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How to Plan the Perfect Scotland Vacation

From fairy-tale castles to charming small towns, the Scottish countryside is every bit as spectacular as you've heard.

Best Times to Go to Scotland

Best things to do in scotland.

  • Getting to the Scottish Highlands

Where to Stay in Scotland

With its stately castles , glass-like lochs, and voluptuous glens, Scotland has always been a showstopper. The country's magic extends from its quaint small towns to the snow-capped peaks of its romantic, rugged Highlands to its dynamic modern cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh. It's home to some of the best national parks in the U.K. and more than 900 offshore islands with extraordinary wildlife like regal red stags, majestic golden eagles, humpback whales, and massive salmon (not to mention the fabled inhabitant of Loch Ness, too).

The raw, poetic beauty of this ancient land — formerly known as Caledonia — is difficult to overstate. If you're hoping to head to the U.K.'s ravishing northern nation, read on for our guide to planning the perfect Scotland vacation.

The bad news is that, like the rest of the U.K., Scotland's weather is far from reliable, even at the height of summer. But as long as you're prepared to accept that and pack a raincoat for the odd shower or two, then you'll be fine from May to September. The smart money is on visiting in June and the first two weeks of July, when Scotland basks in seemingly endless summer evenings (the sun doesn't set until 11 p.m. in some parts of the Highlands) and the British school holidays have not yet begun, so prices remain low.

For winter travelers, Scotland has the U.K.'s best ski resort at Cairngorm Mountain , while the capital, Edinburgh, hosts one of the world's biggest New Year's Eve parties, Hogmanay .

If you like the great outdoors, you'll love Scotland. It's an ideal place for hiking, biking, and generally embracing the wildly beautiful landscape. You can summit magnificent Ben Nevis in a day (the tallest mountain in the U.K., at 4,413 feet), take a ferry out to explore the Hebrides archipelago and its stunning white-sand beaches, tour scores of castles, including the Queen's favorite holiday home, Balmoral (open to the public every April through July), and dive into a quirky food scene encompassing dishes like haggis (an offal and oatmeal combo, which tastes significantly better than it sounds), deep-fried mars bars, and juicy scallops, langoustines, and mussels.

Scotland is also a mecca for both golfers ( St. Andrews Old Course is the headline act) and whisky lovers , with some of the world's best distilleries available to tour, including Johnnie Walker on Edinburgh's lively Princes Street, Glenlivet near pretty Ballindalloch, and the legendary Macallan on a sprawling country estate in nearby Aberlour.

If you enjoy driving, you'll find some of the U.K.'s emptiest, most dramatic roads here, too, (as driven by James Bond in "Skyfall"), including the latest official addition, the North Coast 500 , an action-packed 500-mile route (516 to be exact) featuring mind-boggling coastal scenery, jaw-dropping beaches, rolling hillside, quaint fishing villages, and multiple hidden gems.

And if you prefer your challenges on foot, check out the magnificent West Highland Way , the country's best-loved long-distance walking route. Snaking its way from Milngavie to Fort William, it covers some of Scotland's finest scenery over 96 miles and is normally completed from south to north.

Meanwhile, history buffs will also be agog on any visit to Scotland, thanks to its 3,000-plus castles ( Castle Sween in Argyll is the oldest, dating back to the 1100s), as well as plenty to check out in the winding wynds (narrow lanes) and twisted staircases of Edinburgh's enchanting Old Town. ( Edinburgh Castle , towering over the city, is arguably the grandest in the country, too.)

If you can, make time to visit Perth, the former Scottish capital where kings were crowned on the Stone of Destiny and infamous Glen Coe, a beautiful valley full of waterfalls and deer, also known for the brutal clan massacre of 1692 (which inspired the Red Wedding in George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones ).

Where are the Scottish Highlands — and what is the best way to get there?

Jess Macdonald/Travel + Leisure

The clue is in its name: the Highlands are the mountainous upper half of Scotland, covering 10,000 square miles of picturesque scenery. The region's lively capital is Inverness , which sits centrally and is a superb base from which to explore, while other highlights include mysterious, misty Loch Ness, majestic Cairngorms National Park , and idyllic Isle of Skye , which has been connected to the mainland via a road bridge since 1995.

The easiest way to reach the Highlands is to fly into Inverness Airport from London or elsewhere in the U.K., or rent a car and drive from Glasgow or Edinburgh. However, the way to arrive in style is on the Caledonian Sleeper train from London Euston, a chugging time machine where you can fall asleep to the sounds of black cabs and bustle of the British capital and wake up among the red deer and magical glens of the Highlands. Regularly nominated as one of the world's best train journeys , the scenery gets truly spectacular after Fort William, as the route skirts a dramatic chain of lochs before descending into lush glens and crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct made famous by the Harry Potter films. For the ultimate Hogwarts experience, steam locomotives work this route during the summer months, so check in advance for these special departures.

The major cities have an abundance of hotels for every budget, headlined by Glasgow's Kimpton Blythswood Square , a boutique property in the former headquarters of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club, and The Dunstane Houses in Edinburgh, a pair of beautifully renovated 19th-century townhouses.

Scotland arguably does traditional country house hotels and rustic lodges better than anywhere else in the world, with Fife Arms in Braemar and Gleneagles in Perthshire being particular treats (the latter, nicknamed the "Glorious Playground" boasts three championship golf courses, its own dedicated train station, and the only restaurant in the country with two Michelin stars).

Scotland is, of course, peppered with castles, and many have been converted into hotels and B&Bs in recent years, with some of the better fortified accommodation options including Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire, Inverlochy Castle in Fort William, Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry, and Stonefield Castle Hotel on Loch Fyne.

Wherever you stay, you'll get a warm welcome — not to mention a hot bowl of Scottish porridge or a plate of bacon, eggs, and haggis to start the day in a spectacularly scenic country.

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Nomadic Matt: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Better

Scotland Travel Guide

Last Updated: April 1, 2024

a castle in the Highlands, Scotland

Partially conquered by the Romans, Scotland is a land with a turbulent past. It was invaded countless times by the English during the Middle Ages before the Treaty of Union in 1707 united the continent (an unpopular move at the time). Since then, it’s been a part of the United Kingdom (though there is a growing movement for independence).

While Scotland may be a small country (only 5.4 million people call it home), it’s had a huge impact on the direction of the world. Economist Adam Smith, inventor of the telephone Alexander Graham Bell, novelist Robert Louis Stevenson (he wrote Treasure Island ), philosopher David Hume, ecologist John Muir — the list of famous Scots goes on.

I love visiting Scotland. The people, the jovial spirit, the landscape, the booze — Scotland never disappoints (ok, maybe a little with the food). It’s an incredible destination for road trips so make sure you get out of the cities and into the highlands with their rich jagged landscapes. And be sure to head west to the islands of Islay, Jura, and Mull.

This travel guide to Scotland can help you plan where to go, what to see, how to save money, and everything in between!

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on Scotland

Click Here for City Guides

Top 5 things to see and do in scotland.

The towering Edinburgh Castle overlooking the city on a sunny day in Scotland

1. Explore the Scottish Highlands

Visit the highlands of Scotland for moody mountains, rugged terrain, glaciers, lochs, and kilt-clad Scotsmen. While the land may be harsh and unforgiving, you haven’t really seen Scotland until you’ve been here. Don’t miss Glencoe, Cairngorms National Park, Inverness, and the Isle of Skye.

2. Visit Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a glorious city filled with medieval cobblestone streets, lots of green space, free museums, a huge castle, and maybe even some ghosts. There’s a lot to do here so be sure to spend a few days. It’s an amazing place.

3. Celebrate Hogmanay

Hogmanay is one of the largest New Year’s celebrations in the world, attracting over 100,000 people for the two-day festival. The modern iteration has musical acts, a torchlight procession, multiple fireworks displays, and a large street party.

4. Drink whisky in Islay

Whisky has a long history on Islay . It’s been made there since the 16th–century — first in backyards and then, starting in the 19th-century, in big distilleries. Over the years, whisky from the island came to be considered a specialty and is famous around the world.

5. Visit Inverness

Besides the historic buildings in the Old Town, there is a great selection of places to eat and drink, Inverness Castle, the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, and a Victorian Market. Plus, it is close to Loch Ness (it’s less than a 30-minute drive away), a bunch of distilleries, and a few golf courses.

Other Things to See and Do in Scotland

1. try to find nessie.

Loch Ness is one of the most famous lochs (lakes) in Scotland. It’s the alleged home to Nessie, aka the Loch Ness Monster, a creature said to live in the loch. The first “sightings” date back to the 1870s, though there is no definitive proof that any such creature exists. Nonetheless, the myth perseveres, making Loch Ness a popular destination to visit. While here, you can take a cruise, hike in the nearby hills, and enjoy some of the smaller nearby towns and villages like Dores or the nearby ruins of Urquhart Castle. The best way to get here is to travel to Inverness, from which Loch Ness is close enough to take a day trip to (it’s just a 25-minute drive from Inverness to Lochend, the top of Loch Ness).

2. Wander around Glasgow

Glasgow is a busy and bustling city, home to a youthful population (there is a university here) and a picturesque downtown. With plenty of parks, historical monuments, and museums, there is plenty to do here if you’re on a budget. It’s also a vegan and vegetarian hotspot too! Don’t miss the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, relaxing in Glasgow Green, seeing the cathedral, and day-tripping to the nearby Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

3. See the cathedrals

The cathedrals in Scotland are marvelous with their unique Gothic architecture and imposing heights. A few of the top cathedrals to visit are Dunfermline Abbey and Palace in Fife, St. Magnus Cathedral in the Orkney Islands, St Giles in Edinburgh, and Melrose Abbey in the Borders. Also, don’t miss the Glasgow Cathedral, which was built in 1136 and is the oldest building in Glasgow. Admission is free though donations are encouraged.

4. Puzzle over Rosslyn Chapel

This historic chapel near Edinburgh is ripe with intricate artwork and symbolism that has spawned many conspiracy theories (not to mention books). (Like why is there corn on the wall if corn wasn’t discovered until centuries later?). it was featured heavily in The Da Vinci Code and is located just an hour outside Edinburgh. Admission costs 9.5 GBP.

5. Play golf

The Scottish invented golf in the 15th century. If you’re not lucky enough to play a round at St. Andrews (the most famous course in the country) there are plenty of other immaculate and challenging courses to keep any golf player happy. Try to play during the low season (between November and March) if you want the lowest prices (St. Andrews, for example, costs 220 GBP to play in high season, versus 98 GBP in low season). Castle Stuart (Inverness), Royal Dornoch (Dornoch) , and Muirfield (Gullane) are some other great courses worth playing.

6. See the Cuillin

This dramatic mountain range dominates the Isle of Skye. There are two main ridges (the red and the black), which can be visited as a day trip or a longer two-day hike. Much of the mountain range, which stretches 14 kilometers (8.6 miles), can be hiked, though some peaks require more technical climbing skills. There are campgrounds and a hostel nearby in Glenbrittle as well. Some of the most popular trails are Rubh’ an Dùnain (3-5 hours, easy), Coire Lagan (2 hours, moderate), and Sgùrr Alasdair (6-8 hours, hard).

7. Visit Ruins of Melrose Abbey

Robert I (also known as Robert the Bruce) was the King of Scotland from 1306 until his death in 1329. Legend has it that his heart is buried in the ruins of Melrose Abbey. The abbey, founded in the 12th century and located in Melrose, was repeatedly destroyed by the English in the 14th century. You can still see marks on the surviving walls from cannonballs during the English Civil War. The abbey ruins (which is only a ruin of its former self, composed of several standing walls and arches) are decorated with intricate artwork carved into the remaining stone walls. Admission is 6 GBP.

8. Explore Dundee

Dundee is a lively student city along the coast with a lot of interesting museums. It’s a UNESCO City of Design and is the sunniest spot in the country too. Don’t miss a visit to Discovery Point to learn about the famous Antarctic expedition that launched from here in 1902 on the RSS Discovery (which you can board at the visitor center). Also, be sure to take in the great street art, the Vaults (a series of underground tunnels that date back to the 1750s), and The McManus Art Gallery as well.

9. Visit the Mystical Smoo Cave

The sleepy town of Durness, located 193 kilometers (120 miles) north of Inverness, is the access point for Smoo Cave , a coastline cave complex that can be explored independently or on a tour. Evidence from charcoal samples shows that it may have been inhabited over 4,000 years ago. The cave is free to enter but guided tours, which take you deeper into the cave, are 10 GBP. You get to see a lot more on the tour than you would if you just visit independently. Tours last around 20 minutes.

10. Head to the Isle of Arran

Located 2.5 hours west of Glasgow, this isle is a popular tourist destination for its charming scenery of jagged hills and rugged coasts, walking trails, and historic villages. Visit Brodick Castle, go for a hike, keep a lookout for seals and golden eagles, and enjoy the remote scenery. Don’t miss the Machrie Moor Stone Circles (which are sort of like Stonehenge) — they date back almost 5,000 years!

11. Explore the Cairngorms

Cairngorms National Park is the largest national park in the UK, spanning 4,528 square kilometers (1,748 square miles). Located two hours from Edinburgh by car, it makes for a great getaway for anyone looking to get out and see the highlands. The park is dotted with beautiful B&Bs in historic stone buildings and there are several campgrounds available for anyone traveling in a camper van or with a tent. Wild camping is also permitted, providing you do so responsibly. The park offers lots of hiking trails too. Don’t miss Ryvoan Pass (easy), Dalraddy to Ruthven (moderate), and Ben Macdui (difficult). If you visit in the winter, you can also go skiing on Cairn Gorm Mountain. If you’re lucky, you may spot some of the reindeer that call the park home (it’s the only herd in the British Isles). Admission to the park is free.

12. Attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival. It usually lasts three weeks and takes over the entire city of Edinburgh. There are tens of thousands of performances including plays, musicals, live music, puppet shows, and much more! There are literally thousands of different shows held and hundreds of venues around the city. It’s a massive festival and brings in upwards of 3 million visitors. It’s a zany, inspiring, and entertaining festival and one that shouldn’t be missed. Just make sure you book your tickets and accommodation in advance as things fill up fast.

13. Tour the Isle of Skye

This popular island off the northwestern tip of the country is a scenic place to take a road trip. The island offers sweeping views over the rugged coastline, hiking trails, castles, waterfalls, and quaint villages and B&Bs. While most people just visit for a day, I suggest spending a few days driving around and getting off the beaten path. You can visit by bus if you don’t have a car, however, having your own vehicle will give you much more freedom. Don’t miss Dunvegan Castle, the Old Man of Storr rock formation, and brother’s point.

  For more information on cities in Scotland, check out these guides:

  • Edinburgh Travel Guide
  • Glasgow Travel Guide

Scotland Travel Costs

A historic castle in Scotland near the water in the highlands

Accommodation – Most 6-8-bed dorms in Scotland cost 18-22 GBP per night, though prices rise a few pounds in the summer and drop a few in the winter (you can find hostels for as little as 12 GBP in the off-season). Free Wi-Fi and lockers are standard, and most hostels also have self-catering facilities. Private rooms in a hostel cost around 40-65 GBP per night.

Budget hotels cost around 55-75 GBP per night with standard amenities like free Wi-Fi, TV, and coffee/tea makers. Some include free breakfast.

Airbnb is widely available in Scotland and is especially useful in the smaller towns and villages where there are fewer traditional hotels and hostels. A private room generally costs 25-30 GBP per night while entire homes/apartments start at 55 GBP per night, though most options are 70 GBP and above.

If you want to camp, expect to pay around 17 GBP per night for a basic plot (a small flat space for a tent without electricity). Most campgrounds close for the winter so availability is limited come late October/early November. If you’re in a car or campervan, you can use the app “park4night” to find paid overnight parking, free overnight parking, and campgrounds.

Food – Scottish food is hearty, heavy, and filling. Seafood is abundant, and popular traditional dishes include blood pudding, minced beef, fish and chips, smoked herring, neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), and of course haggis (a dish composed of minced sheep’s organs and spices inside a sheep’s stomach casing). Porridge is a common breakfast choice, though a larger breakfast of sausage, eggs, beans, and bread is not uncommon either. Sticky toffee pudding is a favorite dessert, and of course, you can’t visit Scotland without sampling some scotch.

Expect to pay around 10-12 GBP for a basic meal (like a Scottish breakfast). For pub food like a burger or fish and chips, prices are usually between 12-20 GBP for a meal. For a full three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant, prices begin around 27 GBP.

A pint of beer is around 4 GBP while a glass of wine is around 5.50 GBP. A latte or cappuccino is around 2.70 GBP.

If you’re looking for fast food (think McDonald’s), expect a combo meal to cost around 6 GBP. A classic fish and chips from a no-frills takeaway spot is around 6 GBP, while Chinese takeaway is around 8-10 GBP. Street food (like from a food truck) costs around 6-8 GBP. Eat near the universities for the cheapest food options.

A week’s worth of groceries costs around 40-60 GBP. This covers basic staples like pasta, rice, seasonal produce, and some meat. The cheapest supermarkets to look out for are Aldi, Lidl, Asda, and Tesco.

Backpacking Scotland Suggested Budgets

On a backpacker budget, you can visit Scotland for around 55 GBP per day. On this budget, you’re staying in a dorm room or camping, cooking all of your meals, using local transportation, sticking to mostly free activities (like hiking, museums, or free walking tours), and limiting your drinking.

On a mid-range budget of about 105 GBP, you can stay in a private Airbnb room, eat out at cheap local restaurants for a few meals, enjoy a few drinks, take the occasional taxi to get around, and do more paid activities like visiting castles or doing a whisky tasting.

On a “luxury” budget of 210 GBP or more per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out for every meal, drink what you want, take the train between cities or rent a car, and visit as many museums and attractions as you’d like. This is just the ground floor for luxury though — you can easily spend more if you want to splash out!

You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in GBP.

Scotland Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

While Scotland is expensive, there are lots of ways to lower your costs. Here are some tips to help you save money in Scotland:

  • Get the Edinburgh City Pass – If you’re planning to explore Edinburgh, get the City Pass. For 45 GBP, you get access to 22 attractions as well as free transportation to and from the airport. There is also a two-day pass for 55 GBP and a three-day pass for 65 GBP.
  • Eat in a pub – The best food is often in the pubs at a fraction of the price compared to a proper restaurant. Also, pubs generally give you a true taste of Scottish culture. Scotland is pub-land – they’re everywhere.
  • Eat during lunch – Many cafes, bakeries, and chains offer lunch deals for as little as 3-5 GBP.
  • Visit the free museums – The public museums in Scotland are free so take advantage! Free museums include The National Museum of Scotland, Scottish National Gallery, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
  • Use buses – If you need to go anywhere, buses are by far the cheapest way to reach the widest range of places on a regular schedule. You can even find tickets for just 1 GBP from Megabus if you book far enough in advance.
  • Avoid eating and shopping in the city centers – Both Glasgow and Edinburgh get significantly more expensive the closer you get to the city center. There are plenty of good restaurants and quirky shops outside of the center, so go for those. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Use apps to get food deals – On the app Too Good to Go, participating eateries sell severely discounted meals/groceries/baked goods at the end of the day. You just sign up, see what is being offered near you, and pick up your cheap food at the end of the day. It has good coverage all across Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh. For discounts on takeout try the app Secret Takeaways which supports local restaurants in Edinburgh and Glasgow by cutting out the delivery app middleman (and their high fees).
  • Stay with a local – Couchsurfing is the best way to save on accommodation in Scotland. You’ll not only save some money but get access to a knowledgeable local who can help point you to some of the country’s hidden gems. It may not be fancy, but you’ll get a unique experience and learn far more about the destination than if you stayed in a hotel!
  • Take a free walking tour – If you want to understand more about the history, architecture, and people of Scotland then be sure to take a free walking tour. They usually last a couple of hours and are a great introduction to the city. New Europe has a great free tour in Edinburgh and Visit Scotland offers one in Glasgow.
  • Cook your own meals – Eating out in the UK isn’t cheap. Save yourself some money and cook a few meals for yourself. It may not be as fancy as eating out, but your wallet will thank you!
  • Rent a campervan – If you’re planning to get out of the city, rent a camper van. You can get them for as little as 30 GBP per day. They come with basic self-catering facilities so you can cook your food and have somewhere cheap to stay. There are lots of free places to park around the country. Just use the app park4night to find them.
  • Use BlaBlaCar – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing app you can use to travel in between cities. It’s faster than the bus and usually just as cheap. You have to find a ride, which can sometimes be hit or miss, but the profiles are verified and reviewed so it’s quite safe. Plus, it’s a great way to connect with other locals/travelers.
  • Use discount websites – Groupon, Wowcher and Living Social have good deals on accommodation, attractions, and dining out.
  • Bring a water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.

Where to Stay in Scotland

Accommodation in Scotland isn’t cheap, but there are nevertheless lots of great hostels to stay at to help you meet people and save money. Here are my favorite hostels in Scotland:

  • Castle Rock (Edinburgh)
  • Edinburgh Backpackers (Edinburgh)
  • Kick Ass Grassmarket (Edinburgh)
  • Glasgow Youth Hostel (Glasgow)
  • Euro Hostel Glasgow (Glasgow)
  • Broadford backpackers (Isle of Skye)
  • Stirling Youth Hostel (Stirling)

How to Get Around Scotland

The famous steam train from Harry Potter crossing an old bridge in Scotland

Public Transportation – Public buses and trams cost around 1.50-2 GBP for one-way ride. For a single-day pass, expect prices to start at 4 GBP per person. In Glasgow, a 7-day public transportation pass costs 17 GBP.

Only Glasgow has a subway system and the tickets for the bus and metro are not interchangeable as they are operated by two different companies (though prices between the two are comparable).

Airport shuttles cost around 6-8 GBP each way.

Flying – Flying around Scotland is both inconvenient and expensive. There are very few direct flights, making it slower to fly than to take the bus. I would avoid flying and just take the bus or train.

Bus – Buses are a popular and affordable way to get around the country as they link most destinations in the country. Scottish Citylink, Stagecoach, Megabus, and National Express are the four main companies that operate here. Tickets can be found for as little as 1 GBP via Megabus, though they’re usually around 10-25 GBP.

Edinburgh to Glasgow, for example, is a one-hour bus ride that costs 8 GBP while the three-hour journey from Glasgow to Inverness costs around 20-30 GBP. The sooner you book your ticket, the lower the price, so always try to book in advance. The coaches here are modern and comfortable with bathrooms and Wi-Fi as well.

Train – Trains connect all the major cities in Scotland (as well as the towns and villages they pass through). When purchased in advance (12 weeks out is the sweet spot), tickets are only a little more expensive than the bus. For example, Inverness to Glasgow takes about as long as the bus and is only 30 GBP while Edinburgh-Glasgow is 30 minutes faster than the bus for just 1-2 GBP more. Just be sure to book early to get the best prices. Last-minute tickets can be expensive!

Car rental – Scotland is a great road trip destination. You can get cars for 20 GBP per day and campers for 30 GBP per day. Just remember that traffic flows on the left. Most vehicles are manual transmissions as well. Renters need to be at least 21 years of age.

Rideshare – Ridesharing apps like Uber are a reliable but expensive way to get around in cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh. Skip them if you can.

For longer distances, use BlaBlaCar. It’s a ridesharing app that pairs you with drivers who are traveling to other cities. They have profiles and reviews (similar to Airbnb) so it’s quite safe. It’s usually not as cheap as the bus, but it’s faster and more comfortable.

When to Go to Scotland

Summer is the most popular time to visit Scotland. In July and August, there’s warm weather and minimal rain, with temperatures reaching highs of around 20°C (68°F). This is also the busiest time of the year, so expect crowds in the cities and lots of people out enjoying the national parks. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes place in August, which is a huge multi-week festival. Be sure to book your accommodation in advance if you’re visiting during this time.

September is a rather wet month, though in October there’s incredible fall foliage. Overall, October is a great time to visit — especially if you plan on renting a car or camper and heading into the Cairngorms (Scotland’s biggest national park). Seasonal businesses and accommodations start to close in mid-October so be sure to keep that in mind when planning. Expect October temperatures to hover around 12°C (55°F) during the day.

The spring is a great time to visit, with April and May offering minimal rain and no crowds. There’s still snow and cool temperatures in the highlands, but the cities are lively without being crowded.

Winters in Scotland are cold and dark. December is relatively dry, with temperatures dipping below 0°C (32°F). It’s nevertheless a popular time to visit, with many tourists coming to Edinburgh for the huge Hogmanay New Year’s Eve celebration (one of the biggest New Year’s festivals in the world). Book your accommodation well in advance if you plan to attend.

By February, snow is common so keep that in mind if you plan on renting a vehicle. Unless you’re coming to engage in winter sports, I’d avoid a winter visit unless you don’t mind the grim and grey atmosphere of the country.

How to Stay Safe in Scotland

Scotland is a safe country, even for solo travelers, and even for solo female travelers. Like in all cities, stay vigilant when you’re in crowded tourist areas or on public transportation as that is when pickpockets usually strike. If you keep your valuable secure, however, you shouldn’t have any issues.

Additionally, solo female travelers don’t need to worry in Scotland, however, women should take the standard precautions when traveling alone at night (don’t travel alone intoxicated, keep an eye on your drink, etc.).

Keep in mind that traffic flows on the left here. Most vehicles are manual transmissions and have the gear shift on the left (which is opposite to most other countries). Driving might take some getting used to so drive carefully — especially in cities and when going through roundabouts.

If you are hiking, make sure you have the appropriate equipment and notify your accommodation of your plans just in case as the weather can change quickly in the highlands.

While scams here are rare, you can read about common travel scams to avoid here if you’re concerned.

If you experience an emergency, dial 999 for assistance.

Always trust your gut instinct. Avoid isolated areas at night and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.

If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Scotland!

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

Scotland Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!
  • BlaBlaCar – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way to travel than by bus or train!

Edinburgh Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Scotland and continue planning your trip:

The 7 Best Hostels in Edinburgh

The 7 Best Hostels in Edinburgh

10 Scotland Road Trip Tips You Need to Know Before You Go

10 Scotland Road Trip Tips You Need to Know Before You Go

The 6 Best Hotels in Edinburgh

The 6 Best Hotels in Edinburgh

The Best Walking Tours in Edinburgh

The Best Walking Tours in Edinburgh

Where to Stay in Edinburgh: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in Edinburgh: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

The Best Ghost Tours in Edinburgh

The Best Ghost Tours in Edinburgh

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The 14 best places to visit in Scotland

James Smart

Nov 19, 2023 • 10 min read

travel guides scotland

Pack your camping gear (and your rainproofs) and head to some of the best places to visit in Scotland © Robert Coppinger / Shutterstock

Some of the best places to visit in Scotland will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever gazed at a whisky label or shortbread tin. Think dramatic peaks, lonely glens, lochs, tartan and haggis!

From spectacular Skye and historic Edinburgh to the rolling rivers of Speyside, Scotland’s big sights are as glorious as you’d imagine. But scratch the surface of this proud nation and you’ll find a varied and engrossing place, dotted with prehistoric villages, wild clubs, rich seafood and ruined abbeys.

So, where to start? Once you've decided on the best time for your visit , you need to decide on the best places to go while you're there. Here is our pick of the best destinations in Scotland to get you started.

Group of people walking along cliff edge looking over Edinburgh

1. Edinburgh

Best place for year-round entertainment

Scotland's capital may be famous for its festivals, but there's much more to the city than that. Edinburgh is a place of many moods: visit in spring to see the Old Town silhouetted against a blue sky and a yellow haze of daffodils, or on a chill winter’s day for fog snagging the spires of the Royal Mile, rain on the cobblestones, and a warm glow beckoning from the windows of local pubs. With a world-class modern art gallery , top museums , spooky historic sites and a majestic 12th-century castle , there's plenty to keep you entertained whatever the season.

Local tip: Start your visit to Edinburgh with a climb up Arthur's Seat , an extinct volcano for panoramic views over the city.

2. West Highland Way

Best place for long-distance hiking

The best way to really get inside Scotland's landscapes is to walk them. Here, peaks tower over lochs and sea cliffs gaze over the wind-whipped sea, but there are short woodland trails and charming strolls through valleys dusted with purple heather, too. Top of the wish list for many hikers is the 96-mile West Highland Way from Milngavie (near Glasgow) to Fort William , a weeklong walk through some of the country's finest scenery, finishing in the shadow of its highest peak, Ben Nevis.

If you don’t have the time or energy for a long-distance trek, it's possible to do just a day's hike along part of the trail. For example, you could walk the section from Rowardennan to Inversnaid, returning to your starting point using the Loch Lomond waterbus . Whichever section you take on, pack waterproofs and midge repellent. Rail lovers should note that sleeper trains run south from Fort William all the way to London, making for an easy exit after a walk.

Detour:  The 1,345m (4,413ft) summit of Ben Nevis is within reach of anyone who's reasonably fit: treat the peak with respect and your reward (weather permitting) will be magnificent views that can stretch as far as Northern Ireland.

The Kylesku Bridge spanning Loch a' Chàirn Bhàin in the Scottish Highlands, which is a landmark on the North Coast 500 tourist driving route.

3. North Coast 500

Best place for a scenic road trip

Breathtaking views abound in the Highlands , but the far north is where things become truly awe-inspiring. This is the best place in Scotland to explore by car (you can also cycle it), with some of the finest roadside scenery in Europe.

The North Coast 500 starts and ends in the likable city of Inverness , and loops past the lochs, sand dunes and golf courses of the east coast before taking in the remote cliffs and beaches of Cape Wrath, the rugged peaks of Assynt and Torridon’s desolate beauty. These sights, and the nooks of warm Highland hospitality found in the region's classic rural pubs and old crofting villages, make this an unforgettable weeklong tour.

4. Isle of Skye

Best place for photographers

In a country famous for stunning scenery, the Isle of Skye takes the top prize. From the craggy peaks of the Cuillins and the bizarre pinnacles of the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing to the spectacular sea cliffs of Neist Point, there's a photo opportunity awaiting you at almost every turn.

Skye is also one of the best places in Scotland to see golden eagles, and you’ll find convivial pubs and top seafood restaurants if you can tear your eyes from the natural world. Of course, all this tourist appeal makes Skye one of Scotland's most popular destinations. The crowds tend to stick to Portree , Dunvegan and Trotternish – it’s almost always possible to find peace and quiet in the island’s further-flung corners.

Planning tip:  Come prepared for changeable weather – when it’s fine, it’s very fine indeed, but all too often it isn’t.

5. Loch Lomond

Best place for a lakeside hike

Despite being less than an hour's drive from the bustle and sprawl of Glasgow, the bonnie braes (banks) of Loch Lomond – immortalized in the words of one of Scotland's best-known songs – comprise one of the most scenic parts of the country.

At the heart of Scotland's first national park , the loch begins as a broad, island-peppered lake in the south, its shores clothed in bluebell-sprinkled woods before narrowing in the north to a fjord-like trench ringed by mountains.

Detour: The summit of Ben Lomond (974m/3,031ft) is a popular climb – follow the well-maintained path for a 7-mile round-trip on the popular Tourist Route (allow around 5 hours).

embers of the public enjoy their first drink in a beer garden at the Rosevale Tavern in Partick on July 06, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Best place for live music and pub culture

Scotland's biggest city may lack Edinburgh's stunning setting, but it more than makes up for it with a barrelful of things to do and a warmth and energy that leaves every visitor impressed. Edgy and contemporary, it's a great spot to browse art galleries and museums , and to discover the works of local design hero Charles Rennie Mackintosh .

Glasgow’s infectious vitality is best sampled via its lively pubs and clubs, which host one of the world's great live music scenes.

Local tip:  Check out upcoming (mostly alt-rock) acts at the Barrowland  (crowned the UK's best music venue by Time Out magazine in 2023), a legendary former ballroom, or try the Sub Club for house and techno, the Clutha Bar for roots and rock, or Nice N Sleazy , a classic indie dive.

7. Stirling

Best place for castle fans

With an impregnable position atop a mighty wooded crag – the plug of an extinct volcano – Stirling ’s beautifully preserved Old Town is a treasure trove of historic buildings and cobbled streets winding up to the ramparts of Stirling Castle . This fortress has seen serious action – it was bombarded by the Warwolf, a giant 14th-century English siege engine, and was besieged during the 1745 Jacobite rising, as well as sending troops to the battle of Bannockburn (the decisive battle celebrated at the end of Braveheart ), just a few miles south.

Today, views that stretch to the Highlands, glorious tapestries and juicy history make this Scotland’s best castle – and a great family attraction.

Planning tip:  It's best to visit in the afternoon; many tourists come on day trips, so you may have the castle almost to yourself by 4pm.

Fishing boat in the harbour at Lybster on the east coast of Scotland.

8. St Andrews

Best place for golfers

Scotland invented the game of golf, and the city of  St Andrews is still revered as its spiritual home by hackers and champions alike. Links courses are the classic experience here – bumpy coastal affairs where the rough is heather and machair (coastal grass) and the main enemy is the wind, which can make a disaster of a promising round in an instant.

St Andrews, the historic Fife university town, is golf's headquarters , and an irresistible destination for anyone who loves the sport. And if you're not so keen, well, the city has impressive medieval ruins , stately university buildings , idyllic white sands and excellent guesthouses and restaurants .

The stone ruins of Skara Brae on the coast of Mainland Orkney

9. Skara Brae

Best place for lovers of ancient history

When visiting ancient sites, it can sometimes be difficult to bridge the gulf of years or build a connection with the people that built them, but Scotland’s superb prehistoric remains have an immediate impact. Few places offer a better glimpse of everyday Stone Age life than Skara Brae in Orkney  with its carefully constructed fireplaces, beds, cupboards and water cisterns.

This Neolithic village – which, at 5,000 years is older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids of Giza – lay buried in coastal sand dunes for centuries. Even today, it can feel as though the inhabitants have just slipped out to go fishing and could return at any moment.

10. Glen Coe

Best place for clan history

Scotland's most famous glen combines two essential qualities of the Highlands: dramatic scenery and a deep sense of history. The peace and beauty of this valley today belies the fact that Glen Coe was the scene of a ruthless 17th-century massacre, when the local MacDonalds were murdered by soldiers of the Campbell clan.

Some of the glen's finest walks – to the Lost Valley, for example – follow the routes taken by fleeing clanspeople, many of whom perished in the snow.

Planning tip:  Start at the Glencoe Visitor Centre for more information on this beautiful place and its tragic history.

11. Perthshire

Best place to enjoy nature's bounty

In Perthshire , the heart of Scotland, picturesque towns bloom with flowers, distilleries emit tempting malty odors and sheep graze in impossibly green meadows. There's a feeling of the bounty of nature that no other place in Scotland can replicate.

Blue-gray lochs shimmer, reflecting the changing moods of the weather; centuries-old trees tower amid riverside forests; majestic glens scythe their way into remote wildernesses; and salmon leap upriver to the place of their birth.

A group of black-and-white birds with colourful beaks stand together on a clifftop on a misty day

12. Shetland Islands

Best place for birdwatching

Close enough to Norway to make Scottish nationality an ambiguous concept, the Shetland Islands are Britain’s most northerly outpost. The stirringly bleak setting – recognized as a precious UNESCO geopark – still feels uniquely Scottish though, with deep, naked glens flanked by steep hills, twinkling, sky-blue lochs and, of course, wandering sheep on the little-trafficked roads. It's the birdlife, however, that really draws visitors here.

From their first arrival in late spring to the raucous feeding frenzies of high summer, the vast colonies of gannets, guillemots, skua, puffins and kittiwakes at Hermaness , Noss, Sumburgh Head and Fair Isle provide some of Britain's most impressive birdwatching experiences.

Local tip: Shetland is one of the best places in the UK to spot orcas (and the Northern Lights).

13. Speyside

Best place for whisky tasting

Scotland's national drink is whisky – from the Gaelic uisge beatha , meaning “water of life” – and this fiery spirit has been distilled here for more than 500 years. More than 50 distilleries are in operation in Speyside, Scotland's most famous whisky area, famed for fruity, lightly spicy flavors (head over to Islay for peatier varieties).

Ask at the Whisky Museum about the Malt Whisky Trail, a self-guided tour around the local distilleries. If you just have time for one, the Balvenie Distillery is a good bet as it still uses a traditional malting floor – the smell is glorious!

Planning tip:  Dufftown lies at the heart of the region and is host to the biannual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

14. The Scotland Borders

Best place for a country ramble

Many visitors to Scotland race up to Edinburgh and then hightail it to the Highlands, missing the Scottish Borders entirely . That's their loss. Once fought over by war chiefs and cattle thieves, the Borders region is rich in history and packed with good cycling and hiking routes.

There are grand country houses, too – Traquair House brews Jacobite Ale and has a concealed room that once hid Catholic priests – and a series of gorgeous ruined abbeys – Gothic Melrose Abbey is the best – plus birds and sea cliffs at St Abb’s Head. More active types can fish for salmon or thunder down the mountain bike trails at Glentress and Innerleithen.

This article was first published May 13, 2021 and updated Nov 19, 2023.

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The Planet D: Adventure Travel Blog

Scotland Travel Guide

Your ultimate scotland travel guide, with tips, and things to see and things to do in scotland. great for first-time and returning travelers..

Found in the northern third of the United Kingdom is the great country of Scotland.

Known for the warmth of its people, lush greenery and mountains, beautiful coastlines and beaches, medieval castles, and rich history, Scotland is a place like no other.

It is perfect for those who find the beauty in nature. Made up of almost 800 small islands, there is a lot to see and explore here. 

This Scotland travel guide will help you plan your next vacation.

Popular Guides

  • Things To Do in Edinburgh
  • North Coast 500

Our Highlight

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Table of contents

Table of Contents

Fast Facts about Scotland

  • Currency:  Scotland currency is the Pound sterling (£) and 1 pound sterling is equal to 1.25 USD.
  • Power:  Scotland power voltage is 230v 50 Hz.
  • Visa:  Tourist Visas are not required when visiting Scotland. All that is needed is a U.S. passport that has been valid for at least 6 months prior to visiting Scotland.
  • Best way to get around:  Renting a car is considered the best way to get around Scotland. You must be over 21 to rent a car.
  • Driving  in Scotland is done on the left-hand side of the road! 
  • SIM Cards:  The most common cellular networks in Scotland are Orange, O2, and Vodafone. You can purchase a UK SIM card to connect your phone to one of these.
  • Value-added tax  (VAT) is applied to most goods in Scotland. Visitors may be able to reclaim these taxes based on the store and amount purchased. For more information, click here.  http://www.rampantscotland.com/know/blknow_vat.htm

Things to See and Do in Scotland

  • Edinburgh Castle :  Take a guided tour through this medieval and world-famous castle. Visitors will get to learn about the fascinating history behind this castle while exploring the castle up close.
  • Culloden Battlefield  is the historic site of the last battle to take place on  British  soil in 1746. This battle is frequently referred to as one of the most important for Scotland, as it marked the end of the clan system in the highlands.
  • Kilchoman Distillery:  Learn everything you wanted to know about whiskey and how it’s made. Stay for lunch at their café, try some coffee or cake, or enjoy whiskey tastings.
  • Drive the North Coast 500  – Scotland’s epic road trip takes you around the entire northern route of the country through the highlands, past impressive sea cliffs and through the land of castles and distilleries.

Scotland Travel Guides

  • Dunrobin Castle
  • Dunnet Head
  • Clava Cairns
  • Culloden Battlefield
  • Things to do in Inverness

Accommodation

Budget:  For those on a budget, Scotland offers many hostels at roughly 20 pounds per night. Many have shared bathrooms, but you can upgrade to get a private bathroom in some if you’re willing to pay more.

Mid Range:  These typically cost £60 to £100 per night and often come with complimentary breakfast as well as free Wi-Fi. Scotland also offers plenty of bed and breakfasts around the same price.

High End:  For those who wish for a unique experience, Scotland offers plenty of high-end castle hotels. These castle hotels are rich with history and offer plentiful views. Prices tend to fall in the £100 to £350 range. In the smaller cities, it might be best to check out VRBO for more of a selection.

  • Check out our favorite booking platforms Booking.com , Tripadvisor and VRBO for the best deals on accommodation.

You can find a variety of pubs and street food in Scotland.

The national dish is haggis, a meat pudding served with mashed potatoes and turnips. Expect to pay around £30 per day for food.

The Best Ways to Get Around Scotland

Getting to scotland:.

Getting to Scotland:  For those flying to Scotland, the Edinburgh Airport or Glasgow Airports are two of the main airports and are conveniently just 7-8 miles from the city center.

You can check for the best flights to Scotland on Skyscanner .

Transportation:

Bus:  When you need to get around the city, the bus is a cheap option. They run all throughout the day and cost around £2-5 depending on where you go

Train:  Trains are available throughout Scotland and tend to cost at least 20-40 pounds for a one-way trip depending on how far your journey is. This is a great way to get to major cities if you don’t have a car, as routes such as Glasgow to Edinburgh only take an hour.

Car Rental:  By far the most flexible way to discover the country is by  renting a car . It is fairly reasonable ($40/Day) and allows to reach those charming little towns you might not otherwise be able to discover.

Just remember they drive on the left-hand side of the road and almost all cars are manual transmission. If you want an aoutomatic you will have to pay more.

When to go To Scotland

June to August is considered the best time to visit Scotland, as this is Scotland’s summer months. This is also the peak of tourism.

For those who want to avoid the crowds and perhaps get better deals, the spring season (late March to May) is a good period to go.

There is also little difference in weather between the spring and summer seasons, so you can still enjoy plenty of great weather, with temperatures around 59 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Where to Stay in Scotland

Grand Central Hotel :  Located right in the city center of Glasgow, this Victorian hotel is 4 stars and offers many attractions. Take a stroll through the shopping district, walk to Central Station to visit more of Glasgow, or dine at the hotel’s very own restaurant and bar. This hotel also offers the best in high-speed Wi-Fi.

Radisson Blu Hotel Edinburgh :  Shaped like a castle, this four-star hotel comes with 24-hour room service, a spa and health club, and its own restaurant and bar. Located in the famous Royal Mile, you get to see amazing sights and history of Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Castle, National Museum of Scotland, and shopping area are all within walking distance from this hotel.

The Chester Hotel :  This contemporary and classy hotel is in the heart of West End Aberdeen. Enjoy some of the best in hospitality, with rainfall showers, Egyptian cotton sheets, and designer toiletries. Explore more of Aberdeen or stay indoors for some afternoon tea and cake.

Scotland Accommodation Guides

  • Where to Stay in Edinburgh – A Guide To The Best Places and Neighborhoods
  • 3 Days in Edinburgh – The Complete Edinburgh Itinerary
  • Things to do in Inverness – The Capital of the Scottish Highlands

What to Pack for Scotland

Packing tips.

Scotlands weather is relatively mild throughout the year except in the Highlands. Rain can be exp[ected at anytime so pack accordingly.

  • Pack a raincoat  – chances are that you will encounter rain no matter what month you travel. A light rain shell is highly recommended as it will combat the rain AND wind you will probably face in Scotland.
  • Layers  – As Scotland has diverse weather, it is best to bring clothes with multiple layers to accommodate the changes in temperatures. Scarfs, sweatshirts, gloves are all good options. For travel during winter months, make sure to bring a heavier coat as air frost can be common in certain areas.
  • Footwear   – Pack a pair of lightweight, durable, waterproof and comfortable shoes and/or a pair of light boots with lugged soles and ankle support if you plan on doing a lot of hiking
  • Classic Basic items – You do not need to be a fashionista to blend in. The key is in embracing neutral toned items that can be mixed and matched easily. Avoid logos, baseball caps, shorts, hoodies, flip-flops, and running shoes as these items scream  tourist!

Scotland Travel Guide: Best Booking Resources

Whenever we travel to we make sure to start with these companies. We have tried a lot of different ones over the years and all of these have consistently proven to be the best when it comes to offering great prices.

We have used every one of these personally and continue to do so.

  • Booking.com : This is our go site to when comparing prices for accommodation. It usually has the cheapest prices, especially in Europe and we love their interface. Not to mention you get free cancellation and you are guaranteed the best price.
  • Trip Advisor :  What we like about Trip Advisor is that we can look at all the reviews and then book our accommodation. TripAdvisor is where we go when we want to compare prices with multiple accommodation providers.
  • VRBO : is the main search engine we use when we are looking for a home or apartment rental. It can sometimes be cheaper than hotels and it is the best way to stay in areas that offer a more local feel.
  • Hostelworld :  With one of the largest databases of hostels in the world, Hostelworld is the go-to site when you are looking for budget accommodation.
  • Skyscanner : This is the first place we check for flights. It consistently comes back with the cheapest and best options. It allows us to compare a lot of airlines to get the best price.
  • Rome 2 Rio :  If you want to see how to get somewhere by plane, train, bus, ferry or car Rome2Rio lays it all out for you as well as related costs.I love how they show it all to you on a Google Map and it works offline.
  • Get Your Guide:  For all your day trip and city guide needs, we use Get Your Guide. It has the world’s largest collection of things to do with more than 30,000 activities in 7500 destinations.
  • World Nomads Insurance:  When traveling to Italy you should always have travel insurance. We have found the best bang for your buck is by far World Nomads.

Scotland Travel Guide: Related Articles

Where to Stay in Edinburgh: Our Favourite Places And Neighbourhoods (2024)

Where to Stay in Edinburgh: Our Favourite Places And Neighbourhoods (2024)

25 Best Things To Do in Edinburgh, Scotland In 2024

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Top Tips for Travelling to Scotland

Let's make this amazing trip a reality. Travel to Scotland with simple information about getting here and getting around. You can also find info on the weather and when to visit, so you can enjoy meeting spring farm animals, admire beautiful autumn colours or explore our Christmas markets. Got some practical questions? Our FAQs, passport and safety pages cover all you need, so nothing will stand between you and Scotland!

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Find information on VisitScotland's responsible tourism promise. Including our key commitments to caring for Scotland now and for generations to come.

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Discover green & eco-friendly businesses in Scotland. Including Eden Mill Distillery, Wildland Estates, JP Orkney and more!

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Scotland Travel Guide

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Planning a trip to Scotland can be a bit of an overwhelming process, especially when one realises just how much there is to see and do in the incredible country. There is so much to Scotland beyond the cobbled streets of Edinburgh or the mystical shores of Loch Ness and this Scotland travel guide is designed to help you get the most out of any length of Scottish adventure.

Scotland has everything from historic islands to stunning mountain peaks to vibrant cities to charming small towns. It is a destination that appeals to both the outdoor adventurer and the most devout of city-slickers. Filled with history, beauty and incredibly warm and friendly people, Scotland is a destination that will continue to draw you back for years on end.

If you’re planning a trip to the wild north and are looking for the best tips, tricks and information to ensure that you have the best holiday possible, then this guide is for you!

Disclaimer: This guide contains affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we make a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, see our  privacy policy.

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Planning a Scotland Route

Mapping out the perfect route through Scotland can actually be a pretty difficult process, with so many different things to see and do in this seemingly small country. Do you want to concentrate on the major cities and their surrounding areas? Do you want to hit the road and take on the now-famous North Coast 500? Or do want to venture a bit off the beaten tourist trail, maybe exploring Scotland’s Highlands and islands?

Regardless of where and how you want to travel around this amazing country, we have a number of guides to help you along the way and ensure that you plan the best trip possible. Make sure to browse the itineraries and routes below in order to map out your perfect Scottish adventure!

Camping outside of Durness on the NC500

An Alternative 5 to 10 Days North Coast 500 Itinerary

Glencoe in Scotland

The Ultimate 10-Day Scotland Itinerary: 3 Perfect Routes

See the mountains is one of the best things to do in Glencoe

14 Best Stops on the Edinburgh to Inverness Drive

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The Ultimate London-Scotland-Ireland Itinerary

The University of Glasgow is a great place to visit when spending a weekend in Glasgow

Glasgow or Edinburgh: Which Scottish City to Visit?

The beautiful turquoise sea in Scourie on the NC500

10 Tips for Planning a Trip to Scotland and Ireland

Places to Visit in Scotland

Though seemingly small in size, Scotland is packed with incredible places to visit and it is absolutely impossible to see everything in one trip — no matter how much time you have to play around with.

From historic sites to windswept islands to mountain peaks to the deepest lochs to dynamic cities, there are countless places to visit in the country that are worth spending your time in.

If you’re looking for some place-specific information about a number of different areas, cities and towns in Scotland, then make sure to browse through the guides below to ensure that you’re able to get the most out of your time in Scotland!

Town of Oban

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Tobermory on the Isle of Mull

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Old Man of Storr on Skye

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Scotland or Ireland

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Day Trips in Scotland

If you’re planning on basing yourself in a major city like Edinburgh, Glasgow or Inverness and exploring the country from there during your trip, this is really a fantastic option. Visiting some highlights of the country as day trips is a great way to see as much as possible without having to move destinations every single night.

If you want to check out our guides to some of the top day trips in Scotland, make sure to browse the articles below!

Colourful Tobermory

The Perfect Isle of Mull Day Trip from Oban

Magical Loch Ness

The Perfect Loch Ness Day Trip from Edinburgh

Cawdor Castle

9 Best Day Trips from Inverness

Beautiful Loch Lomond

Planning a Loch Lomond Day Trip from Glasgow & Edinburgh

Best Time to Visit Scotland

Figuring out what time of year to visit Scotland can be a difficult task, especially considering the country is necessarily known for having the best weather in the world. In fact, because of the inclement weather you should expect when visiting Scotland, there are a few more considerations that one needs to keep in mind before heading to the country at any time of year.

The most popular time to visit Scotland is in the summer months of June-August. This is when you’re going to get the warmest average weather (don’t really expect any temperatures in excess of 20 ° C (68 ° F)) and the longest days — with sunlight lasting well past 10PM.

This is, however, where you will encounter the most tourist crowds and the highest prices for things like accommodation. Especially in the month of August, when Edinburgh hosts its world-famous Fringe Festival, the capital city can be absolutely packed and very expensive.

Conversely, visiting in the winter months is where you will experience the coolest temperatures (with highs hovering around freezing and plenty of snow to be expected in some places) and the shortest days. If you’re visiting in December or January, don’t be alarmed when it begins to get dark at around 3PM — winters are dark and dreary in Britain and Scotland gets the worst of it.

Autumn and spring can be great times to visit Scotland if you don’t mind chilly temperatures. These months aren’t nearly as cold and dark as the winter and you can expect the crowds in popular tourist areas to be far fewer than in the summer months.

Regardless of when you choose to visit, make sure that you come prepared with the right gear. Scotland is so impeccably green for a reason — it rains a lot!

No matter what time of year, you are going to need to pack a warm, waterproof jacket and adequate footwear because, as the saying goes: there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing! Browse our guides below to find out our top picks no matter the season.

Rainy Day on the Scottish Islands

The Best Jacket for Scotland & Ireland

Scotland Road Trip Itinerary

The Best Shoes for Scotland & Ireland

Cost of Travelling to Scotland

Scotland is not known to be the most budget-friendly destination in the world and these assumptions are true — costs can be quite high in the country.

That is not to say, however, that it is not possible to travel in Scotland on a tight budget. In fact, you don’t need to spend your entire life savings on a trip to Scotland. There are countless ways to cut costs in the country without sacrificing overall quality.

If you’re planning on visiting Scotland on a budget or just want to be aware of what kind of prices to expect in the country, we have written a couple of guides to help you plan in advance. Make sure to have a look at the articles below so you know how much to budget for your Scotland trip!

Climbing Conic Hill

Is Scotland Expensive? Trip To Scotland Cost Guide in 2024

View from Calton Hill

Is Edinburgh Expensive? A Guide to Prices in Edinburgh

Transportation in Scotland

How you plan to get around Scotland is a major consideration that needs to be taken into account when planning your trip as there are a number of options and your choices can have a big impact on the quality of your trip.

For instance, if you’re only really planning on visiting major cities (like Edinburgh or Glasgow) and their surrounding areas, it’s entirely possible to rely on public transport (like the bus or the train) for the majority of your trip, supplementing it with the occasional small group tour if you want to head out to some harder to reach areas.

Many visitors to Scotland will want to get around solely by using the rail or bus network and, as mentioned, this can work if your itinerary follows what I just outlined. However, if you’re at all interested in visiting the Highlands, islands or more rural destinations in Scotland, you are really going to want to hire a car.

Driving in Scotland is fairly straightforward and nothing to be worried about, you just need to be prepared that there are some narrow country roads in a lot of less densely populated areas and make sure to exercise caution when driving here.

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Having your own car in Scotland will allow you to reach a number of otherwise difficult-to-reach destinations all while not having to be at the mercy of erratic or sparse bus timetables. It will also allow you to travel independently and only see the things that interest you, and give you all the time you want in certain destinations — an option not available if you’re travelling by organised tour.

If you want to hire a car in Scotland, we recommend booking through RentalCars.com . This platform aggregates all prices on car hire across major rental companies, ensuring you can get a great deal.

It can also very much be worth taking out a third-party excess insurance policy through iCarHireInsurance to ensure that you have peace of mind should anything happen to your vehicle.

Harry Potter Steam Train is one of the most popular things to do near Fort William

Accommodation in Scotland

If you’re wondering about the accommodation options available in Scotland, you will be happy to know that you will be spoilt for choice in the vast majority of the country. Especially if you’re staying in more heavily touristed areas, there are always countless options available to suit all travel styles and budgets, so you don’t need to worry too much about finding accommodation here.

If you’re travelling on a tight budget, hostels are plentiful throughout Scotland , even in more rural areas as they are popular amongst trekkers and walkers along with you typical budget travellers.

If you don’t mind sacrificing a bit of comfort, wild camping is also an excellent option that is legal in many areas of the country — just make sure to be respectful of the place you choose to spend the night and completely clean up after yourself when you leave!

Bed & breakfasts and family-run guesthouses are also popular options amongst mid-range travellers. These can give you a homely, local experience and most will include a hearty breakfast in the price of the room, saving you money on a meal, as well!

You will find nicer, luxury hotels in most major tourist areas in Scotland and there is also even the option to stay the night in a castle if your budget allows for it!

There are also lots of options for private apartment stays or room rentals through platforms like Airbnb. A private room on Airbnb can a great option for those looking for a good budget option without sacrificing comfort and an entire flat rental can be a good option for those who are looking for a unique stay or just a comfortable, self-catering place to rest your head.

Scotland is packed with great accommodation options that are suitable for every breed of traveller, from your penny-pinching backpacker to those who like to travel at the height of luxury.

Read More: Where to Stay in Inverness, Loch Ness & Cairngorms, Scotland

Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness

Travelling in Scotland can be a truly unforgettable experience that will forge memories that will last a lifetime. Hopefully, this Scotland travel guide will help you plan the perfect trip to this amazing country and leave you dreaming of many more to come!

Scotland Travel Guide

Selected resources, embassies and consulates, festivals and games, must see and do, natural wonders, train stations, visas and passports, gaelic language, famous scots, regional guide, helensburgh, pencaitland, cowdenbeath, fort william, kinlochleven, stoneybridge, blairgowrie, forgandenny, balquhidder, things to do and see, art galleries, castles and forts, museums in scotland, religious sites, scotch distilleries, whisky trail, bird watching, highland games, horse riding, off-road driving, scotland: the land of the gaels.

The name of Scotland comes from the Latin name for the Gaels – a linguistic group, native to Scotland and other areas of the United Kingdom (UK). Alba, the Scot name for Scotland, comes from the Celtic name, Albion.

The Gaelic language, the country’s stunning terrain, and its 1,200 medieval historic homes and castles all draw travelers to Scotland. In addition, the country’s Scottish clans, tartan designs, Scotch whiskey, and world-recognized golf courses give travelers yet another reason to escape to the Land of the Gaels.

The country plays host to 587 golf courses and is home to approximately 130 whiskey distilleries. Scotland also evokes a sense of magic with its folklore – stories, passed down through time, that tell of mystical creatures, including beasts and serpents.

When you choose to travel in Scotland, you will not be taking a holiday just to pass the time. Scotland provides plenty of entertainment, whether you wish to visit a castle, improve your golf swing, learn more about the country’s history or language, or enjoy a lively evening in one of the country’s pubs.

Located 75 minutes from London and 110 minutes from Paris, Scotland comprises 800 islands besides the main island in the UK. Situated in mid-west Europe, the country occupies the northern third of Great Britain and shares a border with England to the south. From its wild coastlines to its rolling green valleys and towering mountains, Scotland’s terrain is part of its overall appeal.

While you can be assured that the mainland features a jam-packed list of attractions and activities, its 800 small isles, north of the county, provide great getaways too. The Shetland Isles and Orkney Isles possess a magical mix of Celtic, Norse, and Scottish culture and history .

To the west of the mainland, archipelagos, such as the Outer Hebrides, offer a chance to enjoy the sun and surf in the summer while the Inner Hebrides feature scenic excursions, such as the Isle of Skye. It does not matter what area you visit. Scotland always sits close to a body of water.

For example, the North Sea in the East separates Scotland from the rest of Europe while the Atlantic Ocean in the north and west serves as a divider between Scotland and Iceland, the U.S., and Canada. The Irish Sea, to the Southwest, separates the country from Northern Ireland.

Each region of Scotland has a distinctive character and charm. Therefore, regardless of where your travel, Scotland is full of fun experiences, historic discoveries, and surprises.

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire represent one of Scotland’s most vibrant regions. The city of Aberdeen features pristine beaches, crumbling fortresses and landmarks, and cultural attractions that define the area’s maritime heritage. The bustling city of Aberdeen, located in the center of the region, is widely recognized as the Oil Capital of Europe. The city’s history as an oil and gas producer have given it widespread acclaim in the business community.

The Argyle and the Isles

Another Scottish destination, the Argyll and the Isles, displays rich coastal seascapes and Highland scenery. Located on Scotland’s west coast, the region charms visitors with its quaint seaside villages and towns, mouth-watering seafood, and rugged terrains.

The area is also is well-known for its world-renowned whiskey distilleries. Explore the drama that gives Skye its awesome beauty or take a ferry to the seaside town of Oban. You might also visit Helensburg, known for its architecture and history. The empty beaches and rolling hillsides of Argyll and The Isles offer nature scenes and discoveries for anyone who likes adventure.

Dumfries and Galloway

From babbling brooks to its dense woodlands, Dumfries and Galloway offers the ideal backdrop for adventurers. The area’s stunning scenery has inspired writers, artists, and poets for hundreds of years. Visitors to the region can learn more about the area’s history by traveling to Scotland’s National Book Town of Wigtown, or exploring the Artists’ Town, Kirkcudbright . You can also spot the region’s unique wildlife while exploring the valleys and trails of Galloway Forest Parl, a famous Scottish nature reserve in the region.

Dundee and Angus

You can unveil some of Scotland’s most precious nature scenes in the region of Dundee and Angus. The area provides travelers with pristine shores, world-class golfing, ancient woodlands, and long stretches of rugged hills. The fourth largest city in Scotland, Dundee guards the banks of the River Tay. Further up the coast, in Arbroath, locals serve Arbroath Smokies, a specialty in Angus.

Made from haddock, a mild saltwater fish from the North Atlantic, Arbroath Smokies need no further cooking and can be eaten after hot-smoking. By comparison kippers, another Scottish dish and a tradition of Scottish cuisine , are cold-smoked herring that must be cooked before being eaten. Both kippers and “smokies” are eaten for breakfast, or may be added to soups or chowders. Foodies eat the “smokies” cold, in a pate, or savor them grilled or poached. “Smokies” may also be added to omelets or pastas.

For history buffs, you can escape back in time to Arbroath Abbey. The Declaration of Arbroath was signed in 1320 at the Scottish historical site. Therefore, the landmark is well-recognized in this region of Scotland.

Edinburgh and the Lothians

Edinburgh and the Lothians serve as the home of Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh. Wherever your turn in this part of Scotland, you will be greeted by adventure. The area features UNESCO World Heritage sites, upscale shopping, and award-winning dining.

Memorable landscapes, charming towns, and the unforgettable peaks of the Pentland Hills, within the surrounding Lothians, makes this region the ideal place to explore. The Lothians refers, collectively, to 3 lowland counties, situated in the central belt of Scotland.

Other Notable Regions

Other Scottish regions of note include Glasgow ; the Kingdom of Fife; the Highlands (which is the home of breathtaking landscapes and Highland Clans); Loch Lomond, the Trossachs, Stirling, and the Forth Valley (known as the Gateway to the Highlands); the Shetland Islands (which lie about 100 miles off the northeast coast of Scotland); Perthshire; and the Scottish Borders.

Each part of Scotland offers visitors something unique – something that makes this UK country as magical and inviting as it is exciting and memorable.

Country Profile

Scotland is the second largest country in the United Kingdom and comprises about 33% of its total land area. It shares its southern border with England with the remainder of Scotland being surrounded by water including the North Sea, Irish Seas and the Atlantic Ocean. The country has 6170 (10,000km) miles of coastline. From north to south (vertical measurement), Scotland is about 280 miles in length and between 25 and 150 miles in width.

The country is comprised of 4 archipelagos (Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland, and Faroe Islands) and well as 796 islands with Lewis and Harris, Shetland, Orkney, and Skye the most populous of the ten largest islands. Many of hundreds of Scotland’s islands are either uninhabited or have a population of less than 200 residents with 125 islands inhabited.

The head of the Scottish Government is the First Minister and the country is represented in the United Kingdom and European Parliament and a member of the British-Irish Council. Scotland has limited self-government and is represented in the House of Lords by Scottish Members of Parliament. The country is divided into 32 limited, self-governing council areas (administrative subdivisions).

Below is our country profile containing facts and information to familiarize you with Scotland.

  • Common English Country name: Scotland
  • Official Name: Scotland
  • Formation: Devolution (1998), Union with England (1707)
  • Historical Nicknames: The Kingdom of Scotland, Scoti, Alba (the Scottish Gaelic name)
  • Country Motto: “In My Defens God Me Defend” (“In my Defense God Me Defend”)
  • Government: Devolved Parliamentary Legislature
  • Capital: Edinburgh
  • Largest City (Population): Glasgow
  • Select Cities: Glasgow (largest), Aberdeen, Dundee, Paisley, East Kilbride
  • Points of interest: Edinburgh, the Highlands, Glencoe, Shetland Islands, Isle of Sky
  • Nationality: Scottish (preferable) or British
  • Religion: Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic
  • Population: 5,500,000 (2018)
  • Life expectancy: 77 years for males and 81 years for females
  • Primary ethnicity: White
  • Languages: English. Scottish Gaelic and Scots are officially recognized as regional languages.
  • National Anthem: Various national Anthems exist but “Flower of Scotland” is most common
  • Area: 78,000 Km² (30,000 mi²)
  • National Symbols: Thistle and its blue flag with Saltire (Saint Andrew’s Cross)
  • Average temperature: 51°F (11 °C)
  • Climate: Cool and Wet. July is the hottest month (11 °C), January is the coldest (4 °C)
  • Highest elevation: Ben Nevis, elevation of 1,345 m (4,413 ft)
  • Longest River: River Tay, length of 188 km (117 miles) long
  • Deepest Lake (Loch): Loch Morar, depth of 309 metres (1,014 ft)
  • Largest Lake: Loch Lomond (25 miles/40km in length)
  • Location: United Kingdom, in Europe
  • Calling code: +44 (same as England)
  • Coordinates: GPS- 56° 29′ 26.416″ N 4° 12′ 9.525″ W (Center-point)
  • Currency: Pound Sterling (GBP; £)
  • Driving side: right
  • Time zone: Greenwich Mean Time (UTC); Summer Day Light Savings Time (DST) is UTC + 1
  • Internet TLD: .scot (which is commonly known as a Geo top-level domain); otherwise “.uk”

Scotland Travel

What currency is used in scotland.

Scotland’s official currency is the Pound Sterling which is common represented by the symbols (GBP; £). If you are visiting Scotland from the United States, then type “USD to GBP” in your browser for the current exchange rate.

Where should I visit when in Scotland?

Scotland is known for its hundreds of iconic castles and is referred to as the “Home of Golf” with its world famous golf courses hosting the Ryder Cup, the British Open, and the PGA European Tour. While in Scotland consider visiting one of its National Parks or nature reserves or partake on a tour of the hundreds of historic churches and museums . For those interested in distillery tours be sure to explore the Scottish Whisky Trail .

When is the best time of year to travel to Scotland?

The temperature usually fluctuates between 3–7 °C (37–44 °F) and 15–17 °C (59–63 °F) but the weather can be very unpredictable. Many travel experts recommend planning your trip either in the springtime (between the months of March and May) or visiting Scotland in the autumn (September through mid-November). Summers are warm although rain showers are quite common but most notably in the North. Snow is common in the Highlands during the winter months. Be sure to bring the appropriate clothing and plan accordingly.

What are some of the “must see” destinations in Scotland?

Scotland has a diverse and fascinating attractions. From off the beaten path tours to exploring the countryside and cites you will find the Scottish countryside dotted with quaint towns, beautiful landscapes and historical treasures. In between its rugged coastline and snow-capped mountains, we recommend that you consider visiting Cairngorms National Part, the Isle of Sky, the and Trossachs National Park.

How expensive is Scotland?

Youth hostels and rooms are plentiful with season prices ranging between USD$20 and USD50 a night. Mid-range hotels in the larger cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow can cost upwards of USD225 to $450 a night. Be sure that your budget accounts for meals, ground transportation, entrance fees, and entertainment which can cost $100 a day per person. Transportation, day tours, and rental car costs will vary based on your travel itinerary.

Do I need a visa to visit Scotland?

Depending on your citizenship and country of origin, a visa and other travel documentation may be required to visit or study in Scotland. At present, no visa is currently required if you are British (or a part of the United Kingdom (UK) or if you are from within the EU. However, with the heightened possibility of the UK leaving the EU (Brexit) travelers from other countries should need to check with UK immigration.

Is Scotland a Country?

There is not a clear-cut answer. Scotland has a limited, self-government but is part of the United Kingdom which retains partial control over some of Scotland’s internal matters such as social security, defense, international relations and limited matters of taxation. The Scottish Government is headed by a First Minster who serves as the political leader of Scotland and is appointed by the Monarch. Scotland’s future status will be determined once the United Kingdom’s withdrawal (“Brexit”) from the European Union Brexit has been concluded.

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The Ultimate Scotland Travel Guide: All You Need to Know

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Hailing from Spain, Marco Suarez is an enthusiastic globetrotter driven…

Scotland, a land of rugged landscapes, rich history, and warm hospitality, is a country that beckons travelers from around the world. Whether you’re drawn to the picturesque highlands, historic castles, lively cities, or the hauntingly beautiful islands, Scotland offers a diverse range of experiences. In this travel guide, we’ll explore the key regions, cities, and places you should consider when planning your trip to this enchanting country.

In This Travel Guide

1. scottish highlands, 2. edinburgh, 4. scottish islands, 5. aberdeen and northeast, 6. central belt, 1. whisky tasting, 2. highland games, 3. music and festivals, 4. tartan and kilts, 2. historic abbeys, practical tips, 10 beautiful places to visit in scotland, regions and highlights.

  • Inverness : The Highland capital is a charming city known for its historic architecture, including Inverness Castle . It’s an ideal base for exploring the Loch Ness region.
  • Glencoe : A breathtaking glen with towering peaks, Glencoe is a paradise for hikers, rock climbers, and photographers. The eerie beauty of the landscape has made it a popular film location, notably in the Harry Potter series.
  • Ben Nevis : Scotland’s highest mountain beckons adventurers. Ascending Ben Nevis is a challenging endeavor, so be well-prepared with appropriate gear and check the weather conditions before attempting the climb.
  • Isle of Skye : One of the most iconic destinations in Scotland, Skye offers dramatic cliffs, lush valleys, and the famous Fairy Pools. Visit the Old Man of Storr for an Instagram-worthy shot.
  • Edinburgh Castle : This historic fortress dominates the city’s skyline. Explore its museums, crown jewels, and the Stone of Destiny, which plays a crucial role in Scottish history.
  • Royal Mile : Wander along this cobbled street that connects the castle to Holyrood Palace . It’s lined with shops, pubs, street performers, and historical attractions like St. Giles’ Cathedral.
  • Holyrood Palace : The official Scottish residence of the British monarch, Holyrood Palace allows visitors to explore the State Apartments, Mary, Queen of Scots’ chambers, and the beautiful gardens.
  • Arthur’s Seat : This extinct volcano in the heart of the city offers panoramic views of Edinburgh. Hike to the summit for an unforgettable sunrise or sunset experience.
  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum : A cultural gem, it houses an extensive collection of art and historical artifacts, including works by Salvador Dalí and Vincent van Gogh .
  • Glasgow Cathedral : This stunning Gothic cathedral dates back to the 12th century and is a prime example of medieval architecture. The nearby Necropolis offers a peaceful place to explore.
  • Merchant City : Discover the city’s creative energy in this trendy district filled with independent shops, art galleries, and lively cafes. It’s also known for its vibrant nightlife.
  • Orkney Islands : Known for its Neolithic history, Orkney boasts the prehistoric village of Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar stone circle, and the stunning St. Magnus Cathedral.
  • Shetland Islands : A birdwatcher’s paradise, you can spot puffins and seals here. Be sure to experience the Up Helly Aa festival , Europe’s largest fire festival, in January.
  • Outer Hebrides : Known for its white sandy beaches, such as Luskentyre, and a unique culture with strong Gaelic traditions. Explore the standing stones at Callanish and the historic town of Stornoway.
  • Dunnottar Castle : This dramatic cliff-top fortress has played a pivotal role in Scottish history and provides stunning views of the North Sea.
  • Deeside : Known for its picturesque valley and the Royal Deeside Scenic Route, which takes you through charming towns like Braemar and Ballater.
  • Aberdeen Beach : Enjoy a leisurely stroll along this sandy shore or visit the Aberdeen Maritime Museum to learn about the city’s seafaring history.
  • Stirling : Explore Stirling Castle, a symbol of Scottish independence, and the National Wallace Monument, which honors the legendary William Wallace.
  • Falkirk Wheel : Witness this engineering marvel in action as it connects two canals. Nearby, you can visit the Kelpies, two colossal horse head sculptures.
  • Fife : Known for its picturesque fishing villages and St. Andrews, famous for its historic university, golf courses, and stunning coastline.

Cultural Experiences

Scotland is divided into whisky regions, each with its unique character. Speyside is known for its smooth, fruity malts, while Islay offers smoky, peaty flavors. Take distillery tours to savor the diversity of Scotch whisky .

Experience the thrill of traditional Scottish games, including caber tossing, hammer throwing, and tug-of-war. These events are often held in the summer months, with the Braemar Gathering being a prominent one.

Don’t miss the world-famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe , which showcases theater, comedy, and music. Enjoy live traditional music in pubs across the country, especially in cities like Glasgow and Inverness.

Learn about the rich history of tartan and kilts, Scotland’s traditional dress. Consider visiting a kiltmaker or a weaver to witness the craftsmanship behind these iconic garments.

Historical and Cultural Sites

a. Edinburgh Castle

  • Location: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG
  • Description: Perched atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is an iconic landmark offering breathtaking views of the city. Explore its rich history, the Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny, and the National War Museum of Scotland.

b. Stirling Castle

  • Location: Castle Wynd, Stirling FK8 1EJ
  • Description: A historically significant castle with a commanding presence, Stirling Castle played a vital role in Scotland’s history. Discover its royal residences, the Great Hall, and the Renaissance Palace.

c. Eilean Donan Castle

  • Location: Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh IV40 8DX
  • Description: Eilean Donan Castle is a picturesque fortress on an island at the meeting point of three lochs. Learn about its dramatic history and enjoy the stunning views of the Scottish Highlands.

a. Melrose Abbey

Destinations

15 Beautiful Destinations for a Warm Winter Escape

  • Location: Abbey St, Melrose TD6 9LG
  • Description: Melrose Abbey, founded in 1136, is a ruined Cistercian monastery with intricate stonework. Visit the heart of Robert the Bruce, view the beautiful Rose Window, and stroll in the peaceful abbey grounds.

b. Jedburgh Abbey

  • Location: Abbey Bridge End, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ
  • Description: An impressive Augustinian abbey, Jedburgh Abbey features a mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Explore its historic ruins and discover the fascinating history of this abbey.

a. National Museum of Scotland

  • Location: Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF
  • Description: The National Museum of Scotland showcases the country’s history, culture, and natural heritage. Explore exhibits on Scottish history, world cultures, science, and technology, including the famous Lewis Chessmen.

b. Riverside Museum

  • Location: 100 Pointhouse Place, Glasgow G3 8RS
  • Description: A fascinating transport museum, the Riverside Museum displays a vast collection of vehicles and models. Discover Glasgow’s rich maritime history, trams, locomotives, and more.
  • Weather : Scotland’s weather can be unpredictable, so pack layers and waterproof clothing.
  • Transport : Consider renting a car for exploring remote areas, but cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow have excellent public transportation.
  • Currency : Scotland uses the British Pound (£).
  • Language : English is the primary language, but you’ll often hear Scottish Gaelic in the Highlands and Islands.
  • Safety : Scotland is generally safe for travelers, but exercise standard precautions.
  • Reservations : Book accommodations in advance during peak tourist seasons.
  • Etiquette : Embrace the Scottish culture, be polite, and respect local customs.

Scotland offers a rich tapestry of experiences, from its dramatic natural beauty to its vibrant cities. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply seeking an adventure, Scotland has something for everyone. So, pack your bags and embark on a journey through this captivating land where myths and legends come to life amidst breathtaking scenery. Slàinte mhath! (Good health!)

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Hailing from Spain, Marco Suarez is an enthusiastic globetrotter driven by a thirst for adventure and remarkable encounters. With a fervor for wildlife and nature, Marco seeks out destinations with hot and arid climates. His journeys are an ode to unique experiences, inspiring readers to embrace the world's untamed wonders.

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Scotland Travel Guide

Scroll to the bottom of the page for your Free PDF Download of The Ultimate Scotland Travel Guide

Welcome to the Ultimate Scotland Travel Guide, your comprehensive resource for exploring the captivating wonders of Scotland. Whether you’re drawn to the misty landscapes of the Highlands, the vibrant cities steeped in history or the enchanting islands scattered along the coast, this guide is designed to provide you with everything you need to make the most of your Scottish adventure. From ancient castles to picturesque lochs, from lively festivals to tranquil hiking trails, Scotland offers a diverse array of experiences that will leave you awe-inspired. So, grab your tartan, prepare to delve into fascinating folklore and let us be your trusted companion as we embark on an unforgettable journey through the breathtaking beauty and rich cultural heritage of Scotland.

Scotland Travel Guide

What you need to know before your visit to scotland.

Travel Documents 

Travel Insurance 

Money/Currency 

Facts about Scotland 

Scottish Customs 

Planning your trip 

When to visit 

What to pack .

Places to visit

Where to stay 

Airports in Scotland 

Getting there

Getting around in Scotland

Taxis 

Trains 

Buses 

Other 

Food and Drink 

Useful links and information 

Travel documents 

Passports .

Scotland Travel Guide

To be safe, check with your travel agent or airline before travelling. 

Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and to enter the United Kingdom, foreign visitors need a passport. Irish citizens may continue to use their national ID card after 1 October 2021. 

Visas 

Some visitors to Scotland might need a visa to enter but this will depend on your Citizenship. If you’re a citizen of a European Economic Area (EEA) member state (27 countries of the European Union, together with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) and many other countries including the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, you don’t need a visa to visit the United Kingdom or Scotland. 

You can check here if you need a UK Visa: https:// www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa 

You could also contact your local Scottish embassy/ consulate before you travel to find out your visa requirements. 

What goods can I bring into Scotland?

Most everyday items will be allowed but there are some such as firearms that would not be allowed. There are also restricted items with limits on the amount you can bring such as alcohol and tobacco. The rules are different depending on where you are travelling from. You can find out more from the UK Government’s advice on bringing in goods. https://www.gov.uk/duty-free-goods .

Your airline is always a good source of information in this regard. 

What about medicine?  

Personal medicine can be brought but you do need to declare it to UK Customs. Medicine should be carried in a labelled container as provided by your pharmacist and a letter from your doctor confirming the need for medication is a good idea. 

There might be restrictions on any medicine you bring, so before you travel, seek advice about the requirements from HM Customs and Exercise. https://www.gov.uk/travellingcontrolled-drugs

Currency in Scotland

Money in scotland .

Scotland’s official currency is the pound sterling, known as the pound (£, GBP) like in the rest of the United Kingdom. 

Scotland Travel Guide

Banknotes and coins 

The most common banknotes are £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100. It is also possible to find £1 notes, although these are extremely rare. The coins in circulation are 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p and £1 and £2. 

In Scotland you use both Sterling banknotes issued both by the Bank of England and Scottish banknotes. Scottish banknotes will always be accepted in Scotland, but in some parts of the UK they are not as easily accepted, so we recommend to use your Scottish banknotes as much as possible while in Scotland and reserve the Bank of England pounds if you’re planning to visit the rest of Britain. 

It is well advisable to change some currency in your home country where you can go to your local bank and get good exchange rates, well in advance of your visit.

Getting cash when travelling is as easy as going to your local ATM (automated teller machine), these machines are plentiful in most cities and work with most banks. Check your withdrawal limits with your bank before you leave your country and make sure that you remember your PIN. 

You should also be aware of the fees that might be levied for cash withdrawals. Another safe way to carry money is payment cards such as credit cards, debit cards, travel cards etc. 

You should be able to pay at most restaurants and shops with your card. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards in Scotland.. American Express and Diners Club are accepted by most major hotels, but are less commonly accepted elsewhere. 

Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. You’ll probably have to change the checks at a bank and pay a fee for the privilege, so this is not an option that we would recommend. 

Scotland Travel Guide

Travel Insurance is a necessity for any overseas trip and the amount you require is related to the amount of risk that you are willing to take on. What Does Travel Insurance cover and what are the costs? 

A packaged policy solution could cost from 4-8% of your trip cost and would include coverage for delays or cancellation of trips, medical costs when on your trip, baggage claims etc. You could also add additional coverage like pandemic coverage, medical evacuations and more. The more options you add, the higher the cost of your policy. 

There is good news though, a lot of you might already have some coverage. If you are using a credit card for travel or have homeowners or renters insurance, travel insurance might be already included. 

Talk to your insurance company and credit card provider to find out what might already be covered. We recommend purchasing travel insurance for a vacation package.

If you ever purchase a vacation package or use a tour operator then you should definitely make sure that you have travel insurance. An unexpected closure of any travel company leaves many travelers high and dry. 

Where to buy Travel Insurance? 

Trip operators, airlines, cruise companies, even travel agents, offer travel insurance plans, however most of these policies have a mark-up, or the coverage isn’t as good as a third-party insurer. Compare policies before purchasing any insurance and make sure that you have read the contract including the fine print. 

When to buy Travel Insurance? 

You can buy travel insurance any time before you depart on your trip but it is best to buy travel insurance just after securing the flights, accommodation or other details of your trip. The reason being that if something happens to the airline or tour company making them go out of business most travel insurance policies cover pre-existing conditions.

Scotland Travel Guide

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain,[mainland Scotland has a 96-mile (154 km) border with England to the southeast and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast and the Irish Sea to the south. 

The country also contains more than 790 islands, principally in the archipelagos of the Hebrides and the Northern Isles. Most of the population, including the capital Edinburgh , is concentrated in the Central Belt – the plain between the Scottish Highlands and the Southern Uplands – in the Scottish Lowlands. Scotland is divided into 32 administrative subdivisions or local authorities, known as council areas. 

Glasgow City is the largest council area in terms of population, with Highland being the largest in terms of area. Limited self-governing power, covering matters such as education, social services and roads and transportation, is devolved from the Scottish Government to each subdivision. Scotland is the second largest country in the United Kingdom, and accounted for 8.3% of the population in 2012. 

• The official animal of Scotland is the Unicorn.

 • Scottish men wear kilts . The kilt is the traditional dress of Gaelic men and boys in the Scottish Highlands.

 • The bagpipe is Scotland’s national instrument. First traces of the bagpipe can be detected back to around 1400. 

• Scotland has approximately 790 islands, more than 600 are uninhabited. 

• Scotland is home to the oldest tree in Europe. It is a twisted yew, and it has been around for 3,000 years. 

• Scotland is home to the tallest waterfall in Britain, named Eas a’ Chual Aluinn . It is 658 feet, which is 3 times the height of Niagara Falls. 

• There are over 600 square miles of freshwater lakes or lochs in Scotland.

• The Edinburgh International Festival is one of the largest performing arts festivals in the world. The festival attracts over 400,000 people annually.

 • Edinburgh was the first city in the world to have its own fire brigade. 

• St. Andrew’s Links is known as the “home of golf.” Golf was invented by the Scots.

• Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, not the capital, Edinburgh . 

• Charles Macintosh, who was born in Glasgow invented the raincoat, 

• You can take the shortest commercial flight in the world in Scotland. 

• The journey from Westray to Papa Westray in Orkney takes just 47 seconds. 

• The first-ever international association football game was played between Scotland and England in 1872 and was played at the West of Scotland Cricket ground in Partick. The match was watched by 4,000 spectators and ended as a 0–0 draw. 

• The Encyclopedia Britannica originated in Scotland. 

• It can be said that the Scots invented the modern world. Scotsman Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in February 1876 whereas, Scottish engineer John Logie Baird created the world’s first TV picture on October 2, 1925. 

• The world’s first colour photograph was taken in Scotland. The picture in question is a Tartan Ribbon. 

• There are as many people with Scottish heritage living in the US as there are in Scotland.

Scottish customs 

Kilt

Tartan and Kilts

Scottish kilts are known as ‘The National Dress of Scotland’ and have deep cultural and historical roots. Kilts are a sacred symbol of patriotism and honour for a true Scotsman. Kilts are made of tartan, worn around the waist and accompanied by a sporran, which is a small bag worn over the kilt, a kilt pin which holds the two pieces of tartan together at the front, and a sgian dubh, a small dagger which sits in the sock. 

The kilt originated in the 16th century and the first kilts were thick, woollen full-length garments whose upper halves could be worn over the head as a hood, or as a cloak draped over the shoulder. It wasn’t until the late 17th or early 18th century that the knee-length kilt was developed and was worn throughout the Highlands and northern Lowlands.

The unique design of the kilt allowed for freedom of movement which is essential in the Highlands of Scotland where the weather can become very damp. Not only did the wool protect against the rain and skin but it could easily be removed and used as a blanket at night. 

When the Highland regiments of the British Army adopted the design it skyrocketed in popularity and over the centuries has developed to include pleats and brightly coloured tartan patterns, unique to the clan to which the wearer belongs. 

During the 19th century, Scottish kilts often used family tartan and were worn as a form of ceremonial dress at occasions such as weddings, sporting events and the Highland Games. Nowadays, the kilt is recognised the world over and is worn by many for both formal and informal occasions. 

To learn more about tartan and kilts 

Visit: 

• The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre in Inverness,  

• The Tartan Weaving Mill in Edinburgh  

• The Lochcarron Visitor Centre in Selkirk

Bagpipes 

There is no mistaking the iconic sound of traditional Scottish music , and of course, Scotland’s national instrument, the bagpipe when on a visit to Scotland. Although the instrument has its origins in the Middle East, it has travelled and evolved in Europe, and the Scottish people have long-since made the Great Highland Bagpipe an outstanding part of their culture. 

It is an unmistaken part of Scotland’s musical tradition. The unique, constant sound of the bag, usually made out of sheepskin, creates and stirs exhilarating emotions and can be heard from far away. More information and history: National Piping Centre in Glasgow. 

Hogmanay 

Hogmanay

Hogmanay is an important part of the Scottish calendar being part of the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Many of the old Hogmanay traditions have been carried through the generations and remain part of the celebrations today and are celebrated all over Scotland. 

The strike of midnight: As in many parts of the world, the main event of New Year is when the clock strikes midnight and thus the main custom of Hogmanay is partying with friends and family as soon as the clock strikes midnight; bells are rung, many towns and villages have street parties and fireworks are set off. 

Immediately after midnight, it is traditional for everyone to stand in a circle, cross over their arms and hold hands with people on either side singing Robert Burns’

  ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne 

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, 

We’ll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne.” 

First footing 

It is tradition and a bit of superstition that after midnight, to ensure good luck for a household, the ‘first foot’ over the threshold should be a dark male, taking with him symbolic gifts such as coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and a wee dram of whisky. 

Gifts like these will ensure that the household will be safe, warm and have enough food for the year. People take his custom very seriously and blondes and redheads are considered to be bad luck. The dark-haired male bit is believed to be a throwback to the Viking days, when a big blonde stranger arriving on your door step with a big axe meant big trouble, and probably not a very happy New Year! 

Redding the house 

It was considered bad luck to go into the New Year with a dirty house and Redding the House is a New Year’s Eve spring clean. In particular all fireplaces needed to be cleaned. 

Burning the Clavie 

EACH YEAR ON JANUARY 11TH in the small village of Burghead on the coast of Scotland an ancient pagan ceremony, known as The Burning of the Clavie, roars through the streets to celebrate the date of a New Year’s Day that was erased by the Gregorian calendar. The tradition of fire festivals dates back to ancient pagan rituals that were practiced in many places across Scotland. 

Scotland Travel Guide

While The Burning of the Clavie has its roots in these rituals, it celebrates a much more recent occurrence. A law was passed that outlawed the practice, calling it “superstitious, idolatrous and sinfule, an abominable heathenish practice,” but some villages still held the festival anyway. Whilst the rest of the UK rioted and demanded back their 11 days, the town of Burghead decided to celebrate New Year’s on both the 1st and the 11th of January, getting the best of both worlds. 

The Clavie is a half-barrel filled with wood shavings and tar, nailed onto a carrying post with, importantly, the same huge nail each year. This barrel is then lit and carried on the shoulders of a local through the village, a prized position handed down through the family, followed by a large crowd stopping at the houses of residents to present them with a smouldering ember from the barrel to bring the household good luck for the year ahead. 

The unique, constant sound of the bag, usually made out of sheepskin, creates and stirs exhilarating emotions and can be heard from far away. 

More information and history: National Piping Centre in Glasgow.   

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a unique and memorable celebration of music, dance and military pageantry which is held against the magnificent backdrop of Edinburgh Castle , 

Scotland Travel Guide

The Tattoo dates back to 1950 and has become a showcase of military talent of the British forces and their counterparts from around the world, attracting audiences of about 220,000 at the event and around 100 million on television.

Loch Ness monster 

The legend of the Loch Ness monster has been bringing people to the dark expanse of Loch Ness in the Highlands for centuries. There are over 1,000 documented eye witness accounts dating back to AD 565, and with a wealth of unexplained evidence, the famous mystery of Nessie lives on to this day. 

Scotland Travel Guide

Scientists believe the monster to be a myth but really what do they know? This enormous creature is said to have a long, thin body, with one or more humps protruding from the water, and a snake-like head. 

She is shy though, so you need to be quick to snap a picture before she swiftly disappears into the depths of the loch.

Highland Games 

One of Scotland’s greatest sporting traditions is the Highland Games. Between May and September, watch this quintessentially Scottish custom across the country at over 80 different events and see competitors put their muscles to the test wearing their national dress, the Scottish kilt. 

Scotland Travel Guide

Scotland’s Highland games are usually one-day events taking place in outdoor spaces across the country. Built around traditional Highland sports such as the caber toss , tug o’ war and the hammer throw, a Highland games event also includes Highland dancing and music, and lots of family fun such as food and craft stalls and games. 

Many events will also involve livestock events , parades and even best-dressed pet competitions. Some Highland games continue into the night with more music gigs, ceilidhs and discos. 

Amongst the games there are masses of bands, with pipers and drummers marching in unison, solo piping competitions and Highland dancers giving dazzling displays including the famous Highland fling.

Highland Fling 

The Highland Fling is a solo Highland dance that gained popularity in the early 19th century. The word ‘Fling’ means literally a movement in dancing. In John Jamieson’s Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, 1808, the Highland Fling was defined as ‘one species of movement’ in dancing, not as one particular movement. 

Scotland Travel Guide

This dance is now performed at dance competitions and events around the world. One goal of dancers today is to stay in the same spot throughout the dance. The Highland Fling is danced at almost all competition levels, from primary to premier. 

It is also performed for Highland and theory examinations. Dancers wear the standard kilt outfit to perform this dance.

Planning your trip to Scotland

Scotland Travel Guide

The best time to visit Scotland is during spring (late March to May) and autumn (September to November). Temperatures are warmer by spring, with averages of 6°C-15°C, although there will still be snow in the mountains of the Highlands and the Cairngorms . 

The summer months (June through August) are the warmest of the year, with extensive daylight hours in July and August the further north you go. Summer is a very busy time but the crowds begin to disperse from the last two weeks in October. Autumn is a great time to see the spectacular seasonal foliage. 

Parts of Scotland have snow conditions in winter and this can make travel a bit more tricky but the winter scenery and atmosphere with roaring log fires is something to experience. 

• January : Pack for average highs of 5°C (41° F) and lows of 1°C (34°F). January averages 70 mm (2.75 inches) of rain throughout the month, with 24 days of rain. 

• February: Pack for average highs of 6°C (43°F) and lows of 1°C (34°F). February averages 50 mm (1.97 inches) of rain throughout the month, with 20 days of rain. 

• March : Pack for average highs of 9°C (48°F) and lows of 2°C (36°F). March averages 70 mm (2.75 inches) of rain throughout the month, with 22 days of rain.

• April: Pack for average highs of 11°C (52°F) and lows of 3°C (37°F). April averages 44 mm (1.57 inches) of rain throughout the month, with 22 days of rain. 

• May: Pack for average highs of 14°C (57°F) and lows of 6°C (43°F). May averages 50 mm (1.97 inches) of rain throughout the month, with 21 days of rain. 

• June : Pack for average highs of 17°C (63°F) and lows of 9°C (48°F). June averages 60 mm (2.36 inches) of rain throughout the month, with 20 days of rain. 

• July: Pack for average highs of 19°C (66°F) and lows of 11°C (52°F). July averages 70mm (2.75 inches) of rain throughout the month, with 20 days of rain.

 • August: Pack for average highs of 19°C (66° F) and lows of 11°C (52°F). August averages 50 mm (1.97 inches) of rain throughout the month, with 21 days of rain. 

• September: Pack for average highs of 16°C (61°F) and lows of 9°C (48°F). September averages 70 mm (2.75 inches) of rain throughout the month, with 19 days of rain. 

• October: Pack for average highs of 13°C (55°F) and lows of 7°C (45°F). October averages 80 mm (3.15 inches) of rain throughout the month, with 23 days of rain. 

• November: Pack for average highs of 9°C (48°F) and lows of 3°C (37°F). November averages 70 mm (2.75 inches) of rain throughout the month, with 21 days of rain. 

• December: Pack for average highs of 7°C (45°F) and lows of 2°C (36°F). December averages 70 mm (2.75 inches) of rain throughout the month, with 21 days of rain. 

Layers are a good idea. In Scotland the weather could change every five minutes, so it’s best to be prepared for any eventuality. The best way to be prepared for all types of weather conditions is to layer. 

Pack an outer, waterproof shell jacket, a thick and warm inner layer, and a thinner inner layer. There Will Be Rain and Wind. 

Scotland Travel Guide

In Scotland you know that at some stage, you will get wet. We suggest a pair of high-quality gumboots/rubber rain boots .

Rain Boots

It is no coincidence that a Glasgow man invented the raincoat, so make sure you have one. When you’re packing for Scotland and looking at temperatures, you might be tricked into thinking Scotland has a temperate climate in the winter. Temperatures of 5 or 6˚C / 41 to 43˚F aren’t that uncommon through the winter. Temperature wise, you’re right that Scotland is relatively temperate. 

However, when you factor in the wind, everything feels that much colder. Plan to include wind-proof and wind-blocking items in your Scotland packing list.

Scotland Packing List

Travel coat and comfortable shoes.

What kind of coat you pack for Scotland depends on two things: when you plan to visit Scotland (the season), and what you plan on doing while you’re there.

travel guides scotland

If you’re planning a trip where you’ll spend most of your time in cities and towns, you’ll probably care a bit more about finding a travel coat that nails that difficult balance between stylish and functional . If you’re planning to be out of the cities more, exploring Scotland’s boundless nature and beautiful islands, style may take a backseat to function. 

You will need rubber boots, walking shoes and a pair of shoes should you wish to dress up in the evening.

What to Pack for Scotland in Winter

• Rain Jacket 

• Thin Base Layer – A relatively warm long sleeve shirt would work. 

• Socks – Make sure you have good wool socks 

• Insulated Rain Boots – 

• Walking Shoes 

• Hiking/rain pants 

• A thick scarf, gloves, and hat.  

• A couple of sweaters  

• A few shirts 

• Jeans , and warm leggings for the ladies. 

• Long underwear – This is really only necessary if you plan to do some outdoor activities, like hiking. If you’re mostly in the cities, skip this to save space. 

• Toiletries 

Scotland Travel Guide

Packing List for Scotland in Summer

• Rain Jacket – Yes! 

• Thin Base Layer – Cotton T-shirts, or long sleeve shirts 

• Socks 

• Rain Boots 

• A light sweater or two. 

• Jeans , and leggings for the ladies. 

All Season Scotland Packing List 

Now that we’ve hopefully helped you to figure out what to wear in Scotland, it’s worth considering what else you may need. 

• An electrical adaptor (and possibly, converter). You will need an electrical adapter for the 230v three pronged outlets used in the UK.This will be the same for England, Ireland, and Northern Ireland, but different to the rest of Europe. 

Adaptor

• A travel umbrella. 

• Camera – be prepared to take lots of photos. 

• A travel hair dryer

Scotland’s biggest city has many excellent museums, art galleries, and festivals that attract tourists year-round. 

Scotland Travel Guide

Situated on the River Clyde on Scotland’s west coast, the city of Glasgow has, in the last few decades, reimagined itself as a major European cultural center. 

On foot Glasgow is a joy to explore thanks to its many lovely parks and pedestrian-friendly streets, especially if you also take in Glasgow cathedral and the famous Glasgow School of Art . 

Be sure to explore the Riverside Museum, this superb modern facility focuses on the history of transportation in the city through its large collections of vintage steam engines, trams, buses, carriages, cars, and seafaring vessels. There’s even an authentic reproduction of 1930s shops and homes.

Glasgow has the reputation as the cultural capital of Scotland and any visitor should not miss a play at the King’s Theatre, partake in a little opera at the home of the Scottish Opera in the Theatre Royal, or a classical concert at the Royal Scottish Orchestra at the Concert Hall. 

Also visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum , notable for its displays of local art, and the wonderful Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style Gallery with its diverse collection that includes works by Van Gogh and Salvador Dali. 

Scottish Ballet is the national ballet company of Scotland and one of the five leading ballet companies of the United Kingdom, alongside the Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Northern Ballet. 

Founded in 1969,the company is based in Glasgow, the resident ballet company at the Glasgow Theatre Royal and from 2009 in their purpose-built ballet centre in Tramway Arts Centre, Glasgow. 

Scottish Highlands 

Scotland Travel Guide

The Highlands have managed to capture the imagination of not only travellers but also those watching movies and TV shows, the most well known of these would be the popular Outlander series. 

The Highlands is an area of outstanding natural beauty stretching from Inverness in the east to John O’Groats in the north.

Your trip to the Highlands should start in Inverness and Loch Ness where you might spot the famous monster. 

The nearby ruins of Urquhart Castle should also not be missed. Loch Ness is part if GlenMore and the Caledonian Canal, a feat of modern engineering. 

The coastal town of Dornoch should not be missed and Aviemore is a popular winter ski destination. In warmer weather, the region is popular for the hiking and biking adventures available in the Cairngorms National Park. 

This sparsely populated area is also great for other outdoor experiences, including sea kayaking, white-water rafting, gorge walking, and fishing. A road trip along the North Coast 500 , a coastal route popular with tourists is a great idea.

St. Andrews

Scotland Travel Guide

 Any golf lover knows that St. Andrews is the home of golf and an essential pilgrimage for the lover of the game.. 

Golfers from around the globe make the pilgrimage to St. Andrews’ seven classic links courses, drawn by the prestige of playing the world’s oldest golf course.

The nearby British Golf Museum is a modern facility and something of a shrine to the greats who’ve played the St. Andrews’ courses, as well as detailing the history of the sport over the centuries. 

St. Andrews is not only the home of golf but also a famous university town. The old buildings associated with the University of St. Andrews are worth exploring. The ruins of St. Andrews Castle and the town’s old cathedral are also worth exploring.

Loch Ness and Inverness 

There are so many things to enjoy in Inverness and surely you have heard of the Loch Ness Monster. Exploring Inverness should start at the grounds of Inverness Castle and you can then follow the river Ness towards Ness Islands. 

Scotland Travel Guide

There are beautiful park areas to enjoy. Attractions in Inverness include St, Andrew’s Cathedral as well as the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery . Other sights include the Botanic Gardens, finishing up at Victorian Market for a spot of shopping. Loch Ness remains shrouded in myth and legend, 

No credible evidence has ever been found regarding the Loch Ness monster but hope for a sighting remains.

But even without a monster sighting, you won’t be disappointed. Thanks to its starring role in movies and on TV – most recently in the hit series, Outlander – places like Urquhart Castle are enough to make the journey to this Highland attraction worthwhile. Built in the 1100s, the castle now lies in ruins after being devastated by fire some 500 years ago. 

Loch Lomond 

Scotland Travel Guide

Easy to get to from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, Loch Lomond is a great base from which to explore Scotland, Loch Lomond is the largest body of freshwater in the UK and the scenery is breathtaking . Boat tours are very popular and so is visiting the Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre or SEA LIFE Aquarium. 

Stirling 

One of the best places to explore the Scottish countryside as it is situated almost half way between Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

Scotland Travel Guide

Stirling Castle is famous for once being a royal palace where Mary Queen of Scots spent her childhood here. The Bannockburn Heritage centre commemorates the historic Battle of Bannockburn. It was here that Scottish king Robert the Bruce defeated the English army. 

You can also visit the nearby Wallace monument and learn a bit more about the legendary William Wallace.

A port city on the North Sea, Aberdeen should definitely be on your list. It is a great city to explore on foot, has fantastic architecture as well as many delightful parks and gardens. 

St. Machar’s Cathedral is one of the best-preserved examples of medieval architecture construction in Scotland. It was built in the 1300’s and well worth a visit. Many of the old homes and merchant buildings made from the unique local granite that seems to sparkle in sunlight, gives Aberdeen its affectionate Silver City nickname. 

Aberdeen is also called “The Flower of Scotland.” because of all the lovely green spaces in the city, most notably the David Welch Winter Gardens at Duthie Park. Here, you can wander one of the biggest indoor gardens in all of Europe, Aberdeen also has more than two miles of beaches worth exploring. 

Isle of Arran 

The island is a tourist hotspot with many great restaurants, hotels and resorts. Located just off the mainland from Glasgow and reached via a scenic one-hour ferry ride, this 429-square-kilometer island is therefore perfect either for a day trip from Glasgow, a weekend break, or an extended vacation. 

Scotland Travel Guide

You can tour the island by car, bike or use local bus services. There are many things to explore including historic castles, sand beaches and fishing villages. 

You can also climb the local 873-meter Goat Fell Mountain. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with magnificent views over Arran and the Firth of Clyde toward Glasgow, as well as northward toward Mull of Kintyre . Brodick Castle is another popular tourist attraction. 

Also spend time exploring Brodick Castle, a popular tourist attraction for its displays of period furniture and its grounds, which house an authentic iron age dwelling. There are also plenty of great restaurants on the island, as well as good hotels and resorts.

If you are looking to explore Ben Nevis , Scotland’s highest mountain and the unspoiled highlands then Fort William is the perfect starting point. 

Fort William is best known for the Glenfinnan Viaduct , often recognized from numerous Harry Potter movies (among other films) as the route the Hogwart Express took when whisking young wizards to school. Why not join one of the steam excursions?

Isle of Skye 

Skye is one of the top locations in Scotland to visit . It is famous for its scenery and landscapes that will take your breath away. 

The Island of Skye is 50 miles long and the largest of the Inner Hebrides. The capital is Portree. The Island has a rich History covering many topics, such as: Dinosaur Fossils, Clan Warfare, Highland Clearances and the infamous ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ and the Jacobite Rebellion. 

Both Clan MacDonald and Clan MacLeod have their Clan Castles on the Island and should be on your list of places to visit. Wildlife is plentiful on The Isle of Skye with the White Tailed Sea Eagle at the top of bird watchers lists. You can also see otters, seals, whales, dolphins and red deer amongst other things,

Skye is a world class destination for walkers and climbers. ‘The Cuillin Range’ and ‘The Trotternish Ridge’ offer challenging climbs and interesting scrambles. Man-made attractions include the attractive Armadale Castle. 

Located near the ferry port of Mallaig, this early 19th-century edifice is set in the heart of a huge country estate and features excellent displays and artifacts related to one of the most powerful of Scotland’s historic clans, the Donalds. 

Also worth a visit is Dunvegan Castle . Once the seat of the MacLeod clan, it’s located in the village of the same name and is a great place to embark on a boat tour or fishing excursion.

The Speyside Region – An introduction to Scottish Whisky

Over half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries can be found in Speyside , the northeast corner of the Scottish highlands. The lush, fertile valley of the River Spey is undoubtedly the heart of single malt whisky distilling in Scotland. 

Scotland Travel Guide

In order for it to be classed as Scotch Whisky there are certain requirements. That’s why Speyside is known as a ‘protected region’ for Scotch Whisky distilling under UK Government legislation. King George IV was a fan of Scotch Whisky from Speyside and the royal association continued with Queen Victoria who gave a standing order that all royal coaches should carry a bottle of whisky under the coachman’s seat in case of an ‘emergency.’ 

For such a small sub-region of the Scottish Highlands, Speyside offers a wide range of stunning whiskies. The location is well suited for it attracting tourists from across the world to see for themselves where their favourite whiskies are made. 

William Grant & Sons is the most recognised brand yet they not only produce Scotch Whisky but also a few more brands we think you’ll know and love. The abundance and quality of its water is the principal reason why whisky distilleries have flocked to the Speyside region. 

The Speyside distilleries are often sorted by specifying the river they are near (Spey, Bogie, Deveron, Findhorn, etc.), or by the whisky-producing district where they are located: Bogie, Livet, Deveron, Dufftown, Fiddich, Findhorn Valley, Inverness, Isla, Lossie, Rothes, and Strathisla. A trip to Scotland would be incomplete without a visit to the Speyside. 

Getting to Scotland

Scotland is serviced by several international airports with connections to most major destinations around the world. Direct flights from North America will give you a choice:

Scotland Travel Guide

 • If you are flying to Scotland from North America you will have a choice between Edinburgh airport and Glasgow airport , but you could first fly to London, Manchester or Dublin and purchase a connecting flight to Scotland. 

• If you are flying from the East coast of America expect a flight time between six to seven hours, from the west coast of America expect a flying time of nine to eleven hours flying time. 

From Asia or New Zealand / Australia the best is to get a connecting flight in the Middle East and connect to London, Glasgow or Edinburgh, Regular services run out of major business hubs like London and Frankfurt. 

With London only an hour away and Frankfurt only 90 minutes, Flying is also a great option if you are short on time, or heading to islands such as the Outer Hebrides, Orkney or Shetland .

Getting to Scotland by Train from London 

The cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh are both served by frequent direct train services from London and other cities in England. Virgin Trains East Coast depart from London King’s Cross station and run up the east coast via Peterborough, York and Newcastle to Edinburgh. 

Scotland Travel Guide

The travel time from London varies from 4.5 to 7 hours. There are a number of other services to various cities in Scotland. More information: https://www.scotrail.co.uk/

Getting around in Scotland 

Driving .

Renting a car and driving is a great way to see Scotland and the country has an extensive road network that makes it easy to get around. 

Please be aware that in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, driving is on the left side of the road.

Train 

Scotland is home to some of the most scenic railway lines in the world and a train journey can be a great experience. The country is home to an extensive and well-developed rail network that not only serves cross-country links throughout Scotland but also regular connections to the rest of the UK as well. Most trains are also equipped with Wi-Fi, which means you stay connected when travelling, 

More information: https://www.scotrail.co.uk/ 

Bus and Coach 

Scotland has an extensive network of coach and bus routes all over the country and it is a great way to travel around. More information: https://www.transport.gov.scot/ Ferry 

There really is nothing quite like seeing your destination on the horizon, and approaching the spectacular island or tucked-away peninsula by ferry. 

Both passenger and car ferries operate in Scotland, and larger islands are often served by a number of routes.

What is the speed limit in Scotland? 

Speed limits are often signposted – look out for a circular sign, with a red border and number (in miles per hour). If there’s no signpost, national speed limits apply. 

These are: 

Motorways: • 70 mph (112 km/h) for cars. • 60 mph (96 km/h) for cars towing caravans or trailers. 

Dual Carriageways: • 70 mph (112 km/h) for cars. • 60 mph (96 km/h) for cars towing caravans or trailers.

 Built-up areas: • 30 mph (48 km/h) • Be aware though, it’s quite common around residential areas and particularly near schools, for a clearly signposted 20 mph (32 km/h) maximum speed limit. 

Outside built-up areas: • 60 mph (96 km/h) for cars • 50 mph (80 km/h) for cars towing caravans or trailers. 

What licence do I need to drive in Scotland? If you’re coming from a European Union country – as long as you have a valid licence, you can drive any type of vehicle listed on your license in Scotland.

 If you’re coming from outside the EU – as long as you have a valid licence from your own country, you can drive any small vehicle (eg car or motorcycle) in the UK for up to 12 months.

Scotland Travel Guide

Scotland has numerous options for visitors with great quality hotels, resorts, bed and breakfast as well as self catering accommodation and camping options, 

What is the best area to stay in Scotland?  

• Edinburgh – best for short breaks. … 

• Loch Lomond – best for couples. … 

• Ullapool – best for explorers. … 

• Aberdeen – best for night owls. … 

• Dornoch – best for golfers. … 

• Inverness – best for history buffs. … 

• Cowal Peninsula – best for wildlife watching. … 

• Rannoch Moor – best for walkers. 

All major booking sites are operational in Scotland and the best option is to book online, We suggest Tripadvisor as a preferred option. 

Scotland has as well developed food culture more than just a night out, Scottish food and drink is the very lifeblood of Scotland’s culture and economy. 

Food and Drink in Scotland

With rolling, rural hillsides, clear coastal waters and lush, fertile lands, Scotland produces some of the best, and most sought after, natural produce in the world. 

From mouth-watering Aberdeen Angus steaks, to world-renowned seafood such as wild trout, salmon, oysters and langoustines, not to mention our water of life – whisky – the ‘Made in Scotland’ stamp has become synonymous with taste and quality. 

PRODUCE 

Traditional food & drink .

Hand-dived scallops, Aberdeen Angus beef, Ayrshire potatoes and the soft fruits of Fife are just some of the ingredients that Scottish chefs have to work with. Scotland has an abundance of local butchers and fishmongers, as well as farm shops, food festivals and farmers markets all of which are great places to go to pick up tasty treats so you can cook up your own dishes. 

The national dish of Scotland is haggis , a savoury meat pudding, and it’s traditionally accompanied by mashed potatoes, turnips (known as ‘neeps’) and a whisky sauce. 

The national drink of Scotland is whisky which is produced in more than 100 distilleries. The Scottish love then sweets and nothing can be more traditional than shortbread or a Scottish tablet . Savoury dishes include Scotch broth and black pudding.

Places to eat 

There are plenty of options when it comes to eating out in Scotland. All manner of restaurants, traditional pubs, cosy cafés, elegant tearooms and down-to-earth takeaways can be found across the country. 

From Michelin-star restaurants to a foodie walking tour in Edinburgh or Glasgow or fresh seafood dishes in Scotland’s seaside towns, Scotland has it all. 

Interesting Food and Drink Facts 

• 40 bottles of Scotch Whisky are shipped overseas each second (yes, that’s right!) 

travel guides scotland

• More Scotch Whisky is sold in one month in France than cognac in a year 

• Over two thirds of the world’s langoustines are sourced in Scotland 

• Scottish Salmon was the first foreign product to gain France’s prestigious ‘Label Rouge’ quality mark 

• Scottish lobsters are on the menu in over 20 Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo alone

Edinburgh Travel Guide 

The ultimate guide for your visit to edinburgh.

Scotland Travel Guide

About Edinburgh 

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and one of its 32 council areas. Edinburgh is Scotland’s second-most populous city and the seventh-most populous city in the United Kingdom. 

Recognised as the capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century, Edinburgh is the seat of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and the highest courts in Scotland. The city’s Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of the monarch in Scotland. The city has long been a centre of education, particularly in the fields of medicine, Scots law, literature, philosophy, the sciences and engineering. 

It is the second-largest financial centre in the United Kingdom, and the city’s historical and cultural attractions have made it the UK’s second-most visited tourist destination attracting 4.9 million visits, including 2.4 million from overseas in 2018. 

Edinburgh’s official population estimates are 488,050 (mid-2016) for the Edinburgh locality,518,500 (mid-2019) for the City of Edinburgh council area, and 1,339,380 (2014) for the wider city region – Wikipedia

In this guide we will explore some of the best things that Edinburgh has to offer for the tourist.. 

When is the best time to go to Edinburgh?

Scotland Travel Guide

SUMMER The best time to visit Edinburgh is the summer months, June through August when the weather is best. This is also the city’s busiest time for tourism, especially in August when festivals fill up the calendar.

FESTIVALS AND EVENTS

SUMMER EVENTS 

• Edinburgh International Science Festival 

• Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 

• Edinburgh Art Festival 

• Edinburgh Festival Fringe 

• Edinburgh International Festival 

• Edinburgh International Book Festival 

• Edinburgh International Film Festival

 • Edinburgh Military Tattoo (August) 

WINTER 

In winter the crowds are less and accommodation is less expensive except during the city’s New Year’s celebration, 

Hogmanay. 

WINTER EVENTS 

• Edinburgh Christmas Market 

• Cocktails at Twenty Twenty 

• Waverley Festival Village The Dome Cocktails (George Street) 

• Christmas Lights Switch On 

• Ice Skating at George Street 

• Edinburgh Botanical Gardens Light Trail 

• Edinburgh Castle at Christmas 

• Edinburgh Castle at Christmas. 

• Hogmanay 

• Burns Night 

 SPRING / AUTUMN I

In Spring and early Autumn the weather is also fairly mild and you can still find some good hotel and travel deals. If you are in Edinburgh during autumn be sure to check out the International Storytelling Festival which is an autumnal celebration of storytelling – both traditional and contemporary. 

Autumn also means Bonfire Night on the 5th November, also known as Guy Fawkes Night, this is marked with fiery celebrations as hosted by Edinburgh Meadowbank Sports Centre. Spring is a great time to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens. It is also a good time to visit with children as the Edinburgh Science Festival and Edinburgh Children’s Festival are on.

Things to know 

Scotland Travel Guide

Language; The main language is English 

Electricity: The voltage in Britain is 220/240 AC, 50 Hz. Electrical plugs have three rectangular pins and take fuses of 3, 5 and 13 amps. Visitors from abroad will need an adaptor for appliances that have been brought from home, such as laptops, hairdryers and phone chargers. 

Most hotels will have twopronged European-style sockets for shavers only. 

Currency: The official currency of Scotland is the British Pound so you will need to exchange currency before your trip or at a local currency exchange. 

Most international bank cards will work everywhere in Edinburgh 

Travel Insurance. Make sure that you have the relevant travel insurance before travelling, check with your local travel agent what you will need. 

Note: Pack an umbrella! 

Getting to Edinburgh

Most international visitors will arrive in Edinburgh via Aeroplane 

ARRIVALS FROM AUSTRALIA 

Several Australian cities offer connecting flights to Edinburgh. One of the most popular airlines from Sydney (Sydney Kingsford Smith) to Edinburgh is British Airways. 

Other airlines include Etihad Airways, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Delta Airlines, Virgin Australia and American Airlines. 

ARRIVALS FROM NORTH AMERICA 

Visitors from the United States will find direct flights to Edinburgh from the following North American cities: New York – Delta Airlines provides direct flights between Edinburgh and New York JFK. United Airlines and Air Canada both offer direct flights from Edinburgh to Newark Airport Chicago – United Airlines provides direct flights between Edinburgh and Chicago O’Hare. Toronto (Toronto Pearson International Airport) to Edinburgh with Air Canada rouge. 

EUROPE 

There is a large range of low-cost airlines that fly from numerous destinations including Spain, France, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and many more countries. The most popular low-cost carriers include Easyjet, Jet2, Ryanair, FlyBe and Norwegian. 

TRAVELLING WITHIN BRITAIN

 A range of British cities offer direct flights to Edinburgh’s main airport including British Airways, EasyJet, Flybe and Ryanair. Travellers should search online booking platforms for the best airline deals. 

How to get around in Edinburgh 

Edinburgh is a compact city which is easy to find your way around although we would advise against driving yourself. 

Scotland Travel Guide

Here are the best options for getting around Edinburgh: 

Walking or cycling .

Edinburgh is a fantastic city to discover on foot. You can cover most of the city with a 20 to 30 minute walk, The most important item to remember when walking is good umbrella as the weather can change very quickly, Edinburgh has good cycle routes and most major roads have marked bike lanes and traffic lights often have stopping boxes to allow cyclists to stop and start more safely. 

Edinburgh has extensive bus routes covering the entire city and its outskirts, Most festival venues are either on or nearby at least one main bus route, and the Night Bus services will help you get to your accommodation even in the wee small hours. Make sure that you have the right change when buying a ticket on the bus as buses don’t give change.

Edinburgh’s tram runs from Edinburgh Airport to its terminus at York Place in the east end of the city centre. There are regular stops on the line, The tram offers regular stops on its route including on Princes Street and at Haymarket Train Station in the West End. Tickets are available at ticket vending machines on all tram platforms as well as via the Transport for Edinburgh mobile app. 

Black cabs and other taxi services are available throughout the city. The traditional taxi (usually black, but not always) can be picked up at one of the ranks or flagged down in the street. Ride services like UBER are also available in Edinburgh. 

By Car 

If travelling in your own car, you’ll need to be aware of parking restrictions throughout the city. There are some pay and display car parks, as well as a number of short-term on-street ticketed parking areas.

Places to stay 

There are a huge variety of accommodation options in Edinburgh. Hotels of all varieties and quality, Bed and Breakfast as well as a range of self catering apartments. Your best option is to start planning well in advance via a good booking site such as Tripadvisor 

Whether you base yourself in the heart of the city, or go for a pad outside the centre, Edinburgh offers great transport links that will make it easy for you to get around the city or visit further afield.

Where to eat 

Scotland has a great food culture and a variety of unique dishes only made in Scotland. 

Some of its cooking is influenced by foreign cuisine, especially French cuisine. 

Scottish breakfast 

Scottish Breakfast

What constitutes a Full Scottish Breakfast is a little arguable. 

There is a standard list of items you can expect to find when you order your Scottish breakfast. 

• Eggs 

• Tattie Scones 

• Lorne/Square Sausage 

• Bacon 

• Link Sausage 

• Sliced Haggis 

• Toast 

• Grilled/Fried tomatoes 

• Baked Beans 

• Black Pudding 

• Mushrooms 

• Polony 

• Fried Slice 

• Fruit Pudding 

Definitely something you should try before starting your day exploring Edinburgh!

Traditional Scottish food you should try

Haggis .

travel guides scotland

Haggis is probably the most famous Scottish dish and the national dish of Scotland, Haggis is a kind of savoury pudding made of sheep’s heart and lungs mixed with onions and oatmeal. This is spices and then encased in the sheep’s stomach and cooked for several hours.

Neeps and Tatties 

Tatties are mashed potato and neeps are diced or mashed swede. This is normally served with Haggis. 

Haddock and Kippers

Both of these could be smoked or Haddock could be battered as in Fish and Chips. 

Scotch Broth

This meaty vegetable soup is perfect for a cold night in winter. Ingredients are lamb, carrots and swedes. 

Partan bree 

A crab based seafood soup.

Grouse 

This bird is very similar to partridge Desserts Shortbread: A buttery biscuit baked at a low temperature. 

Dundee Cake:

A rich flavoured fruit cake. Cranachan: A traditional Scottish dessert made from whipped cream, whisky and raspberries. 

When to have lunch and dinner in Edinburgh?

 In Edinburgh, the opening times of restaurants and fast-food places are very similar to other North European countries. 

Lunch is normally served between 12 noon and 2 pm and dinner begins at 6 pm and finishes at 8:30 – 9 pm. It can prove difficult to find a restaurant with an open kitchen after 9 pm. 

Best areas to eat in Edinburgh 

Scotland Travel Guide

The most interesting areas to find restaurants or places to eat would be Princess Street and the Royal Mile as well as Rose Street.

Things to see and Do 

Edinburgh castle.

Edinburgh Castle

At One O’Clock every day, except Sundays you can set your watch when you hear the firing of the Gun from Edinburgh Castle 

Edinburgh Castle was recently voted the top UK Heritage attraction in the British Travel Awards and should be right at the top of your list of places to visit in Edinburgh, Perched atop Castle Rock overlooking the city, Edinburgh Castle houses important Scottish artefacts, such as the Honours of Scotland, which are the oldest crown jewels in the UK, and The Stone of Destiny; an ancient symbol of the Scottish monarchy. For more information or to buy online tickets: https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/ 

Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park 

Scotland Travel Guide

Holyrood Park is a short walk from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in the heart of the city. It is a 640 acre Royal Park adjacent to Holyrood Palace and is open all year round, 

Within the park you can visit St Anthony’s Chapel – a 15th century medieval chapel, Salisbury Crags – a series of 150 foot cliff faces dominating Edinburgh’s skyline as well as Duddingston Loch – a freshwater loch rich in birdlife. 

The highlight of your visit would be Arthur’s Seat , an ancient volcano, and sits 251m above sea level giving an excellent view of the city;. This is one of four hill forts dating from around 2000 years ago. With its diverse range of flora and geology it is also a site of Special Scientific Interest. It is also the site of a large and well preserved fort. Visit the official website for more details: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-aplace/places/holyrood-park/

Scott Monument 

Scotland Travel Guide

Standing proudly in Princes Street Gardens, the Scott Monument is one of the most iconic Edinburgh landmarks, a must-visit for tourists and locals alike. Dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, it is one of the largest monuments to a writer anywhere in the world. The tower is 200 feet 6 inches (61.11 m) high and has viewing platforms reached by a series of spiral staircases giving panoramic views of central Edinburgh and its surroundings. 

The highest platform is reached by a total of 287 steps. It is built from Binny sandstone quarried near Ecclesmachan in West Lothian. It is placed on axis with South St. David Street, the main street leading off St. Andrew Square to Princes Street, and is a focal point within that vista, its scale being large enough to screen the Old Town behind. Its location appears more random when seen from the south side and Princes Street Gardens, but it dominates the eastern section of the gardens through its scale and elevated position.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art 

Scotland Travel Guide

Hosted in one of Edinburgh’s most iconic buildings, visit and come face to face with the people who shaped Scotland’s past, present and future, from Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie, to contemporary figures such as Karen Gillan and Alan Cumming. 

Explore the outstanding National Collection in its bespoke 19th century home, from the suite of grand, top-lit galleries to smaller, intimate rooms, and discover the Photography Gallery and the atmospheric Victorian Library. 

The Gallery has new and featured exhibitions all the time and their website is the best source of information on what is currently on. 

Visit the Café Portrait for lunch or even just a coffee break, this family-friendly venue is one of the best cafés in Edinburgh. 

Admission is free  but tickets must be booked in advance. Official website: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/

Johnnie Walker Princess Street 

Johnnie Walker Experience

The flagship Johnnie Walker Princes Street is a must-visit destination on your city break to Edinburgh. The venue is spread over eight floors and has become a local hotspot with dining experiences, bars and a whisky retail area. 

You can also book a personalised whisky experience. Enjoy world-class cocktails and incredible views of the Edinburgh skyline at the 1820 rooftop bar. 

Official Website: https:// www.johnniewalker.com/en-gb/visit-us-princesstreet/

National Museum Scotland 

Scotland Travel Guide

Visit the National Museum of Scotland, one of the best indoor attractions in Edinburgh. And, best of all, entry is free. With over 20,000 unique artefacts to see, there’s something for everyone, and fun for all the family. 

Spend the day learning about the catacombs of Egypt, the wonders of nature and even modern-day technology. 

The National Museum of Scotland, is rated one of the UK’s top 10 visitor attractions. Official Website: https://www.nms.ac.uk/scotland

Edinburgh Dungeon 

The Edinburgh Dungeon is an award-winning, 70- minute interactive and immersive, underground walk-through experience which brings 1000’s of years of Scottish history to life! 

Scotland Travel Guide

Why not come and experience the ultimate underground journey where you can see, hear and smell Edinburgh’s murky past! From the dark shadows of the Black plague to Sawney Bean the cannibal. 

Come face the notorious characters from days gone by. Recommended for ages 8 and up, the Dungeon is located in the heart of Edinburgh minutes from Waverley Station. 

Official website: https://www.thedungeons.com/ edinburgh/

Festival Theatre 

The Festival Theatre is located centrally and stands on the site of the old Empire Theatre and opened in 1994, boasting the largest stage of any presenting house in Britain at the time. 

travel guides scotland

Today, at just over 2,500 square feet it is the largest performance area in Scotland, second only to the Royal Opera House in the UK, and is established as one of the country’s most prestigious venues. 

It is the home for Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera, and at the heart of the Edinburgh International Festival. Official website: www.capitaltheatres.com Scotch Whisky Experience Take a sensational journey through a replica distillery, before your expert guide imparts the secrets of the Whisky regions. 

Finally, you’ll choose your perfect ‘dram’, and taste it in The World’s Largest Whisky Collection. This is a great way to get a Scotch Whisky Experience if you do not have the time to visit the Speyside distilleries themselves. 

Official Website: https:// www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk/

Useful websites and links 

When traveling to Scotland, there are several useful websites and links that can provide valuable information and assistance. Here are some recommendations:

  • VisitScotland ( https://www.visitscotland.com/ ): The official website of Scotland’s national tourist board offers comprehensive information on destinations, attractions, accommodations, events, and travel tips.
  • Historic Environment Scotland ( https://www.historicenvironment.scot/ ): This website provides information about Scotland’s historic sites, castles, and cultural heritage. You can find details about opening hours, admission fees, and special events.
  • National Rail Enquiries ( https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ ): If you plan to explore Scotland by train, this website provides timetables, ticket information, and journey planning tools for trains across the country.
  • CalMac Ferries ( https://www.calmac.co.uk/ ): If you’re considering traveling to the Scottish islands, CalMac Ferries operates services to various destinations. Their website offers route information, schedules, and booking options.
  • Traffic Scotland ( https://trafficscotland.org/ ): For up-to-date information on road conditions, traffic updates, and planned roadworks, Traffic Scotland is an essential resource. It helps you plan your journeys and avoid potential delays.
  • The Met Office ( https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/ ): To check the weather forecast in Scotland, the Met Office provides detailed and reliable information, including temperature, rainfall, wind conditions, and severe weather warnings.
  • Walkhighlands ( https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/ ): If you’re interested in hiking and outdoor activities, Walkhighlands offers a wealth of information on walking routes, trail descriptions, maps, and tips for exploring Scotland’s stunning landscapes.
  • The Official Guide to the National Cycle Network ( https://www.sustrans.org.uk/national-cycle-network/ ): If you prefer cycling, this website by Sustrans provides maps, route suggestions, and practical advice for cycling adventures in Scotland.
  • Traveline Scotland ( https://www.travelinescotland.com/ ): This website offers comprehensive public transportation information, including bus and coach timetables, routes, and journey planning tools to help you navigate Scotland’s transport network.
  • ScotRail ( https://www.scotrail.co.uk/ ): If you’re specifically traveling by train within Scotland, ScotRail’s website provides train timetables, ticket information, and service updates.

Remember to consult official government websites or local authorities for the latest travel advisories, entry requirements, and safety guidelines specific to Scotland.

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The Highlands of Scotland region covers the northern two-thirds of the country and holds much of the mainland’s most spectacular scenery. The signature combination of mountains, glens, lochs and rivers, surrounded on three sides by a magnificently pitted and rugged coastline, guarantees wonderful moody views.

East Coast of the Highlands of Scotland

North coast of the highlands of scotland, the west coast of the highlands of scotland, the west highland railway.

You may be surprised at how remote much of the Scotland Highlands still is. The vast peat bogs in the north are among the most extensive and unspoilt wilderness areas in Europe, while a handful of the isolated crofting villages on the west coast can still be reached only by boat.

The only major city, Inverness , is best used as a springboard for your Scotland highlands tour to the more remote areas. South of Inverness, the Strathspey region, with a string of villages lying along the River Spey, is dominated by the dramatic Cairngorm mountains , an area brimming with attractive scenery and opportunities for outdoor activity.

The Monadhliath mountains lie between Strathspey and Loch Ness , the largest and most famous of the necklace of lochs which make up the Great Glen . This ancient geological fault line cuts southwest across the Highlands region from Inverness to the town of Fort William.

From Fort William, located beneath Scotland’s highest peak , Ben Nevis, it’s possible to branch out to some fine scenery. The beautiful expanses of Glen Coe are conveniently accessible from here, as well as the appealing west coast, notably the remote and tranquil Ardnamurchan peninsula, the “Road to the Isles” to Mallaig, and the lochs and glens that lead to Kyle of Lochalsh on the most direct route to Skye.

Between Kyle of Lochalsh and Ullapool , the main settlement in the northwest, lies Wester Ross, home to quintessentially west-coast scenes of sparkling sea lochs, rocky headlands and sandy beaches set against some of Scotland’s most dramatic mountains, with Skye and the Western Isles on the horizon.

The little-visited north coast stretching from wind-lashed Cape Wrath at the very northwest tip of the mainland to John O’Groats in the east is even more rugged. Its sheer cliffs and sand-filled bays bearing the brunt of frequently fierce Atlantic storms. The main settlement on this coast is Thurso, jumping-off point for the main ferry service to Orkney.

On the fertile east coast, stretching north from Inverness to the old herring port of Wick, green fields and woodland run down to the sweeping sandy beaches of the Black Isle and the Cromarty and Dornoch firths. This region is rich with historical sites, including the Sutherland Monument by Golspie, Dornoch’s fourteenth-century sandstone cathedral, and a number of places linked to the Clearances, a poignantly remembered chapter in the Highland story.

Travel ideas for Scotland, created by local experts

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Highland Tour: Isle of Skye, Loch Ness and Edinburgh

Discover the beautiful region of Perthshire, the famous Loch Ness and Inverness – the capital of the Highlands. Get a chance to admire Europe’s oldest mountain, stroll along sandy beaches on the Scottish West Coast, and visit the mysterious Isle of Skye.

The east coast of the Highlands, between Inverness and Wick, is nowhere near as spectacular as the west, with gently undulating moors, grassland and low cliffs where you might otherwise expect to find sea lochs and mountains. While many visitors speed up the main A9 road through this region in a headlong rush to the Orkneys’ prehistoric sites, those who choose to dally will find a wealth of brochs, cairns and standing stones, many in remarkable condition.

The area around the Black Isle and the Tain was a Pictish heartland, and has yielded many important finds. Further north, from around the ninth century AD onwards the Norse influence was more keenly felt than in any other part of mainland Britain, and dozens of Scandinavian-sounding names recall the era when this was a Viking kingdom.

The fishing heritage is a recurring theme along this coast, though there are only a handful of working boats scattered around the harbours today; the area remains one of the country’s poorest, reliant on relatively thin pickings from sheep farming, fishing and tourism. The one stretch of the east coast that’s always been relatively rich, however, is the Black Isle just over the Kessock Bridge heading north out of Inverness, whose main village, Cromarty, is the region’s undisputed highlight.

Beyond the golfing resort of Dornoch, the ersatz-Loire chateau Dunrobin Castle is the main tourist attraction, a monument as much to the iniquities of the Clearances as to the eccentricities of Victorian taste. Wick, the largest town in these parts, has an interesting past entwined with the fishing industry, but is otherwise uninspiring.

The Black Isle

Sandwiched between the Cromarty Firth to the north and, to the south, the Moray and Beauly firths which separate it from Inverness, the Black Isle is not an island at all, but a fertile peninsula whose rolling hills, prosperous farms and stands of deciduous woodland make it more reminiscent of Dorset or Sussex than the Highlands. It probably gained its name because of its mild climate: there’s rarely frost, which leaves the fields “black” all winter; another explanation is that the name derives from the Gaelic word for black, dubh – a possible corruption of St Duthus. On the south side of the Black Isle, near Fortrose, Chanonry Point juts into a narrow channel in the Moray Firth and is an excellent place to look for dolphins.

Cromarty on the Black Isle

An ancient legend recalls that the twin headlands flanking the entrance to the Cromarty Firth, known as The Sutors (from the Gaelic word for shoemaker), were once a pair of giant cobblers who used to protect the Black Isle from pirates. Nowadays, however, the only giants in the area are the colossal oil rigs marooned in the estuary off Nigg and Invergordon like metal monsters marching out to sea. They form a surreal counterpoint to the web of tiny streets and charming workers’ cottages of Cromarty. The Black Isle’s main settlement, Cromarty was an ancient ferry-crossing point on the pilgrimage trail to St Duthus’s shrine in Tain, but lost much of its trade during the nineteenth century to places served by the railway; a branch line to the town was begun but never completed. Cromarty became a prominent port in 1772 when an entrepreneurial local landlord, George Ross, founded a hemp mill here, fuelling a period of prosperity during which Cromarty acquired some of Scotland’s finest Georgian houses: these, together with the terraced fishers’ cottages of the nineteenth-century herring boom, have left the town with a wonderfully well-preserved concentration of Scottish domestic architecture.

The museum, housed in the old Courthouse on Church Street, tells the history of the town using audiovisuals and animated figures. Dolphin- and other wildlife-spotting trips are offered locally by EcoVentures, who travel out through the Sutors to the Moray Firth in a powerful RIB.

The Dornoch Firth and around

North of the Cromarty Firth, the hammer-shaped Fearn peninsula can still be approached from the south by the ancient ferry crossing from Cromarty to Nigg, though to the north the link is a causeway over the Dornoch Firth, the inlet that marks the northern boundary of the peninsula. On the southern edge of the Dornoch Firth the A9 bypasses the quiet town of TAIN, an attractive, old-fashioned small town of grand whisky-coloured sandstone buildings that was the birthplace of St Duthus, an eleventh-century missionary who inspired great devotion in the Middle Ages. Tain’s main attraction is the Glenmorangie whisky distillery where the highly rated malt is produced; it lies beside the A9 on the north side of town. Booking is recommended for the tours; there is also a shop.

Dornich, a genteel and appealing town eight miles north of Tain, lies on a flattish headland overlooking the Dornoch Firth. A middle-class holiday resort, with trees and flowers in profusion, solid Edwardian hotels, and miles of sandy beaches giving good views across the estuary to the Fearn peninsula, the town is renowned for its championship golf course, Scotland’s most northerly first-class course. Nearby Skibo Castle was where Madonna married Guy Ritchie; she also had her son baptized in Dornoch cathedral.

Ten miles north of Dornoch on the A9 lies the straggling red sandstone town of Golspie, whose status as an administrative centre does little to relieve its dullness. It is, however, the jumping-off point for some brilliant mountain biking: the fabulous Highland Wildcat Trails are within the forested hills just half a mile to the west. The easy to severe (colour-coded) trails include a huge descent from the summit of Ben Bhraggie to sea level and a ride past the Sutherland monument, erected in memory of the landowner who oversaw the eviction of thousands of his tenants in a process known as the Clearances.

Sutherland Monument

Immediately behind Golspie, you can’t miss the 100ft monument to the first Duke of Sutherland, which peers proprietorially down from the summit of the 1293ft Beinn a’Bhragaidh (Ben Bhraggie). An inscription cut into its base recalls that the statue was erected in 1834 by “a mourning and grateful tenantry [to] a judicious, kind and liberal landlord [who would] open his hands to the distress of the widow, the sick and the traveller”. Unsurprisingly, there’s no reference to the fact that the duke, widely regarded as Scotland’s own Josef Stalin, forcibly evicted 15,000 crofters from his million-acre estate. It’s worth the stiff climb to the top of the hill (round trip 1hr 30min) for the wonderful views south along the coast past Dornoch to the Moray Firth and west towards Lairg and Loch Shin. The path is steep and strenuous in places, however, and there’s no view until you’re out of the trees, about twenty minutes from the top.

Originally a Viking settlement named Vik (meaning “bay”), WICK has been a royal burgh since 1589. It’s actually two towns: Wick proper, and Pultneytown, south across the river, a messy, rather run-down community planned by Thomas Telford in 1806 to encourage evicted crofters to take up fishing. Wick’s heyday was in the mid-nineteenth century, when it was the busiest herring port in Europe, with a fleet of more than 1100 boats exporting tons of fish to Russia, Scandinavia and the West Indian slave plantations. Though redevelopment of the harbour is underway, the town still has a down-at-heel air. The area around the harbour in Pultneytown, lined with rows of fishermen’s cottages, is most worth a wander, with acres of largely derelict net-mending sheds, stores and cooperages around the harbour giving some idea of the former scale of the fishing trade. The town’s story is told in the Wick Heritage Centre in Bank Row, Pultneytown. The only other visitor attraction is the fairly simple Pulteney Distillery on nearby Huddart Street, a few blocks from the sea.

Carbisdale Castle

Towering high above the River Shin, twenty miles northwest of Tain, the daunting neo-Gothic profile of Carbisdale Castle overlooks the Kyle of Sutherland, as well as the battlefield where the gallant Marquess of Montrose was defeated in 1650, finally forcing Charles II to accede to the Scots’ demand for Presbyterianism. The castle was erected between 1906 and 1917 for the dowager Duchess of Sutherland, following a protracted family feud. Designed in three distinct styles (to give the impression that it was added to over a long period of time), Carbisdale was eventually acquired by a Norwegian shipping magnate in 1933, and finally gifted, along with its entire contents and estate, to Hostelling Scotland, which turned it into one of the most opulent hostels in the world. Bring a bike to take advantage of the several miles of mountain-biking trails in the nearby Balblair and Carbisdale woods. The best way to get here by public transport is to take a train from Inverness to nearby Culrain station.

Though a constant stream of sponsored walkers, caravans and tour groups makes it to the dull town of John O’Groats, surprisingly few visitors travel the whole length of the Highlands’ wild north coast. Those that do, however, rarely return disappointed. Pounded by one of the world’s most ferocious seaways, Scotland’s rugged northern shore is backed by barren mountains in the west, and in the east by lochs and open rolling grasslands. Between its far ends, miles of crumbling cliffs and sheer rocky headlands shelter bays whose perfect white beaches are nearly always deserted, even in the height of summer – though, somewhat incongruously, they’re also home to Scotland’s best surfing waves.

Durness is a good jumping-off point for nearby Balnakiel beach, one of the area’s most beautiful sandy strands, and for rugged Cape Wrath, the windswept promontory at Scotland’s northwest tip. Thurso, the largest town on the north coast, is really only visited by those en route to Orkney. More enticing are the huge seabird colonies clustered in clefts and on remote stacks at Dunnet Head and Duncansby Head, to the east of Thurso.

John O’Groats and around

Romantics expecting to find a magical meeting of land and water at JOHN O’GROATS are invariably disenchanted – sadly it remains an uninspiring tourist trap. The views north to Orkney are fine enough, but the village offers little more than a string of souvenir shops and cafés thronged with coach parties. A number of boat trips set off from here, with some operators offering whitewater rafting and others heading out to Duncansby head and local seal colonies. The village gets its name from the Dutchman Jan de Groot, who obtained the ferry contract for the hazardous crossing to Orkney in 1496. The eight-sided house he built for his eight quarrelling sons (so that each one could enter by his own door) is echoed in the octagonal tower of the much-photographed but now vacant John O’Groats Hotel.

Durness and around

Scattered around a string of sheltered sandy coves and grassy cliff-tops, Durness is the most northwesterly village on the British mainland. It straddles the turning point on the main A838 road as it swings east from the inland peat bogs of the interior to the north coast’s fertile strip of limestone machair. Durness village sits above its own sandy bay, Sango Sands, while half a mile to the east is SMOO, formerly a RAF station. In between Durness and Smoo is the village hall, whose windblown and rather forlorn community garden harbours a memorial commemorating the Beatle John Lennon, who used to come to Durness on family holidays as a child (and revisited the place in the 1960s with Yoko). It’s worth pausing at Smoo to see the 200ft-long Smoo Cave, a gaping hole in a sheer limestone cliff formed partly by the action of the sea and partly by the small burn that flows through it.

An excellent day-trip begins two miles southwest of Durness at KEOLDALE, where (tides and MOD permitting) a foot-passenger ferry crosses the spectacular Kyle of Durness estuary to link with a minibus that runs the eleven miles out to Cape Wrath, mainland Britain’s most northwesterly point. Note that Garvie Island (An Garbh-eilean) is an air bombing range, and the military regularly close the road to Cape Wrath. The headland takes its name not from the stormy seas that crash against it for most of the year, but from the Norse word hvarf, meaning “turning place” – a throwback to the days when Viking warships used it as a navigation point during raids on the Scottish coast.

Approached from the isolation of the west, THURSO feels like a metropolis. In reality, it’s a relatively small service centre visited mostly by people passing through to the adjoining port of Scrabster to catch the ferry to Orkney, or by increasing numbers of surfers attracted to the waves on the north coast. There’s little to see, but the grid-plan streets have some rather handsome Victorian architecture in the local, greyish sandstone. If you’re coming to surf, want a lesson, need to hire a board or simply fancy a coffee and home-made cake before hitting the waves, head for Tempest Surf on Riverside Road by Thurso harbour.

The Highlands’ starkly beautiful west coast – stretching from the Morvern peninsula (opposite Mull) in the south to wind-lashed Cape Wrath in the far north – is arguably the finest part of Scotland. Serrated by fjord-like sea lochs, the long coastline is scattered with windswept white-sand beaches, cliff-girt headlands, and rugged mountains sweeping up from the shoreline. When the sun shines, the sparkle of the sea, the richness of colour and the clarity of the views out to the scattered Hebrides are simply irresistible. This is the least populated part of Britain, with just two small towns, and yawning tracts of moorland and desolate peat bog between crofting settlements.

Lying within easy reach of Inverness, the popular stretch of the coast between Kyle of Lochalsh and Ullapool features the region’s more obvious highlights: the awesome mountainscape of Torridon, Gairloch’s sandy beaches, the famous botanic gardens at Inverewe, and Ullapool itself, a picturesque and bustling fishing town from where ferries leave for the Outer Hebrides. However, press on further north, or south, and you’ll get a truer sense of the isolation that makes the west coast so special. Traversed by few roads, the remote northwest corner of Scotland is wild and bleak, receiving the full force of the North Atlantic’s frequently ferocious weather . The scattered settlements of the far southwest, meanwhile, tend to be more sheltered, but they are separated by some of the most extensive wilderness areas in Britain – lonely peninsulas with evocative Gaelic names like Ardnamurchan, Knoydart and Glenelg.

Kyle of Lochalsh and around

As the main gateway to Skye, KYLE OF LOCHALSH used to be an important transit point for tourists, locals and services. However, with the building of the Skye Bridge in 1995, Kyle was left as merely the terminus for the train route from Inverness, with little else to offer. Of more interest is nearby Eilean Donan Castle, perched at the end of a stone causeway on the shores of Loch Duich. A few miles north of Kyle of Lochalsh is the delightful village of Plockton, a refreshing alternative to its utilitarian neighbour, with cottages grouped around a yacht-filled bay and Highland cattle wandering the streets.

The “Rough Bounds”

The remote and sparsely populated southwest corner of the Highlands, from the empty district of Morvern to the isolated peninsula of Knoydart, is a dramatic, lonely region of mountain and moorland fringed by a rocky, indented coast whose stunning white beaches enjoy wonderful views to Mull, Skye and other islands. Its Gaelic name, Garbh-chiochan, translates as the “Rough Bounds”, implying a region geographically and spiritually apart. Even if you have a car, you should spend some time here exploring on foot; there are so few roads that some determined hiking is almost inevitable.

The Ardnamurchan peninsula

A nine-mile drive south of Fort William down Loch Linnhe, the five-minute ferry crossing at Corran Ferry provides the most direct point of entry for Morvern and the rugged Ardnamurchan peninsula. The most westerly point on the British mainland, the peninsula lost most of its inhabitants during the infamous Clearances and is now sparsely populated with only a handful of tiny crofting settlements clinging to its jagged coastline. It boasts some beautiful, pristine, empty beaches – especially about three miles north of the Ardnamurchan lighthouse at Sanna Bay, a shell-strewn strand and series of dunes that offers truly unforgettable vistas of the Small Isles to the north, circled by gulls, terns and guillemots. The coastal hamlet of SALEN marks the turn-off for Ardnamurchan Point: from here it’s a further 25 miles of slow, scenic driving along the singletrack road which follows the northern shore of Loch Sunart.

The Road to the Isles

The “Road to the Isles” from Fort William to Mallaig, followed by the West Highland Railway and the narrow, winding A830, traverses the mountains and glens of the Rough Bounds before breaking out onto a spectacularly scenic coast of sheltered inlets, white beaches and wonderful views to the islands of Rùm, Eigg, Muck and Skye. This is country associated with Bonnie Prince Charlie, whose adventures of 1745–46 began and ended on this stretch of coast, with his first, defiant gathering of the clans at Glenfinnan, nineteen miles west of Fort William at the head of lovely Loch Shiel. The spot is marked by a column (now a little lopsided), crowned with a clansman in full battle dress, erected in 1815.

A cluttered, noisy port whose pebble-dashed houses struggle for space with great lumps of exposed granite strewn over the hillsides sloping down to the sea, MALLAIG, 47 miles west of Fort William, isn’t pretty. As the main ferry stop for Skye, the Small Isles and Knoydart, it’s always full of visitors, though the continuing source of the village’s wealth is its fishing industry. When the fleet is in, trawlers encircled by flocks of raucous gulls choke the harbour, and the pubs, among the liveliest on the west coast, host bouts of serious drinking.

Wester Ross

The western seaboard of the old county of Ross-shire, Wester Ross, blends all the classic elements of Scotland’s coastal scenery – dramatic mountains, sandy beaches, whitewashed crofting cottages and shimmering island views – in spectacular fashion. Though popular with generations of adventurous Scottish holiday-makers, only one or two places feel blighted by tourist numbers, with places such as Applecross and the peninsulas north and south of Gairloch maintaining an endearing simplicity and sense of isolation. There’s some tough but wonderful hiking to be enjoyed in the mountains around Torridon and Coigach, while boat trips out among the islands and the prolific sea- and birdlife of the coast are another draw. The main settlement is the attractive fishing town of Ullapool, port for ferry services to Stornoway in the Western Isles, but a pleasant enough place to use as a base, not least for its active social and cultural scene.

Walks around Torridon

There can be difficult conditions on virtually all hiking routes around Torridon, and the weather can change rapidly. If you’re relatively inexperienced but want to do the magnificent ridge walk along the Liathach (pronounced “lee-ach”) massif, or the strenuous traverse of Beinn Eighe (pronounced “ben ay”), join a National Trust Ranger Service guided hike.

For those confident to go it alone, one of many possible routes takes you behind Liathach and down the pass, Coire Dubh, to the main road in Glen Torridon. This is a great, straightforward, full-day walk, covering thirteen miles and taking in superb landscapes. Another rewarding walk, even in rough weather, is the seven-mile hike up the coast from Lower Diabaig, ten miles northwest of Torridon village, to Redpoint. On a clear day, the views across to Raasay and Applecross from this gentle path are superlative, but you’ll have to return along the same trail, or else make your way back via Loch Maree on the A832.

Scotland’s most famous railway line is the brilliantly engineered West Highland Railway, running from Glasgow to Mallaig via Fort William. The line is in two sections: the southern part travels from Glasgow Queen Street station along the Clyde estuary and up Loch Long before switching to the banks of Loch Lomond on its way to Crianlarich, where the train divides with one section heading for Oban. After climbing around Beinn Odhar on a unique horseshoe-shaped loop of viaducts, the line traverses desolate Rannoch Moor, where the track had to be laid on a mattress of tree roots, brushwood and thousands of tons of earth and ashes. The train then swings into Glen Roy, passing through the dramatic Monessie Gorge and entering Fort William from the northeast.

Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct, Scotland © Nick Fox/Shutterstock

The Harry Potter Steam Train on the Glenfinnan viaduct - shutterstock

The second leg of the journey, from Fort William to Mallaig, is arguably even more spectacular, and from June to mid-October one of the scheduled services is pulled by the Jacobite Steam Train. Shortly after leaving Fort William the railway crosses the Caledonian Canal beside Neptune’s Staircase by way of a swing bridge at Benavie, before travelling along the shores of Locheil and crossing the magnificent 21-arch viaduct at Glenfinnan, where the steam train, in its “Hogwarts Express” livery, was filmed for the Harry Potter movies. At Glenfinnan station there’s a small museum dedicated to the history of the West Highland line, as well as two old railway carriages that have been converted into a restaurant and a bunkhouse . Not long afterwards the line reaches the coast, where there are unforgettable views of the Small Isles and Skye as it runs past the famous silver sands of Morar and up to Mallaig, where there are connections to the ferry that crosses to Armadale on Skye.

If you’re planning on travelling the West Highland line, and in particular linking it to other train journeys (such as the similarly attractive route between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh), it’s worth considering one of ScotRail’s multiday Highland Rover tickets.

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updated 22.04.2024

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