To mark the 1 year anniversary of ItinerWord relocating its creative travel copywriting service from London to Glasgow, we thought there’s no better way to celebrate this huge event in the company’s history than with a snapshot look at the multi-layered magnificence of Scotland, an incredible country to live and work in. The truth is, there are so many highlights of Scotland, so many unique characteristics, landscapes, cultures and iconic native cuisine that you’ll never properly capture it all in one go. But, nonetheless, here’s ItinerWord’s take on the beauty of Scotland; it may sound a little biased, but it’s still all true!
Unique Scottish Culture
For those who have not yet visited Scotland or looked in to the country’s history, it often comes as a surprise to hear that Scotland actually has a rather unique cultural heritage, albeit with Celtic connections to Wales and Ireland and an interwoven history with England, the ever-powerful neighbour. In fact, between the 15th and 17th centuries the English tried to outlaw as many elements of traditional Scottish heritage as possible, banning clan names and the native language, Gaelic, as well as making tartan and kilt wearing illegal – punishable by imprisonment or deportation to the colonies.
However, despite England’s best attempts over the centuries, all was not lost, as clan names were passed through generations (sometimes in secret) and the legacy of kilt wearing, family tartans and bagpipes was never forgotten. This was largely helped by the poetry and song of Scotland’s most famous artistic son, Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns, who kept the candle of cultural heritage and tradition alive and well through his beloved writings. Today, Scottish culture is thriving, yet it goes far beyond the iconic imagery of kilts, haggis, bagpipes, whisky and caber tossing – though all of those are of course cherished aspects of everyday life, that are certainly not just for the benefit of tourists.
21st-century Scotland is a fully forward-thinking country, liberal and progressive, anti-war and anti-discrimination, keen on racial and sexual equality, inclusiveness, free prescriptions and education, innovation, green energy, care for the elderly and other socially responsible policies that also allow for thriving business communities and global commerce in general. It’s a country of increasingly renowned universities and multiculturalism, embracing various faiths, lifestyles and the LGBT community with natural ease. Then, of course, there’s the music. The folk scene in Scotland – particularly Glasgow, the Highlands and western isles – is renowned the world over, epitomising the proud sense of heritage mixed with a more modern outlook that really sums up the country as a whole. To live in Scotland is to live in a country full of such music, though also art, poetry, a love of dance and maybe the occasional dram, as well as accessible ancient architecture and a proud history of protest to make your voice heard, as even the smallest of nations can impact the way we all look at the world.
Natural Wonders of Scotland
So while certain elements of Scotland’s past may be hidden from view, its many beautiful landscapes are not. Lochs filled with ancient meltwaters from the last ice age; mountains and rugged valleys carved by retreating glaciers millions of years ago; thick pine forests teeming with birdlife; pristine stretches of windswept coastline and remote islands encircling the entire country. Without a doubt, the natural wonders of Scotland make it one of the most picturesque places to visit on earth. And, with a population of only 5.5 million (3 million less than London alone), huge areas of beautiful Scottish countryside have remained blissfully untouched, something that’s treasured by anyone lucky enough to live here with even the slightest love of nature or being out in the great outdoors. We certainly do at ItinerWord, it keeps our creative travel copywriting minds perfectly cleansed and always inspired!
The Cairngorms National Park
One of the many jewels in Scotland’s crown of postcard-worthy regions is the Cairngorms National Park – a protected expanse in the northeast of the country that’s home to scenic walking trails, ski slopes, biking routes, rivers and lochs. The Cairngorms is an absolute favourite among locals and visitors alike, with its quaint gift shops and small museums, famous historic sites such as the castles of Balmoral, Braemar, Drumin, Ballindalloch and Blair, plus top stargazing spots and boundless outdoor adventures to enjoy. All of that, with a host of cosy lodges, wild camping, guesthouses and grand hotels to come home to each evening, help make the Cairngorms National Park a real natural highlight of Scotland.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Loch Lomond, to the north of Glasgow in the heart of Scotland’s Trossachs National Park, holds an almost ethereal status for many native Scots. Not only is the entire area a natural wonderland of glass-like loch waters, incredible elevated viewpoints, rolling hills and forests – all of which are equally as beautiful whether on a crisp and clear day or blanketed in snow – but the place was also immortalised in a song known the world over: ‘Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond’. Adapted from a Robert Burns song describing the heartbreak of a captured Scottish rebel, longing to be back home with his true love as he awaits execution by the English, ‘Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond’ was later made famous by Scottish rock band Runrig in the 1970’s. Today, the song is synonymous with Scottish culture, and still raises the hairs when played or sung loudly! As a visitor to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, you can expect plenty of hiking and kayaking, beautiful driving roads, isolated wild camping spots, red squirrels and birds of prey, waterfront cafés and small, welcoming villages all around.
Perhaps even more famous than Loch Lomond is Loch Ness, the mythical home of ‘Nessie’ the Loch Ness Monster. In the most recent era, sightings of the Loch Ness Monster re-emerged in 1802, as a giant dinosaur-like lake dwelling creature was described by locals. However, the legend actually dates all the way back to the 6th century, whereby an innocent servant boy was reportedly snatched from the water’s edge by some kind of huge, prehistoric animal. Whether you believe the myths or not, Nessie has captured the imagination of travellers and scientists ever since, despite no hard evidence ever being actually uncovered. Tall tales aside, Loch Ness – near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands – has so much else to offer, such as its swath of dilapidated ancient castles and forts, watersports, scenic walking trails and lively local towns full of traditional folk music and food.
Scotland Off the Beaten Track
Ok we admit, in an age of smartphones, Google and guidebooks, there are very few places that remain genuinely off the beaten track these days, especially in a country as compact as Scotland. Yet remember once more that the population here is only 5.5 million, making it remarkably easy to find your own remote, often deserted piece of pristine wilderness to explore. Having had your fill of the popular tourist destinations then, other lesser-known highlights of Scotland include: Abernethy Forest; the Forsinard Flows; Clyde Valley Woodlands National Park; Glen Cova; Sango Bay; Ben Arthur; South Lanarkshire; the Shetland and Orkney Islands; Iona Island; the Outer Hebrides; Isle of Lewis; Glen Coe and the Knoydart Peninsula, to name just a few. Each of these – and the list really does go on – offers something entirely unique, whether that’s wildlife watching, dramatic coastline, inland lochs and rivers, wild beaches, birdwatching or evocative castles. No two tours of Scotland are ever the same.
Architecture, Ancient Sites and Castles in Scotland
Another defining feature of the Scottish landscape is its enchanting mix of architectural treasures and historic buildings. From the baroque style minarets and Georgian or Victorian thick-walled tenement buildings found in Glasgow and Edinburgh, to crumbling monasteries on remote islands and grand castles in the countryside, plus a handful of Neolithic ceremonial sites just for good measure; there is just so much to admire.
Edinburgh Castle is a good place to start, as this iconic hilltop landmark has stood guard over the city for over 900 years, though the rock on which the castle sits was used as a defensive position and place of residence long before that. Views from the walls of Edinburgh Castle are unbeatable and the complex is still in use today, hosting everything from rock concerts to military parades, and the tight cobblestone streets, alleyways, tumbledown houses and underground crypts which surround it are just as atmospheric. Staying in the capital, other historic buildings in Edinburgh include the 12th-century St Margaret’s Chapel; Trinity Apse; St Giles Cathedral; John Knox and Moubray House plus the wonderfully authentic Canongate Tolbooth, from the 16th century.
In Edinburgh and Glasgow, whilst you certainly have a good deal of modern architecture, both cities are also characterised by their Georgian and Victorian tenement buildings. Whether grandiose and ornate from the outside, surrounded by green spaces, wide roads and tall windows 10ft high, or found down less affluent streets that take you back to the days of harsh Victorian industry a little more easily, the tenements and terraces of Edinburgh and Glasgow are unmistakeable in both cities.
Elsewhere, you’ll find a pleasant mix of quaint, stone-built villages and sleepy fishing communities, as well as the modern-era hubs such as Aberdeen and Dundee, though the real draw for most lies in Scotland’s romantic past. The country is packed full of ruins, monasteries and castles, which are often elevated to almost cinematic heights by their magical backdrops of glens, lochs or open sea. Some of Scotland’s must-see castles include Braemar; Balmoral; Blair; Cawdor; Dunnottar; Inveraray; Eilean Donan; Glamis; Stirling; Tantallon; Linlithgow and Spynie Palace; Carrickfergus; Kenmure and Knock. You then get the 5,000-year-old Standing Stones of Stenness on Orkney; Callanish Stones on Lewis; breezy Kenmuir Hill Temple; the Neolithic Ring of Brodgar; Skara Brae Ruins, also 5,000 years old; Maeshowe Mound Burial Chamber and sea-facing Knap of Howar, the oldest standing stone building in Europe, no less.
Believe it or not, this is a mere glimpse of everything that’s on offer throughout beautiful Scotland, as corners across the whole country – from picturesque pathways to uninhabited islands, tree-lined glens and lochs to city backstreets – all have a story to tell.
All Images Courtesy of Pixabay.