When you picture Scotland, you might think of a nation of warriors and independent-minded people, and you`d be right. As a result of many wars, Scotland became heavily fortified, and over 2,000 castles were built in the last thousand years. Edinburgh Castle is the most-visited, and hundreds more are open to visitors across the country. Due to this resilient tradition, the Scottish Gaelic culture and language are fiercely protected and prized, and you can see that in everything from summer festivals to the Highland Games to folk music (best enjoyed with a pint at one of Scotland`s many pubs). You can learn more about the Scottish way of life through the centuries at the numerous rural history museums scattered throughout the country.
Scotland is a beautiful country and it is well-known not just for its great hiking opportunities, but also for mountain biking, boating, and winter sports such as skiing. If you like beaches, Scotland has so many breathtaking stretches of coastline, with the majority of them located on the west coast. It`s also great to simply experience the geographic splendor around you, to be one with nature, perhaps on a windy cliffside or under a gorgeous waterfall. You can find great scenery on the mainland and on the islands such as the Hebrides, Orkneys, and Shetlands. No trip to Scotland would be complete without shopping -- authentic Scottish-made goods can be purchased in various shops throughout the country, but if it`s luxury goods you`re after, go to the High Streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The central corridor is the most densely-populated part of Scotland, and it is the most popular with tourists as well. On the western end you have Glasgow, located on the River Clyde. On the eastern end, there is Edinburgh, situated south of the Firth of Forth. The cities and towns of Central Scotland and The Lothians must be explored if you have extra days in the area; we definitely recommend Perth, Stirling, and Loch Lomond, just for starters!
Another area popular with tourists is the Scottish Highlands, known for its strong Gaelic cultural traditions, and its natural beauty, where mountains cascade down to lochs (lakes) and valleys. The capital is Inverness, with its beautiful historic center; after setting aside time to explore Inverness, tourists typically visit such sights in the Highlands as the Cairngorm Mountains, Loch Ness, Fort William, and Ullapool, among other locales.
While you are in the Highlands, consider exploring further afield and visiting the beautiful cities of Aberdeen and Dundee, or perhaps a day trip to the Isle of Skye, in the Inner Hebrides just off the northwestern coast near Kyle of Lochalsh. If you are en route to England at the end of your Scotland adventure and traveling by car, consider driving through Southern Scotland, where the picturesque Scottish Border region and Dumfries and Galloway are located.
Scotland is a country of bonnie (great) natural beauty. The best time to visit Scotland is during the shoulder season, when the weather is cooler (but not too cold), many hotels offer discounted rates, and lines at attractions are smaller. This season happens between the middle of March and early June, as well as the month of October. The high season begins in June and continues through September. From November through early March, Scotland enters the low season, and it can become quite cold; snow is not uncommon.
Its weather pattern tends to be wetter in the west than in the east. The west sees an average of 265 days of rain per year, while the eastern coast only sees about 165 days of rain per year. Temperatures tend to stay within the same five-degree temperature range in the south of the country, while the north is a few degrees colder. Temperatures reach their peak in the summer months when highs are in the 60s and 70s throughout the country. The Shetland Islands, and to a lesser extent the Hebrides and the Orkneys, are regulated by the Atlantic trade winds and are cool year-round but not as cold as the mainland at night. For more information, check out: Best Time to Visit Scotland.
We recommend 7-10 days based on what you want to see and do. We offer flexible vacation packages so you can select your number of nights in each city, desired hotel and activities. We suggest a minimum of 3 nights in larger cities.
Scotland, like the rest of the United Kingdom, has a heavily developed infrastructure, with thousands of miles of roads and rail lines combined. Ease of travel and access is the same as in the United States, if not a little bit easier! You can either drive or travel by train to different parts of Scotland. Ferries are important as well and connect the mainland with the islands just offshore.
By Car: Driving is a great way to experience Scotland, especially if you have time to spare to explore the breathtaking countryside. Distances between cities can be long by UK standards, but even in the Highlands you shouldn`t drive a couple of hours without at least passing through a handful of villages. It is 41 miles between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and since it is the most densely-populated part of Scotland, perhaps it is best to utilize the trains in this part of the country, and to leave your driving for areas to the south and north. For more information on getting around by car, check out: Driving in Scotland.
By Train: Traveling by train is a great way to see all corners of Scotland. Scotland`s train service is administered by Transport Scotland and ScotRail. ScotRail trains connect all portions of the country, up to the northern Highland towns of Thurso and Wick, and down past Glasgow and Edinburgh into southern Scotland, where service is sparser. Main passenger and daily commuter train lines connect the heavily-populated inner corridor between Glasgow and Edinburgh. ScotRail lines work in conjunction with National Rail to connect Scotland with England via two train lines, the West Coast Route from Glasgow Queen Street Station to London via Carlisle and Preston, and the East Coast Route from Edinburgh Waverley Station to York and London via Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
By Ferry: Ferries connect the mainland with the Hebrides off the coast of northwestern Scotland, and to the Orkney Islands off the northeastern coast. There are also a handful of routes that connect the islands of the Hebrides with one another. Ferries leave from Oban, Mallaig, and Ullapool to the various islands in the Hebrides; there are also ferries running between Scrabster (west of Thurso) to Stromness in the Orkney Islands. There is a bus that runs from Thurso train station to the ferry port in Scrabster. Buses also connect Inverness to Ullapool and Kyle of Lochalsh to Uig on the Isle of Skye. (The Skye Bridge is the biggest land connection from the mainland to the Hebrides.)
Scotland, like the other constituent nations of the United Kingdom, uses the pound sterling (£). Both Scotland and England print their own pound notes; they are both legal tender in Scotland. US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for pounds upon arrival. As mentioned before, there is no need to exchange your English pounds for Scottish pound notes upon arriving in Scotland. Currency exchange desks can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the country. For more detailed information, consult our guide by clicking here Tipping in the United Kingdom.