A few eyebrows were raised when esteemed guidebook publisher and big internet presence Rough Guides put Scotland in an exalted second place in their list of Top 10 Places to Visit in 2017.
I was just surprised it did not make number one! I have travelled to over 100 countries and have not yet found one that beats my native land. Scotland for me really offers the whole package with its epic scenery, world-class food and drink, plus myriad glorious journeys and adventure experiences. That is not even mentioning the history and our seven magnificent cities.
Below I am sharing with you my seven reasons that Scotland really is a country that you should plan on visiting (or travelling around if you live here) in 2017 .
1. Epic Scenery
Scotland’s treasure trove of scenery is among the best on the planet. There are 282 Munro mountains above 3,000 feet, myriad further mountains and hills and our famous oasis of rivers and lochs. Swirl in tumbling glens, ancient forests and some of the best beaches on the planet and Scotland offers a remarkable variety of jaw dropping scenery in one easily navigable country.
2. Myriad Islands
How many Scots are even aware that we have over 800 islands dotted around our sinewy coastline? Almost 100 are inhabited too. I’ve been lucky enough to get out to over 60 Scottish islands and have never experienced a duffer yet. There are islands for everyone, from the whisky island of Islay, through to the wildlife oasis of Mull and the golfers’ Isle of Arran. Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides, is the impressive all-rounder with little bits of the rest starring in one vast natural amphitheatre. Then there are the otherworldly, remote, and utterly gorgeous Outer Hebrides, not to mention the spellbinding islands of Orkney and Shetland.
3. World Class Food and Drink
In 1999 I wrote a book on eating and drinking in Edinburgh for Thomas Cook and it was a bit of struggle to find enough great restaurants, delis and food suppliers to put in. It says it all that I would have the opposite problem these days! Scotland’s natural larder has always been stocked with some of the finest produce in the world, but now there are eateries that really do it justice, from simple seafood shacks on the pier in Oban, through to 13 Michelin star restaurants, including Andrew Fairlie’s incomparable two Michelin star eponymous fine dining temple at Gleneagles.
4. The History
2017 has been designated the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and there is plenty of that to go around! Scotland is layered with a thrilling multilayered smorgasbord of history, from the mysterious UNESCO World Heritage listed Neolithic sites on Orkney, through to countless castles in all corners of the land and a quartet of dramatically ruined abbeys in the Borders. If you like gazing back Scotland is for you, a land where history comes in the misty eyed, living variety with even ancient monuments still resonating with relevance today.
5. Seven Cities
In Edinburgh and Glasgow Scotland can be proud of two cities that stack up as short break destinations alongside any other in Europe. They are both brilliant to visit and I think work perfectly as a ‘twin centre’ break comparing and contrasting them as you go. Delving beyond these gems Scotland’s other cities all have plenty to recommend them. Aberdeen is not only Europe’s oil capital, but also an impressive city of granite with a glorious beach while Inverness is enjoying its city status as the Highland capital. Dundee has moved beyond just jute, jam and journalism with cutting edge design and a massive revamp of its centre. Stirling boasts lashings of history even beyond its landmark castle. Ironically Scotland’s newest city of Perth boasts a rich history as the nation’s ancient capital.
6. The Journeys
Scotland’s tortuously indented coastline and rugged mountains have hampered the likes of the Roman Army and British Army over the centuries, but today they make for a sweep of spectacular journeys. The newly formed North 500 has quickly become one of the world’s great drives, while in the West Highland Line Scotland has for me the world’s greatest railway journey. In the waters I’m a huge fan of CalMac ferry journeys and also the burgeoning cruise scene, which sees family-run operator Hebrides Cruises offer a new vessel this year.
7. Getting Wild
This can take two forms. You can hurl yourself around a country that has been voted the world’s top mountain bike destination, ski some of the best slopes in Europe, or take on some of the continent’s finest long distance trails. If you prefer a more relaxed experience, Scotland is also renowned as top wildlife spotting destination. The coastline has a large number of epic sea eagle, along with myriad species of dolphin and whale, including killer whales.
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