WHY VISIT SCOTLAND & NORTHERN ENGLAND
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 and Northern England.
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. And if stories are your cup of tea, it's worthwhile hopping over the border to Northern England, where many of the English literary greats found their inspiration in the idyllic fells and moorlands.
For nature lovers, hikers or photographers, the Scottish Highlands and the UNESCO-listed English Lake District in particular are destinations not to miss. Other popular sights include the beautiful Isle of Skye, Loch Ness, Glen Coe, Trossachs National Park, Eilean Donan castle, the dramatic North Coast 500 drive, 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 -- like the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival -- each summer. The Northern England city of York is another great place for experiencing thousands of years of British history, from the Viking Era to Medieval times, all in a few square miles.
Thanks to the variety of landscapes and ways to get around, Scotland and Northern England make for fantastic destinations year-round, whether on an independent self-drive tour or a guided small group tour.
HOW TO GET TO SCOTLAND
Unless customised to begin elsewhere, all Nordic Visitor tours in Scotland and Northern England start and end in Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city.
Scotland has five international airports: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Glasgow Prestwick, Inverness and Aberdeen.
TRANSFERS TO EDINBURGH FROM EDINBURGH AIPORT
The city of Edinburgh has a 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. Service N22 is also available between 00:15AM and 4AM. A single fare costs £4.50 (£7.50 for an open return trip) and can be purchased from kiosks or the driver.
- The Edinburgh Tram 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 for “Airport Zone” costs £6.00 (£8.50 for an open return journey) and can be purchased from vending machines.
If you wish to arrange a private airport transfer, or if you wish to fly into a different airport than Edinburgh, you can make alternative arrangements with your Nordic Visitor travel consultant during the tour booking process.
Scotland and Northern England's varied landscapes offer wonderful scenery for any journey.
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.
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 Waverly Bridge. A single fare is 1.70 GBP and drivers don’t issue change, so be prepared with the exact amount. 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 or Northern England – and while the climate is variable, the weather isn’t what we would call extreme.
PRECIPITATION: the UK 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).
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.
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 THINGS TO SEE
There are countless things to see all around Scotland and Northern England! Below are some of our favourites highlights:
- Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, where the ancient and modern combine to create a unique atmosphere
- The Scottish Highlands, including Inverness -- "The Capital of the Highlands"
- Historic castles in both Scotland and Northern England
- The world famous Loch Ness
- The secluded Scottish Isles
- The beautiful Trossachs and Loch Lomond area
- The ancient Castlerigg Stone Circle
- The old medieval town centre of York
- The idyllic Lake District National Park
- Strange limestone terrain of the Yorkshire Dales National Park
TOP THINGS TO DO
Scotland and Northern England offer a wide range of cultural and nature-based activities to suit all tastes. Why not try one of these popular activities below?
- Sample 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 Isle of Lewis
- Explore Loch Ness, the famous lake that’s home to the elusive Loch Ness Monster
- Stroll along the vast beaches of Scotland's north coast
- Lace up your boots and hike the beautiful surroundings of the Isle of Skye
- Take a short cruise on an elegent Victorian steam yacht in the Lake District
- Go 'fell walking' (hill walking) like the locals in Northern England
- Experience a traditional English Afternoon Tea
- Relax in quaint English seaside resort towns like Whitby
- Check out old Roman ruins at Hadrian's Wall
- Follow in the footsteps of your favourite Harry Potter or Outlander characters
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 / Honeymoon / Family Travel
5-6 days: Express Scotland: Start in Edinburgh and explore the capital city by foot. Drive to 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. Visit Scotland‘s famous glens and Doune Castle, featured in the classic film Monty Python & the Holy Grail and the Outlander TV series as "Castle Leoch".
7-8 days: Classic Scotland: Start in Edinburgh, enjoy an extended version of the Express Scotland tour and add in a visit to the beautiful Sleat Peninsula. Take in the scenery characterised by beautiful beaches, lochs, forests and glens. While on the Isle of Skye, sample some Talisker single malt whiskey or enjoy a walk to the crystal clear Fairy Pools at the foot of the Black Cuillin Hills.
14 + days: Grand Tour of Scotland: Start in Edinburgh. enjoy an extended version of the Express Scotland tour and add a visit to the quaint fishing villages of Fife and St. Andrews. This tour also includes the spectacular castles of Aberdeenshire, the Stone Age ruins of Orkney and the vast beaches and jagged cliffs of the north coast. You can also go island hopping among the Scottish Isles and explore the lush glens, lochs and national parks around Scotland.
Small Group or Privately-Guided Tours
7-8 days: Highlights of Scotland: Start in Edinburgh and explore the capital city on foot. Meet with your guide before heading into the Scottish Highlands, followed by the mighty Loch Ness and the white sand beaches of the west highland coast. Explore historic castles, waterfalls and the beautiful landscape of the Isle of Skye. Enjoy trips to whisky distilleries and national parks along the way.