Unexpected Things I discovered while Travelling Scotland
Scotland’s beautiful nature is well-known and perfectly right for those who seek adventure and outdoor activities.
Located in the northernmost part of the UK, Scotland is a country full of mysteries, stories and rain. But it has more to offer: a varied coastal architecture with rocky cliffs in the west and fine sandy beaches in the east, an astonishingly good food culture and friendly people. Many go there for outdoor adventures to one of the many Scottish counties.
Highlands like in the movie?
When I was young I loved the movie “The Highlander”, starring Christopher Lambert, a lot. So I have taken off some time and spent almost 2 weeks traveling Scotland with my boyfriend. We picked May as the perfect months for our Scottish adventure. Like everyone, I had my own expectations and pictures in head about how the country would be, smell or sound. On purpose we did not plan out details or places. We wanted to go where the wind would blow us. And like this, we went….
Our flights went to Glasgow (incredibly cheap, Ryanair 30€ return !) so we started there. Here you can read a review of Ryanair flights. Up north we took trains and busses and did the hop-on / hop-off system.
Well, at least we thought so. What we did not know was, that these go around every 3 hours only! As we did not have pre-booked accommodations for the night, we had to make it at an appropriate time of day to a place that had accommodations. Outside of the cities villages are very small. We worked it out and have seen lots of landscapes and areas.
In the end, we made it up to Inverness and back down the east coast to Edinburgh. In an easy peasy chilling speed. Very relaxing. Lots of sheep, lots of beer.
Outdoors in Scotland
One of the trains took us to Fort William up in the Scottish Highlands, county of Inverness. We decided to spend the night there and see the fort. Well, the fort was a quite disappointing, as it was just a very basic ruin. Or rather a little square with parts of an old wall around it. We should have read something about it first. But since we were there already, we went to Morrisons supermarket, got ourselves a bite and had a little picnic right at this old wall and watched the sunset. Very romantic, very windy … and very cold.
Later we discovered Fort William’s true character: It calls itself Outdoor Capital of the UK! And it truly is. There even is a Mountain Gondola. Surrounded by mountains, Lochs and even bike tracks, it attracts many, many sportspeople every year and even races and cups take place. So if you love outdoor activities or are looking for adventure activities in Scotland, go to Fort William! For those of you who are planning on a van tour, there are parking lots to spend the night for as little as 3 GBP a night. In general, Scotland is well prepared for camping tourism and there are many possibilities for overnight stays and stops all over the country, sometimes completely free of charge.
Harry Potter in Scotland
Also, the famous Jacobite Steam Train is taking a stop in Fort William. During the summer months, the Jacobite Steam Train offers its passengers an unforgettable journey. A train ride leads through some of the most beautiful and magic areas in Scotland. The train might be known to you from the popular Harry Potter movies as “Hogwarts Express”. The extension of the Fort William to Mallaig was constructed by Scotland’s West Highland railway line and started in January 1897. It completed in April 1901 and takes you on a ride through Scotland’s nature and should be a part of every Scotland adventure.
Looking for unicorns
Another thing I discovered was that Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn. For real.
Anyone can have lions and eagles. Scotland in return has the unicorn as its official heraldic animal. It has been regarded as a hero symbol since the 12th century and has even been embroidered on the clothing of the Scottish national hero William I. It is also embroidered. In mythology, the unicorn stands for innocence and purity. Legend has it that only virgins possess the power to tame the mighty unicorn. At least in medieval Scotland, this was believed. That’s why the heraldic animal is often depicted chained to houses and pictures.
Kilts are a still worn during day
An integral part of Scottish culture is the kilt. Together with the bagpipe, it gives a picture of the Scots that prevails in many heads. Less known to most is the fact that the history of the kilts does not go back far into Scotland’s past. Rather, he owes his existence to a practical benefit and the invention of an Englishman. Beginning of the 18th century In the 19th century, a factory owner (Thomas Rawlinson) employed, among other things, bulkheads in his steelworks. The traditional Scottish costume, the wrapped plaid, was a real source of danger for the workers and an obstacle to their work. He developed a more practical garment in which he incorporated the folds of the plaid. The Scottish soldiers of the Wehrmacht at that time discovered the more practical piece of ice and thus laid the foundation for the Kilts’ triumphal march in 1739.
The striking colors and patterns of the tartan fabric have their own meaning and regional origin. Contrary to popular opinion, however, the individual patterns do not have anything to do directly with belonging to a Scottish clan. It is more likely that regional differences in the production and processing of the fabrics dominated, thus producing different patterns and colors. Since people were buying regionally at that time, inhabitants of certain areas wore the same patterns. Thus, even members of a clan had different kilts.
Nowadays, many think that kilts are worn mainly on special occasions or during the famous Highland Games. They are an expression of Scottish nationalism and pride, which has been strengthened by the takeover by England.
But nowadays, the young people of Scotland are rediscovering the kilt and wearing it also on sports events and other occasions of fun. Especially in the streets of Scottish cities, the kilt has become part of everyday life again. We saw this at bus stops, shopping and going out in bars.
Scotland is not green
… at least not in springtime. At this time of the year, when the curved mountain chains and plains are still light brown and dry, one single plant shapes the image of nature to a large extent: the gorse. These wonderfully fragrant, prickly bushes let the Scottish landscapes glow in bright orange-yellow. This time of the year has a very special charm and is still free of mosquitoes, which you have to endure in summer.
We were most surprised by the excellent internet connection in Scotland. Free wifi is not only available in buses and other forms of public transport. You can also log in to the Internet free of charge on almost all streets of the cities, in many shops, cafés and bars. In Germany this is unfortunately still a little underdeveloped, therefore we found the availability here very pleasant.
Cashless payment is also very easy in Scotland. In comparison with other European countries, it is thus far ahead of the rest. You can pay by credit card almost everywhere. Not only in shops and bars, but even very small amounts of money for tickets in buses and trains can be paid in this way. Top!
If I Would Scotland break down to 3 words, theywould be:
- Yellow (not green, the gorse plant colors it yellow in spring)
- Fresh (air)
- Salty (food and seawater)
What is Scotland in three words for you?
Also published on Medium.
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