Top 10 things to do in Scotland when you are not playing golf
Scotland is rightly world-renowned for its legacy and unrivalled status within the game of golf, but there are so many other aspects to the country that should be explored...
With numerous cultural and historical experiences on offer throughout its stunning natural landscape, it would certainly be recommended to take some time to sample them. Here are some of the best.
Visit Edinburgh Castle
For centuries, Edinburgh Castle has dominated the skyline of the historic city, with its striking battlements serving as a visual reminder of generations past. Much of that has been bloody and violent, with the castle (in its various incarnations) having been besieged on 26 occasions.
As Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction, the castle offers incredible views extending over the city and surrounding countryside due to its strategic vantage point high above the capital. The Crown Square, St. Margaret’s Chapel and the Great Hall are among the highlights of the expansive site, along with the famous One O'Clock Gun being fired each afternoon of the week apart from Sundays.
Inside the Royal Palace, you will have an opportunity to see the Scottish Crown Jewels, which date back to the 15th century, and consist of more bling than B.A. Baracus ever had in his possession or could wish for!
With the legendary poet Robert Burns having eulogised it in the 18th century, haggis has long been considered the national dish of Scotland. Tasting the savoury pudding has now become something of a rite of passage for visitors. It quite simply has to be done.
It is often remarked that people will enjoy eating Haggis (accompanied by the traditional neeps and tatties) until it is revealed to them what it consists of. For the sake of clarity, a traditional haggis is made from the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep, mixed in with a variety of onions, spices and salt. It may also be encased in the stomach of that unfortunate animal. Undeniably nutritional, however.
Ignore the horror stories and try to forget the ingredients. If you do, there is a fair chance that you might actually demand a second portion. It sure beats a cheeseburger and fries.
Attend a Highland Games
Now increasingly commonplace throughout Scotland, a traditional Scottish highland games is certainly a cultural experience for any visitor. With its large pipe bands and the various unique and entertaining sporting activities that can be witnessed, attending a games is definitely memorable.
Held across the country during the spring and summer, the majority of counties and regions have events that are open to the public, so it should be fairly straightforward to track one down.
Athletics are an integral aspect of the games, but with a Scottish twist. Disciplines include hammer throwing, stone put and the iconic caber toss, which is essentially an extremely strong man or woman balancing a telephone pole in their hands before attempting to literally toss it end over end.
In many ways, a Highland games is like the Olympics but with kilts, music and alcohol. For most people, that constitutes having a pretty good time.
Visit Loch Ness (Scottish Highlands)
Scotland has produced many of the great inventors in history, with the likes of James Watt, Alexander Graham Bell and John Logie Beard having respectively crafted the steam engine, telephone and television. They have left an indelible imprint on civilisation.
However, it could be argued that no Scottish achievement has ever been more remarkable than the creation of a tourist industry through the promotion of a non-existent mythological creature that has only been “seen” by people under the influence of significant alcohol consumption.
Yet, that is exactly what has been done at Loch Ness. Its legendary “monster” is about as likely to exist as the reality of the government sensibly spending all of your tax dollars. Any rational person would dismiss the idea as complete nonsense.
Nonetheless, there is something undeniably atmospheric and breath-taking about the Loch, which is one of the most tranquil and beautiful places in Europe. It is a must-visit for anyone lucky enough to be in the Highlands; so make sure you jump on one of the regular river cruises that are readily available.
It’s a wonderful place, and don’t be surprised if you take a second glance at any ripples in the water. The monster may just exist, you never know…
Walk the Royal Mile in Edinburgh
As Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh has a tremendously vivid and enchanting past and future. Much of that is expressed through the architecture, which transcends decades and the preceding centuries. The iconic Royal Mile is perhaps the best example of that.
Featuring a number of historic streets in the ‘Old Town’ of the city, the Royal Mile is a cultural hotspot that runs downhill from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace, which is the official Scottish residence of the British monarch. You are literally walking through history.
With busy and vibrant shops, street performers, and an extraordinarily wide spectrum of people wandering around, the Mile is a vivid experience. That is even truer during the month of August, which is the time of the annual festival season, including the world-renowned Fringe.
Sail on the Waverly Paddle Steamer (Glasgow)
Throughout the summer months, the iconic Waverly paddle steamer cruises around the west of the country, taking in the stunning vistas of the Firth of Clyde, as well as the spectacular islands of Arran and Bute which feature prominently on her numerous sailings from Glasgow.
As the last passenger-carrying seagoing paddle steamer in the world, the PS Waverly offers a wonderful opportunity to experience a different side of Scotland from a unique vantage point. It also boasts the additional attraction of hosting a traditional bar and restaurant onboard to cater for you during your trip.
Having been transformed back to her original appearance from the late 1940s, the old ship is visually striking with its two imposing red, white and black coloured funnels. Passengers also have the chance to view the inner-workings of the engine room and track the synchronised movements of the paddles and huge piston rods that keep the vessel moving.
For lovers of boats and a relaxing day out on the water, the PS Waverly should be on your list.
Visit Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow
As Scotland’s most populated city, Glasgow is an enticing destination for visitors, with a number of cultural and architectural attractions drawing in the “punters”, as the local vernacular would put it. Kelvingrove, with its extensive collection and stunning building, is something to delight tourists who have an interest in art and historical artefacts.
Situated in the vibrant West End of the city, it was designed to fit in with the Spanish Baroque style of architecture that was prevalent at the time. This provides Kelvingrove with an appearance that is more commonly found in Latin countries than northern Europe. Inside that extraordinary exterior are more than 9,000 objects, which have helped to rank Kelvingrove as the most visited British museum situated outside of London.
Just make sure that you leave before closing time, however. Otherwise, you’ll become Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum.
Visit a Whiskey Distillery
For many people with a penchant for hitting a white ball around a field before enjoying a stiff drink, Scotland’s two greatest exports have been golf and whiskey. They often go hand in hand, and both can play a prominent role in a visit to this ancient and colourful country.
There are a number of whiskey distilleries throughout the land that offers guided tours for visitors, allowing you to explore the rich history while witnessing the fascinating process of making the god-like liquid that can offer the perfect crescendo to any post-round evening.
And if you’re lucky, they’ll even let you sample some of the product…
Walk West Sands in St. Andrews
There are numerous fantastic beaches to be found throughout Scotland, both on its islands and mainland coastline, with a great number of them situated in more remote parts of the country. One that it is easily accessible, however, with particular relevance for golfers, is the West Sands in St. Andrews.
Famously used as a location in the Academy Award-winning Chariots of Fire, the stunning beach runs for two miles alongside the St. Andrews Links courses. With its clean sand and imposing dunes protecting the land from the crashing waves of the North Sea, there are few more spectacular places to experience a relaxing stroll. Simple pleasures in life.
Be warned, however, to only step into the water on the warmest of summer’s days, otherwise, you may find that certain parts of your anatomy could become irreparably frozen.
Visit Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument (Stirling)
Stirling is situated almost directly in the centre of Scotland, with both Edinburgh and Glasgow in close proximity. Seen by many as being the gateway to the Highlands, this strategic location has proven to be pivotal during the history of the nation. Dominating the skyline for miles, Stirling Castle and the striking Wallace Monument are representations of that rich history.
The latter is a tower that commemorates Sir William Wallace, who led the insurrection against English occupiers in the late 13th century. His victory over King Edward I’s forces in 1297 has become almost a moment of legend and were the initiation for a number of events that ultimately led to Wallace’s execution in London just under a decade later.
In 1315, however, the invading forces were finally repelled by the indigenous armies of Robert the Bruce, whose triumph against the odds at nearby Bannockburn proved to be defining. A visitor centre dedicated to that battle is also in the area which ensures that Stirling is an intriguing attraction for any history lovers
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