Take a trip north of the border and sweeping glens, soaring mountains, and mile upon mile of purple heather will instantly beguile you. Scotland is vast, windswept, desolate, and extraordinarily beautiful. For centuries, people have eked out a living, battling against the combined forces of nature and English tyrants to make a home for their families.
The Scottish people are proud of their roots and welcome visitors with open arms. Take a trip to Edinburgh, Glasgow, or deep into the Highlands and islands, and you can expect to see amazing sights. There will also be plenty of opportunities to buy gifts for friends and family along the way.
So what gifts should you look out for on a trip to Scotland this year?
Tartan and Tweed
Scotland is famous for its tartan and tweed fabrics. You will see tartan everywhere and there are an enormous number of different products made from traditional Scottish tartans and tweeds, including scarves, clothing, bags, and of course kilts.
Tartan is a distinctive woven cloth. It actually originated in Ireland, but the Scots introduced it to Scotland when they moved there to found a new kingdom. Back in the 15th and 16th centuries, different clans had their own distinctive tartan, which caused some alarm amongst English troops when they faced a horde of Scottish clansmen wearing brightly colored plaid. After the ill-fated Battle of Culloden, the Scots were banned from wearing tartan, but this ban was eventually lifted and today you can wear (and buy) tartan everywhere.
There are over 3,500 different tartan designs, so if you have any family links to clans in Scotland, there will be a tartan for you.
The Scottish diet is not known for being healthy – deep fried mars bars caused a sensation in the 1980s – but if you want to sample some of the local cuisine, try haggis or ‘neeps and tatties’.
Haggis is made from lamb, beef, onions, oats and spices. It is extremely tasty and likely to be on the menu of most pubs and restaurants in Scotland. You can even order a vegetarian version if you don’t eat meat, which replaces the lamb and beef with vegetables, pulses and seeds.
Everyone has their own recipe for haggis, usually one that has been passed down through the ages, but most are delicious. Haggis is traditionally served with neeps and tatties, which is turnip or swede and potato, boiled and mashed. Try some and if you love it, buy a haggis and take it home.
Traditional Scottish shortbread is common throughout Scotland and elsewhere. Much commercially produced shortbread is not made in Scotland, so it is a good idea to check before you buy. You are more likely to find locally produced shortbread made to a traditional recipe if you buy from non-touristy shops in the Highland and islands, so shop around.
Scottish whiskey is revered throughout the world. There are many different regional distinctions in the different brands of Scottish whiskey. Whiskey distilleries abound throughout Scotland, so include a visit to at least one so you can see how whiskey is made.
Blended whiskeys such as Johnnie Walker are enduringly popular, but for a really special gift, look out for a quality single malt. There are many to choose from, each with own distinctive flavor. A really good 25-Year-old single malt will set you back a lot of money, so try before you buy.
Scottish Clan History
We all come from somewhere and anyone with links to Scotland will find a Scottish clan history extremely interesting. They normally include historical information dating back to the 1100s, including the tartan, Gaelic name, clan seat and clan chief associated with your surname. It’s a great gift, for yourself or someone else. Have it printed and hang it on your wall at home.
Arts, Crafts and Jewelry
Arts and crafts are readily available throughout Scotland. Look out for Celtic silver jewelry especially in the Highlands and islands. Many artisans have their own workshops where you can see them hard at work. This is your opportunity to learn more about their craft and the things that inspire them. Pick up some handcrafted pieces as a gift and the recipient will be delighted.
There will be no shortage of Scottish gifts to choose from. A trip to Loch Ness is likely to yield any number of products with a Loch Ness Monster theme, which kids will love of course. However, buy wisely and look for products produced locally, as these support the local economy.