Scotland has just been voted the most beautiful country in the world (Sep 2017), beating other beauties such as Canada, New Zealand and Iceland. But what makes it so appealing? Why are people drawn to this remote, sparsely populated corner of the British Isles.
We have come up with 20 reasons why we think Scotland is, without question, one of the ‘bonniest’ and best corners of our planet.
1. It is oozing with iconic historical sites, dating back thousands of years.
From Skara Brae (+3000 BC), a neolithic stone settlement in Orkney, to the Callanish Standing Stones (pictured) on the Isle of Lewis in the outer Hebrides – Scotland has some of the oldest historical sites in Europe and the World. Unlike many places they are usually well preserved and are not cordoned off from the public leaving you to explore and experience them up close.
2. Men still wear kilts – great for special occasions and apparently, yoga…
Tartan, on echo of the old clan’s that roamed and ruled the land. Kilts, a practical item of clothing? Maybe not any more, but as this video demonstrates, they still may have their uses.
3. It is home to Highland Cows – the horniest livestock around.
Appropriately ‘ginger’, docile, with long emo-like fringes – these are no average cows. Often to be seen out mountainsides and in remote Scottish glens, Highland Cows are protected from the harsh Scottish winters by their long flowing hair, which happens to be the longest ‘cow hair’ in the world. Cool, huh!
4. Castles, castles and more castles
At its peak, there were over 3000 castles in Scotland. They come in all shapes and sizes from the most visited and grandest, Edinburgh Castle, to the most photographed Eilean Donan – each has a unique and fascinating story to tell.
Top tip: become a member of Historic Scotland and get entry to hundreds of sites and events
5. It’s mountains offer spectacular walks, climbs and views
Stay away from the most famous, most climbed and therefore busiest peaks. Scotland has a glut of lesser know hills and walks that will offer you the opportunity to escape the crowds and really experience the best of the Highlands of Scotland. The best time of year for walking is May/June, use Walk Highlands – the BEST walking website I have ever seen, to browse hundreds of well described, mapped routes.
6. It’s Lochs hold more than just monsters.
Loch Ness, the most famous of Scotland’s Lochs and allegedly home of the beast “Nessie”. Whilst spottings of this mysterious water monster are few and far between, Loch Ness is large enough to offer ample shelter and hiding places for this prehistoric stowaway. Shockingly, it holds more water than all the Lakes in England and Wales combined!
7. White sand, mountain backdrop, deserted beaches, need I say more?!
Having travelled the world and been lucky enough to explore beaches on 5 of the worlds continents, I can honestly say that hand on heart the most breathtakingly beautiful beaches I found were on the Outer Hebrides – an island chain off the West Coast of Scotland.
Top tip: the beach at Luskintyre on the Isle of Harris has got to be one of the largest jewels in it’s sandy crown.
8. Remote Highland Glens, perfect for Sunday walks – for everyone.
You don’t have to be a land owner or laird to enjoy the majesty of Scotland’s glens. Scotland has a unique and fiercely fought for and now guarded law that stipulates that people can freely explore most of the land and water in Scotland.
As long as you respect peoples privacy, leave no trace (don’t damage the land), interfere with commercial land use (farming crops etc) and take responsibility for your own actions – then the land is as good as yours.
9. It is teeming with Wildlife, if you know where to look.
Once home to the wolf and bear, these days you’ll have to settle for some tamer and thankfully less dangerous birds and beasts. Highlights include the Golden Eagle, Osprey, Sea Eagle and Puffin. Or furry friends including the Red Deer, Otter, Beaver and Red Squirrel.
If you’re lucky you may even see Wild Cats, Pine Martins or Orca (Killer Wales) – which are sometimes spotted down both of Scotland’s coasts.
10. You’ll be welcomed by the natives, who will brighten your day.
In 2017 Scotland was voted one of the friendliest countries in the world and the only European country to make it into the top 10.
It is therefore unsurprising that is is home to the largest comedy festival in the world (The Edinburgh Fringe) and a host of world famous comedians (Billy Conolley & Kevin Bridges) it can be fair to say that the Scots know how to laugh.
11. Adventure is Scotland’s middle name.
Whether you like gentle paddles or hair raising white water thrill rides, slow walks or white knuckle climbs – Scotland has something for you.
And if you really want to test yourself it’s host to a number of adventure challenges including the 24 Hour Endurance Mountain Bike Race, the aptly named Strath Puffer, or the ultra wilderness triathlon known simply as the Celtman.
12. The North 500 Road Trip is one of the greatest in the world.
“The best road trip in the world” – Conde Naste Traveller (2017)
Starting and finishing in Inverness, there is now a ribbon of road that will take you through some of the most beautiful and remote areas of Scotland. With many businesses now on board, the North Coast 500 is well serviced and can be completed in a week (you could do it shorter but won’t get the full experience). We recommend hiring a camper van – check out Rock in Vans.
13. You can see the Northern Lights
Many people don’t realise that you don’t have to travel to Scandinavia to catch a glimpse of the dancing lights. Whilst never guaranteed, as Scotland is so close for many in the UK, if you keep your eye on the Aurora Forecast, and don’t mind planning a short trip last minute – then you could very well tick one thing off your bucket list sooner (and cheaper) than expected.
14. Ancient Pine Forests hug it’s hills and lochs.
Caledonian Forests are a rare and mystical find. With so few native and untouched areas left, if you do decide to seek them out and visit you must promise to do them no harm and leave them as you found them (better yet,pick up litter and leave them better). The charity Trees for Life work to protect and increase the range of these precious ecosystems.
15. It’s people aren’t too ‘shabby’.
Welcome, the big hitters, Gerard Butler, Ewan McGregor, James McAvoy, Kirsty Gallacher, Karen Gillan and Rose Leslie (other native born actors/actresses).
16. Haggis, fresh seafood, all washed down with Whisky, what’s not to love!
Famous for its high quality local produce, Scotland has a rich and varied larder to draw upon. With hundreds of distilleries, Whisky is the undoubted drink of the nation and undoubtably Haggis is its food. But it’s in it’s day-to-day produce that Scotland really excels with some of the best seafood and meat in the world.
17. It has four distinct and amazing seasons.
In the summer the days are long and warm, in the winter it’s plunged into darkness for much of the day, arctic weather fronts creating a bleak and harsh landscape.
You can do the same walk, or visit the same place in Scotland 12 times throughout the year and it will be different each time. Some dislike this uncertainty, I personally love it.
They say that you can get every season in one day in Scotland, sometimes in one hour. It is always an adventure.
18. It is a photographers paradise
Due to many of the amazing things included as previous points in this list – Scotland is a mecca for wildlife and nature photographers. The perfect place for a panorama.
19. The national animal is a unicorn.
Nothing more needs to be said except…coolest national animal ever!
20. It is a perfect place for an escape.
Imagine yourself standing at the top of a Highland Glen, the day stretching out ahead of you, unknown places to explore. This could be you…this should be you.
With so many amazing things to do and places to visit, even if you’ve been to Scotland many times before, there’s always something new to experience. And if you’ve never been, why not?
With easy and affordable flights, trains and routes from most major UK (and European) cities, choose Scotland as your next holiday, trip, adventure or escape destination. Check out some of our 2-4 day escapes on this map.
And finally if this post helped you at all or taught you something new, I’d love to know. Leave a comment below and you’ll likely see my reply within a day.