This is Aury’s first contribution to Thinking Nomads. We thought it would be a great idea if she wrote about the country she fell in love with, a country she says would be the only place she would consider living in, if she ever left Italy!
I’ve been to Scotland twice two years in a row, curious to both get to know and explore the country famous for its lochs (lakes in Gaelic) as well as its heather covered hills described in the historical romances that I use to devour and as a consequence immediately fell in love with the region of unquestioned charm.
It was Scotland’s untamed and wild nature that affected me most, as it offers the visitor a great variety of stunning landscapes: the coastline is dented with dozens of fjords, peaks are hidden in the clouds, lochs are bright shimmering, cliffs drop down overlooking the ocean, beaches lay remote and solitary, large moorland defined by the Highlands and deep inlets combined with exquisite bays and woods make the glens (valleys) breath taking.
Besides making each and every slice of the country unique and evocative the natural richness makes Scotland the ideal destination for excursions, be it a simple walk or a demanding climb up a mountain.
Scotland’s wildest sites are its natural habitat home to rare animal species like the osprey, the golden eagle, the wildcat, the pine marten. In addition the characteristic Highland cows, omnipresent sheep and cute squirrels, the rich variety of the Scottish fauna often lets you spot sea animals like dolphins, whales, seals, otters and puffins. You just need binoculars, a little patience and luck of course (even if you go out at sea for an organized boat trip) you always need lady lick on your side.
Scotland is also a country filled with history. Together with Mary Stuart, an important female character also known as Mary Queen of Scots, Scotland’s most famous historical characters are likely William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. Proud and tenacious as the two of them were, they both stubbornly fought to free Scotland from English achieving memorable victories in Stirling in 1297 and in Bannockburn in 1314 respectively.
A statue of Robert the Bruce welcomes visitors entering the Stirling Castle; he is watching the horizon towards the tall Wallace Monument, thus trapping you in a past that’s still alive.
Just outside Inverness, Culloden moor is maybe a site which is even fuller of historical pathos: here the Scots were severely defeated in 1746, as the English wiped out something like 1200 highlanders lead by Bonnie Prince Charlie and put an end to the traditional structure of the clans.
Culloden is sadly remembered also because the English attempted to completely cancel the culture of the Highlands banning bagpipes, kilts and Gaelic language. In the evocative Glencoe valley an beautiful scenery is merged with this deadly episode, as the treacherous massacre of the Clan MacDonald at the hands of the Clan Campbell took place here in 1692. Not being strongly affected by the historical legacy while passing through the valley is almost impossible.
If you are looking for historic sites you could take advantage of the many castles dotted throughout the whole country. If your dreaming of seeing opulent royal palaces? Then Edinburgh, Stirling, Balmoral castles or Scone Palace might do for you (Balmoral castle in the Highlands is currently residence to the English monarchs). You might maybe want to visit rugged fortresses once built as defensive sites, such as Urquhart castle on the loch Ness, Dunnottar or Kilchurn castles, or pay a visit to remote dwellings of the clan leaders like Dunvegan or Armadale castles.
Inveraray and Blair Atholl castles are two examples of wonderful manors which are still home to noblemen but nonetheless open to visitors. If you love romantic sceneries you will definitely appreciate a visit to Eilean Donan, Dunrobin, Glamis or Cawdor castles, just to mention a few. Of course this is a not exhaustive list, for there are many other castles worth visiting; if you are willing to discover all that Scotland has to offer in this regard, just look for castle itineraries organized by travel agencies.
If you want your trip to Scotland be something really unique, let me suggest you to plan your trip during one of the main Scottish folk festivals.
During the summertime you can watch the Highland Games taking place almost everywhere in Scotland: dating back to the Middle Ages, these are sport events combining games and tests of strength (including the typical ‘tossing the caber’) with music and dance championships (including the emblematic sword dance).
In Edinburgh bagpipe bands from all over the world come together for the Military Tattoo an unmissable parade if you are in the capital between mid-August and early September. Pay attention to timing when planning your participation to the Tattoo though: tickets sell out very quickly, so best to buy tickets well in advance. If you are in Edinburgh at the end of the year you might want to get involved into the joyful atmosphere of Scottish celebrations at Hogmanay, i.e. new years eve celebrations.
A last piece of advice refers to the food and drink specialties you cannot miss during your Scottish tour: I would recommend you enjoy a full Scottish breakfast, which is very calorific but you won’t need to eat again until mid-afternoon; don’t be scared of trying haggis, the typical dish made of innards cooked in a sheep intestine ( a vegetarian version does also exist); since Scotland is famous for renowned whisky, don’t forget to sip a glass of “uisge bheata” (or water of life, as the Scots call it), perfect finish to a day visiting a distillery.
Last but but by no means least, you need to recover from your daily fatigue so remember to go to a pub, order a good pint of beer and enjoy the rhythm of the country music that’s usually accompanied with live music.
These are only a few of the reasons I feel in love with Scotland.
What about you, have you ever been there or are you planning to go?
I’m on hand to give you any useful information on Scotland and help your plan your trip. Hopefully I can help you fall in love with Scotland just as I did.