Why Canadians Visit Scotland: Ancestry, History and Landscapes

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

Between ‘bagging the Munros’ to touching down on the world's only tidal beach runway, there are quintessential "Scotland" experiences that can only be ticked off in this land of castles.

The Visit Scotland team.

The country's tourism board brought inspiration for those "only in Scotland" moments, with a networking evening in Toronto that featured 16 local suppliers. 

Over the last five years, Scotland has seen a steady growth in Canadian visitation and in 2018, a total of 131,000 crossed the Atlantic to find their own unique "only in Scotland" moment, Keith Campbell, Canada & Golf Market Manager with Visit Scotland, told Open Jaw. That's a 10% increase in visitation over 2017.

Catriona Little, Head of Scottish Affairs for Canada.

"We're looking to continue that positive trajectory to increase the visitations by working with the partners in the room tonight and by the new creative message, about bringing about these unique experiences," he said. 

Participating suppliers included hotel groups like Kingsmills Hotels, operators like Rabbies Tours and destinations like Visit Cairngorms.


Air Transat offers year-round flights between YYZ-GLA and both WestJet (YHZ-GLA) and Air Canada (YYZ-GLA & YYZ-EDI) operate seasonally.

Blood Is Thicker Than Whisky

With almost 5 million Canadians claiming Scottish ancestry, according to Campbell, genealogy travel is one of the top three motivators for Canadians to visit Scotland. 

"It's a phenomenal number. A lot of Canadians still have living relatives in Scotland and many may have passed on, but it's not necessarily about meeting their ancestors. People come just to experience where their relatives lived, where they visited, and things that they've talked about," he says.

Susan Minto with MacDonald Hotels & Resorts (second from left) with
The Travel Agent Next Door's (l-r) Carolyn Robinson, Victoria Lawson and Mary Pugh.

Scotland's heritage/history and landscapes round out the top three motivators that lure Canadians. 

Finding That "Only In Scotland" Moment

The tourism board recently launched its latest marketing drive, "Only in Scotland," which shines a spotlight on the unique moments you'll only find there, from standing on the battlefields where Scots fought and died for their land, following a whisky trail, or savouring freshly-caught seafood. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the ‘bagging the Munros’ mentioned above refers to reaching the top of one or more of Scotland’s 282 mountains over 914 metres (3,000 feet) tall.

For Catriona Little, Head of Scottish Affairs for Canada, the ultimate "only in Scotland" moment is discovering the beaches.

"A lot of Canadians want to escape the winter and head down to the Caribbean, but I always tell them that Scotland is a great option. The experience is tangible; you can feel it. It's not hot and tropical like the Caribbean, but it's exotic, with beautiful blue skies, white sand and fresh air," she said.

Campbell's "only in Scotland" experience is discovering the country's nautical attractions, a rather timely choice with 2020 being designated the year of Coasts and Water. 

"We've had themed years like Food and Drink, History and Heritage, and next year is Coasts and Water. We're surrounded by coastlines. We've got amazing islands and lochs, we have canals and large waterfalls that can be explored. You can actually paddleboard up to a gin distillery and make your own gin in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. You can only do that in Scotland," he said.

Dante Concepcion Jr. with Dash1Group was the whisky expert of the evening.

Hiking up Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh was Laura Kirk's, North America Market Executive, "only in Scotland" activity. 

"For much of the year, you can walk up and watch the sunset or sunrise from Arthur's Seat. There's not many places where you can climb an extinct volcano in the middle of a city. It makes me feel patriotic and gives me the chills every time," she says.

But with so many distinct experiences, from music and outdoor recreation, castles and selfies with woolly Highland cattle, a traveller's "only in Scotland" moment can be theirs alone.

"It's not something that you can tell someone; they have to feel it themselves," says Kirk. "Your only in Scotland moment might be only for you, the way that it's made you feel and nobody else might feel that."

Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.



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