If you’re a Mainer with tartan blood flowing in your veins, or not even one of Maine’s Ulster Scots but a lover of Maine’s highland games, tartan night, Burns’ supper, tattoos and ceilidhs, you’ve probably thought more than once or twice about the possibility of a trip to Scotland itself, where many of today’s Mainers’ ancestors first fell in love with the rough highland nature, rich produce, enlightened literature and arts, as well as the wildlife and wild living – of Scotland.

While in Maine you can get up close and personal with Scottish traditions, during annual celebrations such as Tartan Night and August’s Highland Games, where everything from pipes and jigs, to textiles crafts and haggis, is on loving display, 2013 marks the ideal year for adventuring across the Atlantic, as Visit Scotland’s ‘Year of Natural Scotland‘. A year-long celebration of everything Scottish, that Mainers know and love, is coming alive in Scotland as everyday life and history in this wild land is being brought out, relished and praised in festivals, tourist trails, arts exhibitions, adventure trips and hearty meals.

However well Mainers know their tartans from their tatties, their kilts from their ceilidhs, of course for a real taste of Scotland, you have to experience for yourself the natural environments of Scotland for yourself – the lochs, mountains and seascapes familiar to Mainers’ hearts, but alien to Maine. Whale-watching out on boats, skiing in the mountains, climbing, hiking – even finding adventure in the skies, in the form of the northern lights, all this is for celebrating in the Year of Natural Scotland.

Pride in natural heritage, so evident in Maine, is no more evident than in Scotland’s natural larder. As anyone lucky enough to have enjoyed a Burn’s supper or sample home-cooked Scottish cuisine will know, Scots have a national sensibility rooted in a love of nature and eating good, natural food.

A store of Scottish hospitality and abundant natural wilds, events and festivals, complementing regular farmers’ markets, are planned all this year so visitors will find welcoming and hearty fare, wherever they travel. You don’t have to tell a Mainer how fresh seafood makes a meal, and seafood is king in Scotland, with its stunning seascapes, homely harbours, and forbidding fishing grounds and lonely isles. If you’re a Mainer, your instincts will be for Scottish smoked salmon, Arbroath Smokies (haddock), oysters and langoustines – and you’ll be proved right!

The holiday spirit set up by the festive food trails of this Year of Natural Scotland, with everything from dedicated ‘cheese trails’ to whiskey-tasting tours, make for a celebration of everything traditionally Scottish. No Mainer should go home without having sampled Scotland’s whiskey, by loch and by mountain. Whiskeys are inspired by its local surroundings, matured differently. Definitely sample Strathisla, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Cardhu – and go home to Maine to the highland games to surprise your friends and neighbours with an expert knowledge of exported drinks from Mainers’ Ulster Scots’ long-ago home.

Iain Miller is a marketer, travel enthusiast and contributor to BushWhackingScotland who rarely leaves Scotland, which is why he’s writing about it.

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