Article Written by Cynthia Heath

Fairy-tale castles, legendary lakes and a fabled sea creature are just scratching the surface of my family’s recent vacation to majestic Scotland. We started in Edinburgh.  It is a hilly city with narrow cobble stone streets and a rich history.  The medieval Old Town and the mid 18th century New Town are both unique and fun to explore.  Edinburgh is referred to as the “Athens of the North” due to similar topography and intellectual focus. The Royal Mile in the Old Town connects two ancient royal residences and is busy with pubs, shops and enchanting historical sites, making it a perfect place for a casual stroll.

We were eager to experience Edinburgh’s food culture and history so launched off on a food walking tour where we sampled many of Scotland’s culinary mainstays.  Our guide entertained us with stories on the history of Scottish food and the city. The national dish of Scotland, haggis was sampled (just don’t think about what’s in it while eating it) along with wild boar bangers and mash, fresh smoked salmon, and Scotch whisky at a private society club.

Our chauffer Ian then whisked us northward to Inverness, regarded as the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Inverness is known for its natural landscapes, quaint towns, medieval ruins and prehistoric sites.  The mysterious Clava Cairns dating back 4,000 years and the poignant Culloden Battlefield provided a strong connection with the past and an appreciation for the lives of the Scottish ancestors and the beauty of the country.   A trip to Inverness wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the shimmering shores of Loch Ness – with a depth over 750 feet it contains the largest volume of freshwater in the British Isles.  Unfortunately we did not catch a glimpse of the mysterious sea creature Nessie but was still worth exploring for its beautiful landscape.

Heading south, into the heart of Highland Perthshire we enjoyed a special visit to Blair Castle that has stood as the gatekeeper to the Scottish Highlands for over 700 years.  The spectacular landscape here is rich with breath-taking views, peat tinted rivers, plenty of sheep and the one of a kind Highland Cows.  It’s a magical place and you can’t help but feel it, surrounded by powerful peaks with the fresh Highland air filling your lungs.

Our last few days were spent at Gleneagles, dubbed the Playgrounds of the Gods, set on 850 acres of stunning Perthshire countryside.  While well known as a golf resort we enjoyed practicing falconry, putting the adorable Gleneagles Labradors through their paces at the Gundog School along with the quintessential experience of British afternoon tea. With a history stretching back as far as the 11th century, Scottish whisky is an important part of Scotland’s identity, so we poked around a couple of the local distilleries for a behind-the-scenes tour of the whisky making process and enjoyed a dram or two of the local spirit.   Like the drink itself, the process is fascinating and complex.

Scotland is one of the most enchanting places on earth.  I believe it has something for everyone.  There is the stunning scenery, tiny islands, untouched beaches, ancient relics, spectacular golf courses…and a whisky tradition that has been crafted for centuries. The Scots are warm and friendly (especially our cheeky driver Ian) and their accents so charming! Scotland is a big wee country.  It is impossible to cover it in one trip and I can’t wait to go back and discover more. These are just a few of the many highlights from our incredible experiences.  I hope my adventure will inspire you to get out and explore.