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Scotland Travel Guide

Craigievar Castle Scotland, AdventuresUK
Craigievar Castle Adventures

“Wherever I wander, wherever I rove, the hills of the Highlands forever I love.”

robert burns
Scotland

Top Five Destinations In Scotland

  1. 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 the Medieval Old Town and the Neoclassical New Town, which are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Royal Mile of Edinburgh is the most iconic part of the city.
  2. Whisky Trail Scotland is famous for its whisky, and once you taste it, you will discover why. There are many various whisky trails to chose 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 even the smell of whisky. It is a joy for all the senses with fascinating scenery along your path. Might find a whole lot of castles along this path too!
  3. The Isle of Skye Is known for its dramatic landscape and home to some of the most iconic scenes in all of 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 for a longer visit.
  4. Scottish Highlands Covers the largest region in Scotland, taking up over 10,000 sq miles. The Highlands is a lush mountainous region covering the northwest of Scotland, with Loch Ness at the center. Britain’s most northern city, Inverness, is the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. Inverness is a good 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.
  5. 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?

Scotland Stats

  • 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
  • US 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 in 1603 was given England’s throne.
  • 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 originating 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 81 years old.
  • Literacy rate 99%.

Funs facts

  • 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 are used to 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 actually 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 and 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.

Scotland Map

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 not a 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 if you want to see what this gorgeous country has to offer. If you’re going to explore all that bonnie 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, 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 is a country 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 especially 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.
  • If you want to start a conversation, make some 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. PDA’s are also frowned upon.
  • The Scots are proud people who never make remarks against Scottish people. Also, beware of speaking about the Brits, and there remains some tension there.
  • 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 used at all times, even when eating pizza, fruit, and hard-to-cut items like chicken. Keep both hands visible at all times, 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 over time we grew to enjoy it.
  • The Scottish traditional breakfast includes Haggis, Lorne sausage, baked beans, tattie scones, poached egg, sauteed mushrooms, half a tomato, toast, and English tea. Though Black pudding is traditionally from England (not a dessert, a mix of pork blood and various cereals), it can also be found on Scotland breakfast plates.
  • It is best not to ask to take home food as leftovers. This is is seen as a social standing issue.
  • When someone asks you to pass them something, place it down next to them. 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’s 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 the wind drops. In severe cases, you may even need a head net!
  • In Scotland, they have an old proverb that goes, ‘today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky.’
  • It is a very safe country. Violent crime is rare but take normal precautions in the cities.

Scotland Essential Info

US Consular Emergency
The 24-hour number from a US Phone 1-888-407-4747
Outside of US 011-202-501-4444


US Consulate General Edinburgh
3 Regent Terrace,
Edinburgh EH7 5BW
Scotland
Telephone: 013-1556-8315 / from the United States: 011 (44) (13) 1556-8315
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 020-7499-9000 / from the United States: 011 (44) (20) 7499-9000
Fax: 0131-557-6023 / from the United States: 011 (44) 131-557-6023
Email: Edinburgh-Info@state.gov

Emergency Numbers
GENERAL 999 or 112

Country Code
+44

Time Zone
UTC

Driving
Left side

Adaptors
Type G Plug adaptor
230 Volt

Tourism Office
www.visitscotland.com

When to Travel Scotland

Scotland has incredibly changeable weather. The Scots like to say that you can experience all four seasons in one day, that is very 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 major tourist destination. Summers are perfect weather-wise but also can be expensive and full of crowds. Spring and Fall’s shoulder seasons are wonderful, the weather is still good, and the crowds are less. Winter can be cold and blustery with short days. Visiting the countryside is not 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 their water of life, wander vibrant Glasgow or historic Edinburg, 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’s 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, together with his independent travel philosophy, matches 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

1. Scotland tourism site

2. US 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 US Federal Government addressing the safety, security, travel risk, entry, exit, visa documents mandates, emergency US 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, booking info, along with accommodation providers and things to do. Find 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 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

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