This year is an exciting one for Scotland. Glasgow is currently hosting the Commonwealth Games, an international sporting event for athletes from all over the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Ryder Cup will be played at historic Gleneagles this September. In the spirit of Homecoming Scotland 2014, the year-long celebration of the country’s culture, here are seven reasons why we love the land of lochs and legends.
The Highland Games
This unique sporting and social event has taken place across Scotland each summer for centuries. Locals and world travelers alike compete in activities ranging from bagpiping to the hammer throw to Highland dance competitions. Attend the Highland Games and you may even catch a glimpse of the Royal Family—they traditionally attend the Braemar Gathering in Aberdeenshire each year.
Scotch whisky, the national drink
Ever since it was first distilled in the 15th century as a way to use up rain-soaked barley, whisky has been a huge part of Scottish life. To be true Scotch whisky, it must be matured in Scotland for at least three years. Today, there are five different whisky-producing regions of the country and each use similar processes create single malts with unique flavors and characteristics. The Malt Whisky Trail winds through Speyside, the region with over half the country’s malt whisky distilleries, and gives visitors the chance to learn about the national drink while tasting it along the way.
Edinburgh’s elegant Georgian architecture
While Edinburgh’s Old Town is full of narrow, cobblestoned streets, its New Town is comprised of an elegant, orderly grid. With planning inspired by the Age of Enlightenment during the 18th century, the New Town features neo-classical buildings and distinctly Georgian architecture. Today, it is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its historical value and influence on urban planning throughout Europe.
Chances are, medieval castles are one of the first things that come to mind when you think of Scotland. At Edinburgh Castle, which overlooks the city from Castle Rock, you can view the Scottish crown jewels and the age-old Stone of Scone. The magnificent Cawdor Castle (pictured above) outside of Inverness is the fictional setting for Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Each ancient fortress has a unique story to tell about the country’s impressive history.
Glasgow’s green parks
With more parks per square mile than any other city in Europe, it’s no surprise that Glasgow means “the Dear Green Place” in Gaelic. From the beautiful Kelvingrove Park (pictured above) along the banks of the River Kelvin to Pollok Country Park, home to the world-famous Burrell Collection, you’re sure to stumble across outdoor spaces wherever you turn in Scotland’s “second city.”
Craggy cliffs, rolling hills, freshwater lochs: the diversity of Scotland’s natural scenery attracts visitors from around the world. The vast landscape of the Trossachs, Scotland’s first national park is comprised of mountains, forests and the famed Loch Lomond. Further north near the lochs and glens of the Highlands, you’ll find the rocky shorelines and secluded islands of the Hebrides.
There’s nothing as quintessentially Scottish as tartan kilts. Tartan, the patterned Scottish textile often referred to as “plaid,” has been worn for hundreds of years by clanspeople of the Highlands. The traditional féileadh mor, a five-meter long cloth garment for warmth, has evolved into the shorter, more modern and practical kilt we’re familiar with today.
There are so many reasons to travel to Scotland. What are your favorite ones?