Everybody knows Scotland, don't they? It's all rugged castles, brooding mountains and swishing kilts, images that are successfully peddled around the world on shortbread tins and whisky bottles. Of course, that side of the country does exist, and it's one the tourist boards are happy to endorse. But there's so much more to Scotland than a set of worn-out old cliches. It's home to more than 800 islands, has more than 10 percent of Europe’s coastline and has been voted the world’s number one mountain biking destination. It's a fabulously inventive place, which brought the world the telephone, TV, penicillin, and, er, tarmac. And it's much more of a contemporary destination than the tourist board would have you believe, with seven thrilling cities, of which Glasgow and Edinburgh can hold their own with any in Europe (let alone Britain) when it comes to sights, architecture and nightlife. Of course Scotland also boasts some of the most remote and wild landscapes in Europe. And that is just the point: Scotland is diverse, deep, and very, very hard to pin down: it's as much Trainspotting as it is Braveheart, and there are as many fine dining restaurants as there are chippies selling deep-fried Mars bars. You can't rely on the familiar old cliches. You need to come here for yourself to find out what it really has to offer. And there has never been a better time than 2014, which has been designated Homecoming Scotland 2014. There will be a mass of events up and down the country for the whole year, from wee ceilidhs and special whisky tastings at remote distilleries, right through to global spectaculars like the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles.
Cool Places aims to celebrate the glorious diversity of the UK, promoting the very best places to visit, sleep, eat, drink, shop and much more. We particularly love the independent businesses that make the UK unique, from the tiniest B&B to the grandest boutique hotel, as well as the extraordinary British landscape and its amazing sights and attractions. Our guides cover most of the major towns and regions of Britain – for more information, visit www.coolplaces.co.uk