As a holiday destination there are fewer places which offer greater contrasts than Scotland.

Although just a couple of hours flying time from much of Europe and a simple train journey from much of the UK, this ancient kingdom contains the last wilderness to be found in the British Isles. It’s a land of mists, myths and legends, yet this nation of fable and fantasy gave the world some of its most hard-headed, pragmatic and stunningly brilliant people - soldiers and scientists, explorers and engineers, poets and politicians.

It’s home to exciting cities, too. There’s the Victorian industrial virility of Glasgow and the River Clyde; Aberdeen - the ‘Granite City’; Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands and, of course, Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, surrounded by its seven hills and presided over by its formidable castle.

Yet this same small land is home, in the far north, to the unpeopled and desolate beauty of Cape Wrath and the highest cliffs in the UK which plunge 900ft down into the wild and unfettered North Atlantic. Just down the western coast, though, the residue of the Gulf Stream waters lap sandy beaches in sheltered coves which, on a hot day of summer, could be anywhere in the Mediterranean.

Scotland is a land that can take a lifetime to discover and yet is ideal for both weekend-breaks and longer stay holidays. Its towns and cities make excellent bases from which to venture out and explore some of the most dramatic landscapes in the UK.

There’s Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis and the Great Glen which runs from Inverness on the east coast to Fort William on the west coast. Part of the Glen is the long, narrow, very deep and always mysterious Loch Ness which still draws thousands of people every year hoping to catch a glimpse of the monster said to live somewhere down in the dark waters.

Scotland has a rich history with an army of ancient and strikingly beautiful castles, many of them built in seemingly impossible locations high on cliffs or overlooking lochs and rivers, a reminder of the country’s volatile, violent and bloody past.

Today, though, the welcome extended to visitors from 'outside the borders’ is a warm one and the Scots are known as some of the friendliest and most hospitable people in the world.

Tour a distillery and see how Scotch whisky is made - it’s Scotland’s second greatest export after its people! Try haggis; experience the raw passion of a football derby match in Glasgow or Edinburgh on a Saturday afternoon; go skiing at Aviemore; travel the beautiful West Highland Line from Glasgow to Fort William and on to Mallaig; see the salmon leaping and the golden eagle hunting.

Whenever you go and however long you get to spend there, Scotland is easily accessed with direct flights from all over Europe and the UK, too.

There’s no better place to begin your discovery of Scotland than in the historic capital city. Hop into an Edinburgh airport taxi, get a good night’s sleep in your chosen hotel and dream of exploring this amazing country.