Partly thanks to the film and television industry’s fascination with its culture (think “Braveheart”, “Rob Roy” and “Outlander”), history, and romantic scenery, Scotland has continued to enjoy incredible popularity with tourists from all over the world. Whether it be the “return home” of its diaspora from the United States, Canada, and Australia or a trip to a foreign and mystical realm for someone from the tropics, Scotland has so much to offer (weather aside!) to anyone wishing to immerse themselves in a timeless and fascinating culture. From the rugged peaks, stunning lochs, and dramatic castles of the Highlands and Islands, to the verve and vibrancy of gritty Glasgow, anyone who makes the smart decision to visit Scotland will be spoiled for choice when it comes to keeping themselves busy.

Perhaps the best place to start your Scottish adventure is naturally the capital of Edinburgh. Literally two cities in one (the “old town” dates to early Medieval times and the “new town” to the 18 century), it’s possible to have unique and diversified experiences while staying put in one place. The quirky and unusual architecture of the Old Town will take you back to the middle ages and the elegance of the New Town will give you an itch to…spend money!  Glasgow, on the other hand, is Scotland’s most populous and arguably its most “Scottish” city. A gritty place that also has a very healthy appreciation for the arts, Glasgow is the place to be if you want to see the Scottish people let their hair down a bit. 

We’ve just scratched the surface so far, but visiting Scotland is truly more than checking off the popular sights. If you’d like to slow down a bit (recommended!), perhaps an even better use of your time is to see what is commonly called “Scotland in Miniature”, the Isle of Arran. Not to be confused with the West of Ireland’s Aran Islands, Arran (two “r’s”) is actually on the highland fault line and has both rugged and mountainous terrain and softer and more bucolic scenery. You’re also just a (long but worth it) ferry trip from other points in the inner Hebrides, which is home to one of Scotland’s most famous exports: whisky!

Although they share an island and to a large degree a language, Scotland is very specifically NOT England. While the violent history between the two countries is long gone and primarily exists as rivals on the football (soccer) pitch, it is in the traveler’s best interest to not get them confused. The Scottish people are intensely proud and they punch well above their weight in nearly every category imaginable. This takes nothing away from the massive presence of the English, but it is important to separate the two. Of particular note are Scottish contributions to Education, Philosophy, Science, and Literature. For a country of roughly five million souls, Scotland looms large in the collective cultural contribution to the world.