The starting point for our journey through southern Scotland seems obvious; Edinburgh, the capital, is as good a place as any. It offers a mixture of history from the castle to the palace; culture from its associations with Burns and Scott; and scenery such as Holyrood Park with Arthur’s Seat at its centre. Edinburgh offers all of this within the few square miles of its city centre.
Next problem is deciding what direction to head. The Lothians are as rich in history and culture as Edinburgh, though more spread out; from the historic Linlithgow Palace to the mysterious Rosslyn Chapel. Fife, on the opposite shore of the Firth of Forth, offers the ancient capital Dunfermline and the religious associations of St. Andrews.
Heading west, following the course of the Forth, leads to Stirling, the Gateway to the Highlands and home to kings with its own castle sitting on a rock. Continuing west leads into the Trossachs, Scotland in miniature, a mixture of mountains, lowlands and lochs straddling the Highland line and of course including the Queen of Scottish Lochs, Loch Lomond of the famous song.
To the south of Loch Lomond is Dumbarton with yet another castle on a hill, this one sitting beside the Clyde and the ancient capital of the kingdom of Strathclyde. Staying north of the Clyde and heading west of Loch Lomond leads into Argyll, which in times past was the ancient kingdom of Dalriada. Argyll was also the kingdom of the Lords of the Isles, with the isles in question being the southern Inner Hebrides, including Mull, Jura and Islay. The peninsula of Kintyre, the mainland island, separates these islands from the Firth of Clyde and Arran, another Scotland in miniature.
Having returned to the Clyde, this leads naturally back to the land around the river and Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland. While not offering the same scenery as its eastern neighbour, this city has its share of history, from the cathedral to shipbuilding, and culture. Heading south-east from Glasgow, following the course of the River Clyde upstream, the route heads through Lanarkshire, which is mainly an industrial area. Taking a more westerly route, through Ayrshire, offers the rolling hills and the views over the islands in the Firth of Clyde to look at as the trail of Wallace, the Bruce and Burns are picked up once more.
Continuing south into Dumfries & Galloway continues the association with Scotland’s national bard. Bypassed by most of the main roads, especially those heading south into England, this area is usually bypassed by the tourists as well. The area has some spectacular scenery to offer, including many miles of coastline. There are also many lochs, castles and ruined abbeys, features it shares with the Scottish Borders to the east. Together, these parts of Scotland are known as the Southern Uplands and while the western part is associated with Burns the east has connections with Scott. The east is also the area most travelled by the tourist heading north and south across the border with the England. In years gone it was also the route taken by the English armies with their almost constant battles in Scotland and their trail of destruction as well as the defences put in place are still visible for all to see.
With so much already seen, it is hard to believe that there can possibly be any more. However, up to this point, it is only the southern half of the country that has been looked at; the northern half has a whole lot more to offer!