For those seeking myth and legend, the spectacular landscape of Scotland is a great place to start. The wild and wonderful Cairngorms and Scottish Highlands are atmospheric to say the least, setting the tone for this majestic country. Lochs and glens nestle between imposing peaks and largely inaccessible terrain, creating truly breathtaking views.
This wilderness is tempered by the vast white sandy beaches of the northwest Highlands which could just as well be in the Bahamas as Great Britain. Crystal clear waters and the occasional sight of a Golden Eagle overhead make this secluded and spectacular place nothing short of the perfect getaway. To truly escape from it all, venture out to the Western Isles such as Lewis, Harris and South Uist. See rare wildlife, lush landscapes and soak up the Gaelic culture of these Hebridean lands.
The expanse of unspoilt countryside and rugged landscape of the Highlands is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts, including skiers and snowboarders who flock to the Cairngorms, Glencoe and Nevis Range year upon year to enjoy the slopes and bustling resorts. But mostly it is walkers and climbers who devour these mystical mountains and peaks. Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain, attracts thousands of visitors annually but isn’t the only challenging terrain here. There are 282 mountains over 3,000 feet - known as ‘Munros’ - to tackle too. To ‘bag’ them all is a goal that draws many walkers to this area.
Opportunities for walking are plentiful in Scotland, not least in the Southern Uplands and the Trossachs, a favourite destination of Queen Victoria and Sir Walter Scott.
Among the many cultural attractions scattered throughout this country, the mysterious Loch Ness monster is perhaps the most famous in all of Scotland. Nessie continues to draw visitors from all over the world. There have been more than 1,000 reported sightings of this supposed creature, leaving scientists - and Scots - completely baffled!
For more plausible folklore, Scotland's many castles boast plenty. There were once around 3,000 castles in Scotland, harking back to times of fortified kingdoms and legendary tales of war. Some are now ruins but many still stand majestic and proud against breathtaking backdrops of mountains and glens.
To really get to grips with history head to the Battle of Bannockburn Centre, where visitors are invited to get in on the action. Using clever 3D technology it is possible to experience medieval combat like never before. Wander around the battlefield and view restored commemorative monuments such as an iconic bronze of Robert the Bruce who defeated Edward II’s army here in 1314.
Scotland is also famed for it’s wonderful cities. Glasgow, on the River Clyde, is renowned for its Victorian and Art Nouveau architecture plus vibrant culture and music scene. Many great bands have hailed from here including Belle and Sebastian, Primal Scream, Simple Minds and Aztec Camera. Glasgow is home to several brilliant music venues too, including the famous Barrowland Ballroom. The city also plays host to the yearly music festival Celtic Connections, which is held each January and is the largest winter music event of its kind. Glasgow’s arts scene has long been a huge draw for visitors, if not for music then for the countless cutting edge productions and exhibitions on show.
Venture to the east of Scotland and you’ll discover lots more culture and history in the capital city of Edinburgh. Brimming with bars, award-winning restaurants and a fantastic shopping district, Edinburgh is cosmopolitan whilst celebrating its historical - and geological - roots. Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano atop which sits the magnificent Edinburgh Castle. Set in the heart of the city, in Holyrood Park, this fascinating monument is bursting with historical tales, captivating artefacts and offers unrivalled views of Edinburgh.
The castle is just a short walk from the Royal Mile which winds through the old town leading to the Queen’s official residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Minutes away is Grassmarket, a former site of public executions. These days it is an eclectic district loved by visitors and locals alike due to its medieval architecture, stunning castle views and lively atmosphere.
Away from the cities and mountains, Scotland’s coastline is not to be missed, especially in Banffshire where you can enjoy tranquil walks between pretty, historic towns and villages.
To see a little more, take a trip along the North Coast 500, Scotland’s answer to Route 66.
Starting in Inverness, the route leads to Applecross on the west coast before turning northwards to Torridon and Ullapool. It then weaves its way to some of the most northerly points in the country, including John O’Groats, before heading south again to Inverness.
Wherever you travel in this spellbinding country be sure to look out for its historical monuments, ancient battlefields and those all important whiskey distillery tours...