A haven for the adventurous, Scotland is famed for its dramatic landscapes, castles and gory medieval tales that attract thousands of visitors every year.
When travelling to Scotland, it’s difficult to know where to start, with a rich, celebrated culture, eclectic cities and vast mountain ranges, trying to fit everything in can seem like a bit of a headache, luckily Designer Journeys has a great team of Local Designer’s to help you out.
Alongside myself – a Scot, born and raised.
First things first, when should you visit Scotland?
Scotland is beautiful at all times of the year. During winter, you’ll be charmed by roaring fires, twinkling Christmas lights, and warming food and drinks.
In Spring, you’ll feel like you are witnessing nature wake up, as the streets and parks are bursting with colour. In Summer, warmer days bring locals out from their houses; performers bring life to the streets; beaches are filled with families, and the Fringe festival transforms the capital, Edinburgh.
This sees us through Autumn when the Highlands turn to a sea of fiery reds, oranges and yellows as the leaves begin to fall and the skies are ablaze with vibrant purples, creating unforgettable sunsets.
The key to travelling in Scotland is to be prepared as you never know what will happen. You can expect hailstones followed by sunshine; freezing winds followed by 25-degree heat, and 30 seconds of pouring rain – all in one day. It is best to take a bag with a scarf, raincoat and perhaps a pair of flip-flops if you are feeling lucky.
While you can travel to Scotland at any time of year, there are certain things that you simply cannot miss out on. I’ve whittled it down to the highlights of Scotland: things that you should do and see to capture this beautiful country at its finest, and it’s a lot more simple than you think.
Eat Fish and Chips in Summer
I said it was simple, right?
Fish and chips is a not-so-healthy meal that has delighted this country for decades. While you might be able to enjoy the dish in more or less any pub or restaurant in Scotland, for the best – and sometimes the greasiest – look no further than the local fish and chip shop along a harbour front.
For an authentic experience, I would tell you to accept nothing more than newspaper for packaging but unfortunately, the well-loved alternative to wrapping paper is no longer popular. Probably due to the inevitable likelihood of ink running into your chips.
Grab a “fish supper” and pull up a wooden bench on the harbour to watch the waves. Fresh each morning, you’ll soon find out why fish and chips are so popular among locals.
Pitlochry in Spring
Nestled on the banks of the River Tummel, Pitlochry is a sight to behold at any time of year.
Acting as a central gateway to the Highlands, in Spring, Pitlochry is filled with vibrant colours as the flowers come into bloom and the warming sun defrosts your toes after the chilly winter months.
A traditional resort town, the best way to enjoy Pitlochry is to relish in its natural beauty in any way possible. The small town is surrounded by hiking trails that take you to some of the most spectacular viewpoints in Scotland, just moments away from the Cairngorms National Park.
Chase the Aurora Borealis in Autumn
One of the greatest natural wonders in the world, the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is a once in a lifetime experience – you should consider yourself lucky to see it. However, when you are far from the city lights, where stars are in abundance on the coast of Scotland, you might just have a chance.
As the spectacular flashes of light dance on the horizon, you will be taken a colourful journey of peace and tranquillity as you marvel at the beauty of this natural phenomenon. The vibrant neon shadows of the Aurora are at their brightest between October and February.
To increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights, visiting locations such as Cairngorms, Rannoch Moor, Perthshire and Isle of Lewis is a must. Due to the lack of low light pollution, when there are no clouds, the skies are clear enough for the colours to shine through.
Edinburgh at Christmas
As the cold, dark nights draw in, Edinburgh’s charm manages to shine through: sparkling fairy lights, mulled wine and excited shoppers make this city a magical place to visit during the festive period.
Every year, Edinburgh’s central street, Princes Street, is partially occupied by a German-style market. Selling hot dogs, Christmas decorations, handmade goods, chips and a selection of mulled alcoholic drinks, the market is the perfect winter warmer – and a great place to get some unique souvenirs!
In addition to the market hype, the bars that surround the Old Town become a magical cove of cosiness. Dimly lit and warmed by extremely powerful heaters, you can cuddle up with a cocktail in hope that someone does not open the door. You’ll find live music in most bars every night of the week.
Whisky On the 1st of January
The term ‘seeing in the bells in’ means to witness one year turn to the next. For those who enjoy a whisky, this is the perfect time to drink one. It’s a common misconception that all Scottish people like whisky. To tell you the truth, a lot of people don’t – we also don’t wear kilts all the time.
For those who do like whisky, comes a great appreciation for the craft that our national drink has become. It is said that there is a whisky for everyone – there really is, now more than ever.
Whisky covers all spectrums of the taste charts: from rich maraschino cherries, apples, bananas, and pears to TCP, car tyres, burnt wood and even Battenburg cake.
How can you not find something that you like in between all of this?
Whisky is a drink to be celebrated: enjoying your favourite dram, or perhaps the bartenders if you are not sure what to have while counting down to the new year is a moment to remember.
Haggis On Any Day of the Year
I know what you are thinking: “isn’t that sheep’s intestine?”
Yes, but let’s not think about that.
Minced, ground and mixed with oats, carrots, onions and a heavy hand of pepper, Scotland’s national dish is a timeless treat that you’ll fall in love with.
Soft in texture, haggis is typically served with “neeps” (turnip) and “tatties” (potatoes), a classic combination that is often made a little modern with a creamy pepper or whisky sauce – delicious!
For the vegans and vegetarians who are feeling a little left out from the food talk, there is no need to worry! You’re not. As Scotland is rapidly becoming a popular vegan destination, traditions have catered to the meat-free population with a lentil-based equivalent of haggis that tastes just as good. Some would even argue that it is better.
Typically eaten on Burns Day, a celebration of Scotland’s most-loved poet, Rabbie Burns, the dish has evolved over the years, meaning that it is available in a multitude of forms in restaurants and fish and chip shops across the country.
A vibrant country with humorous, friendly locals, stunning scenery and a love of everything deep fried, Scotland is surprisingly only just becoming popular with travellers from across the world. If you are curious to find out what this beautiful country is all about, get in touch with one of Designer Journeys’s Local Designers today!