When you imagine your summer vacation plans I bet you probably think of sitting on a beach somewhere, drinking a fancy cocktail with an umbrella straw. Perhaps you think about a trip to the big city where you can visit museums and get lost in the crowd. Or maybe you get a little bit crazy and plan an all-inclusive cruise somewhere exotic with plans to drink your way through a week at sea. Nothin’ wrong with that! But I have to tell you that all of these options are silly and you should really be booking a plane to Scotland for your summer break.
Why Scotland? Well, because I said so. I’m just kidding. Except I’m not. In all actuality, Scotland is a great place to visit no matter the time of year, but it’s especially enchanting during the summer months. True, it might get cold AF in the evenings and be rainy and windy a few days every week, but don’t let that stop you! For real, don’t let that stop you.
You’ll be surrounded by history and beauty and have a chance to meet some of the most friendly people on the planet. Don’t forget the excellent shopping in the major cities, yummy food and good brews and even some interesting local wines. There’s something for everyone!! Here are ten of my favorite reasons to head to Scotland tomorrow, but there are so many more just waiting for you to discover.
Edinburgh is the perfect place to find yourself.
I know I wax poetic about Edinburgh all the time. But when you’ve visited this vibrant and gorgeous city you’ll understand.
Edinburgh really has it all. It’s a city full of nooks and crannies that boast centuries of history. The people here are the friendliest you’ll ever meet, always up for a lively discussion should you seek it out. If you’re looking for a fun night out, there are not only neighborhood pubs on every corner, there are plenty of exciting nightlife areas such as Grassmarket and Rose Street to check out. You can just as easily turn in early and spend the morning drinking a cup of coffee in one of the many, many interesting cafes before exploring a new part of town.
Edinburgh is unassuming, you can come as you are. If you’re unsure of who that is, take some time and explore the city at your leisure and I guarantee you’ll find a part of yourself you didn’t know about before. No one will judge you here, no matter what you look like, who you love, what you do. It’s a city for everyone. Before you know it you’ll also find yourself crying at the thought of leaving.
Get outdoors with your right to roam.
One of the cool things about Scotland is that you can literally go wherever you want if you’re responsible. As part of the Land Reform Act of 20o3:
You have the right to access most land and inland water including mountains, moorland, woods and forests, grassland, fields, rivers and lochs, coastal areas, most parks and open spaces, golf courses (to cross them); day and night, providing you do so responsibly.
What this means if you can walk where you want to walk or camp where you want to camp so long as you aren’t stupid about it. So grab your walking shoes and head out into the wilderness to trek across the many Bens and glens this country has. Enjoy the stunning natural beauty that Scots get to live with every day. It’s really not fair that they get to see their stunning country every day while I only get it for three months at a time.
There’s no season quite like festival season.
Although we only went to the Fringe Festival, there were up to four other festivals going on at the same time. That means that there are up to a million extra people in town for a few weeks in August, but it doesn’t take away from the city. In fact, it enhances it.
What I loved about the Festival was the electricity in the air. Anyone can put on a Fringe show so long as they have a venue willing to host their performance. There were so many new and interesting people to meet or just watch while enjoying some chips on the Royal Mile. I know everyone has a story to tell, but these actors were a little more out there with theirs, which was so cool to witness. The vibe of the city was artsy and fun, but serious and thoughtful and demanding of your attention. I loved it.
Day tripping in Scotland cannot get any easier.
For real, guys, train travel in Scotland is so easy I could probably find my way around blindfolded. It’s one of my favorite things about Europe in general; you can get pretty much anywhere you want by train or bus.
Scotland is a very well connected country. You can find trains running between Glasgow and Edinburgh consistently each day. Trains also connect Stirling, Aberdeen, Perth and Inverness, along with all of the little towns in between.
Another really amazing thing about basing yourself in the bigger cities of Scotland is that you can sign up for Enterprise Car Club and have access to hundreds of cars around the city. You can then use these to get out into the country wherever you please!
Spend some time at a number of castles, pretending to be royalty.
One of the things I love the most about Scotland, and Europe in general, are the castles. Castles of every shape, size and color, all there for me to explore! Scotland has a ton of them, from gorgeous ruins to still-inhabited residences. You can’t go wrong with any of them! Many of them are quite easy to get to as well, which leaves you no excuses.
When you come to spend your summer in Scotland, I suggest you hit the big ones, such as Edinburgh, Stirling and Eilean Donan Castles. But also make your way to those less travelled, even if it takes a bit of work. There’s something to be said about exploring ruins at your own pace and desire.
When the weather is good, it’s really good.
Scotland isn’t known for it’s tropical weather. Chances are it will rain at some point every single day of your visit.
But there’s also a chance that it’ll be a balmy 70 degrees with clear, sunshine skies. When this weather hits, you won’t find anywhere else like Scotland! People bring out the shorts (and blindingly pale legs, myself included) and picnic blankets, sitting in one of the many public parks in their neighborhoods. Outdoor seating in pubs, which looked so lonely a few hours earlier, is suddenly in high demand. You pass people hanging out on the streets, enjoying the sunshine, which adds a layer of cheer to this city.
However many days a year this happens, it’s all worth it. Scotland is gorgeous when it rains, but she certainly shines when the sun comes out.
The food and drink in Scotland is actually really good.
I’ve heard all the jokes, and I’m sure you have to. Food in the UK as a whole isn’t something to write home about. And while this might be true for some of the food you can find in a grocery store, Ryan and I have had very few bad food experiences while we’ve been here. In fact, I can count them on one hand.
To me, the food here is celebrating a bit of a renaissance. There are a ton of really great new cafes and restaurants popping up all over the city, specializing in some really amazing foods. Local Scottish food is prized and celebrated on many menus, presented in an inventive manner that leaves you wanting more. There are even Michelin-starred restaurants that are surprisingly accessible, which isn’t something I thought I’d ever say.
As for drinks, Scotland isn’t just for whisky lovers. Seriously, the craft beer scene here is pretty amazing. You have unique brews from places like Innis and Gunn (love their rum and whisky finishes). Drygate in Glasgow has a really interesting range of classics which include a pretty damn fine IPA. Skye Brewing has a small but decent range of beers including golden and red ales that would go well with anything. And those are just a few breweries!
We got an amazing recommendation from a tour guide to try some Cairn O’Mohr wines. These aren’t your typical wines made from grapes. They’re very Scottish wines in that they’re made from leaves and berries, and delicious! We had the brambleberry wine and spring oak leaf wine, both which had complex flavors that were unexpected and super yummy.
There’s magic in the Highlands.
With it’s national animal being a unicorn and a mysterious monster living in one it’s most well-known lochs, there’s plenty of magic in Scotland. And we can’t forget the fact that it’s the location of Hogwarts, which also helps. Once you get up into the Highlands, where there are far fewer people than in the Central Belt, you feel the magic even more.
It’s hard to explain it to someone who has never experienced the Highlands. You walk around, enjoying the atmosphere surrounding you while at the same time expecting something to happen. There could be fairies living in the trees just on the other side of the loch. Maybe a ring of stones that will transport you to another time are just over that hill. There are ghosts just looking for the right person to show themselves. Is that person you? It certainly feels like it could be.
The history of Scotland is fascinating and well worth learning.
I’m big on history. I love learning new things about the places I go, how the people live and where they’re going. To me it’s one of the best things about life. Scotland has enough history to enchant you for months if you care to learn it. The pain of what was is always present in what is, but that makes the current day even more special.
Every Scot I’ve met is a proud person; proud of where they come from and proud of what life they’re living. It isn’t hard to get them talking about the past (or the present and future of their country, truth be told). And the history of Scotland is just fascinating. From the years of turmoil with outsiders who viewed clansmen as barbarians up through the Scottish Independence Referendum, there’s something for everyone to learn.
Spending your summer in Scotland will change your life.
You might think I’m being a little dramatic, but I’m not. You’ll return from Scotland a completely different person. You’ll believe in magic again. You’ll feel more connected to yourself and who you want to be. Chances are you’ll find yourself more in tune with the world around you. Don’t believe me? Well you’ll just have to come and experience it for yourself.
But don’t blame me when you don’t want to leave!
We’re leaving on Sunday, heading to Croatia and from there onwards through eastern and central Europe. I can’t say that I’m not excited because I am. But it’s incredibly bittersweet to be leaving a place I consider home yet again. I hope you’re all having a great week, full of adventures!