By Elise Guichard
When we think of Scotland, the first words that come to people’s mind are associated with nature and Scottish traditions such as the kilt. In fact, Scotland is known for its amazing nature, hospitable people as well as its wonderful culture and history. I had the opportunity in 2018 to spend two weeks on a language study trip in the land of the Scottish clans, when my friend and I were immersed in a family. We received a warm welcome and exchanged a lot with them throughout the weeks, we even spent a day out with the whole family and friends. Every Scottish person I met was easy-going, open-minded and caring. If you are lost or if you have a problem, do not hesitate to ask a Scottish person in the street, they would be happy to help you out! One of the pre-made ideas I had about Scotland was the weather, indeed like England, Scotland is said to be a rainy country. But in reality it is a bit different, you can have rain for 30 minutes and then the sun will shine for the rest of the day.The weather in this country is changing very rapidly. During my two-week stay in summer, I experienced only 3 days of rain. Furthermore, I was worried that I would face some difficulties communicating with Scottish people because of their strong accent. However, this did not turn out to be an issue. In my opinion, you get used to the Scottish accent easily. Moreover, thanks to english classes we had every morning during this language study trip, we also learned some Scottish words which facilitate communication as well. Concerning food, I had a tasty experience in the Scottish family. I could try typical dishes such as haggis, which I believe is worth trying while travelling in Scotland. Most of the time, dishes included mashed potatoes.
Scotland offers a diversity of landscapes such as breathtaking natural places; lochs (Scottish word for lakes), mountains; and wonderful cities like Edinburgh, the capital. One of the natural sites to visit are the Highlands, with their beautiful mountain range, the famous Loch Ness, the second-largest Scottish loch, and its monster, Nessie. If you are seeking an escape to nature, Scotland is the best place for your next holiday trip. There are plenty of other places like the Great Trossachs Forest National Nature Reserve, with Loch Katrine and Loch Lomond, the biggest Scottish lake. Moreover, Scotland is also appealing to travellers eager to discover cities and to learn more about Scottish history. For that, you can go to Glasgow, and have a walk in the city; to Edinburgh, to visit its castle and see the Scottish crown jewels; and look around Prince William’s University in Saint Andrew. On top of all the monuments you can visit, such as the Wallace and the Scott monument, you can easily find tours on different themes in the cities, such as witchery and Harry Potter tours. In addition, given that Scottish people are very friendly, tourists can easily get in contact with them by participating in traditional and cultural events, like the highland games and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. They can also do activities and workshops such as traditional cooking classes and traditional dance initiation. I had the opportunity to meet locals when participating in a golf initiation, as well as a traditional dance evening, and tours. When visiting the Murrayfield stadium, we could exchange with the person working there and therefore learn more about Scottish culture and the importance of rugby for them.
Scotland is an old nation that was ruled by different communities like the Romans who built Hadrian’s Wall, Scots people, and their clans, before they united with England in 1707 thanks to the Act of Union. Nowadays, Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, but has its own Prime Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and its own Parliament. Scotland has a strongly developed identity with important icons known in the whole world. The bagpipe, the kilt and the tartan are the most famous ones, which represent the Scots. The Scottish people have preserved traditions of their ancestors, for example the Highland Games which are taking place every spring and summer. It consists of a competition with different activities like the caber toss, bagpipe, weight throw, Scottish hammer throw and traditional dances. I highly recommend going to the Highland games if you are visiting Scotland during spring or summer, the atmosphere is pleasant and usually, this event is taking place in nice places, surrounded by nature. Sports also play an important part in Scottish culture – rugby, football, and golf are the most common ones. Other notorious symbols of Scotland are the Saint Andrew’s cross which is found on the national flag, the thistle and the unicorn, these form the symbol of Scottish pride.
During this two-week stay in Scotland, I could discover diverse landscapes, from lochs to Edinburgh’s city life and wonderful buildings. I could participate in different activities to get to know more about the Scottish culture like a golf initiation and a witchery tour in Edinburgh. I met amazing people with strong values and made unforgettable experiences in the country of the Scots. I am convinced that I will go back one day.
When planning a visit to Scotland, I would advise renting a car so you can fully enjoy all the different places and landscapes of Scotland, cities and remote natural sites such as the Highlands. There is also the opportunity to legally camp pretty much anywhere. Sometimes you will need to pay, and occasionally there are restrictions, but you are allowed to just set up on the side of the road. You can also easily use trains and buses to travel across the country.