Top events in Scotland

December
30

Scotland celebrates the New Year like nowhere else and Edinburgh's own Hogmanay is billed as the biggest and best in the world. Over three days...

December
31

New Year's Eve celebrations offer the best in Scottish themed entertainment and activities including Highland Dancing, pipe bands, free...

January
01

For a quarter of a century, brave swimmers have been bringing in the New Year with a bracing dip in the Forth. Participants join a grand parade...

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
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Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

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Scotland Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

78,772 sq km (30,414 sq miles).

Population

5.3 million (2012).

Population density

67.5 per sq km.

Capital

Edinburgh.

Government

Constitutional monarchy, with some powers devolved from the UK government to the Scottish government.

Head of state

HM Queen Elizabeth II since 1952.

Head of government

Prime Minister David Cameron since 2010 (UK government). First Minister Alex Salmond since 2007 (Scottish government).

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs are standard.

Easy to explore and crammed coast to coast with terrific scenery, gorgeous towns and countless historic and cutting-edge attractions, Scotland is an extraordinary destination. The country will knock your socks off with its rugged coastline, and jaw-dropping vistas of imposing peaks and romantic lochs, along with its fiercely proud heritage and world-class culture.

Visit Scotland and you could find yourself sipping heather-infused malt whisky and sampling melt-in-your-mouth smoked salmon, listening to live fiddle music and jigging the Eightsome Reel, tracking the Jacobite forces at Culloden Battlefield and following in the footsteps of royalty at Stirling Castle. Or you might swig a bottle of craft ale and gorge on a Glaswegian curry, check out an upcoming guitar band and stomp your feet at T in the Park, hunt for designer fashion in Harvey Nichols and trail Harry Potter on the real Hogwarts Express.

Although compact, Scotland is studded with an astonishing number of ancient monuments and buildings, tracing several millennia of history. The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage lets you travel back 5,000 years and wonder at prehistoric settlements and burial tombs. Alternatively, gaze in awe at the Calanais standing stones in Lewis, or delve into Scotland’s turbulent past and explore hundreds of castles, be they meticulously restored strongholds such as Eilean Donan Castle or ruined fortifications where you can let your imagination run wild.

Scotland’s largest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, are chock-full of exceptional galleries and museums and stylish boutiques, with eye-catching architecture at every turn. Hip hotels and innovative restaurants spring up regularly, and state-of-the-art sports venues are being developed for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, including a brand new arena and velodrome.

Beyond the cities, pretty towns and villages entice visitors with their blend of picturesque buildings, scenic walks and warm welcomes; here’s where you’ll encounter charming Border abbey towns, alluring Fife coastal villages and remote Gaelic-speaking Highland communities.

Scotland is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts too. Whether you’re into hard-core adrenaline action, hiking and biking, or prefer a more sedentary experience, Scotland has it covered. You can hurtle down rapids on a river bug in Perthshire or test your nerves climbing ice falls in Glencoe. You can trek through dramatic glens along the spectacular West Highland Way or tackle a challenging single-track forest trail in one of the 7stanes mountain bike parks. You can seek the elusive wildcat on a wildlife safari of Cairngorms National Park or float past idyllic islands on a Hebridean cruise. Then there’s the unforgettable sensation of landing your first salmon on the River Tweed or scoring a hole-in-one at St Andrews.

Scots love a good night out, from chic city cocktail bars heaving with well-dressed workers to packed village pubs playing cracking live music. Raucous ceilidh dancing and friendly banter with a few bevvies thrown in usually make for a memorable evening (depending on how many wee drams you’ve put away). Scotland’s myriad festivals are another cause for celebration; choose from porridge-making championships, traditional Highland games (complete with caber tossing, hammer throwing and piping competitions), or the world-renowned Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe.

Scotland is packed to the gunnels with history and heritage, but this modern, forward-looking country is very much alive and kicking.

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