The Great Indoors
If your idea of a vacation involves little to no physical exertion, Scotland still offers plenty to enjoy, especially if you’re wanting to imbibe a bit.
You don’t have to go far to find a distillery, tasting room or pub. If you aren’t sure what to order, just chat up a bartender. They love helping you discover your favorite. Peat or no peat? That is the question.
I don’t know if whisky is more popular than golf in Scotland, but I do know you can easily lose interest in golf after a few wee drams. And there’s no “e” in Scotch whisky. To get an “e,” you’ll have to go to Ireland for Irish whiskey.
No matter how many drinks you’ve had, don't miss old town Edinburgh, which is a historic site. Walk the Royal Mile from the Edinburgh Castle all the way to Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s home when she visits. You’ll pass the ultra-modern Parliament building, which looks out-of-place among the old brick buildings. A couple of fun places to see are The Elephant House, the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling penned early Harry Potter stories, and Greyfriars Bobby. Local lore has it that John Gray, a local policeman, had a Skye Terrier named Bobby. John died and was buried in Greyfriars graveyard. It is said Bobby so missed his master, he guarded his grave until his own death 14 years later. Now, a statue of Bobby sits atop a fountain at the corner of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge. If you rub Bobby’s nose, it will bring you good luck.
Just outside Edinburgh is the beautiful Rosslyn Chapel, built in 1446 and made famous by Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code. It is worth the effort to see this magnificent and lovingly cared for chapel, which remains an active house of worship.
To go along with beautiful places, see some beautiful people at St. Andrews and Gleneagles, even if you go for no other reason than to rub shoulders.
While you’re exploring, check out Pitlochry. Sure, it’s touristy, but you’re a tourist, right? The Victorian architecture draws visitors, but it’s the playing, eating and shopping that keeps them coming back. It’s right off the A9 between Perth and Stirling.
For a dose of history, head to Inverness to visit the site of the Battle of Culloden. The museum is very well done, and you can tour the battlefield if you wish. This is Scotland’s Gettysburg, and it is just as solemn and sad. For history-lovers, it is a must-see.
Scots have a tremendous sense of humor. Remember the childhood rhyme Georgie Porgie?
Georgie Porgie, puddin’ and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry
When the boys came out to play
Georgie Porgie ran away
That little ditty was coined about King George IV, who enjoyed excessive eating.
They are smart, too. Scots are rich with inventions—things we still use every day, including bicycles, flush toilets, adhesive postage stamps and the first edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. And, of course, golf. Perhaps the most famous in recent history is Dolly, the cloned sheep. (The cloning was done by Brits, but they accomplished it in Scotland.) She, along with many other Scottish inventions, is on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. It’s free and worth a half-day or more.
Rest Your Weary Head
Nira Caledonia in Edinburgh is not a tourist hotel. Rather it’s located discreetly in a row of beautiful Georgian townhomes. It’s a little oasis offering charming rooms, a gourmet restaurant and an extremely helpful staff. Two words of caution though: No elevator. The staff is more than happy to schlep your bags, though.
For the more modern traveler, Colessio Hotel in Stirling offers beautiful rooms. It’s located downtown and within walking distance of shops and restaurants.
For a more country-estate feel than commercial hotel vibe, Pine Trees Hotel in Pitlochry is for you. The restaurant is outstanding.
If the 18th century restored mansion aspect of Coul House in Contin doesn’t get you, the delicious food, extensive wine list, elegant rooms and beautiful grounds will. Coul House is located about 30 miles north of Inverness.
Castles, comfort food and crags await you in Scotland. With plenty of places and adventures to fill your itinerary, there’s nothing stopping you from visiting Nessie. Take 417 Magazine with you and send us a picture!
Tunes for Your Travels
Learn these tunes so you can stop your foot, clap your hands, cry like a baby, laugh until you cry and sing like a local.
By the Dubliners: "Molly Malone," "Wild Rover," "Whiskey in the Jar," "Seven Drunken Nights"
By Steve Earle: "Galway Girl"
By Frank Patterson for the authentic: "Danny Boy"
By Eva Cassidy for the beautiful: "Danny Boy"
By Daniel O’Donnell: "Galway Bay"