A trip to Scotland
can encompass an extended tour of the highlands and the natural
beauty's found there, a trip around the over 700 islands that dot
Scotland's coastline, or spending time in Scotland's wonderfully
historic and culturally charming urban centers. Regardless of your
travel plans or budget, a trip to Scotland is an excellent way to
explore Scottish heritage, food, and culture, breathtaking landscapes,
and meet some of the friendliest folks around!Scotland is the second largest of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom (after England) and is arguably the most geographically and geologically diverse country of the United Kingdom. Scotland is known for its dramatic cliff sides, mountains, and valleys, and rugged coastlines surrounded by the freezing waters of the North Sea, as well as sporting lively and hospitable cities, from the historic battlefield site at Stirling, to the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan Glasgow, the United Kingdom's third largest city.
Regardless of your travel plans or where you plan to visit in Scotland, there are endless travel opportunities for families, backpackers, foreign exchange students, or folks just trying to get away and enjoy a superb vacation. If you'll be traveling outside Scotland with your rental car or by any other means, utilize our comprehensive UK travel guide or other travel destination guides to help you plan the best vacation possible.
Additionally, if you find any specific questions or concerns that have not been addressed in this comprehensive Scotland travel guide, we recommend you visit our UK travel guide or generic car rental FAQs, and if you're still not finding an answer don't hesitate to contact our travel experts at 1-888-223-5555, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year!
Despite being a relatively small country, Scotland has diverse and varied weather schemes. Although Scotland's climate may generally be considered cool and wet, it depends entirely on where you may find yourself in the country during a given season or even day. The western and northern coasts of the country have an oceanic climate, with mild seasonsal changes and a general lack of extreme weather. The eastern coast has a more continental climate than the western coast and northern regions, with drier, sunnier summers and colder, more intense weather.
Scotland and the United Kingdom in general are also perceived as being incredibly rainy, with daily rainfall and consistently wet conditions. In reality, moisture is relative to location, the western Highlands receive an incredible 120 inches of rain a year, whereas the continental climate of the eastern coast receives only about 30 inches per year. Sunshine in Scotland varies just like rainfall, although it should be noted that because Scotland is located so far north from the equator, seasonal sunlight varies drastically, especially the further north in the country you are. In the higher latitudes of Scotland, such as around the city of Inverness, winter days are incredibly short with sometimes less than an hour or two of sunlight. In the summer, the opposite is true, with very long days in the summer and in fact, the northernmost regions of Scotland do not encounter any complete darkness on the longest days of summer.
Although it is located rather far north, snow is not nearly as prevalent in Scotland as it is in countries at a similar latitude. Typically there will be between 15-20 days of snowfall in southern regions, but closer to 100 days in the highlands and northern latitudes. Travelers in Scotland should not be overly concerned about driving in Scotland in the winter, unlike New England or other regions of the United States (or Canada), ice rarely collects on the road, making your road trip through Scotland a tour of a gorgeous, (yet safe!) winter wonderland, although it certainly wouldn't hurt to opt for a more comprehensive insurance policy, such as a zero deductible insurance policy or a refundable deductible insurance policy.
Vehicles in Scotland drive on the left side of the road, like the rest of the UK and countries with significant British colonial influence. Driving in Scotland can be divided into rural driving and urban driving, in urban areas, nearly all intersections are controlled by roundabouts as opposed to traffic lights or stop signs, this can be tricky if you're still adjusting to driving on the left side of the road, so we highly recommend drivers new to Scotland or the UK review our tips for driving in the UK. Besides roundabouts and driving on the left side of the road, drivers may also be surprised by the amount of one-way road systems which can make navigating cities tricky at times, so we'd recommend acquiring a GPS rental to assist you in safely and conveniently reaching your destination.
In regards to driving in rural areas of Scotland, this can be highly enjoyable as there is little traffic, and there are countless scenic roads winding through Scotland's most picturesque regions. When driving in rural areas, drivers may find that roads are incredibly narrow, making passing both pedestrians and other vehicles difficult, so be highly cautious and if a vehicle is attempting to pass you, pull off to the side to allow them to safely pass. Visitors driving in rural Scotland will also likely find they're sharing the roads with stray sheep and occasionally cattle, so extra caution is required. Rural roads pass through some of Scotland's most spectacular sights and areas, and although they are surely worth a witnessing, it's absolutely crucial you pay extra attention as these roads can be dangerous at high speeds.
Are you in the process of planning an upcoming trip to Scotland, but are still looking for fun ways to fill up your vacation's itinerary? For your convenience, we have compiled a list of the best attractions in Scotland.
Loch Ness is a large, deep, freshwater lake infamous for being the alleged home of the Loch Ness Monster, also known as "Nessie". Loch Ness contains more fresh water than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined, due to its massive depth, yet the loch has only one island, known as Cherry Island, which was artifically constructed millenia ago and once housed an ancient fortress. A trip to Loch Ness would be incomplete without an extensive tour of the ruins of Urquhart Castle, which has been photographed and painted for nearly two centuries by Romantic-era painters and artists. Urquhart Castle retains many of its fortifications, and offers a stunning view of the narrow Loch on a sunny day.
The Edinburgh Zoo is an 82-acre zoological park located on Corstorphine Hill, in Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh. Receiving over 600,000 visitors per year, the Edinburgh Zoo is Scotland's second most post popular tourist attraction and brings curious animal-watchers and scientists from across the world to marvel at the zoo's exotic specimens. The Edinburgh Zoo is home to one of the most diverse assortments of animals, housing Giant Pandas, Koalas, and various species of rare Penguins. The zoo is famous for its wide variety of animal and plant exhibits, its extensive conservation research, as well as its exhibit dedicated to animals that have served in the British Military, including Wojtek, a bear that served in the Middle East and Italy during World War II in the Polish II Corps, and a statue dedicated to Sir Nils Olav, a King Penguin that served as the mascot and Colonel-in-Chief to the Norwegian King's Guard. The zoo also offers an unrivaled view of Edinburgh, so we recommend taking a day trip to the zoo before retiring to a nearby café for a picturesque sunset view of the city.
The most popular free-to-visit attraction in Scotland, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum houses on of Europe's best civic art collections and is the most popular museum in the United Kingdom located outside London attractions. Located in the West End of the city of Glasgow, it is adjacent to the main campus of the University of Glasgow at Gilmorehill and Kelvingrove Park. Exhibits of note at the museum are the impressive collections of arms and armor, arguably one of the best in the western world, and the Christ of Saint John on the Cross painted by Salvador Dali. In 2006, the museum was reioebed after extensive renovations, including a bar, restaraunt, and vastly increased exhibition space. With over one million visitors flocking to Kelvingrove every year, you know it's one of the most noteworthy attractions in Glasgow and Scotland in general.
The small Scottish city of Stirling sits at the food of the Highlands, and from a historic perspective, has proven to one of the most strategic regions of Scotland during it's bitter medieval conflicts with England. Stirling's Castle has been the site of at least eight seiges, and possibly many more, as the contemporary castle was alleged to have been built on the ruins of a Roman fortress. In modern times, Stirling Castle is the second most visited castle in all of Scotland, after only Edinburgh Castle. Besides the castle, travelers who find themselves in Stirling should make it a point to stop at one of the most important monuments in Scotland, the William Wallace memorial. Constructed to commemorate the Scottish victory under Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, the epic monument towers of the small city and the statue within bears a striking resemblance to Mel Gibson. Before heading off into the Highlands, stop in at these popular tourist attractions in Stirling to learn more about Scottish history and their historic resistance to English domination.
Heading to the corner pub for a dram of Scotch whisky is arguably one of the most quintessential Scottish experiences one may encounter while touring this marvelous country, but enjoying a true Scotch whisky experience demands a properly produced Scotch. To be considered a true Scotch whisky, the product must have been aged and matured in oak barrels for a minimum of three years in a Scottish warehouse, have been produced with only mash from malted barley (or other cereals), water, and yeast, and this process must take place entirely in Scotland. There are two basic types of Scotch whisky you should consider purchasing (or sampling) while in Scotland, a single malt whisky or a single grain whisky. A single malt whisky means the whisky was produced using only the above ingredients and distilled in a single distillery in a single pot still, producing a uniform product. A single grain whisky is produced in the same manner, except with grains instead of malted barley. With over five distinct whisky-producing regions in Scotland, there's no doubt in our mind you'll find the perfect batch for you while on your whisky tour of Scotland.