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Spotlight on Scotland: more than just a fringe festival

It’s cold, it will definitely rain, and you won’t understand a bloody word. You probably imagine its exactly as Irvine Welsh so vividly presents, but what about Scotland?

By Archie Cotterell, Fourth Year French and Philosophy

It’s cold, it will definitely rain, and you won’t understand a bloody word. You probably imagine its exactly as Irvine Welsh so vividly presents, but what about Scotland?

Perhaps the last time you heard or thought about that place that exists north of a slightly run-down wall was during yet another chorus of cries for Independence. Or perhaps you thought about heading to the Fringe, then reconsidered after a fleeting ponder over the hassle of a long train journey.
For the sports fans among you, the turbulent ordeal that unfolded between the Scots and English at Twickenham some 10 months or so ago still cuts deep.
So, are they merely our noisy neighbours, who for years we’ve quarrelled with, or is Scotland something else entirely…?

In all honesty, there is a lot to be said for Scotland. Edinburgh alone boasts architectural splendour, the aforementioned - and brilliant - Fringe Festival, a varied nightlife and much more. Whether you take a gander up the Royal Mile, gaze up at the majestic castle from one of the many cosy cafés or admire the whole city atop Arthur’s seat; it will not disappoint. Yet you probably already heard all of that from some long-lost relative, so let me try and inform you about some of Scotland’s veiled secrets.

Unsplash/Jonathan Ricci

If you need a break from it all, for a glass of perspective, or to be surrounded by less people. Then an immersion into the jaw-dropping scenery as make your way up past Inverness and into the Highlands is the place to go.

There is actually a circular route that will take your around the top of Scotland called the North Coast 500, which is ideal for road trips. The landscapes never fail to take your breath away, whether its dramatic mountains climbing steeply from murky and mysterious waters or indeed long beaches of white sands stretching as far as the eye can see. The serenity and beauty of Sutherland as a whole is unrivalled.

Between Ullapool and Cape Wrath, right up in the north-western corner of the British Isles is some of the most rugged and dramatic landscape to be seen anywhere, yet it exists on our relative doorstep. Long sea lochs stretch inland, lying under mountains of heather and stone. Yet in summer, its beauty really shines through.

On the same stretch of coast are beaches such as Oldshoremore and Balnakeil Bay, where handsome golden dunes roll towards azure seas. You would be forgiven for thinking you had ended up in the Bahamas, only the flora and fauna are slightly less tropical. Better still these paradises are always empty, waiting to be visited. And yes, you can swim without contracting hypothermia.

The wildlife is varied and beguiling in equal measure. Colonies of puffin’s float on the waters around Handa Island, a bird sanctuary off the coast near Scourie. Seals, dolphins and whales are sighted frequently, roaming the summer seas in search of a tasty snack. Highland Cows are as docile as they look fierce and are often scattered across the countryside. Stags can be seen throughout, always striking and relatively tame.

Even nearer the big cities like Glasgow, you can easily disappear up to the Cairngorms, or indeed towards Loch Lomond. These National Parks offer everything possible that can be enjoyed outdoors: hiking, climbing, canoeing and more. However, if you feel more inclined to put your feet up and enjoy the warmth of a crackling fire and a good glass of scotch, Scotland is the place.

The Cairngorms - Unsplash/Steve Douglas

Houses are cheap to rent for groups, and travel is also affordable if planned. Although too much time spent indoors with a large group may create the plot for a new Agatha Christie novel.

It is really the in the open air where Scotland impresses most; and if my hyperbole and cheesiness hasn’t sold it to you, let the infallibly easy 21st century prove it instead. A little peruse of the Internet will show you just how stunning it really is, and I thoroughly recommend that in these rather confusing and hectic times a little trip to Scotland will be the perfect remedy.

Featured image: Unsplash / Dan Smedley

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