Scotland Travel Guide
Book your individual trip, stress-free with local travel experts
Book your individual trip, stress-free with local travel experts
As befits the home of tartan and whisky, Scotland defies simple definition. It’s a spirited, captivating, complex country. An alluring blend of ancient heritage, and wild landscapes that stir the soul and offer outdoor adventures in magical surroundings. And, as all visitors who travel to Scotland discover, it’s a distinctly dynamic and thoroughly modern entity too.
The information that follows - and much more besides - can be found in
From culture packed city breaks in Edinburgh or Glasgow, to the awe-inspiring wilds of Scotland’s Highlands and islands, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing where to go during your Scotland travel adventure. For orientation and to plan your route, use the
Famed for its magnificent castle and historic Old Town, dramatic
An hour west of Edinburgh, Scotland’s biggest city,
You don’t have to travel far north of the Glasgow–Edinburgh axis to find the first hints of
To reach the far north, you cross
Assorted in character and accessibility, the rocky Hebrides include the
Here’s an overview of just a few famous landmarks and attractions in Scotland everyone should see in a lifetime - suggestions you’ll definitely want to consider when planning to travel to Scotland.
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The whole of Scotland offers
Travelling in Scotland on a cycle tour is a great way to see some of the remoter parts of Scotland and navigate city streets, and Scotland is also regarded as a top destination for off-road mountain biking. The Forestry Commission has established more than 1150 miles of excellent off-road routes. Some of the tougher routes are best attempted on full suspension mountain bikes, although the easier (blue/green) trails can be ridden on a standard mountain or road bike.
Skiing and snowboarding take place at five locations in Scotland: Glen Coe, the Nevis Range beside Fort William, Glen Shee, the Lecht and the
Opportunities for sailing around Scotland are outstanding. However, even in summer the full force of the North Atlantic can be felt, and changeable conditions combined with tricky tides and rocky shores demand good sailing and navigational skills. Scotland’s top spots for windsurfing and kitesurfing are Troon on the Ayrshire coast, St Andrews and Tiree. The latter is renowned for its beaches and waves and has an excellent surf.
From Iron Age forts, burial grounds and mysterious standing stones, to remains of Neolithic settlements, the ancient archaeological sites scattered across Scotland provide a window on past civilisations going back thousands of years. On Orkney, on the West Mainland, the best known of these is the Neolithic village Skara Brae. West Mainland is also the site of one of Europe’s most impressive Neolithic burial chambers. Like Skara Brae, Maeshowe is well preserved – and even contains some racy Viking graffiti.
Castles in Scotland ooze centuries worth of history. There are atmospheric, crumbling ruins, such 15th-century Kilchurn Castle, at the tip of Loch Awe, in Argyll. And there are grand, wonderfully preserved, architectural piles, such as Dunrobin Castle in the north, and Blair Castle in Perthshire.
Attending a Highland Games can be a true highlight of travel to Scotland. While tossing cabers will feature, there’s a whole lot more to the games than that alone - including dancing competitions involving the Highland Fling, and bagpipe-playing competitions. There’s also money to be made from winning, which adds a thrilling sense of drama. The games take place between May and mid-September, and the best-known events are held at Braemar - which usually sees a royal in attendance.
To take in all of the above (and more of, you could explore
Deciding the best time to travel to Scotland may well be wedded to the weather. June, July and August tend to be the most popular months to visit Scotland - days are generally mild (or even warm) and the light lingers longs - though local school holidays make them the busiest period. August in Edinburgh is Festival time, and midges can be a nuisance if you’re exploring the countryside. For these reasons, the best month to visit Scotland might be May or September, when the weather stands a good chance of being clement, and the crowds are less of a problem.
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If you’re wondering how to get to Scotland from outside the UK, your best option is by plane. Scotland has three main international airports, with Glasgow handling most nonstop scheduled flights from North America. If you’re travelling to Scotland from elsewhere in the UK, coach and train services are good, though for speed you could consider taking a plane to reach the more remote islands.
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Given that most Scots live in the central belt - Glasgow in the west and Edinburgh in the east - public transport in these areas is excellent, with pretty much everywhere accessible by train and bus. If you’re wondering how to travel around Scotland in more remote areas, it has to be said that further south and north it can be trickier, though, with services much reduced and some remote areas not covered, so you might need to consider hiring a car, or else plan your routes carefully.
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As in the rest of Britain, accommodation in Scotland comes in all shapes, sizes and guises, with hotels ranging from cheap and (if you’re lucky) cheerful chains, to grand country mansions offering five-star luxury in impossibly pretty surroundings. For an authentic, friendly Scotland travel experience, you might want to explore the country’s varied B&Bs and guesthouses, while visitors on a budget (or those of an adventurous bent) won’t be disappointed with the hostel and camping options.
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While Scotland isn’t seen as a culinary destination, the country offers some exceptional opportunities to eat fresh and eat local, like sumptuous wild salmon and smoked herring (try the latter in Cullen skink - a soup of smoked haddock, cream and potato). Sweet tooth? Then traditional clootie dumplings (a filling fruit pudding) is a must-try when you travel to Scotland. And of course, the malt whiskey is a world-beater, with a burgeoning cask-conditioned real ale scene adding to the heady mix.
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Scotland has a rich calendar of cultural events and festivals, kicking off with Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) and New Year’s Day street parties. Then comes Burns Night on 25th January, when Scots worldwide commemorate Scotland’s greatest poet, Robert Burns. Early May heralds the Spirit of
To uncover more authentic experiences during your Scotland trip, check out
Inevitably, Edinburgh’s nightlife is at its best during the Festival, but its club scene can be enormously enjoyable, and you can hear live jazz, folk and rock in many pubs. For Edinburgh’s best eating options, head to the cobbled Shore of Leith - it’s awash with good-quality seafood bistros and a concentration of Michelin stars.
Meanwhile, Glasgow has an incredible performing arts scene - it’s home to the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Elsewhere, university towns like Aberdeen, St Andrews, Stirling and Dundee offers plenty of evening action, while, even the remotest villages and islands will have a local pub for you to get cosy in, often with live music.
If you’re wondering how many days you need in Scotland, you might be pleased to know you can experience a fair bit in just a few days. Edinburgh, for example, has plenty to entertain for at least a (long) weekend. If you have 5-6 days, you could also take in St Andrews, Loch Ness, Fort William and the Highlands on an
Among the best ideas for spending a week and more in Scotland, you could consider a more immersive
For more inspiration, see some of the
For advice about practical matters when travelling in Scotland, check the
Scotland is a relatively expensive place to visit, with travel, food and accommodation costs higher than the EU average. If you’re renting a car, staying in comfortable B&Bs or hotels and eating well, you should reckon on at least £100 a day per person. Staying at budget B&Bs, eating at unpretentious restaurants and visiting the odd tourist attraction, means that you’re looking at around £75 each per day. That said, Scotland travel doesn’t have to break the bank. The expenditure for a couple travelling on public transport, self-catering and camping, is in the region of £30 each a day (rising to around £50 a day if you’re staying in hostels and eating the odd meal out).
As with any country, Scotland’s major towns and cities have their danger spots, but these tend to be inner-city residential areas where tourists rarely roam. The chief urban risk is pickpocketing, so carry only as much money as you need, and keep all bags and pockets fastened. Out in the Highlands and Islands, crime levels are very low.
For up to date information about safety and travel requirements for Scotland, check government guidelines - see Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice, while travellers from the US should check governmental travel advisory guidelines for Scotland.
If you’re travelling to Edinburgh, our
If you’re pressed for time, guided tours can be rewarding and convenient. For example, you could book a Best of Scotland’s Highlands tour, or how about a History of Whisky with Tasting and Story-telling experience?
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to leave the entire planning process to someone else, check out our