Travel through beautiful Scotland
When we received orders to the United Kingdom, I felt like we hit the jackpot. I had visions of tea in London, driving through the rolling hills of the English countryside and discovering the complex and amazing history of the four countries that comprise the U.K. Hands-down one of our favorite adventures so far has been Scotland. Filled with rugged wilderness, port cities, bustling metros and plenty of jaw-dropping vistas, take your time and explore the beauty of this amazing country.
There are so many things to see and do, it would be easy just to park it in this magnificent capital city. With breathtaking architecture on either side of the park which splits the city, you can find the medieval buildings dotting the old town, and more modern Georgian examples in the new town, it creates a stunning landscape. Walk up the Royal Mile — filled with souvenir and whiskey tasting shops — until you reach the iconic Edinburgh Castle perched high above the city. Potter heads will find bits of Harry Potter magic sprinkled throughout the city. Stroll through the brightly painted shops lining the curved Victoria Street (the inspiration for Diagon Alley), or wander through the old tombs in Greyfriars Kirkyard where you’ll find one Thomas Riddell, Esq. laid to rest.
A mere 30 miles northeast of Edinburgh, the coastal town of St. Andrews is known for its stunning golf courses. In fact, it is home to the largest public golf complex in Europe. Even if swinging a club isn’t your thing, there is so much more to do. This beautiful city is also home to Scotland’s first and oldest university, University of St. Andrews founded in 1413. Explore the majestic ruins of St. Andrews Castle, which fell into disrepair in the 17th century and was essentially abandoned and left to the elements. Feeling beachy? Recreate your best version of the beach running scene from “Chariots of Fire” on West Sands Beach where it was filmed. Or tickle your taste buds at Eden Mill or Kingsbarns Distillery for local brews, gin or whisky.
Known for maritime trade and petroleum industries, this historic city has become a melting pot of culture. Situated where the Rivers Don and Dee meet the North Sea, Aberdeen is fondly referred to as the Grey or Granite City. Much of the original architecture of Aberdeen was built using slabs of grey granite from nearby quarries. Be sure to stop by the Tolbooth Museum. Built in the 1600s, this prison-turned-museum is filled with fascinating stories and history. In the fall, stroll through the lush green spaces of Cruickshank Botanical Garden, Seaton Park or Johnston Gardens and see the crimson, bright yellow and burnished copper-colored leaves.
Tucked away on the edge of Cairngorms National Park in the central Scottish Highlands is the most popular ski resort in the U.K. Aviemore is home to one of the first ski resorts in Scotland and has become a must-visit winter destination. Wildlife enthusiasts can marvel at the free-roaming Highland reindeer and watch as golden eagles soar overhead. Stop by nearby Landmark Forest Adventure Park and go zipping through the trees on the alpine coaster or zip lines. Fancy an adult beverage? Be sure to check out Dalwhinnie Distillery, the highest distillery in Scotland. Known for Highland single-malt whiskey, tours include samples, a souvenir tasting glass and delicious chocolate pairings.
Situated on Scotland’s north-central coast, Inverness is the largest city in the Highlands and is often used as a gateway to more isolated and rugged areas in the Highlands. Not just known for its location, Inverness is also a bagpiping mecca and a football (soccer) lover’s paradise. Every September, solo bagpipers from around the globe compete for the top prize at the Northern Meeting. If you’re ready for some rough and tumble action, this port city has four different football clubs to cheer on.
Tobermory (Isle of Mull)
Inhabited since at least 6000 B.C., the charming port city of Tobermory on the island of Mull is full of adventures just waiting for you. Drive 90 minutes from town and check out the stunning stone circle in Lochbuie. As you cruise along the windy roads, you’ll see plenty of once-magnificent castles dot the hilly landscape. Speaking of roads, motorheads can test their driving prowess during the Tour of Mull Road Rally every October. Maybe dry land is feeling a little tired. Grab your scuba gear and head beneath the waves. Divers can explore several shipwrecks in the waters around the island.
Perched along the banks of the River Clyde is Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city and the third-most-populous city in the U.K. Discover the beautifully lush parks and green spaces throughout the city, or head indoors to one of the fantastic museums. One of my favorites is the Kelvingrove Museum. This quirky and slightly eccentric space is home to 22 galleries full of world-renowned art, ancient Egyptian artifacts, animals and so much more – including a neon-lit sculpture of Elvis. The best part? Admission is free! As you make your way through the city, be sure to stop by the front of the Gallery of Modern Art. You may catch a traffic cone adorning the head of the Duke of Wellington.
Scotland is a treasure trove of amazing places waiting to be discovered. Venture beyond the cities to see the rugged beauty of this spectacular country.
Subscribe to our Stripes Europe newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, helpful PCS tips, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!
Follow us on social media!