As the world struggles to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have been hit by a severe drop in tourism.
It has led to some nations going virtual to stimulate interest in their most popular cultural highlights. Scotland is one of those, having recently launched the first-ever digital heritage trail; an online tool that connects all 13 of its UNESCO world sites.
The aim is to entice travellers back to Scotland by showing the sites in all their online glory. Here are some highlights.
Dundee – UNESCO City of Design
Dundee is where Scottish tourism minister Ivan McKee launched the digital trail, and it was a fitting place to unveil the project’s official design. It is the UK’s first and only UNESCO City of Design – a hotbed of talented designers and artists that provides much of the country’s artistic output.
Visitors to the virtual tour will be able to see a showcase of the city’s best work at the Dundee Design Festival, now complete with a virtual exhibition, and read about initiatives such as a dedicated Design month and how the city creates new job opportunities in the field.
The hope is to attract tourists to Dundee by displaying the best work that the city has to offer – and being a key part of the digital trail could be an effective way of doing that.
Edinburgh – UNESCO City of Literature
The Scottish capital is one of only three British towns or cities that makes the World Heritage list, along with Bath and Telford. Its unique mix of historic architecture and a deep love of literature marks it down as a popular destination for tourists.
Along with international recognition, it also receives regular funding from the UK lottery heritage fund, an organization that donates funds generated from lottery games across the country. The latest round of £1.6 million towards the city’s creative project will help develop books for children with special needs, and it’s the latest in a series of initiatives that mark it out as one of the nation’s literary hotspots.
St Kilda archipelago
On the 29th of August 1930, 30 inhabitants of St Kilda Island voted to leave their home after their way of life became unsustainable in modern times. They left behind over 4,000 years of history as generation after generation lived on the huge colonies of seabirds, which they used for food, feathers, and oil.
Today, the savage beauty of St. Kilda has led to it being the UK’s only dual UNESCO World Heritage Site – recognised for both natural and cultural significance – and one of only 39 in the world. It’s home to nearly one million seabirds, including gannets, fulmars, and the UK’s largest colony of Atlantic puffins, although climate change threatens their existence.It has its own unique species of wren, and even a special fieldmouse, twice the size of its British cousin.
St. Kilda marks one of the highlights of the UNESCO tour, with its sweeping cliff-top views and raging seas.
New Lanark UNESCO world heritage site
Compared to other Scottish heritage sites, the 236-year-old village of New Lanark is just a kid, but it was the scene of some revolutionary thinking by the two men who designed and created it. David Dale and Robert Owen were industrialists who believed in providing workers with humane working conditions and suitable homes to lie in. While radical at the time, it quickly caught on across the UK as the Industrial Revolution took hold.
You can see the results of their work in New Lanark today, including the site of one of the first water-powered cotton mills. In the wider county of Lanarkshire, there’s also the Antonine Wall that one marked the edges of the Roman empire and dates back to 142AD.
The area was listed as a World Heritage site in 2001 and attracted thousands of visitors a year before the pandemic.
Heart of Neolithic Orkney Unesco world heritage site
So, those ancient sites we mentioned. None of them are older than Neolithic Orkney, at least not in Scotland. Composed of four monuments that sound like something out of a J.R.R. Tolkien book – the Ring of Brodgar, the Stones of Stenness, Maeshowe and Skara Brae – the archipelago gives us a glimpse of the life of prehistoric people who lived here more than 5,000 years ago, predating even Stonehenge.
Like Stonehenge, the site is incredibly well preserved, earning it a place on the World Heritage List in 1999 and fame as a major cultural destination.
Orkney is already well set up for tourism, with extensive inter-island transport and a range of bike and car rentals. The digital tour offers just a taste of this landscape and will probably be enough to persuade you to book flights to Scotland as soon as you can!