Getting there

British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair all offer regional daily flights to Scotland’s major cities from the rest of the UK. Average flight times vary from 45 minutes to 2 hours. The train is also an easy and affordable way to travel to Scotland. There are multiple fast and direct services to Edinburgh and Glasgow from London, as well as other cities including Manchester, Bristol, York and Newcastle, where you can change trains to reach other destinations. Alternatively, the Caledonian Sleeper is an enjoyable experience on an overnight train from London to either Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness or Fort William. If taking a self-drive holiday whilst in Scotland, the easiest option is to drive up to Scotland in the comfort of your own car.

Time zone

Scotland follows GMT. 

Visa requirements

British citizens do not require a visa for travel to Scotland.

Do’s and don’ts

Try to avoid cheap souvenir shops that sell imported goods at a low price. Instead try to ‘buy local’ and support small Scottish businesses.

When ordering whisky at a bar, make sure you order a dram, not a shot. A dram should be appreciated, sipped and savoured. Ask the bartender for good recommendations on local whisky.

Ensure you have packed a waterproof coat and layers. Even in the summer, Scotland still receives a lot of rain and the temperature can be cool, especially in the evening, so ensure you are prepared for this.

Like the rest of the UK, manners and politeness is very important. Scots are known for their friendliness and appreciate good manners and eye contact.

When visiting Scotland’s busy cities keep your eyes peeled to reveal hidden gems. Edinburgh is home to spectacular castle views, mysterious alleys and varying styles of architecture whereas Glasgow is known for its elusive street art.

Money

The local currency in Scotland is the Pound Sterling. Both cash and card payment, both chip and pin and contactless, are commonly accepted throughout the country in line with the rest of the UK. ATMs are reliable and commonplace throughout Scotland.

Tipping

Tipping in Scotland isn’t expected and is left to your discretion and should, of course, be based on the satisfaction of the services you receive. There is no set rule for tipping in Scotland, but 10% for good service in hospitality is appreciated. In some restaurants service charge is added to your bill automatically so ensure you check this. Tips in cash are preferred.

Food and drink

Often referred to as a ‘natural larder’, Scotland is home to lush rolling hills, fresh mountain waters, fertile soil and the Atlantic Ocean, all of which contribute to the country’s high quality, fresh and seasonal produce. Haggis is the national dish. This savoury meat dish, often served with neeps, tatties and whisky sauce, is a must-try when in Scotland. Scotland is also renowned for its exquisite seafood boasting some of the world’s best wild salmon and trout, hand-dived scallops, lobster, oysters and delicacies such as Arbroath Smokies and Scottish smoked salmon. Scotland also source over two thirds of the world’s langoustines. Other delicious ingredients and dishes to sample include Aberdeen Angus beef, Stornoway black pudding, Cranachan, tablet and of course, shortbread.

Scotland’s most famous delicacy and biggest export, however, is its national drink – whisky. With over 120 distilleries throughout the country, it is highly recommended to visit at least one of these to enjoy a distillery tour and tasting experience. Scotland is divided into five whisky-producing regions and depending where the whisky is made, has a huge bearing on its flavour with factors ranging from the source of its water to the presence of the peat in the local area. Scotland is also home to some of the UK’s best gin distilleries and craft breweries.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

With such a proud culture and rich heritage, the Scottish calendar is packed with events and festivities throughout the year ranging from the lively New Year celebrations of Hogmanay to the Viking themed fire festival, Up Helly Aa. Perhaps one of the best known celebrations in Scotland is Burns Night. Traditional suppers and poetry readings take place all over the country in celebration of the poet Robert Burns on or around his birthday, the 25th January. During the summer, Edinburgh is home to some of the country’s most famous and colourful festivals. The Edinburgh Fringe, International Festival and Art Festival see an incredible array of music, comedy, theatre, art dance, opera, exhibitions, circus and cabaret throughout the city’s best open and indoor venues. For something more traditional, visit during the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August which includes a spectacular show of pipers, military bands and dancers set against the mesmerising castle. The Highlands and Islands also enjoy their fair share of festivities including the Shetland Folk Festival, Orkney Nature Festival, the coveted Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival and of course, the Highland Games. Running from May until September in various locations, the world famous Highland Games sees cabers being tossed, weights being thrown, bagpipes played and traditional dancing all set against an enchanting Scottish backdrop. Scottish bank holidays mirror the rest of the UK with two additional days including 2nd January and St. Andrew’s Day on 30th November.

Shopping

Although Scottish city and town highstreets are home to well-known shops and department stores, Scotland boasts a wonderful array of independent stores selling local produce and artisan goods. Inspired by beautiful surroundings and great natural resources, it’s easy to see why Scottish designers, artists and craftspeople create so many wonderful products including jewellery, pottery, paintings and fashion. Unique to Scotland, Harris Tweed is a tweed cloth made from pure virgin wool which is dyed, spun and handwoven in the Outer Hebrides and is even protected by its own act of Parliament, The Harris Tweed Act 1993. It makes for a lovely gift. Food and farmers markets are great ways of sampling Scottish food and drink and buying local produce, from tablet and shortbread to seafood and Aberdeen Angus beef. Alternatively, distilleries are the best places to buy a special bottle of whisky or gin.

Suggested reading

Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and DK Eyewitness have excellent guidebooks on Scotland and offer regional and city variations. For books on Scottish history, a ‘History of the Reformation in Scotland’ by John Knox offers a lively and vivid prose on the reformation, Neil OIiver’s ‘A History of Scotland’ provides a good general overview, whereas ‘A History of Scotland’s Landscapes’ by Fiona Watson and Piers Dixon explores how the past has shaped today’s landscapes. For writings on the Scottish Enlightenment and how it impacted the modern world try ‘How the Scots Invented the Modern World’ by Arthur L. Herman or for something more travel focused, ‘Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey’ by Madeleine Bunting, explores the remote Hebrides. For something a little lighter, Theresa Breslin’s ‘An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales’ is a wonderful collection of folk stories with enchanting illustrations from Kate Leiper. There are also many great fictional reads set in Scotland, including:

‘Corrag’ by Susan Fletcher

‘Kidnapped’ and ‘Catriona’ by Robert Louis Stevenson

‘The Crow Road’ by Iain Banks

‘Sunset Song’ by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

‘Lanark: A Life in Four Books’ by Alasdair Gray

‘Knots and Crosses’ by Ian Rankin

‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ by Muriel Spark

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad and precautions necessary for your itinerary and relevant to your personal circumstances. There are no vaccinations you must have when travelling to Scotland and within the UK.

Travel advice

For current information on Scotland the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/) before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.