Scotland is famous for its rich Scottish culture, stunning natural landscapes, and challenging weather at the best of times. Scotland is also known for its strange sense of dress, weird food choices and cows that need a haircut!
More recently Scotland was made famous by the Harry Potter franchise of movies, which has led a lot of people to discover this country. Exploring Scotland is a bit of a dream as you traverse the busy city streets, rugged mountains, lochs, and all the Scottish history and culture that you stumble upon as you go.
Join me as we take a deeper look asking the question – what is Scotland known for? So when you’re trekking around the highlands and the cities, you know exactly what you should be looking for.
Scotland was once a land of clans and royalty with over 3000 castles dotted around stunning estates all over the country and when you think of what is Scotland known for, I’m sure a medieval castle comes to mind.
Wherever you are in Scotland, you’re never going to be too far from a castle that is either fully preserved or a living ruin of the past. Chances are you’ll stroll past Edinburgh Castle when visiting the capital city. If you’re in Glasgow, which is on the River Clyde, you have the 13th century Bothwell Castle and Crookston Castle just outside of the city, and the famous 8th century Stirling Castle too where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in the 16th century.
Even if you only venture to northern Scotland, you’re still going to have many a castle viewing opportunity including the stunning Inverness Castle which strides the River Ness in the city center, and Urquhart Castle which sits on a lock just 30 minutes from Inverness.
If there is one Scottish term or fable you might have heard it’s most likely Lochs and the Loch Ness Monster. Loch is the Scottish word for fjord or lake and there are over 30,000 lochs in the country – so you’re never very far away from a stunning lake with a view of the Scottish countryside reflecting in its waters.
The most famous lochs in Scotland include Loch Lomond for being the largest loch in the country, Loch Ness for its monster, and Loch Katrine for its beauty and inspiration for authors such as Sir Walter Scott.
Loch Ness is probably what Scotland is known for across all ages from kids to grandparents and this is thanks to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. Loch Ness is found in The Great Glen in the Scottish highlands an area that was formed by glaciers in the last ice age.
The rumor of the Loch Ness Monster dates back as far as 565 AD when a Saint began the hunt of old Nessie and it was rumored that Nessie tried to bite the Saint’s servant during the search – how rumors come to fame and last is quite amazing isn’t it!
The Scottish Highlands is the place to be if you want to experience the amazing Scottish scenery that the world raves about.
The term ‘Scottish Highlands’ refers to a 10,000 square mile area in the northernmost part of Scotland that is home to the highest mountains in the UK. This includes the UK’s highest peak Ben Nevis as well as more lakes than England and Wales put together.
While you’re in Scotland, a visit to the Scottish Highlands is an absolute must and it’s quite an easy place to explore with a huge network of roads and hiking trails which makes accessing the interior simple. And you can always use Fort William as a base, as it is the true center of many Scottish outdoor adventures!
You’ll find the Cairngorms National Park, Loch Lomond, the valleys of Glencoe, and the Highland Wildlife Park which is home to the Scottish wildcat all in the highlands. The highlands is also Scotch whiskey country and home to many scotch whiskey distilleries and stopping off for a tour and a tasting session is a must.
The Highlands is also home to ancient Scottish architecture too such as the Glenfinnan Viaduct and one of the most beautiful castles, Eilean Donan Castle, which sits on an island in the middle of a loch surrounded by mountains. You might even spot some highland cows while you are out hiking too.
Scotland takes its whisky seriously as it contributes some £5.5 billion to its economy and for whisky to be called Scotch is must be made from malted barley, wheat, or rye and aged for a minimum of 3 years in an oak barrel. While you’re in Scotland, tasting whisky and going on a distillery tour is kind of a must.
Historically, whisky production in Scotland dates back to the 1000s when monks started making whisky instead of wine as they had no grapes to use in Scotland. The name whisky comes from the Gaelic moniker “uisge beatha” which when translated means “water of life”.
As you travel around Scotland, you should try to taste an authentic Scottish whisky from each part as the taste differs quite considerably from Islay to Highland, Campbeltown, Lowland, and Speyside.
If you’re looking for a distillery tour to go on, then Clydside and Glasgow Distilleries are great ones near Glasgow, the Deanston Distillery and Glenkinchie Distillery are in Edinburgh, and up north the Glen Ord, Highland Park Whisky Distillery, and Scapa Distillery are excellent choices.
If you’re wondering what food Scotland is known for then the answer has to be haggis and while it is delicious when done well, knowing how it’s made and what’s inside it might make your stomach turn (veggies look away now).
Haggis is made by mincing up the liver, lung, and heart of a sheep and then combining it with seasonings such as pepper and spices, adding some vegetables, and then stuffing it into a sheep’s stomach for cooking.
Nowadays, this kind of Scottish food doesn’t sound too appetizing, but in the old days since sheep were the only things one can farm in the highlands, it makes sense not to waste any of the sheep and haggis is a great way to use and enjoy eating the odd bits like the lungs, etc.
While in Scotland, you should really try some haggis and it’s readily available in the major cities plus it’s traditionally eaten on Hogmanay and Burns Night. Chances are you’re either going to love it or hate it, but it’s worth a taste.
Some other foods Scotland is known for include tatties and neeps. Tatties are sottish potato cakes that are a lot like hash browns and are served with a traditional Scottish breakfast of bacon, eggs, black pudding, mushrooms, and baked beans.
Neeps are something you’ll find next to the Haggis you have to try while in Scotland and the neeps might be your saving grace if you don’t enjoy the haggis. Neeps comes from turnips but in Scotland, neeps refers to mashed swede and it’s usually served with nutmeg and black pepper seasoning.
Famed for being one of the most beautiful areas of Scotland, the Inner and Outer Hebrides are a group of islands on the west coast of Scotland. They are famed for their white sand beaches, stunning coastal landscapes, amazing hikes, and plenty of opportunities to get out on the water during summer on canoes, kayaks, and SUPs.
One of the most famous places in the Inner Hebrides is the Isle of Skye which is home to the Fairy Pools hike where you can bathe in a series of crystal clear blue natural pools. Other islands in the Inner Hebrides include Mull and Jura, and the Outer Hebrides is home to Harris, Uist, and Lewis.
Spending time in the Inner and Outer Hebrides is a must if you want a true taste of remote Scottish life where old pubs are frequented by locals and life revolves around the land and weather, plus I can’t express quite how beautiful these islands are.
Another insider tip is to head to the Shetland Islands, as it’s also a place few people visit.
Another thing that I’m sure comes to mind when you ask what is Scotland known for is kilts. While kilts are often made fun of, since they are skirts for men (haha), they have a deep connection to Scottish history and are always worn by traditional Scots on special occasions.
Kits are made from tartan patterns and the design of each tartan has meanings and is unique. Every Scottish family has a tartan of its own which is linked to the family’s surname and there are more than 20,000 registered tartans in Scotland today.
You can also have a tartan in different colors and traditional in olden times red kilts were worn in battle, while green kilts symbolize the forests of Scotland, yellow the crops, and blue the rivers and lochs.
While you’re in Scotland, it’s worth picking up a tartan blanket to take home with you or you can go all the way and grab a kilt for yourself.
It would be a crime not to mention bagpipes in an article about what is Scotland known for as a bagpipe is about as Scottish as an object could ever be. You’re likely to hear bagpipes being played as you’re strolling around the streets of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, and any other town or city in Scotland and if you ever hear the Scottish National Anthem, you’ll hear bagpipes playing alongside it.
How bagpipes came to be invented and where they came from is still a mystery as some historians believe they were brought over to Scotland by Scots from Ireland and others believe they originated in ancient Egypt and were brought to Scotland by the Romans.
One of the most famous of Scottish traditions is celebrating Burns Night every year on the 25th of January. Burns Night is a celebration of everything Scottish and is when friends and family gather to eat haggis, drink whiskey, play bagpipes, and since all the famous Scottish songs in celebration of their culture.
Burns Night is all about celebrating the life of Robert Burns, the 18th-century Scottish poet who added so much to Scottish culture. Burns Night began when some of Robert Burns’ friends gathered on his birthday (25th of January) to celebrate his life 5 years after he passed away in 1801 and it has continued ever since.
There is no denying that Scottish Atlantic salmon is something Scotland is known for the world over and it was the mecca for salmon fly fishing in the past. In the old days, rivers like the Tay and the Tweed were teeming with salmon, and fishing for salmon with a rod, line, and fly first started on these rivers as early as 1810.
Fly fishing for salmon quickly became a sport for the gentry and it’s from here that fly fishing for salmon evolved in Scotland and into the rest of the world.
Today, salmon fishing in Scotland has a lot to be desired as salmon farms have taken over many of the estuaries and are slowly killing the wild salmon population with all the diseases farmed salmon hold. It’s a sad state of affairs really and if you ever eat “Scottish Salmon” these days it’s 100% farmed and killing all the wild salmon, so think twice next time.
You can still book a gillie to take you fishing on the famous salmon rivers of Scotland and you will have a decent chance of catching one too if you are lucky enough to be on the river at the right time but it’s nothing like it was in the 1800s.
Every year in August, Edinburgh castle plays host to the musical and artistic performance of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has nothing to do with permanent ink on one’s skin, it’s actually a military term where “tattoo” signifies the final duty call of any given day and is thus a sign that evening festivities can begin.
At the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, you’ll be amongst a crowd of 200,000 people watching a collection of military tattoos (bands) playing pipes and drums as well as singing too. The finale is always a rendition of the Lone Piper and is by far the best part of the show.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Edinburgh in August you can catch the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo every weed day night and they do two shows on Saturday too. If you have the chance to go, so you really should as the live music and the atmosphere are incredible.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!