From paradise beaches to world-class golf, here’s why Scotland should be on your bucket list

Jul 19, 2020

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If you’re yet to experience the wonders that Scotland has to offer, then add it to your bucket list for when the time is right.

The sheer variation in landscapes and scenery is really spectacular, making it the perfect place for a road trip. Scotland is home to the highest mountain and the deepest body of freshwater in the U.K. and has a seemingly endless number of islands and beaches all just waiting to be explored.

Not only that, but Scottish people are an incredibly friendly and welcoming bunch who will help in any way they can to show off their beloved country. As a dear Scottish friend of mine once said: “Scotland might be a tiny country, but it has the biggest heart.” I couldn’t agree more.

Islands and beaches

Island life is a huge part of Scottish culture — from Shetland way up in the north to the Isle of Aran in the southwest and the 900 or so islands in between. There’s a lot of island hopping to be done and beautiful beaches to be discovered.

Each of the islands or group of islands has its own unique charm and culture. Take Orkney, for example, an archipelago made up of over 70 islands that are located around 10 miles north of the Scottish mainland. They’re steeped in history thanks to being inhabited for at least 8,500 years by the likes of Neolithic and Mesolithic tribes.

The easiest and quickest way to get to Orkney is by flying to Aberdeen (ABZ), Edinburgh (EDI), Glasgow (GLA) or Inverness (INV). From there, there are regular daily flights to Kirkwall (KOI), Orkney’s main island.

(Photo by Dan Ross/The Points Guy)
The now fully restored St Boniface Kirk, Papa Westray, Orkney, dating back to the 8th century. (Photo by Dan Ross/The Points Guy)

The wonderful British climate means locals often spend many a dark and rainy month dreaming of faraway beaches with turquoise waters lapping at gloriously white sand. You might be surprised to know that you don’t have to look much further than Scotland to find exactly that.

One such beach is Luskentyre on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. Thanks to its calm and tranquil waters, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a beach on a deserted Caribbean island rather than the harsh Scottish Atlantic coastline. Again, the best way of getting there would be by air with a flight to Stornaway (SYY) from Edinburgh (EDI), Glasgow (GLA) or Inverness (INV) before winding your way 46 miles south to the beach itself.

Luskentyre Beach on the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, UK (Photo by
Luskentyre Beach on the Isle of Harris. (Photo by PetraKosonen/Getty Images)

Lochs

If you love being by the water, then look no further than Scotland. Not only because of its 7,330 miles of coastline but because of its 30,000 lochs. A loch is the Scottish word for a lake or a sea inlet.

Loch Ness is undoubtedly the most well-known and owes its fame to the mystical beast living deep in its waters — The Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie. From boat rides and water activities to castles and pubs, there’s plenty to do and see in the area to keep you occupied should you visit. The northernmost tip of the loch is less than just 10 miles from Inverness, making it relatively easy to get to.

Lakeside view of Loch Ness under blue skies with distant clouds in summertime, Loch Ness, Fort Augustus, Scottish Highlands, Scotland, Uk, Europe (Photo by Eve Livesy/Getty Images)
Lakeside view of Loch Ness under blue skies. (Photo by Eve Livesy/Getty Images)

Perhaps one of the most picturesque spots in Scotland is where the three lochs of Loch Long, Loch Duich and Loch Alsh meet in the western Scottish Highlands. The focal point is Eilean Donan Castle, which rises up from a tiny island right at the point where the three lochs meet. It’ll take you just shy of two hours by road from Inverness, the closest major city.

castle on an island where 3 lochs meet, dating from the 13th century. (Photo by Andrew Thomas/Getty Images)
Eilean Donan Castle castle on an island where three lochs meet, dating from the 13th century. (Photo by Andrew Thomas/Getty Images)

Golf

Scotland has long been a favorite for golfers around the world. Its deep-rooted ties to the sport start as far back as 1457 and include memorable moments like being the first place in the world to host the Open Championship at Prestwick in 1860. Nowadays, there are over 500 golf courses to be enjoyed.

St Andrews is a seaside town close to Edinburgh which boasts a total of seven courses. It is known as “the home of golf” as it was there that the sport was first played in the 15th century. The town is also the home of Scotland’s first-ever, and most prestigious, university — the University of St Andrews.

Old Course at St.Andrews, Scotland, looking up the 18th fairway from the Swilken bridge. AdobeRGB colorspace. (Photo by Lucentius/Getty Images)
Old Course at St.Andrews. (Photo by Lucentius/Getty Images)

Another well-known course is at Gleneagles, which is far more than just a golf course. It appeals to those who value being wined, dined and pampered as much as playing a round or two of golf. The breakfast spread is one of the most impressive we’ve seen, and the afternoon tea was nothing other than a delight. Evening dining options range from casual pub classics at the Dormy restaurant to private dining with traditional whisky and haggis. Getting there couldn’t be easier, as the Caledonian Sleeper train runs a direct service from London.

Luxury Scottish tourist golf resort with croquet lawn. More from Gleneagles in my Portfolio. (Photo by Elgol/Getty Images)
The luxury Scottish tourist golf resort with a croquet lawn. (Photo by Elgol/Getty Images)

Food and drink

The Scots are proud of many things — and rightly so — including deep-fried Mars bars, haggis and square sausages. In answer to the often-Googled question “Are deep-fried Mars bars illegal?”, I can confirm that they are indeed legit and have been served in chip shops throughout Scotland since the 90s.

Haggis is a far more traditional affair and is considered the national dish of Scotland. It’s a savory pudding made with the heart, liver and lungs of sheep, all mixed together with onion, oats, suet, spices and salt, then encased in the animal’s stomach. Nowadays, you’re more likely to find it bound together with an artificial casing, similar to that of a sausage and served with a side of neeps (turnip) and tatties (mashed potatoes).

Haggis and turnip and potato mash and sweet potato mash presented in a plate with a cooked half haggis and a lamb
Haggis and turnip and potato mash and sweet potato mash. (Photo by Xtelle/Getty Images)

In terms of beverages, Scotland is one of only a handful of countries in the world where Coca-Cola is not the most-sold soft drink. The number-one spot is the firm favorite Irn Bru. Pronounced “iron brew,” the deliciously thirst-quenching, bright-orange carbonated liquid is often dubbed Scotland’s “other national drink,” after whisky, naturally.

(Photo by Like_The_Grand_Canyon/Flickr)
(Photo by Like_The_Grand_Canyon/Flickr)

Moving on to the harder stuff, there are more than 120 whisky distilleries across the country with its five main regions producing a wide variety of whiskies — each with a different and distinct flavor. Whisky is not the only spirit in town, as Scotland also produces 70% of the U.K.’s gin, including Hendrick’s, Gordon’s and Tanqueray.

Bottom line

There are mountains and lakes, beaches and islands all over the world, but the uniqueness of Scotland really does make it one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Featured photo by Westend61/Getty Images

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