“Wherever I wander, wherever I rove, the hills of the Highlands forever I love.”robert burns
Top Five Destinations In Scotland
- Edinburg Is located on the Firth of Forth. This incredible ancient city set among crags and hills and spires of dark stone is Scotland’s capital and the seat of Parliament since the 15th century. This beautiful city is renowned worldwide for its history, spectacular architecture, majestic castle sitting upon an old volcano, and cultural attractions. This is often referred to as the intellectual heart of Scotland with its many prestigious universities. Wander in fascination in the Medieval Old Town, and the Neoclassical New Town designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Royal Mile of Edinburgh is the most iconic part of the city.
- Whisky Trail Scotland is famous for its whisky; once you taste it, you will discover why. There are many various whisky trails to choose from, such as the Highlands, Orkney, Aberdeen, The Isles of Islay, and Jura, to name a few; each region is a unique setting. As you travel to the various distilleries on these trails, you will learn how they use water, barley, yeast, and peat to create the distinctive taste, texture, color, and smell of whisky. It is a joy for all the senses with fascinating scenery along your path. You might find a whole lot of castles along this path too!
- The Isle of Skye Is known for its dramatic landscape and is home to some of the most iconic scenes in Scotland. Enter this 50-mile-long island via the Skye bridge, and you are welcomed to an enchanting wonder that will be love at first sight. This island, with its mountainous setting, dramatic coastline, Medieval castles, incredible hiking and scenic walks, and captivating history, will have you wish you had planned a longer visit.
- Scottish Highlands Covers the largest region in Scotland, taking up over 10,000 sq miles. The Highlands is a lush mountainous region covering northwest Scotland, with Loch Ness at the center. Britain’s most northern city, Inverness, is the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. Inverness is an excellent place to visit in Scotland if you like to hike or take lovely country walks. Stroll along the River Ness to the Ness Islands, stop by the many Churches along the river, wander Old Town with its old stone buildings, shop the Victorian market, and gaze at magnificent 19th-century Inverness Castle.
- Glasgow Is the largest city in Scotland on the River Clyde; vibrant and modern Glasgow dates back to prehistoric times. The largest seaport in Britain will find historic medieval buildings such as the Glasgow Cathedral and the old Antonine Wall, Scotland’s richest cultural attractions, fantastic museums, and a shopping paradise. Known for its music – the city hosts 130 musical events on average per week.
Did you know?
- Population: 5,463,000 million
- Capital City: Edinburgh
- Currency: British pound or Pound Sterling
- Government type: Devolved Parliamentary Legislature within a Constitutional Monarchy
- Monarch Queen Elizabeth II
- Prime Minister: Boris Johnson
- Ethnic groups: 96.0% White, 2.7% Asian, 0.7% Black 0.4% Mixed, 0.2% Arab
- Languages: English, Scots, Scottish Gaelic
- Religions: 32.4% Church of Scotland, 15.9% Roman Catholic, 5.5% Other Christian, 1.4% Islam
- U.S. State Department Risk Level: # due to Covid
- Terrorist groups: Scottish National Liberation Army (SNLA).
- The official name Scotland, Alba
- GDP $167 billion.
- Scotland was an independent country until the 15th century. The country merged to form Great Britain when the King of Scotland was given England’s throne in 1603.
- The National of Scotland is St Andrews Day on November 30th.
- Scotland’s national instrument is the Great Highland bagpipe.
- The National symbol of Scotland is the thistle plant.
- The National Animal of Scotland is the unicorn.
- The Patron Saint of Scotland is Saint Andrew.
- Scotland has more than 800 offshore islands of its own.
- Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain tine the British Isles at over 4000 feet.
- Inventions from Scotland include linoleum, world-first brigade, golf, color photograph, pedal bike, penicillin, ATM, CHIP and PIN system, decimal point, ultrasound, telephone, television, tarmac, anesthesia, and steam engine.
- Major industries of Scotland include banking and financial services, oil and gas, whisky, tourism, biotechnology, education, transportation equipment, and entertainment.
- Life expectancy is 81 years old.
- Literacy rate 99%.
- The Loch Ness Monster is known as mythical folklore in Scotland, but many prominent people reportedly sighted it over several centuries.
- The Scottish Kilt represents Scotland. Made of tartan is traditionally woven from wool, dyes produce a diverse range of colors, which are made into distinct patterns to signify the wearer’s Clan.
- The Encyclopedia Britannica originated in Scotland.
- The Clan was a traditional social unit in early Scotland, especially in the Scottish Highlands.
- Scotland is home to the world’s shortest commercial passenger flight. The flight runs between Westray and Papa Westray, which are only 1.7 miles apart. The flight is only 2 minutes long!
- Sir Alexander Fleming is credited with the discovery of penicillin. It has saved millions of lives, and he was awarded The Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945.
- Edinburgh Castle was built on top of a 700 million-year-old volcano, which is extinct.
- There are around 300 castles in Scotland. That is about one castle for every 100 square miles.
- Scotland has one of the highest percentages of red-haired people in the world.
- Glasgow was once known as the world’s music capital and had the Britannia Panopticon, the oldest surviving music hall globally.
- At its peak in the 1900s, Glasgow’s shipbuilding industry manufactured one-fifth of the world’s ships.
- The Patron Saint of Scotland is Saint Andrew.
- Scotland loves its mythical creatures. The local folklore is full of elves, wizards, spirits, fairies, ghosts, monsters, mythical beasts, creatures, giants, etc.
- Whisky in the local Gaelic language is translated as the “water of life.”
- The North Sea off Scotland has the European Union’s biggest oil resources.
- Robert Burns is recognized as Scotland’s national poet. He wrote in Scots English, one of the three languages of Scotland.
Good to know before you go
- Tipping is not mandatory in Scotland, and Scots would never tip at a pub. It is customary to tip 10% in restaurants. As always, check to verify there is no service charge on the bill. Hotels don’t usually expect tips, but if you get exceptional service, they appreciate it. It is not expected for taxis and car services, but you can round up.
- Stores accept credit cards everywhere. Cash, though, for smaller purchases or at markets is preferable.
- Scotland has many excellent highways but also very rustic narrow country roads. Be ready for everything. Weather can play havoc with some driving conditions; it is windy and raining a lot. Speed limits are not always posted. There are no toll roads or bridges. Scotland has “national speed limits” for different types of roads. Scots are easy-going drivers as a whole.
- Driving in Scotland is essential to see what this gorgeous country offers. If you’re going to explore all that beautiful Scotland has to offer, the best way to go is a road trip. You will find some of the most epic sites and scenery down remote roads, far away from any bus or train station. That could mean dodging free-range sheep, driving two-way roads only meant for one way, and negotiating roundabouts on the “wrong” side of the road. We thought one of the biggest hazards was keeping our eyes on the road when coming across so much breathtaking scenery.
- Overall, clothing is casual. This country is known for rapidly changing weather, and it can get cold quickly, even in the summer. Dress in layers and for comfort. It often rains, too, so plan accordingly. Umbrellas can be problematic as Scotland can be very windy.
- The Scots are kind, friendly people who are exceptionally polite. Be polite back. If you meet someone’s eye in passing, say aye with a nod and a smile.
- When greeting someone, shakes hand briefly and hold eye contact. Always say please and thank you. The Scottish may become offended if you do not have good manners. This includes saying apologizing if you bump into someone.
- To start a conversation, make casual observations about the weather or travel spots. They are relatively indirect people; being blunt is seen as rude. Please do not complain about anything; culturally, they believe in the philosophy of grin and bear it.
- Scots like their personal space; the more, the better. People prefer to keep about 2-3 feet apart while speaking. PDAs are also frowned upon.
- The Scots are proud people who never make remarks against Scottish people. Also, beware of speaking about the Brits; there remains some tension.
- Scots are well known to be very opinionated people. Avoid talking about sports, politics, or religion. You land up in a passionate argument that you won’t likely win. Stick to small talk.
- Scots are an independent lot. They have a long history of culture and traditions, very much their own. Take great care never to call a Scottish person “English”; they consider it insulting and reveals your ignorance.
- Scots take standing in lines seriously; please wait your turn.
- In Scotland, they rarely eat with their hands, except when eating sandwiches or hot dogs. Forks and knives are always used, even when eating pizza, fruit, and hard-to-cut items like chicken. Keep both hands visible, even when you are done eating.
- To love Scotland’s national dish, the infamous Haggis is for those of us who have a palate for adventure. Haggis is made with sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs; then, it boils in the animal’s stomach. We had it for breakfast every day, and we grew to enjoy it over time.
- The traditional Scottish breakfast includes Haggis, Lorne sausage, baked beans, tattie scones, poached egg, sauteed mushrooms, half a tomato, toast, and English tea. Black pudding is traditionally from England (not a dessert, a mix of pork blood and various cereals), but it can also be found on Scotland breakfast plates.
- It is best not to ask to take home food as leftovers. This is seen as a social-standing issue.
- Place it next to them when someone asks you to pass them something. Handing it directly, they believe, will bring them bad luck.
- There is rarely table service at pubs; order food at the bar. Pay for both and drinks at the time your order them.
- It is customary to buy a round in return, referred to as standing your round. Purchase the next round before finishing the previous round.
- If you are lucky enough to be invited to someone’s house, always come bearing a gift. This can be a bottle of whiskey, wine, flowers, or chocolates.
- If traveling to the Highlands, bring bug spray! Midges, or “midgies,” as the Scots call them, can be quite a problem. These tiny biting flies are also referred to as “no-see-ums.” A cloud of them will appear suddenly as the wind drops. In severe cases, you may even need a head net!
- They have an old proverb in Scotland, ‘today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky.’
- It is a very safe country. Violent crime is rare but take normal precautions in the cities.
When to Travel Scotland
Scotland has incredibly changeable weather. The Scots say you can experience all four seasons in one day, which is true, even in the summer. Sunshine can turn into the pouring rain in a moment, and warm temperatures can quickly turn cold. Prepare yourself by dressing in layers, even in summer. You may want to carry a raincoat and wear waterproof shoes. And forget about umbrellas most of the time as they are windy land.
Scotland is a significant tourist destination. Summers are perfect weather-wise but also can be expensive and full of crowds. Spring and Fall’s shoulder seasons are lovely, the weather is still good, and the crowds are less. Winter can be cold and windy with short days. Visiting the countryside is not the best as it’s windier, but the cities are nice. If the weather doesn’t hold you back, it could bring low prices and minimal crowds in any area.
- Summer 59-63 °F (15-17 °C)
- Spring 45-55 °F (7-13 °C)
- Fall 46-57 °F (8-17 °C)
- Winter 32-41 °F (0-5 °C)
Our Favorite Scotland Resources
This resource section contains some Amazon affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
Scotland Travel Books/Guides
The guides and tools below helped build that excitement and made for the perfect trip. Scotland was part of our British Isles and Ireland trip. There is never enough time to do Scotland justice. It’s beauty, and people will capture every corner of your soul. Making every moment count is essential. The resources below served us well.
Lonely Planet’s Scotland (Country Guide) by Lonely Planet
A passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice that all Scotland has to offer and what hidden discoveries await you. Sip the Whisky and the water of life, wander vibrant Glasgow or historic Edinburg, and visit stupendous castles and incredible coastlines in a local pub. Let this beautifully illustrated guide be your travel partner. Great photography and lots of details to aid in planning. Discover this Scotland travel guide here.
Rick Steves Scotland by Rick Steves
Full disclosure, we are huge Rick Steve fans; it will be rare not to recommend one of his wonderful guides. It is obvious his love for Scotland, and he provides wonderful guidance. We love his travel style and perspective. His off-the-beaten-path approach and his independent travel philosophy match well with how we travel. The guides never disappoint. This book made the cut into our suitcase and was a fantastic resource. Find this must-have Scotland travel guide here.
Our favorite websites
2. U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Scotland Country Info
We cannot encourage you enough to visit this website as you plan and prepare for your trip. This is the U.S. Federal Government addressing the safety, security, travel risk, entry, exit, visa documents mandates, emergency U.S. and Embassy contacts, health, local laws, special circumstances, threats, traveler vulnerabilities, government warnings, and transportation in Scotland. This is your best and most reliable resource for all this important info. Check back often before you go, as things can change quickly. Being prepared is essential in all travel, but especially internationally.
Scotland International Travel Information (state.gov)
3. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers Health Resource
This CDC travel resource provides essential health info for your specific destination. Using their tool, you can determine which vaccines, medications, and health advice recommendations are needed for Scotland.
CDC’s Travelers Health Page for Scotland
Our favorite maps
Scotland National Geographic Adventure Map 3326
Easy-to-read maps with practical road and travel information. These maps are meant for the adventure traveler. Major sites and landmarks are well-marked. Mapped road network with distances and designations for major highways to the off-the-beaten-path roads. Waterproof and tear resisted it holds up well. Great for planning your route before your trip. Though we default to Google maps, this came in handy when service was poor or during construction detours. Find this essential Scotland travel map here.
Our favorite apps
Rome2rio: Trip Planner Trip and Holiday Organizer Enter any address, landmark, or city in the app will instantly display all your travel options, and booking info, along with accommodation providers and things to do. Find it on your local app store.
Rick Steves Audio Europe This app includes a vast library of Rick Steve’s audio content. Get cultural and travel info. Includes self-guided tours of top attractions and historic walks. A must-have. Find it on your local app store.
Scotland Best: Travel Guide Highlights and trip itineraries. Though we did not personally use this, friends have recommended it. Find it at your app store.
Do you have a favorite Scotland travel resource? Share your favorites in the comments section at the bottom of this page or
Our Scotland Posts
12 Best Things to Do on the Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Edinburgh Castle: The Crown of Edinburgh
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Our Scotland Travel Gallery
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Our Recommended Travel Resources
Our favorite travel insurance site!
If you are booking a trip, don’t forget to get travel insurance within 14 days of your first booking. We could not be stronger advocates of being well-insured. Not just for the little stuff but the big stuff like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Over the years, we have used many sites but have now found our go-to place. Squaremouth.com does a fantastic job; it has a user-friendly interface, they use top-rated and reputable insurance carriers, and most policies cover Covid medical issues and cancellations. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems with your policy.
To empower you as a consumer, we suggest you read our blog post on the importance of travel insurance and how to get the best coverage from top-rated companies for an affordable price.
Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world
They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the U.S. to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. They cover Covid-related transports as well.
Medjet carries its own policies. The policy is only for transport and no other aspects of travel insurance. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for around $300. Most of their policies limit the age to 74 and younger. Prices are not based on age below that.
To learn more about how Medical Evacuation membership with Medjet Assist works, check out our blog post for a more detailed review.
Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours
Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Whether planning a family vacation, booking for business, or organizing the trip of a lifetime, they are a fantastic resource. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you would need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, and cruises, to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.
Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours
Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes.
We always start with Expedia to check prices, but it sometimes says it is sold out. We then try Booking.com, and we find it lists plenty of rooms. It could be they are a Europe-based company. Try both before booking accommodations.
Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO)
Are you traveling with a family or having an extended stay at your destination?
With over 2 million bookable vacation rentals, VRBO connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip. The VRBO community offers families or groups various rental property types such as condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, etc.
VRBO is under the Expedia group ownership now, which many were worried about, but it hasn’t panned out to be a concern. It is a massive network that has access to all forms of lodging should issues arise. Joelle has used VRBO for many years with her family with no problems.
As the leading marketplace for travel experiences, Viator believes that making memories is what travel is all about. And with 300,000+ experiences to explore—everything from simple tours to extreme adventures (and all the niche, interesting stuff in between)—making memories that will last a lifetime has never been easier.
With industry-leading flexibility and last-minute availability, it’s never too late to make any day extraordinary. This one site has it all and has experiences throughout the world. We use them often during our travels, especially for food tours. We especially take the time to read the reviews provided.
Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travelers, from planning to booking to taking a trip. Travelers worldwide use the Tripadvisor site and App to discover where to stay, what to do, and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.
With more than 1 billion reviews and opinions from nearly 8 million businesses, travelers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodations, book experiences, reserve tables at popular restaurants, and discover great places to see nearby. We use them for guidance and research on every trip; it is a valuable app for the independent traveler.
(Airport and sightseeing service)
A global leader in ground transportation for travelers. They help hundreds of companies around the world enhance their services and boost their revenue with our 5-star ride experiences and hassle-free automation
Founded in 2015 in Athens, Greece, Welcome Pick-ups goes above and beyond the standard transfer service as the first company to deliver a holistic, in-destination travel experience. From the moment a traveler arrives at a new destination until they return home, Welcome accommodates all their travel needs (transfers, travel products, things to do, information) as the easiest, friendliest, and most personalized solution.
Discover Europe by Train
Rail Europe sells train and bus tickets for travel across Europe. They cover 24 countries, 105 rail operations, and 20,000 stations. They are the official rail and bus operations agents in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Rail Europe continues to add coverage all the time.
It is a fast, easy, and economical way to purchase European train and bus tickets. Eurail passes are also available to buy through their site.
An excellent source for travel essentials and guides
We now have our own Amazon Storefront with all our favorite travel accessories and gear in one place. Check out our travel store at the link below.
Amazon is one of the most comprehensive online shopping sources in the world. On behalf of their customers, teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery. They offer a vast inventory, and their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com provide extensive options to customers.
We buy most of our travel books, accessories, and luggage from Amazon. We have ordered up to two days before travel and get what we need.
Thoughtfully Designed | Meticulously Constructed | Quality Guaranteed.
We have used this luggage for years, left briefly to try others, and returned to Travelpro. Travelpro luggage is carried by crews from over 90 airlines worldwide.
Travelpro takes the time to learn what travelers want and need, then builds it. The key factor for us is that it must be lightweight upfront and resistant to rough handling. Their luggage is the best, and we could not recommend it enough. It is our go-to luggage.
This article contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
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