Voted the most beautiful country in the world in 2017 by readers of Rough Guides, Scotland is the place you never forget. Craggy hills covered in soft purple heather give way to Lochs and tumbling waterfalls; the type of natural landscape usually only reserved for day dreams or romantic novels.
But as beautiful as Scotland may be, there’s also more to this land than just impeccable scenery, men in kilts and haggis. A visit to Scotland will afford you an insight into a culture, and a people, who are fiercely proud of their heritage, keeping traditions alive that have been the backbone of Scottish civilisation for eons. Traditions, like trad music.
To dig a little deeper into a side of the country you don’t often see publicised, The Travel Project ventured to Scotland together with Visit Scotland, and YouTuber Cat Creature. Hailing from sunny California, the trip would be Cat’s first time to a land she grew up hearing stories about, courtesy of her America-Scottish step father.
We caught up with her post trip, to get the low down…
What were your impressions of Scotland before visiting?
My impressions of Scotland before visiting were what I have seen of the surreal landscapes in movies. I also knew about how patriotic the people are, and how deeply connected they are to their heritage through family clans.
What surprised you the most about Scotland?
Scotland surprised me in that I felt like I could live there, even if it were for a short period in my life. The escape from a busy, rushing society and into having the space and peace to find enjoyment in simplicity defines Scotland for me.
Where was the most beautiful place you visited?
The most beautiful place I visited and still resonates with me is Sandaig Beach, off of Glenelg, right up by the Isle of Skye. Never have I laid eyes on a landscape that was both sandy beach, grassy meadows, and rocky cliffs – and in such a small proximity.
What did you learn about traditional music on this trip?
I found that traditional Scottish music is so pertinent to learn about in order to push past the surface level of visiting the country. It inspires love and excitement when witnessing it in person. I experienced it in crowded pubs that were filled with locals, visitors- everybody that came for the music. It doesn’t require expertise of the tunes to enjoy it, and you feel a sense of belonging.
How did learning about trad music change your experience in Scotland?
Experiencing trad music and hearing about how meaningful it is to the locals gave me a whole other level of insight to visiting Scotland. Hearing it live makes all the difference, and it’s when I came to a new place and get to feel a sense of inspiration and belonging that I know it wasn’t just scratching the surface of visiting as a tourist. It gave me an intimate view on the people who live in this beautiful country, and I got to momentarily feel how precious and meaningful they find their music.
Why do you think immersing in a culture is so valuable to the travel experience?
Being immersed in a travel experience this way is so valuable to how I grow as a person. When I meet people and discover to some extent that the things they love and hold meaning to can be so vastly different from me, it grants me a perspective that the world is so big, and that we’re all sharing it. I think it’s very natural to assume that what’s standard and normal to our own culture or background is the best. When you become exposed to so many new places in the world, it brings a realization that there’s always more to what you think you know about life itself.