The northernmost country in the United Kingdom, Scotland features craggy landscapes and majestic views you may be able to witness without another soul around. Though the country is small, a wide range of adventures can be had: you can sample Scotch direct from the distilleries, search for the Loch Ness monster, climb a dormant volcano or wander through the starkly beautiful Highlands.
BASICS /// Capital: Edinburgh // Currency: pound sterling // Languages: English, Scots, Gaelic
Cosmopolitan capital city with historic castle and cobblestone streeted center.
DOFruitmarket Gallery: Fantastic contemporary art gallery with a stellar bookshop. Arthur's Seat: Pick a route, any route, and hike to the top. The surrounding Holyrood Park is also lovely on a nice day.
STAYPrestonfield House: Luxe over-300-year-old old mansion with eccentric and opulent decor and set in secluded grounds.
EATTimberyard: Fresh, locally-sourced and beautifully plated dishes in a peaceful, earthy space.
Scotland's biggest city, a port town with Victorian buildings and a thriving music scene.
EATWillow Tea Rooms: If you're a fan of Art Nouveau interiors, grab a bite at these meticulously restored tea rooms designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh at the turn of the century.
A small, scenic town between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
DOFalkirk Wheel: It may seem strange to recommend a pitstop between Edinburgh and Glasgow for a piece of transportation infrastructure, but it's worth witnessing the world's only rotating boat lift in action. The Kelpies: A pair of enormous equine statues (the largest in the world) which feel as mythic in proportion as the beasts of legend they are intended to represent.
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter ScottA historical novel (by the person often credited with inventing the genre) set in medieval times which follows the protagonist Ivanhoe through his journeys and contests after he is disinherited by his father.
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis StevensonIconic novel tracing a London lawyer's investigation of strange behavior by his friend Dr. Jekyll, and in the process exploring the duality of human nature and good and evil.
Poetry by Robert BurnsOften referred to as the national bard of Scotland, Burns wrote prolifically in Scots and in many formats about traditional Scottish culture and life. He is still celebrated annually by many in Burns Nights/Suppers held on or near Burns's birthday on 25 January.
"Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (film)Adapted from the novel by Scottish author Muriel Clark, this film stars Maggie Smith as the titular character, a teacher at an all girls' school in Edinburgh with somewhat unorthodox teaching methods.
"Trainspotting" (film)Based on the novel by Scottish author Irvine Welsh, this edgy film follows four heroin addicts living in an impoverished area of Edinburgh in the 80s.
"Outlander" (TV)This time-travelling TV drama tracks a married WWII nurse who is transported back to Scotland in 1743, where she encounters a dashing Highland warrior. Though some critics have derided the series as "tartanalia",1the story is nonetheless engaging and showcases the stunning scenery of the Highlands.
The Proclaimers, "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" (song)Try not to sing along to this song next time you hear it - it's nearly impossible. In fact, just typing these words means I'm singing it right now.
Belle and Sebastian, "If You're Feeling Sinister" (album)These indie rockers have been called one of the most eloquent bands of the 90s for their charming storytelling and lovely melodies, in prime effect on their second album.
Boards of Canada, "Music Has the Right to Children" (album)This electronic music duo makes music that feels like it comes from a different galaxy. Transport yourself with a listen to their debut album.
Frightened Rabbit, "The Midnight Organ Fight" (album)While the choruses and sound has gotten bigger on later albums, this earlier offering showcases this indie band's folky, stripped down appeal.
The Jesus and Mary Chain, "Just Like Honey" (song)This song from the shoegaze experts is thick as honey and perfectly crafted.
Franz Ferdinand, "Take Me Out" (song)An instant energy boost, this guitar-driven song is also highly danceable.
HaggisLest you see this on a menu and mistake it for a fish (as my parents once did), let me set you straight on this national dish: haggis is made from minced sheep's heart, liver, and lungs which are mixed with onion, oatmeal, and spices and encased in a sheep's stomach (though artificial casing is often used today). The dish, which has a surprisingly nutty taste, is traditionally served with "neeps and tatties" (boiled rutabaga and mashed potatoes, respectively) and as the main dish at a Burns supper.
ScotchMalt or grain whisky made in Scotland (in highly regulated fashion) and aged in oak barrels for at least 3 years. A drinking unit is usually called a "dram".
Cullen skinkThick, creamy soup made from smoked haddock, potatoes and onions.
Scottish tabletA caramel-colored, small, square sweet made from sugar, condensed milk and butter.