I’ll be the first to admit that when I first considered studying abroad, I imagined traveling to Ireland. I had just watched “P.S. I Love You,” and it was abundantly clear that I would find my own Gerard Butler (a Scot) if I could just cross the pond and spend a few months getting lost in rolling green hills. Unfortunately, my university did not offer any good exchange programs to Ireland, and my advisor and mentor steered me toward the study of Scots literature, which made attending the University of Stirling a good fit.
I traveled without a program and on my own. I left BWI to attend Stirling University in Stirling, Scotland, as an international student. This is not another article about study abroad, but rather a declaration of my love for the country that welcomed me with open arms and let me nestle in its valleys and rocky highlands, making me feel as though I belonged there. From my first cab ride upon arrival, when I couldn’t understand a single word my cabbie said, to becoming accustomed to being called “hen” and “love” and sometimes “lass.” Six months later, after traveling throughout Europe, I knew for certain that Scotland cannot be surpassed in terms of its beauty, history, and spirit. Ye ken?
1. Even vegetarian haggis is delicious.
Now, I must admit that I have never tried the real thing, but all my family and friends who have visited me would tell you it is delicious. The vegetarian version served at the World’s End pub on the Royal Mile, made with lentils and other ingredients to simulate the texture, was delicious. You can even buy both varieties in a single can.
2. Highland cattle (or coos, if you will).
The cutest damn fuzzy animals ever created.
If it helps, I’m speaking in a brogue in my head right now. I just love it. A genuine Scottish accent is simply magnificent. There is no greater accent in the world than this one, with its rolling consonants and slurring words.
If you are familiar with historical events such as the Highland Clearances and the decades-long ban on tartans, you will appreciate the freedom with which they are now worn and adopted. There are so many stunning color combinations and hues. From hunting tartans to the Black Watch, it is difficult to find something as elegant. Even Englishmen and Irishmen wear it on special occasions!
What began as a Scottish clan instrument is now a globally revered and beautiful sound. The heartbreaking echo of bagpipes makes me miss the Scottish glens more than anything else.
Leave the train and enter a different time. If you are fortunate enough to visit, the free walking tour will teach you more about the Royal Mile than you ever imagined. Greyfriars’ Kirkyard contains gravestones with names like McGonagall, and J.K. Rowling penned Harry Potter on napkins in the Elephant Room café in Edinburgh. On Candlemaker Row, it is said that the mortar of the brick buildings contains the ashes of burned witches. Learn about the infamous, murderous, and body-selling ways of Burke and Hare. After you’ve learned everything you can, visit a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde pub, as Robert Louis Stevenson is from Edinburgh.
Visit the famous Stirling Bridge, which, if you’ve seen Braveheart, you’ll know was the site of a major battle. This breathtaking valley is divided by the River Forth, and the triumphant Wallace Monument towers above it. Yes, that is Wallace for William Wallace, who you may know better as Mel Gibson’s Braveheart character. Stirling Castle’s royal hall is still painted with bright colors, as it was when the castle was inhabited, and replicas of the famous Unicorn tapestries are currently being created. You can observe powerful looms being used to create these replicas and learn about Scottish castle life.
8. Inverness & Loch Ness.
The town is located at the entrance to the Highlands, and its allure is unparalleled. It’s the ideal place to stay at a B&B and explore the Loch, with its riverside restaurants and museum. While there are many ways to reach Loch Ness, Jacobite Cruises will pick you up in town, drive you to the boat (while providing historical context), cruise you around the actual Loch (keep an eye out for the beast! ), and take you to the ruins of Urquhart Castle. When you see the sun reflecting off of that eerie water, you will feel as if you have stepped back in time.
9. Saint Andrews
In addition to its breathtaking golf course, Saint Andrews is home to the most beautiful cathedral ruins and graveyards, all of which are situated along a rocky coastline. Saint Andrews, which is accessible by train, is rich in history, and its museum is fantastic. Saint Andrews seems to be blessed with constant sunshine. You may also encounter university students wearing traditional red robes.
10. Isle of Skye
One of the most beautiful locations on earth. You must personally witness it to believe it.
11. In actuality, the entirety of the Highlands.
The further one travels north, the more bilingual signs one encounters. Best of luck pronouncing these alternate names.
In Dundee, which was once one of the leading shipbuilding ports in the United Kingdom, there are some impressive ships on display, as well as a fantastic museum. The HM Frigate Unicorn is still afloat in Dundee; it is one of the world’s six oldest surviving warships and one of the most intact wooden warships. You can enter the Unicorn and imagine yourself as a member of the crew during stranger, more perilous times
13. Scottish citizens
They have the best sense of humor, grit, and spirit that you could possibly find anywhere else. They are courteous, generous, and unafraid to express themselves. If you ask me, their ancestors would be proud of them. One of the best examples of this is the tale of the “Stone of Destiny” or Stone of Scone, in which the English stole the Scottish coronation stone and a group of Scottish university students stole it back in the 1970s… from Westminster Abbey! If you’re interested in learning more, you can watch a film about it.
14. Men in Kilts.
I don’t care if you’re male or female. A man dressed in full Scottish attire and a kilt is a sight to behold. I’ve seen my fair share of Scotsmen riding bicycles while wearing kilts, which is an entirely different sight.
15. Robert Burns.
If you have not read Robbie Burns, I am at a loss for words and explanations. I would begin with “To A Mouse”: “Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,/ What a panic is in thy breastie!” Burns is the greatest poet in Scotland, and there are numerous statues and monuments erected in his honor throughout the nation.
16. Sir Walter Scott.
Without this great author, “Rob Roy” (and Liam Neeson dashing about in a kilt) would not exist. or “Ivanhoe.” “Waverly” is a must-read for anyone who enjoys a good adventure, especially one involving kilts or Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Uprisings. It is history with a dash of daring action and beautiful (if perhaps exaggerated) Highland imagery. Don’t say I didn’t warn you that it is somewhat biased in favor of Scotland over England due to the influence of the Scots.
Not familiar with Walkers shortbread? I recognize the cliche, but it’s delicious.
18. The tomb of Robert the Bruce.
The actual tomb of Robert the Bruce can be visited in Dunfermline, Scotland. The Abbey is beautiful, with peacocks parading around the grounds, but his grave is hauntingly beautiful and a historically significant artifact.
19. Scotch Whisky
Although I am not a drinker, I would be lying if I said that whisky distilleries were not numerous and intriguing. At every highland games I’ve attended, there are tastings, and when I took my mother on a walking tour on a rainy day in Edinburgh, she drank two or three shots of it in her coffee. It’s difficult not to like (literally).
20. Scottish history.
It is so exciting to learn about the clans, the Picts, and the Jacobites. The best part is that when you visit the hollowed-out battlefields where battles such as Bannockburn and Stirling bridge occurred, you can still feel the presence of those spirits. Scotland has not yet been completely destroyed by change, and its beauty has been preserved.
Topic: 20 Reasons Scotland Is The Greatest Country In The World
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