Scotland is a country with a troubled past that the Romans only partially conquered. Before the two Scottish Wars of Independence in the 13th and 14th centuries, it was often invaded by the English during the Middle Ages. It has been a part of the United Kingdom ever since(SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE)
Scotland, a nation of only 5.4 million people, may seem small, yet it has made a significant contribution to world history. The list of notable Scots includes economist Adam Smith, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, author Robert Louis Stevenson (who penned Treasure Island), philosopher David Hume, and environmentalist John Muir.
I enjoy travelling to Scotland. Scotland never disappoints when it comes to the people, the joyful mood, the scenery, and the alcohol (ok, maybe a little with the food). It’s a fantastic destination for road vacations, so be sure to leave the towns and venture into the Highlands with their stunningly rugged scenery. And don’t forget to travel to Mull, Jura, and Islay in the west.
You can plan where to go, what to do, how to save money, and everything else with the aid of this Scotland travel guide!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Scotland
1. Tour the Highlands of Scotland.
For gloomy mountains, rough terrain, glaciers, lochs, and Scotsmen wearing kilts, travel to Scotland’s highlands. Although the terrain may be harsh and brutal, until you’ve been here, you haven’t really seen Scotland. Don’t forget to visit Glencoe, the Isle of Skye, Inverness, and the Cairngorms National Park.
2. Visit Edinburgh
The beautiful city of Edinburgh is home to numerous green spaces, free museums, a massive castle, old cobblestone streets, and perhaps even some ghosts. Spend a few days here, because there is a lot to do. It’s a wonderful location.
3. Enjoy Hogmanay
100,000 people attend Hogmanay, one of the world’s largest New Year’s celebrations, over the course of the two-day extravaganza.In the contemporary version, there are musical performances, a torchlight parade, numerous fireworks displays, and a sizable street celebration.
4. Consume whisky on Islay.
On Islay, whisky has a lengthy history. Since the 16th century, it has been produced there, first in backyards and subsequently, beginning in the 19th century, in sizable distilleries. The island’s whisky became well-known worldwide and was eventually regarded as a specialty.
5. Visit Inverness.
Along with the Old Town’s ancient structures, there are a wide variety of dining and drinking establishments, Inverness Castle, the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, and a Victorian Market. In addition, Loch Ness, a number of distilleries, and a few golf courses are all nearby (less than a 30-minute trip).
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 of 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 persists, 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 chapelnear 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 GB.
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. If you want the best prices, try to play during the low season (November to March) (St. Andrews, for example, costs 230 GBP 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 kilometres (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 the 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 are only a ruin of their former selves, composed of several standing walls and arches) are decorated with intricate artwork carved into the remaining stone walls. Admission is six pounds.
8. Explore Dundee
Dundee is a lively student city along the coast with a lot of interesting museums. It is a UNESCO City of Design and also the sunniest location in the country.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 kilometres (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 visited 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 kilometres (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 travelling in a camper van or with a tent. Wild camping is also permitted, provided 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 at hundreds of venues around the city. It’s a massive festival that 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 accommodations in advance, as things fill up fast.
13. Tour the Isle of Skye
This popular island off the northwest 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 my brother’s point.
Scotland Travel Costs
The majority of 6- to 8-bed dorms in Scotland cost between 18 and 22 GBP a night, though costs vary seasonally (you can find hostels for as little as 12 GBP in the off-season). Standard amenities at all hostels include free Wi-Fi, lockers, and self-catering options. A hostel’s private rooms range in price from 40 to 65 GBP per night.
Budget lodgings range in price from 55 to 75 GBP per night and offer the usual conveniences like free Wi-Fi, TV, and coffee/tea makers. Some places provide free breakfast.
In Scotland, Airbnb is widely available and particularly helpful in smaller towns and villages with fewer conventional hotels and hostels. Private rooms typically cost between 25 and 30 GBP a night, whereas complete homes and apartments start at 55 GBP, though the majority of possibilities cost at least 70 GBP.
Expect to spend approximately 17 GBP per night for a modest plot if you want to camp (a small flat space for a tent without electricity). There are few campgrounds open by late October or early November because most close for the winter. The “park4night” app can be used to locate paid overnight parking, free overnight parking, and campgrounds if you’re driving or towing a campervan.
Scottish cuisine is full, hearty, and heavy. There is an abundance of seafood, and popular traditional delicacies include haggis (a delicacy made of minced sheep’s organs and spices inside a sheep’s stomach casing), blood pudding, minced beef, fish and chips, smoked herring, neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), and fish and chips. Although a larger meal of sausage, eggs, beans, and bread is not unusual either, porridge is a popular morning option. A popular treat is sticky toffee pudding, and of course, no trip to Scotland would be complete without trying some scotch.
An inexpensive supper should cost between 10 and 12 GBP (like a Scottish breakfast). Prices for pub fare like burgers and fish and chips typically range from 12 to 20 pounds per meal. Prices start at roughly 27 GBP for a full, three-course lunch at a mid-range restaurant.(SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE)
A glass of wine costs about 5.50 GBP, while a pint of beer costs about 4 GBP. An average latte or cappuccino costs 2.70 pounds.
If you’re looking for fast food (like McDonald’s), figure on paying about 6 GBP for a combo meal. Chinese takeout costs between 8 and 10 GBP, whereas a traditional order of fish and chips from a no-frills restaurant costs around 6 GBP. A food truck or other type of street food typically costs 6–8 GBP. To find the cheapest dining options, eat close to the universities.(SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE)
A week’s worth of groceries usually costs between 40 and 60 GBP. This includes common foods like pasta, grains, fresh produce in season, and some meat. Aldi, Lidl, Asda, and Tesco are the stores to watch out for if you want to save money.
Backpacking Scotland Suggested Budgets
Scotland may be visited on a backpacker’s budget for about 55 GBP per day. On this spending plan, you’re camping or sleeping in a dorm, preparing all of your own food, using public transportation nearby, engaging in primarily cost-free activities (such as hiking, visiting museums, or taking free walking tours), and abstaining from alcohol.
On a moderate spending budget of about 105 GBP, you can stay in a private Airbnb room, eat out occasionally at reasonably priced local establishments, indulge in a few alcoholic beverages, occasionally take a taxi to get around, and participate in more expensive activities like touring castles or partaking in whisky tastings(SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE)
If you have a “luxury” budget of 210 GBP or more a day, you can stay in a hotel, go out to eat every meal, consume as much alcohol as you please, travel by train between cities, rent a car, and go to as many museums and attractions as you desire. However, if you want to splurge, you can easily pay more because this is just the ground floor of luxury(SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE)
According to your travel preferences, you can use the chart below to obtain a general estimate of how much money you need to set aside each day. Remember that these are daily averages and that some days you may spend more and some days less (you might spend less every day). We simply wish to provide you with a rough outline for creating your budget. The currency is GBP.
Scotland Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Although Scotland is pricey, there are many ways to cut costs. The following advice will help you save money in Scotland: SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE
- Get the Edinburgh City Pass –Consider purchasing the Edinburgh City Pass if you intend to explore the city. You can access 22 attractions and take advantage of free transportation to and from the airport by paying 45 GBP. A three-day pass costs 65 GBP, and a two-day pass is available for 55 GBP.
- Eat in a pub – The tastiest food is frequently available there for a much lower cost than at a formal restaurant. Additionally, pubs typically offer a genuine experience of Scottish culture. Scotland is a pub country; they are all around.
- Visit the free museums – Visit the free museums! Take advantage of Scotland’s free public museums! The National Museum of Scotland, the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art are all free museums.
- Use buses – are the cheapest way to get to the greatest number of locations on a regular basis if you need to travel anywhere. If you reserve your seats early enough in advance, Megabus may even offer tickets for just 1 GBP.
- Cook your own meals –Cook your own food because eating out is expensive in the UK. Cook a couple dinners for yourself to save some money. Although it won’t be as elegant as dining out, your wallet will appreciate it!
- Use BlaBlaCar – Use BlaBlaCar to travel between cities. BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing app. It usually costs the same and is quicker than the bus. Finding a ride might sometimes be difficult, but the profiles are checked and verified, so it’s generally safe. Additionally, it’s a fantastic chance to meet residents and visitors.
- Bring a water bottle – Bring a reusable water bottle so you may save money and lessen your usage of plastic, as the tap water is safe to drink here. My preferred brand is LifeStraw because their bottles have internal filters that guarantee your water is always pure 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
Public Transportation :
For a one-way trip, public buses and trams cost between 1.50 and 2 GBP. Prices should start at 4 GBP per person for a one-day pass. A seven-day Glasgow transportation pass is 17 GBP.
Only Glasgow has a subway system, and since two distinct firms run the bus and the metro, their tickets are not convertible (though prices between the two are comparable).SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE
Each way, airport shuttles cost from 6 to 8 pounds.
It’s inconvenient and expensive to fly in and out of Scotland. Since there aren’t many direct flights, taking the bus is faster than flying. I would choose to take the bus or train instead of flying.
Buses are a popular and reasonably priced mode of transportation because they connect the majority of the country’s destinations.National Express, Scottish Citylink, Stagecoach, and Megabus are the four principal businesses in this area. Megabus offers tickets for as little as 1 GBP, though they often cost between 10 and 25 GBP.
For instance, a one-hour bus trip from Edinburgh to Glasgow costs 8 GBP, whereas a three-hour trip from Glasgow to Inverness costs between 20 and 30 GBP. Always try to book early to get the best price on your ticket.Here, there are clean, comfortable coaches with Wi-Fi and bathrooms(SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE).
All of Scotland’s major cities are connected by train (as well as the towns and villages they pass through). Tickets are only slightly more expensive than the bus when ordered in advance (12 weeks is the sweet spot). For instance, Inverness to Glasgow costs only 30 GBP and takes almost as long as the bus, whereas Edinburgh to Glasgow is 30 minutes quicker than the bus and costs only 1-2 GBP more. To obtain the best deals, make sure to book as soon as possible. The cost of last-minute tickets might be high!
Car rental :
Scotland is a wonderful place to visit by car. For 20 GBP per day and 30 GBP, respectively, you can rent automobiles and campsites. Just keep in mind that left-hand traffic is the norm. The majority of automobiles have manual transmissions. Applicants for rentals must be at least 21 years old.
In big cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh, ridesharing services like Uber are a dependable but pricey mode of transportation. If you can, avoid them.
Use BlaBlaCar to travel further distances. You can find drivers using this ridesharing app who are going to other cities. It’s somewhat safe because they have profiles and reviews (much like Airbnb). Though generally more expensive than the bus, it is also speedier and more pleasant.
Hitchhiking is typically thought to be considerably simpler in Scotland than in the rest of the UK, particularly in the highlands or on the islands. Always dress nicely and keep your plans open because it often takes a while for a ride to show up. Visit Hitchwiki.to learn more about hitchhiking in Scotland.
When to Go to Scotland
The most common season for travel to Scotland is summer. The months of July and August feature mild weather with little rain and highs of about 20 °C (68 °F). Due to the fact that this is also the busiest period of the year, anticipate crowds in the cities and a large number of visitors to the national parks. August is the month for the enormous, multi-week Edinburgh Fringe Festival. If you’re going to be there at this time, make sure to reserve your lodging in advance.(SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE)
Although September is a damp month, October has spectacular fall foliage. In general, October is a fantastic time to travel, especially if you intend to rent a car or a camper and travel to Scotland’s largest national park, the Cairngorms. Mid-October marks the beginning of seasonal closures for establishments and lodgings, so prepare accordingly. The average daytime temperature in October will be around 12 °C (55 °F).
The months of April and May offer little rain and few visitors, making the spring a fantastic time to travel. The mountains are still covered in snow and have chilly temperatures, yet the cities are vibrant without being overcrowded.
Scotland’s winters are chilly and gloomy. The month of December is comparatively dry, with lows of 0 °C (32 °F). The spectacular Hogmanay New Year’s Eve celebration, one of the largest New Year’s events in the world, draws a lot of tourists to Edinburgh, making it a popular time to go. If you intend to attend, make reservations for your lodging well in advance.(SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE)
How to Stay Safe in Scotland
Scotland is a safe destination for both lone male and female travelers. Keep an eye out for pickpockets when you’re in popular tourist areas or on public transit, as is the case in all cities. However, if you safeguard your valuables, you shouldn’t experience any problems.(SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE)
Scotland is a safe country for female visitors who are travelling alone, although they should still follow the usual safety precautions when doing so at night (such as not travelling alone while intoxicated, watching your drink, etc.).
Remember that here, traffic is on the left. The majority of cars have manual transmissions, and the gear shift is on the left (opposite to most other countries).Driving might be challenging at first, so exercise caution, especially in crowded areas and when navigating roundabouts.(SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE)In the Highlands, the weather can change suddenly, so if you plan to hike, make sure you have the right gear and let your lodging know your plans just in case.
Although there aren’t many scammers here, if you’re worried, you may learn about common travel scams to avoid here.
When there is an emergency, call 999 for help.
Always follow your instincts. At night, stay away from secluded regions, and always be aware of your surroundings. Make copies of all of your identification and personal documents, such as your passport.
Don’t do it in Scotland if you wouldn’t do it at home!
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.
- 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.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do group tours, go with Intrepid. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts with them too!
- 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.
- 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!
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