Surrounded by the Northern Atlantic Ocean and North Sea -- and resting north of England -- is Scotland: a country within the United Kingdom known for stunning landscapes, castles, and lively locals.
Travelers who love Scotch, Harry Potter, wildlife, and castles find Scotland to be a bucket list destination, but there is even more to the country than that! If you are intrigued by striking architecture, scenic road trips, and adventurous excursions, you'll love Scotland too.
We compiled a list of awesome activities to try in Scotland and encourage you to check out these variety of tour ideas focused on the outdoors, warm hospitality, and intriguing history.
Traverse Scotland's rolling hills along a blissful trek toward cliffside castles, try a game of golf in the sport's home country or, if you love winter sports, visit one (or five) of the United Kingdom's best ski resorts.
Scotland offers an array of activities to enjoy from climbing, biking, or hiking the region's tallest mountain, Ben Nevis to exploring glacial valleys, scenic coasts, and adventure tubing.
Venture out and visit Scotland's historic monuments, heritage centers, and abbeys for a taste of their ancestry and culture. Don't fret about getting lost -- the small country's enthusiastic locals are always eager to help, and you might even come across scenes from famous movies along the way (hello, Harry Potter)!
Whether you choose to get artsy at Edinburg's festivals, investigate the 11th century origins of Scotch, shop in Glasgow, trace your own Scottish ancestry, or learn more about traditional dress (like the Kilt), you'll start to truly appreciate the centuries of Scottish culture that surrounds you.
You may be surprised to discover the rich food scene in Scotland. The country's flavors highlight traditional tastes with a modern touch, including wild-caught seafood, angus beef, cheddar cheese, and of course its national drink, Scottish Whiskey -- basically all of your favorite guilty pleasures.
While enjoying your Scotland tours, be sure to whet your palate with a beer tour along the Real Ale Trail, try Scotland's fizzy favorite beverage Irn-Bru, or visit one of the Scottish Whiskey regions, followed by a tasting of the country's national dish, Haggis (a savory pudding over mashed potatoes) for supper.
Beach & Sea Tours
With the majority of the country surrounded by water, it is safe to say you might need to take multiple trips to Scotland's coast to experience it all (and some lochs, too). Head to the prehistoric village of Skara Brae, road trip the North Coast 500 from Inverness or Angus Coastal Route from Dundee, and island hop for a closer peek at diverse wildlife among 700+ islands. Even when you're not searching for the Loch Ness monster, the coast will surely keep you entertained.
Best Time to Visit Scotland
Warm, summer months (July and August) are the most popular times to visit Scotland, but also much more expensive -- and still rainy! If budget and rain is a concern, book your tours in Scotland for the shoulder season: May, June, and September. The shoulder months are cooler, but dry and can offer better hotel and tour rates.
What to Look For in a Tour to Scotland
When booking tours to Scotland, be sure to check reviews and package inclusions. Ferries, trains, and bus or shuttle transportation should be included for farther excursions, and any sporting equipment should be supplied. Inquire with the tour operator about meals and hotels, as they aren't always included, and pay attention to currency conversions if you do not use the British pound.
Typical Cost of Scotland Tours
With just seven cities and hundreds of things to see, you find most Scotland tours use car, bus, or train service to get you around. Booking a car means much of the cost could be based on head count -- especially if it is a private service. You can expect to pay about £150 when traveling alone, or as low as £40 when traveling as a group. Train tours, alternatively, can offer multi-day trips for similar pricing (£120 per person, 3 days), though they do not include accommodations and meals.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Though your tour provider should warn you of any essential gear needed, be mindful of Scotland's colder, rainy weather and always pack a rain jacket or windbreaker, waterproof boots, and layers.
Other Tips for Travel in Scotland
- Currency and Visas: Scotland uses the British pound and is not part of the Schengen Zone, but generally allows up to 6-months of leisure travel without a visa.
- Transportation: You can get around Scotland by car rental, bus or train, and flight. You can reach the islands by air and ferry. Some cities have taxi or car services as well, but buses are recommended.
- Accommodations:Hotels, B&Bs, and hostels range from £20-250 depending on the category. If booking a B&B -- which you'll often find in smaller, more remote towns -- note that some may not accept credit cards, so cash payments are required.
No vaccination documentation is required for entry to the United Kingdom if you are arriving from the United States, but routine vaccines are recommended. Additionally, if you have a health condition or require medication, bring a note from your doctor just in case.
Scotland is a generally safe country. With significant car rental and caravan road tripping, however, it is important to review the local driving and safety laws (like driving on the left side of the road) to ensure an enjoyable adventure. Additionally, while Scotland loves its whiskey, public intoxication is also an issue. Use your best judgment when enjoying beers and spirits.
As always, no destination is immune to crime so be mindful of your belongings when out and about, and keep important documents in a safe place.