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Scotland’s Cultural Treasures
Scotland is a land steeped in history. Hundreds of castles, from the towers of Hermitage to the fortress of Caerlaverock, stand in proud testament of the county’s past. Historical sites such as Bannockburn pay homage to the many battles that have taken place on Scotland soil. Everywhere you turn, it seems there’s traces of the country’s incredible, and indelible, past.

With so much history, it’s no surprise that Scotland is also home to a deeply rooted culture. Aside from the obvious Scottish exports—whisky, tweed, and tartan—Scotland is rich in cultural exports as well: writers, musicians, and architects. The country’s museums, such as Glasgow's Kelvingrove and the V&A Dundee Museum, are world-class. Oh, and did we mention Scotland’s culinary scene? Here, tradition is literally cooked in, with haggis and tatties (potatoes) served just about everywhere, with a side of live folk music. Get ready to explore the best of Scotland’s past—and present—on this fascinating, eight-day tour of its historical and cultural must-sees. 

Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg of Valerie Wilson Travel, a member of the AFAR Travel Advisory Council, is ready to help you book a trip to Scotland’s historic sites and cultural highlights.
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    Day 1
    Where better to kick off your journey than in the Scottish capital? Draped across a series of rocky hills overlooking the sea, Edinburgh is arguably one of Europe’s most beautiful cities—and it begs to be explored.  

    Your base here will be the iconic Scotsman hotel. It’s a fitting place to start your trip exploring the stories of Scotland’s history: the 1905 building originally housed The Scotsman newspaper’s offices. Today its old-school rooms have been reborn as one of Edinburgh’s leading hotels.  

    Get up early and watch the sunrise from Calton Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the center of town. Then wander around Old Town, gazing at the turreted skyline, medieval tenements, and historical monuments. Later, enjoy a delectable lunch of Scottish haggis—or sushi—at one of the city’s notable eateries, and then it’s off to the iconic Edinburgh Castle, home to the One O’Clock Gun and the Crown Jewels of Scotland. If you’re traveling in summer, the city’s world-renowned art festivals are a must.
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    Day 2
    The South of Scotland
    On day two of your adventure, travel south from Edinburgh to the glorious south of Scotland. From the rolling hills and moorlands that inspired literary greats like Sir Walter Scott to the verdant towns of Dumfries and Galloway, here you’ll find spellbinding abbeys, the stately Caerlaverock Castle, and mountain biking, archery, and fishing galore.  

    Summer travelers are in for an additional treat—the Common Ridings, one of the world’s oldest equestrian festivals, take place in the Scottish Borders. No matter what time of year you visit, make sure the magnificent ruins of Melrose Abbey are on your list. 

    At the end of your day, you’ll retire to Glenapp Castle, one of Scotland’s most historic and romantic luxury properties. The castle was built in 1870 and after falling into disrepair, it was lovingly restored by its current owners and opened to overnight guests in 2000.
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    Day 3
    Scotland's biggest city is brimming with spellbinding architecture, museums, buzzing nightlife, and a lauded culinary scene. Museum lovers will want to visit the first-class Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum; and right on the Clyde, the Riverside Museum holds an excellent ensemble of historic vehicles. Your hotel here, too, is a historic wonder: the Grand Central Hotel was one of Britain’s great 19th-century railway hotels, though it has now been thoroughly renovated and updated with 21st-century amenities.  

    Later, it’s time to do the rounds at Glasgow’s legendary nightlife scene. Glaswegians are a lively bunch, and the city's pubs are very friendly—and populated. Glasgow's live music scene is also legendary and, aside from the big bands that regularly play at the city’s large venues, many of the smaller pubs host folk and fiddle music, too.
  • Day 4
    Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
    After the bustle of Glasgow, travel an hour north and to the tranquil Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. At the heart of the park lies the beautiful Loch Lomond. Kayak, canoe, and jet ski the day away, exploring the loch’s many islands and pristine inlets. Landlubbers will find plenty to do here as well. With 95 miles of shoreline, you can hike in the forest, explore the Lowland meadows, or—for a true down-to-earth experience—set up a tent for the night. If roughing it is not your style, at the other extreme you can stay at the Roman Camp Hotel—originally a country residence of the Dukes of Perth. It has been operating as a hotel since 1930.
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    Day 5
    On day five, travel about an hour east to the wee city with enormous history. With its strategic position atop a wooded crag, Stirling’s location has ensured that a fortress of some kind has existed here since prehistoric times. The Friars Wynd hotel is in a renovated Victorian building in the heart of town. 

    Set out to explore the beautifully preserved Old Town and its armada of historic buildings. The cobbled streets wind up to the ramparts of Stirling Castle and its newly restored Royal Palace. After browsing the town’s slew of boutiques and sipping espresso at a French café, stop at the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre, which pays homage to Robert the Bruce's triumph over the English in 1314.
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    Day 6
    Cairngorms National Park & Aberdeen
    A few hours north, the Cairngorms National Park is chock-full of mountains, rivers, lochs, and wildlife. Start your day off by hiking or biking around the area’s natural bounty—or maybe go windsurfing on Loch Morlich. No matter what adventures await you today, polish them off with a dram of single-malt whisky at one of the eight distilleries on the famous Malt Whisky Trail. 

    Later, it’s off to nearby Aberdeen, fittingly called “Scotland’s Castle Country.” If you have time to see only one castle, make it Balmoral Castle, the Scottish home of the royal family. The grounds, gardens, and historical exhibitions are divine.
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    Day 7
    Next, head south to the “Fair City” of Perth, situated on the banks of the River Tay. Perth was Scotland’s ancient capital for five centuries, and history buffs will swoon over Scone Palace, where Scottish kings such as Macbeth, Robert the Bruce, and Charles II were crowned. Art lovers will adore the galleries, and shoppers will revel in Perth’s weekend markets and independent boutiques. After a long day of relishing both the old and the new, indulge at one of Perth’s superb seafood restaurants, before making your way back to the Parklands, an intimate townhouse hotel.
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    Day 8
    Dundee & Fife
    On the last day of your trip, venture east and to the city of Dundee. This UNESCO City of Design is riddled with fascinating architecture, historic ships, theaters, and museums. Scotland’s first design museum, the V&A Dundee, is groundbreaking and definitely worth your time.  

    Next stop: the kingdom of Fife with its rolling farmland, fresh sea air, and fishing villages. Fife's biggest attraction, the cosmopolitan city of St. Andrews, is home to Scotland's most prestigious university and even more castles, palaces, and museums. With so much history and culture, Fife is the perfect last stop on your adventure. Grab a seat in a local pub and toast your incredible week-long journey with a well-deserved Scotch whisky.