A Scotland Travel Guide

Here's the thing...I've been struggling to write a detailed blog post on where I've been the past few months because it's just not what I write about. I don't necessarily share my personal life through my blog and I don't often tap into the lifestyle/food posts except for on occasion. 

So, instead of giving you some long, drawn out story about where I've been or what I've been up to - I'd rather give you something that is useful and that you will be looking for when you are planning a trip this year. That's why I'm going to give you a guide to one of my favorite places - Scotland. 

I hope that as you begin to plan your travels to Scotland, you use this as a resource or a starting point (if you will). I'll touch on getting around, what to wear, what to eat, things to do, and where to stay. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have or send me an email, I'd be happy to help you plan your trip to Scotland in a little more detail. 

Let's start with the basics i.e. getting to and around Scotland. 


1. Getting Around Scotland

The best and most efficient way to get around Scotland is by renting a car. I can't tell you how many times, as I was enviously sitting on the bus, I wished that I had rented a car. It's so much quicker and better than riding the bus or train. It gives you the freedom to be able to stop and gawk as much as you want (and believe me, you will want to gawk), which we all know is necessary in a place like Scotland. 

However, if you are afraid of driving in Europe or don't necessarily want to pay the price of a rental car - you can always take the bus or train. Personally, I would recommend the bus because it's slightly cheaper than the train but it often takes a bit longer (depending on where you are going). 

CityLink is the best place to look when it comes to bus tickets. If you are planning on staying in Scotland for 3-8 days, they have deals for the busses where you can get a pass ranging from £40-99. It's so worth it though because the tickets start to add up if you buy them each individually. I remember we took several trips when I lived in Fort William and sometimes a one-way would be £30 - it's ridiculous! But, if you have the 'explorer' pass it helps alleviate a bit of the costs. 

The ScotRail is the train system in Scotland that can sometimes be more expensive but is worth it if you are in a time crunch. They also have frequent trains running from the major cities each day, which is nice if you'd like to bus it through the smaller towns/cities but then use the train to go longer distances. You can find out more information about what they offer and the deals you can get on their website.

I rarely took the train but I will tell you - the Jacobite Express that leaves out of Fort William and goes over the Viaduct (Harry Potter Express) - you get the same views if you were to only pay the £12 from Fort William to Maillag. Just remember, if you're looking for the tourist experience - definitely go for the Jacobite Express. If you're looking to save a bit of money on your trip, just buy the train ticket for ScotRail and ride over the Viaduct that way. You get the same effect no matter how you go! 

2. What to eat 

There's quite a few things that Scotland is known for when it comes to food, such as: Haggis, Blood Pudding, Sunday Roast, fresh Fish (Salmon and more), whisky, porridge and more! 

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There's no short supply of great restaurants, cafes and local spots to eat at in Scotland. If there was a tip that I could give you - it'd be to have an open mind and try anything. Some things don't sound as good (because of the name) but once you try them, you order them again and again. 

Personally, I love the fresh fish that Scotland is known for - it makes for a great plate of fish & chips, so I highly recommend trying it. 

I would list a few of my favorite places but they are so specific to certain regions or cities within Scotland that I don't want to list them all in this particular post. 

3. Where to Stay 

Scotland has so many options on places to stay that it's almost overwhelming but I do recommend a local air bnb or Inn's. Hotels are popular in bigger cities like Edinburgh or Glasgow, but if you go outside of these two - I would highly recommend checking out something different. They have the most charm and localized experience. 

To also stick to my guns and my background in budget travel - I would highly recommend hostels as well. They are great when you are in the Scottish highlands and you're trying to get to know people or find people to go out with. There isn't too much to do, aside from the nature aspect, in the smaller cities of the Scottish Highlands - so you'll love the atmosphere of the hostels and the people you meet. Personally, I met one of my very good friends by working in a hostel in the highlands, so you never know, maybe you'll meet yours as well. 

Here is a link to the list of hostels that are in Scotland as well as Fort William Backpackers, which is the hostel that I worked at and couldn't recommend more. 

4. Things to Do

I don't want to give you an extensive list of things to do in this post but I will give you a general list of things to do that can act as a starting point. I'm planning on creating a guide to the Scottish Highlands, specifically, as well as other cities in Scotland so hold out for the 'extensive' list of things to do because it's coming soon! 

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My general list of things to do: 

  • Climb Arthur's Seat 
  • Visit Edinburgh Castle
  • The Viaduct in Glenfinnan (i.e. Harry Potter express)
  • Glen Coe 
  • Loch Ness
  • Royal Mile
  • Loch Lomond
  • Isle of Skye 
  • Quairaing
  • Oban
  • St. Andrews
  • Visit a Whisky Distillery 
  • Old Packhorse Bridge in Carrbridge
  • See the many castles 

 

5. What to Wear

I think it's a funny subject to talk about what to wear in Scotland because the weather changes so frequently. So, I'll break it down by season that way you're fully prepared for whatever may come. 

This is me hiking Ben Nevis with a large/waterproof jacket, a sweater, a long sleeve shirt, two sets of leggings and thermal socks/hiking boots AND I still froze. It was September.

This is me hiking Ben Nevis with a large/waterproof jacket, a sweater, a long sleeve shirt, two sets of leggings and thermal socks/hiking boots AND I still froze. It was September.

Spring - On average, the temperature ranges from 45 F to 55 F during the months of March, April and May. It's one of the most beautiful times to visit Scotland because of the daffodils, cherry blossoms and rhododendrons coming into bloom. Expect a shower or two but there is a wide range of options of things to do even if it's raining. Ideally, you'd want to pack:

  • A lightweight jacket/rain jacket 
  • Jeans/Long Pants
  • Nice set of walking/hiking shoes/boots
  • Long, lightweight t-shirts 
  • Sweaters (scarfs on occasion or if it's March)
  • Wellies (if visiting the highlands or Isles) 

Summer - June, July and August are normally the warmest months in Scotland, ranging from 59 F to 63 F. Since Scotland is further north, expect longer summer days and an extended twilight. During this time of the year, there is often not complete darkness in the far, far north of Scotland. With all the extra hours, you can have nice, long summer days. I'd recommend packing:
 

  • A rain jacket
  • Shorts/Jeans
  • Nice set of walking/hiking shoes/boots
  • T-shirt or lightweight long sleeves
  • Sweaters for nights that are cooler 
  • Wellies (if visiting the highlands or Isles)
  • Sunglasses (optional)
  • Lightweight, waterproof daypack

Autumn - This is probably my favorite season in Scotland because of the changing colors and crisp air. Temperatures range from 46 F to 57 F from September to November. This is the time to really bring out your sweaters and start drinking tea/coffee on the regular. I'd recommend packing:

  • A thicker jacket/rain jacket
  • Jeans/long pants
  • Nice set of walking/hiking shoes/boots
  • Long sleeves/sweaters 
  • Scarf
  • Wellies 
  • Daypack/Backpack
  • Gloves (often used if a cooler night) 
  • Clothes that can layer! 

Winter - December, January and February are often the coldest months in Scotland with the highest temperature reaching 41 F. I'd recommend hitting the highlands during the winter season because on average, they experience around 100 days of falling snow. I can tell you, for sure, that Fort William gets snow every year ;). There are also snowsports in Scotland that run from November to April. There are five ski centers that offer snowboarding and skiing. For winter, I'd recommend packing:

  • A thick, winter jacket
  • Long sleeves/thick sweaters
  • Scarf
  • Gloves
  • Nice set of hiking/winter boots
  • Earmuffs or headband
  • Clothes that can layer! 

I hope that this post has been helpful for those of you who are planning a trip to Scotland this year (or any time). It's a good starting point and I'd be happy to dive a bit deeper into your trip with you if you need more help - just reach out to me via email. 

I'm also compiling a Scotland bucket list, a Scottish Highland guide, and more! I am happy to be back blogging and am hoping to start sticking to a better schedule in order to get content out for you guys. Stick around, it's about to get exciting.

Happy Travels! Xx