There are a few things you need to know before you travel to Scotland. With two amazing and historic cities in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and more opportunities for outdoor activities there is something for everyone in Scotland. As long as you don’t mind some unpredictable cloud coverage with a chance of rain.
We had more than just a wee bit of fun in the charismatic and stunning highlands of Scotland. It’s packed with history, stunning landscapes, great food, and charismatic locals.
It doesn’t matter if you are a regular traveler or first-time traveler these are a few things you should know before you travel to Scotland, the rest I’m sure you will figure it when you get there!
Traveling to Scotland for the First Time?
Just a Wee Drink
There are two things you need to know about people of Scotland. They are some of the friendliest people on earth and they like to drink. Don’t be surprised when you hear the classic line “oh, it’s just a wee drink” or “how ’bout a wee dram o’ whisky.” Although, Scotch is of national pride and an amazing spirit it is not what the Scottish drink everyday. The most popular drink these days is gin and beer. So, we got to make friends and relive our days of African safari with some gin & tonics.
You should get used to saying the word wow if you are planning a road trip around Scotland! The rugged mountains that appear to be older than time itself are cloaked in thick heather that washes across the landscape in a sea of green and purple. In all the places we have traveled the Scottish Highlands is one of the most beautiful regions we have ever seen. We weren’t prepared for the beauty of the highlands or the Isle of Skye and knew nothing about the landscape of Scotland before arriving. It only took an hour of driving out of Edinburgh before we were out of the car snapping photos.
Freedom to Roam
One thing to know when you take your trip to Scotland is there is no such thing as trespassing. Everyone has the right to roam along the countryside, including farms. The “freedom to roam” is the public’s right to access public or privately owned land for recreation. This doesn’t include houses, gardens, or military bases, so don’t go squatting on someone’s porch, but it does allow people to enjoy the land and inland water for their own well being. The only stipulation is that you must do so responsibly and safely.
So, mind the sheep and close the gate!
Cloudy With a Chance of Sun
Despite what you may see in countless photos and videos (we’re guilty) Scotland has some notorious weather. Expect clouds, rain, wind, sideways rain, fog, and the occasional sun. If you’re coming to Scotland for a suntan you may want to rebook your flights. It’s best you come prepared with at least a rain jacket and waterproof boots.
Forget the umbrella! Wind + Umbrella = Not Good If you want to know more we’ve got a packing post for Scotland!
There is a serious amount of Scottish pride these days. With a rich culture and the Scottish flag flying just about everywhere it’s impossible not to get into the Scottish mood.
Forget Fish & Chips
The Atlantic Ocean supplies a copious amount of amazing seafood to Scotland. Fish and chips may a be a classic dish, but there is a lot more to food in Scotland these days than a fried piece of cod. Look for amazing smoked salmon, fresh oysters, langoustine, trout, scallops, and even sea urchin. We had some amazing meals on our Scotland trip. You can check out the best of our Scottish food here.
Beware the Midges
If there is one terrible, terrible, terrible thing about Scotland it is the bloody midges – and the Scots will agree! We’ve dealt with a lot of insects in our travels, but none as bad as midges (and yes that includes our year in Africa). They are tiny flying insects that are attracted to your nose, eyes, mouth, and every exposed piece of skin. Oh, and they fly in swarms and they bite. If you run across a patch of these flying demons you will know it. The best defense is some bug spray and clothes that cover your skin. We did see some photographers with these things that might be a worth while investment… We didn’t know if we should laugh or applaud them.
Aye Lassie and Lads
Loch, hill, ben, and glen are just a few names you’ll need to learn when you travel to Scotland. These aren’t names of people, but various natural features you’ll find throughout the country. Lochs are what the rest of the English speaking world refers to as lakes. Hill or Ben can refer to a mountain, and glen means valley. Also, I’m convinced all pirate talk in movies is just a bunch of Scots. Aye, lassie!
There are a Few Narrow Roads
Wondering how to travel in Scotland? Well one of the best ways is to drive yourself! If you plan to drive through the Scottish Highlands or the North Coat 500 be prepared for some single track roads. The vast majority of roads in Scotland are one lane with small passing area to allow to oncoming cars to pass.
These passing points are roughly every 400 meters or so to let oncoming traffic get through. The car closest to a passing point should be the one to yield. That does not mean crossing the path of another vehicle into the passing point. If the passing place is on your side of the road you move over, if it is on their side you wait for them to approach you.
and just a few shaggy cows and black sheep
There are more sheep in the Scottish Highlands than there are people. In other words there are a lot of sheep, like a ton, Scotland thank you for supplying the world with wool.
They also gave us an animal with probably the best hairdo in the world. The Highland Cow, ‘ighland coo’, shaggy cow, or kyloe. If you’re traveling Scotland spotting one of these iconic animals is an absolute must.
Plan a Trip to Scotland!
We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of our preferred partners below:
- Stay: We stayed in a few Airbnbs throughout Scotland and loved our time in them. Read more about choosing a good Airbnb here. Here is a coupon for your first stay with Airbnb!
- Travel Insurance: You never know what can happen abroad, and that’s why we always travel with travel insurance with World Nomads. Their plans are flexible and affordable.
- Rent a car: We found renting a car the best way to travel in Scotland. Compare car rental prices here.
- Internet: If you want to stay connected while in Scotland I would recommend picking up a Sim card and purchasing data when you arrive. We personally purchased 12 GB of data for £20 with Three. Their coverage extended into patches of the highlands and allowed us to at the very least check our emails, Instagram, and Facebook each day. Other comparable telecom companies in the UK include O2 and Vodafone.
- Water: We found the tap water in Scotland fine to drink, if you want extra assurance then we love traveling with our Lifestraw Go Waterbottle.
- Adapter: Remember that Scotland uses the three-prong British plug. Make sure you have one for visiting!
- Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet’s Scottish Highlands.