Scotland travel guide

Scotland travel guide


2 minute summary

Take the sleeper train from London and you wake up to everything that a Scotland holiday has to offer. Deserted mountains glistening with silvery threads of icy rivers, waterfalls tumbling from highlands to lowlands, small villages with stations where you need to put your hand out to request the train to stop and suddenly, out of nowhere, a gleaming great loch. You have to wipe the sleep from your eyes to believe it.
Scotland has also woken up. Moving away from the old image of tartan
and shortbread, the highlands, lowlands and islands are alive with
hikers, cyclists, canoeists and climbers. All immersing themselves in landscapes so wild you can almost see history in front of you, as nothing has changed in generations.
And with some of the most progressive 'right to roam' laws in Europe, you can forget the myths of a closed, clannish people. It's an open door policy in Scotland, revealing a truly wild world for all to see.
Scotland is...

where the wild things are
Scotland isn't...

about coach tours to castles
Hello.
If you'd like to chat about Scotland or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Rosy & team.
01273 823 700

What we rate & what we don't


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Underrated

Wildlife watching Land access Food Winter

Wildlife watching

If you don’t usually travel with binoculars, this is your time to invest. Not only is it teeming with wildlife but it is so accessible. Small and perfectly formed you can see a lot of habitats in a short period of time.

Land access

There is an ancient, traditional right for all people to access the countryside in Scotland, and this was enshrined in law in 2003. This gives greater recreational freedom than most other countries in Europe including England and Wales, and applies to hikers, cyclists, horseriders, low impact water users and campers.

Food

Haggis and deep fried Mars Bars have a lot to answer for, with few people associating food as a top experience in Scotland. And then you remember Aberdeen Angus Beef, Scottish mussels and oysters, Scottish salmon, the Arbroath Smokie and world class game. All exported as world class delicacies for years. It just took a while for Scots to show them off at home.

Winter

Wild and wet, it is also empty in winter and, when the snow falls, a winter wonderland. The Cairngorms National Park is the place to go in the snow, with Aviemore accessible by train so you can avoid the hassle of driving on winter roads. With downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding and winter walking, as well as magical wildlife watching opportunities even at this time of year, Scotland is snow-tastic.

Rated

Caledonian Sleeper train Bagging a Munro Islands The demon drink

Caledonian Sleeper train

The atmosphere in the famous Caledonian Sleeper train bar, at ten o’clock at night, is one of those charming travel experiences. It is full of hikers comparing routes, and whisky drinking adventurers revving up for the wilds. And when you wake up in the morning, enveloped by said wilds, you will gasp in awe.

Bagging a Munro

The Scottish name for a mountain over 3000 feet (914 m), many hillwalkers aim to climb all of them, a feat known as "Munro bagging". A walker who has climbed all Munros is entitled to be called a Munroist. See the Scottish Mountaineering Club for details

Islands

You can’t do them all in a week, but you can make a fine start. There are 790 offshore islands in the following groups: Shetland, Orkney, and the Hebrides, sub-divided into the Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides.

The demon drink

Whisky goes without saying, with myriad malts to savour and salivate over. However, there is also a burgeoning brewery scene in Scotland now, with artisan ale popping up everywhere from Stornoway in the Hebrides to Speyside Craft brewery in the Moray Firth.

Overrated

Moaning about midges Isle of Skye Castles Peak practice

Moaning about midges

There is no getting away from the fact that between May and October, especially on the west coast, there are midges. However, they are more prevalent at water’s edges, at dusk and when there is little wind, than on a mountain top in the middle of the day. So yes, they exist, but not everywhere, and there are plenty of ways to cope with them. Check out midgeforecast.co.uk for details.

Isle of Skye

It is the one everyone talks about, but it overshadows some of the other insular idylls awaiting along the coast. It has festivals and fun, for sure, but ecologically it isn’t as interesting as some others, and also it rains more than most, due to the topography. And don’t make the mistake of travelling this far north in search of Skye, and completely overlook the magnificence of the mainland mountains.

Castles

and all things bonny are really so last century. There are stunning ones, but you have to pay an arm and a leg to stay in a top quality one. And although visiting them is great, it’s the small communities and backroads that hold the truly majestic Scotland.

Peak practice

the charity climb epidemic hit Ben Nevis some time ago, with thousands landing on the hills, trampling and littering, with little financial benefit for local people and huge environmental destruction. Few people realise, but this is not a National Park and so does not have the funding to fix it. Charity is good, churning up a precious landscape, not so much.

Food, shopping & people


Travel like a local with our Scotland travel guide

Eating & drinking


Malt whisky from Scotland is sought all over the world, so here is your opportunity to lie at the feet of the malt masters
Seafood used to be exported, but with the culinary scene moving on in leaps and bounds they keep a lot more of it for themselves now. Check out the Scottish Seafood Trail.
Aberdeen Angus beef and venison make any holiday in Scotland a veritable carnival for carnivores.
Cheese lovers should go in search of Morangie Brie, Isle of Mull cheddar and Dunsyre Blue. To name but a few.
Scotland is not cheesy. Unless you mean literally. Artisan cheesemaking is taking off here now, all over our highlands and islands.

People & language


The reputation for being closed and clannish, miserly and mean is a myth. The reality is an intellectual people full of creativity and a love of landscape. Scottish Gaelic, still spoken, has a rich oral and written tradition and if you don't get a Scot to tell a good story on holiday, you haven’t experienced the real Scotland. Scots is an official language, derived from old English. Use a few Scots words and your glass will never be empty. Call them Scotch, Jock or English, and it will never be full.
Oh aye (not ‘och aye’)- I know, I agree or really?
Away ye go - no way!
Burn - stream
Ben - mountain
CéilidhFolk dance event (from Scottish Gaelic)

Gifts & shopping


With singing and storytelling at the heart of their culture, buy a CD from a local band, or a novel from a contemporary Scottish author.
Although cashmere goat’s wool is not from Scotland but Mongolia, it is a world leader in finishing, knitting and weaving it. Cheap versions from China abound, but if you want quality, Scotland is the place.
Tweed is no longer twee. The most prestigious of the lot is Harris Tweed, protected by the Harris Tweed Act of Parliament, which strictly outlines the conditions in which the cloth can genuinely be made. Recognise the real thing by its well-known orb logo.

Fast facts


We do not just travel when we go about Scotland, we walk through time

Ian Hamilton, author, A Touch of Treason

How much does it cost?


Ferry trip from Oban to Isle of Mull:
£5.55 one way for foot passenger or £49.50 for a car
Two person canoe rental on Caledonian canal: £50 for two days
Arborath Smokie: £5 for two
Arran Sunset beer: £2.85
Caledonian Sleeper train London to Fort William: From £68 one way

A brief history of Scotland


Travelling around Scotland is like combining a history and geography lesson into one. Cross the border at Hadrian's Wall and you see some of the finest remains of the Roman invaders of 43 AD who occupied the southern half of Scotland, which they named Caledonia, but turned back after fierce resistance from local people. In Shetland, you can see evidence of the Vikings who invaded the North of the country. But Scotland's truly ancient origins can best be seen on Lewis and Orkney, where the famous standing stones are thought to have been planted by prehistoric settlers as far back as 9400 BC.Read more ▼
Photo credits: [Loch: Akuppa John Wigham] [Wildlife watching : CaptainOates] [Wild camping: hendry_670] [Salmon: torbakhopper] [Snowboarding: Robin McConnell] [Caledonian Sleeper train: Tim Regan] [Mountains: Ben Salter] [Islands : Inaki Queralt] [Speyside Craft Brewery : Speyside Craft Brewery ] [Midges: S. Rae] [Isle of Skye rain: Alberto Vaccaro] [Castles : Paisley Scotland] [Ben Nevis: Derek Hatfield] [Cheese: Graeme Maclean] [Sign: Chen Zhao] [Harris Tweed: A Continuous Lean] [Ferry: whyohwhyohwhyoh]
Written by Catherine Mack
Wildlife holiday in the Isle of Mull, Scotland

Wildlife holiday in the Isle of Mull, Scotland

Spot whales, otters and eagles on Isle of Mull, Scotland

From £625 5 Days ex flights
Skye and the Inner Hebrides cruise, Scotland

Skye and the Inner Hebrides cruise, Scotland

A unique cruise to the Isle of Skye and the Inner Hebrides

From £2140 7 Days ex flights
Mull wildlife holiday in Scotland

Mull wildlife holiday in Scotland

Ultimate week of wildlife spotting on the Isle of Mull

From £785 7 Days ex flights
Scotland by railway holiday

Scotland by railway holiday

Experience authentic Scotland independently and car-free

From £865 8 Days ex flights
Orkney & Shetland self drive holiday, Scotland

Orkney & Shetland self drive holiday, Scotland

Self-drive island-hopping through the Northern Isles

From £890 7 Days ex flights
Scotland island hopping holiday, car free

Scotland island hopping holiday, car free

Explore three contrasting Scottish islands car-free

From £885 8 Days ex flights
Scotland West Coast cruise, Skye and the small isles

Scotland West Coast cruise, Skye and the small isles

Scottish Holiday to Skye and the Small Isles | Cruise

From £1450 7 Days ex flights
Lands End To John O'Groats cycling trip

Lands End To John O'Groats cycling trip

Britain's classic cycling challenge

From £1845 16 Days ex flights
Scottish Hebrides photography holiday

Scottish Hebrides photography holiday

Photography tour of stunning Islay & Jura, Scottish Hebrides

From £1525 8 Days ex flights
Knoydart bunkhouse accommodation, Scotland

Knoydart bunkhouse accommodation, Scotland

Friendly West Highland bunkhouse on the Knoydart peninsula

From £17 per person per night
Scottish traditional cruise, 4 days

Scottish traditional cruise, 4 days

Short break cruise in Argyll on the west coast of Scotland

From £690 4 Days ex flights
Scotland cruise, Skye and the Small Isles

Scotland cruise, Skye and the Small Isles

A guided wildlife cruise to the Isle of Skye, Scotland

From £1285 7 Days ex flights
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