2009 is the year of Homecoming Scotland and if you’ve been around Edinburgh recently, you’ll notice a few more men in kilts (no they aren’t skirts!) than usual. But even if you don’t own a kilt and have no Scottish ancestors, you’re still more than welcome here. Last year I wrote an article about why Scotland was the world’s best small country. Those were the reason why I love Scotland. Now, let me tell you the reasons why you will love Scotland.
Great driving opportunities
If you like getting behind the wheel of car (oops – sorry, it’s on the other side), hitting the highways and watching the scenic views just roll on by, this is the place for you. Traffic congestion is pretty nightmarish in the central belt around Glasgow and Edinburgh, but in the Borders and the Highlands, you’ll have plenty of room to take your time and enjoy those lovely hills. Visit a farm and check out a Highland coo (translation: cow), research some great walks, and explore the little villages that dot the landscape.
Car is the best way to see much of Scotland, as the transport network isn’t the most robust; besides, part of the adventure is the journey to get some of these remote getaways. Did you realise that driving from Edinburgh to the very north shore of Scotland is over 250 miles? It will take you the better part of a day. So give yourself plenty of time, relax, and enjoy.
Great food and drink
I just love Scottish food. It’s heavy and hearty, which suits the sometimes-miserable weather we have. Haggis, neeps (swede) and tatties are a favourite and a popular tourist choice, and it’s super-tasty up until the point where you find out what haggis is made of. You can also get a fantastic steak-and-ale pie in any pub, although that’s not exclusively Scottish. Be sure to save room for dessert, though, where you can opt for Cranachan – a gooey and gorgeous mixture of raspberries, whipped cream, honey, and whisky topped with oatmeal.
Note I didn’t say anything about Scottish food being healthy.
Now speaking of healthy, the drinks are pretty good too – despite the fact that Stephanie left them off her drink lover’s guide to Europe. Whisky here is spelt without an ‘e’ – and the rules for allowing something to be called “Scottish Whisky” are quite long and complicated. The main thing you need to know is the difference between single malt and blended whisky. Single malt is made by a single distillery and uses only one type of barley; almost every Scot will tell you this is the only whisky to drink and the best-quality beverage (I happen to agree). Blended whisky is a combination of different whiskies, as the name implies. Many of the standard high-street brands you’ll be more familiar with are blended whiskies.
Great old stuff
Scotland was inhabited over 9,000 years before 1 AD came around, and some of those inhabitants left the mark on the countryside. On the island and in the far north you’ll find many neolithic structures, including Scotland’s own version of Stonehenge. Down south near the English/Scottish border you’ll find the remnants of Hadrian’s Wall, a Roman construction attempting to restore order to the British section of their expanding empire.
It’s not just in the countryside where you’ll find all these amazing relics of history; Edinburgh itself is full of historic gems, such as the underground street where plague victims were closed off from the world and left to die. There’s also the many haunted buildings, Edinburgh Castle included, as well as the mass-burial sites found underneath many of the city’s main parks.
What are you waiting for?
Now’s the time to check out Scotland. The pound sterling is at all-time low against most currencies (and there are cheap Edinburgh hotels) and with the recession fears there are many deals to be had. Come, enjoy a scenic drive, have some hearty food washed down with a wee dram of whisky, and see some cool old stuff. What more could you want?
Photo: Fun at the Highland Games – cc. by foxypar4