- The landscape of Scotland will surprise you.
- Haggis is Scotland’s national food dish, and it goes back centuries.
- Fields of Heather are the islands art.
- The Scottish are the best storytellers on the planet.
Scotland was on my bucket list ever since I saw the movie Braveheart. I finally had a chance to go last year, and although it was familiar through media, it surpassed what I had in my mind to expect. The beautiful majestic mountains, diverse climates, with almost 800 islands and more castles than I’ve ever seen!
A Surprising Stroll
One of the biggest surprises of Scotland was the topography of the capital city, Edinburgh. I thought it would be flat, but it’s not at all. It was built on a dormant volcano, so the cobblestone streets take sharp twists and turns up the mountain, and every few minutes you’ll take a corner and have the most magnificent view.
The first night of my trip there, I decided to leave dinner early because I was so exhausted. As I was walking back to hotel by myself, I was focused on making sure I took the right turn, mapping out the path in my head. Suddenly, I came upon all these people that were standing and looking to the left. I wandered up to see what they were looking at. I gaped with them at the full moon, and it was just hanging there in front of us. It felt like you could reach out and touch it, with fireworks going off in the distance. Scotland is definitely meant for walking, you have to be ready to venture out and take a lot of steps.
The Haggis Club
Haggis is Scotland’s national food dish, and it goes back centuries. It’s basically made of sheep innards with spices, all wrapped up in sheep’s stomach. I found it everywhere there, on almost every menu, served and prepared in many different ways – as simple as a stand alone side dish to something that could have been prepared by an iron chef.
On my first night in Scotland, it was offered to our group at dinner, but I just couldn’t stomach the idea. But the very next evening we went to another region for our meal, and I was doomed from the start. As we gathered in the lobby, a Scotsman in full garb played his bagpipes, setting the stage for a ceremonial evening. To me, the bagpipes have this haunting sound that really grabs your attention to the event or whatever is being celebrated.
When he was finished with the pipes, he led us into this private dining area. He loudly pronounced the verse of a Robert Burns (the famous Scottish poet) ode in full animation, while he was cutting the Haggis with a huge knife. I had no choice; he was practically making our meal into a ritual experience. Everyone tried it, so I prudently put the fork into my mouth, and I found it delicious! It got better as I tried different variations around the country. Now, I can say I’m a proud member of Haggis Club.
Real Island Art
Once on Isle of Skye I saw miles of heather, one of the Scotland’s abundant flowers. The weather on Skye can be quite wet and heather loves moist soil. The flower comes in different shades of purple. Driving along the coast line with fields of heather looked like an artist canvas in motion. The winds were strong and the heather would all lean towards us. The sun dropping in the horizon painted a beautiful image that was worthy of framing.
The Best Storytellers In The World
The people of Scotland really warmed my heart. They’re edgy, and kind of aggressive, yet not confrontational. They’re extremely enthusiastic people, and they make their presence known in a very inviting and gracious way.
Most notably, they are the best storytellers! Whether it was a tour guide, or a local that we met in a restaurant, I noticed how they take every opportunity to convey one story or another. I was held captive with their infectious accent and pride. They grab a hold of you and you’re drawn in while they take you on a journey with them.
Every part of their body and face comes alive. A hand will gesture, an eyebrow will raise, all with that brogue inflection. It almost doesn’t matter what they’re telling the story about, it’s just great to just sit there and listen and watch. No Scottish story is ordinary! You walk away wanting to pass on whatever story you were just told.
For many of the places I travel to, the destination is about the sites: the monuments, the sea, the shopping and the food. And Scotland has all that. But Scotland, by far, is about the people. The Scots captured my attention and imagination even more than the fairy tale landscapes that surrounded them.
Written by Howard Lewis – Travel Expert with CI Azumano Travel.