As Scotland prepares to host the XX Commonwealth Games and the 40th Ryder Cup, all eyes are turning to this tiny country for a show-stopping 2014 – and with a year-long Homecoming Scotland programme of events, they’re more than ready to welcome us!
Scotland’s famous Hogmanay celebrations and world-class Edinburgh festival have always drawn the UK crowds, but now they’re stepping up their international appeal with the Year of Homecoming Scotland 2014. Events will span outdoor interests, ancestral milestones, arts and music, and food festivals (well, it is the home of whisky and haggis). And if you don’t fancy festivities, simply soak up Scotland’s more timeless draws: the dramatic highlands, rugged islands, and culture-rich cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. The wilds of Scotland are calling, and we can’t wait to answer them!
Let’s kick off in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. This cultural hub encompasses the extinct volcano of Arthur’s Seat, an imposing castle and the cultural ‘Big 3’ (the National Museum of Scotland, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery) so it’s a great place to visit at any time of year. The city overflows with life and laughter in August when the Fringe Festival’s theatrical extravaganza comes to town – book now if you’re keen to attend, as Edinburgh hotels fill up months in advance. If that sounds too far off, Nira Caledonia has availability for New Year’s, when 80,000 revellers descend on the city for the famous Hogmanay celebrations and fireworks.
Often overshadowed by postcard-pretty Edinburgh, Scotland’s largest city will step into the limelight when it hosts the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The Queen’s baton relay through the Commonwealth is already underway, and on 23rd July Glasgow will welcome thousands of athletes for the opening ceremony. If you want to be a part of it all, book tickets now and stay at 15 Glasgow for gorgeous rooms and a handy central location.
Of course, you don’t have to be in a city to have fun – Scotland has over 500 golf courses including Perthshire’s South Inch (the world’s very first course). And with the 40th Ryder Cup coming to Gleneagles in 2014, there’s never been a better time for golf enthusiasts to visit.
If you fancy merging the Ryder Cup with a visit to the highlands, check into upmarket Monachyle Mhor or its cool younger sibling Mhor 84 Motel. Both are in the heart of the Trossachs National Park, with easy access to Loch Lomond and Loch Voil. However, there’s one loch that draws more attention than any other: world-famous, conspiracy theorists’ favourite, Loch Ness. At up to 740ft deep, this spectacular body of water is the largest in Britain (by volume) and spans 23 miles from Inverness to Fort Augustus. Stay at Loch Ness Lodge for dramatic views across the water.
To find the truly wild corners of this windswept county, venture to its isles and outer edges. The Colonsay Hotel, on the Hebridean Isle of the same name, has often been lauded as Britain’s most remote hotel. Despite being difficult to access, the island’s emerald beauty and pure sea air is bewitching, so it’s worth the effort to get here. On neighbouring Islay, Coillabus’ 2 self-catering eco-lodges have been designed to blend into the rugged Oa peninsula. With 2 bedrooms each, and a wealth of mod-cons, these isolated boltholes are great for romantics and outdoorsy families.
Finally, at the very top left corner of this small island, Croft 103 awaits. Here, a majestic wilderness of soaring mountains, aquamarine seas and endless views surrounds 2 spectacular cottages (sleeping 2 apiece). Completely private and set far apart, both have walls of glass that frame views of Loch Eriboll – come in winter and you may even see the Northern Lights.
When to go
There’s always a risk of bad weather in Scotland, which perversely makes it something of a year-round destination. Those hoping to do outdoor activities may be happier visiting in summer, while cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow are wonderfully festive in the run-up to Christmas. High-profile events occur annually and full details of the Homecoming Scotland 2014 events can be found here.
Our top tip
Look out for Scotland’s newest attraction: The Kelpies is an enormous and striking sculpture by Glaswegian artist Andy Scott. Standing 100ft high, the monumental pair of steel horse heads tower over Falkirk (they can be seen from the M9 motorway) and serve as a tribute to the region’s equine history, where Clydesdales, Shires and Percherons were once an integral element of the industrial landscape.
See our destination guide for more information on Scotland and places to stay.