Places to visit in Scotland.  Scotland is one of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom. England and Scotland have shared a monarch since 1603 and have been politically unified since 1707.  Visiting Scotland, you may notice subtle changes – in speech and architecture, for example – almost as soon as crossing the border from England.  There’s enough to be familiar, but it is recognisably different too.  The bulk of the population is in the central belt, where Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, and the capital, Edinburgh, are neighbours and rivals.  To the south of the central belt, the border area is hilly – and in Dumfries and Galloway relatively mountainous.  Above the central belt is the Highlands, and two national parks – Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms.  Visitors come to Scotland for the outdoors – though the weather can be uncertain – and for the unique culture and heritage. A colourful and often violent past means that there are plenty of castles, houses, as well as world-class museums, to see.  Many of Scotland’s overseas visitors come to experience the land their ancestors came from.

Linlithgow – Scotland’s Royal Pleasure Palace

Linlithgow-detail from James V's fountain

It’s hard to forget your first sight of Linlithgow Palace.  Off the merkat, up cobbled Kirkgate, past St Michael’s, through the impressive outer gateway – and the palace fills your vision.  It is massive, literally awesome, so obviously a ruinous shell – and yet there’s a niggling hint of what it once was, or might …

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Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel, moody and mysterious

Sooner or later, the curious traveller will end up at Rosslyn.  Not far from Edinburgh, it is a magnet for mystics, myth-lovers, madmen, movie-goers and the mildly interested.  It has been claimed that the chapel was built by the Knights Templar, on the site of a temple of Mithras, and modelled on Solomon’s Temple in …

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St Ninian’s Chapel

St Ninians Chapel on the Isle of Whithorn

We thought we should go to the Cradle of Christianity in Scotland; the place where St Ninian, Scotland’s first Christian missionary, landed in 397AD and showed the pagan Picts The Way.  There is a chapel there, near the Saint’s alleged landing place on the Isle of Whithorn, at the south-east corner of the Machars Peninsula …

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Mary Doll, figurehead, Glenlee

Splice the mainbrace and look out for the roaring forties. Berthed by the Riverside Museum in Glasgow, in the former Queen’s Dock, is the SV (sailing vessel) Glenlee.  Known locally simply as “The Tall Ship”, this is one of the last steel-hulled bulk cargo carriers around, one of only 5 Clyde-built sailing ships still afloat …

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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum comes under the heading, ‘Not to be missed in Glasgow’.  A Spitfire rubs shoulders (or undercarriage/trunk) with Sir Roger the elephant; there’s a stuffed eagle (and other animals), lumps of rock (aka ‘geology’), ancient Egyptian coffins, suits of armour, guns, Charles Rennie Mackintosh bits, fearsome dinosaurs – and loads and …

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A postcard from Calton Hill

Edinburgh is a very photogenic city, the kind of place where it might once have been nice to buy a post card for a close friend or relative.  People hardly ever send post cards anymore.  (This should be said somewhat whimsically.)  People hardly ever send post cards anymore; instead, they take a quick picture on …

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Dervorgilla’s Sweetheart

Sweetheart Abbey, in honour of John Balliol

These are the remains of Sweetheart Abbey, founded by Dervogilla Balliol. Here’s devotion for you.  When her husband, John Balliol, died in 1268, Lady Dervorgilla had his heart removed, embalmed and placed in an ivory casket which she carried with her for the rest of her days.  Apparently, it sat there at mealtimes, her ‘sweet …

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Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries

Here is a fortress on the edge.  Caerlaverock is a mighty Scottish stronghold on the banks of the Solway Firth, in the border battleground of the two old protagonists, Scotland and England, and which finally came to grief in the civil war of the 17th century.  On first seeing a picture of this most photogenic …

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Britain’s National Parks

Lake District National Park

We all know what a national park is.  Although definitions vary, they are usually rural areas of natural (or naturalised) beauty designated as ‘special’ in some way by their national governments.  Normally, the environment within a national park, including its flora and fauna, are protected and there are particular rules about what you can, and …

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