Whisky. Kilts. Bagpipes. Lake monsters. The things you usually think of when Scotland is brought up, right? And you will, of course, find all of those things in Scotland some of them (like malt whisky) in abundance. But Scotland is more than bagpipes and Nessie.
If you're planning a trip to the top half of Great Britain anytime soon, here are six places you can't miss:
Both the New and Old towns in Edinburgh are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites, meaning there's no lack of history or interesting architecture here. Walk the Royal Mile, visit the Edinburgh Castle or Holyrood Palace (the Queen's residence in Scotland), check out St. Giles Cathedral, and visit at least one museum. And don't miss the corny but fun Scotch Whisky Experience.
Located in western Scotland, the Isle of Skye is the most-visited of the Hebrides islands. If it's sweeping moors and mountains you're looking for, look no further than the Isle of Skye. It's my favorite part of Scotland.
You can find Eilean Donan on a small island in Loch Duich in the Scottish Highlands. Not only is the setting like something off a postcard, but the medieval castle (built originally in the 1200's as a defense against the Vikings) has also starred in some memorable movies, including Highlander and The World is Not Enough. Today, the castle is one of the most-photographed monuments in all of Scotland.
Popular with both hikers and landscape-lovers, Glencoe is one of Scotland's most scenic valleys. Overlooked by the peaks of the Three Sisters mountain range, the landscape here is enough to impress most visitors. Recently, this part of Scotland starred in Skyfall alongside James Bond.
Located in the town of Stirling (a quick train ride from either Edinburgh or Glasgow), Stirling Castle was home to the Stewart kings during the Renaissance. Today, it's a well-preserved piece of period architecture and (in my opinion) is much more worthy of the entrance fee than Edinburgh Castle. Stirling is also not far from the William Wallace Monument, making it easy to visit both in one day.
Lastly, we can't forget Glasgow. While not as flashy as Edinburgh, Glasgow nevertheless deserves some attention, too, as Scotland's largest city. Worth seeing here is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, the architecture at both George and Royal Exchange Squares, and the People's Palace on Glasgow Green.
I know I said Scotland was more than Nessie... but Nessie IS a large part of Scottish popular culture and lore, and Loch Ness IS kind of really pretty. Loch Ness is easily reached from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, too, so there's really no reason not to stop by for a boat tour. Who knows maybe you'll catch a glimpse of the elusive monster.
What other spots would you add to a trip to Scotland?
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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