As large a place as Scotland is bound to be diverse; it is both urban and rural, remote from England and right next to it, Highland and Lowland, but, above all, a place with a strong sense of its own identity. Its cities are vibrant, its countryside varied and beautiful and its summer nights long and light... just a pity about the midges.
A centre of the oil industry and blessed with outstanding mountain scenery, the country also has a blossoming renewable energy industry, seeking to make the most of the ample wind, wave and hydro-electric resources it possesses.
- Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile - enjoy the historic heart of the capital with its wonderful views, rich history and very expensive parliament building at Holyrood
- Loch Ness - visit Europe's third deepest lake and keep a camera handy in case something resembling a plesiosaur shows up
- The Munros - 284 mountains over 3,000 ft offer a lifetime of challenge; at 4,406 ft Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Britain and can offer a fine and cloudless view of the surrounding areas.
- Royal Deeside - enjoy the grandeur of Balmoral and check out the other popular haunts of the royals around this mountainous stretch of the Cairngorms National Park
- John O' Groats - visit the furthest point in Britain from Land's End, though walking between the two is optional
- Culloden battlefield - walk the site where in 1746 the last battle on mainland Britain took place, ending the Jacobite rebellion
- Gretna Green - A fine place to run away to and get married, though we do wonder where people from Gretna Green go to elope?
- Stirling Castle - One of the UK's largest and most important castles, both historically and architecturally
- St Andrews - play a round at the home of golf in the town that also hosts Scotland's oldest university
- Tobermory - a village with a colourful harbourside street on the Isle of Mull that children will instantly recognise as the fictional Balamory
How to get around
- By Rail - the major cities are all linked to the National Rail Network, with Glasgow having two main stations: Central, serving the south, and Queen Street, which only serves Scottish destinations, mainly to the north. Suburban rail services are limited except in and around Glasgow
- Subway - Glasgow also has a small underground rail system, serving the city centre, southside and the West End in a circular loop with 15 stations. Nicknamed the Clockwork Orange, it has never been extended since first opening in 1896, but plans are on the drawing board
- Bus - all major cities have extensive bus services, while Citylink performs a similar role to National Express, providing good links between many urban and rural locations, particularly when the latter is on the beaten tourist path. Small, localised services serve many remote areas
- Airports - Glasgow and Aberdeen are the main international airports although Edinburgh and Prestwick offer more Trans-Atlantic flights. A newly launched airport in Oban supplies flights to the island communities of Coll, Colonsay and Tiree. Inverness airport also provides good links to adjoining islands.
- Ferries - Regular services help transport people to and from Scotland's main inhabited islands, and some of the smaller ones, as well as to and from Ireland.
- Motorways - The M74 is a de facto continuation of the M6 on the other side of Carlisle, bringing traffic from England to Glasgow, which in turn is linked by the M8. The A1 is the main motorway on the east coast which links England to Scotland.
Living in Scotland
- Universities - Scotland has had university education since St Andrews started up in 1411. Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen also date from medieval times, and until the 19th century Scotland had more universities than England. St Andrews, which includes Prince William among its alumni, is ranked 5th in the Good University Guide and Edinburgh 18th. Other Scottish universities include Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian in Glasgow, Stirling, Dundee, Robert Gordon in Aberdeen, Napier, Queen Margaret Edinburgh in the capital and Abertay in Dundee.
- Major hospitals - include the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Glasgow Royal Infirmary. The NHS is run separately from England via a system of health boards. Remote areas are served by air ambulance to overcome large distances between settlements
- History - Scotland has a long and turbulent history (even though "Macbeth" isn't factually correct), through from the time of "Braveheart" William Wallace (who probably looked nothing like Mel Gibson) and Robert the Bruce to the Jacobite rebellion that followed the 1707 Act of Union and ended at Culloden. It was historically divided between the tartan-wearing, Gaelic-speaking Highlanders and non-tartan-wearing, English-speaking lowlanders.
Traditions - Scotland has an amazing history of invention and innovation from the telephone to golf. They make whisky and haggis (because they can, and many will agree no other reason is needed), as well as hunting and fishing with smoked salmon being a fine delicacy. Kilts, tartan and bagpipes are a deep expression of culture, having been banned for a time after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobites. Hospitality and a community spirit are also deep-rooted in the cultural psyche as well as a penchant for thrift.
Some places have their distinct elements; sectarianism is most associated with Glasgow and chiefly expressed in the Rangers v Celtic football rivalry. Nationalism is stronger in rural areas, and on Deeside everyone is a royalist. The Scots Gaelic language (slightly different to the Irish version) is mainly confined to the Western Isles, although it is prevalent in topographical names all around the Highlands and Islands
Property in Scotland
Accommodation is as varied as the landscape itself, in the major cities large flats, like those in the heart of Edinburgh, or converted tenements, as in Glasgow's West End are available. Family homes can be found in most suburbs and, of course, characteristic stone cottages can be had in the countryside.
- New Year - Hogmanay is the biggest party in Britain. For a real treat, head up to Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire, where the final hours of New Year's Eve are marked by a procession of kilted men swirling around great balls of fire on chains
- Burn's Night - a chance not just to enjoy a haggis for tea but recite poetry to it as Scotland's finest bard is honoured on January 25th
- The Military Tattoo - gun running with a difference as military muscle demonstrates how to simultaneously march and disassemble a cannon at the showground in Edinburgh every August.
- The Highland Games - Highland flings and Caber Tossing in all its glory are performed across the country in the summer, but only in Braemar at the end of summer does it happen in the presence of the Queen
- The Edinburgh Festival - actually a series of festivals in late summer, for books, film, fringe theatre, comedy and much else. Non-residents should book early to get in, enjoy the fun and see the stars
- The Loch Lomond Open - Perhaps one of the most scenically blessed golf tournaments in the world by the banks of Great Britain's largest lake
- An old firm game - Football in the raw – Rangers play Celtic at Ibrox or Parkhead and after half an hour of kicking each other the players start to pay attention to the ball
- The Six Nations - see Scotland in rugby union action every autumn
- St Andrew's Day - Scotland's patron saint is celebrated on November 30th with a bank holiday (something the English have yet to get for Gorgeous George on April 23rd)
- The Ski Season - the highest mountains have enough snow to sustain winter sports. Check out Cairn Gorm or the Nevis Range, with the latter served by a cable car for skiers, mountain bikers, or people trying to get halfway up a Munro without any effort
Being such a large area, Scotland has a huge number of agents. According to the National Association of Estate Agents there are well over 100 in Glasgow and 43 in Edinburgh.