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All About Scotland - Virtual Travel Guide

Scotland. Just the name alone evokes visions of wind swept moors, craggy rock formations, and Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. Scotland is indeed a wonderful vacation destination, where the vibrant cities, hard working people, and areas of wild natural beauty and charm will take in visitors.


The rugged outdoors

If you want to spend your vacation focused on the outdoors, then consider Scotland a prime traveler's paradise for you. The moors and mountains are terrific for hill walking, mountain biking, golfing, and fishing in the summer, as well as skiing and other snow sports in winter.

A surprisingly large amount of land in Scotland is still open and wild, covered with natural grasses and other native plants. Spending time in these areas will open your eyes dramatically, revealing a land teeming with unusual wildlife such as eagles, ospreys and stags. Among the most popular of these wild areas are the Highlands and the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Isles. Venturing down the hillsides, you will encounter numerous fresh water lochs. The longest of these, Loch Fyne, stretches over 40 miles into Scotland, but the most famous of them all is Loch Ness. Legend has it that a large sea creature, known as the Loch Ness Monster, lives in the murky waters of the loch. Sightings of the creature are occasionally reported even now, but its existence has never been proved.


Castles and fortifications

With its long history of battle, conquest, and warring clans, it's no wonder that Scotland was once home to nearly 3,000 castles and fortifications. Time has worn away a great many of these structures, but a great many remain in one form or another. Some of the most interesting castles still in existence include Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh; Balmoral Castle in Aberdeen; Inverness Castle in Highland; and Balfour Castle in Orkney.

The British Royal Family takes up residence in Balmoral Castle periodically, and it is a long time favorite of vacation spot of The Prince of Wales. A great many of the castles in Scotland are open for visits from the public, while others are maintained as private residences. Some have been modernized and are currently in use as luxury hotels or resorts. However, time and weather do take their toll on the castles and fortifications in Scotland. The country is dotted with ruins and remainders of structures that may date back several centuries or more.


The cities of Scotland

If an urban vacation is more to your liking, there is still plenty to make Scotland an excellent choice to visit. There are six major cities in Scotland - Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Stirling. Edinburgh is famous for its annual festival, castle, culture and restaurants, while Glasgow boasts great shopping, nightlife and architecture. In Stirling you'll find monuments, galleries and castles, while Inverness sits on Loch Ness and as the only city in the Highlands it is the perfect launching point for tours and adventures in the area.


Climate and weather

The climate and weather in Scotland are cool, wet, and often windy. The country is not prone to extreme events such as floods, tornadoes and the like, but the weather is quite changeable from day to day, and even from morning to afternoon to evening. It is not unusual for skies to be cloudy (some areas of Scotland only average 50 to 60 days of sunshine per year) and the temperatures to be cool. Travelers to Scotland should bring several layers of clothes, with the outermost layer being resistant to both water and wind.

If you plan to go hiking in the highlands or other wild areas, be sure to bring along a sturdy pair of hiking boots and appropriate outdoor clothing. A regular pair of sneakers just won't cut it in the Highlands, and without good clothing for protection you could quickly get into serious trouble during some parts of the year.

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