If you would have told me that I am still in Glasgow today and with no intention to leave anytime soon when I moved here almost three years ago, I would have shaken my head in wild disbelief. And yet, Glasgow has managed to do, what Vienna, Berlin & Co couldn’t do in the past – it made me want to stay. The city is a creative hotspot, with great universities and cultural institutions, but also live music and parks en masse. The fact that Glasgow is located in one of the most beautiful countries on Earth (totally biased here) helps a lot too!

Scotland is a European underdog and some might want to believe it is not even a real country – maybe they even call it England… OUCH! Let me tell you, first of all you need to brush up your knowledge about the British Isles, and second, you need to book a flight immediately! Once you have done those two things, let’s move on and talk about the top ten experiences in Scotland that you should add to your itinerary.

The view from Tarbert Castle in Argyll in Scotland

1) A Night Out in Glasgow

Let’s start with the obvious: you need to experience a night out in Glasgow. This means that, NO, it is not enough to swing by my beautiful hometown for a lunch and a walk in the park on your way to the Highlands from Edinburgh. You have to spend a night here – preferably a weekend, when the streets are at its most buzzing.

Glaswegians are incredibly friendly folk, so if you enter a pub to try some fine ales or single malt whiskies it won’t take long and you will be surrounded by locals who want to know everything about you. Your biggest problem will be to understand them, but that is nothing a few drinks can’t fix.

Jokes aside, the live music scene in Glasgow is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. The city centre streets are filled with buskers, many pubs have ‘house bands’ and regular live music nights, and the live venues are legendary. Try The Butterfly & the Pig on Bath Street, Blackfriars in the Merchant City or The Rum Shack in the Southside.

Read more: The Travelettes Guide to Glasgow

The Top 10 Experiences in Scotland | Glasgow Nightlife

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2) Experience the Edinburgh Festivals

Big city life does not stop in Glasgow, so make sure to spend a few days in Edinburgh as well. The two cities are only an hour apart by train, but could not be more different. I would not necessarily spend more than 2-3 days in Edinburgh, unless you really want to see every castle, museum and whatnot. Compared to Glasgow I find Edinburgh a lot more reserved and conservative – that is anytime but August. During that month, Edinburgh changes entirely and becomes a buzzing hub for artists, comedians and other creatives from around the world.

I’m talking of course about the Edinburgh Festivals in August, when six out of the city’s 12 festivals happen more or less at the same time. There are loads of free shows, stuff happening on the streets and all the bars and pubs are bursting at the seams.

Read more: 10 Survival Tips for the Edinburgh Festivals

The Top 10 Experiences in Scotland | Edinburgh Festivals

3) Go On an Epic Road Trip

There are many ways to get around Scotland – from walking or cycling to taking public transport with a ScotRail pass; but if you ask me, there is only one perfect way to see Scotland: hitting the road for an epic road trip. Scotland’s roads cut through some of the most beautiful scenery of the UK, along beautiful lochs (lakes) and in between the intimidating hills of Glen Coe, the Nevis Range or the Cairngorms.

By car is the easiest mode of transport to fit as much of this small country into your itinerary as possible, but even if you only have a few days, you will come by a couple of amazing vistas. Here are a few ideas for your road trip: Loch Lomond, Argyll & Bute, the Road to the Isles, and Route 500 are all breathtaking. To read more about getting around Scotland, and a few notes on driving safety, check out my blog post on how to plan a trip to Scotland.

Read more: An epic road trip in Scotland’s north east

A road trip in Scotland

4) Take the Hogwarts Express

Isn’t there always an exception to the rule? For the ultimate Harry Potter experience in Scotland you should take the Hogwarts Express, which is the train line that leads along the Road to the Isles between Fort William and Mallaig. This is where you ride on an old school Jacobite steam train and cross over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, which we all know from the Harry Potter films!

Any takers?

Read more: Scotland for Harry Potter Fans

The Jacobite Steam Train in Scotland, crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct like in the Harry Potter films.

5) Bag a Munro – or any other hill

A munro, in case you did not know, is a Scottish mountain higher than 3,000 feet. There are over 280 peaks for you to choose from, plus another 200+ subsidiary tops and of course numerous mountains a bit lower than that. While some people make it their life purpose to bag all the munros in Scotland, simply adding one hill to your itinerary should do as well.

One of my favourite hills to recommend is Ben A’an, which is not technically a munro (it stands only 1,491 feet tall) but it is easy to reach from Glasgow, fairly straightforward to ascend on a clearly marked path, and offers the most stunning vistas of the Trossachs mountains. I finally hiked it for the first time this Spring and can’t recommend it enough if you want to stand on top of a Scottish mountain without having to prepare for a big expedition.

Read more: Why I love exploring my own backyard

The view from the top of Ben Aan in Scotland

6) Celebrate the Viking Heritage in Shetland

The Shetland Islands might be bit off-beat for most Scotland travellers, but they certainly deserve more attention. Especially the extraordinary Up Helly Aa festivities during the dark winter months. Starting with the biggest Up Helly Aa celebration in Lerwick (Shetland’s capital) in the end of February, this peculiar viking ‘tradition’ takes place all over the islands until some time in March. The Shetlanders started to commemorate their viking heritage about 150 years ago, and today Up Helly Aa is a real institution. Men dress up, some of them as vikings, build a wooden galley, march through town and eventually burn the galley in a spectacle of torch-throwing and fire.

Read more: The Travelettes do Up Helly Aa

The Top 10 Experiences in Scotland | Up Helly Aa, Shetland

7) Have a wee dram in a Whisky Distillery

Now, what on Earth is a wee dram, you might wonder? Seasoned Scotland-travellers will know that the Scots are very proud of their own language and accents, so better start learning the little differences. A dram is a drink, and wee simply means small or little. Having a wee dram, or a small drink, at a whisky distillery is part of the Scotland game.

If you base yourself in Glasgow you can easily reach the Glengoyne distillery at the foot of the Highlands by bus (don’t drink and drive) and in Edinburgh you can learn everything about Scotland’s traditional alcohol at The Whisky Experience. However there are many distilleries spread out all over the country, with a particular density on the Isle of Islay (8 distilleries on an island with just over 3,200 inhabitants) and the northern Speyside.

PS: If you’re more of a gin drinker like me, check out the Edinburgh Gin distillery in the centre of Edinburgh!

Read more: My tour to the Glengoyne Distillery with Rabbie’s

Glengoyne Distillery in Scotland

8) Explore the Coast & the Isles

The West Coast of Scotland is so popular with travellers from around the world because it boasts both romantic little harbour towns and breathtaking vistas. Both are thanks to the many islands off the Scottish mainland which mostly can be only reached by ferry (except for the Isle of Skye) and are frequently ‘untouched’. That does not mean that everybody out on the Scottish Isles owns sheep or a distillery – it simply means that here you get a pure feeling for Scotland and its nature.

One of my personal favourites is Oban not too far from Glasgow, which is a cute little town but also the main hub to reach the Inner Hebrides, like the Isle of Mull. Another favourite is the Isle of Rum, for which you should have at least 3-4 nights time. To reach it you need to drive down the Road to the Isles (double jackpot) and take a passenger ferry from Mallaig. There are no cars on the island (except for a few locals’ trucks) and the island is great for hillwalking!

Read more: Sea Kayaking in Oban

A boat tour with Staffa Tours to the Isle of Staffa in Scotland

9) The Isle of Skye

There is one island that tops everybody’s to do lists and that is for a good reason. The Isle of Skye is pure magic! Not that the other islands don’t have a lot to offer either, but Skye is easy to travel to (no ferry necessary), easily accessible by public transport and super versatile (it is after all one of Scotland’s biggest islands).

One of my favourite things to do on the Isle of Skye – and there is lots to do – is to hike up to the Old Man of Storr, which is a huge standing stone below the mountains of northern Skye. The way it must have fallen and rolled down the hills and then stopped upright, overlooking the sea, is just too fascinating.

Read more: The perfect Scotland Activity for you – in high heels or hiking boots!

The isle of Skye

10) Meet your Prince in St Andrews

This time you’ve got me – this is something I haven’t actually done yet. While I found my own personal prince in Glasgow, I have yet to explore the quaint town of St Andrews. It is home to one of the most prestigious universities of the UK, and as you might know this is where Kate met William. Not that I hold much of the royal family myself, but I’m still quite excited to hit up St Andrews soon with my mum and my boyfriend!

Read more: 20 Experiences in Scotland for first timers

The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral in Scotland

To follow me on my journey through Scotland just follow me on Instagram @watchmesee! And if you want more inspiration, check our these 10 instagrammers that make you want to go to Scotland asap!

Have you ever been to Scotland and had a great experience? Share it in the comments or reach out to contribute a guest post!

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The Top 10 Experiences in Scotland | Travelettes.net

All photos by Kathi Kamleitner (except otherwise stated).