My First Impressions of the Scottish Countryside

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Photos from the Scottish Countryside

  1. It’s wet.
  2. It’s grey.
  3. It’s beautiful.

No, really. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Scotland’s scenery is absolute stunning. The seemingly endless drizzling should be an hindrance, but in reality—it just adds to the magical mystery that makes up the Scottish countryside. Who knew that somewhere so wet, so grey, so foggy & cold could be so stunning?

Scottish countryside

The lush Scottish countryside

The wet weather means green grass (and plenty of moss). The foggy grey skies might make the countryside appear spooky but that only adds to the Scottish atmosphere. The many shades of grey that make up the Scotland countryside only emphasize the other colors that do exist. The Tartan kilts, the grassy green knolls, the pastel-painted houses, the black slate and the amber whisky. Scotland is lovely. End story.

TRAVEL TIP: TAKE A BUS TOUR! To get outside of the Scottish cities, consider a tour with companies like Rabbie’s Travel or Haggis Adventures. These group tour buses are a great way to get to hard-to-reach destinations as far north as the Isle of Skye…but they’re also handy for visiting whisky distilleries, castles and scenic outlooks. Check out Rabbie’s Tours of Scotland here.

Loch Lomond, Scotland

On the shores of Loch Lomond

Scottish Words to Know & Their Definitions

Scottish Words for Outdoors TravelOne thing I learned during my first trip through the Scottish countryside is that not only is this a whole other world than I’m used to, they’ve got an entirely different language here! It’s called “Scots” but it’s not actually taught in schools. And even though Scotland is currently part of the UK, that doesn’t mean they speak English here. I thought it bizarre the first time I heard someone speaking Scots because I just didn’t realize the accent and dialect would be so hard to decipher.

I’ve only really traveled around the Trossachs region of Scotland’s countryside, so without witnessing the majestic glory of the Isle of Skye or the picturesque Highlands, I can’t really speak of all the different types of scenery you might find in Scotland, but these Scots words should be a helpful starter guide to Scotland’s scenery (and weather).

  • Glen — It’s a steep-sided valley, popular among sheeps who graze along them, and photographers who can’t stop snapping photos
  • Ben — A mountain. Historically, many of these served as beacon hills to signal and call-to-arms neighboring Scottish clans
  • Loch — A lake. As in Loch Ness, duh.
  • Strath — A valley, like a glen, but this one’s got a flat floor which makes for good farmland.
  • Burn — A stream, usually occurs because of the massive amounts of rain that feed into the gushing waterfalls

Also, two of the most important weather-related Scots words. Trust me: these will be handy when trying to fit in like a local!

  • Dreich (also geidreich) — It means all the worst bits of weather: wet, cold and gloomy! Use “gei” when it’s exceptionally bad.
  • Braw — It’s used when the day is actually quite nice, or “fine.” Hopefully you get to use this word more often than “dreich.”
Wet Scotland

Scotland is wet but beautiful in the winter

Monachyle Mhor

It’s possible to even go on safaris through parts of the Scottish countryside. Hidden Glen Safaris get you close to nature and wildlife in The Trossachs

The Trossachs

Road in the Trossachs National Park

TRAVEL TIP: BRING SCOTTISH MUSIC ON YOUR ROAD TRIP! When you’re out exploring the sweeping vistas and the glens, lochs and straths of Scotland, make sure you load up a playlist of Scottish music. And not that silly (but sweet) traditional folk music. Rather…load the cool indie bands you’ll find at the likes of the T in the Park music festival.

Waterfall Scotland

Gushing waterfall in The Trossachs

Scotland Glen

Glens are deep valleys

Scotland countryside

Stone fences to keep sheep from wandering too far

Scotland moss

Moss is everywhere in Scotland

Loch Fyne

Flooded Atlantic waters of Loch Fyne

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond

Scotland countryside

Trees in the mist

If you’ve been to Scotland before, let me know below what you thought of the Scottish countryside. Did you find it as delightfully spooky and darkly charming as I do?

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21 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. A great read, Adam…

    Looks like you were treated to some true Scottish weather! :)

  2. Great photos! Really makes me want to visit, despite the “wet” weather. How many days do you recommend for a first time visit?

    • My first visit to Scotland (which was this trip) was one week. If you want to combine sightseeing in the city in addition to the countryside, I think you’d need about 5 or 6 days at a minimum – just depends how much of the countryside you want to see.

      I think it would be feasible to spend 2 nights in Edinburgh and then 2-3 nights exploring the countryside. If you rent a car you could probably see more at your own pace, but the guided tour (like I did with Rabbie’s) made it easier to see a bunch of highlights in a short time. Maybe check their website for possible itineraries to get a better idea :)

  3. I grew up in the Highlands in Inverness and on the shores of Loch Ness. May I recommend the North West Highlands – north and west of the Great Glen. Beautiful, beautiful, especially in late August early September.

    • Thanks for the recommendation Donald! I definitely hope to visit Scotland again and I think the next time it would be around that same time. I’d love to time a visit so I can catch part of the Fringe Festival and then spend some days exploring more of the countryside — especially further north in Scotland.

  4. I’m from London, but I’ve only been to Scotland twice; once to Edinburgh for a few days in September and once to the Highlands for a week in July. It rained both times, but is certainly still extremely beautiful and I find myself more and more inclined to go back.

    • Actually, when I think about it, my trip to London in November was almost certainly wet. Perhaps it’s a disease for the entirety of the UK?!

      ;-)

  5. Very nice! I was there several years back with a friend and my parents, and we had a blast. Visiting the Highlands/countryside was a highlight of our trip, and we had a most excellent tour bus guide for it. Whoever you go with, I highly recommend everyone make the venture. I’ll never forget it.

    • Awesome to hear you enjoyed your bus trip through the Highlands as well. Do you remember which company you went with?

  6. You’ve got the top tip to listen to Scottish music spot on.
    Two bands I would recommend (one old and one new) that sort of frame the scenery is Chvrches & Jesus & The Mary Chain.
    Melancholic melodies of introspection that could only be inspired by the gloom and the beauty of Scotland.
    Warning: Neither are massively upbeat

    • Thanks for the music recommendations Martin! I actually saw Chvrches during Hogmanay — they were definitely atmospheric :) Also… I never knew Jesus & The Mary Chain were Scottish – that’s awesome!

      You’ve just made me realize I really should put together a post of my favorite Scottish indie bands!

      • That would be a cool little accompaniment to the posts. In fact playlists for every post.
        Also there would be a few to choose from; Mogwai, Belle and Sebastien – I would also throw Primal Scream onto the list because the front man Bobby Gillespie is Scottish (he also used to be the drummer for Jesus and the Mary Chain)

        • ZOMG! Belle & Sebastian – how did I not think of them?! Music post is currently in the works xx

  7. I’m so pleased you enjoyed your first trip to Scotland! Glad you got to Loch Lomond. It’s true that it is grey and wet a lot here in winter, but it is equally beautifu in the sunshine in spring and summer (when we get some!). Haste ye back (which roughly means ‘hurry back’)

    • Cheers Carol. I’m really glad I visited Loch Lomond as well. It was really beautiful. And I definitely do plan to return again in warmer weather. I’d love to see more of the countryside and take some hiking trails.

  8. Looks beautiful Adam! Photos are amazing, as always! I so need to go here one day. :)

    • Thank you Cheryl xoxo – And yes, I think this is a country you would really love. The landscape is definitely magical! And very photographic so long as you can figure out how to get photos through the fog and mist!

  9. Love all the moody photos Adam! Makes me miss Scotland!

    • Moody!!! That was the word I was looking for! Thanks Liz :)

  10. I have not been to Scotland, but I love foggy and slightly rainy atmospheres. It has been a warm and dry winter so far in the San Francisco Bay Area, and this post has me yearning for my usual fog. I bet there were some amazing hiking trails where you visited. I love hiking in the mist.

    Love your adventures!

    • I like a bit of fog and rain myself, Alana — perhaps that’s why I found myself mystified with the allure of Scotland’s countryside. It was a bit muddy and cold for some hikes, but I’d love to return in the summer to see more!

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