Highlights from Scotland, 2014

I recently got back from a trip to Scotland. I thought it would be fun to share some of the highlights, so here is my top 5 list from my visit. Scroll to the bottom for pictures!

  1. Edinburgh—the entire city was fantastic. It was easy to find our way around because of the abundance of landmarks and prominent topography. Edinburgh has interesting architecture from many eras right up to contemporary (e.g. the Parliament and National Museum). Even better, there are a number of excellent vantage points to see this city: Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park, Calton Hill, and of course the Castle (which is a must-see in its own right). Bring a good pair of walking shoes, and be bold enough to try some haggis!
  2. Stirling Castle— Its strategic position (to this day, most of the north-bound highways in Scotland pass nearby) gave it a keystone role in Scottish history, and that history is well-presented there. A guided tour pointed out battlefields (visible from the castle walls) where William Wallace and Robert the Bruce won victories and exhibits on the Stuart dynasty made that part of history a little clearer to me. Additionally, they've done a brilliant job re-creating some splendid tapestries and wood carvings.
  3. Glen Nevis—among the incredible scenery of the Highlands this place still manages to stand out. The drive into the Glen is complete with dips and curves in the road and sheep crossing or grazing along side. We did the hike to Steall Falls, which opens into a wide hidden valley after a vigorous hike. Near the falls a cool wire bridge provides a bit of adrenaline.
  4. Hunterian Museum—this free museum on the campus of the University of Glasgow showcases the collection of William Hunter (who contributed greatly to our knowledge of anatomy) and items that have been added to it over the years. I was especially impressed with some of the original models that Lord Kelvin used to teach physics at the University of Glasgow over a century ago. Another cool item in the collection was a dire wolf fossil skeleton. A ten minute walk away is the Kelvingrove museum which is also free. We only had time to scratch the surface of what they had on display, but it is also definitely worth a visit.
  5. [Melrose Abbey](http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/places/propertyresults/propertyabout.htm?PropID=PL_210&PropName=Melrose Abbey)—This ruined abbey is still magnificent today. The pink stone it's made of is really pretty.

Plus, the experience of driving on the other side of the road (whilst listening to BBC Radio 1) was a challenge that I'm glad I faced.

Note that many of the historical attractions can be visited with an Explorer Pass, which offers good value.

Honourable mentions

There wasn't anywhere we visited that I didn't like. Here are some of the other places I went that are also pretty cool:

  • The National Museum—If you like museums (as I do), you could easily spend more than a day here.
  • Urquhart Castle—Well-situated on the banks of Loch Ness.
  • Abbotsford—The home of Sir Walter Scott (we only got to see the gardens).
  • Neolithic Orkney—Stone-age villages and megaliths.
  • Highland Park distillery—Interesting and informative tour.
  • Glasgow—In addition to the museums mentioned in 4, above, this city has lots of other museums (that we didn't have time to see), events, interesting architecture, good food, and good shopping.

Edinburgh: New Town as seen from Castle walls

Tapestries and history lessons at Stirling Castle

Steall Falls in Glen Nevis

An early electric motor given to Lord Kelvin by James Joule

Melrose Abbey