Scotland Travel Tips
Scotland is not just the land of Braveheart, haggis, and sheep herders. It is filled with castles, stunning lochs and mountains, beautiful parks, and welcoming locals. If you spend time in the bustling cities, you can visit the University of Glasgow, admire the view of Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat or walk through one of the country’s many museums. Wherever you are, you’ll find yourself occupied with rich culture and history. Make sure you visit the highlands for some of the most stunning views and landscapes in the world.
- Accommodation: Hostel dorm rooms cost between $18-25 USD per night. A private room in a hostel could cost up to $87 per night, with doubles averaging around $60. Budget hotel rooms with a double bed and private bathroom start at $60 a night.
- Food: Eating out in Edinburgh or Glasgow can be inexpensive if you stick to the pubs. A typical meal will cost $16 USD including a drink. Fish and chips can be found for around $10 USD. Nice, sit-down restaurants with table service will cost around $30 for a meal plus drink. If you buy groceries, you’ll spend $60 per week.
- Transportation Costs: Buses are inexpensive in Scotland. You can also take the backpacker bus around the country as it is hop on and hop off.
- Activities: All public museums are free to enter, although some special exhibits cost about $10. Most major tourist attractions such as the Edinburgh Castle cost about $25 USD. Day trips into the country from Edinburgh and Glasgow range from $31-64 USD, depending on the length of the tour. You can find free walking tours in the major cities.
Money Saving Tips
- Walk each city - Walking is the best way to see each major city as they are compact enough to travel by foot.
- Eat in the pub – The best food is often in the pubs and you’ll pay a fraction of the price than you would in a proper restaurant. Also, pubs generally give you a true taste of Scottish culture. Scotland is publand.
- Visit the free museums – The public museums in Scotland are free.
- Picnics in the park – There are many parks in Scotland and almost all are free to enter. Take advantage of this free outing: bring your lunch and admire the lakes, rivers and nearby castles.
Top Things to See and Do
- Visit Edinburgh – Edinburgh is a glorious city filled with beautiful cobblestone streets, parks, museums, history, a castle, and maybe even ghosts. I celebrated my birthday here a few years ago and I couldn’t believe how great it was! There’s a lot to do here and, after a long day of sightseeing, spend the evening in pub, hanging out with great locals.
- Spend an Afternoon at Edinburgh Castle – Not only is this castle beautiful, but it’s an important Scottish monument that provides a fascinating history of the city.
- Taste good pub food - Pub food is often the best in the country, which is why you see many locals eating lunch or dinner here. Since it’s so affordable, it’s also a good way to eat out. Pubs are a great place to try good beer, food, and even haggis.
- Visit Glasgow University – The university houses an art gallery, museum, and dates back all the way to 1451. You can take walking tours and marvel at the architecture.
- Puzzle over Rossyln Chapel – Figure out the Da Vinci code at this historic chapel with its intricate art work and symbolism. The place raises a lot of questions: why is there corn on the wall if it wasn’t discovered until centuries later?
- See the Cathedrals – The cathedrals in Scotland are marvelous with their unique Gothic architecture and imposing heights. One of the best is Glasgow Cathedral.
- Try the Local Markets - Scotland is full of farmers markets where fresh produce lies at your fingertips. The bigger cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh have several of them, but you can usually find smaller markets in towns outside of the cities as well.
- Play Golf – The Scottish invented golf. If you’re not lucky enough to play a round at St. Andrews, there are plenty of immaculate-kept greens to keep any golf player happy. Play on a weekday for a reduced rate of $56 USD.
- Try to find Nessie – Visit Loch Ness and try to find the famous monster that is said to be swimming in its depths. When you get tired of that, simply cruise around this amazing lake. The hills nearby provide for good hiking too.
- Visit Melrose Abbey - Robert the Bruce’s heart is said to be buried here in the ruins of this Cistercian abbey. The abbey was repeatedly destroyed by the English in the 14th century. The ruins are surrounded by beautiful rivers and are also known for their decorative artwork.
- See the Cuillins - This dramatic mountain range dominates Skye and has attracted walkers, climbers and artists for centuries. There are two peaks (red and black) and this can be done as a daytrip or a longer two-day hike.
- Explore the Scottish Highlands - Visit the highlands of Scotland for gigantic mountains, rugged terrain, glaciers, lochs, and kilt-clad Scotsmen. For centuries, people have carved out a living here. While the land may be harsh and unforgiving, it’s beautiful landscape and you haven’t seen Scotland until you’ve been here.
- Get your History Fix in Dundee – Dundee is a bustling student city with a lot of interesting museums. It is known as Scotland’s center of “jute, jam and journalism.” The jute museum is surprisingly interesting. You can also visit Discovery Point to learn about the famous Antarctic expedition that launched from here on the RSS Discovery, which you can actually board at the visitor center.
- Visit the Mystical Smoo Cave - The sleepy town of Durness is the access point for Smoo Cave, a coastline cave complex that can be explored on a tour. The cave is eerie and mysterious, and evidence from charcoal samples show that it may have been inhabited over 4000 years ago. It’s not the most impressive cave in the world, but there’s something about it that peaks your imagination.
- Head to the Isle of Arran - In the southwest of Scotland, this isle is a popular tourist destination for its charming scenery, good walking trails, and quaint villages. Visit Brodick Castle; go for a hike or a trail ride; keep a look out for seals and golden eagles, and just enjoy the scenery.