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SCOTLAND – ‘must see’ information from a local travel expert

Scotland: tour ideas and must sees.

Planning a Scotland trip?

In this small northern nation, there are so many options for visitors: city, countryside, Highland, Lowland, islands, visitor hot-spots and hidden gems. Read on for lots of great tour suggestions, from our own insider knowledge, along with great travel tips, opinions and good information on heritage, culture and environment, plus Johanna’s great scone recipe! (It’s like a cookies policy, only tastier.) We know the kind of Scottish questions visitors ask. For example…

How long do I need for Edinburgh?

At least a couple of days. Probably more. If time is pressing, take a look here for a basic list of must sees in Edinburgh

Should I visit both Edinburgh and Glasgow?

No. Choose one or the other then go and explore the rest of the country. You can get a cultural hit from either. Glasgow is a fantastic city for shopping. Like Edinburgh it’s got great restaurants, pubs and cultural opportunities. It isn’t so obviously picturesque as Edinburgh though. Personally, I’m open-minded and hope that the city in the west will soon persuade me that it’s got an unmissable Glasgow must see list. (And don’t mention the two cities’ east/west rivalry. I have a relative from Glasgow who says she never goes to Edinburgh because the water disagrees with her. Honestly!)

Edinburgh, capital of Scotland. The Scott Monument (left), Balmoral Hotel, centre.

Edinburgh, capital of Scotland. The Scott Monument (left), Balmoral Hotel, centre.

Which bits of the Highlands are unmissable?

Take in Glencoe for atmosphere without effort. Glen Affric for beauty with optional effort. (I mean, you might want to get out of the car but it’s not compulsory!) The Torridons for dramatic mountains and space. Anywhere north of Ullapool for sheer atmosphere. Lots more beautiful scenery. That’s something that we do rather well. If the places named here are unmissable, most of the rest of the landscape of the north is pretty good too!

Loch Lomond from Duncryne Hill, looking north to the Highlands.

Loch Lomond, looking north into the Highlands from Duncryne Hill.

What about Scotland’s islands?

Skye if time is short. Skye if you have plenty of time. Orkney if you want to get under the skin of a different kind of island, with a Scandinavian flavour. Colonsay if you need to run away and hide for a few days. Actually, nearly all of the islands are rewarding. (I even like Bute.) And Shetland is so extraordinary it doesn’t feel Scottish at all. Oh, and Mull, how could I forget Mull? Strolling round the curved and colourful Tobermory waterfront, deciding on which seafood restaurant….ah.

Should I try to see a Highland Games?

Highland Games were especially invented when (mostly) Lowland folk and exiles realised that the original Highlands with real communities didn’t exist any more but that they themselves still enjoyed dressing up in over-the-top Highland tartan. I’d say, yes, go on. It’s a lot of fun. There are stalls and sometimes crafts as well as the main athletic, musical and dancing competitions. Some folk take these very seriously though, which is more than the section in our Scotland culture page does!

What about Bonnie Prince Charlie, Rob Roy and all these other characters?

Well, you could take in Culloden (near Inverness) for Bonnie Prince Charlie – great visitor centre there – and Balquhidder for Rob Roy (bags of atmosphere). Plenty of Mary Queen of Scots places in Scotland as well.

Our weather – will it be a problem?

Scotland’s weather can be unpredictable – but it isn’t as bad as you’ve heard. (In fact, you should have been here last week. Everyone says that.) Just pack some sun-cream, a few layers, a light raincoat and good walking shoes. You’ll be fine. Last year we took a client to Mull at the end of October and the colours were breathtaking – especially the rainbows.

This is our dog Millie climbing Ben Wyvis near Inverness.

This is our dog Millie climbing Ben Wyvis near Inverness.

Should I take my camera to Loch Ness, just in case?

If you have your heart set on seeing Loch Ness, then of course. As for the beast: just think of it as Santa Claus with humps. Something you’d want to believe in. The link above tells you how to make your own monster pictures.

Will I see the real Scotland in a week?

Yes, you can go all over Scotland from this page. There are lots of pages to read – see navigation options above. Go on, dive in….you don’t know where you might end up! (And thanks for reading this far!)

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