Ireland – A land of myths and legends
By Lorna Heatley
12 January 2018
Whether they are told in a rhyme, a ballad, or written in an ancient tome, the myths and legends of Ireland are some of the most well known in the world.Read more
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The nation famed for whisky, kilts and Highland hills, Scotland is a wonderful holiday location, only a train ride away.
As the land of kilts, whisky and Macbeth, Scotland is a nation of proud Celtic history and culture. With mystic lochs shrouded in thick mist and rolling highlands crowned by snow, Caledonia is astonishingly atmospheric in every season, from the gentle greenery of a Scottish summer to the spectacular snow-globe scenery of winter. The brooding mountains and valleys are stunning and take travellers back to an era of war-painted warriors and Pict legend, while the numerous fathomless lochs may or may not be home to a myriad of mysterious beasts that lie beneath the serene blue surfaces.
Off the northern coast and stretching into the Northern Atlantic are the Hebridean Islands, havens of undeniable natural beauty. The capital city and seat of Scotland's government, Edinburgh, is a spectacular mix of monumental historic architecture and stylish contemporary architecture, set under the gaze of the city's magnificent Edinburgh Castle.
Majestic lochs and glens lie in wait as we cross Edinburgh and the Highlands and visit historic castles and the Isle of Mull. We travel through the West Highlands and Cairngorms on this fabulous round trip climaxing with a 'Scottish Evening' on Edinburgh's stately Royal Mile.… see more
9 daysView tour details >
Imbued with centuries of history and culture, the UK is one of the most rewarding nations to travel around. Explore the length and breadth of Britain on this outstanding tour of the island. Discover ancient attractions, modern cities and wild landscapes from the rugged Rannoch Moor to the inspiring Stonehenge.… see more
14 daysView tour details >
Experience the spectacle of marching bands when you visit the Edinburgh Tattoo by train, with pipes and drums resonating from the castle's elevated setting. Complimenting the trip, witness incredible lochs, glens and mountains as we explore the West Highlands.… see more
5 daysView tour details >
Despite its compact size, Scotland's climate is remarkably variable. Accusations of continuous rain throughout are exaggerated, although the Western Highlands are particularly wet. Scotland's high position in the northern Hemisphere means that it has longer daylight hours than other areas of Britain during the summer and shorter days during the winter. Whilst extreme temperatures are rare, January and February tend to be Scotland's coldest months although still mild with daytime maximum temperatures averaging between 5° to 7 °C. Late summer, July and August sees Scotland at its warmest when temperatures generally reach an average 19 °C.
Scotland has always benefited from an abundance of fresh local produce of excellent quality and this has shaped the country's cuisine, producing traditional dishes and specialities that have become globally recognised and renowned. Among some of the best Scottish fayre that our guests should sample is Haggis, Scottish Tablet, Cullen Skink, Aberdeen Angus Beef, Cranachan. Arbroath Smokies, and of course Whisky.
Scottish culture is almost as old as the country itself. A particularly famous example of Scottish music is the use of bagpipes. While this wind instrument is not a Scottish creation, having its roots in Ancient Greece, the Scottish people have cultivated a strong appreciation of its unique sound incorporating a notable performance during at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo each August, which features over a hundred pipers playing in unison.
Scotland has produced a range of exceptional actors including the original James Bond, Sean Connery, Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton. Along with its theatrical heritage, there have been a number of literary giants from Scotland such as the world-renowned poet Robert Burns, Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson and contemporary novelist Irvine Welsh.
An important date in the Scottish calendar is the ancient Highland Games. These events take place up and down the country and involve traditional Scottish sports such as the tug-of-war and the caber toss, as well as dance competitions and track and field trials. The national sport of Scotland is football and it is the home to one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in the sporting world: The Old Firm rivalry between Celtic and Rangers. This relationship has its grounding in a variety of factors such as religion, nationalism and differing social ideologies.
Scotland has a fantastic array of railway lines which carry passengers across the country, from the rural islands of the north, through the snow-capped highlands and rolling lowlands, across the metropolises of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and along the Scottish English border.
This network also includes a number of heritage lines. The Strathspey railway offers a fantastic steam-hauled round trip in restored carriages through the scintillating Highland scenery, while the Jacobite Steam Train hauls original British Rail First and Standard Class carriages from the 1960s across the magical landscapes.
Scotland has always benefited from an abundance of fresh local produce of excellent quality and this has shaped the country's cuisine, producing traditional dishes and specialities that have become globally recognised and renowned. Perhaps the most well-known of these is a kind of sheep sausage called haggis. Despite its untoward appearance, interesting ingredients and unconventional recipe which involves cooking the food in a sheep's stomach, Haggis is well worth a try for a taste of true Scottish cuisine. Another curious Scottish delicacy is the deep-fried Mars bar, where a standard chocolate bar is fried in batter. Among some other Scottish fare that visitors should sample is Scottish Tablet, Cullen Skink, Aberdeen Angus Beef, Cranachan and Arbroath Smokies.
Scotland is particularly famous for its whisky, which is also known as Scotch whisky. This form of whisky has been produced in Scotland for centuries, and is known to be full of flavour and of exceptional quality. One iconic Scottish distillery is the Springbank Distillery in Cambeltown. Established in 1828, the magnificent Springback whisky is internationally recognised as one of the finest whiskies in the world, with each dram boasting a full and complex flavour thanks to a unique distilling process. Amongst the oldest of the whisky producers in Scotland is the Oban Distillery in Oban, originally built in 1794. Three different expressions of whisky are made here, each with its own irreplaceable taste. Visits to both of these distilleries are included in several Great Rail Journeys tours.
Significant events in the Scottish calendar include Burns' Night, Hogmanay and St Andrew's Day. Burns' Night is the celebration of the national poet Robert Burns' birthday on the 25th of January, and involves an extensive meal of haggis, swedes and potatoes as well as recitations of Burns' poems. Hogmanay is the Scottish name for New Year's Eve while St Andrew's Day on the 30th November is the day of the patron saint of Scotland and features many traditional Scottish festivities.
Should you choose to dine in a Scottish restaurant it is customary to leave a tip worth 10% of the bill's value, although if you have received exemplary food and service you may want to leave a greater amount. The Scottish accent can be difficult to understand at first, but it soon becomes easy and pleasant to listen to with manageable differences between Edinburgh and Glasgow in the north and south. The Scottish people are down-to-earth, affable and honest with an exceptional sense of humour.