Scotland Travel Guide: Destinations, Culture & Tips From a Local

Hills leading down to sandy beach at Sanna Bay Ardnamurchan in Scotland

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Scotland is one of the most stunning countries in the world, with its rolling hills, majestic monuments, arty cities, intriguing past, hearty food, and tasty drinks!

This Scotland travel guide will detail unmissable destinations, popular tourist attractions, and lesser-known local spots.

Below you can also find travel information on accommodation, getting around the country, money, safety, food, and entertainment.

Eilean Donan Castle | Haggis Adventures Skye High 3 Day Review

Beautiful Scotland Destinations


Oh hiya! Welcome to Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is a city split in two: the cobbled streets of the Old Town and the neoclassical New Town, both credited by UNESCO World Heritage. 

As a first-time visitor to Scotland, you will want to spend time in both places.

In the Old Town, the Royal Mile with Edinburgh Castle at the top and the Scottish Parliament at the bottom, overshadowed by Arthur’s Seat, aka that big hill.

Edinburgh’s main shopping strip is called Princes Street, and behind that is the fancy George Street, but if you are looking for ‘real-life’ Edinburgh, head down Leith and walk to the village in the city, Leith.

I think Leith is one of the most underrated places to visit in Scotland.

Here’s our guide on where to stay in Edinburgh.

For the ultimate guides written by myself, Edinburgh fans, business, and fellow bloggers, check out these posts

The best and busiest time to visit Edinburgh is in August, and that’s not just because there is a chance to avoid the Scottish rain; it’s the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Over 3000 acts in 313 venues take over Edinburgh for three weeks, and the city does not sleep.

Although you could easily spend 3-4 days in Edinburgh, there are many reasons to leave the city on day trips!

Looking to meet men in kilts during your trip? Here are five ways to do so.

Note: I also own the city-specific guide to Edinburgh, Everything Edinburgh, where you can plan every aspect of your trip for free.

View of Edinburgh-Castle from The Vennel

The Kingdom of Fife

The Kingdom of Fife is a mere bridge away from Scotland’s capital, and this county has lots to offer those who love quiet beaches, gory history, fresh fish and a round of golf or two.

Golfers will find St Andrews and East Neuk some of the best places to visit in Scotland because of their scenic golf courses.

Fife now has its own emerging street art scene!

This excites me because I tend to love every town or city with street art, always making a great first impression.

King Bruce carved into top of Dunfermline Abbey framed by tree in Fife, Scotland


Voted Rough Guides’ friendliest city, Glasgow is a raw city full of talent – art, music, food, and fashion.

Not only is Glasgow a banging night out, but it is also known as the Dear Green Place due to its several parks situated throughout the city.

Some of the coolest Scotland attractions, such as the Barrowlands (vintage but still functioning music hall), 30+ street art murals, and the changing faces of the Kelvingrove Art Museum, can be seen in Glasgow.

Glasgow Duke of Wellington Statue with cone on head

West Coast of Scotland

Enough of the cities.

You’ve come to Scotland to see the rolling hills, calm lochs, and Highland coos, and what better way to see them than on foot?

Why not take on the 96-mile trek, the West Highland Way, which kicks off just outside Glasgow (Milngavie) and ends in Fort William (near Inverness)? You’ll pass over Conic Hill through Balmaha and on to my favourite spot in Scotland, Glencoe.

You also sleep in a valley and enjoy a well-deserved beer at the end of each day. If you want a shorter trek, the West Island Way is a short train and ferry ride away from Glasgow (on the Isle of Bute) that can be completed over two days.

If walking is not your thing, Rothesay and the rest of the Isle of Bute are lovely day trips.

This landscape is a must-see in Scotland. If you prefer beaches with turquoise water, you don’t have to go as far as the Maldives.

Check out Scotland’s Ardnamurchan on the West Coast instead.

Sanna Beach, Ardnamurchan, Scotland

Scottish Highlands and NC500

Unless you’ve been hiding in a bothy for the past year, you will know about the new craze in Scotland – the North Coast 500.

Holidaymakers and locals are flocking to Inverness to drive (and cycle) 500 miles to John o ‘Groats and back down to Inverness, taking in white beaches, cute villages and a wee dram in one of the many NC500 distilleries.

For all of our guides on one page, see here.

Alternatively, choose from below.

Achmelvich Beach | NC500 Hostels Guide

Isle of Islay

Like whisky?

Well, Islay is the island of distilleries!

This tranquil southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides also has beautiful beaches and scenic drives.

So, who is the designated driver?

Laphroaig Islay white building with black name on it

Isle of Skye

Skye is stunning, but the drive there is just as special. Saturated with stories of fairies and giants, Skye’s dramatic backdrop of waterfalls and mountains is the perfect canvas for folklore and fairytales. 

Don’t miss the Old Man of Storr, the cute capital, Portree or Eilean Donan Castle on the way to Skye.

Unfortunately, the press now deems Skye one of the worst Scotland places to visit down to its popularity. Go in low season if you can.

Woman in kilt in front of Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Aberdeen and Cairngorms

While you are up north, you may want to head east to the ‘oil-rich’ city of Aberdeen.

Known for its love of seagulls and sheep, Aberdeen is one of Scotland’s lesser-known cities and stops off for many tourists heading to Aviemore and the Scottish Highlands.

The city is close to Cairngorms National Park, a dream for hikers, bikers, and those who hit the slopes. Did you know that we have five ski resorts in Scotland?

Pink castle in Scotland with fall colors, Craigivere  Castle in Aberdeenshire


The best place to visit in Scotland in autumn has to be Perthshire.

Big Tree Country, Perthshire, has the most majestic landscapes, nature walks, and cute historic towns and villages.

A good base is Pitlochry, which has easy trails, pubs and restaurants.

You can take day trips to other Perthshire towns, waterfalls and castles from here!

Fall colors Queens View in Perthshire Scotland


Once the capital of Scotland and these days a bustling university town full of students and lots of historical gems, Stirling is a quaint town dominated by a castle that no one should miss.

Make your way up to the High Street, explore the old Tolbooth and the Mercat Cross, and wander in the cemetery, which must be one of the prettiest in the country.

Once you’re done, check out the castle where some of the most important kings and queens feasted.

Don’t miss the Old Bridge and the Wallace Monument. Want more? Why not hike up Dumyat for some views?

For more information, check out this guide of Stirling crafted by fellow blogger Mad About Travel.

Stirling Castle.Scotland

South West Scotland

South West Scotland has one of the darkest spots in the country, so if you are into stargazing, this may be the location for you.

Galloway Forest Park is located in Dumfries and Galloway and sees nature fans enjoy its 300 square miles of forest and hills throughout the year.

Loch Doon Galloway Forest Park South Scotland West_

Referred to as ‘the Highlands of the Lowlands’, this region is lush and blessed with lochs.

Portpatrick is a busy harbour town with pubs along the waterfront.

Wigtown is Scotland’s national book town.

Here, you will find several bookstores and an annual book festival.

Scotland's National Book Town Sign Wigtown, Scotland

Types of Scotland Travel

Grey Mare's Tail Nature Reserve from car window South West Scotland

Scotland Travel Tips

In the central belt, Scotland’s public transport system (trains and buses) is mostly reliable yet expensive.

You should hire a car or take a group tour when visiting the Highlands and Islands.

The buses tend to run on what we call ‘Sunday service’ the further up north you travel from Edinburgh; this means they are pretty non-existent.

Various types of accommodation can be found in Scotland, which is great for the purse strings!

A choice of hostels is available in all cities.

Budget hotels to 5*country houses are also available; see here to check the best rates.

Want to stay in the castle?

No problem; the North Coast 500 alone has more than a handful! Bed and breakfast accommodation is very popular in Scotland and usually consists of a small room, sometimes with a private bathroom, and a hearty Scottish or continental breakfast.

Many B&Bs advertise through Airbnb, VRBO, and Booking.

Campsites can be found all over Scotland, and wild camping is legal in most areas.

If you are brave, why not stay in a bothy?

Scotland uses the British pound (GBP £).

For the best rates, see here.

ATMs are widely available, and all credit cards are accepted, except American Express, which is less so.

Tipping in Scotland is not essential but appreciated.

Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, but we are not England or English!

We join Wales, Northern Ireland and England (which is not simply London) to make up Great Britain.

Crossing the border by car, bus, train, or flight is easy.

Glenfinnan Viaduct Scotland Highlands

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