Planning a trip to scotland
the ultimate guide.
Scotland is a fantastic destination for couples- from the beautiful yet eerie Gothic cities, to the white sandy beaches and the misty mountains- there is something incredibly romantic about Scotland.
The Scottish Highlands make the perfect nature retreat to get away from it all; the abundance of hiking opportunities, homely Highland lodges with hot tubs, and opportunity to spot varied wildlife is sure to please every couple.
The Scottish people are some of the kindest folk you’ll meet with a sharp sense of wit second to none. There is no better way to experience their hospitality than in a cosy Scottish pub!
This guide to planning a trip to Scotland is a good overview of everything you need to know about Scotland. You’ll find information and information on things to do in each region, how to book your flights, accommodation, car rental, and activities, what to pack and lots of other helpful tips!
– Yvette & Craig
WHAT TO EXPECT
Language: English is widely spoken; Gaelic in some areas of Scotland.
Currency: Pound Sterling [GBP]; symbol = £
Average temperature: Winter ranges from -5°C (23°F) to 11 °C (51.8°F); summer ranges from 15°C (59°F) to 17°C (63 °F); spring/fall ranges from 7°C (45°F) to 13 °C (55°F).
Best time of year to visit: April/May and September/October while the weather is still nice but there aren’t too many crowds!
Plugs: Power plugs and sockets are of type G. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
Aberdeenshire & Moray
Aberdeenshire is often scoffed at by locals, with many saying why would you want to go there!? The truth is, Aberdeenshire is full of hidden gems and home to some of the most stunning castles in Scotland!
At the heart is the city of Aberdeen, known as the ‘granite city’ and widely regarded as the ‘Oil Capital of Europe.’
If you’re visiting Aberdeenshire we recommend hiring and car and doing The Castle Trail or going hiking in the Cairngorms National Park.
Moray is home to the Speyside whisky region and the Malt Whisky Trail. The trail links eight of whisky distilleries and one cooperage. There is also the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival in spring!
Argyll and the Isles
The region of Argyll and the Isles is known as Scotland’s Adventure Coast due to its rugged landscape. It’s also known for its cute seaside villages, delicious fresh seafood and whisky! This region is home to 23 inhabited islands and seven National Nature Reserves.
It’s the perfect destination for spotting wildlife and we recommend going sea kayaking or even hiking a section of the The Loch Lomond and Cowal Way.
We also recommend visiting Campbeltown; it was once known as the ”whisky capital of the world” and was home to 28 whisky distilleries. It now has just three, making it Scotland’s smallest whisky producing region. The Springbank distillery is the most popular of the three- so we suggest doing a tour of this distillery.
Ayrshire & Arran
The region of Ayrshire and Arran is located on the west coast of Scotland. Ayrshire isn’t a typically touristy area, and it is a great area to explore if you want to get off the tourist track! In Ayrshire you’ll find seaside villages and freshly caught seafood, farmland and over 50 golf courses! Culzean Castle and Country Park is a great place to explore history in the area.
The Isle of Arran is nicknamed ”Scotland in miniature” so if you have a short time in Scotland, we highly recommend spending your time here! It’s one of the easiest islands in Scotland to get to- simply catch the train to Ardrossan and ride the ferry across. Explore Brodick Castle and Gardens, marvel at the mystical Machrie Moor Stone Circles and hike Goat Fell, the highest point of Arran.
Dumfries and Galloway
Tucked away on the south west coast of Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway is often missed by tourists. This region is known for its rugged coast and dense woodland- and for inspiring many artists and writers.
This region is home to Scotland’s National Book Town, Wigtown. If you’re visiting Scotland in autumn, make sure you go to the annual Wigtown Book Festival.
The region is also home to Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, which is Scotland’s largest forest park. It’s also one of four designated ‘Dark Sky Parks’ in the Western world. We recommend visiting the park where you the opportunity to spot shooting stars, the rare Andromeda Galaxy, the Aurora Borealis and stellar nurseries, where stars are born!
Dundee & Angus
Angus is known for its outstanding glens, innovation in design, and Arbroth Smokies [smoked haddock]!
Arbroath Abbey, in the coastal town Arbroath, is where the Declaration of Arbroath was signed- which sealed Scotland’s independence. Angus is also home to Glamis Castle, reputed to be Scotland’s most haunted castle.
Dundee is Scotland’s sunniest city- catching the most rays in Scotland per year. Often the butt of many jokes, Dundee has undergone a transformation in recent years and has been labeled a UNESCO City of Design thanks to its contribution to medical research, comics, and video games to name a few. It’s also home to V&A Dundee, Scotland’s first design museum.
Edinburgh & The Lothians
Scotland’s capital is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world! Edinburgh is a fantastic city to explore on foot, so you’ll want to spend at least one day doing this.
Visit Scotland’s most well known castle- Edinburgh Castle, tour Holyrood Palace- the Queen’s Scotland summer residence and induldge in a romantic Afternoon Tea at The Witchery. For ourdoor lovers, hike Arthurs Seat for amazing views of the city or spend the day exploring the hiking trails at the Pentlands Regional Park.
Don’t just explore Edinburgh; catch the train to West Lothian and see Linlithgow Palace where Mary Queen of Scots was born, or visit North Berwick beach in East Lothian.
Affectionately known as ‘The Kingdom of Fife’ by locals, this region is filled with hidden gems and was used as a filming location for the Outlander series.
Fife is easily accessible from Edinburgh- it is connected to Edinburgh by The Three Bridges- the Forth Rail Bridge, the Forth Road Bridge and the Queensferry Crossing.
We recommend visiting St Andrews, which was once home to Scotland’s largest cathedral, St Andrews Cathedral, which is now a romantically glorious ruin. It also is the ‘Home of Golf’ and is the location of the world’s oldest golf course- The Old Course. Visit the picturesque villages of Falkland and Culross, where Outlander was filmed. If the weather is nice we also recommend walking a section of the Fife Coastal Path.
Greater Glasgow & The Clyde Valley
Glasgow and The Clyde Valley is known for its parks and green spaces, colourful and quirky characters and entertaining nightlife.
‘People Make Glasgow’ is the slogan for this vibrant city filled with colourful characters. We love visiting Glasgow for its bustling pubs and cocktail bars, abundant dining options, music and sporting entertainment and shopping.
We recommend visiting Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis that sits on a hill behind it, and admiring the street art along the Glasgow Mural Trail.
If you venture out to the Clyde Valley you’ll find lolling countryside with plenty of walking opportunities and gems such as the Falls of Clyde in the old mill town of New Lanark.
The Highlands alone are a good reason enough to visit Scotland. Misty mountains, enormous lochs, cosy cabins, craggy castles and rugged coastline- the Highlands really are Scotland’s playground!
The Highlands cover a vast range of Scotland’s mainland, including the otherwordly Isle of Skye which is linked to the mainland via a bridge.
The city of Inverness is known as the ‘capital of the Highlands’. Nearby you’ll find historically significant sites including the Battlefield of Culloden Moor where the 1945 Jacobite Rebellion came to a dramatic climax and Clava Cairns, burial cairns and standing stones from the Bronze Age.
We recommend soaking up the Highlands for at least one week by driving the North Coast 500– one of the world’s most spectacular drives.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park & Stirling
From the mighty rock that thrusts Stirling Castle to the sky to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond– this region the perfect mix of history and nature.
The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre is a must visit for those who wish to learn more about the iconic victory won by Robert the Bruce, King of Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence. This region also features The Kelpies– the world’s largest equine statues!
We love renting a log cabin for a romantic weekend away in Killin, an enchanting wee village at the foot of Loch Tay. From here you can go hiking in Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve and visit the peculiar loch dwelling at The Scottish Crannog Centre.
Orkney, an island north of Scotland’s most nothernly point, is a Neolithic marvel.
Orkney is an archipelago that is made up of more than 70 islands. The islands are surrounded by towering sandstone cliffs, glorious white sandy beaches and crystal clear water.
Visit the group of monuments that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a name given by UNESCO when these monuments were named a World Heritage Site.
The most famous is Skara Brae, Europe’s most complete Neolithic village. There is also the Ring of Brodgar, a Neolithic henge and stone circle, and the Standing Stones of Stenness.
Orkney is also one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights [don’t get too excited- they’re pretty rare in Scotland!].
The Outer Hebrides are often regarded as one of the best places to go off the beaten track in Scotland. They’re an archipelago chain of over 100 islands spanning 150 miles, and they are one of Europe’s last untouched natural habitats.
The Outer Hebrides are made up of Lewis and Harris, Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay, Barra and Vatersay. The largest island is Lewis and Harris [also the largest island in Scotland], followed by North Uist and South Uist. To reach the Outer Hebrides you can catch the ferry from Ullapool on the north-west coast of Scotland, or fly!
On these islands you can listen to locals speaking in Gaelic, cosy up in a pub while enjoying traditional folk music, and explore the otherworldly white sandy beaches with a backdrop of crater-like rugged mountains. We recommend visiting the Calanais Standing Stones, arguably Scotland’s most picturesque standing stones. For bird nerds the Birds of Prey Trail is a popular journey that can be explored by car, bike or on foot.
Perthshire is the colourful beating heart of Scotland. With tranquil walking trails, bubbling brooks and cosy villages- Perthshire makes for the perfect quiet escape.
Perth, the ‘fair city’ is the leafy metropolis and offers everything you’d expect in a small Scottish city. On its doorstep is Kinnoull Hill, a wonderful area with many walking trails and views across the valley and of the River Tay.
Scone Palace, near Perth, is where ancient kings of Scotland were once coronated upon the Stone of Destiny.
Perthshire is the best area to visit in Scotland in autumn, when the trees turn several shades of golden. We recommend doing The Hermitage walk to enjoy the best of the autumn colours!
The Scottish Borders is an area that is filled with some of Scotland’s most interesting history. The road north to Edinburgh or south to London went straight through the Scottish Borders and so many skirmishes happened along the way!
In the Scottish Borders you will find rolling hills and farmland, with views to The Cheviots in England from the southern border.
It’s a popular area for horse riding and hill walking.
The area is home to the Four Border Abbeys: Melrose Abbey, Jedburgh Abbey, Dryburgh Abbey and Kelso Abbey.
It’s also the area where Sir Walter Scott, author of the Waverley novels, resides from. You can visit the graveyard of which he is buried inside Dryburgh Abbey.
Located 100ish miles from the north of the Scottish mainland, you’ll find the Shetland islands. Shetland is actually closer to Norway than to Scotland- and so Shetland is known for it’s Viking heritage with a Scottish twist.
Visualise crystal clear waters washing onto sandy white beaches with thousands of seabirds nesting in the caverns of the tall cliffs; ancient standing stones and Iron Age brochs. It’s no wonder Shetland was named in Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Europe 2019’ list.
The Up Helly Aa festival is a local tradition and celebration of the island’s Viking heritage. The Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement is a must-see; the land was first occupied during the Neolithic period. Also make sure you look out for Shetland ponies, who have been roaming the hills and moors of Shetland for 4000 years.
Remember: It's impossible to have a bad time in Scotland!
Airbnb is great for finding quirky accommodation, and also for finding apartments with cooking facilities if you want to stay in and cook dinner in the evening.
With Booking.com you can cancel 1 week in advance, which is handy if your plans change!
We have our own car, however when we need to hire a car when travelling in Europe we always use Auto Europe. This website compares prices all the major car rental companies so you can find the cheapest rental.
When booking flights anywhere, we recommend using Skyscanner. This website compares prices for all the major airlines, and it has a handy search function which allows you to search for the cheapest day to fly across a month!
Tours & Attractions
If you plan on visiting many attractions in Scotland, we recommend buying an Explorer Pass. You can buy a 3, 7 or 14 consecutive day pass and visit over 70 attractions in Scotland, including Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Urquhart Castle!
We also recommend purchasing tour and attraction tickets on Get Your Guide. There is a super handy app where you can keep all your tickets in one place. We use Get Your Guide whenever we book tours and attractions in Scotland and highly recommend it!
Packing for a trip to Scotland is slightly more complicated than packing for say, a beach trip.
The weather is changeable, and it can get quite cold in winter and when it’s windy.
Here are some of our best tips for packing for a trip to Scotland. We’ve also recommended some our our favourite clothing and products we own and recommend!
- If there’s one rule when packing for a trip to Scotland, it’s always pack layers! The weather is changeable; Yvette always wears a t-shirt or singlet with a cardigan, and carries this warmer jacket in case the temperature drops.
- Pack a lightweight, good quality rain jacket that can fit over a warm layer. This is a good one for women, and this is a good one for men.
- You’ll be taking lots of photos so make sure you bring a portable charging device for your phone.
- Buy your adapter plug for the UK before you get on the plane! They’re cheaper to order from Amazon verses at the airport.
- All your footwear should be waterproof or a material that dries very quickly. Scotland really tests your footwear!
- If you’re planning on hiking, pack hiking boots! Normal trainers won’t cut it in Scotland. Expect mud and rocky, slippery terrain in many parts of Scotland. Break in your hiking boots at home to avoid enduring painful blisters and discomfort.
- Don’t bother packing high heels; the cobblestone city streets will make walking very tricky for you, and you don’t want to roll an ankle!
- Scotland is very plastic conscious so bring your own reusable bags or a backpack, or be prepared to pay for your bags here.
- Dress practically and for comfort. Yvette lives in her active wear when exploring Scotland, and Craig is usually in a t-shirt and jeans. Even in the big cities, smart casual is the dress code. For guys, jeans and a shirt is more than enough if you’re heading out for dinner. For the ladies, jeans and a nice top with a jacket or warm coat is perfect.