Explaining Scotland to a visitor…

…by Iona / from England / studying Philosophy / 2nd Year (UG)

Edinburgh Castle as seen from the Grassmarket

Although I was born in the old Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, I grew up near London and never saw Scotland as part of my life. Now I’m at university, this place has fast become my home away from home. Our uni is nestled right in the heart of the capital; a city which slopes elegantly down towards the sea on one side, whilst whispers of distant mountains call from further north. No wonder this land has prompted some of the world’s best poets and been voted the most beautiful country on the planet!

Here are six things we should learn to love about our city and country:

Everything has to be Scottish

You can’t escape it. It’s so totally unlike down south, where you can only tell people are English from their posh accents and painful British formalities. Here, the Scots make it very clear that we are in their country. I’ve gone into a cafe and asked for an English Breakfast tea, and been told that they only serve ‘Scottish Breakfast tea’. Want to buy raspberries? You’ll have to buy ones labelled ‘Scottish raspberries’. How about a game of Monopoly? You’ll need to get the white and blue Scottish version instead, so it contains no trace of Londonian references. The most hilarious time was when I saw a box not containing French Fancies… but Scottish Fancies. Incredible.

Tartan and whisky

It’s not just the label ‘Scottish’ that you’ll see everywhere, but the colours of Scotland too. It’s impossible to walk down the Royal Mile without seeing a plethora of tartan scarves in a multitude of colours. Adverts for kilt hire follow you wherever you go, and there’s always a specialist whisky shop around the corner. Fancy a bite to eat? Haggis, neeps and tatties is definitely the way forward. Or how about a deep fried mars bar? Eat and dress like a Scot for a true cultural immersion experience.

Bagpipes and ceilidhs

This is something that no English uni student will ever have the pleasure of knowing. I’ve heard bagpipes in the distance during a lecture on several occasions, and you can’t help but shiver as you walk past the poor hotel porters who stand outside in the freezing cold with nothing but a kilt and socks. One of the coolest parts about studying in Scotland is the sheer number of ceilidhs you can go to. They’re way more fun than any night on George Street, and all you need to do is follow the instructions of the band and have a laugh as you’re flung across the dance floor by burly Scottish rugby players. Strip the Willow, anyone?


Scotland may be beautiful, but the accents are definitely hard to fathom. There’s a whole new set of vocabulary up here, and it’s a non-exhaustive list. “I dunnae caern ya” would not be heard in England, and yet it sounds so cool (especially when you have no idea what everyone is saying). And if you’ve never heard a Gaelic storytelling, I’d thoroughly recommend it. You have no idea what’s going on, but it just sounds so intriguing.

Stunning buildings

Having a gorgeous city landscape clearly isn’t enough for Edinburgh, and so we live alongside some of the world’s most stunning architecture. After gushing to the taxi driver when I returned from the summer holidays, ‘ahh I’ve missed the buildings. Is that weird to say?’, he assured me that it was perfectly normal for returning people to gape at the stunning gothic architecture as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to miss a bank or a random house.


I arrived in Scotland assuming that the Scots absolutely despised the English, due to our somewhat testy history. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. I’ve been treated in such a courteous way that just wouldn’t happen as much back home. I’ve had random strangers drive in the completely wrong direction to make sure I’m home safely, I’ve had money returned to me… Honestly, I even had one taxi driver call me the next day to ask permission to file a police report, as he was worried that the cab I had gotten into instead of his wasn’t licensed (it was). The Scots are truly hospitable people.

Both the people and this country have not ceased to impress and amaze me. I hope you feel this same love for our stunning Scottish city, and appreciate how unique the University of Edinburgh truly is.


This article was originally published in November 2017 on the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences blog site which features top tips and stories by current students.

Visit the Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences blog

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