Scotland at a Glance | A quick guide for your first visit
Planning a trip to Scotland? Here is Scotland at a glance, a quick guide to what you can expect and need to prepare for your first visit.
What to expect on your first visit to Scotland | Scotland at a glance
English is common throughout Scotland. Gaelic is spoken by some, about 1.3% in the Highlands.
Currency | Credit cards and ATMs
The currency used in Scotland is Pound Sterling (GBP).
In Scotland, there are no difficulties in using your foreign credit cards as methods of payments so long as it is one of the major cards such as Visa, MasterCard, AMEX or debit cards. Most shops, restaurants and tour operators also accept payments on a credit card.
Taxis in major cities carry a wireless device for contactless payments.
You may need to have some cash with you for small purchases such as for coffee, bottles of water etc
Covid-19: Contactless payments are much encouraged.
Cities in Scotland at a glance
Capital City: Edinburgh.
Other cities you may wish to visit: Glasgow, Aberdeen, Stirling, Inverness and Perth.
Religion | Scotland at a glance
Geography of Scotland at a glance
Mountain ranges: Southern Uplands, Central Lowlands, Grampian Mountains and North West Highlands.
Major rivers: River Tay, River Spey, River Dee, River Tweed and River Clyde.
Best time to visit Scotland | Scotland at a glance
High season: Summer | July – August.
Best time to visit: Travel to Scotland in Spring (May-Jun) and Autumn (September-October) is highly recommended.
Weather in Scotland at a glance
Weather: Temperate and oceanic with changeable patterns.
The warmest months are June, July and August with average maximum temperatures ranging from approximately 15°C (59°F) to 17°C (63 °F).
In the Autumn/Fall, from September to November, temperatures range from around 8°C (46°F) to 14°C (57°F).
The coldest months in Scotland are December, January and February average maximum temperature usually around 5°C (41°F).
Clothing | What to pack at a glance
Clothing: As you can expect to experience all four seasons in a day, best to pack layers rather than heavy coats. A scarf is always handy.
Bring along a windbreaker jacket and waterproof shoes are recommended also.
The UK uses plug type G, which is a plug that has three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern. It operates at 230V supply voltage and at 50Hz. I recommend buying an earthed worldwide travel adapter which you can use in any European countries.
Wifi is usually available at hotels and high rated restaurants. However, in some remote places, like in some areas of the Highlands or the furthest areas in the north coast, getting a signal on your phone is challenging, to say the least.
You may want to consider subscribing to an Unlimited portable pocket Wifi if you need WiFi on the go!
Scotland is generally a safe place to be with some places being designated the happiest places to live in the UK. However, there are always that elements of pickpockets and theft that are present in any cities throughout the world, so keeping a close eye on your personal belongings is recommended.
Transportation | Moving around Scotland
Scotland’s road network is extensive and driving through mountain passes is an experience in itself. You just have to remember that in Scotland, as in Britain, we drive on the left side of the road 🙂
There are several international airports you can fly into – Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow, There are some smaller airports as well – Lerwick, Isle of Isla and Stornoway. Check the full list of airports to suit your travel plans on Airports in Scotland.
The train network in Scotland is a joy to experience as it boasts some scenic train journeys that are unique and are added value to your experiences. The network is extensive, well-developed and serves good cross-country links. From my experience, the trains are punctual, the carriages are clean and overall a top service. Buy your train tickets from Trainline, or FirstTransPennine Express.
If you are looking for budget travel, the buses/coach is a good resource – check Citylink for routes in and around Scotland and National Express for coach services into Edinburgh from cities in England.
With over 900 offshore islands in Scotland, there are several ferry services at your disposal. For all the latest travel information to Orkney and Shetland, NorthLink Ferries is the site for you. Caledonian MacBrayne, more popularly known as CalMac operates all main services on the Firth of Clyde and to the Inner and Outer Hebrides, serving the islands in the west which includes Oban and Kennacraig in Argyll, and Mallaig and Ullapool in the Highlands.
Places to stay in Scotland at a glance
There are some beautiful places to stay throughout Scotland, be it in a city, in the country, the Highlands or the beach.
My go to place has always been booking dot com as they offer a wide range of accommodation from hotels to hostels as well as B&B. You only need to do a quick search to find one suited to your travel needs as these are dotted all around Scotland.
As well, Hotel du Vin in Edinburgh is the epitome of comfort in the heart of the Edinburgh city. Ideally located, you can easily walk to attractions from
Hotel du Vin Glasgow is also a perfect choice for you if you are visiting this largest city in Scotland. As iconic as the city itself, Millennium Hotel Glasgow boasts an impressive facade lined with glass conservatories, combining modern and historic elements in perfect styling.
If staying in an ancient coastal town is more your idea of vacation, then stay at St Andrews, where the historic buildings, medieval streets and the vibrant art and culture will just take you a step back in time.
A visit to Aberdeen, and Copthorne Hotel Aberdeen beckons your stay. Set in a historic building in the heart of the city surrounded by bars and restaurants, giving easy access to the train station so you could explore the coastal towns, castles and much more.
A wide range of accommodation is offered by the Radisson group of hotels, from upscale millennial to budget, as well as for couples and family stay.
Activities to do when visiting Scotland | Scotland at a glance
Here are some activities which you may want to consider when visiting Scotland.
1 | Isle of Skye
Isle of Skye can be visited as a day trip or a multi-day trip activity – all depends on how much time you have. If you are driving, then its pretty much your schedule. On the other hand, if you are thinking of going on a guided tour, then I would highly recommend doing the multi-day tour. Isle of Skye is a large island and there is so much to explore. It’s landscape transports you to a whole new level of natural features not seen elsewhere. You could explore what is offered by Get Your Guide and sign-up to the value for money 3-day tour small group tour. You could also do the tour with Viator, if you have been using them for your vacation. Both companies offer tours from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.
2 | North Coast 500
North Coast 500 is a unique tour that is often compared to Route 66. You could book this multi-day trip with Viator. I did this tour as an introduction to the North Coast as I am the sort who really, really like to spend more time at exploring the glens and hills which isn’t afforded on a 3-day tour. This tour covers a lot of attractions along the way and really good value for money. Peruse the itinerary and book Viator.
My thoughts on Scotland at a glance
I hope this “Scotland at a glance” article has given you a flavour of what to expect when visiting Scotland. You could head over to the Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland for detailed articles on some aspects of my visit.
My sincere wish is for each reader of my Scotland articles to visit Scotland at least once in your lifetime. It is just “beyond beautiful” .
March 2021, Update
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