When I first heard that the unicorn is the official animal of Scotland, I was in an Edinburgh pub. This sweet and silly newfound tidbit made me smile—after all, not only is the horned horse-like creature a symbol of grace, healing, and happiness, but (c’mon, folks!) it is not real. Yet Scots, rich in imagination, love legends and colorful stories.
This information came from a nearby table, where members of a rugby team, most of whom had red hair, counted off on their captain’s fingers a slew of fun facts about their verdant homeland: approximately 70 percent of Scots have blue eyes; Scotland has more than 300 castles (about one per 100 square miles); and Edinburgh is built on seven hills—just like Rome—though there were on-going debates as to which seven they are. I was amused and enthralled.
Having traveled to the United Kingdom via a Trafalgar group tour, the journey unfolded with positive surprises, most notably how much I, an intrepid traveler, quickly came to appreciate the plusses of this escorted entourage mode—a no-fuss, easy-planning way to set my sights on the best sites and skip long lines at museums and other heritage havens. Trafalgar guides make advanced ticket arrangements, as well as deal with transportation, hotels, cultural events, and restaurant reservations. As it turned out, for me, the best Trafalgar trip bonus was the friendship I made with several amazing travel mates whom I would have otherwise never met.
In NYC, National Scotland Week, jumpstarted by Visit Scotland, kicks off April 3rd through 8th with celebrations of all things Scottish—food and drink tastings, art shows, music performances, a parade, and a Central Park marathon. April 6th is National Tartan Day, with events all over North America to honor Scottish-Americans. Vacation deals also abound in alliance with Homecoming Scotland 2014, making the summer months appealing to explore. For performing arts fans, the Edinburgh International Festival occurs this summer on August 8th to 31st.
Please click the gallery launch button (at top right or below) for 13 pics, featuring some hot spots, cool stuff, and warm feelings.
Where have you most enjoyed traveling? Where do you want to go? Please tell us in the comments below—we’d love to know!
Frequent globetrotter Laura Manske has visited most U.S. states, explored 70+ countries, and cruised 60+ ships. She loves to wander the world, unearthing travel joy, beauty, adventure, and humor through her camera lens and articles. Now, she’s sharing pictures and memories of her favorite spots on Parade.com.