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.
If you've been doing research about Scotland you'll have no doubt heard about the notorious wee beastie that goes by the name of "Midge". Conversation usually goes something like "those BLOODY midges were everywhere!" Or "I've been eaten ALIVE!!". You may not recognise the name Scottish Midge , they are also known as "no see ums" in the states (which I think is a pretty excellent and appropriate name for the little swines), sand flies in Australia, gnats and punkies. Whichever name you call them there is no denying they are a bit of a nightmare. Here you'll find out everything you need to know and how to how to get rid of midges.
For those unprepared they can indeed be a complete pain and can easily ruin your holiday but fear not, a few simple rules and some good midge repellent should make your trip to Scotland beastie free and let your enjoy your trip without the need to turn into a mad man/woman, swinging tennis bats/hand bags/frying pans around your head like you are doing the time warp.
What is a midge?
The Scottish midge is a teeny wee flying insect with a wing-span of 2-3 mm. There are actually over 35 species of biting midge in Scotland but it's the ferocious Highland midge that causes the most problems. With wings that flap 1000 times a second they have the highest wing speed of all animals worldwide and if you unfortunate enough to encounter a swarm of them they can deliver 3000 midge bites in an hour. That's the scary facts but you'll be pleased to know that only half of the midge population will bite, the males are quite content to munch on flowers. The females reach adulthood with enough eggs for one batch of eggs, after this, if she decides to have more, she needs blood so it's then that the little madams decide to feed on us.
Just a quick note as people are often confused. Midges are not mosquitoes, the are a much smaller version. You are unlikely to ever see a mosquito in Scotland.
Updated April 2018
We all know how difficult it is to please kids all the time. Where we are gobsmacked by the stunning Scottish mountains, lochs and forest, kids will probably be less impressed.
Having a teenager myself I know how impossible it is to get them to even lift their heads up from their phones and computers. What they need is to get out and get some fresh air and exercise. Easier said than done you might say. Well yes, I don’t recommend taking them anywhere without a phone signal (what a disaster that would be – queue Kevin and Perry style huffing and puffing), at least not for any longer than a couple of days. But if you are looking for things to do with kids in Scotland I have come up with some ideas. Through a lot of experimenting I have come up with the following list of things or activities you can try out with your little bundles of joys, and you never know, you might even get a glimpse of that smile you haven’t seen since they were 11.
Remember, any activity you do has to be cool! Even though they might surprise themselves and actually have fun, what they are really thinking is 'how cool would this photo be on Instagram?', or how cool will my pals think I am when I tell them what I’ve been doing (also good bargaining tools – think how good the photos would be on your Instagram son).
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1. Canoeing or Kayaking
There are canoe hire shops almost anywhere near a stretch of water. 90% of Scots live within 10 miles of a canoeing site so it should be easy to find somewhere. Get them in a wetsuit or buoyancy jacket and out into the water, especially somewhere stunning (photos!). It’s surprisingly easy if it’s a nice calm day and they should be pleased they managed to do it successfully. This was a good one for us and now we do it quite regularly. Elie Watersports in Fife hire out canoes and wetsuits, or you can have a go on a banana boat or paddle boat, or have a lesson windsurfing or sailing. NaeLimits near Grandtully in Perthshire also has loads of activities water based and land based from the easy to the build up one’s courage type of activity like cliff jumping and canyoning(!) For kayaking you could try Splash Rafting, as well as kayaking they could try river bugging, canyoning, abseiling and loads of other activities. Kayaking £50 for a half day including all equipment and wetsuit.
Updated August 2019
As a Scottish travel blogger I get asked a lot about where to visit in Scotland from people who are just beginning to plan their trip. They have an idea of a couple of places but want to know where to go to see the locations they see on TV and in magazines such as the vast lochs, the mighty mountains and the cute colourful villages. Often people who visit will take a day trip in Scotland, or several, from their base in one of the cities which is a great idea. It means of course that you can settle into your accommodation knowing you won't be moving for a while. A good idea is to spend a few days in one city, exploring and taking day trips to nearby sights and attractions then moving to another city in another area and doing the same. This A-Z of places to take a day trip in Scotland should give you loads of ideas. I've included some possible bases you can choose from, these places have all the amenities you will need and some lovely restaurants and cafes.
This island in the Firth of Clyde is nicknamed Scotland in miniature. As it crosses the highland boundary line the north of the island is dramatic and awe inspiring not disimilar to the mountain ranges in the highlands. The south is filled with lush green fields, cute villages and beautiful beaches. If you are short on time while you're visiting Scotland but want to head to an island this one is a good bet. You can catch a train from Glasgow which takes just over an hour, arrive in Adrossan and hop on a ferry to Brodick on Arran. The ferry takes 55 minutes. Even if you have all the time in the world I’d still highly recommend Arran, it’s my favourite island I have visited so far.
Possible bases - Glasgow, Largs, Ayr
Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis, can be found not far from the town of Fort William and stands at an impressive 1346 metres high. One to tick off your bucket list if you're feeling energetic or jump on the Gondola on the nearby Aonach Mor for breathtaking views over the Nevis Range and the Scottish highlands.
Possible bases - Fort William, Oban
The Cairngorms national park is a haven for winter sports but the summer is also a great time to stick on your hiking boots and explore. You can take a guided hike to discover the arctic fauna on the mountain trails, paddle board or canoe the River Spey or visit one of the five whisky distilleries. If you are lucky you can spot wildlife such as wildcats, ospreys and mountain hares. The pretty town of Aviemore is the perfect base to explore this stunning mountain range.
Possible bases - Aviemore, Pitlochry, Newtonmore
This historic city is a hub of design and creative talent. With a brand new £1 billion redesign of the waterfront taking shape and the highly inticipated new V+A Museum of Design opening in 2018 this city is becoming a top destination, in fact it’s recently been ranked number 5 in the Wall Street Journal’s “Worldwide Hot Destinations In 2018”. Once the home to “jute, jam and journalism” the city is now the country’s first UNESCO City of Design.
Possible bases - Dundee itself, Fife, Perth, Edinburgh
Planning your Scotland itinerary is an exciting time, researching builds the anticipation. Deciding where to go, which castles you want to explore, what lochs you want to see, which mountains you want to climb (or look at!). It’s a fun task and the perfect excuse you get your travel party together with a nice bottle of wine and a big notepad. Perhaps you've been dreaming about this trip for years. Maybe you have been tracing your ancestors in Scotland and you’ve discovered you have some Scottish blood. So you've decided to take the plunge and book a vacation. But where on earth do you start? This guide will help make the process easier, guiding you through the vital steps to make sure your holiday runs smoothly and you have the time of your life.
In this article, while planning your Scotland itinerary, you will research
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A wee note before we begin. I’m old school and love to write things down on a paper with a pen. I know, weird. I spend so long on computers and phones for my blog that when I get the chance to be creative with pens and paper I grab it. All of your Scotland Itinerary can of course be done on the computer, in word documents and on google maps if you’d prefer. I like it on paper so I can keep it all in a pretty folder , then when I get back I can add postcards, leaflets and photos so I have a nice folder filled with memories of my trip. I've attached a file at the foot of this blog which you can print out to help you plan.
Updated April 2019
Are you planning to visit Scotland and looking for some inspiration? How about watching some of the best Scottish movies? This list of films will have your booking your trip before you can say "Take me to the mountains". Whether it's a movie set in Scotland, a Scottish historical romance or movies about those Scottish Highlanders this list has something for everyone. The film industry here in Scotland is booming and with news of new film studios in the pipeline I'm excited to watch this list grow. Rumour has it the new studio will be in Leith, Edinburgh, in a giant warehouse which was used to film scenes in the new Avengers movie. This is fantastic news and should mean even more amazing Scottish movies! Since I first wrote this list in 2017 there has been a massive amount of new films coming out, I'm so happy film producers and location scouts are beginning to notice how absolutely stunning the landscape is here. Take a gander at the films below, I've included a few TV series's as well, as these should not be missed.
Shakespeare’s tale of murder, guilt, witches and tyranny hardly shows off the most beautiful side of Scotland but it’s a well known story and definitely one of watch. I particularly like the 2015 version with Michael Fassbender playing a rather dishy Macbeth. Receiving a prophecy from three witches that one day he will become the King of Scotland, he is consumed by ambition, kills the king and spirals into madness. Filming took place across the UK and the Isle of Skye appears regularly.