While browsing the menu in a busy café, my eyes fell on a board flashing “10% off hot drinks when you bring your Flask/Travel Mug”. That was the first of many times I caught myself saying “I love Scotland”.
I feel at home the minute I set foot in some countries and feel like a total stranger even to myself in some others. With Scotland, it was love at first sight.
The spires of beautiful monuments and hilltop castles dominate the skyline in cities. Cattle grazing on rolling hills with a scenic backdrop characterize the Highlands. And the fishing villages are full of spirit and seagulls. Scotland, brimming with lochs (lakes) overflowing with legends of monsters and heroes, is now my favourite country.
While there are many reasons to visit Scotland, here are my favourite reasons
The land of the brave
As you flip through the chapters of Scotland’s past, it becomes evident that Scots’, especially the Highlanders’ favourite pastime was rioting. At one point, I even thought there were more graveyards than people living in Scotland. Having said that, they made incredible history along the way. As you tour around Scotland, you hear how greed, jealousy, pride, power, beauty, goodwill and freedom, among other things, shaped the land of the brave. Robert the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots, and Bonnie Prince Charlie to name a few will figure a few times in the tales you hear.
Psst: The red wedding episode of Game of Thrones – 3 was based on a real event that transpired in Edinburgh castle called “The Black Dinner”.
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The legendary Scottish whiskey
Along with rioting drinking was another favourite pastime of Scots. You will even hear stories about how the brave warriors got drunk the night before waging some great wars and, ahem, lost the battles. Scotland’s drinking culture dates back to dinosaurs’ times. Speaking of which, I hear that archaeologists are still finding dinosaur fossils in Scotland.
I guess Scottish whiskey or Scotch needs no introduction. I, who never drank whiskey in my life thought highly of Scotch, and I have no clue why perhaps it’s the sound of Scotch. The story goes, whiskey making started in Scotland same time as wine making methods of monasteries began to spread in Europe. As grapes were scarce in these parts, monks used grain mash instead to make the ‘Acqua Vitae’, Latin for ‘water of life’ and it flourished.
Whiskey tours to famous distilleries are a thing in Scotland. You’ll learn how the renowned whiskeys get their flavour through distillation and storage methods. And in the process, how the whiskey evaporates from the oak casks storage and turns the buildings in the neighbourhood black.
The right to roam act
There is so much to see and do in the wild in Scotland that “the right to roam act” makes it only comfortable to ramblers.
Here’s a little more about the act:
It provides the public access to land and inland waters of Scotland with some specific exclusions. Simply put, trespassing is not an offence in Scotland as long as you are behaving decently.
It follows the three fundamental principles below:
1. Respect the interest of other people
2. Care for the environment
3. Take responsibility for your action
In other words, you can pack your backpack and hike and camp in most places but make sure you don’t get bitten by an Adder.
The Highland cattle
Found only in Scotland, the hairy cows and bulls deserve to be admired.
An ancient practice in Scotland also features black bull in a rather fearful way. A black bull’s severed head presented to someone symbolizes death. A black bull’s head also features in “The Black Dinner” saga that occurred in Edinburgh castle. Scots do like a bit of drama I gather.
Btw, the grazing sheep on the rolling hills are a delight to watch, and a must do.
Scotland’s environmental laws
It seemed to me that everything that can be regulated and licensed is to an extent, being regulated and licensed. For instance, fishing is licensed and restricted to specific rivers and lakes. Similarly, game hunting is licensed, and seasonal. I also learnt that for every lopped tree ten trees are planted in its place. Given the amount of wood consumption by the whiskey and other industries, any step taken to lower its impact is essential step.
Scotland is famous for its geological diversity. Home to nearly three thousand million years old fossil ridden rock beds, extinct volcanoes, the Highlands, the Lowlands, the islands, 790 to be precise, the lochs, the firths and the glens, Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe.
Harry Potter’s connection to Edinburgh
J.K Rowling penned a few of her Harry Potter books sitting in the cafés like Nicolson’s Café (now Spoon), the Elephant Café and a few others in Edinburgh. It is said that the gravestones of Greyfriars Kirkyard, a graveyard around the Greyfriar’s church may have inspired names of some of the characters in the book. J.K Rowling was known to have taken walks here for inspiration. The most famous of all is the Thomas Riddle grave which may have inspired the name of “you-know-who”, the evil Lord Voldemort aka Tom Marvolo Riddle. Another renowned grave is of a famous poet named William McGonagall and may have inspired the name of Professor Minerva McGonagall.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you ought to visit Scotland. Also, Edinburgh’s Harry Potter tour is well worth it.
Psst: Edinburgh is also the birthplace of “Sherlock Holmes” author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Scottish English accent
Aye. Last but not least, listening to the locals proudly tell all the bonny stories about Scotland while rolling their Rs a wee bit more is an experience you shouldn’t miss.