Scotland is quickly becoming a top travel bucket list destination. This year we had the pleasure of exploring the United Kingdom’s smallest and most northerly country on a Viking Ocean British Isles Cruise. Although the nation of Scotland is small in land size, it has had an enormous cultural impact on the world. What do you think of when you hear Scotland? Scotch, bagpipes, castles, lochs, wool sweaters and more is what we discovered. Scotland is large in personality yet small in land size. We had five ports of call in the country and a general overview of the culture, history, scenery and people.
One of our stops was the remote area of the Shetland Islands. The Shetland Islands are located in between the North Atlantic and the North Sea. The Scandinavian heritage is prevalent throughout the island even though it is part of Scotland. Of course, the most famous inhabitants are the Shetland ponies. These There are around 1,000 ponies on the island of 23,000 inhabitants. The small ponies have existed on the island for over 2000 years and are believed to have been used for pulling carts carrying peat, coal and other items. I loved the rugged and dramatic beauty of the landscape. (see photo).
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and a large city with its fair share of history, castles and culture. We had one full day in this city and I feel one could easily spend several more in this area to take it all in. Royal Mile which connects the Palace of Holyrood House to the hilltop of Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Royal Yacht Britannia, Cathedral, Glenkinchie Distillery and much more to see in and around the Edinburgh area.
St. Andrews is a medieval town about an hour and a half drive from Edinburgh. It is home to St. Andrews Golf Course. In 1754 the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews was founded and established itself as the authority on the rules of the game. Stunning Old Course is easily accessible to the public and is situated on the sea. Although I am not a golfer, visiting this course and embracing the history of golf.
Any stop in Scotland would not be complete without visiting a distillery. Highland Park distillery in Kirkwall is the world’s most northerly distillery. Here we learned of the ingredients and traditional process that makes scotch whiskey so unique in flavor and character. The heather found in abundance throughout the island, makes for the heathery peat that is used for the flavoring/aroma of Scotch. After a tour of the operating distillery, we were able to taste the aged Scoth-14 years of perfection! Naturally, we purchased a few bottles to take back to enjoy in the States.
We so enjoyed our visit to Scotland and immersing ourselves into the history, culture and cuisine of this part of the United Kingdom.