The unique culture of Scotland is so much more than kilts and bagpipes (although there are plenty of those around). From Neolithic villages to world-class art galleries, and from medieval castles to contemporary whisky festivals, discover why Scotland is the perfect blend of old and new.
On the edge of the River Tay, the recently opened V&A in Dundee is a feat of modern architecture, with curving concrete walls reminiscent of a Scottish cliff face. Centred entirely around the art of design, the exhibitions here aim to celebrate the country’s rich heritage of innovation, while also championing the contemporary talents of the future. Once you’ve finished perusing the galleries, make sure to check out the outdoor terrace for spectacular views across the Tay.
Often regarded as one of the most spectacular prehistoric sites in Western Europe, the Neolithic village of Skara Brae provides a vivid picture of life lived around 5,000 years ago. Found on the Mainland, the largest island of the Orkney archipelago, these ancient homes are fitted with beds of stone, and even dressers, while an array of tools and artefacts can be seen at the nearby Visitor’s Centre - a fascinating, and deeply moving testament to human achievement.
Billed as a “hoedown in the hills”, this lesser-known music festival takes place in Dumfries & Galloway between the 23rd and 26th of March. With an eclectic mix of Celtic, world and roots music, expect a riotous three days of singing, dancing, drinking and storytelling. Being a family festival at heart, there’s also a children’s marquee and procession, as well as puppet shows, fire shows, and an array of delicious world cuisine.
The ancestral home of the world-renowned poet and novelist, Sir Walter Scott, offers a beguiling insight into the mind of the man himself. Located on the stunning banks of the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders, Abbotsford House tells the tale of Scott’s tumultuous life, while offering visitors a glimpse into the tastes and preoccupations of the Romantic movement of which he was a part. For the full literary experience, however, there’s also the option of staying the night in the Hope Scott Wing - a chance to experience some 19th century hospitality, as one of Walter Scott’s distinguished guests.
With 22 galleries and a jaw-dropping 8,000 artefacts of world history at this free attraction, it’s no wonder Kelvingrove remains one of Glasgow’s most-visited attractions. The artworks on offer here span a wide range of periods, fields and movements - everything from Rembrandt to the French Impressionists - while the museum section covers an extensive collection of natural and human history. After your visit, make sure to take a walk through the park, if only to appreciate the Spanish Baroque style of the building a little better.
Sail (or fly!) to the Isle of Islay, a beautiful island off the west coast of Scotland, in search of one of country’s best loved exports: malt whisky. Held on the last week of May each year, Fèis Ìle is a celebration of the island’s many distilleries, and a chance to sample some of the best whiskies known to man. There’s more to the festival than just boozing, however: expect to encounter some traditional Gaelic music, some hearty Scottish cooking, and (of course) some good local chat.
Perched on top of a volcanic outcrop, this castle has unique historical importance to Scotland and is a marvel of medieval architecture. Once a majestic royal residence, inhabited by Mary Queen of Scots among others, the castle is now a popular attraction with costumed characters and guided tours. Make sure to take a wander through the Presence Chamber, where portraits of past monarchs adorn the high ceilings.
A beacon of storytelling in the hills of Perthshire, the charming town of Pitlochry offers a theatre experience like no other. Situated on the banks of the River Tummel, and with jaw-dropping views of Ben Vrackie, the Festival Theatre holds a varied program of acclaimed performances - everything from Shakespeare to Tom Stoppard. Whilst you’re in the area, too, make sure to check out the Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre, a museum showcasing the rich history of hydro electricity in the north of Scotland.