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If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a Scottish person living in the USA, it’s that there are lot of people with Scottish roots living in America! 

My accent obviously stands out here in Pennsylvania, so I am often asked where I am from/ When I say Scotland, it always gets a positive reaction. 

My parents both work in the tourism industry in Scotland and both instilled in me a love of the beautiful country. I thought I would share with you why it’s such an easy place to love and give you some tips from the locals on where to spend your time. 

I’m going to share my top five places (in no particular order) to visit in Scotland but rest assured, this is only the tip of the iceberg – there is so much more to see and do!

An ornate fountain is in the foreground surrounded by flowers. Edinburgh castle, Scotland, stands on a hill in the background.
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh (pronounced Edinburra, not Edinborro!)

I’m starting with the one most visitors to Scotland will choose, especially if they have limited time. It is the capital after all, so why not?  Edinburgh is steeped in history (and whisky!) and has a lot of nooks and crannies to explore.  

The castle is built on a dormant volcano and towers over the rest of the city. It is well worth a visit if you can make it up the cobbled Royal Mile to the entrance. If ghost stories are your thing, there are also lots of walking tours after dark that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up…

The Edinburgh Fringe takes over the city in August. If you want to soak up the culture, it is an amazing time to visit but be warned – it will be busy, so book ahead!

Glasgow (or Glesga’ to the locals)

I may be biased because it will always have a piece of my heart, but if you only have time to visit one city in Scotland, make it Glasgow!  There is history here but there is so much more: from the amazing architecture, to the (free) museums, to the delicious food and wonderful art – keep your eye out for some Rouge One graffiti art on the walls around the city! However, the thing that really makes Glasgow is the people.  

If you come from Glasgow, you are known as a Glasweigan (or Weegie), but the people are so welcoming you will leave an honorary Weegie!

A large, dark, gothic style building sits amongst green trees. It has a green room and a spire reaches into the blue sky above.
Photo by Deep Trivedi via Unsplash
A rocky shore is in the foreground. In the background is a sandy beach and clear, blue water. The sky is bright blue with white clouds.
Harris (one of the Outer Hebrides)

The Hebrides

This may be cheating a little to count this as one place to visit, but it’s my list! If you are seeking peace and quiet and want to see the heart and soul of Scotland, spend time on one (or more) of the islands. The Outer and Inner Hebrides are a collection of islands on the west coast of Scotland and have some of the most amazing landscapes you will ever see.  

When the weather is right, the beaches could be (and have been) mistaken for Thailand. If you’re lucky, you will see seals and other wildlife along the shores.  If whisky is your thing, you’re going to want to head straight to Islay. But if you just want to switch off, any one of the islands would be the perfect setting, not least because of limited cell reception!

St Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife

Any golfers amongst you may already have heard of St Andrews, which is famous for its Old Course. But it is just part of the beautiful coastline to be found around the East Neuk of Fife (neuk is an old Scots word for corner).  If you have ever wanted to try British fish and chips, visit Anstruther – you won’t be disappointed!

The towns and fishing villages in and around the East Neuk also play host to a variety of local artists and potters, so be sure to bring an extra suitcase for all the souvenirs you won’t be able to resist!

The remains of St Andrew's cathedral in Scotland can be seen. Low parts of walls remain and some taller archways. There is a bright blue sky in the background and green grass is growing amongst the ruins.
St Andrews Cathedral. Image by NT Franklin via Pixabay
A girl sits on grass near a snowy mountain top in Scotland. She is wearing jeans and a red/white jumper and a white knitted hat. She is drinking from a pink and blue flask.
Me at Glencoe Mountain Resort circa 1987.

Glen Coe via the Rest and Be Thankful

If you enjoy hiking or mountain-climbing, there are plenty of scenic trails to keep you occupied in Scotland. And if you’re not, there are plenty of nice routes to drive to enjoy the scenery from the comfort of your car!  A good way to combine the two is to head towards Glen Coe. The scenery on the way is breathtaking, and you will definitely want to stop at the “Rest and Be Thankful” viewpoint to soak it all in. Yes, it really is called that!

The road takes you through the town of Inveraray where you can visit the castle and the jail, but you will definitely want to make time to sample some of the delicious seafood on offer in Loch Fyne.

I hope you enjoyed this whistle-stop tour of Scotland. I certainly have, although I’m now feeling homesick too… can anyone fit me in their suitcase?!

PS.  Obviously Scotland has also been affected by the pandemic so some locations and attractions may have restrictions in place. Please check before you travel.

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