Scotland is one of the most wildly romantic countries in the world, and it also happens to be the country I call home. There’s lots to love here: bagpipes, highland dancing, tartan, the Scottish Highlands, haggis, Irn Bru, the accent, and of course, kilts!
This Scotland travel guide is filled with all the basic information you need to know about Scotland before planning your trip. You’ll also find links to some of my most comprehensive guides, so make sure you read all of these too and you’ll be a planning pro in no time!
Just quickly, if you want to save yourself weeks and weeks of time researching Scotland, I created the Ultimate Scotland Planning bundle which will walk you through planning your trip step-by-step. It also includes an ebook The Beginners Guide To Planning A Trip To Scotland and 7 travel guides for the main destinations in Scotland which list all the must-sees.
It’s an absolute bargain at just $27!
Scotland Cheat Sheet
Population: 5.4 million
Size: 77,910 km²
Language: Scotland has three official languages: English, Gaelic and Scots. Gaelic and Scots are minority languages, while English is spoken throughout the country. You’ll most likely hear Gaelic spoken in the Outer Hebrides.
Currency: Pound Stirling [GBP]. Scotland accepts debit and Visa/Mastercard at most places and contactless payments are available. Carry cash, especially in the smaller towns where they may not accept card payments. I recommend carrying £100-£200 (a mixture of notes and coins).
Climate: There is a saying in Scotland: if you don’t like the weather, just wait half an hour! The weather here is changeable, so packing layers is recommended. If you’re wondering if it rains all the time in Scotland, I recommend reading this article.
Best time to visit: Personally I think April/May [spring] or September/October [autumn] are the best months to visit Scotland. The weather is nice, the colours are beautiful and there are less tourists around.
How to plan a trip to Scotland
What to pack for a trip to Scotland
Accommodation in Scotland
I’ve stayed in some unique accommodations all around Scotland. There is a large variety of accommodation available- from bothies to castles, glamping to camping- there really is something to suit all tastes and budgets.
When looking for accommodation in Scotland I use Booking.com. Once I find a place I’m happy with, I’ll also compare prices by booking directly to see which has the most flexible cancellation policy and the best price.
For camping/glamping and quirky accommodation, I use Canopy & Stars. For castles, cottages, and traditional Scottish accommodation, I also search Cottages and Castles. I also use Airbnb to search for quirky accommodations, self-catering accommodations, or accommodations for large groups.
There are four main ways to travel throughout Scotland: by car, bus, train, and by ferry.
For car hire, I use Auto Europe, a car rental comparison site (similar to Skyscanner). I have my own car in Scotland, however, I used Auto Europe to hire a car on my recent trip to Ireland and they were fantastic. I was able to secure a great rate that included insurance, so all I had to do was pick up my car from the airport when I arrived.
Travelling by train is my second favourite way to get around Scotland.
Scotrail is the main railway in Scotland. Their website is very useful for researching train routes and prices.
For travel within the UK, I recommend first looking at Megabus. They have some fantastic fares- some for just £1!
Stagecoach is another popular bus company in Scotland.
For ferries to the islands, Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac for short) is the major operator in Scotland. They also cater for vehicles and motorhomes. Check out their website for prices and special deals.
Scotland also has its own regional airline Loganair. It can be useful for planning trips to some of the more distant islands in Scotland if you do not wish to drive and catch the ferry.
How to travel Scotland on a budget
How to spend 10 days in Scotland
Top 10 Must-Sees
There are SO many things to do in Scotland, but I won’t overwhelm you. Here are the top 10 attractions and things to do in Scotland.
1. Edinburgh Castle – Visit Scotland’s most popular castle [tip: book your tickets online here– it’s cheaper!]
2. Ride the Jacobite Steam Train – Ride the famous ”Harry Potter train” through the highlands.
3. Underground Vaults in Edinburgh – Explore Scotland’s haunted history in this amazing tour in Edinburgh.
4. Visit a whisky distillery – Learn how to taste Scottish whisky properly!
5. Visit the highlands – An absolute must-do when you visit Scotland.
6. Stirling Castle – Visit Scotland’s most sought after castle.
7. Visit an island– Try my Isle of Skye itinerary!
8. Drive the North Coast 500 – Explore Scotland’s version of Route 66.
9. Go hiking – Explore my Scotland hiking guides for inspiration.
10. Go to a traditional Scottish pub – Check out my blog post on my favourite Scottish pubs!
Places I’ve been in Scotland
Have you watched my Secrets of Scotland YouTube series? Click here to watch season 1 and feel inspired for your trip to Scotland!
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