I’m from Glasgow and have travelled throughout Scotland, writing guidebooks and reporting on tales from Ayrshire to Yell in Shetland. I presently reside in Edinburgh, however so long as I’m the place tender drinks are available in a psychedelic orange color (Irn Bru) and spirits are steeped in peat, smoke and tender water, I really feel at house.
On St Andrew’s Day, listed here are 10 the reason why my house nation is tough to beat for a go to.
We’re not afraid of snorkelling in ice-cold water
The northwest Highlands is a wild place to get right into a wetsuit. You gained’t see any board shorts, bikinis or seashore shacks. There aren’t any tropical fish and little in the best way of credible coral reef. However the crystal-clear waters of the Wester Ross Marine Protected Space make a snorkel journey value braving the chilly for. Get fortunate and also you’ll spy velvet crab, urchins and beady-eyed wrasse enjoying within the shallows, and even sunburst flame shells and juvenile fish skittering via seagrasses. The rewards come thick and quick. Not so daft now, proper?
It’s house to the world’s greatest highway journey… and it’s not the North Coast 500
Overlook the North Coast 500: drive via the rugged Isle of Lewis as a substitute (iStock)
For these not acquainted with their Hebridean geography, Vatersay is little greater than a smudge on the heel of the Western Isles, an island so small it hardly registers as a pinprick on a map. But it’s the fruits for the remotest highway journey within the UK, a bracing north-to-south drive from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis to Castlebay on Barra, some 185 miles south. So as to add to the journey, the route checks off 10 islands, six causeways and two ferry crossings. It’s so ridiculously stunning, it’s as if the islanders have tried to throw up as many obstacles as potential to maintain you away.
You possibly can see a metropolis via the eyes of a wizard
JK Rowling used the Scottish capital’s spellbinding backdrop of magician hat spires and cloaked hills as a blueprint for the Harry Potter saga. You possibly can spot Edinburgh’s affect on her bestsellers within the medieval wynds funnelling down from the Excessive Road; snoop round George Heriot’s College to see Hogwarts born to life; or scare your self foolish on a stroll round spooky Greyfriars Kirkyard. Tip: search for the headstones with names comparable to McGonagall and Thomas Riddell to see the place the proud Edinburgh resident received her inspiration from.
It’s house to the world’s biggest marathon
The Craigellachie and Dewars Distillery in Speyside (iStock)
Anybody severe about whisky already is aware of the pine-clad glens of Strathspey. It’s the territory of the one malt distillery, the place you’ll discover world-beating whiskies like Glenfarclas, Balvenie and Glenfiddich. Previous the deerstalker trails, you’ll additionally locate smaller pot nonetheless outfits like Tamdhu and Aberlour.
However for the last word whisky-tasting micro-adventure there’s The Dramathon, the world’s first single malt race, which mixes detours to a number of of Speyside’s most gorgeous distilleries throughout a 26-mile course. It’s not simply the autumnal forests or sherry cask smells that’ll seduce you, however the promise of a superbly structured, well-paced race with an awesome end. Similar to a Speyside malt itself.
It’s a land filled with heroes
Sure, there’s William Wallace and Robert the Bruce (who’s lately grabbed the limelight due to Netflix’s Outlaw King), however we’ve additionally received Rob Roy MacGregor to thank for songs, tales and our disproportionate sense of patriotism. The outlaw, warrior and cattleman spent his life within the Trossachs and stays one in every of Scotland’s most-loved people heroes. See the place he was imprisoned on Issue’s Island on Loch Katrine; observe in his footsteps on a part of the Rob Roy Method overland hike; or go to his grave at Balquhidder. It’s a narrative that comes alive as if it was yesterday.
Hogmanay is the best occasion on Earth
Overlook New Yr events the world over: Scotland takes the entire affair rather more severely with Hogmanay. Historically, the occasion harks again to the celebration of the winter solstice on the Gregorian calendar among the many Norse Vikings, earlier than it disappeared in the course of the Protestant Reformation that swept Britain. Fortunately, the celebration re-emerged in the direction of the top of the 17th century, resulting in the wild and fiery occasion that Edinburgh has change into famend for as we speak. Severely, why have one evening of partying when you’ll be able to have a complete week as a substitute?
There’s a competition of fireplace
The annual Up Helly Aa fireplace competition (iStock)
Shetland’s Viking fireplace competition Up Helly Aa, the annual Viking fireplace competition in Lerwick, marks the passing of the darkest days of midwinter. However it’s so rather more than that. Thought-about an absurd cross between Sport of Thrones and The X Issue, it’s celebrated over 24 hours with alcohol, paraffin and a whole bunch of pairs of pretend boobs. Celtic drag queens, Popes, Nazis and Donald Trumps armed with massive flaming torches aren’t unusual. You’ll see fancy gown mice staggering across the harbour the following morning. However probably the most evident oddity is that it occurs in any respect. Wherever else, this sort of drunken revelry and pyromania would get you arrested.
Rosslyn Chapel will make you imagine in angels
Due to its look in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel stays a sanctuary each for the trustworthy and the popular culture obsessive. Whereas the writer describes the church situated to the south of Edinburgh as probably the most mysterious and magical chapel on earth, rumours of a reference to the Knights Templar are little greater than fantasy. Nonetheless, the 200-odd stone carvings are awe-inspiring – and sufficient to make anybody imagine in a larger energy.
The Borders has the UK’s craziest race
The Innerleithen woodlands have lengthy been a playground for bikers, hikers and walkers. However this Narnia-like forest of trails and paths is hardly savoured by those that endure the Mighty Deerstalker, the UK’s hardest off-road run. God, no. The gruelling 10Ok takes place in midwinter, in eerie silence, and in pitch darkness. At evening, barely in a position to see one metre in entrance of you, it turns into a scene from a zombie thriller with rabid, snotty opponents caked in mud and sporting apocalyptic grins. Alongside the best way, your head torch will illuminate fiendish obstacles like thigh-deep water hazards, mud-thick trenches and genital-freezing rivers. And, this being Scotland, it finishes with an almighty knees-up in a tent. Solely then, does an excellent wilder sport take over: crowdsurfing to native bands whereas loaded up on native ale.
Looking for fairies is a sport
Fairy Swimming pools on the Isle of Skye (iStock)
The half-day hike to the Fairy Swimming pools, a cascade of glacier-clear Jacuzzis on the Isle of Skye, is stunning, but additionally annoyingly common. It’s cosseted beneath the Black Cuillin Ridge, Scotland’s most well-known mountain belt, and composed of a sequence of pure baths – a Xanadu for wild swimmers. It’s an awesome excuse to see the Highlands at their most ethereal, whether or not you see pixies within the air or not.