Tours in Scotland are offered in a wide range of budgets and styles. This is a popular destination among older travelers looking for a relaxing golf getaway, scotch tastings and walking tours through the highlands. Scotland has a warm, welcoming culture and if you like exploring an ancient culture, participating in pub conversations, and a good natured barb here and there, you’ll love being on a Scotland tour.
Is there a language barrier in Scotland?
Depending on the region of Scotland you’re traveling in, it may be extremely difficult to discern what people are saying. English is the main language, however the accent can be notoriously difficult to decipher.
This is a great reason to travel on a tour in Scotland - you and your travel companions will lean on each other to help navigate the accent, and your tour guide will be a useful safety net. Scottish people are aware that their accent can be hard to understand and are generally patient with being asked to repeat themselves.
What is the weather like in Scotland?
Scotland weather is quite variable region by region. If you’re traveling near the coast you can expect fairy cool and windy conditions almost year round. Due to being so far north, during the summertime Scotland experiences very long days, and in Scotland’s northernmost region, there are a few days out of the year with 24 hour sunlight. If you’re traveling during the winter time, expect regular snowfall and temperatures in the 40s (Fahrenheit).
Spring and autumn are highly recommended times to visit, where the weather is less extreme than during the summer and winter. You’ll see temperatures in the 50s and 60s, with intermittent sunshine, and it will be mostly dry.
As far as what to wear, given the variability and the cooler climate, layers are going to be your best friend any time of year in Scotland!
Top 5 Travel Attractions in Scotland
Recently ranked as the most beautiful country in the world, Scotland boasts some of the most breathtaking natural sights on our planet. From its peaceful lochs and glens, to the rolling highlands, to the harsh and jagged peaks in the Western Hebrides, Scotland’s dramatic and diverse landscape is sure to stun even the most seasoned outdoorsman.
Beyond its natural heritage, Scotland is also a country with a vibrant culture and a fascinating history. Home to golf, haggis, and the Loch Ness Monster, there is no shortage of sights to see and things to do in Scotland. Here is this author’s take on the top five travel attractions.
5. A WHISKY TASTING
A trip to Scotland would not be complete without a taste of its most famous beverage: a dram of genuine, single-malt Scotch. Luckily, there are many opportunities to not only get a taste of whisky (not whiskey!), but also learn about its creation process. There are over 100 licensed distilleries in Scotland, each with their own unique history and fiercely guarded trade secrets, and the majority of them offer some sort of visitor experience. In particular, we recommend a tour at the Glenlivet - one of Scotland’s most famous distilleries that began as an illicit smuggling operation.
4. THE ROYAL RESIDENCES OF EDINBURGH
A walk through the streets of Edinburgh transports you back in time, in no small part due to the capital’s two castles. In the direct heart of the city looms Edinburgh Castle, an imposing stone fortress that sits on top of an extinct volcano. A trip to the castle will not only reward you with an incredible view of the entire city, but a chance to learn about the building’s intriguing and bloody history. The castle has been a royal residence since the 12th century, and for a small fee, you can enter and see Mary Queen of Scots’ private quarters, as well as the infamous Scottish Crown Jewels.
You must be sure to also stop by Edinburgh’s second castle: Holyrood Palace, an active royal residence. Holyrood lies at the opposite end of the Royal Mile, the historic street that connects the two castles, and when the Royal Family is not in town you can take a tour of its decadent rooms and haunted ruins of a cathedral. A detailed guided audio tour will fascinate any visitor, though history buffs will be particularly delighted. The entire castle staff is required to have a thorough understanding of English history, and visitors are encouraged to ask questions.
3. EILEAN DONAN CASTLE
This awe-inspiring structure falls on the border of the wild highlands and is often the image of the iconic Scottish castle. Only accessible by an ancient stone bridge, Eilean Donan is a built on a small island in the icy waters of a saltwater loch. The now isolated fortress was once a centerpiece in hundreds of years of clan conflict and violence, and the weight of this history runs deeply through the castle’s veins. It is still privately owned and maintained by a member of the MaCrae clan.
2. ISLE OF SKYE
The Isle of Skye is home to some of the most spectacular natural vistas in all of Scotland. This harsh and isolated island has long been heralded as a place of magic, and is the birthplace of hundreds of myths about giants, faeries, and kelpies. A visit to Skye would not be complete without a trip to the enchanted Fairy Pools, a hike up the cliffs of Kilt Rock, and a visit to the see the mysterious stones of Storr. After a day in the outdoors, be sure to warm up with a warm cup of tea and some fish and chips in the charming town of Portree.
1. THE ROYAL MILE
The Royal Mile is a cultural hotspot in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, with no limit of things to do. The best place for shopping and dining, the Royal Mile is lined with some of the best traditional Scottish pubs and shops selling typical Scottish goods, from wool sweaters to shortbread to haggis. The cobblestone mile itself is impressive and physically unique as it has been largely unaltered since it was formalized in 1816.
One especially interesting element of the Mile is its well preserved “closes”, the narrow walking paths which used to lead to residential areas. As the busy road is popular with tourists, you can expect to encounter some authentic bagpipe playing, and the sight of several men in kilts.
Some of the unique buildings on the Royal Mile include the gorgeous Gothic St. Giles’ Cathedral, the old Scottish Parliament, and a church converted into a craft market. At night, the Royal Mile is home to some of the city’s best ghost tours, including trips underground to see full streets that were built over during the plague.