1. Embrace the gospel of ‘taps aff!’
It means ‘tops off’ and it’s Scottish slang for whenever the weather goes from totally baltic to barely mild. We’re talking about 17°C, which in most parts of the world would be considered chilly. But in Scotland it’s an open call for everyone to take their jackets and jumpers off, whip out the shades and slap on the sunblock. Sunny days are precious in Scotland, and if you snooze you lose!
2. Eat something deep fried (that shouldn’t be)
Yes it’s true, you can walk into a local chip shop (or ‘chippy’) in Scotland and get many kinds of food deep fried to greasy perfection. You’ve not lived like a Scot until you’ve savoured the delights of a fried pizza, burger or haggis, but if you really want to walk on the wild side, then look no further than the deep fried Mars Bar. Contrary to popular belief most Scottish people hate the chocolate monstrosity, but make no mistake, the chippy is a national institution of calorific proportions!
3. Start believing in mythical creatures
Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn. No really. This is absolutely true, and it’s even more hilarious because the unicorn is obviously make-believe. But it’s not surprising given that Scots are known dreamers and inventors. The long list of Scottish inventions include TV (we mentioned this before, but seriously, that’s huge!), the telephone, the Grand Theft Auto game series, the bicycle and depending on who you ask – the game of golf. These things alone have literally changed the world and that’s barely scratching the surface. Nae bad eh?
4. Track down some Irn Bru
In 1905 a meteorite crash landed up in the Scottish highlands and was discovered by some local farmers who marveled at its strange orange glow. Undeterred, the brave crofters cracked the steaming space rock open only to find the world’s first can of Irn Bru, Scotland’s national soft drink. The rest is history. Ok, that’s obviously not true, but the drink has reached legendary status among locals and tourists alike for being truly unique. Forget Pepsi and Dr. Pepper, you need to try a can of Irn Bru instead. (PS: It’s also hailed as a miracle hangover cure, but that’s open for debate)
5. Join the biggest parties in the world
Scottish people know how to party, whether it’s celebrating a rare Six Nations Rugby win or drowning sorrows after watching the national football team get destroyed (again). But there are two particular times of year when Scots show the rest of the world how it’s done. First up is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, arguably the world’s largest cultural celebration, where people from all over the world meet to enjoy the arts and party for a month solid, during which the pubs are open until 5am. Then there’s Scottish New Year, otherwise known as Hogmanay, which raises the roof into the stratosphere. Read more on how to make the most of the Edinburgh Fringe, especially if you’re visiting on a budget.
6. Dress the traditional Scottish way
We’re not talking about popper trackies and a Burberry cap here, but kilts and traditional Scottish dress. You’ve probably seen Scots on TV or postcards wearing kilts like they’re everyday attire, but this national symbol is typically worn to formal affairs like weddings or a ceilidh (pronounced ‘kay-lee’).
What’s a ceilidh?
They’re traditional shindigs where everyone typically dresses in kilts and tartan clothes, then they formation dance like nutters for about ten hours solid while drinking and eating like royalty. Maybe not ten hours, but you’ll be absolutely knackered, watered and well-fed by the end. They’re definitely prime bucket list material if you’re planning a holiday to Scotland.
7. See the ‘real’ Scotland from Braveheart
This obviously ignores the fact that most of Mel Gibson’s 1995 Oscar magnet was filmed in Ireland (Scotland was apparently unavailable?) but Scotland truly is a sight to behold. In many ways it feels like a mythical land right out of an RPG videogame. Case and point: the capital city of Edinburgh boasts a grand castle atop a 700-year extinct volcano, and Loch Ness is home to fabled serpent Nessie. The vistas of Skye are the dictionary definition of picturesque, while the highland sprawl of Glencoe is as ‘real’ as it gets. We’re barely scratching the surface here, but take a day away from the cities and you won’t regret it. Looking for more Scottish highland and island inspiration? Read our ultimate guide to the Scottish Isles.
8. Three words: Haggis bon bons
Tourist traps will spin you a yarn about Haggis being small hairy beasts that frolic around the Scottish highlands. Like Scotland’s spirit animal the Unicorn, the Haggis is unfortunately a load of old triple. Literally. Haggis is actually Scotland’s national dish, and yes, it really is a combination of oatmeal and tripe – the heart, lungs and liver of a sheep. In a surprising twist, haggis is absolutely delicious, and comes served many ways including, unsurprisingly, deep fried at the chippy. Few methods will make you drool like the haggis bon bon, a battered and fried sphere of meaty goodness served with a whisky cream dipping sauce. Seek it out and thank us later!
9. Wash it down with a dram
What better way to compliment your first haggis than a traditional Scottish whisky. It’s no secret that Scotland has perfected the art of whisky – that goes for making and drinking the stuff. They’re so good at it in fact, that the excuse "I’m not a whisky drinker" simply doesn’t cut it, and no, Jack Daniels doesn’t count! That’s because there’s just so much variety. Depending on which part of Scotland the whisky comes from, it’ll taste totally different. For the real experience why not visit one of over 100 whisky distilleries the country has to offer? Just go easy on the free samples, eh?
10. Take a photo of a dirty pint at the airport
At the end of your trip, when you’ve sampled all the fruits that Scottish culture has to offer, there’s just one last thing you need to do before you can call yourself an honourary Scot. Buy a cheap pint of beer at the airport bar, take a photo of it, and upload it to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Trust us on this one, it’s become a weird tradition before Scots go on holiday. We don’t know why either, just roll with it!
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