Scotland at a Glance: Basic 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


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

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

Religion: Christianity

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

Lochalsh, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Lochalsh in September, 2020 | © timelesstravelsteps | Image: georgina_daniel

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.

Travel adapter

Go Travel Earthed Worldwide Adaptor – Compact Universal Worldwide Adapter with Twin USB (Ref 639)

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

Aberdeen, Scotland | at a glance
Aberdeen, 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 First TransPennine.

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

Towel.clean.feel.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 could easily walk to attractions from here.

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, you may be drawn to the impressive facade lined with glass conservatories, combining modern and historic elements in perfect styling of Millennium Hotel Glasgow.

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.

Read: Top 5 hotels in Inverness city centre.

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, Scotland
Isle of Skye, Scotland | © timelesstravelsteps | Image: georgina_daniel

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.

Suggestions for tours to the Isle of Skye

3-day small group tour from Edinburgh

3-day small group tour from Glasgow

Day tour from Inverness: Isle of Skye and visit to Eilean Donan Castle

Day tour from Inverness: Isle of Skye scenery tour with Fairy Pools

2 | North Coast 500

Strathcarron-Applecross | Landscape |
Strathcarron-Applecross on the NC500 route | © timelesstravelsteps | Image: georgina_daniel

North Coast 500 is unquestionably unique! It is UK’s version of Route 66. The NC500 route is a journey every visitor to Scotland must undertake to experience the unspoilt terrain of the north-coast of Scotland. The lochs, glens and the hills are mesmerisingly beautiful and seems a world away from the norms of ordinary life.

Learn more about the North Coast 500 tour

Scotland at a glance on a final note…

Scotland is beyond beautiful! It is a country that should be visited at least once in your lifetime and sincerely hope that this article on Scotland at a Glance has given you a flavour of what to expect. Head over to Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland page for detailed articles on some timeless experiences.

Georgina xx

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Some basic information about Scotland


Population: Over 5.4 million (2020)

Common Language: English. Gaelic is spoken by 1.3% of the population mostly in the west and in the Highlands.

Currency: £ – Pound (GBP)

Capital City: Edinburgh. Home to the first fire brigade in the world, and is the second largest city in Scotland. The largest metropolis in Scotland is Glasgow.

High season: Summer (July – August)

Religion: Christianity – 40% Church of Scotland. 15% Roman Catholic and 6% other Christian denominations. Groups include Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh with a quarter of the population has been recorded as having no religion.

Social courtesies: Handshaking is customary when introduced to someone for the first time. When visiting someone’s home, a small gift such as flowers or a box of chocolates is appreciated.

Scotland: Travel and Transport

Scotland: International Travel

UK Government: Foreign Travel Advice

UK Government: UK nationals travelling abroad