Despite rumors to the contrary, not all Scots are barbarians, haggis is delicious, Burns Night isn’t about bonfires and even true Scots mostly wear underpants under their kilts! Scotland is, in fact, a fascinating vacation destination for its diverse scenery, long history, rich heritage, and huge number of attractions and things to do. Lowlands, highlands, islands, great cultural cities, and far northern fishing villages draw the curious and the adventurous year-round.
Nominally part of the UK but fiercely independent by nature, Scotland is divided into six unique regions. Southernmost is the Border Country with its Hadrian’s Wall, rolling hills, pretty towns, ruined castles, and abbeys. The Southwest holds Scotland’s coastal Riviera and the Isle of Arran, and the Central belt is home to Edinburgh and Glasgow. The North East boasts the Grampian Mountains, Aberdeen, dramatic castles, coastlines, and quaint fishing ports, while the Highlands are famed for their glens, lakes, and mountains. The wild Scottish Isles comprise the Hebrides, the Orkney and the Shetland archipelagos.
The Scots are justly proud of their country, its unique Clan heritage, and the world-famous single malt whiskeys distilled here for centuries. Friendly and welcoming once the ice is broken by a ‘wee dram’ of the golden nectar, they’ll happily share their pride and knowledge with visitors. The hospitality trade here is well-established, with comfortable hotels at all levels, bed and breakfasts, guest houses, and self-catering accommodation easily found. These days, the UK is an expensive place to visit, but a vacation in Scotland still represents value for money.
Scotland’s climate is considered as temperate and oceanic: with milder winters and wetter, cooler summers than many countries along the same latitude due to the proximity of the Atlantic Gulf Stream. Scotland is generally far colder than the rest of the UK, though, with the lowest temperature recorded at -17˚F in the Grampian Mountains. Scotland’s high season runs from May to September, with accommodation and flight charges rising with the temperatures.
Scotland covers a relatively small area, with its main towns and attractions linked by good roads, although the far north of the country can take time to get around. By basing your vacation in one of its large cities, you’ll be able to fill your days with contrasting sights and experiences. There’s something for everyone here, from adventure sports through nature at its loveliest and most dramatic, to legends, myths, folk tales, memorials of great battles against the English, and top-class dining and shopping.
Public transportation in Scotland is government-regulated and gives an integrated, comprehensive mix of rail and bus companies, high-quality roads, and air or sea travel to the islands. If you’re planning to explore remote rural and mountainous areas and don’t want to use a tour company, self-drive is the best idea, as far-flung villages and the wilder northern coastal region have little or no public bus or train services. For getting around the towns and cities, buses, taxis, Glasgow’s subway system and Edinburgh’s trams are all options.
- Hadrian’s Wall, built along the English border by the Romans to keep out the raiding Scots
- Magnificent Edinburgh Castle, built on the peak of an extinct volcano
- Loch Ness in the Highlands for a glimpse of its legendary monster, Nessie
- The Isle of Skye, a Scottish icon in miniature
- Holyrood House, the ancient residence of Scottish kings
- Glasgow Cathedral for its stained glass, the finest in the UK
- The HMY Britannia, at one time Queen Elizabeth II’s sailing vessel but now decommissioned and moored at Leith
- Culloden House and battlefield, where Bonnie Prince Charlie lost to the English