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The fierce beauty of

Scotland

Craggy mountain peaks, expansive lochs, turbulent waterfalls, dizzying cliffs, breath-taking panoramas and white sand beaches: Scotland is a concatenation of stunning natural beauty.

Here are some highlights.

1. THE MAGICAL BEAUTY OF THE ORKNEY ISLANDS

This archipelago of seventy-plus islands in the north of Scotland was rightly chosen in 2015 as one of the most beautiful in the United Kingdom.

To do
Birdwatching: Orkney lies on one of the busiest routes for migrating birds. Sperm whales and dolphins are easily spotted here too. Orkney is also the place to see the magical northern lights. Visit Stromness, an artist’s colony with lanes full of galleries and original shops.

Not to miss...
Scapa Flow, a bay in the Orkney Islands, where Brian Redding had the first, exclusive Scapa sweaters made. He then sold them in Knokke at the boutique belonging to his wife, Arlette Van Oost.

10 things not to miss in Scotland

2. SPARKLING CITY LIFE IN EDINBURGH

Not just the capital but an international city: the old centre is on the Unesco World Heritage list and is a favourite weekend destination, thanks in part to the Edinburgh Festival.

To do
Lose yourself in the narrow alleys with their medieval houses in the historic quarter, and then head to Georgian New Town to experience the contrast with the modern architecture there. The main attraction is Edinburgh Castle, but Royal Mile, the botanical gardens, the extinct volcano Arthur’s Seat and the Palace of Holyrood House or parliament building are also must-sees.

Not to miss...
Elegant Princes Street. Stroll to the top of the Gothic Scott Monument and enjoy the view.

3. THE FIERCE BEAUTY OF CAIRNGORMS NATIONAL PARK

To do
Cairngorms National Park is twice as big as the Lake District: in other words, vast, as are the possibilities. Besides the simple pleasures of hiking through unspoilt nature, there’s rock climbing, mountain biking and orienteering. Other options include pony rides, husky races, windsurfing and taking a steam train on the Strathspey Railway. And given that the Cairngorm plateau is the highest, coldest and most snowcovered area, it’s especially popular with skiers.

Not to miss...
Loch an Eilein, an idyllic loch (or lake) that’s rightly considered the best place for a picnic. A couple of perfect snaps of thirteenthcentury Eilan Donan, one of the most photographed castles in the country, are the finishing touch.

4 . THE NOSTALGIA OF THE JACOBITE STEAM TRAIN

This old steam train rides the West Highland line between Mallaig and Fort William. No doubt you’ll see many Harry Potter fans on board, since the blood-red Hogwarts Express delivers students to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in both the films and the books.

To do
Whether or not you’re a fan of Harry Potter, this fivehour train ride is one of the most beautiful in the world. Aside from the nostalgic luxury of traveling by steam, there’s the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, where you’ll have plenty of time for photos, and unforgettable views of Loch Shiel, Loch Eilt and Ben Nevis.

Not to miss...
Charming Mallaig Bay (the final stop). This fishing village has a lively harbour, charming seafood restaurants and pubs where you can relax after your fantastic journey.

5. THE EXPLOSIVE PAST OF GLEN COE

This deep valley was carved out centuries ago by frozen glaciers and volcanic eruptions.

To do
Glen Coe is a fantastic area for hikers: high cliffs, imposing peaks, turbulent rivers and wild waterfalls. Maybe the steep climb up the Devil’s Staircase beckons? Or start your hike at the popular outlook Piper’s Lay-by and head towards Lost Valley. Rannoch Moor, dotted with small lakes, is a slice of unspoiled natural beauty. Finish your hike in the picturesque village of Glencoe, situated on the shore of Loch Leven. Don’t forget your rain gear: Glen Coe is incredibly green thanks to constant rain showers.

Not to miss...
A couple of iconic filming locations. A large part of Skyfall took place in the ancient manor Skyfall Lodge in Glen Coe. Also, sets for the third Harry Potter film, The Prisoner of Azkaban, were built in the Scottish Highlands near Glen Coe

Orkney is the place to see the magical nothern lights

6. THE GRANDEUR OF GLENMUICK ESTATE

This majestic castle is a dream come true: it’s surrounded by 14,000 spectacular acres of nature and wild animals. The castle belongs to the Walker-Okeover family, who have converted part of the castle, as well as several cottages, into guest lodgings.

To do
Book a few nights at this unique estate and enjoy the luxurious décor, including a huge fireplace, a beautiful staircase, a room full of hunting trophies, creaking wooden floors, and an impressively large bed and bathtub. The feeling of luxury is completed by the mix of wild nature and landscaping surrounding the house.

Not to miss...
Besides hours of hiking, this is the perfect location for lovers of the hunt. Other options include golf, fishing and clay pigeon shooting

7. THE ENERGY OF THE BAGPIPE

Although bagpipes were found all over Europe before 1900, this iconic instrument is primarily associated with Scotland today. Folk songs played on the bagpipes traditionally accompany the Highland Games, parades, and festivals, but the sound of the instrument can also be heard daily in many pubs.

To do
Many museums and castles tell the fascinating story of the bagpipe, but an absolute must is the National Piping Centre in Glasgow, where you can immerse yourself in three hundred years of bagpipe history. Of course you’ll also want to try and coax an elegant sound from a bagpipe yourself…

Not to miss...
A ceilidh, a traditional Scottish dance. Some simple dance steps, a couple of bagpipers, cheerful Scottish melodies and an exuberant crowd make for an unforgettable night. Ceilidhs are organized here and there throughout the year.

8. THE BEAUTIFUL BEACHES OF THE OUTER HEBRIDES

What a contrast with all the greenery, lakes, mountains and misty landscapes: These islands, with their white sand beaches and azure seas, are a favourite getaway.

To do
Everything you normally do at the beach, from reading a good book to exploring the area to enjoying fresh seafood.

Not to miss...
Thanks to the Hebridean Way, you can bike across all ten islands with spectacular views along the way, such as the flooded landscape of North Uist, the spectacular Luskentyre Sands beach or the megaliths of Calanais.

9. THE COMPLEX CHARACTER OF SCOTCH WHISKEY

Naturally, Scotland’s national drink demands a place on the list.

To do
Scotland has five main whiskey-producing regions: Campbeltown, the Highlands, Islay, the Lowlands and Speyside. Each whiskey has its own unique aroma and character depending on the region. What’s your favourite? Sweet and fruity or something stronger?

Not to miss...
A visit to a distillery, including the story behind the whiskey, an explanation of the ingredients and methods, a glimpse of the oak barrels and a tasting. Visit www.visitscotland.com for a list of distilleries where you can book a tour.

10. THE MYSTERY OF LOCH NESS

Loch Ness is one of the biggest bodies of water in the United Kingdom, with a depth of 250 meters, and is surrounded by dramatic vistas.

To do
Hiking and picnicking. Enjoy the views over Loch Ness from worldfamous Urquhart Castle.

Not to miss...
Nessie—although there’s a good chance you will miss the famous monster. The long, thin, green creature was first spotted in 1933, and since then stories have been told and repeated all over the world about the huge monster living deep under the dark surface of the lake. The story is kept alive by the number of eye-witnesses— now more than a thousand!— and especially the unexplained phenomena that make even scientists scratch their heads. A boat trip, a guided tour or a visit to Nessieland? So many options.

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