Words by Amy Beveridge
Photographs by Ross Brannigan
I’m scrolling through Facebook, and I see yet another one. Someone has posted another picture of a pretty girl looking longingly out to sea, with a quote over the top reading “If travelling was free, you’d never see me again”. Last week it was “Collect moments, not things” and the week before “We travel not to escape life, but for life to escape us”.
Travel is seen in our country as a great leveller. The popularity of gap years and summer volunteering camps confirms it. We believe that to develop as a person you must embrace another culture and see how other people live differently from you.
People view travel as an escape from their monotonous lives, and so want to get as far away as possible by going to some far-flung, exotic country. But perhaps you don’t have to go to such a remote location to get the most out of your travelling.
In the Rough Guides’ list of “must see” destinations to visit in 2017, Scotland is second place. Our tiny yet humble country has so much to offer, and it is literally right on our front doorstep. Even if you have always lived in Scotland, there is so much you have yet to see and do.
Not from Scotland? Even better – you have the chance to explore and learn more about the country you have decided to study in.
Besides, on a student budget the closer the better. You may even be able to save some cash by crashing with friends whilst hopping from place to place. So why not explore Scotland before you explore the world?
Take a Tour
Scotland has decent rail, bus and ferry links that can take you almost everywhere you want to go, from the big cities to remote islands. If you’re up for driving, then Scotland lends itself well to a good old-fashioned road trip – the North Coast 500 route takes you around the coast from its starting point in Inverness. You can soak in all the breath-taking scenery along the way, including the Bealach na Ba, and the fairy tale-like Dunrobin Castle.
What is amazing about Scotland’s landscapes is that it has a diversity that can be found nowhere else. From white sandy beaches to deep lush forests, snow-capped mountains to rocky islands – no matter where you go, it never fails to astound and amaze.
Dotted around our magnificent landscape are the sites that map out Scotland’s fascinating history. Why not visit the places you learned about in history class? The Scots fought for their independence for hundreds of years and the battlegrounds still remain, including Culloden near Inverness, or Killiecrankie, which is close to Pitlochry. Or visit the homes of some of our national treasures, such as Robert Burns.
Shop and Eat
Scotland is as much about the present as the past. With several bustling cities, including the largest city Glasgow and the historic capital Edinburgh, you can explore, shop and eat to your heart’s content.
Once you’ve tried haggis and a deep-fried Mars Bar, you may believe that you’ve eaten everything Scotland has to offer. But our country is also famous for its seafood and game. Scotland’s cities offer a thriving cuisine scene, letting you try exciting dishes from all around the world. Scotland is also home to 13 Michelin Star restaurants – so we must have good taste!
If you’re after something a little stronger then Scotland does not disappoint. It’s the home of whisky, and there has been a recent revival in Scottish gin and craft beer. We have breweries and distilleries dotted all around the country, most of which provide tours and the all-important tasting session.
Sport and Events
Luckily, Scotland has many ways to work off all of that food and drink. With mountains to climb, slopes to ski down, and rivers to kayak, we offer the best in outdoor activity. Glasgow was host to the Commonwealth Games in 2014, meaning that the city has new sports facilities open to the public – the most impressive of which being the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, named after one of Scotland’s most successful Olympians.
The Commonwealth Games was just one of many events held over the years that showcased Scotland’s culture. We have a full calendar of events – starting with a bang at Edinburgh’s world-famous Hogmanay celebrations, through a summer of sporting events and highland games to ending the year with Christmas markets and events. There’s music all year round in the form of concerts, festivals and gatherings, so there’s no doubt you’ll find something to enjoy.
It would be a shame to miss out on an opportunity to explore just because you think you’ve seen it all before. Whether you’ve been in Scotland your whole life, or just a few days, there will always be something else to see and do. Why not make Scotland your go-to destination this year? Even just leaving your house could turn out to be an adventure.