Sitting above the endless green and rolling hills of England, is a country joined at the hip, but worlds apart. Better aligned with the epic landscapes of the Nordic countries, Scotland’s rugged scenery is remote, majestic, ever striking and dramatic. From the giant mount jutting forth into the Edinburgh skyline, to the untouched Victorian architecture of Glasgow – or the historic castles and ancient abbeys of The Lowlands to the wild expanse of the pine studded Highlands – Scotland is a country of diverse landscapes, world-renowned food, bustling culture and hospitality that knows no bounds.
Scotland’s famous northwestern coast is synonymous with peated whiskies, rugged mountainscapes, fairy pools, harbour towns and fishing villages and the Isle of Skye is an unmissable part of the region. But has it suffered because of its own legend? Was the influx of visitors teetering into overtourism? With travel making up an integral part of the economy, the balancing act between welcoming visitors with open arms and protecting this unique landscape has never been more important, but also, never this difficult.
We ventured up to its magnificent shores in search of answers, and on the way discovered wild and beautiful landscapes, a warm welcome from the locals and a spread the envy of any foodie worth their salt. We enjoyed the culture, the warmth of the locals’ hospitality, but most of all their candid answers about what tourism meant for them, the advantages, the drawbacks – and what future they saw for their home.
It’s impossible to see The Highlands without feeling them in your bones. It’s a soul-stirring wild expanse of seemingly endless beauty, stretching into the horizon. Knitted together with soaring Munros and low valleys dotted with lochs – here, amongst fields of heather and fast-moving glen streams, you’ll find Ben Nevis standing proudly. Scale rockfaces, whip along winding roads in stunning vistas or hike the epic trails. And if you’ve something milder in mind, the region’s a perfect spot for more laid-back activities, swapping icy grips on crags, for loose holds on tote bags filled with farm shop goodies, and fresh mountain air for the misty fug of craft gin and whisky distilleries. This wildlife-rich kingdom sports life in every nook and cranny, and every stunning expanse – deer majestically roaming, birds of prey soaring, and the regal chitter chatter of red squirrels in their last bastion. Step into history, and explore the landscape, the architecture – and the pristine beauty of The Highlands.
Once a point of conflict between the northernmost parts of England and the southernmost parts of Scotland, The Borders are now an 1,800 square mile stretch of peaceful hills and verdant countryside broken up with the flow of the Tweed River. It’d be easy to miss, with many of us driving through to get to Edinburgh, Glasgow or deep into The Highlands, but you’d skip a world of historic sites, enchanting abbey ruins, stoic castles and country houses straight from interior design magazines. The borders also offer a selection of delicate walks and cycle paths, for the less incline inclined. Look no further for a guide to the market towns, picturesque villages, excellent eateries, arts, crafts, and culture abound.
To call Edinburgh the jewel of Scotland would be doing this fine country a disservice. There is so much across this wild expanse so stunning it’s incomparable. And further, to limit it just to this country, and not as one of the finest in the whole of the UK – would be criminal. Just a stroll across this epic city, overlooked by Arthur’s Seat, interspersed by neoclassical architecture, gothic streets, red brick and cobblestone – will have you enamoured for life. Read on for a joyride around Scotland’s capital from Christopher Wilson-Elmes, our Edinburgh resident and local expert. Discover pub-laden walks through the old docks of Leith, hidden gems in the city centre, leafy wanders, and trips to fine art galleries – and seeing Scotland’s capital – as it should be discovered.
Often found purposefully lost in the wilderness, Jem is our junior copywriter. Hailing from a tiny village just south of Bristol, he uses his experience editing books, writing articles and running bars and restaurants to write whatever he can get his hands on. He’s happiest complaining about, but secretly loving, being sent anywhere and everywhere in search of something new. If it comes with rolling hills, creatures great and small to befriend – you might just find him there.