Scotland is a great country, and there are so many things to do that the list could comprise easily 10 or 15 things. However, 5 is a nice number, it’s manageable and you stand a good chance of actually getting the things done. Then of course, you might be interested in completely different things…
Nonetheless, if I was to go to Scotland for the first time, and I had two weeks of holidays, that’s what I would do:
1. Visit Edinburgh
Edinburgh is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, and there is a reason for it. Apart from a unique history and splendid architecture, Edinburgh is full of life and culture. The city’s atmosphere is fantastic, and if you visit in August, it is even close to impossible: Festival Time in Edinburgh! The Fringe Festival is the biggest arts festival in the world, but there is also the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the International Book Festival, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, the Edinburgh Mela, the Edinburgh Free Fringe, and even more! You have to see it to believe it.
View of the Old Town
2. Drink Whisky
This is no secret: Whisky is THE national Scottish drink. There are hundreds of different whiskies, and if you think you don’t like whisky: try it again. There is a whole range of different flavours awaiting your taste buds. Include a visit to a distillery, and if you are really into whisky you might consider including the Whisky trail in Aberdeenshire in your travel plans. Also, there are many pubs that offer an excellent selection of whiskies, many of which are hard to get your hands on abroad, so make good use of your stay.
3. Climb a Scottish mountain
There is no better way to explore and enjoy Scottish nature than to actually go out there and climb a mountain. Scotland is beautiful if you just drive through it by car, but walking its hills is the real deal. There is no need to make it a full scale mountaineering expedition – there are mountains with different grades of difficulty, and a lot of them can be ascended in a couple of hours. Ben Lomond is a great mountain, very popular, easily accessible and in a beautiful location. There are easily another 500 mountains from which to choose, so there is no excuse… If you really think you are not fit enough to climb a mountain, then you go for a glen (valley) walk. Glen Nevis near Fort William for example allows for a walk in amazing scenery.
Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond
4. Go to a ceilidh
A ceilidh is a traditional Gaelic social gathering with music and dancing. Above all, it is incredible fun. You probably don’t know the dances, but they are usually explained before, especially if there are tourists around. There are pair dances and group dances where you get to dance with different partners all the time. The fiddle starts and a Gaelic folk tune and off you go. In my experience, the atmosphere is relaxed and merry, whereas the dancing can get quite wild and oxygen demanding. It is a great experience, even if you are not a great dancer (like me), and it’s one of the experiences you won’t forget.
5. Visit the Isle of Skye
Most people will recommend you to tour the Highlands, but my recommendation is to go to Skye. On your way you will see a great deal of the Highlands, and Skye is like the topping on a cake. Skye is part of the Inner Hebrides and is a place of outstanding beauty. Its scenery is spectacular, and the mountains forming the Cuillin Ridge are among the finest, most dramatic and challenging Scottish mountains. You can also find sandy beaches, tiny villages and one of the top Scottish visitor attractions: Dunvegan Castle, seat of the MacLeods and the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland.
Ok, so that’s my top 5. Please let me know your personal top 5, I would love to hear from you!