You see if it weren’t for the country’s abysmal weather everybody would go holidaying there. Because when the clouds finally break, breathtaking landscapes appear out of nowhere, only to be shrouded in fog minutes later, waiting to surprise the next spectator with their beauty.
Empty moors, abandoned monasteries, medieval castles, dreamy lochs, sandy beaches, nature reserves and foggy highlands make an excellent home for mythical creatures like the monster of Loch Ness.
No wonder legends come to life in these magical lands. See for yourself.
Discover the ruins of Dunnottar
On a rocky outcrop in the sea stand the abandoned ruins of Dunnottar Castle. Once home to the Earls Marischal, one of the most powerful families in Scotland, now a haunting memory to a long-gone era.
Park if possible in the harbour of the nearby village Stonehaven and take the path uphill to get the most out of the spectacular views. At the top of the road, you will see first the war memorial; from there it is a fifteen minutes walk to the castle.
For information regarding opening times, entrance fees, etc visit the castle’s website.
Take a bath in black water
In many places in Scotland, one finds black water from the peatlands. These are formed out of an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter.
The rivers that flow through these bogs turn black, resulting in acidic water that is darkly stained, resembling tea or black coffee due to tannins leaking into the water. But don’t let that stop you from taking a dip in the water; it will be refreshing for sure.
Explore Benmore Botanic Garden
Benmore Botanic Garden, on the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll, is probably one of the best places in Scotland to get lost. Start your walk at the entrance through an avenue of 150 year old giant redwoods then throw away your map and just enjoy the dramatic scenery.
The 120 acre estate is home to a collection of plants from different regions of the world, with species from the Orient, the Himalayas, North and South America. Make sure not to miss the Golden Gates and the viewpoint at 450 feet.
For the latest visitor information visit the Benmore website.
Mount the Munros
The Munros are the 284 mountains in Scotland which are over 3000 feet, or 914 meters, high. Those are named after Sir Hugh Munro, who first listed them in 1891. Ben Nevis, the most famous of the Munros, is not only the highest of the Munros, it is also the highest mountain in the British Isles. It stands at 4,414 feet above sea level.
Hiking the Munros can be challenging, especially during winter in adverse weather conditions. Even in the summertime, a hike can become dangerous due to the sudden appearance of strong winds, rain and freezing temps at the summits, all of which happen frequently. Each year, people die in the mountains, but that doesn´t stop hikers from trying to climb all of the listed Munros.
Experience the battle of Culloden
Culloden was the last hand-to-hand battle fought on British soil. Part of a wider European religious and political conflict, the short but bloody fight changed the course of history. Today the causes and consequences of the Forty-Five are still hotly debated.
Experience firsthand how it feels to be in the middle of a battlefield at the visitor’s centre’s immersion theatre.
The website has more information regarding opening times, entrance fees and history of the site.
Be inspired by Slains Castle
Slains Castle is a 16th-century tower house, built by the 9th Earl of Erroll. Significant reconstruction of the castle has been carried out a number of times, lastly in 1837 when it was rebuilt as a Scottish Baronial mansion. At one time it had three extensive gardens, but now it is a roofless ruin.
Rumour has it that Slains Castle gave Bram Stoker the inspiration for his story of Count Dracula.
The castle is found on the Aberdeen coastline near Cruden Bay and Bullers of Buchan (below). It is situated on steep cliffs.
Swim with seals
Sandy dunes and beaches dot the Scottish coastline. Outside the breeding and moulting seasons, seals haul out on beaches, sandbanks and rocks, either alone or in small groups, to rest between fishing expeditions. Just by walking on the beach you’ll see many curious seals pop their heads out of the water.
The best time to see seals is when they are on shore to breed and pup between September and December. During the breeding season, special seal-watching trips are available.
To read more about the Scottish seals, click here.
Find your thrills at the Bullers of Buchan
The ‘Bullers of Buchan’ is a collapsed sea cave found on the rocky coastline north of Aberdeen, near the town of Cruden Bay and Slains Castle. The cliffs provide a nesting site for different seabirds: puffins, kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills. Look out for seals and dolphins, these are often seen passing by.
The name “Bullers” has probably been derived from the French “bouillir“, meaning “to boil”, as the water in the pot appears to boil during stormy weather.
Access is via the A975 road, which is served by a regular bus service between Peterhead and Aberdeen. Close to the cave is a car park. Take care, especially with children as the footpath is unfenced and the cliffs are steep.
Trail the myths
Yes, these sites form a fertile ground for the extraordinary stories told by the Scots.
Myths, legends and fables according to some, chronicles based on historical events according to others. Did I hear Nessie, anyone?
Empty moors, abandoned monasteries, medieval castles, dreamy lochs, sandy beaches, nature reserves and foggy highlands make an excellent home for mythical creatures.
No wonder legends come to life in these magical lands. Go and find out for yourself to see if you can tease them out of their hiding.
Practical advice for your Scotland itinerary
Check what you need to bring, putting together a travel wardrobe for Scotland is important as rain and unpredictability rule the day.
Unfortunately, Scotland has a lot of ticks. A tick is a small animal that can cause great misery because it can transmit various diseases, such as Lyme.Make sure to read up before you trip on how to prevent tick bites. This is particularly important if you plan to do some hiking or camping.
Money, Visa & Travel Insurance
- Britain is not part of the EU, the currency used is pounds.
- After Brexit (31/01/2020) Britain will continue with EHIC for a while at least. This means that if you are a European Citizen, you will be insured for medical emergencies via EHIC. But not for repatriation, lost luggage, etc.
- If you need travel insurance click here to obtain a quote.
- Some nationalities will need a visa to enter the United Kingdom, check here if you need to apply for one.