Because it’s part of the United Kingdom, and not the European Union, COVID-19 travel restrictions to Scotland have been different than they were for most of continental Europe. This sometimes led to confusion for travelers, but the bottom line is now this: Scotland is currently open to American tourists.
While only roughly the size of South Carolina, and with a small population of 5.4 million people, Scotland packs a punch in terms of natural beauty, quirky experiences, and luxurious surroundings. Here are just a few of the reasons you should include newly-opened Scotland on your next European itinerary, or even build your entire trip around it:
Magnificent Scottish Scenery
You’ve heard of the Highlands and the Lowlands, but Scotland’s geography also includes extensive coastlines, over 900 islands, rivers and fresh bodies of water called “lochs.” And no matter where you are or what geographical phenomenon you’re looking at, you’ll be completely charmed by Scotland’s unique, majestic scenery.
Rolling green hills, craggy cliffs that lead down to sweeping shorelines, and snow-capped Highland mountains transport you to a different realm every day of your trip. Many popular tourist activities in Scotland are designed to maximize the enjoyment of its natural beauty, including scenic train rides, hilltop hikes, and loch or river cruises.
Charming villages that dot this landscape provide another kind of scenic enjoyment. Some visitors opt to rent a car while in Scotland, whose small size makes it easy to hop from town to delightful town.
Unique Luxury Experiences
Luxury travelers have a wealth of unique experiences to choose from in Scotland. Start with a winding journey on the Royal Scotsman, a sumptuous mode of transport that harkens back to the golden era of rail travel. Part of the Belmond fleet, which also includes the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express, the Scotsman offers a range of itineraries and a luxury experience for all on board.
After a long voyage, relax and refresh at the elegant Culzean Castle. A favorite of former U.S. President Eisenhower, Culzean provides an exceptional and exclusive Scottish experience fit for a Laird or Lady. Located at the top of the Ayrshire Cliffs, you’ll enjoy sprawling country and seaside views from your room. Fine dining, private castle tours (including items not usually on public display), and traditional afternoon tea are all included with your Culzean Castle experience.
If you’d like to imbibe while in Scotland, be sure to add a luxury Scotch Whisky tour to your itinerary. There are over 130 malt and grain distilleries to choose from, located in all corners of the country. Make it easy on yourself by booking a private chauffeur service to transfer you between a handful of them, enjoy some of the world’s finest spirits, and return safely to your lodging. Slàinte Mhath!
From Braveheart to Harry Potter to Outlander, Scotland has played host to a range of popular movies, books, and TV shows, either in their storylines, or as filming locations (or both!). Die hard fans can seek out the specific locations these tales made popular.
Step into William Wallace’s shoes with a tour of Stirling Castle and the nearby National Wallace Monument. Then visit Glen Coe (located conveniently next to the village of Glencoe). Arguably Scotland’s most-filmed site, it’s been featured in multiple blockbuster films, including Braveheart. Nearby Loch Leven also appeared on screen.
If you’re traveling with kids – or even if you’re not – you could opt for a Harry Potter tour, where you’ll see some of the films’ iconic sites, including the Glenfinnan Viaduct made famous by the Hogwarts Express.
Readers and watchers of Outlander have a wealth of book and filming sites to visit in Scotland. And, yes, that is the famous Glen Coe again, featured in the show’s opening credits.
Stepping away from books, movies, and TV, don’t forget about the natural legend of the Loch Ness monster. If you were captivated by this story as a kid, take a cruise on Loch Ness to see if you have a Nessie sighting of your own.
An Elevated Food Scene
When you think of Scottish food, you might first think of Haggis. Considered the national dish of Scotland, this mix of various sheep’s parts combined with spices and encased in an animal stomach, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Thankfully, Scotland has much more to offer in it’s culinary scene, including multiple Michelin-starred restaurants. Your easiest bets for a range of dining options are the larger cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Number One, located in the magnificent Balmoral Hotel, offers cozy banquette seating and a 7-course seasonal menu.
If you’re exploring Scotland’s stunning Isles, tuck into an intimate dinner at Loch Bay on the Isle of Skye, or a Michelin-starred meal in the dining room of the Isle of Eriska hotel.
Epic Historical Sites
Castles, battlefields, ruins, and standing stones – history buffs will have plenty to explore in Scotland. Start with the Scottish History and Archaeology Galleries of the National Museum of Scotland, to get an overview of Scotland’s long historical record.
Edinburgh castle, which looms over Edinburgh in an area that has been inhabited by humans since at least the Iron Age, is a must-see. Other popular sites include Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, and the setting of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Glamis Castle.
Other great historical sites include the prehistoric village of Skara Brae, the Culloden Battlefield, and the Calanais Standing Stones.
Scottish Americans in search of their family histories will find multiple resources to help in the hunt.
Experience Scotland with Lugos Travel
Enjoy multiple days in Scotland, including a 3-day ride on the Royal Scotsman, as part of Lugos Travel’s “Classic Journey” through the United Kingdom. We’ll manage all of the planning and details (including monitoring any COVID-19 requirements or last-minute trip adjustments), while you sit back and enjoy Scenic Scotland. Contact us to start booking your luxury travel experience today.