On the map, Scotland looks like a tiny country, and indeed it measures just over 30,000 square miles and is just short of 5.5 million people. Yet when you plan a trip to Scotland, it can be an overwhelming challenge to figure out where to begin! Too many cities, islands, mountains, valleys, castles and lochs to choose from; all of them are worth a stop, but it’s impossible to see them all, no matter how much time you have. How on Earth are you going to plan the perfect trip to Scotland?
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Before you get stuck into comparing itineraries, researching off-beat destinations or must-have experiences in Scotland, let me run you through the basics of how to plan a trip to Scotland in the first place.
This guide will give you advice on the best time to visit Scotland, how much time you should plan to spend here, some suggested itineraries for your trip, advice on how to get around Scotland, some recommended bus tours, how to choose your perfect activities, a few hiking tips and finally, a selection of where to stay in Scotland.
By the end of the guide, you will have all the tools to plan an amazing trip to Scotland. And don’t forget, with my expertly designed Scotland itineraries you can hit the road running!
Dreaming of Scotland? Listen to my immersive travel podcast Wild for Scotland!
When is the best time to visit Scotland?
The impossible question – what is the best time of the year to visit Scotland? Fact is, that every season in Scotland has a different appeal and very often the weather does not actually differ that much from season to season.
Billy Connolly once said, there are only two seasons in Scotland, June and Winter. The weather is always unpredictable – even in June. No matter when you visit, you should be prepared to encounter all four seasons in one day.
That said there are other factors playing into this and give each season a different appeal. Certain animals can only be spotted during their active periods, such as whales or puffins, while some attractions close during certain months of the year.
It makes a difference whether you come for endless days, or to hunt the northern lights; want to see the Highland peaks covered in snow, or glistening in the sun. There are many festivals happening all over the country year-round.
If you are visiting Scotland with a purpose, make sure that the time of the year is right for you! My Scotland Travel Resource Library includes a month-by-month overview to help you decide.
Personally, I love travelling around Scotland in the spring and early summer (April to May) as well as autumn or fall (late August to November). The offseason is a great time to visit for a number of reasons. In April and May, you already get the long summer days I love so much – and thus, more time to explore!
The dreaded Scottish midges haven’t hatched yet, and meadows and woodlands are springing to life with blooming flowers and baby animals! August no November can be great months for wildlife watching, witnessing the bloom of the purple heather and the turn of the seasons, as Scottish woodlands change colours.
If Edinburgh is the main reason for your visit, make sure you are prepared to plan around big events in the city. Festival month in August can be super busy (and expensive) – but the city is bustling with life.
And the same counts for Christmas time and Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) in December. Don’t forget to book your accommodation far in advance!
You might also like: 20 Tips for Winter Travel in Scotland
How much time should you spend in Scotland?
There is an easy answer to this question: as much time as you can. Yes, you could enter a tour de force through Scotland, spend a day or two in Edinburgh and then drive for hours to cover Loch Ness, the Isle of Skye and Glencoe over the weekend. But would you enjoy it? Probably not…
Spending at least one week or up to 10 days is the minimum to get a good overview of what Scotland has to offer. In that time you can easily fit a day or two exploring Edinburgh and then contrasting it with the more edgy city of Glasgow.
From there the Highlands are at your doorstep and you can spend a few days travelling around the mountains and islands. Or go off the beaten track to discover the northeast coast or southern Scotland -every region of the country offers plenty to do!
With fewer days, you will have to adjust your expectations accordingly and plan to cover less ground. I’ve made the mistake myself and tried to cover everything in a few days – and I failed; spending way too much time in the car and not enough exploring. Now I travel much slower and dedicate long weekends or full weeks to focus on different regions in Scotland.
There is so much to see, it would be a shame to rush through the country in pursuit of the far-flung tourist magnets of Scotland. Sometimes less (mileage) is more!
You might also like: My Top 20 Places to Visit in Scotland
My Scotland itineraries
Check out my handy and easy-to-follow Scotland itineraries that will save you heaps of time on research, without compromising the quality of your trip!
If you’re travelling by bus & train, check out my Best of Scotland itinerary for public transport.
Take my Scotland Itinerary Quiz to pick the best regions to visit!
How to Get around Scotland
These tips are all related to travelling IN Scotland. If you need help finding cheap airfare to Scotland, check out this post first!
Road trip, public transport or organised tours?
Once you have decided when to visit and how long to stay, the next question you should ask yourself is how to get around. Your mode of transport can have a huge impact on the most efficient route for your trip and how much is feasible in any given time frame. Your choices are to rent a car, utilise public transport or join an organised tour.
Do you feel comfortable enough with left-side traffic and narrow mountain roads that you can rent a car? Or would you rather travel eco-friendly and rely on public transport? On guided tours, transport is taken care of for the entire group and you don’t have to worry about anything – but is it enough flexibility?
You could even hitchhike, which I’m not going to recommend for obvious reasons – but it is a common practice especially among hikers and I’ve successfully done it myself. And then there is the option to simply use your feet and walk through Scotland on a long-distance hike.
Of course, whichever mode of transport through Scotland you chose will highly influence your experience in Scotland. Each option comes with advantages and disadvantages – here is a wee rundown of things to consider.
Hiring a Car in Scotland
The huge advantage of hiring a car in Scotland is that it offers maximum flexibility for your itinerary. However, you also have to bear the responsibility of driving and navigating yourself. Solo travellers, in particular, might find that driving takes away some of the joys of observing the scenery; or find it tiring.
Distances on the map of Scotland can be deceiving, particularly on smaller Highland roads where photo stops of campervans can slow down traffic. Don’t underestimate distances in Scotland, even if it looks small on the map.
In my experience, it is much better to plan shorter driving days and reduce mileage, than trying to cram in as many miles as possible.
Personally, I think hiring a car is the best way to get around Scotland because many of my favourite places can only be reached by car. Most of my itineraries are written with a rental car in mind and it is my preferred mode of transport when I travel myself.
However, remember that other feasible options do exist and a road trip is not the Holy Grail of planning a trip to Scotland.
I usually book my rental cars with Auto Europe, a platform that compares prices from several rental agencies and offers comprehensive and affordable insurance packages – much cheaper than getting it directly from the rental agency. That way I can ensure I definitely get the best deal!
Remember, you do not need an international driver’s license. Your license from home should be sufficient, but it is important to learn the local traffic rules. This online guide by Tripiamo can help you with that – it contains short and informative videos as well as guided drives with real footage from British roads.
Pros | Flexible itinerary and time management; That road trip feeling!
Cons | Potentially more expensive; More responsibility; Distraction from the gorgeous views (at least for the driver)
TIPS FOR DRIVING
Top Tips for Hiring a Car in Scotland
21 Driving Tips for Scotland
Tripiamo’s car & motorbike guide for the UK
The Most Scenic Road Trips in Scotland
Scotland by Public Transport
Public transport in Scotland offers an extensive network of buses, trains and ferries, which is reliable and safe to use. Combining trains, buses and ferries you can travel the entire country – you might just need a bit more time and flexibility to reach every destination on my itineraries.
Scottish Trains & Buses
Journeys by train or bus through the Highlands can be super scenic, as they often travel down remote routes. Many of Scotland’s most popular destinations, like Loch Ness, the Isle of Skye, Oban or Fort William can be easily reached from Glasgow or Edinburgh by public transport – but it will take longer than by car and you can’t stop along the way.
If you choose to travel around Scotland by public transport, I highly recommend reducing the number of destinations you’d like to cover and taking your time to explore slowly.
Most trains are operated by Scotrail – although there are other companies operating between England and Scotland. I usually buy tickets in advance – they’re typically released 90 days in advance.
There are many different bus operators in Scotland. Local buses are often operated by First or Stagecoach, but there are also cheap intercity bus connections with Megabus or Citylink. It’s best to bok popular routes in advance!
I usually use Google Maps to look up public transport connections, but it does not always list all local buses in remote areas. In those cases, I use Traveline Scotland instead.
Taking Scottish Ferries
Of course, Scotland is a also great destination for island hopping. There are two major ferry operators, Northlink Ferries (to Orkney & Shetland) and CalMac (to the Inner & Outer Hebrides), as well as a number of smaller private operators servicing islands up and down the coast of Scotland.
Many islands can easily be visited without a car, but public transport is not always available on the islands – that means walking, hiring bikes or a local taxi as a travel guide!
If you plan an island-hopping itinerary with a hire car, I highly recommend booking all ferry tickets in advance as there is limited capacity and some popular crossings (especially to Skye, Mull, Orkney, the Outer Hebrides and Arran).
If you travel by public transport and board ferries as a passenger without a car, booking in advance is not necessary, but can bring ease of mind.
While sailing to the Outer Hebrides or Shetland takes several hours (overnight to Shetland), other islands, such as Arran, Mull or Skye are within much quicker reach. Major ferry ports you might consider as a starting point are Ardrossan, Oban, Mallaig or Ullapool. You can reach all of them by public transport, so car-free island-hopping is totally possible.
As you can imagine, each island has a different appeal and just because you’ve heard about one over and over again (Skye) does not mean it is necessarily the best island for you. There are many beautiful alternatives to the Isle of Skye. Check out my overview of Scottish islands to help you make an informed decision for your island itinerary!
Hooked on islands? A Complete Guide to Using Ferries in Scotland
Public Transport Travel Passes
If you are looking for a simple solution to your public transport itinerary, travel passes by Scotrail might be the best solution. There are several options offering unlimited travel in certain regions or a set amount of travel days within a certain time frame. Most include trains, buses and ferries. Before you buy, look up individual ticket costs to make sure the travel pass is worth it!
Pros | Environmentally friendly; Extensive network, easy to navigate; Time to focus on views
Cons | Less flexible itinerary; More time-intense
Guided Tours of Scotland
Joining a guided tour of Scotland is the so-called “carefree” option. Everything is taken care of – transport, routes and in some cases even accommodation or meals.
There are many Scottish tour operators to choose from, and they can vary in group sizes, prices, itineraries and target demographics. I’d recommend to shop around and read reviews before you decide on a tour around Scotland.
I’ve done quite a few guided tours, with companies such as Rabbie’s, Timberbush Tours or Highland Explorer Tours – you can check out my reviews and find specific booking links below.
Generally, I would recommend doing multi-day tours rather than several individual day tours – mainly because it saves a lot of driving time and in my experience, the itinerary will be more relaxed.
Pros | Worry-free travel experience; Experienced tour guide on board
Cons | You’re “stuck” with the prescribed itinerary; Potentially too little time at each destination
Recommended Scotland Bus Tours
Oban, Glencoe & West Highland Castles: 1-day tour from Glasgow with Timberbush (similar tour from Edinburgh here) – Read my REVIEW!
Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Highlands: 1-day tour from Glasgow with Rabbie’s – they also offer a 1-day Loch Ness tour from Edinburgh! Read my REVIEW!
Alnwick Castle, Holy Island & Northumberland: 1-day tour from Edinburgh with Timberbush Tours – Read my REVIEW!
Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond & Whisky: 1-day tour from Glasgow with Rabbie’s – a similar 1-day tour to Stirling Castle from Edinburgh also includes Loch Lomond and a stop at the Kelpies! Read my REVIEW!
Outlander Day Tour: 1-day Outlander tour from Edinburgh with Highland Explorer Tours – Timberbush Tours and Rabbie’s also offer Outlander day tours from Glasgow! Read my REVIEW!
Isle of Arran Adventure: 3-day tour from Glasgow with Rabbie’s – but you can also book this tour from Edinburgh! Read my REVIEW!
Decide what to Do & See in Scotland
It really is not hard to find things to do and see in Scotland – it really is more about making a feasible list of priorities.
Do you want to delve into the country’s rich history and see castles and museums – or rather immerse yourself in the stunning natural landscape? Are you a thrill-seeker in search for kayaking, mountaineering or skiing adventures – or do you prefer it more mellow with boat rides, leisurely walks and culinary delights?
From my Scotland regions page, you can click through to different areas to visit in Scotland.
I like to plan a good mix of things and activities when I visit a new country. For Scotland I suggest you see at least one castle, do at least one easy or intermediate hike, spend a day on the road/on the train/on the bus to see the landscape, take one ferry, spend one day in the city, go to the pub and see some live music, and visit a whisky (or gin) distillery.
I summed up these ideas and more in my post 20 Experiences for Scotland First Timers.
Need more advice?
50 practical travel tips for Scotland
How to Save Money in Scotland – 50 Top Tips
A Complete Packing List for Scotland
16+ Outdoor Activities in Scotland
Hiking Tips for Scotland
Although the mountains in the Highlands are not as tall as in the Alps or other popular mountain ranges, you need to be very careful when hiking in these hills.
The weather is unpredictable and fog can lock you in within minutes. Paths in the Highlands are rarely signposted and even if they are marked on the map, they could be barely visible in real life. Often sheep or deer trails look a lot like trails, but then, of course, they end nowhere – or worse, lead off a cliff…
A great introduction to hiking in Scotland is this video guide for bagging Munros!
If you plan to go hiking in Scotland, here are a few essential hiking tips for the Highlands:
- Bring a map and a compass, and know how to use them. If you’re not an experienced navigator, stick to very popular routes that are well signposted.
- Bring plenty of water for every hiker in your party – water might never be far in the Scottish Highlands, but sometimes accessing it is trickier than you’d think.
- Wear warm, wind- and waterproof clothes & sturdy shoes (ideally, hiking boots that support your ankles). I talk about some of my essential hiking equipment and items I pack for every Scotland trip in this post.
- Don’t forget your headtorch, just in case you lose your way and it falls dark.
My number 1 online resource for trail information and descriptions is Walk Highlands which also has a great page on mountain safety in Scotland!
And if you fancy other outdoor activities, check out these activities for summer, winter and adrenaline junkies!
You might also like: The 20 Best Hikes in Scotland – for Beginners and Munro-Baggers
Wonder how I plan my long-distance hikes?
Check out my step-by-step guide for planning a self-guided walking holiday in Scotland for more tips.
Where to stay in Scotland
In Scotland, there are many accommodation options you can choose from, ranging from top-notch luxury hotels and boutique B&Bs to more basic guest houses, inns or hostels.
If you are on a really tight budget, consider camping (during the summer months) or renting a campervan to have your home with you at all times. You can also go wild camping in Scotland.
Personally, I love renting out entire cottages to feel like I have a real home away from home.
Download my free Scotland Trip Planning Checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything important!
Hotels in Edinburgh | Can be very expensive, especially during the summer and Christmas season. Here are some of my favourite options for all budgets.
Hotels in Glasgow | Are much easier to come by, more affordable but increasingly popular! Check out my favourites for all budgets.
Hotels & B&Bs in the Highlands | Range from basic to luxury. Highland and island accommodation should be booked in advance, as the houses often have fewer rooms. Usually, they are well located near public transport and in scenic spots. I find Booking.com to be a great resource to find independent B&Bs, hotels or guesthouses.
Hostels | The Scottish Youth Hostel Association runs many hostels throughout the country, but I also love staying at one of the Scottish Independent Hostels.
Self-catering | As I mentioned above, I love renting out entire cottages, cabins or houses. It is a great way to find some incredibly unique accommodation in the Scottish countryside!
Looking for unique experiences? Check out my Favourite Unique Places to Stay in Scotland – from hotels to B&Bs!
Should I book ahead?
This might just be the most asked question about accommodation (and ferries) in Scotland – should you book your accommodation ahead of time? The simple answer is YES!
Accommodation in Scotland is fairly easy to come by, but not everywhere has an endless capacity.
If you visit popular and potentially sparsely populated places, like the Isle of Skye, North Coast 500, Orkney, the Hebrides or the Isle of Mull, you have to book accommodation in advance – unless you plan to wild camp. Even campsites can fill up quickly during the summer months!
I’d give similar advice for ferries. I understand that it’s nice to keep your itinerary flexible, especially if you travel with a camper and/or a tent, but except for Skye, ferries are the only way to get on and off the islands.
Capacity is limited and popular sailing times (usually the ones that allow you to maximise your days in the destination) can book up quickly in advance.
Book your ferry tickets as early as possible, or prepared to be flexible in case your preferred time is not available anymore. Foot passengers usually don’t have to worry, but can buy the ticket on arrival half an hour before the sailing time.
This guide should have given you a thorough idea of how to plan a trip to Scotland. The first decisions are often the hardest, but once you know when and how long you will visit Scotland, how you want to get around Scotland and what sort of activities you are interested in, it is time to plan your actual itinerary.
Are you ready to plan a trip to Scotland?
Need more advice?
I offer travel planning services that range from honest feedback on your planned itinerary to creating customised routes for you and your travel party!
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77 thoughts on “How to Plan a Trip to Scotland: Everything you Need to Know to Visit Scotland”
I believe you! I have been once in my life and my dream is to come back to Scotland again and again and again. I felt at home.
Hi Kathi. We’re beginning to plan our once in a lifetime trip to Scotland. It will be our 30th wedding anniversary this year. We definitely want to explore Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and everything in between. Both of our heritages are from Scotland near the Inverness area. We are hoping to see as much as we can. We’re interested in landscape, history/heritage, castles/royalty, the highlands, local people and fantastic food. One of the things we want to see is the Military Tattoo so obviously we will need to go in August. We aren’t interested in guided tours because we’d rather do things at our own pace and not be “herded” about. We’re interested in a more relaxing vacation but yet we want to do and see as much as we can. We have many questions like, should we rent a car or go with public transport? Should we choose one place to stay the entire time or should we stay in different places? What days of the week are cheaper to fly and how far in advance should we purchase our flights to get the best deal? What itinerary would you suggest? So many questions! We’re hoping you can help. We only have one chance to get this right.
Hi Michele, thanks for your comment! Why don’t you send me an email to email@example.com and I’ll explain how I can help! Cheers, Kathi
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I’m a teacher and want to plan my month long DREAM vacation to Scotland. This trip will need to be either in the month of June or July. I could always shorten my trip and go in December for 3 weeks, but I think I would like the flexibility of my summer months off. I would love all suggestions and advice. I’m 47 and believe I will be exploring on my on, embracing the culture and the beauty that Scotland has to offer. All advice is much welcome!
Hi Tina, I’d be delighted to help you put together an itinerary for your trip. Going in June/July (peak season) you want to make sure you pick some less busy spots as the summer months get pretty crowded in the well-known beauty spots. Check out my itinerary planning services: https://watchmesee.com/watch-me-see-scotland-travel-consultation/ For long trips I tend not to do a day-by-day itinerary, but rather help you find good places to base yourself and make suggestions for day trips from there. Happy to chat!
Hello, Thanks for a very nice blog.
I am visiting Glasgow on an official trip and will have 1 Saturday to go around Scotland.
I am thinking of visiting Oban, Glencoe, highlands on my own but the problem is, I can leave for the tour even at 6 AM but have to be back in Glasgow by 1700 hrs, to catch my flight back to my country.
Do you think it is possible for me to do it on my own and if so, what public transport will be the best.
I am unable to gather much information from internet so any help would he highly appreciated.
Hi Sughanda, thanks for your question! Doing Oban and Glencoe by public transport in a day AND being back in Glasgow by 5 pm seems impossible to me – or rather, not really worth it. You’d be spending the majority of your time on the bus or train, and not very much actually seeing these places. I recommend checking time tables on Scotrail (for trains to Oban and then Traveline or Google Maps (for buses to Glencoe and back to Glasgow). I hope this helps! Alternatively, you could find a private driver to take you round the sites you want to see for the day – there are many you can find via Google or in Facebook groups for Scotland travel. Have you considered going to Loch Lomond for the day instead? It’s gorgeous and much easier to get to! All the best, Kathi
My family of three will be Edinburgh from 2 Sept. We plan to have a 6 day tour around Glasgow and surroundings. Will appreciate your recommendation on places, hotels and car renting.
Looking forward to your comments.
Hi Samuel, thanks for your comment! Have you had a look at my 7-day itinerary? You could easily adapt this to fit your requirements: https://watchmesee.com/blog/classic-scotland-itinerary/ I would normally suggest my travel consultation service for a customised itinerary, but I’m afraid I’m fully booked at the moment and can’t accept last-minute trips so soon. I hope you have a lovely trip ti Scotland! All the best, Kathi
Yeah, I’m planning a trip to Scotland not exactly I got a seat in Scotland University of Strathclyde located in Glasgow, Scotland…..I’m so excited to visit Scotland for my holidays as to explore many places meanwhile this blog has shared a wonderfully informative blog which is helpful for the travel guides!
Wow, I love this! my husband and I are planning on jumping across the pond to visit Scotland! It is my number one Bucket List location
Amazing, I hope you get to go and will have an awesome time! Thanks for taking a moment to leave a comment 🙂
Hi Kathi,, My wife and I are planning to do some time in Scotland while we still have time, she’s 70, I’m 78. We’re not too concerned about the cities, we did Edinburgh some years ago, and would prefer now to see the scenic side of the country. Ideally we want to see Skye, Shetland, or other Isles you may recommend, and take a leisurely look at what we believe to be the most beautiful end of our island.. We anticipate travelling from home, in Bedfordshire, to Scotland, either by train or plane, and then hiring a car to help us get around. I feel it may be better to chat with you rather than spend all the time I could spend and only get a small proportion of the benefit we hoped to get. If you could open the doors for us by giving us an idea of cost for a 10 day itinery from you, and maybe we could make a start.
Pete and Carolyn O’Meara
Hello Pete & Carolyn, many thanks for reading my blog and for taking the time to comment! I’d be delighted to help you with your itinerary and put something special together for you! Take a look at my consultation page which lists my prices and get in touch to discuss details! https://watchmesee.com/watch-me-see-scotland-travel-consultation/ I hope to hear from you soon! Kathi
Hi Kathi, thank you for the great & informative post. I am based in Milton Keynes. I intend to travel to Scotland in May 2019 with my family. I have been to Edinburgh & Glasgow few times but nothing apart from that in Scotland. If I have to get a glimpse/feel of the highlands in 3-4 days, what would you recommend? Based in which city (preferably city to fly into) to plan the itinerary?? I would really appreciate your guidance. Thank you.
Hi Nitin, thanks for taking the time to comment and your question! If you want to fly into a city in the Highlands, your best option is probably Inverness! It’s a good base for do trips in the area, to see the scenery and avoid long drives from Edinburgh. I hope that helps!
What a great resource you have! Thinking of visiting in the fall. How are midges in that season?
I’d like to surprise my wife with horseback riding on a beach. Is that possible?
Hi Bill, midges usually hatch towards the end of May and stick around until it gets cooler at the end of September. That said, they are not necessarily such a big issue unless you camp and can’t escape from them. They mostly come out in the morning and early evening, so it’s not like they’d bother you all day.
There are a few places for horseback riding around the country. I recently came across a riding centre near Glasgow that can arrange a hack on the beach not too far from the city – might be a nice option!
I’d be delighted to help you plan a unique surprise trip and itinerary – check out my services here: https://watchmesee.com/watch-me-see-scotland-travel-consultation/
Nice blog post . Thank you.
I really appreciate your tip to choose a guided tour that has all of the proper transportation that you will need. That way, you can keep your worries at home when you go on your guided tour. My wife and I have been thinking of taking an anniversary trip to a new country, and I know that my wife would love to have no stress on our trip!
Totally agree – a guided tour can take away so much stress and pressure. Especially in the UK – I feel everybody’s anxiety about driving on the left side of the road 😀 Maybe Scotland will be your next trip?
Thanks! I plan on reading all of your posts on Scotland. I am heading there this June (2019) with my mother and my 3 children (boys ages at time of trip 13, 12, & 7). We will be in Scotland for one whole month (all of June), and plan on renting a car. Do you have any advice for travel with kids, or major points we should during a month long trip.
WOW what a trip! You’ll be able to fit a lot in 😉 Want to send me an email? I offer trip planning services and well as itinerary reviews (https://watchmesee.com/watch-me-see-scotland-travel-consultation/) and would love to help! Kathi x
What a great post (and all the others linked in). I am planning to visit Scotland in 2019 as a solo female traveller. I’m looking to hire a vehicle for maximum flexibility as I’m looking to base myself out of three or four different bases during the 2 weeks. I’m worried that on my own, I won’t get to experience ‘authentic’ Scotland, and some of the activities/experiences that you may get with a tour group. I really want to get an appreciation for the towns/areas that I visit, and the people that live there – do you have any recommendations of how I can achieve this? I don’t want to travel all that way and end up just wandering around by myself the entire time! Thanks for your help.
Thanks for your question!! It really depends on where you’re going… my top advice would be, don’t be shy – just start talking to people in pubs or in shops etc. I just spent 2 weeks alone in the Hebrides, and had lots of nice experiences just because I started chatting. Scottish people are super friendly and always up for a chat! This might be a bit harder in Edinburgh, since there are many more tourists there, but everywhere else you’ll meet loads of people just like that! In smaller communities there might be community activities you could join – especially now in the summer. I’d check local council websites and ask at the places you’re staying at. If you find a ceilidh, go for it!!
Thanks for your advice – appreciate it.
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I like that you said that guided tours give you a “care-free” travel experience. I usually start to stress out whenever I plan something and this would really help me out. I think that this would be a great option for our extended family vacation this summer.
Thanks for the informative post! My husband and I are hoping to go to Scotland in October. From what I’ve read that’s a good time for colors. Is this true? Also, do the ferries run in October?
Hi Deb, you can check ferry timetables here: https://www.calmac.co.uk/summer-timetables – switch to winter time tables is on Oct 22. There is also NorthLink Ferries, but they only service Orkney and Shetland, while Calmac goes to all the other islands. The colours in Fall are indeed beautiful, but if you’re looking for foliage, you obvs. need to go to areas with lots of woodlands. Perth or the Trossachs are good for that! The Highlands have less woodlands, but the bracken on the hills turns all orange and is also very pretty! Have a lovely trip!
I have dropped you an email. Kindly revert on it
Hey, I chanced upon this website while planning my Scotland trip and found it very informative.
I am planning a 5 day trip to Scotland in the first week of July with my husband and 20 month old. We are majorly interested in exploring the natural beauty, some places of historical significance(castles etc) and maybe a tour to a distillery. We plan to come from London by flight and would then rent a car, It would be great if you could suggest a five day itinerary keeping in mind that hiking would not be possible with the toddler.
Hello Surabhi, thanks for your comment and question! Have you seen my 7-day itinerary (https://watchmesee.com/blog/classic-scotland-itinerary/)? You could use this as a basis and cut things out to make it shorter – I would suggest to probably not go further north than Fort William if you only have 5 days and focus on shorter drives with your toddler instead. If you’d like more help with your itinerary, please consider booking travel consultation with me – I’d be happy to make you a detailed suggestion for a 5-day itinerary with a toddler and including the things you mentioned (best for views, castles, whisky distillery, no hiking): https://watchmesee.com/watch-me-see-scotland-travel-consultation/ I look forward to hear from you! Cheers, Kathi
Love this site and all the advice! I’m planning a week trip to scotland with my mom and sister from Sweden. I love the best of scotland one week itinerary but want to spend potentially an extra day exploring glencoe, loch lomond and fort william. Only problem is we won’t be driving so all travel has to be by public transport, ferries etc. Is it possible to do the one week best of scotland itinerary without a car? if we were to cut out loch ness and inverness and make our way to edinburgh and then finally glascow (as thatswe’re we are flying to and from) would we be able to make it in 8 days, having spent that extra time in glencoe and loch lomond?
All the best,
Thanks for your question! The public transport system in Scotland is great and covers all of the areas that I mention in my 7-day itinerary, however not all of the stops I write about will be possible – either because the bus-/train-route doesn’t pass there or there is no option/time to get off. Honestly, instead of cutting Loch Ness and Inverness, I would cut Skye, because going from Skye to Edinburgh by public transport you have to go past Loch Ness and Inverness either way. Instead of spending 8-9 hours on transport between Portree and Edinburgh without stops (~ Day 6), you could make your journey more leisurely by cutting Skye and exploring along the route you have to go anyways.
If you want any help with route planning or alternative suggestions, you can have a look at my travel consultation page and send me an email! https://watchmesee.com/watch-me-see-scotland-travel-consultation/
I hope this if helpful for now, but I’d also be happy to plan an itinerary for you 😉 Cheers, Kathi
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Wonderful advice! So helpful! Thanks a million! Travelling in May!
I’m happy you find it useful! May is a lovely time in Scotland – have a fab trip!
Wow! I love how comprehensive this guide is…it really answers so many questions and provides so much information!
I’m glad you enjoyed it! Do you have a trip to Scotland coming up?
Oh wow, such an amazing guide. I have always wanted to visit Scotland, and I will definitely bookmark this for when I get back to Europe! Thanks for sharing!
Such a thorough guide, thanks for sharing! I’ve lived in London for 5 years and never made it up to Scotland, I think it’s time for a trip! I also love your photos 🙂
Hi Greta, oh wow – you really should come up here! It’s such a beautiful country! Have you been able to travel much around England though?
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So happy to stumble upon found you – my daughter and I are planning a trip to Scotland June 2018 – both of us single (19 and 52) and happy to hear your comments being on the safe side to travel. Just trying to narrow down all we want to do in 17 days!
Hi Lisa, happy you found me! 17 days is a great amount of time to see a lot of different sides of Scotland. You could take my one week itinerary as a starting point http://watchmesee.com/blog/classic-scotland-itinerary/, and add a few days here and there, maybe some time in the Cairngorms or Fife, some more time on the islands, more time in Glasgow & Edinburgh – opportunities are endless! Let me know if you need any help planning – I’m offering travel planning services for Scotland! (Just not on the website yet…)
Kathi thank you so much for your blog I’m rtravelling on my own in Scotland this sept and the info here is priceless you don’t give day tours by any chance?
I have made copious notes and I’ve a tons of planning to do. You blog link booked marked thank you again !
Hi Carolyne, I’ve actually just created a profile on Showaround to give offering tours a shot (https://www.showaround.com/locals/9723790). It should let you book me as a tour guide for Glasgow – but I could also show you around Edinburgh! I don’t have a car, so cities are my stomping ground at the moment 😉 I also help people plan their itineraries for a small fee – I don’t have this up on the website yet, as I’ve been test-running it for a few months so far. Drop me an email if you’re interested!
your blog is really interesting. I will be coming on September and i would like to explore Scotland! how i can be in touch with you to offer me a tour guide. thank you
Heya, I see you’ve already found me on Instagram 😉 I also signed up with Showaround, so you could book me for a day tour of Glasgow or in the surrounding area! This is my profile: https://www.showaround.com/locals/9723790 You’d have to sign up, add your travel dates and I can send you an offer if I’m available! Cheers, Kathi
Kathi, so glad I found your page. The wealth of information is helpful. I’m attempting to plan our first 10 day trip to Scotland in October 2018 and I look forward to find out more info from you. I’m in my 40’s and likely the lovely lady above put it fluffy but adventurous with by best friend who’s in the same boat. I assertain that you think public transit and day trips are a more cost affective way to see the area without the tour congestion?
I’m glad you find my content useful 🙂 In October there are definitely fewer tourists, nothing compared to the summer months. Public transport is not necessarily cheaper than renting a car, but a great way to travel without having to figure out driving on the left. Busses are certainly cheaper and the network is very useful. Many train lines also offer great views. So there are many advantages of taking public transport!!
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Kathi, your post, which I read on Pintrest, is very helpful! I am going to Scotland for 10 days in May, 2017 to visit my granddaughter who is a college student in Edinburgh.
One big concern: I am a lady in my 70’s and am rather “fluffy” in stature but a little adventurous! I am worried about accessibility for older people with some physical limitations. A 5 day bus trip to Skye with Rabbe is planned and the other days will be in Edinburgh and Glasgow on our own. Do you think I will need trekking poles? Waterproof shoes?? I plan to bring along my sense of humor and optimism!
Hi Sharon, thanks for commenting and your question! With Rabbie’s you’re in good hands – their tour guides are really nice and considerate! I just had a quick look at that particular tour to see what stops are included. I would most definitely bring waterproof shoes no matter what you do in Scotland, but they don’t necessarily have to be hiking boots. Trekking shoes should be enough. May is the driest month, but if it only rains once, you’ll be happy you brought them. Make sure you have a good waterproof jacket though that also keeps the wind out! Trekking poles can be very helpful, it really depends on what activities you chose to do on Skye. For the hike in the Quiraing and the visit at the Neist Point lighthouse, I’d take them, just to be sure. The garden of Dunvegan Castle or the area of Kilt Rock are really just leisurely strolls on gravel paths. I think Scotland is a great place for seniors to visit – the natural beauty is overwhelming, but it’s not hidden away so only highly adventurous outdoors folk can see it! A lot of the most beautiful viewpoints are accessible by car! You’ll see 🙂
I hope you have a fantastic trip!! Have you had a look at my Skye post yet? http://watchmesee.com/blog/things-to-do-isle-of-skye/
I’m visiting Scotland again this late winter and am looking forward to exploring more of the islands as I’ve always stuck to the cities in the past. Glad I found this blog 🙂
Well, welcome to the family 🙂 Let me know if you have any questions for places to go, or things to do. Where are you heading in the islands?
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Hello! So glad I bumped into your blog! I’m planning my first solo travel next month, 12 days of Scotland, and this really really helps me! Looking forward to it. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Yasmin, oh I’m so glad you found my blog – I hope it gives you loads of inspiration and ideas for your trip! 12 days is a great amount of time as well for a first trip here – do you already know where you want to go? x
Hi Katie – I just came back from Scotland and I fell in love with it. I did 14 days and it was not nearly enough to see and do all I wanted. I did post my quite aggressive itinerary on my blog if you wish to see what my family and I did. Scotland is so incredibly beautiful and you are so right it seems like a small country but the winding roads that are sometimes single track make for a longer than expected road trip. But the visit is definitely worth it and I think everyone should experience Scotland.
Thanks for your comment – I’m so glad you had a great trip and it sounds like you will need to return as well! I love your blogposts and will share them on my networks as well! Need to find the PUFFINS!!! 😀
So glad you loved my blog posts. Looking forward to reading more of yours. Going to go find you on instagram also 🙂 Happy Roving!!!
Hi Kathi, loved reading your blog and subscribed to get more. My husband & I are going for a week in September for our 45th anniversary. Can’t wait to see the beautiful country and meet the people. We’re actually spending our 1st week in Ireland and the 2nd week in Scotland. Looking forward to reading more of your blog!
Thanks for your comment! That sounds like a fantastic trip! I’ve never been to Ireland sadly, but I’ll definitely write loads about the best places to go in Scotland by then 😀 Are you flying between Ireland and Scotland or taking the ferry?
I recently returned from an incredible 10 day trip to Scotland! Be sure and take an umbrella and rain boots, to be covered for the occasional drizzle, which for the most part will not impede your plans. Plan a day or two in both Glasgow and Edinburgh, a day at Luss and on Loch Lomond, few days in the highlands; both West and North, and time in Skye. Hit at least one “local” (non-franchised) pub, where the locals gather, in order to get the real flavour of song, conversation, and entertainment. Tour one castle still in authentic ruins, one cathedral, one museum, on distillery, one football (soccer) game, and then most importantly, interact with the Scots . . . It’s the only way to really step into the wonders of the country. Ask for directions, chat, get lost, and do it all over again if you have to, just so you can engage and beg upon their incredible warmth and hospitality. “They,” and my incredible Rabbies tour guide, John Mc Dermott, MADE me fall in love with Scotland! Believe it or not, confused and a bit lost as I attempted to leave Glasgow on the train back to our hotel in Clydebank, one evening, the kindest, most fun couple literally “picked me up” while on the train. They got off at my same stop, and ended up taking me to their house, feeding me, treating me to lovely drinks and desserts, and then drove me back to my hotel where we all socialised into the wee hours of the night. It was amazing, and I’m quite sure such an event would never happen in the states! They’ve become friends for life, and will be traveling to the states next year, where we will meet up again. I’ve become fb friends with several native Scot, including John, who continues to treat me to travels by his incredible photography on the Internet. Scotland is magical when you gather the perfect ingredients: the people, the music, the food, the legends, the natural scenery, and being open to every oppotunity that comes your way, planned or not. I held back the tears when I left . . . it was just that wonderful, and I can’t wait to go back!
Thank you so much for your comment Mary! I’m so happy to hear you had such a fantastic time in Scotland and with Rabbies – and indeed the people make the entire country so special! I think John might have been my tour guide too, but I’m not 100% sure as I only did a day trip and it’s been a few months since then.
I’m usually not one for the umbrella but prefer a rain coat so I still have my hands free and because of the wind – but I’ll make sure to talk about Scottish weather on the blog at some point soon. It’s something to get used to…
Thanks again, and I hope Scotland sees you again soon! 🙂
I believe you! I have been once in my life and my dream is to come back to Scotland again and again and again. I felt at home.
It’s just what that place does to you!! Thanks for your comment!
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Scotland is one of the countries I wanted to visit. This is a great post! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks for your comment! I can’t recommend visiting Scotland enough 😀
I’ve been all over Europe and somehow haven’t made it to Scotland yet, after reading your post and looking at your pictures it is definitely on my list. Thanks for sharing on the Girls V. Globe linkup! It would be interesting to see what it’s like “walking” your way through Scotland.
Hi Katie, thanks for your comment! I will be writing about the walking bit later on. There are several long-distance walks criss-crossing the country, and I’m planning to walk the most popular one this summer. It’s called the West Highland Way 🙂 Scotland is definitely worth a trip!