With new nonstop service between Dulles and Edinburgh, a quick getaway to Scotland should be on your travel agenda for the next long weekend.
I was on the inaugural United Airlines flight last month, and after spending a few days in bonnie Scotland, I learned that it’s more than a golfer’s paradise — a relief for those of us with a less-than-perfect swing.
Edinburgh is an ancient city that brims with modern vitality. With the iconic Edinburgh Castle hovering above you, meander the gardens of Princes Street or the many shops and restaurants. (I curiously spotted more than a handful of Pizza Huts. Go figure.)
If you’re up for a hike — and some amazing Instagram-worthy nature shots — climb Arthur’s Seat, which offers panoramic views of the city from its majestic 822-foot height. History buffs will appreciate the folklore and mythology surrounding the area, which derives its name from King Arthur. His Camelot castle and court were located there, legends say.
Just below is Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the queen in Scotland, dating back to the 16th century. You can take a look at the regal apartments of the legendary Mary, Queen of Scots, unless Her Majesty or one of her guests is in residence.
I would point out a newly refurbished hotel, right off fashionable Charlotte Square, the Nira Caledonia. The rooms are small but cozy with excellent beds, high-end French amenities in the bathrooms and lovely views. You will be within walking distance of the Royal Mile,Edinburgh’s Rodeo Drive, and all of the must-see museums and monuments. The Nira Caledonia is one of only three hotels in Scotland to be included in the highly selective Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
No trip to this land is complete without venturing into its rich countryside, where horses,sheep and “coos” — Scots-talk for cattle — picturesquely graze. Perthshire, right outside Edinburgh, is perfect for what I like to call this pastoral “grazing gazing.”
You can hang your hat in style in the evening at the charming country manor Kinloch House, a Relais & Châteaux property, built in 1840. The dining area offers stunning views of the bucolic surroundings, and I highly recommend the leek and potato soup as a starter. Another tip: Ask the super-friendly staff for a carrot to feed the four-legged “locals” right outside.
Scone Palace, the place where Scotland’s most notorious kings, such as Macbeth, were crowned, is an ideal castle to see, not only for its rich history and lush gardens, but to see an actual home. Like many estates in the U.K., Scone Palace is very much a family house, and not just a museum.
Scotch tasting, said to be growing in popularity among women due to the enhanced female sense of smell, is best done at a bona fide distillery like Edradour in Perthshire, established in 1825, which remains the last stronghold of handmade single-malt whisky. As you walk around the distillery with an expert guide, even teetotalers like me will be seduced by the sights, smells and, of course, tastes of Scotland’s most beloved export.
For those who want a taste of the country’s urbane offerings, the city of Dundee will open the highly anticipated V&A Dundee — the Victoria and Albert Museum of Design, a branch of the famed London museum — on Sept. 15. Its opening exhibition will be “Ocean Liners: Speed and Style,” which will feature the largest remnant of the Titanic.
And speaking of relics of the past, the Edinburgh area is a treasure trove of ancient churches. A highlight of my visit was a stop at Rosslyn Chapel, just a short city bus ride away, which figured prominently in the Dan Brown novel “The Da Vinci Code.” Followers of Holy Grail trivia, and so-called “code heads,” believe that the Knights Templar brought the remains of Mary Magdalene there for secret burial. Even non-conspiracy theorists will be stunned by the medieval architecture and original craftsmanship.
United Airlines’ daily flight from Dulles departs at 10 p.m. and arrives in Edinburgh at 10:25 a.m.