From old ruined castles perched high on hilltops to deep lochs and vibrant cities, Scotland really does have a lot to offer. May is one of the region’s (relatively) warmer months and arguably one of its most beautiful with moderate temperatures of 11C and mostly sunny and clear weather. Visiting in May means you dodge the peak-season school holiday crowds, which are common in July/August time, without missing out on the good weather. 2015 is also Scotland’s Year of Food & Drink, which means celebrating local produce and, of course, their wonderful whisky. Here’s Erica Bush’s best picks for exploring Scotland in style…
Inverness Castle, Scotland © Dave Conner
If ever you needed convincing that May really is the best time to visit the region, here it is. And if you were already convinced, then things just got a whole lot better. May is ‘whisky month’ for Scotland, which means a whole host of festivals, tasting experiences and general merriment. Whisky, or as they call it, ‘uisge beatha’ (the ‘water of life’), is Scotland’s national drink so it’s something you simply cannot leave without trying. Shame…
Located in the West of Scotland in the Southern Hebrides is a whisky festival you won’t want to miss. Islay Malt and Music Festival, which runs from May 22 to May 30, is a seven-day festival celebrating all the island of Islay has to offer, including traditional music, ceilidhs, Gaelic lessons, golf, bowling and, of course, whisky tasting.
Another unmissable festival is the Ballantrae Festival of Food & Drink, which takes place on May 10. Showcasing and celebrating outstanding Scottish local produce, the festival includes pop up restaurants, cookery demonstrations, more whisky (!), beer and wine tasting, plus fresh fruit and vegetable juice making, guided foraging walks, live music and more.
If it’s a slightly more intimate affair you’re after, take a trip to a local pub where a variety of whisky tasting events are sure to be in full swing. Sloans, Glasgow’s oldest bar and restaurant, have teamed up with Glenfiddich and are hosting such an event on May 13. Guests are greeted with a whisky cocktail on arrival and will then have the chance to sample three whiskies throughout the evening, namely Glenfiddich 12 year old, Glenfiddich 18 year old and Glenfiddich 15 year old Solera – all for just £12 a head including canapés. Bargain!
For the full whisky experience earmark Create:Eat:Whisky. This event focuses on a fully immersive experience combining all of the senses using lighting, food, aroma and other interactive factors to enhance the whisky experience. It runs from May 14 to May 17 and this year is held at Creative Spaces, Gayfield Square, Edinburgh.
Wild Spring Festival 2015
This year two of Scotland’s esteemed nature festivals are joining forces, showcasing over 150 family friendly events taking place in Southern Scotland over April, May and June. The Dumfries & Galloway Wild Spring Festival (Scotland’s largest and longest running wildlife festival) has teamed up with The Scottish Borders Nature Festival to celebrate the fantastic array of flora and fauna that southern Scotland is home to. For the full May line up, click here, but here are a couple of top picks…
Running from May 2 to May 16, the dawn chorus walk at the RSPB Crook of Baldoon nature reserve is not one to sleep through. Albeit a very early start, the walk allows you to experience one of the most amazing wonders of the natural world. The dawn chorus at the Crook of Baldoon is a beautiful composition of sound, from the trill of skylarks to the complex scratches of reed buntings.
If marine life is your thing, try the Rocky Shore Safari at Coldingham Bay on May 21 where visitors can learn about the extraordinary assortment of marine plants and animals found on the rocky shores. Guided by the European Marine Site Officer, you will learn about the tides, shore zonation and the incredible display of aquatic life living in Coldingham Bay’s waters. And best of all, it’s free!
Newton Stewart Walking Festival
This festival, otherwise known as ‘Walkfest’, is the biggest walking festival in the south of Scotland and has been running for 13 years. It’s situated in Galloway, an area often regarded a best-kept secret due to its unspoilt landscape and endless variety of walking trails. With a programme of 29 guided walks, ranging from expert to beginner and spread over seven days, the Walking Festival provides an ideal opportunity to explore Scotland’s rugged coastlines, thick woodlands and rolling hills. The majority of the trails are themed, ranging from routes with fascinating wildlife to those finishing in a café or pub, meaning you can tailor your walks not only to your ability but to your interests too. The festival runs from May 8 to May 14 with evening social events and transport included.
The Edinburgh Marathon
Whether running or spectating, the Edinburgh marathon is a great occasion to be part of if visiting the region in May. The marathon is Scotland’s most popular – having just received a 97% satisfaction rating in a recent Runner’s World poll – and is second only to the London Marathon in terms of numbers, with over 16,000 runners participating. Mostly road based, the marathon is one of the flattest courses, meaning it’s perfect if it’s your first time or if you’re hell-bent on achieving that personal best. The marathon attracts throngs of people in the capital, which makes for a fantastic atmosphere, with beautiful sights on the way. This year the Edinburgh Marathon takes place on May 31.
The Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival
From May 22 – 31, more than 170 artists will be performing at 82 events in 42 venues across the region in Scotland’s largest rural multi-artform festival. The festival programme prides itself on being diverse and dynamic, showcasing an eclectic mix of performances in music, dance, drama, arts and literature. Venues range from the intimate Swallow Theatre to the grand Easterbrook Hall as well as a large outdoor stage on the banks of the River Nith. This year, highlights include stand-up shows from comedians Hardeep Singh Kohli and Des Clarke, music from Bella Hardy, BBC Radio Folk Awards Singer of the Year 2014, and original plays such as the critically acclaimed Normal / Madness brought to you by Kidder Theatre. For the full line up, click here.
For more information on Scotland, go to www.visitscotland.com.