Scotland Travel Guide
It may occupy a small part of the world and have more sheep than people, but Scotland packs a whole lot of punch for travelers. The country has a lot to offer with spectacular landscapes, lakes, amazing seafood, castles, wildlife, and some of the friendliest people on earth.
The country has two buzzing cities with Edinburgh and Glasgow. Edinburgh is known for being high class and upscale while Glasgow is the more “gritty” city filled with things to do.
Scotland’s finest lies in the Highlands. One of the most beautiful regions of the world filled with wildlife, folklore, culture, and a spectacular natural landscape. We came expecting a lot from Scotland and were still managed to be blown away by the culture and natural beauty.
Where in Scotland?
- Currency: Great British Pound (GBP)
- Visa: Many nationalities can enter the UK for 90 days visa-free
- Weather: Expect lots of weather! Scotland is known for having rapid shifts in weather. Scotland receives a lot of rain to keep all the lakes, river, and streams full.
- What to Pack: A great rain jacket, wool sweater, wool socks, travel camera, & down jacket.
- Stay Connected: We recommend Sim Cards from Three – signal is limited in the highlands.
- Right to Roam: There isn’t much in the form of trespassing in Scotland. Everyone has the right to roam and explore the stunning countryside.
Introduction to Scotland
Posts on Scotland
- 10 Things to Know Before You Travel to Scotland
- What to Pack for Scotland • Don’t Forget This Stuff
- 15 North Coast 500 Tips to Know Before You Go
- 20 Fun Things to do in Edinburgh on Your First Trip
- The Best Scottish Food Restaurants: Our Culinary Journey
- Where To Stay In Edinburgh: Our Favorites!
- One Day In Edinburgh! Experience the Scottish Capital City
- Great North Coast 500 Accommodation: Where We Stayed!
- Edinburgh’s Hogmanay: Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Scotland
- Driving in Scotland? Here are 13 Helpful Tips
- Renting a Car in Scotland? Here are 13 MUST READ Tips
- The Best Time to Visit Scotland (2019) • Month By Month Breakdown
Pick up a Guidebook
Accommodation in Scotland
Hostel (£10 – £25):
Large multi-bed dorms with 10 or more beds start at around £10. If you want more privacy and a smaller dorm room with fewer beds expect to pay £15 – £25. It’s standard for hostels to provide free WiFi, linens, and occasionally breakfast – many also have large common rooms, restaurants, and bars making it easy to meet people.
Private Room (£40 – £100)
In the tourism capitals of Edinburgh and Inverness expect to pay a premium for a private hotel room. If you’re far out of the city center it’s possible to find a room in a hotel or a guesthouse for £40. However, the closer you head to the city center the more expensive prices become – easily reaching over £100 a night. Even as Starwood members and an employee discount the best we could do was £80 a night.
When it comes to access to nature and wildlife Scotland is incredible. Everyone has the right to go wild camping and freely camp in nature. It’s just requested you read and adhere to Scottish Outdoor Access Code – it’s pretty straightforward and requires you to be mindful and respectful of your environment.
Transportation in Scotland
Transportation around cities by are easy and cost around £1.50 a single ticket and £4 for a day ticket. However, both the Glasgow and Edinburgh city centers are walkable and we never take the bus when hanging out in the city center. There is also a large bus system that services the rest of the country. Tickets on these Intracity buses usually charge around £10 – £20 one way.
There is a large train network in the South that can get you to most major cities and towns. Trains are the far more enjoyable way to travel and can be faster, but they are generally double the price, about £20-£40 one way.
This is our favorite way of exploring Scotland. If you feel comfortable driving a standard transmission on the left side through winding narrow roads then the roads in Scotland are for you. A compact car can be had for as low as £100 a week if you have a credit card that carries insurance.
Like most of Europe, it is possible to hitchhike safely in Scotland. Locals are super friendly and likely to give you a ride in a pinch. Offer them a few pounds for gas, if they accept it – I’ve literally had a Scot give me the shirt off his back.
Food Costs in Scotland
We find grocery stores throughout the U.K. and Ireland to be affordable for basic goods like great produce, dairy, and meat. Shopping at chain budgets grocery stores like Tesco and Lidl will help you eat on a budget while not skimping on your food. Expect to pay about £50-£60 for food if you are just cooking your own food.
Pubs are a staple in Scotland and you can get the average meal for about £10. Take away shops like Indian and fish & chips are generally around £6-£8. There are also a plethora of ready-made meals in shops like Marks & Spencer, Greggs, Sainsbury, and Tesco – we like Marks & Spencer (M&S) the best, but it’s also the priciest option.
If you’re looking for a nice meal, Scotland has a plenty of fine dining restaurants. They make excellent use of fine Scottish products, wild game, and the bountiful sea. If you want to find a great place to eat read our post on the best of Scottish food. Expect to pay around £25 a meal. Tipping 10% for a sit-down meal is common in Scotland.
The Scots like to drink. You can find cheap bottles of Gin at the grocery store or market for £9 a bottle. A beer at a pub can range from £3 – £5 and a double measure of whisky costs £7-10. If you want to take a nice bottle of Scotch home expect to pay around £40-50 for an entry level fine Scotch (aged 12+ years).
Things To Do In Scotland
It’s tough to argue with the appeal of Edinburgh as it’s one of the most stunning cities in all of Europe. The Scottish capital is packed with a long and dark history. The city center is split in two between the jumble of medieval buildings in old town and the perfectly lined Georgian buildings of New Town. The city in many ways is a mess, but a beautiful one at that! It’s brimming with class, tourist sites, and character. I assure you there is no shortage of things to do in Edinburgh.
Taste the best of Scotland
We found some of the finest seafood we’ve ever had in Scotland. If you’re into wild game such as duck, pheasant, and venison you’re in luck as high-end restaurants in Scotland serve some beautiful dishes. One of the best meals we had in Scotland had to be at the Printing Press in Edinburgh.
Celebrate the Hogmanay
The last day of the year is referred to Hogmanay in Gaelic. Every year people from around the world and Scots gather together in Edinburgh to ring in the New Year. It’s a three-day celebration and involves a concert, fireworks, street parties, a torchlight procession, and a dip in the freezing cold Firth of Forth at the Loony Dook. We just celebrated New Year’s Eve here and the whole experience was epic to say the least. Hogmanay was an impressive celebration in the already impressive city.
Festival it up!
Hogmanay isn’t the only festival in Edinburgh. Oh no, Edinburgh is one of the world’s leading festival cities and fun can be had here almost year round! When one festival ends, another begins. Some notable festivals are the Edinburgh Fringe, which is a large art festival that happens every August. Then there is the Edinburgh International Film Fest every June, and the Edinburgh Jazz and Blue festival in July. I mean it when I saw that it is hard to get bored in Edinburgh. There is always something happening for every type of visitor in the city! For up to date information on Edinburgh festivals check here.
Spot Nessie in Loch Ness
Just South of Inverness is Loch Ness, the home of the famous monster called Nessie. While some may say Nessie is only a myth the lake she “lives” is really stunning and well worth a boat cruise or a hike along the surrounding hillside. She definitely exists as does the Unicorn, the national animal of Scotland.
This is Scotland’s second city and known for being it’s gritty heart. There’s a famous saying with the Scottish in which a Glaswegian will ask “Have you had your tea?” (offering you tea) and someone from Edinburgh says “You will have had your tea” (You’ve had enough). It’s the idea of Glasgow being the friendly working man’s city and Edinburgh being for the elite.
Glasgow is the cultural heart of Scotland these days and is well worth the visit and a nice step back from the high-class Edinburgh, and the two cities are only an hour apart. Glasgow has a large number of parks and famous monuments as it was once the second city of the U.K. famous for its port, production, and shipbuilding.
Drive the North Coast 500
The North Coast 500 in the Scottish Highlands, has been dubbed “Scotland’s Route 66,” and named “one of the greatest road trips in the world.” It’s a series of roads that circumnavigate the Scottish Highlands starting from Inverness. When we first learned of its existence while in the Tanzanian bush we knew we had to drive it. The trip that followed was breathtaking and left us wanting more. It is a place that will always require “more time,” because it’s likely you’ll never have enough.
Play a round of golf
Scotland is the home of golf, and it’s likely any golfers dream to play on a number of Scotland’s stunning courses. Expect a high demand and low availability and high prices in the summer months if you can manage to get a tee time.
Trek through the Scottish Highlands
This is the true heart of Scotland and no visit is complete without seeing the highlands. It is one of the beautiful places we’ve ever traveled and full of amazing landscapes. Expect to find harsh terrain of lochs, castles, mountains, bogs, and dramatic coastline in the highlands. There is hardly a better place to get outside and explore the earth in Europe than Scotland – just be prepared for some wet weather!
Visit a Farmer’s Market
It’s easy to find amazing produce in Scotland as there are a plethora of farmers markets in the South. You can find several in Edinburgh, Falkirk, and Glasgow as well. Do a quick search for the local time and what’s available in the region you’re traveling.
The spirit has a long history in Scotland and has been brewed for centuries now. There are several regions in which Scotch is brewed. We visited Talisker Storm, Balblair, Glen Ord, and Dalmore on our tour of Scotland. I loved Talisker Storm as it’s a peaty whisky similar to those from Islay.
Visit the Isle of Skye
It’s the most famous island in Scotland and frequented by tourists every year. The island is one of the most beautiful in Scotland and it’s mountains, lochs, waterfalls and firths are dizzyingly gorgeous. It’s any hiker’s or photographer’s dream destination.