‘Don’t believe everything you see in Trainspotting.’
5 must-not-miss events in Scotland
- Hogmanay: partying for just one night to usher in the New Year is the mark of a southern ponce. The Scots indulge in a three-day soiree called Hogmanay. In Edinburgh, it climaxes with the Loony Dook on New Year’s Day – thousands of double ‘ard bastards take a dip in the freezing River Forth in their swimmers.
- Spirit of Speyside: this annual whisky festival takes in the historic distilleries of Scotland’s Speyside region, in the north-east. Includes Cardhu, the only malt distillery pioneered by a woman. Go girl, go!
- Glasgow 2014: probably best not to tell any Scots that their Commonwealth Games amount to a poor man’s London 2012. You might end up on the receiving end of one of those Glasgow snogs.
- Edinburgh Fringe: this annual summer carnival of comedy is the oldest and largest in the world. Not a regional haircut.
- Up Helly Aa: the townsfolk of Lerwick in the Shetland Islands dress up in horny hats and throw flaming torches into a big, wooden Viking ship. GRRR!
This year is a big one for Scotland. It’s bigger than Sean Connery’s eyebrows and ‘Gorgeous’ George Galloway’s ego.
In 2014, the Commonwealth Games comes to Glasgow, and the ‘Year of Homecoming’ seeks to snatch expat Scots back to the mother country (seriously, it’s a government initiative). But, most momentous of all, it’s when the nation decides whether to break away from the UK and, like many a diva before her, declare independence. That’s right: Scotland may soon be joining Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson as a finger-snappin’, you-go-girlfriend-blabbin’ beacon of autonomy.
And what with all this attention, it’s also time for Scotland to shine and become known for more than haggis, Nessie and Mel Gibson’s big blue revisionist face. This year, the country will reveal itself as full of world-class fun for travellers – and we don’t just mean watching someone consume a deep-fried Mars Bar and live.
I’VE BEEN TO EDINBURGH AND I DON’T BELIEVE IN NESSIE. ISN’T THAT SCOTLAND DONE?
Edinburgh is admittedly a stunning capital and no, there’s probably not a prehistoric sea beast lurking in the loch (one possible sighting last year turned out to be a duck). But those in the know are blissfully aware that Scotland’s treasures number more than two. Glasgow will step out from the capital’s shadow in 2014 to become a sought-after city break. A makeover to complement the summer’s Commonwealth Games has seen multi-million-pound regeneration across the now-tarted up riverfront and a crop of cultural offerings (The Riverside Museum was named European Museum of the Year 2013). But, to really discover Scotland, one must hitch up their kilt and groom their sporran for a wild adventure in the outdoors.
GO OUTSIDE? IN SCOTLAND? ARE YOU MAD?
Accept it. Scotland has arguably the most dramatically beautiful countryside in the UK. You can climb Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the British Isles), go skiing in the Cairngorms, spot seals in the Orkneys and marvel at the Caribbean-blue seas and white sands of the Hebrides – and that’s just for starters. The latter accounts for just a few of Scotland’s 790 islands, all of which serve up lashings of windswept, unspoilt landscape. And midges. Did we mention the midges? If you happen to be visiting when they’re at their bitingly busiest, take appropriate protection.
BUT AREN’T THE SCOTS ALL A BIT DOUR?
Don’t believe everything you see in Trainspotting. The Scots love a party. Every month seems to usher in a new festival, from the three-day Hogmanay extravaganza over New Year to the biggest arts and culture event in the world, summer’s Edinburgh Fringe. So grab a pint of Irn Bru and hold on to your haggis – Scotland, like its independent sista Beyonce, has got it goin’ on.
MAXIMUM BLUFFING VALUE
Skara Brae, in the Orkneys, is one of the world’s best preserved settlements of prehistoric houses, and predates the Pyramids. Put that in your bagpipe and smoke it.
DO SAY ‘Crappit heid.’ No, we’re not trying to get you to start a fight. This is a traditional Scottish fish dish – usually cod stuffed with oats, suet, white pepper and the fish’s very own liver.
DON’T SAY ‘Hey, how about a Glasgow kiss?’ This is not an act of endearment, but involves deep impact between a Glaswegian’s forehead and a somebody else’s nose.