Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland

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Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland

There is something in the air and in the naturally beautiful windswept rugged landscape of the land called Scotland that has captured my soul and I am sure, of the many that has come to her shores. Though known for extreme weather conditions because of its location, the weather in Scotland really is temperate and oceanic with changeable patterns. The diversity in climate provides some of the most stunning scenery in the world. From the wild Scottish Highlands, the jagged peaks of Isle of Skye to the remote, untouched beaches of the Hebrides, Scotland is a land that will fill you with joy. There are so many lochs and glens that one could walk in, and wish for time to stand still, so you never have to walk out. The landscape is incredibly beautiful. I believe that this ancient land of the Celts delivers to every traveller. I welcome you to travel with me to the misty, magical land of legends – Scotland.

Scotland, located on the northern end of mainland Britain neighbours England and retains its unique Scottish identity. Visiting any part of Scotland and you will note that the people of Scotland are incredibly proud of their heritage. It shows.

I am incredibly fortunate to have travelled to Inverness, Scotland recently (late September 2020) and to experience the Highlands along with the hospitality of the people of Scotland. Two weeks was not nearly enough. I share my experiences here, in the Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland to inspire you and to provide you with valuable insights to support your travels to the land of legends, and mystery.

Quick facts about Scotland | Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland

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Scotland flag


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. Minorities 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

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Geography of Scotland

Scotland shares its borders in the south with England, which runs for 154 kilometres (96 miles) between Marshall Meadows Bay on the east coast and the Solway Firth in the west. The west coast and northern Scotland looks out to the Atlantic Ocean while the east borders with the North Sea. Separated by the North Channel, the island of Ireland is 21 kilometres from mainland Scotland (Mull of Kintyre). To the northeast of Scotland, across the North Sea, is Norway at 310 kilometres (190 miles).


Scotland has a varied landscape – from rural lowlands to unspoilt uplands, and from large cities to sparsely inhabited islands.

The separation of the highlands and the lowlands are distinct, namely the highlands to the north and west and the lowlands to the east and south. These distinctively different physiographic regions is separated by the Highland Boundary Fault – a geological rock fracture that crosses the Scottish mainland from Helensburgh to Stonehaven.

The Highland terrain is mountainous and home to Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Britain.

The Lowlands are found in the southern part of Scotland with a less elevated terrain. While the Lowlands are flatter, upland and mountainous terrain is located across the Southern Uplands.

Between the Highlands and the Southern Uplands lies a strip called the Central Belt, popularly known as the “waist” of Scotland.

The Lowlands is home to the majority of Scottish population, especially along the Central Belt (between Firth of Clyde and Firth of Forth),

Scotland’s Islands, Lochs and Glens


Scotland has over 900 offshore islands – land surrounded by seawater. These offshore islands can be found in Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides. The Hebrides are sub-divided to Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides. Along with these, there are clusters of islands in the Firth of Clyde, Firth of Forth and Solway Firth. There are many small islands within the bodies of freshwater in Scotland, such as Loch Lomond and Loch Maree. Lewis and Harris is the largest island. Staffa and Flannan Isle is well-known but these are smaller islands.

As for the terrain, the islands of Skye and Mull are mountainous while Sanday is relatively low. Many of the islands have bedrock formed from 3 billion years ago. The Orkney Islands are formed from Old Red Sandstone which is 400 million years old.


There are more than 30,000 freshwater lochs and lochans in Scotland. Of these, there are about 7,500 in the Western Isles alone.

The five largest lochs , Awe, Lomond, Morar, Ness and Shiel hold about a third of all the water held in lochs in Scotland.

  • Lomond – largest surface area at 71 sq km;
  • Morar – the deepest loch at 310m;
  • Loch Ness – largest loch by volume for it contains more water (7,452 million cubic metres) than all English and Welsh lakes together.

The word “Loch” is Scottish Gaelic for a lake


There are so many glens, absolutely picturesque, glorious glens in Scotland that will take your breath away!. Glen Nevis is a beautiful glen giving views of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Each has its character and wildness about it that you will feel drawn to its mysterious mist as it rests softly on the high hills.

The Great Glen

The Great Glen is highly recommended. A drive through the Great Glen Way from the wilds of Glencoe to the Highland capital, Inverness is an exceptionally beautiful natural route through the Scottish Highlands with jaw dropping hills, lochs and forests.

I was immensely happy to have experienced the The Great Glen – a fracture that divides the Highlands into two, from Fort William to Inverness. Along the way, stopping to experience Fort Augustus, and admire the boats coming in to dock. As well, the infamous Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness.

Georgina suggests: When in Loch Ness, visit also the Falls of Foyer. The path is a little steep at some places but well looked after. Beautiful scenery and lovely to spend time in the woods. Look out for rocks with Burns poems inscribed on them. There is a little cafe at the top where you can stop for coffee.


As much as the rugged mountains and the pristine lochs form the landscape of Scotland, the castles in this country are an integral part of the landscape as well. Travelling around Scotland, you will note that you are never too far away from a castle or castle ruins. They are worth stopping for.

Here are some castles I recommend you visit:

i | Edinburgh Castle

Set atop an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle is a “must” visit destination when in Scotland. It is famous and important as it houses the Crown Jewels, and Stone of Destiny.

ii | Balmoral Castle

Balmoral is the private home of the Royal family but when the royals are not in residence, some areas open to the public for visits. Once described as a “paradise in the Highlands” by Queen Victoria, you can wander through the gardens and experience the tranquility that exists here.

iii | Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan is one of the most popular and most photographed castle – a 13th century castle that takes you through time. A visit here and you will be drawn to the mystique that surrounds this picturesque setting.

iv | Stirling Castle

Once a favourite among the kings and queens of Stuarts/Stewart, Stirling Castle is now a popular destination for families. Kids meet bodyguards and servants in costume and step back in time to the 16th century by dressing up in period costume and playing medieval instruments.



Edinburgh, is the capital of Scotland and the second largest financial centre in the UK. August is one of the busiest months as the city is home to the world’s largest art festival, Festival Fringe. New Year’s is another amazing time to visit Edinburgh as Hogmanay celebrations takes place.

Nickname: Auld Reekie


Glasgow, is the largest city in Scotland and home to the largest seaport in the UK. Well-known as the second city of the British Empire, Glasgow boasts some incredibly beautiful architecture from the 18th and 19th century alongside new modern architecture. Glasgow has also earned a reputation as a fun city due to its eclectic music scene, thus being a UNESCO City of Music comes as no surprise.

Nickname: Dear Green Place


Aberdeen, is popularly known as the sunniest city in the UK! The northeast is the driest region in Scotland and in never really gets dark here between mid to late June where the sun sets after 10 pm and rises around 4 am. This city is ideally located, giving easy access to the magnificent Scottish Highlands.

Nickname: The Granite City


Scotland’s most northerly city, Inverness is located at the heart of the Highlands. Ideally located as a gateway to the wild, unspoilt north coast, Inverness is also regarded as one of the best British cities for its quality of life.

Nickname: The Capital of the Highlands

Read: Inverness – A Complete Guide to the Capital of the Highlands


Perth, is an ancient and historic place which recently received city status in 2012. It’s influential history stretches back over 800 years and was once Scotland’s capital. Many of the Scottish Kings were crowned in the nearby Scone Palace.

Nickname: The Fair City


The city of Stirling, is located in the beautiful point where the lowland Scotland and highlands meet. Popularly known as the “Gateway to the Highlands”, the city was once an important strategic point and the seat of power was at Stirling Castle.

Nickname: Gateway to the Highlands

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The main geographical points of mainland Scotland

North: Easter Head; Dunnet Head; Caithness.

East: Keith Inch; Peterhead; Aberdeenshire.

South: Mull of Galloway; Dumfries and Galloway.

West: Corrachadh Mor; Ardnamurchan; Lochaber.

Dunnet Head:

Dunnet Head is a peninsula in Caithness, located in the north coast of Scotland. It is the most northerly point in mainland Britain.

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This is I, Georgina, at Dunnet’s Head, Caithness, Scotland in September 2020

Best time to Visit Scotland | Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland

It is often said that it always rains in Scotland, so don’t forget your umbrella!

Scotland is well-known for extreme weather conditions and although one can experience all four seasons in a day, this country’s weather tends to be moderate and changeable.

I was fortunate to experience brilliant weather when I visited late September for two weeks. Although it rained intermittently, it cleared up very quickly. The air was fresh. The sight of the sun trying to break through the clouds was special AND RAINBOWS! There were so many rainbows that added the extra touch to beautiful days in the Highlands.

Generally, the further north tends to be much colder than the rest of mainland Britain. The west is wetter and warmer than the cool and dry east. In the Upland areas, snow is common in winter. Fog and mist may occur at anytime of the year.

I had visited Scotland in spring, summer and autumn. When it comes to selecting the best time to visit, there really isn’t one that tops my list because regardless of the elements, there is plenty to see and do wherever you visit in Scotland. However, the following can be used as a general guide to plan your visit to Scotland.

Seasons in Scotland | An overview

Best time to visit Scotland is Spring, between May and June. As well, Autumn/Fall , between September and October. Weather at this time is most likely to be dry and pleasant.

High season is most popular and it is in the summer, July to August. Being popular also means that it is crowded and long queues to attractions. There are chances of rain as well.

The low season is during winter, November to April. During this time some accommodation in rural Scotland is closed. There is heavy snow to the north and the hills.

Ski season – December to March.

Getting to and around Scotland | Ultimate Travel Guide

Jacobite Steam Train
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Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland

Car – Driving is a great way to experience Scotland and there are extensive road network that makes it possible to get around the country seamlessly. However, note that in Scotland, as is in Britain, we drive on the left hand side of the road.

Air – Scotland has several airports and you can fly in to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness as well as smaller airports such as Stornoway, Isle of Isla and Lerwick.

For a full list of airports in Scotland, go to this page on Airports in Scotland

Train – Scotland boasts an extensive and well-developed rail network that serves good cross-country links. As well, there are regular connections to the rest of the UK.

Scotland is well-known for some of the world’s most scenic train journeys – one being the journey from Mallaig to Fort William onboard the Jacobite.

Bus/Coach – Using the bus/coach is an affordable way to travel across and around Scotland. It is easy to get to where you are going with Scotland’s extensive road network.

Oban ferry, Scotland
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Oban Ferry, Scotland

Ferry – There is something special about going across waters and watch your destination get closer over the horizon as you approach it. Both passenger and car ferries are available. There are a number of routes that serve larger islands.

A point to note is that ferry journeys may be weather dependant in some instances especially across to the Orkney or the Shetlands. Always check before arriving at the ferry port.

My thoughts on Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland

My trip to Inverness reminded me of how beautiful Scotland is and brought back many memories of my previous visits to Dumfries and Galloway, Hadrian’s Wall and Edinburgh. There is still so much to explore in this beautiful land and I hope to return soon. In the meantime, learn more about Scotland and enjoy the articles penned here, in the Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland. Do let me know if I have missed anything that you would like to learn more of about Scotland. This page will evolve as I continue to add more articles – so, Subscribe to timelesstravelsteps to ensure you do not miss out on valuable travel insights.

Have a splendid time exploring Scotland!

Georgina xx

Georgina_Highlands and Steam Train tours
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“Just as I board the West Highland and Jacobite Steam Train” – photo by a fellow traveller

Georgina: I love going on guided tours especially when I am on my first visit to a destination. I find guided tours to be great value for money activities and an excellent tool to get the best overviews of a region.

I went on a number of small group tours when I visited Scotland. Safety precautions were in place. Guides are Scottish who have first hand knowledge of the regions I visited. They shared fascinating stories of legends and history of the Highland, both the bad and the ugly! With this overview, and time on my hands, I explored specific areas of interests for a more personal experience.

My trip to Scotland was self-funded, and none of the activities were sponsored in any way. All opinions, views and experiences are my own. I happily share them with you to inspire you to visit this magical land.

June 2021, Update

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Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland first published at timelesstravelsteps.com and is regularly updated. Last updated June 2021

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Explore the land of legends, mystery and incredible natural beauty through this Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland. Subscribe for updates. #scotland #travel #scotlandtravel #onestopguidetoscotland #travelguidetoscotland #inverness #northcoast #scotlandweather #besttimetovisitscotland #isleofskye #lochness #lochshiel #glenfinnan #jacobitesteamtrain via @GGeorgina_timelesstravelsteps/
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  1. What a wonderful summary of Scotland, it’s lochs and glens, the highlands and lowlands and the major city views and of course the castles! Scottish cultures and traditions are worth experiencing first hand. Enjoyed reading about the country through your eyes

  2. Castles with breathtaking Landscape as background — Scotland seems Irresistible!! You have shared such nice minute details that its only going to make planning travel to Scotland, way easier. Bookmarking it.

  3. I am so happy to know that you found this article on the Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland to be informative. Scotland is absolutely beautiful and you will love the rugged coastlines and the mountainous landscape. Sincerely hope the world will be free to travel again.

  4. Haha…yes, perfectly understandable if you don’t want to leave Scotland at all!! You may find that even one month is too shart a time for this beautiful part of the world.

  5. The pandemic is taking a toll on all of us in one way or another, especially the travellers like us where is itself is more than just a passion. I hope you will visit Scotland as soon as you possibly can because a trip to the Highlands and you will be in a totally different world altogether. Look forward to reading your experiences when you do.

  6. Thank you. So glad that Scotland is still in your radar. Yes, hope the pandemic will be over soon so we can travel freely again.

  7. You are absolutely correct – Scotland has so much to offer and much to explore. Hope you will visit when the pandemic is over.

  8. If you loved Edinburgh, you shall most certainly love the rest of Scotland also, which I hope you do when you next visit the UK

  9. A beautiful comment such as this is so very appreciated especially from a fellow blogger – Thank you so much. I am happy to know that you appreciate and value the effort behind all the details that is included in the Ultimate Guide to Scotland.

  10. I am a sucker for pretty pictures, but you go above and beyond in this post. I really value the effort behind all the extra detail that’s hard to find in a blog down to the social courtesies that you’ve added. Wonderful 🙂

  11. Great article here. I live in England and there is so much to see in Scotland i’ve barely touched the surface. Btw great pictures too

  12. So many perfect tips for planning holidays in Scotland. I would love to back there. I want to visit Balmoral Castle; I haven’t seen it yet. It looks amazing. I love Eilean Donan Castle and Edinburgh Castle.

  13. Very comprehensive guide. I haven’t been back to Scotland for over 10 years 🙂

  14. I have read so many books about Scotland, and this post shows me so much beauty that I want to visit it.

  15. Awe I hope you get to someday!! And yes!! Nova Scotia means “New Scotland” in Latin 💜 really hope you get to see it someday and I really hope to see Scotland someday. Your posts are so incredible and your photos are a dream! Stay safe! 💜💜

  16. I love Scotland. I do want to come back there because there is so much left unexplored. thanks for posting this guide and firing my passion!

  17. I graduate in Durham and I could kick myself for only visited Scotland a couple of times! Because at that time I’d fly to iceland instead, thanks for the useful guide and I would love to get back there soon (once the pandemic is over) ~ Knycx Journeying

  18. My friends called Scotland as Highland and I don’t know why, and after watching many English-movies, I started realized what they meant. Scotland seems an amazing place to visit especially the Edinburg Castle.

  19. I don’t really have a bucket list when it comes to travelling since I consider the world my oyster 😉 However, if I had one, Scotland would be way up high on my list. I wanted to go to Scotland forever. What holds me back is the unpredictable weather – and sometimes the prices. Anyway, after this post, I think that after the stupid pandemic is over, Scotland will be one of the first countries that I’ll visit.

  20. This makes me miss travel so much. We were to visit Scotland for the first time this year but we won’t be able to. It’s so good to see it from your eyes and read about it.

  21. what an amazing place…been to ports of england and ireland but have not been too scotland…great history too with all those old castles… thus BRAVEHEART movie part of their history?

  22. Thanks for the in-depth look at Scotland! It looks beautiful and full of history. I’d love to visit some of the small towns someday.

  23. I’ve heard a lot of wonderful things about Scotland and, although, the next destination in my travel bucket-list is Singapore, I think it’s now a toss-up between both, as your article gets me really excited about Scotland.

  24. These pictures are stunning! I’ve been to England and Wales, but I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Scotland… yet! I would love to tour those castles. I can see myself spending a good month there; and never wanting to come home.

  25. I really learned so much from this post and enjoyed reading it as someone who is keen to visit. The closest I’ve been has been to England so far but I am drawn to the natural rugged beauty that Scotland is renown for. Clearly you enjoyed so much here and I really appreciate the research you have done to create this article and share your experience. Can’t wait for when we are more able to travel freely again.

  26. These are really beautiful photos ! I’ve always been fascinated with Scotland because of their history and the accent. Very informative and interesting read

  27. Scotland looks breathtaking. The castles and the Jacobite steam train are absolutely and must experience. Thank you for sharing.

  28. Well, Hello there Nova Scotia xx I did not know that Nova Scotia is known as New Scotland! How fascinating. I have always wanted to visit Nova Scotia and it is very high on my list – the coastal drive, the lighthouses and Fall colours so my visit will be in the fall at some future time when international travel is restriction free. I am so glad you enjoy my articles and you are so very welcome to travel with me. Scotland is absolutely so beautiful and I hope to return to a different part of Scotland soon. Thank you so much for your visit and your lovely comments. I appreciate it very much.

  29. Haha..I know what you mean about wanting to travel freely again. My visit to Scotland was after a long period of no travels and believe me, it felt great to getaway even if it was domestic travel. Made me realise that I did not have to go very far for a meaningful travel experience. Thank you so much for your kind comments. Appreciate it much.

  30. Hello from Nova Scotia, Canada! We are known as “New Scotland” here! <3 It's so funny to see all of the names of places as we have our own versions of some of yours! You have places called, "Glasgow" we call ours "New Glasgow" and I was to "Inverness" just last weekend, just the Nova Scotia version, haha! Your photos are absolutely stunning, I need to see those castles someday. I've always wanted to travel to Scotland and see the real deal, everything about it sounds spectacular and right out of a ferry tale. Wonderful post! <3 Thank you for sharing and bringing us along in your travels when we are all stuck at home due to the pandemic!

  31. All those castles are calling my name ! This is such a great in depth guide to Scotland it’s making me itch for when we can travel freely again !

  32. You are correct – the Isle of Skye is absolutely fabulous indeed, as is Eilean Donan Castle. So glad you enjoyed your travels to Scotland and have beautiful memories of it.

  33. Thank you so much Melissa. I am so very glad to know that my article on Ultimate Travel Guide to Scotland inspires you to visit the lochs and castles of Scotland. It is truly an incredible destination and you will absolutely love it also when you visit.

  34. Thank you so much Ramya. Really appreciate that Scotland is a must visit destination for you. The castles are beautiful as are the breathtakingly beautiful landscape.

  35. Totally in agreement with you on the international travel – Scotland is absolutely beautiful and glad you like my photos. Thanks you so much.

  36. It is an excellent guide to Scotland, very inspiring and helpful in planning trips. Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. I’ve been twice, and I’d love to come back. The Isle of Sky is fabulous. Eilean Donan Castle is one of my favorites.

  37. Beautiful images! Your post is making me want to pack up and go now! I would love to explore all the nochs, especially Loch Ness. And the castles would be a must for me to. Inverness sounds like a lovely city to visit as well.

  38. I love how you set this up and it’s a great guide to Scotland! It’s one of my favorite countries for it’s beauty and history.

  39. Scotland is a must visit for any history lover. I loved the Balmoral castle, I would love to read the history of it. But apart from the castles, there are many more things to explore as mentioned by you in the piece. Nicely return very informative piece.

  40. Scotland has been on my list for a long time now. Your pictures of the castles make me want to visit even more! I really can’t wait until International travel opens again.

  41. ugh i loved scotland! i went there last year and i would add blair castle to your list! its on the way from Edinburgh to Inverness and is gorgeous 🙂

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