Back to My Roots – Scotland

By Troy Stiles, ISA Marketing Communications Manager

After my quick stopover in London the day before (read my post from last week), I was excited to visit a new country and spend the next few days in Scotland. First stop…


While ISA doesn’t have programs in the city, students who are doing ISA programs in both Stirling and Glasgow do excursions to here. Plus, it’s a relatively short train ride from either, so I thought I’d spend a day exploring.

When I landed, I was greeted by the exact weather I expected Scotland to have – overcast and chilly. I was excited to explore the city often referred to as “the Athens of the North,” Edinburgh is full of history… and some pretty good coffee.

With the whole day to explore, I had lots to see. After a quick breakfast, I decided to get a bird’s-eye view of the city from Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park. Arthur’s Seat is the highest point in the park and is what remains of an old volcano. While it was windy and overcast when I reached the top, the view was still spectacular and well worth the effort.

View from Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park.

From there I explored much of the city’s Old Town and made my way to the top of Calton Hill for some more great views of the city as I learned about some of the city’s history by visiting a few of the monuments on top of the hill – the Dugald Stewart Monument, the Nelson Monument, and the National Monument.

After exploring the city more and visiting the famous Edinburgh Castle, it was time for some food and some rest. I was off to Stirling in the morning.


When people think of Scotland, I’m not sure if they think of Stirling right away, but they should. This city is the gateway to the Highlands region and is filled with amazing Scottish history. Ever heard of William Wallace or Robert the Bruce? I’m a HUGE Braveheart fan, so I was excited to get to the city and learn what it was all about.

The city itself isn’t huge, especially compared to Edinburgh or Glasgow, but there’s still a lot going on. A nice pedestrian mall with shops and restaurants was just a short walk away from the train station. Since I caught an early train from Edinburgh, I thought this would be a great place for breakfast.

After regrouping, I decided to take a walk to see the famous Stirling Bridge, the Wallace Monument, and check out the University of Stirling. Logistically, it was easy. The University is just under 3 miles from the city center and both the Stirling Bridge and the National Wallace Monument were on the way.

Stirling Bridge
Stirling Bridge

The Battle of Stirling Bridge was one of the most storied battles during the First War of Scottish Independence, so when students walk or ride bike, they’ll be crossing one of the most famous crossing points in the entire country.

A little further down the road is the National Wallace Monument.

The National Wallace Monument sits atop a hill in Stirling.

The Monument is filled with fascinating history and stories about William Wallace and his quest for peace and Scottish freedom. While there is a fee to climb to the top of the monument, the experience was highly educational and well worth the 360 degree views from the top of the city and the University of Stirling.

From the moment I stepped on campus, I knew sports played a big role in the university’s identity. Even if the signs hadn’t been hung, it was hard to miss the crew team rowing in the lake, the maintenance crews grooming the soccer fields, and the pop of tennis balls being volleyed back and forth. In addition to being Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, it’s also ranks among the top 2.5% of global higher education institutions (not too shabby).

After a busy morning and afternoon, I made my way to the top of the hill to visit another landmark, Stirling Castle. Unfortunately, it was closed when I arrived, but the views were still worth the visit.


My stay in Stirling didn’t last long and I was off to Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city in the morning. Almost a complete 180 from the feel in Stirling, this metropolitan city was bustling with people the moment I stepped off the train.

I decided to soak in the energy for a little while, so I found a coffee shop… of course. After my last sips of java, I grabbed my bag and headed towards the northwest side of the city where the University of Glasgow is situated. The University of Glasgow, like the University of Stirling, is one of the world’s top universities and is the second oldest university in Scotland. And if that’s not enough, the campus kind of looks like Hogwarts….

There was lots to do around campus too. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was a short walk from campus and was free and open to the public. The Glasgow Botanic Gardens are close by as well. There are plenty of great restaurants nearby too. Ashton Lane is filled with local restaurants and places to listen to music.

After my third full day of exploring Scotland, I was tired. I was ready for bed, but excited for the next day when I would be travelling to Ireland!

The next on my journey is Ireland.

Would you like more information about ISA’s programs in Scotland? Fill out the form below.


Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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