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Scotland at a Glance

Don't know where to begin? Get quick tips here from our local experts about the most popular things to see, do, and the best times to visit Scotland.

WHY VISIT SCOTLAND

Imagine landscapes that seem ripped from a movie set, a rich cultural heritage stretching back generations, castles galore, villages with timeless charm and friendly locals who want to share the best of their homeland with guests. Or, instead of imaging, why not experience it for yourself? It's all waiting for you here in Scotland.

The northern part of Britain has its own unique characteristics that set it apart from the rest of the island. The sheer mention of Scotland evokes images of mist-shrouded hills, ancient henges, castle ruins and old settlements where many of Scotland’s greatest stories come to life.

For nature lovers, hikers or photographers, the Scottish Highlands are not to miss. Other popular sights include the beautiful Isle of Skye, Loch Ness, Glen Coe, Trossachs National Park, Cairngorms National Park, Eilean Donan castle, the dramatic North Coast 500 driving route, the secluded Scottish Isles, and Old Norse and Stone Age settlements.

As for city life, the Scottish capital of Edinburgh boasts a variety of attractions within its historic Old Town, as well as numerous cultural festivals, such as the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival, each summer. Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, is renowned for its good shopping on the high street, a great music scene, and many internationally-recognised museums.

Scotland is well-known for being a welcoming and friendly nation, with high European safety standards, so it is particularly ideal for solo travellers

Thanks to the variety of landscapes and ways to get around, Scotland makes for a fantastic destination year-round, whether on an independent self-drive tour, guided small group tour, or private tour.

See more Scotland travel information, such as weather, sample itineraries and more, at our practical information section.

HOW TO GET TO SCOTLAND

All Nordic Visitor tours in Scotland start and end in Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city. You can of course customise to start from elsewhere if you wish, and we even offer the option to add private transfers from both Edinburgh and Glasgow International Airport to your hotel in Edinburgh on all of our tours.  

Scotland has five international airports: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Glasgow Prestwick, Inverness and Aberdeen. 

TRANSFERS TO EDINBURGH FROM EDINBURGH AIPORT

The city of Edinburgh has a great public transit system (more about this in our Useful Information section) linking the Edinburgh Airport and city centre:

  • The Airlink (Service 100) bus service runs 24 hours day, departing from the airport every 10 minutes and arriving to Edinburgh Waverly Station in the city centre in about 25 minutes. The service N22 is also available between 00:15AM and 4AM. Single fare or open return ticket can be purchased from kiosks or directly from the driver.
  • The Edinburgh Tram also operates between the airport and York Place in the city centre, with departures every 8-12 minutes and an average journey time of 35 minutes. A single fare or open return for “Airport Zone” can be purchased from vending machines (with exact change or card payment).

STARTING OR ENDING YOUR TRIP IN GLASGOW

We now include the option to add a private airport transfer from Glasgow International Airport into Edinburgh. You also have the option to end your tour in Glasgow if you wish, giving you the chance to discover Scotland’s largest city.

GETTING AROUND

Scotland's varied landscapes offer wonderful scenery for any journey. Just keep in mind that driving is done on the left side of the road.

When driving in the countryside, especially in the Highlands, you should expect the unexpected and drive at a speed that won’t affect your decision-making ability. Most visitors choose to explore the countryside by rental car or as part of a guided small group tour. See what other choices are available by browsing our many package options.

In Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh, it’s easy to navigate by foot, but if you prefer a bus or taxi, here’s what you need to know: Public transport is provided by Lothian Buses and the main station is at Waverley Bridge. You can buy a single fare on the bus directly from drivers, but be prepared with the exact amount as they don't issue change. You can also buy day tickets, night tickets, multi-day passes and family passes at the Waverly Bridge Station. 

WHEN TO VISIT & WEATHER

There really isn’t a bad time to visit Scotland, and while the climate is variable, the weather isn’t what we would call extreme. 

PRECIPITATION: Scotland has a reputation as a rainy place, but the amount of rainfall really depends on where you go and when you visit. 

For example, the western part of the Scottish Highlands is one of the wettest places in Europe (average 4,577 mm or 180.2 in per year) while eastern Scotland tends to be much drier (less than 870 mm or 34.3 in). In fact, Dundee in the southeast is Scotland's sunniest city, averaging over 1,500 hours of sunshine per year (vs 1,200 hours in Edinburgh).

As for snowfall, there may be only 15 - 20 snowy days in winter, and that’s mainly in the mountains of the inland areas. Of course, hail or freezing rain can occur. 

TEMPERATURE & WIND: The east coast of Scotland tends to be drier and sunnier, but the west coast tends to be warmer. Overall, January and February are the coldest months with daytime temperatures averaging 3°C - 7°C, while July and August are the warmest months with an average temperature of 15°C.

Another factor in how cool it feels is the wind; Scotland is one of Europe’s windiest countries, mainly on the north and west coasts and in the western part of the Highlands. So watch your umbrella!  

PACKING SMART FOR YOUR TRIP

In the UK, it’s not unusual to experience all four seasons in one day. (More about that in our weather section.) So no matter the season, you need a warm sweater or fleece jacket, a waterproof jacket and good walking shoes/boots for all sorts of terrain. 

An umbrella is always handy, and bird watchers may wish to bring binoculars. You may also need a UK travel adapter, which you can buy at the airport or in Edinburgh shops after you arrive. The UK electrial outlets are different than those in the rest of Europe.

SUMMER TIPS: You can lighten up, but the summer nights can still be chilly, especially in the Scottish Highlands, so it doesn’t hurt to bring a pair of light gloves, hat and scarf. 

You might also encounter midges, pesky little flies that swarm near lakes and streams, especially in the Scottish Highlands and Scottish Isles. They are at their worst during twilight hours from mid-June to mid-August. You can help avoid bites by wearing long sleeves/trousers in light colours and by bringing some Avon Skin-So-Soft body oil spray, the repellent of choice for Britain’s Royal Marines. 

WINTER TIPS: Temperatures do not often drop below freezing, but an insulated jacket is recommended due to the cool northerly winds. Also bring some warmer layers along with an insulated coat, scarf, gloves, hat and warm shoes or insulated boots with at least one pair of thick woollen socks. 

FOR LIGHTER LOADS: We recommended bringing a small backpack for your daily essentials as you travel between accommodations. Plus, it might come in handy for an impromptu hike or picnic.

TOP PLACES TO SEE

There are countless things to see all around Scotland! Below are some of our favourites highlights:

  • The Old Town and Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital
  • The Scottish Highlands and the city of Inverness ("The Capital of the Highlands")
  • Numerous historic castles including those on the "Castle Trail" in Aberdeenshire
  • The world-famous Loch Ness, alleged home of the monster Nessie
  • The secluded beaches on the islands of the Western Isles
  • UNESCO World Heritage-listed neolithic ruins in the Orkney Islands
  • The beautiful Trossachs National Park and Loch Lomond area
  • The "Seafood Capital" Oban, on the west coast
  • Discover Viking heritage and island life in the Shetland Islands

TOP THINGS TO DO

Scotland offers a wide range of cultural and nature-based activities to suit all tastes. Why not try one of these popular activities below?

  • Sample traditional Scottish cuisine such as haggis, porridge, kippers and black pudding
  • Visit one of Scotland‘s local distilleries and see how whisky, the “water of life”, is produced
  • Learn about Gaelic culture and the megaliths on the Isle of Lewis
  • Stroll along the dramatic beaches of Scotland's north coast
  • Lace up your boots and hike the beautiful mountains of the Isle of Skye
  • Experience a traditional Afternoon Tea... which is far more than just tea!
  • Follow in the footsteps of your favourite Harry Potter or Outlander characters

POPULAR ITINERARIES

Our itineraries are designed to be flexible, allowing you to add optional activities and day tours, either at the time of your booking or on location during your stay. Your dedicated travel consultant will be able to advise you about available activities in Scotland.

If you would like to include more activities into your holiday, we recommend booking a package that includes more time at each overnight location (e.g. two or more nights at the same accommodation). You can also send a us a request to customise a tour.

To help you make the most of your time in Scotland, see our helpful itinerary suggestions below. Underneath each suggestion are travel themes that include holidays with similar itineraries.

Self-drive tours

5-6 days: Start in Edinburgh and explore the capital city before driving up into the Scottish Highlands, visiting the 13th-century Blair Castle and the Cairngorms National Park. Drive along the shores of Loch Ness, then head to the majestic Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides (also called Western Isles). Visit Scotland‘s picturesque valleys and Doune Castle, featured in the classic film Monty Python & the Holy Grail and the Outlander TV series as "Castle Leoch".

7-8 days: Start in Edinburgh, enjoy an extended version of the express tour noted above and add a visit to the beautiful Sleat Peninsula on Skye. Take in the scenery characterised by beautiful beaches, lochs (lakes), forests and glens (valleys). While on the Isle of Skye, enjoy a walk to the crystal clear Fairy Pools at the foot of the Black Cuillin Hills. 

9-13 days: Start in Edinburgh, visit to the quaint fishing villages of Fife and St Andrews on the east coast, the spectacular castles of Aberdeenshire, dip into the magnificent Highlands, and the great valleys of the west coast. You have the choice to discover the Outer Hebrides, Skye and the North Coast 500, Orkney, or the west coast and Isles of Mull and Iona.

14 + days: Start in Edinburgh and expand on the route above with a visit to the quaint fishing villages of Fife and St. Andrews on the east coast. Visit attractions such as the spectacular castles of Aberdeenshire, the Stone Age ruins of the Orkney Islands and the vast beaches and jagged cliffs of the north coast. You can also go island hopping among the Western Isles and explore the lush glens, lochs and national parks around Scotland. We've also recently added the Isles of Mull and Iona on our itineraries. 

Small group or privately-guided tours

4-6 days: We have two private tours for those who have less than a week to spend in Scotland. The first will bring you to Skye to discover this majestic and mysterious island off the west coast. The second will bring you into the Scottish Highlands to visit lochs and castles with a local. Along the way you’ll see the beautiful mountains and lakes that make Scotland such a beauty, a haven for nature lovers.

8 days: Start in Edinburgh and explore the capital city on foot. Meet with your guide before heading into the Scottish Highlands, followed by visits to the mythical Loch Ness and the white sand beaches of the west coast. Explore historic castles, waterfalls and the beautiful landscapes of the Isle of Skye. Enjoy trips to whisky distilleries and national parks along the way. Above all, enjoy all the stories told to you by your local driver-guide.

10 days: Start in Edinburgh and explore the capital city on foot. Meet with your guide who will drive you up the east coast, before driving into the Scottish Highlands and to the Isle of Skye. This trip includes visits to the mythical Loch Ness, the white sand beaches of the west coast, historic castles, waterfalls and iconic valleys such as Glen Coe. You’ll enjoy trips to whisky distilleries and national parks along the way.

Special interests tours

6-day whisky tour: While many of our tours will include a stop in a whisky distillery or recommend that you do along your self-drive itinerary, we also have one tour dedicated solely to whisky. This tour starts in Edinburgh where you can discover the largest private collection of whisky in the world at the Scotch Whisky Experience. Your guide will then drive you to the west coast, stopping at Oban to visit the distillery there, before taking a ferry across to Islay, an island famous for its whisky. You will then spend two days discovering the various distilleries of the island and their unique tastes. 

7-day Outlander tours: We have two specialised Outlander tours that go around Scotland in just a week, one self-drive and one privately guided. Starting in Edinburgh, you’ll have plenty of time to explore Scotland’s capital. They then both go up the east coast into Fife to allow you to visit some of the small towns used for filming, before heading into the majestic Scottish Highlands. Along the way you’ll see some of Scotland’s most beautiful attractions, including Loch Ness, Glen Coe, Culloden (where Jamie fights for his country!), Doune Castle, which stands for Castle Leoch, and the unique Clava Cairns, a series of Bronze Age tombs and standing stones, which was an inspiration for the Craigh na Dun stones.

 

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