The Scottish capital,
, is a handsome and ancient city, famous for its magnificent
Palace of Holyroodhouse
as well as for a world-acclaimed international arts festival and some excellent museums - not least the outstanding
National Museum of Scotland
. A short journey west is
, a sprawling industrial metropolis that has done much to improve its image in recent years and can now boast a range of fine museums and galleries to complement the impressive architectural legacy of its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century heyday.
, often underrated, features some gorgeous scenery, but nothing quite to compare to the shadowy glens and well-walked hills of the
, or to the
, whose multitude of mountains, seacliffs, glens and lochs cover the northern two-thirds of the country.
is an obvious base, although
, at the opposite end of the Great Glen near
, Britain's highest mountain, is an alternative.
Some of Britain's most thrilling wilderness experiences are to be had on the Scottish islands, the most accessible of which extend in a long rocky chain off the Atlantic coast, from
(the most visited of the Hebrides) to the
, where the remarkably hostile terrain harbours some of the last bastions of the Gaelic language. At Britain's northern extreme lie the sea- and wind-buffeted
islands, whose rich Norse heritage makes them distinct in dialect and culture from mainland Scotland, while their wild scenery offers some of Britain's finest birdwatching and some stunning archeological remains.