Researching a trip is always a fun part of the planning process. Gathering information, learning the history and swatting up of must-visit attractions keeps the excitement alive during the long wait until you finally get to travel. These Scotland travel tips will help you with planning your perfect trip and ensure you get the best out of your visit to this beautiful country.
1. Scotland is a country and is part of the United Kingdom, along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
2. There are now almost 5.5 million people living in Scotland (2019), which is a record number
3. The official currency of Scotland is GBP (Great British Pound)
4. Scotland covers over 30,000 square miles.
5. Scotland's national animal is a unicorn. That's right, we are magic.
6. Scotland national dish is the haggis. I won't say what's in it. If you are a vegetarian or vegan there are some pretty delicious alternatives.
7. Scotland's national drink is none other than Whisky. Irn Bru is also pretty famous and I highly recommend trying it.
8. Scotland has 7 cities. Edinburgh is the capital and has a compact city centre filled with wonderfully historic buildings and world-class attractions.
9. Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city. It’s an exciting city with top class shops, a world famous dining scene and a creative and arty vibe.
10. Perth is Scotland’s newest city but it’s a region with an impressive history. It was once Scotland’s capital and the nearby Scone Palace is where the kings of Scotland were once crowned.
11. Dundee was made a UNESCO City of Design in 2015 and is a thriving and up and coming city. The brand new V+A Design Museum and the regeneration of the waterfront means this city is a must-visit destination.
12. Stirling is known as a gate way to the Highlands and is home to Stirling Castle, the Battle of Bannockburn experience and the Wallace monument.
13. Inverness is the most northern city and is another gateway to the Highlands, as well as the beginning and end of the North Coast 500.
14. Aberdeen is apparently the sunniest city in Scotland and if you are a fan of castles Aberdeenshire has 263 of them!
15. Scotland has over 2000 castles. Many are in ruins, some have been restored to their former glory and a few have even been transformed into beautiful hotels and wedding venues
16. The top 5 most popular castles are Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Urquhart Castle, St Andrews Castle and Doune Castle. These castles are fantastic to visit but during the summer months can get extremely busy, There are lots of other amazing castles to visit though if you don't want to wait in queues.
17. Most of the castles are looked after by wither Historic Enviroment Scotland or National Trust for Scotland. You can buy passes before you leave for your trip. Read all about tickets and passes for Scotland's castles here.
18. If you fancy staying overnight in a castle there are lots to choose from. Crossbasket Castle just outside Glasgow is an outstanding 5 star hotel in a traditional 17th century castle. Thirlestane Castle in Lauder has 5 luxury apartments which were once used by the Earl and Countess of Lauderdale and Fernie Castle in Fife is luxurious and traditional and ensures a proper Scottish experience.
19. Edinburgh has the greatest number of top tourist attractions in Scotland. The National Museum of Scotland, the Royal Yacht Britannia, Arthur's Seat, St Giles Cathedral and the National Portrait Gallery are all situated in the capital.
20. Glasgow also has its fair share. The Riverside Museum, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow Cathedral and the Tennants Brewery.
21. Most of the museums and art galleries are free to enter.
22. A few of the islands in the west have small local museums which are utterly fascinating. Look out for the Skye Museum of Island Life on the Isle of Skye, the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum on the Isle of Arran and the Mull Museum on the Isle of Mull all describe life on the islands throughout the years and have amazing collections of artifacts.
23. If you are bringing children they are unlikely to get bored. There are so many things to keep them occupied and stop them getting bored, such as skiing, canoeing, clay pigeon shooting, swimming in lochs, spotting wildlife and small local cinemas so they can watch a film in the evening. To read more about activities for kids click here.
24. Drivers in Scotland drive on the left.
25. Most hire cars will be manual so request an automatic if you want it.
26. There are many single track roads in Scotland, read up about the rules of the road here
27. The drive drive limit is so low it's best to not drive at all if you are driving that day or the next morning.
28. Any child under 136cm or under 12 must have an appropriate car seat. It is the driver's responsibility to ensure all passengers under 14 are restrained properly. Different rules apply for buses and coaches.
29. Trains connect all the cities and a good chunk of the towns and villages in Scotland.
30. You can buy tickets at the train station or online in advance. Visit Scotrail to purchase tickets
31. You can buy travel passes which work out cheaper. Read more about the passes here
32. Local buses are regular and cheap. Check out Citylink, Stagecoach, Megabus and National Express. Multi- journey passes are available.
33. The islands in the west of Scotland, such as the Isle of Mull, Arran and Skye, are serviced by Calmac Ferries. If you are travelling by car you should book in advance. If you are going as a foot passenger you can often just turn up on the day.
34. Scotland has all types of accommodation from 5 star luxury hotels and cute B+B’s to wooden Lodges and treehouses
35. Wild Camping is allowed in most places in Scotland as long as you follow the rules and leave no trace
36. You’ll find some quirky accommodation on Airbnb, Huts and Cabins and Cottage and castles.
37. If you are glamping check the confirmation to see what you need to bring, some may require you to bring bedding etc.
38. There are many campervan/motorhome companies in Scotland such as Bunkcampers, Big Tree Campervans and Spaceship Campervans.
39. Mountains in Scotland over 3000ft are called Munros. There are 282 Munros. If you fancy 'Munro-bagging' make sure you have experience, hire a guide or join a hiking tour. Don't attempt to climb mountains without having good knowledge of what is required.
40. Scotland’s highest mountain is Ben Nevis which stands at 4.411ft. You can climb Ben Nevis using the tourist track which most people use, there is a more challenging route but only attempt it if you are an experience climber.
41. There are several mountain ranges to explore in Scotland. The Pentlands hills are just outside Edinburgh so ideal if you are staying in the city. The Cairngorms is a National Park with a popular ski centre if you are visiting in the winter.
42. If you don’t fancy tackling a Munro you might prefer to climb a Corbett. These are mountains between 2500 and 3000ft.
43. Some Munros which are popular with beginners include Ben Lomond, Ben Lawers, Schiehallion, Ben Chonzie and Ben Vorlich.
44. If you want to climb or hike while you are in Scotland Walk Highlands is a fantastic source
45. Scotland has 9 Michelin-starred restaurants. Michelin stars are given out to the best of the best. Gleneagles, in Perthshire, is the only restaurant to have two stars. Edinburgh has 4 Michelin-starred restaurants, Fife has two, the Isle of Skye has one and Ayrshire has one.
46. Some famously Scottish food to try while you are here includes Haggis, an Arbroath Smokie, Homemade tablet, Scottish Salmon, a proper fish supper (with broon sauce), Stornaway black pudding, shortbread, cranachan and Cullen Skink.
47. Haggis is best served with neeps (turnip) and tatties (potatoes), or deep fried in batter from the fish and chip shop.
48. Little independant cafes in villages serve the best tablet and shortbread, homemade by the owners in their wee kitchen that morning.
49. With over 6000 miles of coastline Scotland has some of the freshest and most delicious fish and seafood.
50. The vegan scene in Scotland, especially in the cities, is exciting and growing fast.
51. I couldn't write a Scotland travel tips post and not talk about the golden nectar that is Whisky. There are at least 120 whisky distilleries in Scotland, many of which you can take a tour of, hear their history and sample their goods!
52. There are five whisky producing regions, each of which offer a different taste, and most people have their favourite. Speyside, Islay, Highland, Lowland and Campbeltown.
53. Speyside is the whisky capital with more distilleries than any other area. There is even a whisky trail! Speyside's whisky is usually light, sweet and smooth.
54. Islay ('the whisky island') is a small island in the Inner Hebrides, which has 9 distilleries! Islay whisky is known to be peaty and smoky.
55. There are almost 50 distilleries across the Highlands, including the oldest - Glenturret
56. The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh is a brilliant way to learn more about whisky, how it's made, the history of the drink, see the most amazing collection of over 3000 whiskies, kept in a glass and marble vault and sample away to your hearts content.
57. Whisky is often the first choice to take home but check the airline for allowances to see how much you can bring.
58. Harris Tweed is also popular and is a beautifully made fabric which is made into all sorts of accessories such as scarfs, purses, coats, phone holders, keyrings and bottle holders. You can see it being made on the Isle of Harris.
59. Second hand book shops are little gems where you can find old Scottish books which have been treasured.
60. There are no shortage of souvenirs in cities and popular tourist areas but I'd recommend searching out some good quality gifts from small independant shops.
61. The number of islands in Scotland is ever-changing but I reckon its at least 750. Over 100 are inhabited and you can visit many of them.
62. The largest by land mass is the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides at 2,179 square kilometres.
63. The four main island groups are the Orkney Islands, the Shetland Islands, the Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides.
64. There are several islands in the Firth of Forth, the Firth of Clyde and the Solway Firth.
65. Caledonian McBride, or Calmac as it's fondly known, is the award-winning ferry service that carries passengers to the Hebrides. Try their breakfast rolls. delicious!
66. The Isle of Skye, Arran, Mull and Islay are the most visited. Do try to visit some of the less visited islands such as Eigg, Rum, Jura, Lismore and Raasay. They are less busy and you are likely to have a good few spots to yourself.
67. Loch Ness and Loch Lomond are the most popular lochs in Scotland.
68. Loch Ness is home to the world-famous Loch Ness monster. Believe it or not, let me know if you spot him?
69. You are bound to come across a loch as you drive around Scotland. Nothing beats finding a secluded spot at the side of a loch and watching the sunset.
70. If you are visiting Orkney you won't want to miss the Lochs of Harray and Stenness.
71. Lochs such as Loch Sheil, Loch Coruisk and Loch Awe are absolutely erfect for taking reflective photos of the the surrounding mountains. These quiet lochs are mesmerising.
68. Scotrail has named 6 scenic rail journeys that are absolutely stunning. The West Highland Line takes you from Glasgow to Mallaig or Oban, the Borders Route takes you from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, the Carlisle Line takes you from Glasgow to Carlisle via Stirling, Dumfries and Gretna Green, the Stranrear Line takes you through Burns Country (Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire), the Kyle Line arrives at the Kyle of Lochlash by travelling from east to west from Inverness and the Far North Line leaves Inverness and heads to Wick and Thruso.
69. The North Coast 500 is Scotland's answer to Route 66. 517 of stunning roads circling the top of Scotland, beginning and ending in Inverness.
70. The Fife Coastal Route is 77 miles long and takes you through historic towns, cute villages and lush green countryside.
71. The South West Coastal 300 is a circular route taking in Scotland's most southern point, Mull of Galloway.
72. The Aberdeen Coastal Trail covers165 miles of jaw-dropping coastline.
73. Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations are known across the world and in my opinion it's the best place to be on New Year's Eve. Make sure you book tickets in advance if you plan on visiting for the festival.
74. Another world-famous festival in the city is the Edinburgh Fringe when performers from over 60 countries descend on the city and set up camp in theatres, street corners, hotels and any other available space. It's a fantastic day out. Book tickets online to any shows you really want to see and take advantage of the free shows while you are there.
75. The Stonehaven Fireball Festival takes place on New Year's Eve and is a free event in Stonehaven, near Aberdeen. Performers swing fireballs around their heads as they parade the High Street, accompanied by bagpipers. It's an exciting event that begins at midnight.
76. There are many music festivals on throughout the year, such as Celtic Connections, the Orkney Folk Festival and the Islay Festival of Music and Malt.
77. Scotland is rich in wildlife. The UK's only native squirrel species, the red squirrel, can be spotted, there are 120,000 in Scotland but they are crafty so keep your eyes peeled.
78. Otters are elusive so you are super lucky if you spot them, you will be more likely in the north west or in Shetland.
79. Puffins are often at the top of visitors bucket lists. The Isle of May, in Fife, has over 120,000 puffins visiting the island to breed, between April and August and you can also see them on Staffa, the Treshnish Isles, Duncansby Head and the island of Handa.
80. If you take a boat trip in Scotland you might be lucky enough to spot some bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales or even Orcas.
81. Chanonry Point on the Black Isle has its very own pod of dolphins who like to visit and frolic in the water so if you time it right you can see them from the beach. The best time to see them is on a rising tide when the fish are being swept in so check the tide times here for your best chance of seeing them.
82. Scotland has four main airports, Glasgow International, Glasgow Prestwick, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
83. There are several small airports offering domestic flights such as Dundee, Stornaway, Barra and Islay.
84. The flight from Westray to Papa Westrey is one of the shortest in the world, at 90 seconds!
85. The island of Barra has the only beach runway in the world. Flight leave from Glasgow and are run by Loganair.
86. Tipping is not customary in Scotland, not is it expected.
87. Saying that, there are certain occasions when it might be nice, such as tipping a friendly and helpful taxi driver.
88. Tipping in hotels is not expected, except perhaps the porter or housekeeper if you have had good service.
89. The only area where tipping is generally expected is tours. Keep a few pounds back to give your tour guide at the end of the tour and it will be greatly appreciated.
90. If you are tipping, a tip of 10% is perfectly acceptable. Workers here receive at least minimum wage so you are only tipping for good service.
91. Shops in the cities and towns usually stay open on Sundays, sometimes with reduced opening hours.
92. Shops in smaller villages will often close on a Sunday.
93. It’s normal for shops to close for the day between 5pm-6pm.
94. Supermarkets tend to close around 10pm and some stay open 24 hours (alcohol will not be sold after 10pm)
95. Shops don’t close at lunch time.
96. Scotland has the highest amount of redheads in the world.
97. The Scots are a clever bunch. Inventions here include the TV, the telephone, penicillin, refrigerators, bicycles, the decimal point, colour photography and gin and tonic.
98. Only about 60,000 people speak Gaelic now in Scotland, mostly in the highlands and islands, especially in the Outer Hebrides.
99. Modern golf originated in Scotland. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews is the world governing body and the links course here dates back to before 1574.
100. Famous Scottish actors include Sean Connory, Ewan McGregor, Gerald Butler, Sam Heughan, David Tennant and Robbie Coltrane.
101. Once you visit Scotland you'll want to visit over and over again, fact!
Have you visited Scotland? Is there anything you wish you had known before you came? Let me know in the comments below