Scotland is a dream destination and a trip here has great potential to become a life-time memory. But planning can be overwhelming when you’ve built up a destination so much in your head. These 70 useful travel tips for Scotland will help you get the most out of your trip!
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Whether you are a seasoned traveller or just dabbling in globetrotting as a lifestyle, it is always a good idea to read and learn as much as possible about the destination of your next trip.
Scotland is no different!
While Scotland is pretty compact and fairly straight-forward to navigate, especially for first-time travellers, you can’t go wrong reading up on the ins and outs of travelling this country.
Need help with your trip? Hire me to review your itinerary or to plan a custom route for your trip!
The 70 travel tips on this list will…
- Prepare you with facts that are good to know before you go,
- Offer tips for planning every detail of your trip at the right time,
- Provide an overview of transport options,
- Give you plenty of inspiration for your itinerary,
- Help you figure out how to navigate facilities along the route,
- Sum up my top tips for visiting Edinburgh and Glasgow,
- Tell you tips for visiting castles and other tourist attractions,
- Help you with some packing tips,
- Provide tips for engaging with Scots and Scottish culture,
And make you chuckle from time to time!
Download my free Scotland Trip Planning Checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything important!
Scotland FAQ: Good to Know Before your Trip
1. Scotland is its own country, but it’s not independent from the UK (yet)
Don’t call Scotland “England”.
Scotland is a sovereign nation that is part of the United Kingdom, alongside England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland has its own parliament and a First Minister who leads the Scottish government. However, many decisions are made by the British parliament down in Westminster which is dominated by English “Members of Parliament” (MPs).
The Question of Scottish Independence:
In 2014, Scotland held an Independence Referendum to discuss the question of Scottish independence. At the time, the majority of the country voted to remain in the UK. However, there still is a significant independence movement in the country and a strong sense of national pride – especially after the 2016 EU Referendum (Brexit was not supported by the majority of Scots).
In 2022 the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has proposed that another Independence Referendum should be held on 19 October 2023.
2. You might experience a “Language Barrier”
Scottish people speak English, but that doesn’t mean you’ll understand them.
There are many different accents all over Scotland and in some regions, the accent is so thick, even native speakers might struggle to understand. Some people also speak Scots, Gaelic or Doric.
Get in the groove by watching Scottish films, TV programmes and interviews with Scottish celebrities. I recommend watching Scottish productions as these will feature the most authentic representations of local accents.
If you don’t understand a local, don’t be afraid to ask them to slow down and repeat what they said.
Useful Scottish Words
- Wee = small, little
- Dram = small alcoholic drink, often refers to whisky
- Skint = broke
Try all three and maybe someone will buy you a drink!
3. Pick up a few words of Scottish Gaelic
While not all Scots speak Gaelic, it can be useful to pick up a few phrases of the language before you visit. Note that Scottish Gaelic is not the same (although related to) as Irish Gaelic.
Some useful Gaelic words are ‘Slàinte’ which means ‘Cheers’ and ‘Tapadh leat’ which means ‘Thank you’.
Areas where you might be able to hear native Gaelic speakers are the Outer Hebrides, the West Highland Peninsulas and parts of the Isle of Skye and Small Isles.
Road signs in the Highlands and islands are generally bilingual, especially on the west coast, and there are Gaelic radio and TV stations (BBC Alba).
You can learn Gaelic online if you are interested or on Duolingo, but it is not necessary to get by in Scotland.
Listen to my conversation about Scottish Gaelic with Gaelic-speaker Calum Maclean.
4. Dealing with Scottish weather
Scottish weather is unpredictable at any time of the year. You may be anxious to plan your trip around the best weather period, but the truth is that it will probably rain during your trip, no matter when you visit.
It can be cold and wet in June, or gloriously sunny in November – it’s impossible to predict. That said, the days are longer in the summer, so at least you get more daylight.
In Scotland, you can experience all four seasons in a day at any time of the year. Thus, it is important to be prepared:
- Check the forecast, but don’t rely on it.
- Pack in layers. (You’ll find more packing tips below)
- Embrace the weather and remember that the rain is what makes Scotland so beautifully green.
5. Budgeting for your trip
How much does it cost to spend a week or two in Scotland?
It’s hard to give you a definite answer, because the total cost depends on where you travel from, your transport mode, standard of accommodation, and of course your spending habits.
Here are some average prices of common expenses:
- Accommodation: Double Room incl. Breakfast – £120-200 (for 2 people)
- Meals: 2 courses + drinks in a mid-range restaurant – £50-70 (for 2 people)
- Rental car: Expect £70-100 per day including insurance, although currently it may be more.
- Petrol: Click here to check up-to-date average petrol prices.
6. Scottish or British money?
Scotland uses British Pound as currency, just like England, Wales and Northern Ireland (GBP, £). Three different Scottish banks print their own banknotes, which means Scottish pound notes look different to English pound notes. You can look at the Scottish banknotes here: Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank, and Royal Bank of Scotland.
All Scottish pound are acceptable legal tender across the UK. However, some people in England might have never seen a Scottish banknote before and may not recognise it as British pound right away. Just make them aware that it’s a Scottish banknote and they should really accept it.
7. Paying with debit and credit cards
Debit and credit cards are widely accepted throughout the country, even in rural areas. Mastercard and Visa are the most commonly used cards.
Contactless debit cards are very common – especially since the Covid-19 pandemic – and usually the easiest way to pay for things. ApplePay and GooglePay are also widely accepted.
All that said, it is useful to carry a small amount of cash with you, particularly as some B&Bs prefer cash payments (or can’t accept cards – make sure you double-check), some shops have minimum limits for card payments, and some very remote areas might only accept cash due to limited internet access.
I’d recommend withdrawing cash from a cash machine (ATM) rather than exchanging money back home or going to an exchange bureau on arrival.
Tips for Planning a Trip to Scotland
8. Start Planning Early
I recommend starting to plan your trip approximately 9 months in advance.
Why 9 months?
Because that’s how far in advance Aer Lingus releases its flight schedule. They are by far one of the cheapest airlines to get from from North America to Europe. Find your flight with Aer Lingus US or Aer Lingus Canada.
Need help finding cheap airfare to Scotland? Check out my tips for booking flights to Scotland.
My Scotland Resource Library contains a cheat sheet for what to book when.
9. When to go
The best time to visit Scotland depends on many things including your budget and what you’d like to experience.
Of course, I have a personal favourite time to visit Scotland – but you might choose a different month or season depending on your preferences.
You might also like: My Scotland travel tips for winter
10. Less is more: Reduce your mileage and explore more in-depth
I think people sometimes wrongly assume that “seeing more” requires them to move on often and visit many different places. In reality, this just means that you have less time in each place and may end up feeling rushed.
I understand the desire to see as much as possible, but I think that’s possible without covering a huge amount of miles.
Whether you move on each night to see many places that are far apart, or pick 2-3 locations to explore more in-depth, you’ll see roughly the same number of sites – maybe even more if you move slower.
Here’s how to choose the best regions for you and end up with a perfect Scotland itinerary.
11. Book accommodation in advance
Depending on the time of the year of your visit, you must book accommodation well in advance.
If you don’t book ahead, you run the risk of not finding a place that fits your budget, or worse, no place to stay at all. Many B&Bs close for the winter season, so even in the off season, it is wise to book accommodation.
For trips from April to October, I recommend booking accommodation by November or December. Particularly if you plan to follow my 8-day itinerary and want to visit popular sites like Glencoe, Fort William, the Isle of Skye or Inverness.
Here are some of my favourite places to stay in Scotland, which are worth a trip!
12. Book ferry crossings in advance
It is essential to book ferry crossings on popular routes in advance to avoid disappointment or long wait times in the hope of a last-minute spot. This includes the ferries to the Isles of Skye and Mull, Orkney, the Outer Hebrides and Islay.
But really, I would book any ferry that can be booked in advance. Some shorter crossings operate on a first-come, first-serve basis though.
For more guidance on taking Scottish ferries, check out my Practical Guide to Island Hopping in Scotland.
13. Allow time for outdoor activities
Scotland is beautiful from the roadside, but I highly recommend planning some time for outdoor activities to really immerse yourself in the Scottish scenery. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme – a short walk or hiring an e-bike would do.
There are endless opportunities for outdoor activities in Scotland. Some of my favourites are:
- Go hiking and/or hire a mountain guide,
- Learn sea kayaking,
- Go outdoor swimming in the sea or a loch,
- Climb Scotland’s only Via Ferrata,
- Go snorkelling off the west coast,
- Hire an e-bike and explore part of the Caledonia Way.
A great platform to find responsible activity providers is Wild Scotland.
Join my Facebook group Wild for Scotland and be a part of a community of Scotland-lovers!
14. Consider hiring an expert – me!
How far can you make it in three, seven or ten days? Which attractions and activities are really worth the admission fee, and what are the best free things to do? What are the hidden gems you should not miss?
Planning a trip to Scotland can be overwhelming. There are so many things to do and places to see, where is one to begin?
I offer Travel Consultation Services including itinerary reviews, itinerary planning and accommodation research to help you plan a trip that is 100% tailored to you. Find out more here!
Transport Info: Getting around Scotland
15. Hire a car
Personally, I think hiring a car is the most convenient way to get around, especially if you plan a road trip to the Highlands!
Check out my guide to hiring a car in Scotland!
16. Drive with care – but don’t overthink it
If you’re a little nervous about driving on the left or navigating small mountain roads, read my top tips for driving in Scotland. As someone who learnt to drive on the right side of the road, I was surprised by how quickly I got used to driving on the left.
Here are some basics:
- It seems obvious, but has to be said: Remember to drive on the left.
- Pick up a leaflet at the car hire place with info on speed limits, roundabouts, parking rules etc.
- Allow others to overtake you on single track roads.
- Don’t park in passing places.
Learn more about driving in the UK with the Tripiamo transport guide – it also includes some videos!
17. Alternatively, take public transport
Consider investing in a ScotRail ‘Spirit of Scotland’ Pass if you travel around Scotland by public transport. These passes usually cover trains, some buses and most ferries, and allow multiple travel days within a set period. It can, however, be cheaper to get individual tickets!
When you look up public transport, always check buses as well as trains. Buses reach more places than trains and they can be a lot cheaper.
Find out more about travelling Scotland by public transport and use my Best of Scotland itinerary by public transport.
18. Consider a guided tour
If you’d rather not drive yourself, there are many tour companies taking people around Scotland on day or multi-day trips.
My favourite recommendation is Rabbie’s. They’re driver-guides are excellent and they only use 16-seater buses, which guarantees small groups. Their scheduled tours leave from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness.
You could even join for just a day tour if you just need a day’s break from driving yourself.
19. Splurge on a private driver
Hiring a private driver for your road trip in Scotland is the ultimate luxury option. Not only can you lean back, enjoy the scenery and listen to the stories of your driver-guide, your itinerary will also be entirely tailored to your interests.
Expect to pay around £500 per day plus accommodation for the driver (on multi-day trips).
My Scotland Resource Library contains a few personal recommendations for private drivers.
20. Use my recommended providers & tools
Wonder where to book flights, hire cars, accommodation, train tickets, or activities?
Check out my Travel Resources page for my preferred car hire platforms, local transport companies, booking platforms, tour companies and activity providers.
Tips for your Scotland Itinerary
21. Which airport to fly into?
Most people arrive at Glasgow airport or Edinburgh airport, the two largest international airports in Scotland. There are also international airports in Inverness and Aberdeen.
I generally recommend flying into Edinburgh airport as it’s located most conveniently for trips that start and finish in Glasgow and/or Edinburgh.
Edinburgh airport is close to Edinburgh, but incredibly well connected to both cities – there is a direct airport bus from to Glasgow.
Glasgow airport is close to Glasgow, but a little further and harder to get to from Edinburgh.
Inverness and Aberdeen airports are well-located if your itinerary focuses on the north-west or the north-east respectively.
22. Listen to Wild for Scotland
Listen to my immersive travel podcast Wild for Scotland to see which regions resonate with you – then follow my travel tips to plan your itinerary.
You might also like: 12 binge-worthy podcasts from Scotland
23. Explore Scotland off the beaten path
Do more than the typical bucket list items, like Edinburgh, Loch Ness and the Isle of Skye. They are all beautiful, but Scotland has so much more to offer and it’s easy to go off the beaten track!
24. Choose “your” destinations and think outside the box
Don’t just follow the crowds.
Read up on different Scottish regions and make an informed decision. Choose destinations that tick the boxes that are important to you.
Some of my favourite regions to explore are Argyll, Aberdeenshire, Galloway and Angus.
25. Make a list of your “must have” experiences
Is there a specific place you want to visit? A dish you want to try? An activity you want to do? Don’t just think about destinations, but about experiences that will make your trip memorable.
In other words, make your own bucket list, than following someone else’s!
Maybe my list of first timer’s experiences could help?
26. Go on an epic road trip
I love exploring Scotland by car and there are endless opportunities for scenic drives all over the country.
From the famous North Coast 500 which loops around the far north-west of Scotland’s Highlands, to the North East 250 in Aberdeenshire, the South West Coastal 300 in Dumfries & Galloway and the Heart 200 in Perthshire.
There is no shortage of epic road trip routes in Scotland.
27. Island hopping is easy
There are over 900 islands in Scotland, most of which are uninhabited. Since many of them are within easy reach from the mainland and/or from each other, it is easy to do some island hopping in Scotland.
One island region where island hopping is particularly easy to do, is the Outer Hebrides, also called the Western Isles. Cycling or walking the Hebridean Way, you can easily visit 10 islands in a week or two, and add a few more to the count by taking breaks for day trips to nearby islands.
Closer to Glasgow and Edinburgh, the southern Inner Hebrides are also a great island-hopping destination. Following my Inner Hebrides itinerary, you could easily hop from one isle to the next, including Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Gigha.
28. You don’t need to go far for an island adventure
The Isle of Skye is Scotland’s most popular island destination, but if you only have a couple of days in Scotland, I recommend choosing an island that is closer.
For example, the Isle of Arran makes for an amazing island getaway if you’re pressed for time. The island is easy to reach with a train & ferry combo ticket and suitable for a day trip or longer stay. The beaches and mountains are gorgeous (try climbing Goatfell) and there are endless things to do on Arran, from Brodick and Lochranza Castle, a brewery and whisky distilleries, to standing stones and wildlife experiences.
Another island that is easy to reach is the Isle of Bute.
There are many other Scottish isles to explore that are much closer than Skye – no need to spend hours in the car only to be able to say you’ve been there.
29. Visit the Small Isles
The Small Isles are one of my favourite destinations off the beaten path. They are easy to get to from Mallaig which is a fixture on many people’s Scotland itinerary. Instead of taking the ferry to the Isle of Skye though, set sail for Rum, Eigg, Canna or Muck.
A visit to the Small Isles is also easy to connect with a road trip down the Road to the Isles or a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train.
The Small Isles are car-free and incredibly welcoming. All the islands are great for hiking and bird watching, but also if you are interested in historic sites or spending time immersed in a small Scottish community. Each island has something different to offer.
30. There are standing stones all over Scotland
There is no need to travel as far as Orkney or the Isle of Lewis to see standing stones in Scotland – unless you have time for a longer trip.
There is no shortage of standing stones and stone circles all over Scotland. Some of my favourites are the Machrie Moor standing stones on the Isle of Arran, the Nether Largie standing stones in Kilmartin Glen and the stones at Clava Cairns near Inverness.
31. Go wildlife watching
If you want to see Scottish wildlife, timing is everything. So, read up on where and when to find them.
Many marine mammals and seabirds are best observed during the summer months from mid-April to early August. This includes puffins and gannets, basking sharks and whales.
Seals and dolphins on the other hand, are more permanent residents on the Scottish coast.
If you’d like to go on boat trips or sailing, I recommend choosing a company that is part of the WiSe scheme to ensure you’re going with someone who’s wildlife-aware. On their website you can find all operators that are registered with them throughout the UK.
You might also like: The best places to see wildlife in Scotland
32. Where to see puffins?
Puffins and many other seabirds form massive nesting colonies up and down the Scottish coast, but they prefer places that are less frequented and take some effort to get to (usually a potentially choppy boat ride). Two of my favourite areas to see them, are the Treshnish Isles near Mull (Lunga) and Sanday off the Isle of Canna.
33. Where to see Highland Cows?
No trip to Scotland would be complete without seeing some Highland cows. They are not commonly used as farm animals anymore but are kept as treasured “pets” all over the country (for example by farmers or at hotels).
Great places to see them up close are Pollok Park in Glasgow, at the Loch Melfort Hotel in Argyll or at Newton Farm Holidays in Angus.
34. Visit Scottish Beaches
Ever thought about a beach holiday in Scotland?
Some Scottish beaches are so beautiful, the sand so white and the water so clear, that images have been accidentally used to promote tropical beach destinations!
Only the temperatures would give it away…
Some of my favourite beaches in Scotland can be found:
- in the Outer Hebrides on Vatersay, Berneray, and Bosta beach on Great Bernera.
- along the North Coast 500: Red Sands, Achmelvich Beach and Sango Sands.
- in Fife: St Andrews and Ruby Bay, Elie.
- in Aberdeenshire: Rattray Head, Newburgh and Balmedie.
- and the Inner Hebrides on Colonsay, Coll and Islay.
For more stunning beaches to visit, check out the book The Beaches of Scotland.
Need more help planning your itinerary? Hire me as a travel consultant and let me help you plan an itinerary that is 100% YOU!
On the Road
35. Road Navigation
You could hire a GPS with your rental car, or use Google Maps on your phone. Reception in the Highlands and on islands can be patchy, but you can download Google Maps areas for offline use.
Of course, it never hurts to have a traditional paper map as backup.
36. Pay & Display Car Parks
All over Scotland, you will come across many Pay & Display Car Parks – some are run by the local council, others by private landowners. You have to pay for parking at the ticket machines and display the ticket on your dashboard.
Some – but not all – machines accept card payments. Some – but not all – machines allow you to pay via the RingGO app, but reception isn’t always great. It’s best to have some coins at hand.
37. Navigating public transport
Google Maps has a very useful public transport option to look up connections – it’s fairly reliable with inter-city connections and local buses in the cities.
For local buses in rural areas, I always check connections on Traveline as it’s more reliable than Google Maps.
For trains, I always double-check connections on the ScotRail app to make sure there are no cancellations or delays.
38. Public toilets
Toilets are not a glamorous topic, but knowing where to find them is necessary on any trip. Here is a website with a map of all public toilets in the UK.
My ready-made Scotland itineraries come with maps that point out public toilets along you route.
39. Finding WiFi on the road
Most cafes and restaurants generally have free WiFi for customers. You may want to get a local pay-as-you-go sim card – just make sure your phone is unlocked for all networks. You can pick these up at most large supermarkets.
40. Dealing with midges
Midges are tiny black flies that show up during the summer months all over Scotland. They are annoying and most people get itchy from their bites – but they won’t ruin your trip.
Midges hatch from the end of May until late September – that’s when they are around. They like overcast skies, mornings and evenings, windstill weather and standing water – expect them to be around in these circumstances. They dislike wind and sunshine, which is why they’re often not too bad on the coast.
Unless you’re camping, you can get away from them really easily by going inside. If you are camping, bring a midge net and set on spending evenings inside your tent.
There are several repellents that work for midges – first and foremost, Smidge and Avon Skin So Soft which you can pick up anywhere in Scotland.
You might also like: More tips for dealing with Scottish midges
41. Storing luggage
If you are travelling on public transport, you may want to store your luggage at some point during your trip.
Most hotels, B&Bs or hostels will allow you to drop off your bags before check-in or leaving them there for a few hours after your checked out.
There are luggage storage facilities at some train stations, but really only in large cities and towns, such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fort William and Inverness. You can search for station facilities at all train stations here (look for ‘Left Luggage’ facilities).
Visiting Scottish Castles + Attractions
42. Visit a variety of castles
I recommend visiting castle ruins as well as fully preserved or restored castles to experience a variety of Scottish castle architecture.
My favourite castles in Scotland include:
- Stirling Castle: very well preserved & a great self-guided tour,
- Dunnottar Castle: my favourite ruined castle in a breathtaking location,
- Balmoral Castle: only the grounds + gardens are accessible since it’s an official Royal residence, but it’s incredible,
- Kilchurn Castle: a stunning castle ruin on the way to Oban,
- and Culzean Castle: overlooking the sea and the Isle of Arran.
You might also like: 11 Educational & Science-Based Tourism Experiences in Scotland
43. Follow the Scottish Castle Trail in Aberdeenshire
If you want to see many castles in a short amount of time, follow the Scottish Castle Trail through Aberdeenshire – it covers 19 (!) castles that are all just a short drive from each other!
44. Invest in an attractions pass
Visiting many castles and attractions, most of which charge an entrance fee, can quickly add up.
It might be worth investing in an annual membership for the National Trust for Scotland (join here), an annual Historic Environment Scotland membership, a short term Historic Scotland Explorer Pass or the VisitBritain Heritage Pass.
Note though, that privately owned castles are not included in these castles. This includes Dunvegan Castle on Skye, Inveraray Castle in Argyll, Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire and many others.
Write down which castles and attractions you’d like to visit, look up entrance fees and research which passes would cover them. Then do the maths.
Edinburgh Travel Tips
45. Spend at least 2 days in Edinburgh
2 days in Edinburgh gives you a good amount of time to see the highlights and explore off the beaten path.
The city is very walkable, there is an easy-to-navigate bus system or you can use Uber.
My personal highlights are:
- Scott Monument for the best views,
- the Royal Mile and its many closes, wynds and hidden gardens,
- Grassmarket for pubs + castle photos,
- Calton Hill and/or Arthur Seat for a hike – maybe at sunset?,
- National Museum of Scotland for stunning views from the rooftop,
- the Water of Leith Walkway to escape the crowds,
- the Shore + surrounding neighbourhood in Leith for pubs and food,
- the Scottish Design Exchange on George Street for shopping.
46. Start with a city tour
The Edinburgh Hop on Hop off bus tour can give you a great introduction to the city. I recommend doing this as soon as you arrive!
Read up on my favourite tours in Edinburgh here!
47. Explore beyond the Old Town
Particularly in the summer, Edinburgh is bustling with visitors – but it is easy to escape the crowds by leaving the medieval Old Town.
Explore beyond the major tourist attractions and go off the beaten path:
- Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens,
- Wander around the Stockbridge neighbourhood,
- And explore Leith.
48. Book accommodation well ahead
Accommodation in Edinburgh can be expensive and hard to come by, so book well ahead of time. I recommend staying in the Old Town, West End (Haymarket area), New Town or Leith.
On a budget? Check hostels, avoid August and December (festival season) and stick to weekdays. Alternatively, you could stay in Glasgow or Dunfermline and take the train to Edinburgh for a day trip.
You might also like: My accommodation guide for Edinburgh
Glasgow Travel Tips
49. Don’t make the mistake to leave Glasgow off your itinerary
Glasgow is an amazing city with a thriving cultural scene, beautiful architecture and parks, a great food scene and plenty of things to do. I recommend spending at least one day in Glasgow.
My personal highlights are:
- Visiting Glasgow Cathedral and the view from the Necropolis,
- Seeing the Highland coos at Pollok Park,
- Wandering around the Glasgow University campus,
- Eating haggis and drinking beer at Ashton Lane,
- Visiting the many free, public museums like People’s Palace,
- Following the City Centre Mural Trail,
- Shopping at the Hidden Lane.
You might also like: 50 useful Travel Tips for Glasgow
50. Mingle with Glaswegians
Visiting Glasgow is all about mingling with the locals – the city’s slogan is “People Make Glasgow” after all!
It’s easy to meet locals at the pub – just stand by the bar and someone will start chatting to you.
51. Discover free things to do in Glasgow
Glasgow is a budget-friendly city and there are many free things to do.
Most museums are free of charge, the City Chambers offer free tours during the week, there are beautiful parks and nearby hiking areas and lots of beautiful architecture to discover.
52. Book a walking tour with me
Glasgow is a city best seen through the eyes of a local. Whenever I can, I offer private walking tours through Glasgow to show you my favourite places, take you off the beaten track and answer all your questions about life in Glasgow.
Read more about my Glasgow tours and email me to check availability.
Packing Tips for Scotland
53. Wear layers
Since Scottish weather is unpredictable it is important to wear layers. That way you will be prepared for any kind of weather and can add or remove one or multiple layers as needed.
My Scotland Resource Library contains a full packing list & heaps of packing tips for Scotland.
54. Invest in GOOD waterproofs – a jacket and trousers
Forget umbrellas – it’s too windy. Invest in a high-quality waterproof jacket and some waterproof trousers (pants) – the latter especially if you plan togo for walks. It’s worth the money to stay dry and comfortable!
And don’t forget: don’t let a bit of rain drag you down. It’s all part of the Scottish experience.
Check out some of my recommended shoes & clothes for Scotland here.
55. Wear comfortable walking shoes
Comfortable walking shoes are an absolute must on your Scotland packing list. They should keep your feet warm and dry.
I recommend wearing shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. Even if you don’t plan to go hiking, foot paths to viewpoints or around attractions can be muddy.
Waterproof/-resistant shoes are ideal. I love my Barbour half-wellies.
For proper hikes, I always wear my Zamberlan boots, but I may even put them on for shorter walks. They are just so comfortable and keep my feet dry.
Apart from these, I usually wear comfortable trainers to drive or walk around or Chelsea boots.
56. Pack hiking equipment
If you plan to go hiking in the Scottish Highlands, on islands or on the coast, bring proper hiking equipment to protect yourself from the elements.
This includes waterproofs (jacket + trousers), sturdy hiking boots, a map and compass, and emergency supplies. Hiking in inadequate clothes or shoes, or getting caught in bad weather without required emergency supplies can cause unnecessary search + rescue missions for the local mountain rescue teams. Make smart choices.
Never underestimate the weather in the hills and only go as far as you can safely navigate back.
If wild camping, pack what you need to leave no trace. Check out my guide to wild camping in Scotland for tips.
57. Where to buy essentials
Forgot something? Here are some useful shops you can find in most cities: Boots (drug store/chemist and pharmacy), Marks & Spencer (clothes), Tiso and Cotswold (outdoor gear).
You can literally buy anything in cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness. In the Highlands, Fort William has the biggest range of shops.
Experiencing Scottish Culture, Food & Drink
58. Give whisky a chance
Be open-minded when it comes to Scottish whisky.
It took me three years and multiple visits to whisky distilleries to realise that I kind of like single malt whisky. Try a few different ones to find a dram you like.
To learn more about the different whisky regions and find your preferred taste visit the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh.
If you’re a whisky lover, check out my whisky itinerary for Scotland.
You might also like: An essential guide to trying Scottish whisky
59. Just don’t call it Scotch
Scottish whisky is never spelled with an ‘e’ (whiskey) and we never call it Scotch. It’s whisky, malt, single malt, or a dram.
Bonus tip: Don’t order a single malt whisky with ice or pour water in right away. Try the whisky neat at first, then maybe add a few drops of water to release the full aroma. Only if you still insist, ask for some ice.
60. Experiment with Scottish cuisine
Scottish food is excellent, whether you go for traditional dishes like haggis or Cullen skink, or try contemporary cuisine.
If you eat meat and seafood, order typical Scottish dishes like Cullen skink (a creamy fish soup), steak and ale pie, stovies (a potato dish), fresh seafood, and of course the famous chicken tikka masala.
For the best fish & chips head to a seaside town of your choice where the fish is the freshest. I highly recommend the Anstruther Fish Bar near St Andrews!
61. Ask what’s in haggis after you tried it
Or simply, don’t ask at all – just enjoy it. Haggis is better if you don’t think about what’s in it.
If you don’t eat meat, try vegetarian haggis instead – it’s delicious!
Black pudding is not a pudding. As with haggis, don’t overthink it or try the veggie version.
62. Don’t worry if you’re vegan – you’ll find plenty to eat!
If you are vegan, find out how easy it is to travel Scotland as a vegan here!
63. Tap water is safe to drink in Scotland
There is no need to buy bottled water in single-use plastic bottles. Scottish tap water is safe to drink and tastes delicious. Bring a reusable water bottle & fill it up frequently!
64. Be aware of Seagulls
When buying fish & chips to take away, especially by the seaside, watch out for seagulls. Scottish seagulls are big and fierce – they are known to steal food out of people’s hands .
65. Taste Scottish (craft) beers
Scottish appreciation for alcoholic beverages does not stop at whisky. The Scots also love their beer!
Tennent’s is by far the most famous lager, so make sure you try a pint of that. It has been brewed in Glasgow for over 400 years. The brewery also offers a great tour + tastings.
There is a growing craft beer scene in Scotland and there are many small breweries. Some of my personal favourites are Loch Fyne Ales from Argyll, six°north from Stonehaven, and Hangman’s Rock from Colonsay Brewery.
66. Try Irn Bru in all its forms
Irn Bru is an iconic Scottish carbonated soft drink. It is bright orange and a staple in many Scots’ regular diets. Produced by Barr’s in Cumbernauld near Glasgow, only 3 people know its secret recipe.
You can drink it, or try Irn Bru-flavoured sweets or ice cream. I prefer the latter!
67. Find local live music
Scotland has a diverse music scene. Many bands and singers from Scotland are famous around the world – Belle & Sebastian, The Proclaimers, Biffy Clyro and Franz Ferdinand, just to name a few.
Traditional music is also big in Scotland and there are many bands who play old-fashioned or contemporary versions of trad music, such as Skerryvore, Talisk or Breabach.
Many pubs around the country host regular trad music nights, such as the Ben Nevis Bar in Glasgow, the Edinbane Inn on Skye, the Clachaig Inn in Glencoe or Macgregor’s Bar in Inverness.
68. Dance at a ceilidh
Another important part of Scottish music culture is the Ceilidh, a traditional social gathering that involves lots of dancing and traditional music. Many Scottish weddings end with a Ceilidh and many rural communities host regular Ceilidh dances.
An easy way to participate in a Scottish Ceilidh is by visiting Sloans in Glasgow (Ceilidh every Friday night, tickets are £12.50) or join the Edinburgh Ceilidh Club.
69. Attend a Scottish festival
Edinburgh is famous as a festival city, particularly during the summer festivals in August, such as the Fringe theatre, comedy & performance festival and the Military Tattoo.
Many islands host music, food and whisky festivals, and each city is home to a variety of cultural festivals throughout the year.
Whether it’s Hogmanay in Edinburgh or other Scottish winter festivals, a music festival, an arts festival like NEOS in Aberdeenshire, a cultural festival like Up Helly Aa, a food event or a whisky festival – the Scots love to celebrate. Join them!
70. No matter how wild the party gets, don’t lift up a man’s kilt!
Do I have to say more?
I hope my travel tips for Scotland will prove useful to you on your upcoming trip or inspire you to get started planning a trip to Scotland!
What is your top tip for a journey to Scotland?
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66 thoughts on “70 Useful Travel Tips for Scotland”
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Excellent advice for Scotland. I’ll save them for when I go there. The castles and the Jacobite Steam Train are two things I would especially love to visit.
very informative article. Scotland travel in my bucket list. Hope to travel there soon.
Thanks for sharing these great tips for traveling.
Superb blog thanks for sharing amazing post.
I love this list! We are heading there with our family last year on 17th March 2019 after ITB berling. Flying to Scotland for a week. Amazing destination to be in everone backlist.
I was in Scotland and did Edinburgh and Glasgow on the top of the list. It was a really good trip. I will go back again in the near future.
We will have a carhire when we visit in May. How should one go about selecting where to pick up your car once you are ready to travel outside of Edinburgh? Airport, train station, city outskirts?
I’d probably get it from the airport – it’s easy to get to from the city after sightseeing for a few days, easy to navigate because signage is good, and usually also a bit cheaper than city offices!
Thank you SO much for the wonderful info, ESPECIALLY including vegan and vegetarian info and options! Your site is fantastic!! I hope to be traveling to Scotland with my hubby in 2020 for our first time and your blog has been extremely helpful!
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Tomina! I hope you have fun planning your trip to Scotland – and a great time here, when it comes!!
Here is my plan in May. 2020
Wick castle sinclair Girnigoe
Keiss – old keiss castle
john o groats
duncansby head and stacks
Castle of Mey
dunnet head lighthouse
Tongue – castle bharrich
Clashnessie and falls
Ardvreck castle and peach and horne memorial
torridon – am ploc open air church
Plockton- duncraig castle
Fort augustus -falls of foyers
Lossiemouth Spynie palace
Dufftown – Glenfiiddich Distillery
Bow fiddle rock
Banff – temple of venus
peterhead prison museum
bullers of buchan
banchory – abergeldie castle
bon scott statue
linn of tummel
Carrbridge and back to Inverness
Some great sites on your list! How much time do you have?
loved going through it
thank you so much for sharing
I really love for traveling mostly i have travel to Europe for business purpose next time i will try to travel Scotland and visit this unique places. overall thanks for share this informative blog.
I’m so excited to be returning to Scotland for a 4th time! With my 82 year old mom who just hurt her knee pretty bad, so hoping to do some things that don’t involve a lot of walking or hiking. We’ll have a car and wanted to go to Inverness and beyond. Oban sounds interesting! Any islands that wouldn’t involve a ton of walking? We love castles! Thanks for a great post!
Hi Lynne, Thanks for your comment and question! Have you seen my Scottish islands post – I summarise all the islands in it: https://watchmesee.com/blog/the-best-scottish-islands-to-visit/ Oban is wonderful and a great starting point for many islands. I’d recommend Mull because it’s near and there is lots to do that isn’t necessarily hiking or walking too far, incl a castle and a whisky distillery! You could also explore the region around Oban (Argyll) and head down towards Tarbet – there are tons of castles in that region and such a meandering coastline, it feels almost lie you’re on an island! I also have lots of posts about Argyll – you can find them by browsing the menu. I hope this helps! Have a fab trip! Cheers, Kathi
Ahh! Thank you so much! Will do all of the above! Can’t wait!
Can I ask one more question – do you recommend the Historic Scotland or Heritage Pass? I can’t figure out if it will pay for itself or not for us. I didn’t see you comment on that one. And also if we should purchase that before we come to Scotland or purchase it there. Thanks!
Hi Lynne, there are three passes you could consider – 1) National Trust of Scotland membership (1-year validity), 2) Historic Scotland membership (1 year) and 3) Heritage Pass (7 days). Each includes different attractions and has a different price point. Whether it’s worth it or not, really depends on what you want to see – some castles cost £13-18 entrance fee, so if you want to see three expensive castles a pass might be worth it. Check which attractions you want to see along your route, look up entrance fees at their individual websites and then check which pass would cover them. It’s a bit more work to prep for your trip, but then you know you don’t have unnecessary expenditure! And since you do the research in advance, why not also buy it in advance 😉
I write about the three passes in this post too: https://watchmesee.com/blog/backpacking-scotland-on-a-budget/
Thanks for the great insights into Glasgow – myself and my partner are heading there for a conference in late August via a few nights in Edinburgh to catch the tail end of the Fringe Festival. Your blogs on Glasgow have made us much more optimistic for what Glasgow can offer tourists – my partner was fixated on Glasgow’s knife crime and very few Kiwis who had traveled there had anything positive to say about Glasgow – we can now see from your blogs it offers so much more and are looking forward to our time there! We are seriously thinking of using your 7 day classic intinery from Glasgow to Skye to Inverness back to Endinburgh (potentially taking in a bit of Adberdeenshire & the Cairngorms if time allowed) – do you think this is too much traveling for 7 days? We are also thinking of heading out of Glasgow after 5pm on a Thursday night – is there anywhere an hour or so from Glasgow that is nice to stay on the way north?
Looking forward to seeing your wee adopted country. Thanks again for a great informative blog from the Edinburgh of the south – Dunedin, New Zealand!
Hi Rebecca, I’m so glad you found my blog – honestly! It’s such a shame that Glasgow is still ringing with these negative stereotypes. Don’t worry about knife crime at all – any crime actually – and enjoy your time here. There is so much to do and see, lots of new tour companies, museums, parks, viewpoints, great food and lots of cultural venues! It’s a beautiful city that has changed a lot in the last few decades!
Regarding your road trip, you could stop in Arrochar near Loch Lomond – a gorgeous place and just about one hour away from Glasgow. Check out Ashfield House B&B – Cristina is a fantastic host! If you only have a week and want to follow my 7-day itinerary, you wouldn’t be able to also add the Cairngorms and Aberdeenshire. My 7-day itinerary is already pretty busy and I actually recommend to spend 9-10 days on that route to see everything on the list and relax a little too! If you have longer, it’s a different story.
I hope you have a fantastic trip to Scotland. I’d love to hear how you got on!
All the best, Kathi
Fantastic info off to Dumfries and Galloway next week been before but a few years ago
Always loved Scotland
Just learned what wee meant hear it a lot
Well done. At last a sensible and non-patronising list of dos and don’t for visiting Scotland. The England thing is the most crucial! My only slight cavils are: Balmoral isn’t really a castle but a mid-victorian fantasy house. There are plenty of authentic ancient castles in Scotland but Balmoral isn’t one of the. Then, why does nobody on these blogs mention the New Town in Edinburgh as a wonderful place to explore. It’s not new, but street after street, square after the square of Georgian architecture of the very highest quality, and the main reason that Edinburgh is a World Heritage site. It dates from the 1760s and was the home of famous Scots like Robert Louis Stevenson.
Hi Janet, I’m glad you found the list useful! I’m actually going to New Town next week to try and review an accommodation there and can’t wait to explore that part of Edinburgh more in-depth. This list only has four tips regarding Edinburgh, but if you look at my 2-day Edinburgh guide you will find New Town among my essentials: https://watchmesee.com/blog/edinburgh-in-two-days-weekend-trip/, so I’m not sure what you mean by “these blogs”. I loved Balmoral – the gardens were among the most beautiful I’ve seen and it’s so close to other castles in the region. You can see a great variety of castles and big houses in this area!
Wow.. this list of informations is so amazing! Can you advice me april is good time to visiting Scotland. Waiting for your reply….
Absolutely! April is when all the Spring flowers usually start blooming. I guess just stay aware of he Easter holidays when you book accommodation. Enjoy!!
Scotland is really nice country. I am reading your blog and i get the awesome tips about traveling to Scotland. Thanks!
Nice blog. Saved lots pins to my Scotland board. I am guessing you live in Scotland? We don’t have pound notes any more!
Sorry, if it’s unclear, but I’m speaking about 5-, 10- and 20-pound notes, not the old £1 notes… Yes, I live here!
We’re leaving for Scotland in 3 days. Attending the wedding of a highschool friend in Inverness. Will be in Edinburgh 3 days, Inverness & Culloden 4 days, then have a week of driving to Oban, out to Tobermory, Maillig & About. Will attend the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, stay one night in Barcaldine castle, an Airbnb & some small guest houses. Thank you so much for your suggestions – even about the haggis :>. We’re looking forward to the adventure, weather, sheep, music, culture, views & Scotch!
That sounds like such a lovely and relaxed trip – you will see so much and get a real sense for the country 🙂 Enjoy your holiday and thanks for checking out my blog!
Beautiful post! Thanks so much for the inspiration.
We are going to Scotland for our honeymoon next May and I’ve been reading blogs through Pintrest for several months now. Yours is all I need!! It answered every question I had and more! I am so exited about the vegan fish & chips in glasgow!!
I honestly can not thank you enough! ☺☺☺
Myrna, thank you so much for your comment! I’m so happy to hear from readers who find my blog useful. Let me know if you need any assistance on planning your perfect Scotland holidy!!
I’m really enjoying your web content. Thanks for sharing these tips. It will help other users as well :). Big Love and Big Support!
I appreciate your sharing and I must say that you have shared such nice and useful information about Scotland with all of us which is really good. I also visited there for having enjoyment. It is a best place for having fun and tourists can enjoy there hiking and many other outdoor activities. I hope you will have a joyful time there.
great tips you shared, i love your blog only for this reason that you share true fact. Next month we all going to scotland and lots of activity we will do. Thanks to you and your article, who suggested me good option.
Oh, my. Thanks for the giggles. I have been to Scotland four times from The States, and am planning my fifth go for late summer – early fall. Your fun insider’s take on the endless joys to find there are inspiring. And I haven’t gotten to your take on The Shetlands. I hope you have some info on The Orkneys in here too. Have joined your newsletter. Well done and thanks again!
Unfortunately, I’ve not been to the Orkney’s myself yet, but I can recommend this post by Migrating Miss, https://www.migratingmiss.com/things-to-know-before-you-visit-orkney-scotland/, for some more info on the Orkneys! Thanks for joining the newsletter too!! 🙂
I like that you provided some tips when traveling to Scotland such as looking for public transportation when getting around. It is recommended that you tour the city via public transportation as this can definitely save you lots of money. Plus, you are able to communicate with locals who can give you tips and recommendations on the best local restaurants and bars. If I were to visit Scotland in the near future, I would make sure to keep this in mind. Thanks.
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Oh my god, this list is amazing! I am actually planning on visiting Scotland in November, so now I really can’t wait for this weird country. (Weird in a good way) …Thank you .)
Have a fantastic trip – November can be a bit rainy, but also so eery and mysterious in the mountains. And the colours are amazing – I love it!
My husband and I will be visiting August 31st to September 14th. We plan to take the train to get around (Edinburgh, ft William, skye, Inverness, pitlochry & Glasgow) Are there any tips or websites you recommend. I’m a little nervous about it honestly.
That’s absolutely doable, although you’ll have to take a bus to Skye. For trains I always use trainline.co.uk – I find the best deals around three weeks prior to my intended travel dates, and the site is a lot more user-friendly than the Scotrail websites; plus it lists various train companies in its search results! For buses check our citylink.co.uk, which is as far as I know the main bus company operating in rural Scotland. Prices are usually reasonable if you book in advance or do short routes! Traveling by public transport can be a bit more time consuming, but particularly the train routes are so scenic, you’ll actually want them to last longer 😉 Have a great trip!
Gonna hold my hands up and say I came to read this list (as a Scot in Scotland) to see what ridiculous advice was being doled out. I’ve never been happier to admit I am completely wrong and this was a very useful, interesting and well-written list – a must-read for anyone coming to visit Scotland.
I would add that for number 28, Fife (an area north of Edinburgh, over the iconic Forth Bridge) is also worth a mention in terms of cheaper accommodation if you want to see Edinburgh, even in August. There are very regular trains (more and later running during the festival) and it’s as little as 35 minutes away.
Good shout about Fife – I’ll add this tip to the article if I may. I’m glad I could surprise you with my list! I’ve lived here for several years and was hoping that by now I’d have a pretty good idea of what travelers should know about 🙂 I hope you’ll share it with friends coming to visit you! X
Love this list! We are heading there in March and will only be there for a week. I wish I could stay a month or longer and do so much more. Still working out our itinerary, though, so this has given me many ideas. (Sorry to hear the highland cows aren’t as easy to spot as the travel websites make them seem. But it’s good to know. 🙂 )
Oh a week really isn’t enough, but it’s a good time to get a first overview! In terms of highland cows – maybe I was just always not lucky enough… I wish you a great journey and all the best spotting coos 😀 Thanks for your comment!
Believe me, Adele is from Tottenham, London. Definitely not Scottish
Haha I was totally thinking of Amy Macdonald there – neither of them make it into my playlists, so it’s easy to mix up 😀
Love this so much! And agree with all of them!! The thing about not lifting a man’s kilt made me laugh, it’s my man’s biggest fear when we’re out and he’s wearing his kilt. At graduation in St Andrews, people randomly asked him to take photos because he was wearing one. Also, I invested in a Craghoppers last year and it was by far my favourite purchase ever! It’s doing really well in currently -15 Canadian weather too! And agreed about the classic trifecta, Edinburgh, Loch Ness and Isle of Skye. I always try to get people to think further than that!
Thanks for your comment – I’m glad I picked some you could personally relate to. I wish my partner was wearing a kilt more often – he’s Scottish, but he doesn’t have one – I’m often disappointed ha ha 🙂
Thanks for the advice! I will be heading to northeast Scotland in March (Inverness and the Black Isle), I will definitely be using some of your advice. This is my first time to Scotland and really appreciate your time to dish out some advice.
Oh what a fantastic trip waiting for you! I’ve never been to the Black Isle, but they have a great brewery up there, if you’re into that sort of stuff! Have a fab trip! 🙂
I was interested in your take on Scotland, as I once lived there, and still have relatives there, it is a beautiful country, except for the dreaded Scottish mid he, especially in the west, it absolutely eats you to bits, especially the English, so be warned from May to October beware the midge
You’re right – the midges are the worst! They can really ruin your trip to some extent – but the landscape makes up for it 🙂 Thanks for your comment!
Hi Edith — just beginning exploring the possibility of traveling to Scotland alone – and I am kinda old but good shape! I do not know what a midge is — is that a mosquito? A gnat? And you mention the Scottish mid he — what is that? Is bug spray enough to ward them off? Thanks for any input!
Hi Mary, I think Edith’s had a typo there – she’s of course also talking about midges (not mid he) 😉 I would describe midges as a mix between mosquitos and flies – they’s quite small (hence there are specific midge nets to keep them away – they can slip through normal mosquito nets), they bite and can itch like crazy! Mosquito repellent might work, but there is also a spray called Smidge, which you can pick up in most outdoor shops here, which was specifically designed with the Scottish Highland midge in mind. It helps really well, but it is also advisable to wear long sleeves around sunset to keep them off your skin! Hope that gives you an idea of how to protect yourself from the ‘wee beasties’ – as we call them here!
Great tips for Scotland. I will bookmark them for when I visit. I would especially love to see the castles and the Jacobite Steam Train .
Thanks for your comment! The steam train really is a great experience – hope I get to take it maybe this year 🙂
I was just in Scotland and did the Loch Ness, Isle of Skye, and Edinburgh. It was all we could fit in for that trip, but I really wanna go back and see more. I will put Glasgow on the top of the list. I did try haggis while I was there and loved it!
Thanks for your comment! Those three places are a great introduction and all classics! Next time do Glasgow for sure, and maybe Oban <3