaissance—drinking drams of whiskey with the chatty locals and touring through some of Europe's finest museums. But then you’d miss out on the other treasure of this enchanting country: the pastoral landscapes of the Highlands, where stunning Isles, serrated mountains, and epic cliffs offer total disconnection.
This lake is famous for one thing: its eponymous monster, which many people still believe exists. But whether “Nessie” is real or not, there is ample reason to visit what is Scotland’s most famous lake. A boat tour across the water is the best way to take in the fresh air at this lake—and the best chance you’ll get to spot “Nessie”—but don’t forget to check out the views from the Urquhart Castle, one of Scotland's biggest.
One of the UK’s natural wonders, this Loch is also one of the biggest by surface area—but don’t let its size put you off. Its beauty is both intimate yet vast, a combination of feelings that inspired one of Scotland’s most famous traditional songs, “The Bonnie Banks o’Loch Lomond.” Take a cruise across the shores and try not to fall in love with this magical lake.
You’d be hardpressed to find more epic landscapes in Scotland than the ones on the Isle of Skye. The Turner-esque promontories, crenulated mountains, and green pastures of Skye—its name derived from the Norse word for cloud and island combined—are framed by the epic Cullin mountains, its isolation is second to none. Nothing is better here than grabbing your hiking boots and hitting one of the many trails—and keep a lookout for the numerous castles as you walk.
Inhabited since the Iron Age, the Edinburgh Castle is a symbol of Scottish antiquity, a landmark that today has become one of the country’s most famous. Once the residence of Scottish royalty, the fort today beams with historical landmarks, including the One O’Clock Gun, a WWII-era gun that fires a shot every day at 1 pm. Walk the Royal Mile on a sunny day—and don’t forget to quench your thirst with one of the many pubs on Edinburgh’s most famous walk.
Scotland is a magnificent place to visit during the autumn (September to November) and spring (late March to May) months. In the springtime, temperatures are warmer, and the country’s green landscapes once again take on their vivid shine. Autumn and spring are also the off-season in Scotland, and offer the perfect opportunity to enjoy Edinburgh and Glasgow. The warmest in the year (mid-60s to the high-70s), the months of July and August are generally also a good time to visit, especially if you're looking to hike in the Highlands.
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