With its unique culture and peculiar traditional elements, it’s also decidedly modern in many ways.
Situated on the northern part of the island of Great Britain, Scotland is a land of pure geographical diversity. It sports highlands and mountains in the north and lowlands and farmlands in the south. What’s unique is that because of the weather and climate, the entire region feels surreal, and its many deep forests, glens, hills, and cliff faces all give off a certain atmosphere that feels ripped out of the pages of a fantasy novel.
Even though the Scottish cuisine is significantly influenced both from England and from the rest of Europe, there’s a specific charm that’s only found through traditional cooking. In the past, Scotland wasn’t always a highly developed country and this meant that certain aspect of cooking, like spices, were very rare and very expensive, so many of its traditional meals are simple and straightforward, but delicious nonetheless. Meat, vegetables, and fish are a staple, but Scotland is most famous for its unique haggis, but also some of the best whiskey in the world.
Scottish culture is old and dates back to Roman times. Since the ancient druidic times Scotland has grown into a cultural powerhouse, and even though there are certain aspects of its culture that are shared with its neighbours, some parts are wholly unique. Myths like the Loch Ness Monster or legends of the Highlanders all stem from this impressive culture that has grown today to be one of the more influential ones in Europe. Music and arts are an intrinsic part of Scottish culture, with their traditional river dance being one of the most well-known traditional dances in the world.
If there’s one aspect that everyone adores about Scotland is that Scottish cities are all absolutely fantastic. Most of them are quite old, each one with their own tales, myths, and legends, but have since grown into large metropolitan cities with a dynamic that can easily rival any other country in the world. Most Scottish cities rarely feel overcrowded and there’s always a profound sense of belonging present, cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Dundee, and many more, are all amazing examples of old cities mixed with new, and successful, ideas.
Know Before You Go
If you think Scotland's cities are charming, wait until you discover the countryside. Getting out into the wilderness is easy. Simply hire a car and head out on an eye-opening self-drive. Or make use of public transport and tours to Loch Ness and the rustic Urquhart Castle or the breathtaking Isle of Sky. The ScotRail Travel Pass can save you the headache of calculating fares and can be used on most buses, trains and ferries.
Transport in the city has a well-developed infrastructure but is not known for its punctuality. Give yourself extra time to get where you need to go. When venturing out into the highlands, Scottish roads are old and narrow, many of them leftover from the Roman invasion. Take care when driving around rural areas and remember, in Scotland, we drive on the left.
Scots love a good queue and are well versed when it comes to waiting in line. It could be for the bus, the counter, three lanes of traffic on the motorway. They're not always happy about it, but queue jumping is considered extremely rude.
Best Time To Visit
Unless you're coming purposely for the Fringe Festival, a hugely celebrated comedy festival that graces the streets every year. It's better to avoid visiting Scotland in August. Accommodation is booked well in advance and prices soar.
Spring (late March-May) and Autumn (September to November) are the best times to visit Scotland, especially in the highlands. The summer crowds have dispersed and the moorlands bloom with magnificent heather in autumn and you might still catch a glimpse of snow on the mountains in spring.
What To Expect
Here are a few tips to get your Scottish adventure off to a great start
Currency - The official currency of Scotland is the Pound (GBP)
Language - The official language is English and Scottish Gaelic
ATMs - ATM's are widely available in you'll usually find one or two in the smaller towns. Most places accept card transactions, but if you don't have a travel card you may need cash for some transport.
Plugs & Sockets - Scotland uses the Type G plug with three large prongs. The standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz.
Safety - Scotland is considered extremely safe, especially in the Highlands. Never leave belongings on show in your vehicle.
Climate - Scotland's climate is generally regarded as cool and wet. Due to its northern position and affects from the North Atlantic Drift. Summers are warm with long days reaching temperatures of 20-30 degrees celsius. The east coast enjoys a continental climate with dry, sunny summers and colder winters than the west. Winter has a long dark season in this corner of the world with short days plummeting to below freezing in the night.
The weather in Scotland can go from one extreme to the other and change at any moment. Stock up on warm layers and waterproof clothing for those unexpected showers. Scotland can be extremely windy, so pack a good windproof as umbrellas are no match for the force of a highland gust. Overall, embrace the luck of seeing all four seasons in a day in this dynamic country full of contrasts.