Part 1/3: During the two years that I lived in Scotland (and on subsequent visits), I discovered some truly amazing places. I am often asked for advice on traveling around Scotland, and I recommend some places that are well known, but most are hidden treasures. If you want a quick snapshot, enjoy my 3-part article. If you want more in-depth travel guides, I recommend these:
[amazon1] [amazon2] [amazon3] [amazon4]Because I have so many wonderful spots to share, I have created this three part travel guide. Please enjoy this article, and Click Here to subscribe so you don't miss parts 2 and 3.
I will share these favorite Scottish spots as a 2-4 week travel itinerary, to make your trip to Scotland truly spectacular! When I lived in Scotland, I regularly ran into American tourists who said, "we wasted most of our vacation in England...we now wish we had spent it all in Scotland!" Learn from their mistake.
1. Edinburgh Area (Castle, Royal Mile, & Princes Street)
I recommend starting off in Edinburgh, the dazzling capital of Scotland. Edinburgh castle is undoubtedly one of the major highlights of Edinburgh, and Scotland as a whole. Click here to see more information on Edinburgh Castle. Most visitors hop off a tour bus during the day, and never see how amazing the castle is at night. Aside from the picturesque glow of the castle, the haunted street tours around the castle are the best in the world. If you can plan your trip for sometime between August 5th and 27th, you'll be able to get tickets to the world famous "Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo". This is the largest bagpipe concert in the world. It's performed inside the Edinburgh Castle, and mustn't be missed. Here's a video clip:
Click on these CD photos to find some amazing music I found in Edinburgh:
[amazon5] [amazon6] [amazon7]I recommend staying at a hotel close to the castle so you can come and go as you please, and take a rest whenever you feel like it. The Knight Residence is my favorite hotel in Edinburgh (very posh and modern), and is conveniently located a couple of blocks from the castle. I've stayed there a couple times and always had the best experience. Next week I'll be doing a $700 two night stay at The Knight Residence, so keep checking back!
Even though Edinburgh can be crowded during the summer, you'll find that summer is the best time to experience Scotland's many entertaining events. After a tour of the castle, you can walk down the cobblestone path of the Royal Mile to see street performers and countless souvenir shops. It's touristy, but super fun.
At the bottom of the Royal Mile, walk toward Princes Street to see the ornate Sir Walter Scott monument, amazing restaurants, kilt shops, high end clothing shops, and a myriad of other shops.
Another fun activity in Edinburgh, is hiking Arthur's Seat. Here you'll get a perfect panoramic view of the city and the castle. When you're ready to leave Edinburgh, be sure and rent a car...but first acclimate yourself to driving on the left side of the road...it's really fun!
2. Surrounding Edinburgh
There are some amazing spots surrounding Edinburgh, which are usually missed by tourists, because these spots are in Edinburgh's shadow. Craigmillar Castle is just a short distance outside of Edinburgh, and is one of my favorite castles (because it's free and in ruins).
I would also recommend driving east on the A1 motorway to get a bite of authentic Scottish cuisine in Haddington. After Haddington, drive to North Berwick (pronounced "Berrick") to relax on the white sand beaches.
Driving a few more miles along the coast, you'll pass some great golf courses, and then run into a spectacular castle, called Tantallon Castle (a few miles east of North Berwick). This is my wife's favorite castle in Scotland, and it is definitely an under-visited spot.
The ancient and historical Rosslyn Chapel (as featured in The Davinci Code) sits across a beautiful Glen, not far from Dalkeith (a suburb of Edinburgh).
A quick drive north, across the Firth of Forth Bridge, will bring you to one of my favorite small-ish cities, Dunfermline. Be sure to visit the majestic Dunfermline Abbey, where Robert The Bruce is buried.
A few steps down the beautiful high street shopping area will bring you to the boyhood home of a man who changed America forever; business tycoon Andrew Carnegie.
He donated some of the city's most beautiful land to the citizens of Dunfermline, to use as a park. "Park" is an understatement. "The Glen", as it's called by locals, is one of the most beautiful parks in Scotland, and it is usually missed by tourists. The Dunfermline people are wonderfully friendly, so slow down your pace and take time to make some friends. If you're really nice, you're likely to be invited over for a meal! You can also see some neat World War II gunner bunkers down along the banks of the Firth of Fourth (Dalgety Bay), where the British soldiers shot down Nazi bombers.
4. Dunnottar CastleDrive north from Dunfermline (and perhaps stop off for a very expensive round of golf at St. Andrew's Golf course), past Dundee to Stonehaven. Here you'll find one of the most picturesque castles in Scotland, Dunnottar Castle. If you've got kiddos with you, be sure to watch them closely, as there are some pretty exposed cliffs.
5. Fyvie Castle
Fyvie Castle is a renovated fairytale style castle, that is said to be haunted. I didn't see any ghosts as I walked around, but maybe you'll get lucky.
To be continued...check back in a few days for part 2!
Here are a few travel tips to help you more fully enjoy your trip to Scotland:
- Try to make friends with some local Scots...maybe they'll invite you in for "Juice (soda) and Biscuits (cookies)." The Scottish people are the #1 attraction in Scotland, so make sure you spend time getting to know them.
- Definitely try Haggis, Neaps, & Tatties (meat, turnips, & potatoes)...but from a good pub in a small town. Forget any scary stories you've heard about Haggis; it really tastes amazing!
- Whenever possible, try to stay at a B&B (rather than a hotel) so you can experience the local hospitality
- Try to spend 2-4 weeks traveling around Scotland. Trust me, you'll wish you budgeted more time in Scotland!
- Read some good travel guides to see other appealing Scottish destinations. Here are a few of my favorite:
[amazon1] [amazon2] [amazon3] [amazon4]
- Watch my favorite Scotland travel DVDs:
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!