In Scotland, visitors can expect the unexpected. With a fascinating history, legendary tales, and endless quirky experiences, those who venture to Scotland can prepare to be surprised. So, in celebration of National Tartan Day, VisitScotland looks at some fun facts which will inspire an adventurous traveller’s next vacation…
Year of Stories
1. Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn.
Scotland is well known for its love for and long history of myths and legends, therefore, it may be no surprise that this mythical creature is Scotland’s beloved national animal. The unicorn representing Scotland is often shown with chains around its body. The unicorn was believed to be the strongest of all animals and the chains are believed to symbolise the power of Scottish Kings, strong enough to tame even a unicorn! Find out more about Scotland’s myths and legends here.
2. Robert Burns’ most famous poem is about haggis.
One of the most famous poems by Scotland’s most famous poet is called “Address to a Haggis”, which was written by Burns to celebrate his appreciation for the hearty Scottish dish. This poem is traditionally recited on Burns Night as a toast before the theatrical cutting of the haggis and the celebrating can begin!
3. Scotland boasts more than 60 book and literary festivals throughout the year, from Stornoway to the Borders and from Skye to Aberdeen.
Stories are weaved into the fabric of Scotland’s culture, and every community has a different tale to tell. Throughout the year, locations in Scotland celebrate the art of stories and storytelling with events such as the Edinburgh International Book Festival, The Borders Book Festival (known as one of the UK’s friendliest book festivals), the Dundee Summer (Bash) Streets Festival, the Wigtown Book Festival, and more! For more information on events taking place across Scotland to celebrate the Year of Stories see here.
1. Edinburgh is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Edinburgh is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, with an abundance of history, iconic attractions and beautiful green spaces. Its historic heart is one of the most striking and architecturally significant in the world, thanks to the dramatic juxtaposition of its medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Towns, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These two UNESCO World Heritage Sites form part of Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, a world-first which launched in October 2021.
2. Perth recently became the UK’s first UNESCO City of Craft and Folk Art.
Craft is important to the history and heritage of Perth and was known as ‘Craftistown’ in the 16th century. In modern day, the city hosts some of the most creative talent in Scotland and visitors can immerse themselves in the local art scene. For more information on Perth, see here.
3. Glasgow is one of the UK’s most vegan-friendly cities.
In 2020, Glasgow was named as one of the best places in Europe to be vegan and in 2021, Glasgow was ranked the UK’s fourth most vegan-friendly city. With such a wide range of restaurants offering vegetarian/vegan options, visitors can limit their meat intake easily without sacrificing choice or quality. A list of vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Glasgow can be found here.
Food & Drink
1. Between 70% and 80% of the UK’s gin is produced in Scotland.
Scotland’s love affair with gin started in the 1700s when the first bottles were traded in the Port of Leith. Now, the three best-selling gins are made in Scotland: Hendrick’s, Gordon’s, and Tanqueray. Gin has become so popular, VisitScotland has created a gin map to make finding distilleries and tastings as easy as possible.
2. Scotland is one of the few countries in the world where a locally made soft drink outsells Coca-Cola.
Everyone knows that whisky is Scotland’s national drink and biggest export, enjoyed across the globe as well as in Scotland. However, Irn-Bru is considered Scotland’s ‘other’ national drink and is beloved by locals and visitors alike. On a visit to Scotland, expect to see Irn-Bru available in most shops and restaurants outselling Coca-Cola!
3. Haggis is banned in the United States.
Haggis is Scotland’s national dish and the crowning glory of a traditional Burns Supper. This popular meal is a type of savoury pudding that combines meat with oatmeal, onions, salt, and spices, often served with a side of bashed neeps and mashed potatoes (or neeps and tatties!). Venture to Scotland and feast upon this famous dish that visitors can’t get at home!
1. Scotland is home to more than 1,500 castles.
Scotland is dotted with castles at almost every turn! Many castles lie in ruin, but others are still standing tall, providing unique opportunities for visitors to step back in time and experience Scotland through the ages. In fact, travellers can live the Royal life and spend the night in some of Scotland’s most luxurious castles. Find out how to stay in a castle here.
2. Visitors can stay on working farms.
For a taste of authentic farming life in Scotland, a stay on a working farm is the perfect retreat. Farming has deep roots in Scottish culture, from centuries ago until the present day, with generations of farming families basing their lives around their farms and offering accommodation and activities for visitors to enjoy. Find out more about farm accommodation here.
1. Scotland is home to the highest hedge in the world!
The Meikleour Beech Hedge in Perthshire, which was planted in 1745, stands at a whopping 100 ft high and 530m long. It is thought that the men who planted it were called to fight in the Jacobite Rebellion and none of them returned alive. In tribute, the trees were allowed to grow and the hedge acts as a living landmark to them.
2. Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle sit on extinct volcanos.
Arthur’s Seat is the highest point in Holyrood Park and sits 251m above sea level, giving a breath-taking view of the city. The volcano erupted around 340 million years ago! Edinburgh Castle similarly is built on the plug of a volcano, believed to be around 350 million years old. Now, visitors can safely go to both locations for a unique visit to Scotland’s history.
3. Scotland is home to the tallest waterfall in Britain, Eas a’ Chual Aluinn.
The waterfall is 658 feet, which is 3 times the height of Niagara Falls. The waterfall can be found in Sutherland and makes for a stunning waterfall walk. At 200m, not only is it possible to see the UK’s highest waterfall, but a short detour will take visitors to the hauntingly named Wailing Widow Falls.
1. Orkney operates the shortest commercial passenger flight in the world.
A visit to Scotland’s islands takes forward-planning– by ferry or by plane. But did you know Orkney is home to the world’s shortest commercial passenger flight? It’s possible to catch a flight between Westray and Papa Westray and passengers will be in the air for just two minutes. Only in Scotland can this be experienced!
2. Ever wanted to go husky sledging? You can in Scotland!
Visitors can go on a dog sledge ride when it’s cold enough in the stunning region of Perthshire. As adventurous travellers speed along the scenic trails they will experience spectacular views of the Scottish countryside.