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From tartan to haggis to kilts, symbols of Scotland's rich culture are known the world over, but it is often the lesser-known aspects of this rugged northern country that truly excite visitors. If you only have a few days, head to the historic cities for museums, shopping and dining. Otherwise, venture into the wild countryside to discover heritage trails and go some island hopping.
Discover Scotland’s majestic castles in Aberdeenshire, also known as “Scotland’s Castle Country.” Fans of the movie Hamlet will recognize Dunnottar Castle from the big screen, while green-fingered visitors will enjoy the walled gardens of Castle Fraser. Leith Hall, not a castle but a nevertheless impressive country estate, features a 1900s-style rock garden as well as an exhibition detailing its time as a hospital during World War I.
Don’t miss the historic streets of the capital, Edinburgh. Listen to bagpipes on the famous Royal Mile or climb to the top of the peak of Arthur’s Seat for the best views of the city. Glasgow, meanwhile, offers an abundance of cultural attractions, including the compelling Gallery of Modern Art and futuristic Riverside Museum.
Film and TV fans can tour Scotland’s famous filming sites. Marvel at Rosslyn Chapel, where the final scenes of the Da Vinci Code were filmed or take a train ride along Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is featured in several of the Harry Potter movies.
Whisky drinkers can compare and contrast Scotches from different regions. Take part in tastings in the Glenlivet Distillery in Speyside, the Laphroaig Distillery in Islay and the Dalmore Distillery in the Highlands.
Scotland’s major airports are Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Travel between cities via train or coach, or rent a car to explore some of the country’s more remote highland regions. Ride the ferry from the mainland to Orkney and the Shetland Islands, as well as the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
With its collection of craggy coastlines, rugged outer islands and historic cities, Scotland is a gem that is waiting to be discovered.