A Wee Tour Of Scotland [PHOTO ESSAY]

Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland

Princes Street Ferris Wheel & Walter Scott Monument

Scotland, United Kingdom

Scotland is more than just bagpipes, kilts, and haggis. From the rolling hills and forests of the highlands to the historic architecture and cobblestone streets of Edinburgh, join me on a tour through this fascinating country.

I traveled through Scotland for a couple weeks this winter to celebrate their traditional Hogmanay New Year. While Scotland is not a large country, there’s a lot to see, and I only experienced a small part of it. Staying mainly in Edinburgh and the Highlands area around Inverness and Aviemore.

But I was exposed to a completely new culture. I learned some Gaelic slang (Ye havin a bevvy the nite?), ate sheep guts for breakfast (a side of Haggis, please) and developed a taste for good whisky (peaty varieties from Islay are my favorite).

So here are a few photos from my adventures in Scotland. A small slice of life in Caledonia. Enjoy!

Highland Forest

Forest in Scotland

Dense Forest Outside Aviemore

Scotland was once completely covered in woodlands. The ground in these forests is covered with peat, a type of semi-decayed vegetation. This makes it soft and cushiony, like a thick carpet under your feet. Walking on peat feels pretty strange at first. It’s also burned to dry barley for whisky in some parts of the country. This grove of trees is located on the backroads of Aviemore in the Highlands.

Inverness Castle

Inverness Castle in Scotland

Inverness Castle at Night

In the North, the City of Inverness is considered the “Capital of the Highlands”. Part of my Scotland trip was spent exploring this beautiful town and the countryside surrounding it. The River Ness runs through the center of town, sending water from Loch Ness to the sea. Inverness Castle sits on its banks — lit up for the Hogmanay New Year.

The Woolly Bully

Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland

Scottland’s Hairy Highland Cow

These funny looking animals are called Highland Cows, or coos if you want the proper Gaelic accent. We’d been searching for them all week, and found this guy guarding his harem of females. They come in two colors, red and black. Highland Coos have thick shaggy hair that keeps them warm in the windy and rainy Scottish highlands.

Bagpipe Busker

Bagpipe Player in Edinburgh

Bagpiper Plays for Tourists on the Street

How could I publish a Scottish photo essay without including a set of pipes! Bagpipes use a reservoir of air to enable a constant stream of sound from the musician. Primarily used for special ceremonies — but you’ll find street performers playing them around Edinburgh. While visiting the town of Inverness, I was lucky enough to catch an outstanding performance by the Scottish rock band The Red Hot Chilli Pipers. Check em’ out for a more modern example of what bagpipes can do.

Full Cooked Breakfast

Cooked Breakfast Scotland

Scottish Cooked Breakfast

A Full Breakfast, sometimes called an English Breakfast, has a style all its own in Scotland. Along with the typical eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, and beans, you’ll also find Black Pudding, grilled tomato, mushrooms, and sometimes Haggis (minced sheep organs). Add tea and porridge, and you’ll be eating like a proper Scot.

Bedlam Theatre

Bedlam Theatre in Edinburgh

Neo-gothic Bedlam Theatre

Scotland’s old Bedlam Theatre building houses the oldest student-run theater in Britain. Named after the Bedlam Mental Institute that was nearby. Once a church, but given to Edinburgh University who eventually turned it into a 90 seat theater for plays and improve comedy. I believe that strange looking car on the right is called a Citroën H Van. I’ve decided I want one for a road trip.

Cairngorm Mountains

Cairngorm Mountain in Scotland

Snowboarding the Cairngorm Mountains

Snowboarding? In Scotland? Yeah, I didn’t think it was possible either. But here’s the photo proof. Cairngorm Mountain is located in the Highlands, with plenty of snow in the winter. So I rented some gear and hit the slopes for a day. Not only was it snowing, there were whiteout conditions at the top! With no trees on the mountain — wind gets a bit crazy there sometimes.

St. Johns Church

St. John's Church in Scotland

St. John’s Church in Edinburgh

Located on the end of Princes Street, the Church of St John the Evangelist was built in the 1800′s by architect William Burns. In the foreground is a famous black Hackney Carriage, a kind of taxi primarily used for urban transportation throughout Scotland and the UK. I never did ride in one, and I kind of regret it now!

National Gallery

National Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland

Scottish National Gallery

The Scottish National Gallery houses some of the world’s greatest art on both a permanent and rotating basis. Not to mention it’s free to visit! While I was there, Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Kiss” was on temporary display. In this photo my friend Kirsten gazes at The Feast of Herod, another popular piece.

Scottish Polar Bear?

Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland

Elusive Highland Polar Bear!

Truly a rare sight, the Highland Polar Bear was thought to be just a myth until recently. We were lucky to spot not one, but TWO of the giant creatures at Highland Wildlife Park outside Aviemore. Walker and Arktos here are spoiled with a large 4 acre enclosure to play in, that includes this luxury plunge pool.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle in Scotland

Scotland’s Impressive Edinburgh Castle

A rugged fortress perched above an inactive volcano, Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle is home to the Scottish Royal Jewels and The Stone of Destiny (used to crown the Kings and Queens of England). With some of its architecture dating back to the 12th century, the castle is an important part of Scotland’s national heritage. And did I mention it’s on a friggin’ volcano?

Bothy Stone Cabin

Bothy Shelter in Scotland

Stone Bothy Shelter

After Runaway Juno and I discovered the Loch Ness Monster, we took a drive through the countryside hunting for our next important target, the bothy. A bothy is a simple stone house built in the highlands for travelers/hikers to use as temporary shelter. They are also used as guest houses or for estate workers, and some have been fixed up for tourists. Many have red doors.

Scottish Black Face Sheep

Black Face Sheep Scotland

Black Face Sheep in the Highlands

Scotland has a lot of sheep. We passed multiple sheep farms when driving through the highland countryside. These are Scottish Blackface sheep, a popular breed raised primarily for meat (and tasty organs) rather than their wool. Both the males & females have horns, and the thick coat helps them survive harsh winters throughout the United Kingdom while living on rugged landscapes.

Greyfriars Cemetery

Greyfriars Kirkyard Edinburgh, Scotland

Greyfriars Kirkyard Locked Tomb

If only the dead could talk. Well here in Greyfriars Cemetery, they not only talk to you, but will also bite, kick, and strangle you. Regarded as one of the most haunted places in the United Kingdom, Greyfriars has around 400,000 corpses piled into the shape of a hill. Many of these people did not die well. Some weren’t even dead yet when they were buried here. You can learn more about this place in a future post I have planned… subscribe here for updates!


What Do You Think?

Have you ever traveled to Scotland? Which of my photos above is your favorite and why?


#blogmanay is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported by ETAG, EventScotland, Homecoming Scotland, VisitScotland, Edinburgh Festivals, Marketing Edinburgh and Haggis Adventures. Created and produced by Unique Events. As always, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Matthew Karsten is the Expert Vagabond. Addicted to adventure travel and photography, he's on a mission to inspire your next journey with entertaining stories, beautiful images, and useful tips. Vagabonding around the world since 2010. Follow along! Email Updates | Facebook | Twitter |

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Tell Me What You Think!

Comment Rules: Critical comments are fine, but rude ones will be deleted. Have fun, and thanks for adding to the conversation!

  • Papsrus

    The Inverness Castle at night was an awesome sight. What a gorgeous compilation of photos. You captured it’s diversity.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      Thanks Papsrus, glad you enjoyed it. I only wish I had more time to explore other areas of Scotland. It just means I’ll have to return soon!

  • BYJ

    I have never considered traveling to Scotland (England and Ireland being my top UK picks) but these photos are wonderful. I’m definitely curious now! Thanks!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      To be honest it wasn’t one of my top picks either, but this journey changed my mind. I want to go back now! Do some hill walking for a few days, sleep in a bothy, check out the islands, and more. Glad the photos have inspired you!

  • Tatiana Luján

    I want to study in the UK, but thought Scotland was too cold. It sure looks beautiful and fun.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      When I was there it was certainly windy, but the only snow is really in the mountains. Wasn’t too bad compared to where I grew up — the North East coast of the US.

      • Tatiana Luján

        Thanks!

    • Amy Dresser

      Tatiana, I studied for my Master’s at University of Stirling in Scotland. Super gorgeous!! It gets a bit cold in the winter, but it’s mostly rainy. Such a beautiful country, you should definitely go!

      • Tatiana Luján

        Thanks, Amy!

  • Carley

    Beautiful pictures! I spent a week in the Edinburgh area about 10 years ago. If you ever go back, check out a little town Northeast of there called North Berwick. Right on the North Sea. And nearby is an amazing ruined castle called Tantallon. It backs right up to the sea. Absolutely gorgeous scenery out there!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      Thanks for the tip Carley! I did see an amazing ruin on the edge of the water on our train ride up North. Not sure if that was it or not. I’ll look it up.

  • Mom

    I LOVE the photos of the castle at night and looking through the iron bars in the cemetery! Nice job, Matt!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      Oh, I have plenty more cemetery photos to come…

  • BakoymaTravels

    I can’t choose a favourite, these are so gorgeous! I love the animal ones though, didn’t even know they had any polar bears in Scotland (wild or in park). The one with the black cab positioned perfectly in front of the church is awesome too though ;-) Well done! Thanks for sharing these.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      No wild polar bears, just these guys. Glad you enjoyed the photos!

  • http://www.everchangingscenery.com/ Catherine

    So many great photos, love the one of Bothy Stone Cabin, lonesome buildings in the countryside always look so picturesque. Have visited Edinburgh before, but not explore anywhere else in Scotland, but your post has definitely inspired me to do so!

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      Those red doors on the stone cabins are great. I’d really love to stay in one on my next trip.

  • jthomas

    I went to Scotland in May and traveled from Edinburgh, to Inverness, to Glasgow, and back to Edinburgh. My favorite sight has to be Urquhart Castle on the edge of Loch Ness. If you can look up a pic, it is just beautiful! Second to that is the Edinburgh Castle. That was the best trip of my life!

  • hikebiketravel

    I love coming to your blog just to look at the pictures. A few years ago I hiked the West Highland Way and saw a few of the sights you’ve shown. Scotland was the first overseas trip we took our kids on so I have very fond memories of the place – but not the breakfasts.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      Why not the breakfasts?? :-)

      • hikebiketravel

        I’m not a fan of beans or the Scottish version of a sausage. I had enough fired toast, fried egg, fried… to put me off.

  • http://www.247Cityairporttransfer.co.uk/ Julie Danes

    Who knew Scotland had so many breath taking sights? Amazing photos, by the way.

    • http://ExpertVagabond.com/ Matthew Karsten

      I only touched the surface too. There’s quite a bit more to this country.

  • Mhairi

    I’m from Edinburgh and have to say your pictures are stunning. Makes me proud to be Scottish. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your time in Scotland and I do hope you did have a bevy! If you ever plan on returning to Scotland you should try and take a trip to Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven Aberdeenshire. I’ve attached a photo it’s really beautiful! Also anyone looking to travel to Edinburgh I would highly recommend coming in the first 2 weeks of August when the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is on. If you want any advice/recommendations/translations of Scottish slang (it can be tricky haha we tend to use it forgetting people who aren’t Scottish have no idea what we mean) just ask and I’ll try and help as best I can