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Heading to Scotland? There’s much more to this proud U.K. country than the requisite visit to Edinburgh. Add these unexpected highlights to your Scottish bucket list.

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Try falconry (really)

It’s the art of bird training, and it’s something that’s incredibly special in Scotland. They can make owls and other large predatory birds fly to your hand from out of the blue (literally). Elite Falconry will come to your destination to provide the falconry, which is an experience you won’t find elsewhere. Plus, it makes a fabulous Instagram photo.

Glenapp, Scotland

Glenapp Castle

Eat dinner in a castle with a butler

Tucked away within the cliffs of Ayrshire (a region in southwest Scotland) sits an ancient castle-turned hotel called Glenapp. Inside that castle are French-trained butlers—yes, real butlers—who will serve you a six-course Scottish meal inside the intimate dining room (or you can eat in the traditional library). Up the ante by requesting a bagpipe player to serenade you during your meal, which includes canapes, coffee and petits fours. While you’re dining, you’ll take in views of Ailsa Craig, the Mull of Kintyre and the Ayrshire coastline.

Dine at Field

This Edinburgh restaurant opened in 2013, and its focus is on local, seasonal Scottish food. It’s a 22-seat restaurant off the beaten path, so Field is incredibly intimate, and both chefs have worked in Michelin-starred restaurants previously. What makes Field even better is that it’s not ridiculously expensive, so you have no excuse not to dine there.

haggis, Scotland

Try haggis

It tastes better than it sounds. Haggis is made from a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, and it’s combined with oatmeal, spices and salt. Then it’s cooked encased in the sheep’s stomach. But try it. It’s a Scottish tradition, and it’s served in many local restaurants (seriously, it tastes really good, and Glenapp makes a great one). Plus, haggis is banned in the United States because sheep’s lung is not allowed to be consumed stateside, so this is your big chance.

Ediburgh, hostel

CODE Hostel

Stay at a stylish hostel

Not a hostel person? We aren’t either. But Scotland is home to a few pretty sleek ones. Among them is CODE, where the penthouse suite is a total bargain, and it’s in the middle of all of Edinburgh’s action. Plus, CODE offers free WiFi, has a rooftop terrace and lets you choose between a private room or a pod (you won’t find typical hotel bunk beds here). The Edinburgh Castle is just a 10 minute walk away, while the Grassmarket party zone (shops, bars and restaurants) is just 6 minutes by foot.

Get on the water

No, it’s not the Caribbean, but there’s something about sailing in Scotland that takes on a magical quality. Maybe it’s because you’re sailing past cliffs and the countryside and it’s just so romantic. Or perhaps it’s because it’s totally possible to sail to and explore a deserted island. Our favorite is the Ailsa Craig, which can only be reached by boat or helicopter. On the way, you can spot whales and plenty of seals and if you are daring, hike to the very top of the island to reach an abandoned castle, where one brave American couple got married last December. The easiest way to get to Ailsa Craig is to hire a boat and a private tour guide via the Glenapp Castle, which is just 30 minutes away. They’ll even set up a picnic lunch with a butler on the island.

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Spot a monster

If you’re in Scotland, you owe it to yourself to check out Loch Ness. There’s an actual Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition within the Drumnadrochit Hotel where you can learn about sightings, and figure out how to spy the monster himself under the water. After checking out the exhibit, leave your car at the end of Bunloit Road, and walk to the summit of Meall Fuar-mhonaidh. From there, you’ll be able to look down at the loch. Bonus: It’s a great view of the hills and lochans.


Do a whiskey tasting

You’re in Scotland. Drink some whiskey. But do it professionally, with the help of the A.D. Rattray The Whisky Experience. They’ll explain how to take your first sip so it doesn’t burn, how to compare whiskeys (spoiler alert: expensive isn’t always relative to quality) and how to really enjoy the experience . . . even more.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland

Tour the Edinburgh Castle

Voted the top UK Heritage Attraction in the British Travel Awards, this is a huge tourist magnet—but a worthwhile one. Parts of the castle date to the 12th century, and it holds so much history: James IV erected the Great Hall in the 1500s, and the Scottish National War Memorial was placed here after WWI. Pre-book your tickets to skip the line and ensure your visit, and wear sneakers (there are steep walks throughout).

Play golf

Little known fact: The Scots invented golf. Their most famous golf course, the The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which was founded in 1750 and is considered to be golf’s ruling body.

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Danielle Braff

Danielle Braff

Danielle lives in Chicago with her family, two cats and a dog, but she's constantly researching her next vacation. Check out her other articles at
Danielle Braff

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