The very word Scotland evokes an image of rugged Highlands, fine whiskey and an often near-indecipherable accent. A semi-independent nation within Great Britain, Scotland has all of these things and more, and could easily be described as a world all its own.
As an old country with a long rich history, part of its attraction lay in the remnants of times past. This begins with Scotland's stone age history. Much like England with her Stonehenge and other sites, Scotland has many remnants of pre-historic man. The most impressive is Callanish on the Isle of Lewis. This consists of a lane bordered by monoliths, leading to a 13 monolith circle. The Romans also came to Scotland, but never tamed it. Indeed, the border of Scotland has long been defined by Hadrian's Wall, a famous coast-to-coast fortification meant to keep raiding barbarians out of Romanized northern England. Much of the wall continues to stand to this day, including some areas which feature historical restorations or representations. Hadrian's Wall is also one of the central sites for Britain's Roman reenactment community, so you may be able to time your visit with a major living history event.
Of course, no tour of historic Scotland could miss her castles, churches or monasteries, the monuments to the Scottish Middle Ages. These times have been depicted in countless films about Mary, Queen of Scots and William Wallace. Scotland's history is blood-stained with civil strife and foreign invasion, so many of her oldest castles now stand only as ruins. However, there are many 16th and 17th century examples that stand intact, and some have even been converted into hotels.
Scottish food is more often than not the butt of jokes, which is unfortunate. Yes, there is the infamous haggis, or sheep's stomach stuffed with meat and barley. However, Scotland is also a great place for seafood. The cold seas that surround Scotland on three sides produce excellent lobsters, oysters and scallops. Another Scottish delight is the salmon, which is widely exported. It is also the land of steaks and chops. Scotland's climate and terrain is unsuitable for most crops, especially in the Highlands, but is perfect for animal husbandry. Scotland has had a reputation for great beef and mutton that goes back centuries.
They are also well known for their drink, with scotch being arguably the foremost form of whiskey in the world. Famous distilleries are scattered all around the country, and the whiskey trail of distillery tours is a popular itinerary in its own right. A note about ordering whiskey in a bar: ask for a whiskey, not a scotch. Scotch is what the English call whiskey from Scotland, which is simply "whisky" in its native land. Calling it that in Scotland identifies you as a foreigner who doesn't know much about it in the first place. Scotland's micro-brewery industry is also reviving and producing a number of excellent ales, due in large part to a popular "Campaign for Real Ale" in recent years.
The striking landscapes of Scotland also make it the ideal setting for your outdoor adventures. The country has four long-distance hiking trails, the longest of which extends for 212 miles. There is also mountain biking and climbing. The tallest mountain in all of Britain, Ben Nevis (4,409 feet), sits in northwestern Scotland at the junction of two of Scotland's most popular cross-country hiking and biking routes: the Westside Way and the Speyside Way. For water sports there is whitewater rafting and sea kayaking. The rivers, creeks and lakes of Scotland teem with fish and are a great destination for your fishing trip. The catch includes pike, trout, grayling and salmon, and that does not include the saltwater fishing. Winter snows make Scotland a good (and often overlooked) destination for skiing and snowshoeing. Scuba divers will find special challenges waiting for them in the numerous World War One and World War Two shipwrecks of the Scapa Flow, the Royal Navy's northernmost naval base.
Of course, many a devoted golfer travels to Scotland to sink a few holes in the land of the game's origin. With more than 550 golf courses scattered around the country, you will never be very far from one. Golf can be added to virtually any Scottish vacation itinerary, or can become the centre of such a plan as a group of devoted golfers tour the best and most scenic courses in the country.
With so much to offer, it would be hard to make a proper visit to Scotland as merely an adjunct to a visit to London or other points in the south. Many Scots think of themselves as an independent nation, and in the travel sense they certainly are. Scotland is a destination in its own right, and can easily furnish any visitor with a well-rounded and memorable vacation.