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Scotland has extensive wilderness areas, some of which have been proclaimed as '''National Parks''':
Scotland has extensive wilderness areas, some of which have been proclaimed as '''National Parks''':
* The [[Cairngorms]] - a mountain range near [[Aviemore]] and the largest National Park in Scotland
* The [[Cairngorms National Park| Cairngorms]] - a mountain range near [[Aviemore]] and the largest National Park in Scotland
* [[Loch Lomond]] & the [[Trossachs]] - Scotland's first national park
* [[Loch Lomond]] & the [[Trossachs]] - [[Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park| Scotland's first national park]]
* [[Loch Ness]] - Scotland's most famous loch.
* [[Loch Ness]] - Scotland's most famous loch.

Revision as of 20:18, 24 June 2008

Quick Facts
Capital Edinburgh
Government constitutional monarchy
Currency Pound Sterling (£)
Area 78,782 sq km
Population 5,062,011 (2001)
Language English, Scottish Gaelic, Scots
Religion Church of Scotland 42%, No Religion 28%, Roman Catholic 16%, Other Christian 7%, Islamic 0.8%
Electricity 220V/50Hz (UK plug)
Internet TLD .uk
Time Zone UTC; UTC+1 in summer

Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Alba) [1] is one of the four "home nations" that make up the United Kingdom. Sharing a 60 mile (96 km) long land border with England to the south, and separated from Northern Ireland by the North Channel of the Irish Sea, Scotland is surrounded by the bracing waters of the North Sea to the east, and the North Atlantic Ocean to the west and north. The capital is Edinburgh, the largest city is Glasgow. Apart from these and several other cities, the popular image of Scotland for most travellers, of course, centres on the "Highlands and Islands" - a wonderfully diverse land, Scotland has much to offer virtually any traveller.


Map of Scotland

Administratively, Scotland has been divided into a large number of traditional counties and (currently) 32 modern unitary authorities. These are of only limited use to the traveller, however, and an alternative regionalisation - based on culture and geography - is far more practical (from south to north):

The Borders - the eastern two-thirds of the districts north of the border with England, dotted with ruined abbeys and battlefields.
The South West - home of Robbie Burns and the Solway Coast ("Scotland's Riviera")
The Central Belt - Scotland's most urbanised region around and between the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh
The Highlands - Scotland's spectacular, mountainous north-west, encompassing the Great Glen and Loch Ness and John o'Groats
North East Scotland - the centre of two of Scotland's most important industries, oil and whisky, with the Grampian mountains at its heart.
The Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles or Na h-Eileanan Siar (in Gaelic) - the many islands off the north-west Scottish coast
The Orkney Islands - immediately to the north of the Scottish mainland
The Shetland Islands - north of Orkney


Scotland has six cities. Glasgow is the largest with a population of approximately 620,000 people (more than two million in the metro area) while the capital, Edinburgh, has around 450,000, with Aberdeen next at about 220,000 inhabitants.

  • Edinburgh (Gaelic: Dùn Èideann) - the capital of Scotland, home to the World's largest Arts Festival every August and the First European City of Literature. Most of the city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Aberdeen (Gaelic: Obar Dheathain) - Scotland's third largest city, the Oil & Gas Capital of Europe, home to two universities
  • Dumfries (Gaelic: Dùn Phris) - main town in the southern Scotland/Borders area
  • Dundee (Gaelic: Dùn Dè) - vibrant city with high population of students and one of the most distinct (incomprehensible) accents you'll hear
  • Glasgow (Gaelic: Glaschu) - Scotland's largest city and at one time the largest ship building industry in the world.
  • Inverness (Gaelic: Inbhir Nis) - fast growing capital of the Highlands
  • Lanark (Gaelic: Lannraig) - home to the New Lanark model village, a World Heritage Site
  • Perth (Gaelic: Peairt) - the heart of Scotland and gateway to the Highlands
  • Stirling (Gaelic: Sruighlea) - a royal fortress city with a vibrant modern outlook. It was granted city status in 2002

Other destinations

Scotland has extensive wilderness areas, some of which have been proclaimed as National Parks:

Many world-class scenic areas are not (yet) protected as National Parks, though some have other designations such as National Scenic Areas or Forest Parks. The Lochaber region contains the impressive Glencoe as well as Scotland's highest mountain, Ben Nevis. The Torridon and Wester Ross areas are also popular mountaineering destinations. Most popular of all with climbers are the Black Cuillin of Skye - but there's plenty of scope for walkers here as well.

It has many historic Islands. Islay is known as the Queen of Hebrides, has eight whisky distilleries, and you can still see today the parliament site of the Clan Donald from 1200 AD, when the Clan Donald ruled the western seaboard of Scotland.

There are nice little villages such as Inverkip, John O' Groats, Bettyhill and Langbank, all which have nice beaches.There are good places to fish down at a couple of these villages as well.


Scottish Highlands
Another view of Scottish Highlands

Scotland is not part of England. This is a common mistake among tourists, and one which can be almost guaranteed to grossly offend any native Scot you may be talking to. The island comprising Scotland, England and Wales is called Great Britain, which, with Northern Ireland, makes up the United Kingdom.

A person from Scotland is called a Scot, or you would say that they are Scottish. The word "Scotch" applies to things - for example, whisky, Scotch eggs, Scotch beef and Scotch Corner (a road junction leading to Scotland).


Scotland has a rich cultural history much of which is preserved in historic buildings throughout the country. Prehistoric settlements can be traced back to 9600 BC, as well as the famous standing stones in Lewis and Orkney. The Romans, fronted by Julius Caesar in 55 BC, made initial incursions but finally invaded Britain in 43AD, moving into the Southern half of Scotland, but not occupying the country due to the fierce resistance efforts of the native Caledonian tribes. Today, Hadrian's Wall to the south of the Scottish-English border is perceived by some as one of the most famous Roman remains in the world, arguably on a par with the 8-foot-arch on Naxos.

After the withdrawal of the machinery of the Roman Empire, around AD 411, there followed the so-called Dark Ages. However, since the Roman occupation affected mostly just the South of the Island of Britain, the bit now called Scotland was unaffected and had been, even at the great battle at Mons Graupius. Because the grip of Roman hegemony had now loosened, all sorts of invaders now saw the island as open season. So the Angles arrived, on the East coast, around North Berwick. It has to be said that the natives here fared rather better than their Southern counterparts at the hands of the Saxons, who, for example, sacked the Isle of Wight, such that not a native male Briton was left alive.

The early history of the new nation is marked with many conflicts with the English, and also the Vikings who invaded the North of Scotland. Today the Shetland Islands retain a strong Viking cultural identity. Wars with the English would dominate Scottish history for hundreds of years, until the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when the Scottish King, James VI inherited the English throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1707, the Parliaments of Scotland and England were united, creating Great Britain.

From the 18th century, the Scottish enlightenment saw vast industrial expansion, and the rise of the city of Glasgow as a major trading port and eventually "Second City" of the British Empire. Universities flourished, and many of the great inventions of the world including television, the telephone and penicillin were invented by Scots. 20th century Scotland saw increasing calls for autonomy from London, and a Scottish Parliament was again established in Edinburgh.

Scotland's history and geography is reflected in the wide range of visitor attractions available, from castles and cathedrals, to stunning countryside, and more modern attractions showcasing Scottish cultural achievements.


Scotland has rich and strong culture, one of which its people are fiercely proud. Scotland has a great tradition of festivals, art and literature. It has produced some of the greatest literary personalities, actors and writers of the world. Irvine Welsh has made a heavy impact on the international literary scene and the prestigious Edinburgh Festival is a hotspot on international arts calendars.

Scotland has also produced some of the greatest scientists of the world including the inventors of the television, telephone and penicillin. It was Scottish scientists who invented Dolly, the cloned sheep. Scotland is known the world over for some of its seafood, vegetables and more specifically its Beef - Aberdeen Angus.

Glasgow, the biggest City in Scotland, is home to a fantastic music scene; must-visits include King Tut's Wah Wah Hut (where Oasis were spotted and signed for their first record deal) and the Barrowlands Ballroom, a Glasgow institution.

Get in

There are no controls at the land border with England.

Immigration and visa requirements

Scotland has the same immigration and visa requirements as the rest of the United Kingdom.

  • Citizens of the European Union do not require a visa, and have permanent residency and working rights. Citizens of the Republic of Ireland have additional rights allowing them to vote in elections.
  • Citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland also have permanent residency rights, but may require a work permit in some circumstances.
  • Citizens of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, United States and Venezuela do not require a visa for visits under 6 months.
  • Most other countries will require a visa, which can be obtained from the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.
  • The UK also operates a Working Holidaymaker Scheme for citizens of the Commonwealth of Nations, and British dependent territories. This allows residency in the UK for up to 2 years, with limited working rights.
  • Non-EU graduates from a Scottish university may apply to remain in Scotland to live and work under the Scottish Executive Fresh Talent Scheme for up to 2yrs.

For more information of UK Immigration and visa requirements, see the UK's Home Office website [2]

By plane

Until recently, there were few direct international services to Scotland, meaning many travellers would have to fly into London or Manchester and then transfer to a Scottish airport on a UK domestic flight. However, there are now a growing number of European and long haul destinations served by the five international airports in Scotland:

  • Aberdeen Airport, 8 miles north west of the city, has direct flights from Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bergen, Copenhagen, Dublin, Esbjerg, Faro, Groningen, Kristiansand, Malaga, Murcia, Oslo, Palma, Paphos, Paris, Stavanger and Tenerife.
  • Edinburgh Airport, 10 miles west of the city, has direct flights from Alicante, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Avignon, Barcelona, Bergen, Bergerac, Bremen, Brussels, Cologne, Copenhagen, Cork, Dortmund, Dublin, Faro, Frankfurt, Galway, Gdansk, Geneva, Hamburg, Helsinki, Ibiza, Katowice, Krakow, Madrid, Mahon, Malaga, Marseille, Milan, Munich, Murcia, New York, Nice, Oslo, Palma de Mallorca, Paris, Pisa, Poznan, Prague, Pula, Rennes, Rome, Shannon, Sharm el Sheikh, Stockholm, Szczecin, Tenerife, Toronto, Toulouse, Warsaw and Zurich.
  • Glasgow International Airport, 8 miles west of the city, has direct flights from Alicante, Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Belfast, Berlin, Bourgas, Calgary, Copenhagen, Dominican Republic, Dubai, Dublin, Faro, Geneva, Gran Canaria, Halifax, Heraklion, Las Vegas, Madeira, Malta, New York (Newark), Nice, Orlando, Ottawa, Palma de Mallorca, Paris, Philadelphia, Prague, Pula, Reykjavík, Sharm el Sheikh, Tenerife, Toronto and Vancouver.
  • Glasgow Prestwick International Airport, situated 30 miles south west of Glasgow, is a hub of budget airline Ryanair with domestic flights to London Stansted and Bournemouth; and international flights to Brussels, Bergamo, Budapest, Cork, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Girona, Gothenburg, Hamburg, Kaunas, Krakow, Milan, Murcia, Oslo (Torp), Paris, Pisa, Reus, Riga, Rome, Shannon, Stockholm and Wroclaw. Be aware that there is an additional train journey of up to an hour form this airport into Glasgow city centre. Aer Arann flys twice weekly from Donegal International Airport into Prestwick.
  • Inverness Airport, situated 7 miles north east of the city, has direct flights from Dublin.

There are many UK domestic flights operating to Scotland including:

  • bmi flights from London Heathrow, Manchester, Leeds-Bradford, and Norwich
  • bmibaby flights from Birmingham, Cardiff and Nottingham East Midlands.
  • British Airways flights from London (Heathrow, Gatwick and City)
  • Eastern Airways flights from Birmingham, Durham Tees Valley, Humberside, Leeds-Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham East Midlands, and Southampton.
  • Easyjet flights from London Gatwick, London Luton, London Stansted, Bristol, and Belfast.
  • Flybe flights from Belfast, Birmingham, Exeter, Jersey, Manchester, Newquay, Norwich and Southmapton.
  • Ryanair flights from Bournemouth, Liverpool, and London Stansted.
  • Scotairways flights from London City.
  • Fly Whoosh flights from Belfast and Birmingham.

None of the airports in Scotland, except Glasgow Prestwick, is connected to the rail network, meaning travellers have to use a dedicated bus service to the city centre, or take a taxi. However, a tram line is currently under construction between Edinburgh Airport and Edinburgh city centre, and is expected to be operational by 2011.

By train

The three major train lines in the UK all run services to Scotland:

First Scotrail, also operate a sleeper service between London and destinations in Scotland, including Fort William, Inverness, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Fares start at £89 for a sleeper cabin. Scottish Rail passes are also available for International guests to Scotland (not available for UK residents) as are BritRail passes.

By car

The main road linking Scotland and England is the M74 motorway which runs from south of Glasgow to Carlisle. The A1 road links Edinburgh and the North East of England; this road is single carriageway in some areas, however, and not considered to be the best route into Scotland. Hence the placename Scotch Corner on the A1 where traffic heading for most Scottish destinations turn to cross the Pennine hills to enter Scotland via the M74.

By bus

Bus and coach services are the cheapest way to get to Scotland, but are probably also the longest and the least comfortable. National Express [3] is the main operator, with services from Glasgow's Buchanan Street Station, for example, to most other major UK cities.

By boat

Get around

"PlanaJourney" is a free integrated public transport journey planner that covers much of the internal Scottish, Northern Ireland and UK public transport network. It includes bus, rail, Glasgow underground, Scottish ferries and flights. It can assist with planning journeys throughout Scotland and more widely to or from anywhere in the UK. Outside of Scotland and Northern Ireland the bus information is limited.

By air

Scotland is a small country, making air travel uneconomical on most short routes. Air travel is, however, the fastest practical way to reach many Scottish West Coast islands. Loganair operates many internal Scottish flights on behalf of British Airways. Flights can be booked on the main BA website [6]. The Scottish Executive own Highlands and Islands Airports which operates the remote Scottish airports. Flights are available from Glasgow International Airport to Campbeltown, Islay, Stornoway, Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands. Flights from Edinburgh Airport also operate to Inverness, Wick, Stornoway, and the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Barra's tiny airport is unique in Britain in that the runway is a beach.

The Orkneys also have the Airports Westray and Papa Westray which hold the world record for the shortest Scheduled Commercial Flight, taking a whole 2 minutes!

Westray Airport is located on Aikerness, at the north of the Orkney island of Westray. Papa Westray Airport lies to the north of Holland on the west side of the Orkney island of Papa Westray.

It should be noted that flights can be disrupted or cancelled due to weather conditions.

By train

First ScotRail [7] operates the Scottish rail network, which covers most of the country. The main rail terminals are:

  • Aberdeen Station- with trains to Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Inverness
  • Edinburgh Waverley Station- with trains to Aberdeen, Fife, Glasgow Queen Street Station, Inverness, Perth and Stirling
  • Glasgow Queen Street Station with trains to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Fort William, Mallaig, Perth and Stirling. For trains to Inverness, change at Perth.
  • Glasgow Central Station for trains to South West Scotland including Ayr, Kilmarnock and Stranraer; West Scotland including Dumbarton and Greenock; and Lanarkshire including Hamilton and Lanark.
  • Inverness Station for trains to Wick and Kyle of Lochalsh

The train services to Fort William and Mallaig from Glasgow Queen Street take in some wonderful views of the Scottish landscape, and footage from the line was used in the Harry Potter movies.

Note there are no train services to the Scottish Borders, although there are plans to re-open a former railway line to the area, running from Edinburgh.

Generally train fares in Scotland are comparable to the rest of the UK, and are more expensive than most European countries. Typical off-peak fare between Glasgow and Edinburgh is £10 return, and between Edinburgh and Aberdeen £40 return. It is best to avoid peak time services between Glasgow and Edinburgh, as they are often overcrowded.

By road

Although Scotland is not a big country, due to many of the roads being winding narrow single track roads and occasionally poor road conditions in rural areas travel can take significantly longer than you may expect depending on where you're from. Visitors from outside the United Kingdom should take special care when driving if they are not used to driving on the left. It is easiest to slip into previous habits on unmarked rural roads. Well marked city streets should give the driver enough information to select the correct lanes. Many by-passes have been built to allow faster travel, but the visitor will miss out on some of the beautiful scenery of Scotland. In some areas road signs will indicate that the road on the next exit will re-join the main route by showing a semi-circular exit and entrance with the destination name in the middle. This allows the driver confidence to take more scenic diversions into small towns or to find a place to stop and have lunch.

In remote areas many roads are single track. Passing places are provided at intervals. These are marked by diamond shaped white signs labelled "Passing Place". Sometimes these are incorrectly installed as a square sign. On older less used single track roads black and white striped poles may still be used as markers. If faster traffic comes up behind you it is the rule that you should pull into a passing place and allow the other vehicle to pass. When two vehicles approach each other on a single track road, experienced drivers will both adjust their speed so as to reach the passing place at the same time and pass each other slowly, avoiding the need for either vehicle to come to a stop. You should pull in to the passing place on your left or if the passing place is on the right hand side, stop opposite it so that the oncoming car can pull into it.

See also the Itinerary: Driving tour of Scotland.

By bus

The bus is the cheapest way of getting around in Scotland. You can get almost everywhere with the Citylink bus, but it is more expensive than Megabus. Megabus is a very cheap way to travel, as ticket prices start at £1 if booked weeks in advance, and rising to over £10 for peak-rate or last-minute fares. A 50p booking charge is applied to every ticket.

Megabus departs from Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Perth, going between these Scottish cities as well as to English destinations. Note that with Megabus you can only book online (from 45 days to 30 minutes before departure).

Citylink runs a quarter-hourly bus service between Edinburgh and Glasgow which costs £4 - you pay the driver. This service runs out of the main bus stations (Buchanan Street in Glasgow and Saint Andrew Square in Edinburgh), and the journey takes about an hour and ten minutes - some twenty minutes slower than the train, but half the price of a peak-rate train ticket.

  • Citylink [8] - journey information and ticket sales
  • Megabus [9] - journey information and ticket sales

By ferry

A regular and extensive ferry service operates between most large islands, and across the Clyde estuary.

Caledonian MacBrayne' [10] is the largest ferry operator and provides services on the west coast and Clyde. Discounts are available in the form of a ticket valid on many routes for a whole month.


Hitch-hiking is surprisingly easy in Scotland, but better to do outside the big cities. In the Highlands you might need to wait for a long time until a car comes by. General caution must be taken.


English and Scots Gaelic are the official languages of Scotland. English (sometimes spoken with a varying degree of Scottish dialect) is the everyday language spoken by everyone. Dialects vary enormously from region to region, and even between towns! Don't let this frighten you, however, as all Scots can speak standard English.

Scots Gaelic (Gàidhlig), meanwhile, is only spoken by around 60,000 people, mainly in the highlands (a' Ghàidhealtachd) and islands (Eileanan). All Gaelic speakers also speak English with the exception of a tiny fraction of rather isolated elderly people - the chances of meeting such a person are infinitesimally small.

Scots ('Oor ain leid' lit. 'Our own language') although not an official language of Scotland, is spoken by around 1.5 million people in Scotland, throughout the whole country. As with modern English, the language evolved from Anglo-saxon. Scots is more or less intelligible to native speakers of English, especially in written form. There are debates over whether Scots is in fact a language or dialect - in some ways it resembles Old English - and rather than actually being spoken purely often is found influencing informal English spoken by people in Scotland.

The Scots generally have rather poor foreign language skills, although those in tourism-related industries generally have better language skills. French, German and Spanish are the most commonly known foreign languages.

Here are some useful English words derived from Gaelic, Pictish or Old Norse:


Scotland offers a range of products, souvenirs and memorabilia unavailable authentically anywhere else in the world. A few examples:

  • 'Scotch' Whiskies
  • Scottish Tartans (colourful check-woven woolen fabric) and tartan products (such as kilts). If you have a Scottish family name like McDonald or Clark, it may be worth trying to find your own family's tartan.

Visitors from outside northern Europe may find Scotland a relatively expensive country.


As in the rest of the United Kingdom, Scottish currency is Pounds Sterling (£). Scotland's three national clearing banks continue to issue their own sterling banknotes (including £1 notes, not produced south of the border). These are The Bank of Scotland, The Royal Bank of Scotland and The Clydesdale Bank. These notes are very common in Scotland, but are sometimes not accepted in shops in England (English banks, however, will exchange them for Bank of England notes). ATMs commonly dispense the Scottish notes, but bank tellers will cash travelers cheques into Bank of England notes on request. Scottish banknotes may be difficult to exchange outside the UK, where foreign banks are generally unfamiliar with the notes. If in doubt, exchange your Scottish notes for Bank of England notes before you leave the country.

As Bank of England notes are more commonly forged than their (lower-circulation) Scottish equivalents, smaller shops are sometimes wary of larger-denomination Bank of England banknotes, particularly when the note is in an uncirculated condition (as is common with sterling notes sold abroad).

Euros are accepted at a small number of highstreet stores and tourist shops, but this should not be relied upon.

Scotland is relatively expensive when compared to some other European countries. As a basic rule, the further north you venture, the more expensive it likely gets, mostly because of the difficulty and expense of supply.

Currency conversion table
Foreign currencyEither onePound Sterling
€1.45 Euro1£0.69
$1.80 US Dollar1£0.56
$2.49 Australian Dollar1£0.40
$2.26 Canadian Dollar1£0.44


The classic tourist souvenir is a kilt and everything else involving the tartan. Note that a real kilt costs about £300-400 and is made of heavy wool (so it won't reveal what you are wearing underneath even in strong winds), but most souvenir stores only offer unauthentic thin ones. If you really want a genuine kilt or full traditional outfit (Kilt,sporran,jacket, shirt and shoes) the best place to look is a clothing hire shop. These specialise in hiring suits and kilts for weddings and often sell stock at reduced prices. The traditional highland kilt is a section of cloth about 6 feet wide and 14 feet long. This is wrapped about the body then then brought up over the shoulder and pinned in place, a little like a toga. The modern short kilt was introduced during the industrial revolution to give more freedom of movement.

Whisky is also a common buy. There are huge differences in price and taste.

Cost of living

Most visitors are unpleasantly surprised by the high cost of living in Scotland. Although prices in Scotland are not as bad as in the south of England, compared to the USA or most other parts of Europe basic living expenses are still high. Most goods have an additional 17.5% Value Added Tax (VAT) applied although this is always included in the marked price for general consumer purchases. Petrol (gasoline) has a massive 70% excise tax and 17.5% VAT on top of that. Costs are highest in Edinburgh and in very remote places such as Stornoway.

Petrol (gasoline) has been priced at more than £1 per litre for some time which is £4.55 per Imperial (UK) gallon or £3.79 ($7.54) per US Gallon. In May 2008, escalating prices have seen rural areas paying about £1.30 per litre. It remains to be seen if this is a permanent rise.



While Scotland has suffered from the stereotype for dreary food, things have changed now with numerous quality Indian, French, Italian and Modern Scottish options on offer. In fact, in parts of the country such as Edinburgh, it has become quite difficult to get a really bad meal.

  • Cullen Skink - A hearty and delicious fish soup made from smoked haddock, potatoes, cream, and shellfish.
  • Seafood-Scotland produces some of the best seafood in the world. Its langoustines, oysters, scallops, crabs, salmon and lobsters are prized by the finest chefs all over the world...and hence are mostly exported. Try half-a-dozen fresh oysters followed by langoustines in garlic butter mopped up with a chunk of organic bread at the Three Chimneys in Skye. Heaven on a plate. If youre lucky enough to be near the coast you can buy freshly caught seafood at very good prices just go to the docks and wait, its worth it.
  • Sizzling Sirloin of Scotch Beef- The five best beef breeds in the world are Scottish, the best-known being Aberdeen Angus. The others are Highland, Longhorn, Shorthorn and Galloway. There is a vast difference between how beef cattle are raised for the lower-cost end of the market and the top end of the market. Slap a sirloin of Aberdeen Angus on a hot grill and find out why.
  • Game- Scotland has game aplenty, from pheasants to venison. An inexpensive Highland autumn favourite is pheasant layered with a few strips of bacon and baked with seasonal vegetables.
  • Haggis - Scotland's national dish does sounds quite disgusting to foreigners because of its ingredients, but doesn't really taste as bad as one might think. Haggis is made up of chopped heart, liver and lungs of a sheep and then cooked in a sheep's stomach bag. Nowadays, you can buy and cook Haggis in plastic bags. It is served with turnips and mashed potatoes (often referred to as "neeps and tatties").
  • Porridge is an oat meal the Scottish eat at breakfast, usually with salt as topping, although it is not the everyday breakfast anymore.
  • The square sausage another common breakfast favourite -- it is a flavoured thin square of beef (steak sausage) or pork (lorne sausage), fried or grilled, often served in a roll.
  • Scotch Pie is a much-loved local delicacy. Originally containing mutton, but now usually made with an undefinable meat. Good ones really are good - slightly spiced and not greasy. Try one from a branch of the ubiquitous Greggs bakery shops.
  • Scotch tablet is another local delicacy. It is, very similar to fudge - but is slightly brittle due to its being beaten for a time while it sets! Great for any cold hikes you may be planning.
  • the Deep Fried Mars Bar, regarded by many as an urban myth, does exist in Scotland. An NHS survey reported that roughly 22% of fast food joints and fish and chips shops in Scotland sell the item, at roughly 60 pence a go, mainly to school children and young adults. You will have to ask them to put one in the fryer, though. A chippy in Stonehaven claims to be the birthplace of this, er, "delicacy." Another equally improbable artery-clogging treat is deep-fried pizza.

Vegetarian food isn't as hard to find as you would think, with virtually all restaurants and cafés offering more than one vegetarian option. Vegan food is harder to find, but not impossible. Edinburgh especially has a good number of exceptional vegetarian restaurants.


Scotland (especially the highlands) is famous for the hundreds of brands of Scotch whisky it produces. It seems to the visitor that every village makes its own particular brand, so much so that somebody compared a tour of the highlands as being similar to "driving through a drinks cabinet"!

Bars are the places you meet people and where you have a good time. More than in other countries, bars are very lively and it is easy to get to know people when you're travelling alone. The Scottish are very welcoming, so it's not unusual that they will buy you a beer even though you just met them.

The legal drinking age is 18 years old, and many pubs and clubs will ask for ID of anyone who looks younger than mid-twenties.

  • Beer - beer, especially the ales, is measured in pints. One pint equals just over half a litre (568ml). Scottish micro-breweries are doing quite well, possibly thanks to the "Campaign for Real Ale" in recent years.
  • Irn Bru[11] - a highly popular, fizzy, bright orange-coloured soft drink that is supposed to be the best cure for a hangover (be aware that it is loaded with caffeine and is acidic enough to clean coins!). Supposedly it is made from Iron Girders(!) (To provide a balanced view however, it should also be noted that Coca Cola will clean coins as well.)
  • Whisky - Scotland's most famous export (note the lack of an 'e' that makes Scotch whisky unique!).
  • Mead - a honey liqueur.


Self Cater

Self catering holidays, in cottages or wooden lodges, in Scotland have become very popular over recent years. Many cottages are now furnished to a very high standard.


Scotland has plenty of Hostels, both the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) [[12] and a large and developing network of Independent Hostels. Some of the buildings are very impressive, like the one on Loch Lomond and the Carbisdale Castle Hostel. The SYHA traditionally involved guests performing chores and a ban on alcohol. The new breed of independent hostels have eschewed these concepts, causing the SYHA to loosen up its attitudes too.

Camping is another inexpensive way of touring Scotland, though the unpredictable weather makes it less appealing than in some other countries. In remote areas camp sites can be a significant distance apart so buy an up to date guide and plan your route. Booking is not usually necessary except in peak season. Generally, the rule is the more remote the camp site, the better the scenery and the lower the cost. Some camp sites may only provide basic amenities. Camping rough is possible in remote areas, but observe local signs, and never camp next to a stream that could rapidly become swollen by overnight rain. Midges (tiny biting insects) can be a particular nuisance during August and September: the insects are harmless but incredibly irritating.

Bed and Breakfast accommodation is widely available, even in remote areas and some very good deals can be found. Many people consider these to be more friendly and welcoming than a hotel. Local tourist information centres will help you find a room for the same night, and you may expect to pay in the region of £25 per person per night for room and full Scottish breakfast.

If visiting the major cities, try staying in Falkirk or Polmont. Both are far cheaper than the hotels in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and only 1/2 hour away from both on regular train services.

The Premier Travel Inn chain of motels are widespread, with double rooms priced at around £55. In cities these are likely to prove cheaper than a hotel.


Most historic sites are maintained either by the National Trust of Scotland or by Historic Scotland. Both offer memberships (with free priority access and other discounts) for a year or a lifetime - and have reciprocal arrangements with their English and Welsh equivalents. Depending on how much you get around and how long you are staying, they may well be worth buying.... Membership also contributes to the sites' preservation and new acquisitions.

  • Historic Scotland [13] - sites and prices, yearly membership starts at £34 adult, £65 family (properties include Edinburgh and Stirling Castles)
  • the National Trust of Scotland [14] -sites and prices, yearly membership starts at £33 adult, £54 family (properties include Craigievar and Crathes Castles, numerous wilderness areas)
  • Football is easily the most popular spectator sport. If you are in Scotland between mid-August and mid-May you should be able to obtain tickets for a match.


  • Motorcycling - Scotland has some of the best motorcycle touring roads in the world, although you'll need good weather to get the most out of them. With good surfaces, little traffic outside of the main conurbations and welcoming cafes touring is a real pleasure. It is also possible to hire a motorcycle [15]
  • Cycling - Even though there are only a few cycle trails compared to England, Scotland makes a great cycling country as there are many roads with little traffic. See Cycling in Scotland.
  • Hillwalking - Scotland is famous for hillwalking. You can try to climb all 284 Munros of Scotland (which are mountains higher than 3000 feet / 914.4 m) and become a Munroist, or you could hike the popular West Highland Way, which stretches for 153km (95 miles). Scotland’s official National Tourist Board publishes a free Scotland Walks guide, available from their Walking site [16]. There is also an independent site giving lots of details on over 420 routes - Walk Highlands of Scotland
  • Golf - Scotland is the birthplace of the game of golf and home to the oldest course in the world, St. Andrews. Scotland’s National Tourist Board publishes a free guide to golfing in Scotland [17]
  • Edinburgh Festival occurs during late July to Mid September. The Festival is an umbrella term for several festivals, including the International Jazz and Blues Festival, the Fringe Festival, and the Literary Festival. VisitScotland, the official Scottish Tourist Board, maintain a calendar of events and festivals taking place throughout Scotland [18]


In the bigger cities you can learn highland dancing. If you're interested in learning how to play the Scottish bagpipe, you should know that it takes about one year to play on an actual bagpipe for the first time. It is really more difficult than it looks like and needs daily practice!


The regulations governing who can work in Scotland is the same as for the rest of the UK. Citizens of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland have permanent work rights in the UK. Citizens of Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, or Slovenia may need to to register under the Worker Registration Scheme. Generally the citizens of other countries will require a visa to work for more than six months in the UK. However, the UK has low unemployment, making it easier for those with specialist skills to gain working visas. A general shortage of skilled labour in the health sector means the British health service actively recruits abroad, making it easier for those with specialist health care skills to work in the UK. The Scottish Executive is also keen to attract immigrants to Scotland to plug a perceived declining population.

The UK does operate a working holiday programme, for citizens of Commonwealth countries which allow residency and limited work rights for 2 years.

For more details see the British Home Office's visa and immigration website [19].

Stay safe

In any emergency call 999 or 112 (from a land-line if you can) and ask for Ambulance, Fire, Police or Coast Guard when connected.

Scotland has a relatively high crime rate, although it differs greatly from urban to rural areas. Despite Glasgow's reputation for being a violent place, in practice Glasgow is not much more dangerous than any other Western European city. The title "Murder Capital of Europe" owes more to tabloids and true-crime books than hard statistics. However, commonsense rules still apply. Unlike many cities where tourist havens and dangerous slums can be seamlessly separated by a single block, due to Glasgow's layout it is near impossible to accidentally wander into one of the "less desirable" parts of town unless you were making a conscious effort to do so.

In general Edinburgh can be considered a safe destination for visitors but like all major cities there are problems and areas best avoided. The city's suburbs are best avoided by tourists who are not familiar with the area. Crime and juvenile delinquency is a fairly common feature of many large cities in the UK, and Edinburgh is no exception.

In rural areas, especially the Highlands and Scottish Borders, crime is generally low. It is, of course, advisable to be cautious at night, as in any town or city.

English visitors will also find a warm welcome despite traditional rivalries, and problems will only be found if you seek out the rougher parts of a town where, as anywhere, you can find an underclass who want to blame someone else for their problems. The fact that nearly 10% of the Scottish population was born in England proves that English people are both welcome and safe in Scotland. They should of course expect a bit of - generally good-natured - teasing whenever either Scotland or England are playing football. The Scots can be generalised as a friendly group and it's unlikely that a foreigner will be treated with anything other than great respect and kindness.

Stay healthy

When hillwalking, you should always take along a compass, detailed maps, waterproof clothing, a torch (flashlight), and a good pair of boots. A charged mobile phone can be a lifesaver as some mountain areas have cell coverage, but networks like T-Mobile and Orange don't cover the Highlands very well. The weather on the hills can change suddenly, with visibility falling to just a few meters. If hillwalking alone tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone.

More advice is available from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland

Tap water in Scotland is safe to drink, if sometimes heavily chlorinated. You may prefer to err on the side of caution in rural areas and stick to the bottled variety.


If you are a first-time visitor to Scotland and you expect everyone to be like Wallace's army in Braveheart, where people wear blue face paint and kilts and flash their bottoms at the first person they don't like the look of, then be prepared for disappointment. The fact is that the people of this country look and behave no differently than any others. As is mentioned in an earlier section, the Scots and English enjoy a good relationship today, so assuming that all Scots hate their neighbours is also wrong and could even cause offence. This isn't to say that the Scots are in fact English, as the two countries are undoubtedly different in many ways. You will also find that most decent Scots do not wish to be associated with Braveheart, as this film is fictional and inaccurate and does not reflect Scottish history as it was, so referring to the people as "Bravehearts" is also not advised. It is a common myth that the Tartan Army are in fact Scottish ambassadors, so just like you don't expect all French to stink of onions or all Americans to be overweight, the same applies with regards to the Scots being ginger, kilt-wearing yobs who hate the English.


See the UK contact entry for national information on telephone, internet and postal services. See Contact entries under individual cities for local information.

This country guide is usable. It has links to this country's major cities and other destinations (and all are at usable status or better), a valid regional structure and information about this country's currency, language, cuisine, and culture is included. At least the most prominent attraction is identified with directions. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!