Scotland is considered to be one of the most green and scenic countries in the world. Miles and miles of lush green mountains, dominating castles, kings and queens that have ruled the world, thinkers and innovators that have challenged beliefs and a history that is old as time. The Kingdom of Scotland was an independent state until 1 May 1707, when the Acts of Union resulted in a political union with the Kingdom of England to create the Kingdom of Great Britain. Today, Scotland is no longer a separate sovereign state and does not have independent membership of either the United Nations or the European Union.
Scotland is a large country, over 30000 square miles and filled with culture and heritage. There are many symbols that are endearing to Scotland including the Flag of Scotland which is the oldest national flag in use, the Royal Arms of Scotland, the Unicorn, the honors of Scotland comprising of the Crown, the Sword and the Sceptre, the Stone of Destiny which has been the kneeling stone for British monarchs at coronation, the heather flower and William Wallace, fondly known as Braveheart. There isn’t an easy way to squeeze all this into 4 days but we tried.
Day 1: Our Scottish trip started in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland and its second largest city. We had flown in the day before from London on a short haul flight for 50 pounds.
Edinburgh reminded us of a city from the 19th century mixed with looming towers from the Middle Ages. The Royal Mile in Edinburgh stretches from the castle to the Holyroodhouse Palace, the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. We drove to the the Edinburgh Castle and walked along with the very entertaining yet informative guide. The views of the Edinburgh from the Castle are expansive.
We headed out of Edinburgh driving through the old and new towns both World Heritage Sites and reached the The Two Bridges area for lunch. The Forth Road Bridge and the Forth Rail Bridge are very recognizable symbols of Scotland and made a wonderful lunch spot. We drove on reaching Inverness in time for dinner. There was still light out, so we decided to delay dinner for an hour and walked to the private beach attached to see the waves from Moray Firth lap against the land. When we returned we were truly ready for dinner.
Day 2: We were up at the crack of dawn, maybe even before since we had a long day. We took a 3 hour bus ride to John O’ Groats at the edge of mainland Scotland and then took a ferry to Orkney. Orkney comprises over 70 islands, of which 20 are inhabited. These islands have been inhabited for over 5000 years with some of the earliest human settlements having been unearthed in Skara Brae, Europe’s most complete neolithic village. Orkney also played an important role in the World Wars and today the entire island complex is another World Heritage Site. It was a complete day and we returned to Inverness late at night. We had spent two days in Scotland and seen two World Heritage Sites.
Day 3: Another long drive awaited us, but a drive that we couldn’t wait to get started. We were going to go through the Scottish Highlands, past Loch Ness to the Isle of Skye and then heading into Glasgow. The Scottish highlands is without doubt one of the most beautiful places we’ve been to. Loch Ness was covered in fog, but as it lifted we could see the narrow lake and suddenly everyone was trying to spot dear Nessie.
That’s right, Nessie now no longer is a mysterius scary monster but rather a cute cuddly toy that you can buy at tourist spots. From Loch Ness we drove to the Isle of Skye, renowned for its spectacular scenery, vibrant culture and heritage, as well as its abundant wildlife. As the mountains and lakes played with each other, the views turned dramatic. The ripple-less water acted as a perfect mirror reflecting the tall mountains above and it was breathtaking. People often say photos make a place a look better, but what we saw no photo could do justice to. We stopped for lunch at a resort with a castle view and took the ferry across to Malaig, back in the mainland. From Malaig, the drive became a little more tedious, as the mountain views began to subside. We passed through Fort William and reached Glencoe, where the sweeping views of the valley hid an ugly past. This was the site of the infamous Massacre of Glencoe when the clan od MacDonald was massacred. Loch Lomond was the last stop before we hit Glasgow. After dinner we walked around the Clyde River banks from a colorful view of a modern Glasgow.
Day 4: Our final day in Scotland, and after castles, mountain landscapes, spooky lakes and lots of trees, beaches and valleys we were in city. A world class city that arose from the middle ages, lived through the Victorian era, survived the World Wars and is now brimming with new found confidence.
The University of Glasgow was home to Watt, Kelvin and Adam Smith and now is slowly regaining its status as a center of learning. St. George’s Square in the center of Glasgow is a perfect place to sit and take in this very historic city while the new Glasgow Science Center and the Glasgow Harbour Re-devolpment area is a perfect place to see the most intriguing and new structures. The Glasgow Tower is the world’s tallest tower that can also turn a full 360 degrees. That is nothing short of ingenious. St.Mungo’s Cathedral survives from the middle ages and the stained glass windows inside are a testimony to the glory of those days. Glasgow might have as old a history as there could be but Glaswegians have also taken the effort to keep moving the city forward. No wonder almost half of Scotland’s population live in and around this city.
After our half day tour of Glasgow we continued our journey, and soon we were crossing the border into England. Scotland is a beautiful country and deserves a fair amount of time to do it justice. The landscapes need to be walked through to be enjoyed and the cities need to be tasted, slept in, and wandered around to discover all the hidden gems. We saw a lot of Scotland and it was definitely a trip well worth the effort that went into planning it. In a few years we will come back and play a round of golf in St.Andrews.
Date of Travel: August 18-19, 2007 and August 23-25, 2007
Tour Organizers: TCI and Europe Incoming (not recommended)
Travelers: Usha Balakrishnan, P. Balasubramanian, Jayanthi Balasubramanian, G.K. Raghunandhanan, Anandhi Raghu, E.V. Muthukrishnan, Vishali Krishnan, Rahul Krishnan, Rithul Krishnan, Ram Sitaram, Dharini Balakrishnan, Gautam Raja, Shwetha Shrivatsa, Karthik Raja, Shweta Harve
Author: Shwetha Shrivatsa