Scotland Top 5
Scotland is one of my favourite countries. On top of all the history and castles, there is just a wildness to the highlands that make you feel like their folklore could be a reality. It has been 6 years since I have been to Scotland (oi, sad!), which is part of the reason why I’ve put off writing my top 5 post for so long. I was concerned that my Scotland top 5s may no longer be applicable, or that my memory for details would not be there, also there have been so many other travels. I am giving it a go regardless.
Scotland Top 5, in no particular order:
The historic gem that is Edinburgh. I was fortunate to be visiting during their annual Fringe Festival. The streets filled with performers either busking or eliciting creative ways to draw you into their performance. The atmosphere during the festival is electric – the spirit of the arts tangible. Nearly every public space doubled as a stage. Many shows were free, some had a small fee, regardless the drama on the streets was enough. I was also fortunate to visit Edinburgh after the festival ended. It was a good time to complete my tourist activities as the bulk of visitors had departed.
As Medieval cities go, Edinburgh follows suit with narrow alley ways, cramped pubs, and a castle atop the hill. There is no shortage of sights to see, but the best place to start is along the royal mile, between and including Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle.
2. Isle of Skye
This Highland island is where the magic lives! Between the colourful seaside town of Portree, to the rugged Trotternish ridge to the picturesque Fairy pools, this island has a little bit of everything, for everyone. Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides Islands, connected to the mainland via bridge making access quite easy. Along with a photographers dream of landscapes, Skye also boasts numerous castles full of clan history. Skye is one of the not to miss areas of Scotland, in my opinion, requiring a minimum of 3 full days, but you will likely want more.
3. Isle of Harris & Lewis
These two islands, part of the Outer Hebrides, are actually joined. Harris is the southern part of the isle, while Lewis is the northern part. The Isle of Harris is home to the famous Harris Tweed, some of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches I have ever seen and is a jumping point to visit World Heritage Site, St. Kilda. The Isle of Lewis offers many historical sights including the Callanish standing stones that are older than Stonehenge, Blackhouse village at Gearrannan and Carloway Broch. Lewis’ main town Stornoway is an adorable seaside town, boasting a castle of it’s own, Lews. These Isles can be reached from the mainland by the following ferry routes: Ullapool to Stornoway, Uig to Tarbert, Uig to Lochmaddy and Oban to Castlebay and Lochboisdale.
4. Castle Hopping
No effort is required to castle hop in Scotland. They are scattered across the countryside, standing in complete ruin to well-preserved and mocked up like Stirling castle. I found that many of the ruins had few people visiting, giving me the ability to wander and daydream at my leisure. Also castles often come with churches, which come with my favourite: old kirkyards! Some of my favourites were: Stirling Castle, Bothwell Castle, Dunfermline Abbey – burial place of Robert the Bruce, Linlithgow Palace – Birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, Eilean Donan Castle. I spent a day adventuring on the bus to a few different castles while I was staying in Glasgow. I am sure there are castle tours, but I always like to be on my own schedule. Have a look at google maps, sights of interest usually have an icon on the map, or you can do a search and plan a route.
5. Loch Ness
Loch Ness is very likely the most famous lake in Scotland (if not in the world), specifically for rumours of the Loch Ness monster. The Loch Ness monster story is steeped heavily in folklore, but once you speak to some of the locals, your convictions of myth are very likely to waiver. The monster aside, Loch Ness is a beautiful area, with Urquhart Castle on one shore and the town of Fort Augustus on another. There are numerous walking trails around the lake. A Scottish vacation is not complete without visiting the area.
Honourary 6. Glenfinnan Viaduct
Glenfinnan Viaduct is now famously known from scenes in Harry Potter as the Hogwarts Express makes its way to the school. Sweeping green landscapes, with the architecturally beautiful viaduct make for amazing photos and views. Having a train out in the middle of open landscape, being the only identifier of man just awes and humbles me. This is one of the many instances that make me describe Scotland to have a “wildness.” Also near the viaduct is the Glenfinnan Monument to the landing of Bonnie Prince Charlie on Scottish soil, stirring up the second Jacobite rising. Little bit of important history.
Honourary 7. Hairy coos!
Okay this is the last honourary mention, perhaps I should have made it a top 10 list for Scotland. These guys are just so darn cute, with their shaggy hair covering their eyes (and their whole body), I couldn’t not put them in the list. Those horns are a little intimidating though…
What are your Scotland Top 5? Let me know in the comments below!
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