1The Loony Dook in South Queensferry
The Loony Dook on New Year’s Day in South Queensferry is part of Scotland’s Hogmanay festivities. (Photo credit: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam)
On New Year’s Day in Edinburgh, daring souls plunge into the freezing cold waters of the River Forth to raise thousands of pounds for charity. For 30 years, The Loony Dook in South Queensferry has drawn in thousands of “Dookers” as they are called for the annual dip dressed in everything from traditional swimwear to full Santa outfits. The celebrations start with the Dookers’ Parade through High Street and end at the water in front of the Forth Bridges. Tickets must be purchased in advance at edinburghshogmanay.com for the actual plunge; and you’ll want to act fast as they have sold out in the past.
2Beecraigs Country Park
A herd of Highland cattle at Beecraigs Country Park near Linlithgow, West Lothian. (Photo credit: VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins)
Head to the Beecraigs Country Park, a 914-acre nestled in the Bathgate Hills near the historic town of Linlithgo, to spot red deer, Highland and Belted Galloway cattle and Hebridean/Shetland/North Ronaldsay sheep. There’s also miles of woodland paths and trails to explore by foot, bike or horse, as well as a wide range of leisure and recreational activities the Ranger Service can tell guests more about. For more information, visit beecraigs.com.
3The UK’s First UNESCO City of Design
The Oor Wullie situated outside The McManus Art Gallery & Museum in Dundee, Scotland. (Photo credit: VisitScotland /Kenny Lam)
After building a reputation over the last two centuries as a hub for innovation, Dundee was recently designated as the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design. Visitors can explore the city’s acclaimed Dundee Contemporary Arts and the McManus Art Gallery and Museum in Albert Square. Housed within a Gothic Revival-style building in the heart of the city, the museum features eight galleries filled with exhibits showcasing the history of Dundee as well as fine art and world cultures. For more information, go to visitscotland.com.
4Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival
A guest barman mixing cocktails in the Malt Barn Bar at the Glenfiddich Distillery during the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival in Moray. (Photo credit: VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins)
From April 27 to May 1, thousands of visitors from around the globe descend upon the Speyside region to celebrate the country’s national drink at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. The 5-day celebration features more than 500 different events offerings a range of different activities for aficionados and novices alike, including exclusive behind-the-scenes distillery tours, tastings of rare and vintage whiskies, and the chance to meet the people who produce some of the world’s leading whisky brands. In addition, many distilleries that are not usually open to the public will welcome visitors during the festival. For more information, visit spiritofspeyside.com.
5The Titan Crane at Clydebank
Looking across the River Clyde and its bridges in Glasgow. (Photo credit: VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins)
Towering 150 ft. over the River Clyde in Glasgow, the Titan Crane at Clydebank is the last relic from the once famous John Browns shipyard, where notable battleships such as HMS Hood and passenger liners like the QE2 were constructed. The century-old crane has since been restored and transformed into a popular tourist attraction that also celebrates the area’s shipbuilding heritage. The crane is open seasonally from May to October. Bungee jumps from the crane’s summit are also available on limited dates. For more information, visit titanclydebank.com.
6Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Performer on The Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. (Photo credit: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam)
Edinburgh’s summer arts festival scene is described by VisitScotland as “a riot of color, sound and performance that completely overtakes the city for six weeks.” For those new to Edinburgh, the tourism board suggests the carnival at Princes Street gardens held July 21 from 2-4 p.m. where visitors can watch (for free) as 400 performers from around the world showcase their street music, colorful costumes, circus, street theater and dance. Another must-see is the ever-popular Edinburgh Festival Fringe held Aug. 4-28. At this open access festival anybody who wants to perform can, so visitors never quite know what they will see, which is half the fun. For more information, visit edfringe.com.
7Scotland’s Coastline and Islands
The Dunbar coastline offers fantastic views. (Photo credit: VisitScotland /Kenny Lam)
What better way to explore Scotland’s coastline and islands than by boat? Springtime is ideal for this type of trip when warmer weather brings the opportunity to spot wildlife, like puffin and bottle dolphins. Visitors can check out Wild Scotland’s wildlife calendar at wild-scotland.org.uk/where-to-watch-wildlife/wildlife-watching-calendar to find out what animals they can see and when.
8Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Heads – The Sculpture designed by Sophie Cave in the Expression Court of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow. (Photo credit: VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins)
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow is one of the top three free-to-enter visitor attractions in Scotland and one of the most visited museums in the UK outside of London. It features 22 themed, state-of-the-art galleries displaying 8,000 objects, a restaurant, a cafe and a gift shop. The wide-ranging collections at Kelvingrove cover topics spanning natural history and art movements to arms and armour and periods of history. The most famous painting on display at Kelvingrove is Salvador Dali’s “Christ of St John of the Cross.” For more information, visit glasgowmuseums.com.
9The Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Palace of Holyroodhouse. (Photo credit: VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins)
Guests can visit The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Her Majesty The Queen’s official residence in Scotland, year-round at the end of Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile. Inside guests will find 14 historic and state apartments, the romantic ruins of the 12th century Holyrood Abbey and royal gardens. The palace is best known as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots, but today functions as the state apartments used regularly by The Queen for ceremonies and official entertaining. Tickets include a complimentary audio tour and access to changing exhibitions. Upcoming exhibits at the Queen’s Gallery include Maria Merian’s Butterflies (March 17-July 23), showcasing the story of German artist and entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian through her works acquired by George III. For more information, visit royalcollection.org.uk/visit/palace-of-holyroodhouse.
One Up, a restaurant, bar and nightclub on Royal Exchange Square in Glasgow’s city center. (Photo credit: VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins)
A few minutes away from George Square and the Style Mile shopping district, sits Glasgow’s Merchant City, a hub of independent bars and sophisticated restaurants, including One Up, a swanky venue serving lunch and cocktails. Merchant City also has a spacious indoor courtyard ideal for sitting out and people watching, live sports on a big screen in the courtyard and weekly craft and design events. For more information, visit merchantsquareglasgow.com.