DESTINATION SPOTLIGHT
A Revived Scotland is Calling
A story by Sarah Casewit

The Scotland of our dreams is a shared one. A castle perched at the edge of a misty loch that ripples
with secrets and tales of old. Wild heather blows in from the moors with its glorious hues of mauve.
Cloud-softened light gathers in patches as thin rays make their way past the Highland peaks. A fjord crashes into
a serene valley of green while a distant bagpipe skirls over daring cliffs.

Indeed, it is a cliché-filled dream, but nonetheless one that has captivated our imagination. Together with its imposing Highlands, complex Hebrides, fertile Lowlands and beguiling myths, Scotland seduces from afar, effortlessly luring us to come uncover its mysteries. These enchanting lands are threaded together with a rich tapestry of regional cultures marked by millennia of history and clan heritage that have withstood countless blows of disruption and fragmentation over centuries. The Scottish experience is thus generously coated with a rare quality: the welcome of its country-proud people. With their ironclad identity, Scots are a fascinating centerpiece for visitors, as they graciously flaunt their cultural pride and share their local traditions.
Alba Game Fishing - Salmon, Trout & Saltwater Fishing trips in Scotland since 2004
Recently, Scotland has emerged with a revived sense of vitality, putting forward its natural and cultural qualities in unparalleled ways and ensuring our preconceived dream is not only validated but surpassed with unprecedented experiences. This has resonated with developers, investors and pioneers of the travel industry, readying the country as the next must-see destination. Simultaneously, mega-trends of travel are imposing new demands for Scottish tourism—and from the looks of it, local owners got the message loud and clear. A restored collection of refined stays, thrilling new expeditions and an assortment of intense outdoor pursuits across challenging terrains have been laid out by experts, placing Scotland on the frontline of the world’s leading destinations.

The Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Scotland’s economic and community development agency, forecasts distinct trends in tourism that are revolutionizing the country’s offerings and pushing for new heights. Naturally, the most dominant trend is the demand for genuine travel; visitors want authentically crafted Scottish experiences, challenging tour operators and hotels to provide services that are unique, true and immersive. People want to stay at a traditional property, tightly knit to a local community and that offers select choices and deep meaning. They seek to share honest moments with Scots in the hopes of getting a whiff of life in Scotland with far-flung outdoor adventures, traditional live music, artisan food samplings, regional drink tastings and traditional crafts. These requests are forcing local tour operators to diversify their portfolio around the country.

A successful, in-depth journey through Scotland’s cultural subtleties requires the ingenuity of a team like the Wilderness Group with their 30+ travel experts and 100+ local guides. Heeding the trend of authenticity, their offerings are ever-evolving and ungoogleable, often taking deep dives into Scotland’s ancient lands and drawing inspiration from timeworn legends. The Wilderness Group’s goal is clear: winning you over and turning you into a Scotland regular. Owner Russell Murray describes one of his favorite travel moments he’d organized: “We once arranged for clients to visit Fingal's Cave by private zodiac on the remote and dramatic Hebridean island of Staffa off the west coast. As they entered the famous cave, they were greeted by sounds of a Gaelic singer emerging from within the cave.” Whether it’s joining a musical ceilidh, kayaking to a desert island for a night under the stars, storytelling ancient myths around a campfire or getting a bespoke kilt fitting, Russell’s team has the ammunition to Scott you out.
Dun Aluinn, a design mansion in Perthshire - The Susan Reid Collection
The Wilderness Group

When it comes to running an authenticity test on your travels, most will agree that where you stay can make or break your trip. In the quiet moments of leisure after a day filled with discovery, we take in what we’ve experienced. Eventually, the transformation we hope for occurs within the confines of a beautiful hotel, a manicured garden, a classic bedroom, an inviting lounge. The Susan Reid Collection of estates passes this test with flying colors, as they ensure that guests taste the true spirit of Scotland while staying at one the properties. The handpicked selection of family mansions scattered around the Highlands and Lowlands provides an opportunity to get a taste of sophisticated Scottish life in the country.

“When clients come to Scotland” company owner Susan says, “they want to immerse themselves in our culture and history to truly appreciate and engage with what Scotland has to offer and is all about. From the landscape to the castles and from the whisky distilleries to the field to plate dining experience. They likely do this staying at traditional properties and locations which are well known on the tourist map. However, they can also combine this with experiential travel which enables visitors to connect on a far deeper level and really get to the heart and soul of local culture and their environment.”

Dun Aluinn, one of the estates in the collection, is Scotland’s first design-led mansion with restored Victorian style. It brings the Tay Valley to life with its traditional setting, wood panelling, cozy open fires and original mosaic tiles. Dun Aluinn has close ties with the nearby burgh, Aberfeldy, where visitors can feel they are part of a small Highland community, even just for a short while. 
Turin Castle
Bravo Whisky Golf 
Other travelers hope to experience the Scotland of their dreams while staying at a castle. Newly renovated to match these dreams is the imposing Turin Castle, an impressive estate originally built in 1659 with 20 acres of Scottish hills. The castle is the epitome of country living cushioned with modern-day luxuries and supplied with an impeccable staff keen to impress. The 10 suites at the castle bring scenes from Outlander to life and draw us into a past fit for lovers of tradition and vintage extravagance. Fitted with a helicopter pad, a mini golf course and crackling fire pits along the property’s vast grounds, Turin Castle reveals yet another side of Scottish heritage. What may seem far removed from reality with its luxury frills is in fact a deep exploration of Scotland’s high society, with archery and falconry training, whisky and gin tasting, and fishing and hunting with experts who’ve passed on their skill from generation to generation.

Along with authenticity, the HEI also sees a rise in demand for a wider discovery of the country, that is, physically going beyond the A-list regions and wandering further into the lesser-known, hard-to-reach provinces. This naturally lends itself to Scotland’s main challenge in travel: overcoming the arduous landscapes and connecting impossible points around the Grampians and the Northwestern plateaus with relative comfort and safety.

Swooping into the game in a timely manner, the team at Bravo Whiskey Golf embraced the challenge with class and created a product that takes travelers above and beyond, quite literally. Just as their swanky name insinuates, these are innovative masters of private air, Scotch whiskey and golf. If you aren’t an avid golfer or a whiskey lover yet, wait till you meet Neil Johnson and Paul Geddes, the Co-Founders of the company. Built on a 20-something year long friendship, the Neil and Paul dual represents the aspirations of idyllic contemporary Scotsmen. Their love for Scotland, its heritage and its people, is apparent from the very foundations of the experiences they have built together. Their life-changing itineraries were obviously crafted over several rounds of whiskey, given their wild, close-to-impossible challenges. Neil and Paul are members of the pioneers of luxury travel in Scotland; bold business leaders revolutionizing the way we explore the country.

“Traveling by road is slow at the best of times here” explains Paul, “and in the summer months it can lead to very long and frustrating journeys. By taking to the air, we can elevate the whole experience and 'fold the map', bringing joy back into the discovery of new places.” Barra. Uist. Benbecula. These are only some of the Western Isles you will learn to pronounce as you view them from above on an inconceivable trip through Scotland. Give in to pure euphoria as you get whisked away to iconic distilleries for expert-led tastings and behind-the-scenes tours. Fly from Plockton to Islay, down the wild western coast and take in the mountainous outline of the Isle of Skye. The pilots will dare to orchestrate a beach landing on the sandy coves of the Hebridean Islands, getting you to the most remote areas of the country. The team will even throw in a private dinner with a true Scottish laird at his ancestral home.

And it doesn’t stop there; they will push you to test your pars on the most challenging golf courses you’ve ever faced, ensuring a complete transformation of your experience of the game. Understanding the importance of creating complex yet authentic journeys, Paul is himself an avid golfer and wants to give his guests access to a combination of courses that are unreachable by any other means. He and Neil have spent many hours curating and exploring the very best that Scotland has to offer to take people on extraordinary flights, landing at sites that most people can’t reach by land.
Candacraig Estate - Alba Game Fishing
The expansion of travel has not only been territorial in Scotland. The HIE recognized an evolving diversity of travelers, thereby pushing the local industry to tap into different kinds of individuals, coming from a variety of cultural, social and demographic backgrounds. Scottish businesses are increasingly committed to servicing a wider spectrum of visitors and thereby tailoring their offerings to hairsplitting detail. They are observing the distinct features and molding the journey to meet particular needs in order for them to appreciate the true spirit of Scotland. Beyond the wide range of ages that already poses its own challenges, the demographics are now dividing into a multitude of sub-branches including adventure travellers with disabilities, multi-generational families, culturally contrasting profiles that require tactful linguistic bridging, and visitors with deep-rooted values that bring them along with them on the journey.

These differences are now more and more apparent, pushing tourism professionals out of their comfort zone to cater to a growing diversity of travellers. One tour operator that turned this challenge into an opportunity is Alba Game Fishing, Scotland’s leading fishing outfitter. They skillfully complement fishing experiences with exclusive accommodations, mouthwatering cuisine and stellar customer service fit for all types of travellers. Visitors of all kinds of minds, styles and tastes are cared for by a team of vetted guides and hosts.

Each itinerary is carefully curated, taking into account the different profiles and injecting the journey with perfectly fitting activities. Accompanied by expert fishermen and keeping to a maximum passenger count of four to ensure a memorable journey, Alba Game Fishing gives you the opportunity to appreciate Scotland from a different angle, its wild ruthless coastline. They’ll take you on a private charter in southwest Scotland for sea fishing along the incredible Mull of Galloway for a chance to catch Pollock, Wrasse, Sea Bass, Mackerel, Tope and even Skate. As the company’s founder, Stewart Collingswood, put it, "I don’t think there is anywhere in Scotland that matches such spectacular scenery with such a diversity and abundance of fish." For those who want to embark on an adventure deep into wild Scotland, Stewart’s crew will take you to some of the country’s iconic rivers in the quest for salmon.

To get the full Scottish experience, you’ll be accompanied by ghillies in tweed and drams of malt. The specialist team will tailor the excursions down to minute detail while teaching you the art of swinging a salmon fly across ancient beats. Scotland’s mystical call echoes near and far, drawing in discerned travellers to experience its jarring beauty in ways never done before. It’s a place of wonder, a land of unforgiving terrains containing a richness of lovers and a heritage of clans that will embed the very virtue of adventure into your journey. 

Sarah Casewit 
                          
Sarah is a seasoned travel writer and photographer with a professional background in the luxury travel industry and business development. She has spent most of her life living and working internationally, including Morocco, Argentina and India. Writing is a means for Sarah to express her deep appreciation for travel and how it has the potential to change our perception of others and ourselves. Sarah currently lives in Mallorca, Spain.

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