Romantic Scotland

Ten ways to experience the best this country has to offer.

It turns out, my parents have lied to me all my life. I had to go all the way to Edinburgh to find out that we are not of English descent, as originally thought. There happens to be a Henderson clan tartan, and my family is as Scottish as heather and single-malt whisky. (What, was there some deeply repressed bagpipes incident?) Clearly I needed to make up for lost time. Luckily, I had a week to explore the land of my forefathers and take a crash course on being a Scot. Then I could go home and explain to Woman I Love why we'll be going back there, again and again and again—because Scotland rocks! So here are my top-ten things to do (even if you're not Scottish).

1. Wear a Kilt

At Edinburgh's Kinloch Anderson, kiltmaker to the Royals, I discovered two things: First, kilts are really comfortable, and air circulates in places men are not used to having air circulate. Yippee. (They said "going commando" was optional; what I did is between me and the tartan.) Second—and maybe I should keep this to myself, too—I really liked the way the kilt swirled when I walked.

2. Taunt Edinburgh's Ghosts

Scotland's capital city is all huge yellow-stone buildings and a looming grey-stoned castle that's surely been attacked by dragons more than once. To get in the historic spirit, I took the evening ghost walk through the city's narrow medieval streets—witches burned here, spirits popped up there, and ghosts still reportedly act up in the infamous Highgate Cemetery. Continuing the theme, I had a dinner of free-range pork at The Witchery by the Castle restaurant, served in a candelit 16th-century anteroom, before heading to my hotel. Prestonfield is a baroque manor house on 20 rolling acres just five minutes from town; out front, Scottish highland cattle—picture cows with dreadlocks—graze. I felt surprisingly at home in a room replete with red flocked-velvet wallpaper. Edinburgh Castle loomed again from five or six different angles as I drove out of town in the morning, and discovered Scotland's lone glitch: a complete lack of useful road signs. It was okay, though. Over the next week, I found that every time I got lost, I ended up somewhere beautiful I wouldn't have otherwise seen, and after a while, driving in circles proved hypnotically peaceful, even on the wrong side of the road.

3. Play Golf

To torture a golfer, tell him you've played St. Andrews, a course jammed between the wild ocean and a town that looks as if it's straight out of one of Dickens' happier stories. Golf was invented here. (My guess, for what it's worth, is that it evolved from whacking weasels with walking sticks.) Most modern rounds go like this: Husband hits the links, wife hits the spa. The folks at Golfgirl St. Andrews are changing that, teaching women how to get a lower handicap than their significant other's, and as a bonus, injecting fanatical competition into relationships. But they also teach men, and they do it well. After some careful instruction, I sank a 30-foot putt. Okay, so I may have missed a few dozen at first. I may be Scottish, but golf just isn't my destiny.

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