Sparkling lochs and mist-covered forests, dusty pink sunrises and snow-covered mountains, otherworldly landscapes and the right to roam. Scotland was just voted the most beautiful country in the world by Rough Guides readers, sparking hundreds of responses from incredulous disbelievers and Scotland patriots. Whether you agree or disagree with this prestigious title, we’ve explored some of the undeniable reasons that Scotland is beyond beautiful, that will have you planning your next trip up north as soon as possible.
The Right to Roam
Essentially, the right to roam is the freedom to walk on open countryside, as outlined by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Compared with England and Wales, there is much more freedom in Scotland to walk and camp on open countryside - in fact, Scotland has some of the best access rights in the world. There's nothing quite like setting up camp for the night half-way up a mountain, or making your morning coffee on the banks of a beautiful loch. Having the right to roam means it's easy to escape the crowds and find somewhere peaceful, untouched, wild and rugged. It's these moments that keep us dreaming of bonny Scotland.
If you know anything about Scotland, you'll know about bothies - or at least, you'll have seen a photo of one of these beautiful, little huts located in the most dramatic of scenery. Bothies are ancient cottages, mountain huts or work houses located in remote settings, often difficult to reach but certainly worth the effort. Thanks to the Mountain Bothy Association, many bothies have been renovated with new sleeping platforms, wood-burning stoves, sofas and even libraries. Yet they still retain their wild charm; a place to call home amidst untamed land for the night.
Check out Jonas Stuck's article written for us about bothies in the Cairngorms and Isle of Skye for some more inspiration.
When you think of Scotland, beaches are probably not the first thing that comes to mind... And perhaps that is a good thing, for the simple reason that they are somewhat a secret. The reality is that Scotland has some of the most beautiful beaches in the UK, little oases far from civilisation. Think white sands and turquoise seas, though the water temperature may be a little cooler than you're used to... Surfing is also a popular sport in Scotland, with the bravest of surfers heading to the far north for the bigger waves and more isolated beaches.
It's a well known fact that you can never be too far away from a castle, wherever you are in Scotland. They are an integral and iconic part of the landscape, history and culture of the country, located in some of the most dramatic settings. Once home to around 3,000 castles built for the strength and protection of the land, today Scotland's castles are a major tourist attraction and certainly worth seeing when in the country.
Home of the UK's highest mountain, Ben Nevis stands tall at 1,345m and requires a day of strenuous hill-walking to reach the summit. Yet there are hundreds of other mountains in Scotland you can tackle in a day or less; Munros, Corbetts, Grahams, Glens and everything in between. But whether or not you wish to summit a mountain, the hilly landscapes and snowy peaks give Scotland its unique beauty and are impossible not to admire.
Read more about Scotland's mountains here.
There's not better way to end a day spent rambling in the Scottish hills than with a beautiful sunset; whether it be beside a loch, atop a mountain or on a quiet beach. Due to its northern setting and isolation, sunrises and sunsets in Scotland are amongst the best in the world; a display or changing colours and dancing clouds. A show that is bound not to disappoint.
From mountains to lochs, forests to castles, friendly locals to fine food; it's not exactly surprising to us that Scotland was voted the most beautiful country in the world. Not simply because of the stunning nature of its landscapes, but for the history and culture that comes with it all. An untouched, untamed and wild landscape filled with wonderful people, peace and isolation.
Check out our guide to Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park for some more Scottish inspiration.