Sublime Scotland ̶ legendary land of bottomless lochs, expansive mountains, gorgeous green glens, cool cosmopolitan cities, unique cuisine, and insanely friendly locals (who can feel a little fierce until you get to know them and start to understand their accent!).
Snd while this isn’t a HUGE nation by North American standards, it’s an enchanting country that is full of more history and culture per square inch than just about anywhere on Earth.
So, if you’re planning your very own week-long Scotland itinerary, then difficult choices will need to be made. Because you’ll need to prioritize what you want to do and will need some expert travel tips to help you out – travel advice that will allow you to seamlessly avoid any God awful faux pas that you might commit along the way.
Because when you first hear the word, “Scotland”, I bet images of bagpipes, the Loch Ness monster, mountaineers in tartan kilts, expansive castles, and the majestic landscapes of the Highlands all come to mind. A wealth of imagery that may include an Outlander episode or two and that is all part of the infectious charm of this fascinating country.
So, whether you decide to explore Scotland by boat, by a scenic train ride, by hiking along some of the country;’s picturesque trails, or by renting a car, (remember that in the UK they drive on the left side of the road), you will see a wealth of dynamic landscapes and stunning locations that are brimming over with history.
And as you prepare for your trip and embark on this very Scottish adventure, here are 6 incredible tips that will help you plan the best ever vacay in Bonnie Scotland.
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1. Visit Edinburgh
Honestly, you cannot leave Scotland without visiting the elegant capital of Edinburgh. With a castle perched atop an ancient volcano, an exquisitely designed neoclassical style New Town and an Old Town that is oozing history out of every pore,
Yessiree. it is easily one of the world’s most beautiful cities. And if you’re short on time, book a bus tour with Edinburgh Tour so that you can see all of the city’s major attractions in the shortest amount of time possible.
While you’re in Edinburgh, you also don’t want to miss Holyroodhouse Palace. This palace, once a monastery, is now the official residence of the Queen of England (when she is visiting Edinburgh) and is open to the public when the aforementioned dignitary is not actually there.
So, step inside and marvel at Holyroodhouse Palace’s State apartments (where the queen stays), the Throne Room, and the Great Gallery., a room full of portraits of both Scottish kings and legendary Scottish heroes.
Additionally, the palace is also surrounded by some truly spectacular gardens, making it, and nearby Edinburgh Castle, one of the must-see Edinburgh landmarks during your visit.
Finally, make your way to Camera Obscura, one of the most unusual things to do in Edinburgh. Because no trip to Edinburgh would not be complete without a visit to this amazing place – a unique attraction that is brimming over with awesome photo ops, fun interactive exhibits, and mind-boggling optical illusions that are fun for the whole family.
2. Enjoy Glasgow
Glasgow, AKA Edinburgh’s sassier west coast cousin and Scotland’s largest city,
t’s home to some of Scotland’s best shopping spots as well as gorgeous architecture (think of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh), stunning green spaces, and some of the world’s friendliest (and funniest) people.
Beautiful Loch Lomond, known for being the largest lake in Great Britain, is also located a short distance from the city and is home to an abundance of salmon, trout, and whitefish.
So, if you’re looking to get away from the chaos of the city, or just a really awesome day trip from Edinburgh, then it’s an ideal destination for anyone who loves water sports and who wants to do a bit of hiking.
3. See Dundee
Situated in the nation’s northeast between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, Dundee has become one of the world’s coolest cities – especially in recent years thanks to a major waterfront redevelopment project that features the jaw-droppingly beautiful V&A Dundee design museum as its centerpiece.
Furthermore, if you love eating a giant plate of seafood amidst beyond cozy surroundings, then you’ll enjoy grabbing a bite to eat at the Ship Inn near Broughty Ferry.
4. Learn a few phrases
There are three official languages in Scotland ̶ English, Scots, and Gaelic (the latter of which is mainly spoken in the Highlands and Islands).
The majority of Scottish people speak a hybrid of English and Scots. That’s why a few useful phrases to learn would include ‘aye’ (yes), ‘naw’ (no) ‘steamin’ (drunk), and ‘scunnered’ (fed up).
Now, apart from knowing the odd word or two in Scottish, learning a few phrases in Gaelic will definitely win you extra brownie points from any good kilt wearer that you may encounter. That’s because as of today, Scottish Gaelic has fewer than 60,000 active speakers, or just over 1% of Scotland’s population – people who are mostly from either the Highlands or Scottish islands like Lewis and Harris.
5. Hit the road in the Highlands
One of the best ways to explore Caledonia (the Roman name for Scotland) is by road and under your own steam.
So, hire a car from Enjoy Travel and embark on an incredible journey through some of the most scenic spots in the wild, untamed Highlands, including Ben Nevis (the UK’s highest mountain), Loch Ness (home of the enigmatic monster), and the genteel city of Inverness.
Because the Scottish Highlands are known the world over for their wild and rugged landscapes, as well as a long and sorted history that is full of incredible violence and alluring romance.
Sparsely inhabited, these mountains and rocky coastlines are a favorite destination among hikers, cyclists, and outdoor enthusiasts alike – visitors who enjoy a variety of different activities including fishing, kayaking, golfing, rafting, and more.
Because as you might already know, the Highlands is the largest area of great natural beauty in Britain and is dotted with a multitude of charming villages and quaint cities that are all filled with fantastic lodgings and delicious places to eat.
So, if you can, stop by the beautiful seaside town of Dornoch and explore the ruins of a local cathedral and a nearby castle. While you’re here, you can also admire the stellar views of Pentland Firth from John o’Groats, the northernmost point in Britain.
6. Party like a true Scot
Scots love to party. So, if you have a fondness for good craic (lively conversation), wonderful whiskey, cool craft beer, contemporary music, and distinct, regional cuisine (think haggis, square sausage, and Irn-Bru), then you’ll have the time of your life in Scotland.
And one great place to live it up like a local is the ornate, Bennets Bar in Edinburgh. It’s a brilliant spot to grab a delicious craft beer or sip on an artisanal whiskey or two.
Other fine purveyors of craft spirits in Scotland include Draffens in Dundee (it’s an amazing, speakeasy-style cocktail bar), as well as Oran Mor and Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow (It’s legendary but Glasgow has more vibrant venues than you can shake your sporran at).
Plus, Edinburgh is actually the city with the single highest density of bars per person in all of Scotland. A not-so-shocking statistic that shows you just how important bars and pubs really are here. Especially since Edinburgh’s vibrant nightlife scene is characterized by stopping at a local pub to imbibe in either whiskey or beer (both black and blonde) while listening to live music.
However, it”s also important to note that alcohol is quite expensive in Edinburgh, even if it is super good. So, although going out and partying in Edinburgh can be a lot of fun, it could be quite expensive and you should plan accordingly.
Also, if I’m being brutally honest, I think Glasgow actually has an even better nightlife scene than Edinburgh. So yeah, definitely plan on a few raucous nights out there is you have the time to spare.
Well, my faithful reader, so ends our list of awesome tips for planning the best ever trip to Scotland. So, if you have a spare moment or two (or ten) please share some of your favoirte Scottish hotspots in the comments section below, and thanks for stopping by!