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Scotland

Discover Scotland

Scotland is a country in the north-west of Europe which covers the northern third of the island Great Britain and has 5.4 million habitants. Highest mountain of Scotland is the Ben Nevis with 1,344 meters. However, much more famous are the Highlands with its countless lakes which are called “Lochs” Scots. Fishermen and farmers populated Scottish territory already in pre-Christian times. Since 1997 Scotland possesses an own parliament with limited rights within the kingdom Great Britain. The country is famous for “soft” tourism and is not a typical holiday destination like other touristic countries in Europe.

Everyone who spends vacation in Scotland will be fascinated by the untouched nature. In the Highlands you can experience pure loneliness during long walking tours. Of course, a trip to Loch Ness is part of every Scotland trip. Tourists from all over the world are having a glance at the presumed sea monster every day. Scotland’s long lasting history becomes obvious at different places, for example at ruins of Melrose Abbey. The monastery Melrose was built in 1136 and and is partly accessible as a museum today. One of the most important building in Scotland is Edinburgh Castle. The castle is located on a volcanic cone above Edinburgh’s roofs and is famous for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which is taking place every year since 1950.

Vacation Rentals and Holiday Homes in Scotland

Cities in Scotland

Edinburgh
Although Scotland’s capital Edinburgh with its 483,000 habitants is less populated than Glasgow, it is the political center of the country. Amongst others, the Scottish Parliament has its domicile here. The most important attraction is the Edinburgh Castle in the center of the city. The castle area looks like a village with alleys where you find exhibitions. The Holyrood Palace is residence of the Queen when she visits the city during summer. Parts of the palace are open to the public and can be visited. Lots of beautiful pictures and paintings can be discovered at the National Gallery of Scotland. At the Royal Mile you can shop all kind of souvenirs while enjoying the historic atmosphere. For extensive shopping tours the Princes Street is the best place to go. Edinburgh is also famous for its festivals. The most popular ones are the Military Tattoo, the biggest music festival of the country with lots of military music, dancing and singing performances, and the culture festival Edinburgh Fringe.

Glasgow
With 595,000 habitants, Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland and the third-largest of Great Britain. The city went through big changes. In the beginning it was characterized by shipping and trading, during the World Wars it has been an important place for the heavy industry. In the course of time lots of construction work took place, so that the city scenery looks much more modern today. Visitors can get in touch with locals while walking through the botanical garden. Stroll through the streets of the city and let the atmosphere of the buildings, which are mainly built with red or yellow sandstone, effect on you. Numerous galleries promise a rich cultural program. The Gallery of Modern Arts shows pictures and sculptures, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery offers art work in the biggest museum of Glasgow and at the Glasgow Science Center you can experience the world of technology. At the Lighthouse you can not only learn something about architecture, but also enjoy a stunning view of the city from the Macintosh Tower.

Aberdeen
In the north-east of Scotland you find the city Aberdeen. With 225,000 habitants it is the third-largest city in Scotland. It has the two nicknames “Silver City” and “Flower City”. The name Silver City was generated due to the many silver-grey granite houses that sparkle in the sun. The name Flower City is due to the numerous flower gardens. Many historic findings proof that the region around Aberdeen had been populated already 6,000 years BC. The city itself was mentioned for the first time in the 6th century. From there on many different quarters were formed and put together end of the 19th century. During a walk through the city you can discover many important buildings. The St. Machar’s Cathedral was built in the 12th century and is eye-catching due to its two west-stating towers. The eldest residential house of the city is the Provost Skene’s House which houses the local museum today. Other museums in Aberdeen are the Maritime Museum, which takes you to the world of seafaring and fishing, and the Blairs Museum that informs its visitors about the Catholic history of Scotland and the life of Maria Stuart.

Dundee
The fourth-largest city in Scotland is Dundee with 148,000 habitants. In the past the city was famous for jute industry. Jute was imported from India and handled with Whale-Oil so that a tight fabric was generated. Many companies had to close after the Second World War as there was a decrease in demand. Furthermore, the city is famous for its orange marmalade that was created by Janet Keiller. Unfortunately there are not many historic buildings in Dundee anymore as they were destroyed and damaged several times. Still well-preserved and open to the public is an old town gate, the St. Mary’s Tower, a leftover of the church St. Mary, and the Dudhope Castle from the 16th century. Worth-seeing are also the cemetery The Howff with the grave of the founder of the stamp, the Golf Museum, the Verdant Works Museum that informs about the history of jute, and the museum-ship RRS Discovery. A great view of the city can be enjoyed at the Dundee Law, a 174-meter-high volcanic cone.

Inverness
Inverness is located directly at Loch Ness and is the biggest city in the north of Scotland. The city is famous for the Inverness Castle which houses a court now. According to Shakespeare, this is the place where Macbeth killed his cousin Duncan I. The truth is that the murder took place during a battle close to Elgin. It is not possible to visit the castle, however, the castle park invites to a walk. Loch Ness is accessible via the river Ness that has, beside Loch Ness, a water mouth to Murray Firth that leads to the North Sea. The river Murray with a length of 10 kilometers is one of the shortest rivers in Europe. You can do a boat trip to discover the surrounding area. During a stroll through the city of Inverness you can explore the historic buildings and churches. An eye-catcher is the town house with its colourful windows and emblems.

Perth
Perth, the former Scottish capital, is located in Central Scotland at the bank of the river Tay. In the 12th and 13th century the city traded with important countries, like France and the Netherlands, and was one of the richest trading cities in Great Britain. In medieval times Perth was known as “St. John’s Taun” as there is a local church honoring John the Baptist. The church St. John’s Kirk is open to the public today, but it is just a reconstruction and not the original church anymore. In the 20th century the church was rebuild, so that it looks like the one from medieval times. Another worth-seeing church is Scone Abbey that is located a bit outside of Perth. At this place the “Stone of Destiny”, where the kings and queens of Scotland were crowned, once has been. In the Fair Maid’s House, known from the novel „The Fair Maid of Perth“ written by Sir Walter Scott, you find the local museum today. An art gallery with works from J.D. Ferguson can be inspected at the old waterworks. Numerous parks, like the North Inch and South Inch are great places for extensive walks.

St. Andrews
At Scotland’s east coast, directly located at the North Sea, you find the small town St. Andrews. The university is the eldest one in the country and is known as university of the elite. One of the most famous alumni is Prince William. St. Andrew’s is also known as “Home of Golf”. The history of golfing already started in 1754 when the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews was found, which was one of the first golf clubs that existed so far. Very worth-seeing are the ruins of the cathedral St. Andrews from the 14th century that has been destroyed in the course of the Reformation. Since 1826 the remains have been restored. Today you can still imagine how big the cathedral must have been. At the same area you can visit the St. Rule’s Tower that is still well-preserved. From its top you have a great view of the town and the North Sea. Interesting museums are the St. Andrews Museum and the Preservation Trust Museum, which both provide lots of information about the history of the town.

Stirling
North-west of Edinburgh you find the town of Stirling. It is said that the surrounding area had already been populated in the Stone Age. The importance of the town grew during Roman times as the town had an ideal location on a hill with a good view of the river Forth. The harbour, once an important place for tea- and wood trading, was closed in the 20th century as ships could be loaded further downstream due to the construction of a rail bridge. This was much more profitable. Beside the Stirling Castle there are many other interested places that can be visited. Do not miss to take a look at the Cambuskenneth Abbey, a ruin with a clock tower, and the Wallace Monument, built in honor of William Wallace, the leader of the Scottish armed forces during the battle for the bridge of Stirling. The Stirling Old Bridge you can see it today, is not the original wooden bridge, but a rebuilt one that looks similar to the old one. A very pretty church is the Church of the Holy Rude at the end of St. John Street.

Castles in Scotland

Balmoral Castle
One of the most famous castles in Scotland is Balmoral Castle. It belongs to the Royal Family who loves to spend their summer vacation here. It was originally built in the 14th century and had changing owners in the course of the years. James Duff, the former owner of the castle, rent the castle to Prince Albert and Queen Victoria in the 19th century. As they liked it a lot, Albert bought the castle for its wife. In the following years it had been rebuilt and extended with further buildings, as it was too small for the whole royal family. The result was a beautiful granite building in Scottish Baronial style. Victoria passed Balmoral Castle to King Edward VII, who handed it to its descendants. As many people think that the building looks too posh, England and Scotland established the word “balmoralish” as an adjective for exaggerated. Pay a visit and decide what you think about the castle’s appearance.

Brodick Castle
On the island Arran the Brodick Castle is located at the bank of Brodick Bay. In the background, the Goatfell, an 874-meter-high mountain, arises. This place has once been a complex of the Vikings who used the good location for their defence. In the 13th century the construction of the castle started. It had been extended several times. The last construction works took place in the 1840s. Since 1957, the castle belongs to the state and is managed by the National Trust for Scotland. The castle can be visited from April until October. Very worth-seeing is the well-preserved furniture and the crockery. You can also find some paintings. Do not miss to take a walk through the castle park which is famous for its rhododendron collection.

Caerlaverock Castle
The Caerlaverock Castle was built 50 years after the construction of its predecessor, that was located only 200 meters away and that fell victim to the swampy ground. There are still some stones of the foundation wall of the original castle left. Since 1277 this unique building exists. There is no other there-cornered castle in Scotland. The gatehouse consists of a double tower and the castle is surrounded by a moat. The Caerlaverock Castle had been reconstructed and extended in the course of time. The main building, the so-called Nithsdale Lodgings, got a fireplace and even toilets. Today, the castle that was partly destroyed by an impact in 1640, can be visited. During a guided tour you learn everything about the history of the castle. Have a walk along the surrounding natural path and let the children play at the adventure playground.

Dunnottar Castle
Approximately 40 kilometers south of Aberdeen, located directly at Scotland’s east coast, you find Dunnottar Castle. It is situated on a lonely hill with a plateau. It is surrounded by rock faces from three sites and accessible from the mainland via a small approach. This location was perfect to monitor the coast and the ships passing the coast. During the civil wars against the English, the castle was used as storage for the Scottish crown jewels. The castle was built approximately beginning of the 13th century. In the course of time, parts of the castle were destroyed and rebuilt. But also the owners of the castle changed several times. In 1873 it was finally handed to Alexander Innes of Cowie and Raemoir who had the aim, together with his family, to renovate the remains of the castle and stabilize it. Dunnottar Castle is still property of the family today. Visitors can take a tour of the castle and discover the Tower House and the Gate House.

Dunvegan Castle
The Dunvegan Castle, residence of the famous MacLeod-Clans, is located on the island Syke in the deep west of the country. The castle is the eldest castle in Scotland that has been inhabited continuously. Since the 13th century the fortifications at the bank of the Loch Dunvegan are located at this place. The castle got its present-day appearance since middle of the 19th century when it was reconstructed in to a palace in Victorian style. It consists of six buildings that are all open to the public, except for one part, the living- and supply area of the clan. In the inner part of the castle visitors also have the chance to learn more about the history of the MacLeods. Join a guided tour of the castle and take a look at the paintings of the clan-members and other magical items, for example the Fairy-Cloth or the drinking-horn which has a capacity of one liter. Every clan-leader has to empty the horn in one go. Other interesting rooms are the kitchen and the dungeon. The castle garden offers a colourful flora with exotic plants, Japanese living-trees and plants from far away regions.

Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle is a castle in the north-west of Scotland. It is located on a small island and is only accessible via a small pedestrian bridge. It was originally built in the 13th century, but has been rebuilt several times in the course of the years. The construction you can find today was built in the 20th century. The inner part of the castle was used as film location for the movies “Highlander” and “James Bond – The World is not enough”. Eilean Donan Castle is definitely worth a visit as the view at the castle and from the castle of the surrounding water and the three converging gulfs is stunning. If you are not able to reach the castle on foot, you can do a virtual tour in the visitor center.

Glamis Castle
Glamis Castle was built in the 14th century and is located 20 kilometers north of Dundee. Queen Mum had spent her childhood at the castle and had born he daughter Princess Margaret here. Furthemore, the castle is known as the most spooky castle in Scotland. There are numerous myths about Glamis Castle. The most famous are the ones about the Monster of Glamis and the Earl Beardi. The Monster of Glamis was the child of a former landlord that suffered from bad abnormalism. It is said that the child was kept in the castle his whole life. The Earl Beardi suffered from gambling addiction. When the host did not want to play cubes with him, the Earl became very angry and said that he will play with the devil. A strange man occurred and the Earl had bet his soul to the devil. Today, Glamis Castl belongs to the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Visors have access to some parts of the castle and to the garden.

Stirling Castle
One of the biggest castles in Scotland is Stirling Castle that dominates the whole surrounding scenery with its location on a hill. As it is mostly encircled with steep cliffs and only one side is looking to the land, it is a perfect fort and had been venue of many battles. The buildings you see today are mostly built in the 15th and 16th century, only a few are from the 14th century. After the castle was property of the British Army from 1800 until 1964 who changed the function of many rooms, the plan was to rebuild the castle, so that it has its original appearance again. Today, Stirling Castle is a popular venue for events. Take a guided tour of the castle discover the Great Hall, the Royal Palace, the kitchen area that takes you back to the past, and much more.

Thirlestane Castle
The Thirlestane Castle is located south-east of Edinburgh at the town of Lauder. The Earls of Lauderdale, who are the current owners of the castle, are part of the family Maitland since the 16th century. Already in the 13th century there have been some buildings on the castle ground. In the following centuries they have been extended. The two front-towers with a staircase in the middle were built in the 1670s. Further annexes were constructed in the 19th century. Gerald Maitland-Carew, who owned the castle at that time, handed it to a foundation in 1984, that is taking care of the castle now. The castle had not been in best state anymore and Maitland-Carew was not able to pay for renovation works. The castle is open for visitors from April until September. Discover treasures like paintings, antique toys, crockery and furniture.

Urquhart Castle
A very nice view of Loch Ness can be enjoyed from Urquhart Castle at the bank of the lake. The surrounded area was habited already in the 6th century. The construction work of the castle started in 1230. Today, the castle complex is managed by Historic Scotland, a Scottish authority that takes care of important historic places and buildings. To reach the ruins you have to cross the meadow east of the castle. Pass the bridge, that has once been a drawbridge, and enter the castle through the gatehouse. Amongst others you can visit the lower castle courtyard, the tower and the remains of a chapel. At the museum that is located in the visitor center, you can learn more about the history of the castle and have a look at historic exhibits.

Other Scotland Landmarks

Complexes of Callanish
The complexes of Callanish are located in the north-west of Scotland on the Isle of Lewis. Archaeological excavations have discovered 12 stone formations in the turf. There once have been 20 of them. The settings made of standing stones were presumably arranged 3,000 years BC. Until today it is not clear what functions the stones had. One possibility is, that the main formation was arranged after the moon, as every 18.6 years it has a position that looks as if it would follow the course of the stones. In general, all stones have different appearances, from crosses and rings to nondescript formations. Visit the complex and follow the tracks of our ancestors.

Arbroath Abbey
In the year 1178, the monastery Arbroath Abbey was found and built in the following years. It is famous as location of the signing of the Scottish declaration of independence that took place in 1320. The form reminds of a cross and the building has a lengths of 84 meters. In the past, the monastery was very rich when customs-free trading was possible everywhere in the country, expect for London. Today you can still see some original remains of the abbey, for example the sacristy, parts of the choir and the southern part of the nave. Due to weather conditions, most of the architectural details are not visible anymore.

Ben Nevis
The highest mountain in Scotland and in Great Britain is the Ben Nevis with 1,344 meters. The peak of the mountain is covered with fog 80 percent of the year. The most popular route to crest the mountain has a length of 7 kilometers and is called Mountain Track or Pony Track. As the path is very steep and consists of many steps, you should be in good condition and have to wear good shoes. At the foot of the mountain you can visit the same-named whiskey distillery which was already found in 1825, but has some stops in production several times.

Cairngorms
In the north-east of Scotland you find the mountain group Cairngorms. Here you find half of the ten highest mountains in Great Britain and Scotland. With a size of 1,309 meters, the Ben Macdhui is the highest mountain of the chain. Especially during winter the Cairngorms are a very popular tourist destination as three of five skiing areas in Scotland are located here. Winter sport is very important for the region. At the same time, Cairngorms is the biggest national park in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Discover the beautiful landscape and the animals that live in the park during a relaxing walk.

Falkland Palace
The Falkland Palace was built in the 12th century and is located south-east of Perth. It was once used as hunting castle of the kings of Scotland and is property of the Stuarts since the 14th century. The palace is famous for the legend that Robert Stewart, 1. Duke of Albany had kept his nephew in a jail in the castle where he died of hunger. In the first part of the 16th century the castle was reconstructed to a palace. In the middle of the 17th century, the northern part was destroyed by fire. The surrounding area is very green and full of woods. In the past it was a hunting region, today it can be used for a walk. Beside the building itself, the old tennis court is very worth-seeing. The court build in 1539 is the eldest tennis court that is still used today.

Inverewe Garden
One of the most northern located botanical gardens in the world is Inverewe Garden, which can prosper owing to the gulf stream. This stream provides the region with a constant temperature between -14 and +29 degrees throughout the year. Osgood Mackenzie started the planting of the area in the 1860s. On a space that has the size of more than 40 football grounds, visitors can find plants from Australia, China, the Himalaya, Japan, North America, New Zealand and South America. During your visit you can walk through the garden and discover plants, like rhododendron, azalea and even eucalyptus trees. A walled area with fruits, vegetables and a small pond, makes the garden look even more idyllic. After your stay at Inverewe Garden you can take a walk in the nearby woods.

Isbister Cairn
In the north of Scotland, on the island South Ronaldsay, you find a complex made of stone blocks called Isbister Cairn, also known as “Tomb of the Eagles”. The complex was discovered in the middle of the 20th century, the excavations took place in 1976. The famer who discovered the stones also found tools, like axes and knifes, and a head. The chamber is separated in five areas, two parts at the end and three side-chambers. Two areas were completely preserved and numerous skulls and bones were found here. Furthermore, bird-crawls were found, for example from sea eagles, which played an important role during times of the Scottish folks.

Jacobite Steam Train
This steam train is driving through the west of Scotland on a 135-kilometer-long way from Fort William to Mallaig. The 2-hour-journey starts close to Ben Navis. On your way you pass the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, known from the movie “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”. It was built of cement end of the 19th century and has a length of 375 meters. The 30-meter-high building is hold by 21 piers. During your ride you have a great view of the surrounding area and the waters, like Loch Shiel or the Mallaig region with its fjords.

Cathedral of Elgin
The Cathedral of Elgin was built in the 13th century and is only a ruin today. Open to the public are the western towers, the crossing and the chapter house, a building for meetings of the spiritual members. Locals call the cathedral “Lantern of the North”. Due to attacks and fire, the church is not in good conditions anymore. Since the 19th century people take care of the remains. Come to Elgin and get an idea how this impressive cathedral once looked like.

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs Nationa Park
The Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is the eldest one of the two national parks in Scotland. On an area of 1,865 square kilometers you can find numerous lakes, mountains and a unique scenery. Walk through the park or do a bicycle tour. Observe the wild animals and just enjoy the landscape. There is much to discover. Highlight is the 39-kilometer-long Loch Lomond, the biggest lake in Scotland. At the Argyll Forest you can breathe in pure forest air and walk over hills. The Trossachs also consist of forest areas and lakes. The highest mountain of the national park, the Breadalbane, can be found in the northern part.

Loch Ness
In the north of Scotland you find the freshwater lake Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. With a length of 37 kilometers and a width of 1.5 kilometers it is the second largest lake in Scotland. Its form tells us that it arose from a glacier during the last Ice Age. The Loch Ness is home of many fishes, like salmons, trouts, pikes and morays. The banks of the lake are full of tress what makes it a very peaceful place within the nature. Since many years people believe in the monster of Loch Ness, called “Nessie”, a 20-meter-long sea-snake, that is supposed to have been seen several times, firstly in the year 565. Visit Loch Ness and keep your eyes open for Nessie.

St. Magnus Cathedral
In the north of Scotland, in Kirkwall on the island Mainland of the Orkneys, the St. Magnus Cathedral is located. The mortal remains of Magnus Erlendsson, the Holy St. Magnus are stored here. The cathedral, also known as “Light of the North”, was donated by Magnus’ nephew in 1137. Today it is used by the reformed national church. During the years, the cathedral had been renovated, so that it is in good state now and can be visited. The eldest parts of the church are the choir, the crossing and the eastern central nave. In the central nave the pillars are an eye-catcher, in the side parts there are graves. The cathedral also houses a memorial for John Rae, an arctic researcher. During a visit of the church you can also climb the tower.