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6 Reasons Why You Should Road Trip across Scotland

By: Alex E + Save to a List

When we think of traveling across Europe, planes, trains, and backpacking come to mind. The last thing you want to do is drive right?! With different languages, signs, roundabouts, the steering wheel on the right side and driving on the left side of the road, it sounds like a complete nightmare. 

Well it's a lot less nerve-racking then you would think. It's actually fairly easy and opens up your travel opportunities tenfold. Here are my top 6 reasons why you need to road trip across Scotland.

1. Exploring Castles

It felt like every block I walked or roundabout I drove around, I was running into another castle. With literally hundreds of castles dotting the Scottish landscape, you won't have any trouble finding and exploring these amazing structures. The structures themselves are not only amazing but the backdrop and landscape that surround them are usually breathtaking and a photographer's dream.

It is simply amazing that some of these castles have been standing for over 3,000 years. The stories that accompany these castles are remarkable as well. Some of the most famous and infamous figures in history have connections to these historic sites. I spent as much as six hours exploring the larger castles. Others are just a quick stop on the side of the road exploring 1,000 year old ruins.

2. Capturing a Scottish Sunrise and Sunset

This may be the hardest part of your vacation to actually follow through with. The wettest country in Europe gets over 15 feet of rain a year, but only along one coast. The western coast gets almost all the rain and cloud cover, whereas the eastern side, which sits in the rain shadow of the Scottish highlands, only receives about 40 inches of rain a year. The sunniest city in Scotland is Dundee on the eastern coast. Scots still claim a beautiful Scottish day is when it only rains half the day. When the sun finally does break through the clouds during those golden hours, it is simply spectacular.

The mix of rain off and on throughout the day makes for an abundance of rainbows. The amazing landscapes and colors seem to erupt when the sun does find a gap in the clouds. The rocky coastline comes alive with crashing waves. The emerald green rolling hills sparkle with every rain drop, and the Scottish Highlands light up with the beautiful white snow fall. Although a lot harder to predict and capture than a California sunset, when you do catch the sunrise or sunset in Scotland, it makes it that much more rewarding.

3. Haggis, Neeps, Tatties and Dram!

The short explanation for this title is the national food and drink. If you haven't been to Scotland, the title of the third reason may just sound like gibberish, but you will get to know it very well once you go out to eat. Nearly every location and style of restaurant serves the local dish. Everywhere from the Irish pub to the sushi restaurant loved to mix haggis into a specialty dish.

If you are squeamish, then just try it without asking what it is. Neeps is mashed up turnips with spices. Tatties is mashed potatoes and a Dram is a glass of Scotch. I'll let you research Haggis on your own. I promise it taste delicious even if it doesn't look or sound appetizing. I was suspicious at first but fell in love with the dish and couldn't get enough. After eating the local cuisine, what better way to wash it down with Scotch Whisky (without the e) while you are in Scotland. The country has over a 100 distilleries that make the national drink. Check out The Mercat Bar in Edinburgh for a great mix of Haggis dishes.

4. The Scottish Highlands

A trip to Scotland isn't complete without visiting the famous Scottish highlands. The rolling green hills and steep mountain cliffs pack a lot of punch for what they lack in size. The highlands have been a staple of Scottish culture since its infancy. The highlands have been providing life to the Scottish people with hunting and fishing since they were first settled. William Wallace used them as a refuge to wage war on the English and gain Scotland's independence.

Today they are a tranquil adventure destination for millions of tourists each year. Although Scotland receives a fairly harsh winter, it is much milder than locations at similar latitudes. The highlands are still extreme enough to offer ice climbing, climbing challenges such as Ben Nevis and skiing during the winter months. The summer provides world class hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking. Check out the Cairngorms National Park in the heart of the highlands.

5. The City of Edinburgh, Scotland

The city of Edinburgh alone can be a story about why you should explore what it has to offer. The city is simply remarkable and I'm already planning a return trip. I spent 3 days exploring everything I thought it had to offer and I still only scratched the surface. The city is one of the cleanest, most affordable, friendliest and easiest to navigate cities I have ever visited.

The Royal Mile offers The Scotch Whisky Experience, world class food, and tops it all off with one of the most spectacular castles in the world. The city center offers a pub crawl on rose street, historic monuments and cobble stones streets that will have you exploring the cities secrets for days. The city literally has an activity for everyone. Walk, run, bike, or hike your way around the parks, streets, and museums to experience the amazing culture the city has to offer. For the best views of the city hike to Arthur's Seat.

6. The Loch Ness.....Monster

If you are an aspiring photographer, you can become famous overnight by simply capturing a shot of the legendary Loch Ness Monster. Of course we have all heard the stories of this famous Loch and the mysterious monster that lurks beneath its waters, but Loch Ness is much more than just a fun folklore. The famous Loch offers some of the most spectacular scenery Scotland has to offer.

The Loch stretches from North to South, from the Northern City of Inverness to Fort Augustus. Drive the shores of this famous body of water, stopping at local eateries to see pictures of the famous monster Nessie. There are plenty of historic turnouts, scenic view points and of course another beautiful castle to enjoy while exploring the Loch Ness Coastline. Catch a ride on a Loch Ness Cruise to get an up close and personal shot of the mysterious creature.

Bonus Reason: Golf and Rugby

Although not really an adventure for the Outbound, these two activities are very enjoyable with friends or family and are unique to Scotland. Golf was first started at St. Andrews, Scotland in the 1400's. You can still play on the original course where it all started. Today the greatest golfers in the world still compete in the British Open here every couple of years. The course is closed on Sundays and is a very beautiful place to walk and let the kids play in the sand traps.

Rugby, which is a little know sport in America, is the pride of Scotland. As one of the top five countries in the World, catching a game in Edinburgh is spectacular. Scotland competes each year in the 6 nations tournament, the most famous rugby tournament in the world. Grab a beer, a ticket and enjoy the match at BT Murrayfield in downtown Edinburgh.

Although these are my 6 reasons why you need to road trip across Scotland, I only spent 10 days driving across this beautiful country. The country has so much more to offer. Grab a car, create your own adventures and let me know the amazing places I missed on my first drive that I need to see next time!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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