From the grandeur of Edinburgh to the wilds of the Highlands, and from remote windswept islands to world-class museums, Scotland is just waiting to be discovered. Here are some of country's highlights.
The city of Edinburgh is dominated by its ancient castle and the imposing volcanic rock on which it sits. The castle now houses three military museums, showcasing the military might of Scotland and its fierce history of border wars with England, as well as the Scottish Crown Jewels, which it proudly defended from marauding invaders.
A regular farmers' market is hosted on the castle terrace, with over 55 local producers selling their wares. This is the place to come to haggle for haggis and to sample the whisky for which Scotland is world famous.
In August, the Edinburgh Festival takes place and the city is thronged by tourists eager to watch some of the finest theatre and comedy shows in Europe. Be sure to book well in advance as hotels and guesthouses are often booked years in advance.
Where Edinburgh's regal history lends it a genteel charm, Glasgow melds its history with fabulous modern museums and cutting-edge architecture. The highlight has to be the Gallery of Modern Art, situated in a grand building in Royal Exchange Square, and which hosts art exhibitions and an extensive display of Scottish art and design.
While Scotland's cities draw comparisons with the finest cities in Europe for shopping and culture, it's the Scottish countryside that really impresses. No trip north of the border should fail to include a foray into the highlands or out to one of the many islands scattered off the coast.
Isles of Skye and Arran
Most famous of these is the Isle of Skye, in the Western Isles. The broodingly atmospheric skylines here are incredibly picturesque. Only 9000 people live on the island, and its quaint waterside town with colourful harbour is where most people choose to stay.
Closer to Glasgow lies the Isle of Arran, famed for its thick-knit sweaters, which no doubt you’ll be needing. The weather in these parts is somewhat chilly. Arran’s stark countryside of lochs, glens and crumbling castles make it the ideal destination for ramblers and explorers. Centuries ago, Arran was famed for its illegal whisky distilleries. Take a tour of the Isle of Arran Distillers – one of the few remaining independent distilleries in Scotland.
Scotland is famed for its beer too, and the Belhaven Brewery just outside of Edinburgh offers a brilliant tour and sampling session.
World famous Loch Ness still attracts monster hunters, desperate for a sighting of the illusive Nessie, a prehistoric beast said to live in the deep dark waters of the Loch. However, the lesser-known but equally beautiful Loch Lomond just north of Glasgow is also worth a visit. The heather-strewn highlands are quite breathtaking, sparsely populated and sweeping in their scope. They stretch all the way to the coast. Amble through the mountain ranges via train, hike the West Highland Way or climb Ben Nevis.After experiencing Scotland once, you’ll definitely be back for more.