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Why Scotland’s Nature and Culture Is Good for the Soul

It’s not for nothing that whisky is known as the “water of life”: Scotland’s many attractions have an energizing aspect that keeps visitors back time and again.

Scotland’s sea air, vast spaces, and fantastic live music scene are sure to cure whatever ails you. It packs an incredible number of natural and cultural attractions into its 30,000sqmi (80,000sqkm) boundary, making it small enough to see an exhilarating rock music performance one night and climb mountains the next. Here are just a few examples of life-affirming experiences you can have.

Highland Munros to conquer

Highland Munros
Highland Munros

In Scotland, jocks don’t join the baseball or cheerleading teams; instead, they play rugby and climb mountains. The 282 munros in Scotland are named after Sir Hugh Munro, who was the first person to recognize them all in the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal. They have a tremendous appeal on local outdoor enthusiasts, who try to scale (bag) as many as they can during the summer. Some peaks are more popular than others, but they all provide an opportunity to get away from the city and enjoy the benefits of fresh air, exercise, and breathtaking views.

You won’t become a compleator – someone who has climbed all 282 – during your Scottish vacation, but you will see some of the nicest views. The most spectacular paths include Glencoe’s Buachaille Etive Mór ridge, which includes two munros, and Kintail’s Five Sisters Ridge, which includes three.

Scale Ben Lomond, which overlooks the eponymous Loch Lomond, for a less challenging hike with great views.

Celebrate like a Glaswegian.

scotland music festival
scotland music festival

Although Edinburgh is the foreign traveler’s sweetheart, all Scots know that Glasgow is the place to be for live music. The origin of groups such as Simple Minds and Lewis Capaldi can be found in Scotland’s second – and largest – city, but the real pleasure is discovering your new favorite thing. Scottish jazz legends hang out in the Blue Arrow basement pub when they’re not tearing up the stage at Ronnie Scott’s in London; folk and indie fans can check out Drygate brewery, one of many venues that hold the Celtic Connections festival in January. Local legends as well as traveling artists may be found at the Barrowland Ballroom, King Tut’s, and ran Mór.

Head to the eastern suburb of Dennistoun in the morning for brunch before enjoying the midday cultural activities. Visit Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s House for an Art Lover to get your taste of art nouveau, the Burrell Collection to see Degas and Rodin, and Kelvingrove Art Gallery to see Dutch masters. The Necropolis, however, is perhaps the most dramatic of all Glasgow attractions: it stands tribute to the splendor of Victorian Glasgow alongside the equally massive gothic cathedral.

Take a trip by car.

scotland road trip
scotland road trip

A road trip is the finest way to experience everything that Scotland has to offer: mountains, shoreline, culture, and cuisine. The most well-known, and rightly so, is the North Coast 500, a 516-mile (830-kilometer) loop that begins and ends in the Highland capital of Inverness. Parts of Harry Potter were filmed at Black Rock Gorge near Evanton, and lochs Maree and Coulin served as the backdrop for the 2007 film Stardust.

Many visitors, however, “take the high road,” as the song Loch Lomond puts it, while others take the low road. Southerly Dumfries and Galloway is Scotland’s most underappreciated region, with its bluebell-filled woods and craggy beaches significantly less visited than the rest of the country. The South Coastal 300 route follows the coast here, stopping at ruins including Sweetheart Abbey, a red-brick 13th-century Cistercian abbey, and astronomy opportunities at Galloway Forest Park, the UK’s first Dark Sky Sanctuary.

The North East 250, which circles around the whisky-producing region of Speyside, is another off-the-beaten-path road, though you may wish to hire a driver for parts of it. Along with the distilleries, there’s Gordon Castle with its walled garden, one of Scotland’s largest, and photo possibilities at Bow Fiddle Rock.

In Dundee, you can learn about Scottish design.


Dundee in Victorian times was hardly habitable, let alone a tourist destination. Perhaps this is why this east-coast city is now on the cutting edge: free of expectations, it has rushed into the future, flattening its historic shoreline and re-covering it with contemporary architecture that has earned it a Unesco City of Design designation.

The Victoria & Albert (V&A) design museum, designed by Japanese superstar architect Kengo Kuma, is an apparent feature. Inside, you’ll find the spectacular Mackintosh Tea Room, which has been rebuilt using the original oak panels, as well as temporary exhibitions. Following that, have a brief look at the RRS Discovery next door, a moving monument to Scotland’s shipbuilding history. Finish your cultural day with a beverage at Bird & Bear, where whisky, Irn-Bru, and Scottish gin are prominent.

Maris Lopez
Maris Lopezhttp:////
Hey there! I'm Maris, an American girl who is passionate about adventure, the outdoors and all things travel!


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