Five great small towns in Scotland

I enjoy cities when I travel, but I’m most happy when exploring the countryside, combing over the hills and glens for secret places and small towns. The cultural texture is just more immediate where globalization’s far-reaching fingers have farther to stretch, and it is among these places where the character of older times remains strong. Experiencing those “older times” is a large part of the joy I get out of traveling. To feel different, to feel out of place — not in an uncomfortable way — is a magical feeling.

I most often find that feeling in Scotland’s small towns, and once you get beyond Edinburgh and Glasgow that’s pretty much all there is… Read more...

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View across Loch Trool, Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway

Scotland’s munros are well known and the focus of many outdoorsy travelers who seek adventure. However, most of us don’t own crampons, ice axes, and rappelling gear, nor do we seek day-long ascents into the lofty, snow-covered peaks of Scotland’s highest mountains. And yet, we still want to get out in nature and experience the scenic beauty that overflows Caledonia’s shores.

Less obvious are Scotland’s gentler hikes, those not so taxing or daunting as to keep us by the hearth fire with pints close at hand. If anything, there are far more casual hikes than munro-baggers… Read more...

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The Isle of Skye's Black Cuillin

The Isle of Skye must be Scotland’s most-visited island, connected to the mainland by a convenient bridge and witness to hordes of tourists. Skye flops in the sea to the west shaped like a great lobster, the Trotternish and Duirinish peninsulas snapping the sea like great claws. Something of a lobster’s temperament pervades the place as it is a land of enigmatic duality, at once a small place in the minds of travelers who seek to “do Skye in a day” and a vast, nearly trackless span of mountain and heath; at once brimming with vistas spanning the western seaboard of Scotland and a claustrophobic vice when the clouds have come to roost; at once clogged with tour buses and rental cars along the A87 and yet overflowing with sacred places that have seemingly never echoed with a human voice. Read more...

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The peat fire at Stein Inn, Isle of Skye

There are few things finer than a good Scottish pub. Happily, Scotland’s littered with them. Just about every town has at least one cozy watering hole for locals and travelers alike and often a handful to choose from. Even the forlorn and unpeopled glens and hills often have, as their sole outpost of civilization, a fine institution of the dram and pint, places like the Grouse Inn and the Old Forge. Indeed, finding a fine Scottish pub is not hard.

Finding a pub that beguiles you for a lifetime, that draws you back across oceans and seas to step through that doorway to a tin-ceilinged, peat-smoky memory of old, where a healthy dose of camaraderie is doled out to every patron, well, that is a bit harder. Those pubs are the rare pubs. Read more...

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Shetland Beach

Scotland is not the first place that comes to mind when one considers a beach vacation, but the quantity of pristine, largely empty beaches scattered across the breadth of Scotland will blow your mind. From white sand wonders to pebbly quilts littered with hunks of sea glass to entire shores composed of tiny shells, Scotland’s beaches cover the style gamut. In this week’s round-up of the best of Scotland, I’ve collected a handful of my favorite beaches.

Many of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches are in incredibly out-of-the-way regions, but there are a huge number of gorgeous swaths within easy reach. Fair warning: While these beaches are awesome places, it’s best to keep your dreams of tropical drinks and skimpy swimwear in check. Read more...

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