The ultimate guide to backpacking Scotland

The ultimate guide to backpacking Scotland

 

Made up of hundreds of miles of rugged wilderness, scattered with historic cities, quaint towns and magnificent monuments, Scotland has undeniable charm. There’s more to Scotland than you might already know and we’re here to uncover the country’s secret side. Lifting the lid on white sand beaches, awesome skiing trails, epic mountain biking spots, and chic city breaks, we’re about to spill all of Scotland’s secrets.

Scotland’s beautiful scenery, characterful towns and fascinating (and sometimes ferocious) history make it a must-see destination. With its seemingly unlimited number of things to see and do, Scotland makes the perfect destination for a weekend break as well as a longer backpacking trip. For the brave hearted adventurers (see what we did there?!) and the chic mini-breaker, get ready to meet the real Scotland:

  1. The best time to visit Scotland
  2. What’s the weather like in Scotland?
  3. Key festivals in Scotland
  4. The history of Scotland
  5. Transport in Scotland
  6. Places to visit in Scotland
  7. Themed Scotland tours
  8. Scottish food
  9. Scotland travel tips

Best time to visit Scotland

Winter

Scotland enjoys a generous dusting of snow most years, transforming its already stunning landscapes into a picturesque winter wonderland, especially wonderful around Christmas time. Fancy an adrenaline rush?! Try skiing in the Cairngorms or snowboarding down Nevis Range – the highest mountain in the British Isles and a true Scottish icon.

Spring

Spring in Scotland is a sight to behold and the country puts on a show with blossom trees and blue skies. It’s the ideal season for most types of holiday, from quieter sightseeing in the cities to exploring mountains speckled with heather and wild flowers.

backpacking Scotland - when to visit -Spring

Summer

Summer in Scotland brings warmer temperatures and the opportunity to indulge in several cultural festivals. It’s also the perfect season for a classic camping trip under the stars. You can camp all over Scotland providing it’s not private property so why not pitch your tent beside a loch and wake up to a spectacular view every morning?! The country’s capital, Edinburgh, is much busier in the summer thanks in part to the Edinburgh Festivals that take place every August, and you’ll also find local food, arts and traditional Scottish music festivals taking place in locations from Glasgow through to Skye.

Autumn

Orange, gold and russet hued landscapes fill Scotland’s countryside in the autumn, making it prime time for a walking holiday (and the perfect opportunity for snapping that breathtaking Instagram pic!). Nature lovers rejoice at the local wildlife that emerges in Autumn including wild swans in the north and grey seal pups on the west coast.

What’s the weather like in Scotland?

With stunning snowy winters and often glorious sunshine in the summer months, Scotland boasts a varied climate. Located in the central region of Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow enjoy mild and pleasant weather all year round and don’t get as cold as the mountains further north.

Snow in Scotland

To imagine Scotland in the snow is to imagine the iconic red Hogwarts Express speeding through the white landscapes and breathtaking panoramas. The magical train journey runs across Western Scotland and is best enjoyed when the countryside is painted white with snow.

In Scotland’s mountainous regions snow is common between November and March so pack your gloves and scarf as you’re in for a glistening treat – Oh, and now you have the perfect excuse to hit the ski slopes!

📷: @mabdulle

Key festivals in Scotland

St. Andrew’s Day

St. Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s official national day that takes place on the 30th November ever year. Not only does it commemorate St. Andrew and the beginning of Advent but it’s also a Bank Holiday. Think feasts, traditional ceilidh dancing, and other cultural festivities throughout the country. The most famous celebration takes place at the university town of St. Andrews on the east coast where the celebrations last an entire week.

Burns Night

This celebratory evening takes place on the 25th January every year and celebrates the life and achievements of Robert Burns, one of Scotland’s legendary poets. It involves plenty of haggis eating, whisky drinking and the reciting of some of Burns’ best loved poems and songs. Many choose to celebrate at home with friends but you’ll also find plenty of venues offering Burns Night suppers, especially in the cities.

Edinburgh Festivals

One of the main events on Edinburgh’s calendar is its hugely popular Edinburgh Festivals, the largest arts festival in the world. Edinburgh Festivals draw in actors, singers, comedians and other artistic performers from all over the world to showcase their talent in both mainstream and alternative venues. Usually taking place over a few weeks in August, it’s definitely one for the bucket list! Make sure you book your tickets and accommodation well in advance as it’s no surprise that Edinburgh becomes a bustling hub of travellers and locals during the festivals.

Hogmanay

Hogmanay is an epic New Year’s Eve celebration traditionally celebrated with drinking, dancing and other festivities. While every village and town will have their own way of celebrating, the cities are known for pulling out all the stops including Edinburgh who host one of the largest celebrations complete with concerts and fireworks displays.

backpacking Scotland - festival in scotland - Hogmmanay

The history of Scotland

From its roots as a Roman settlement to its bloody battles between feuding clans, Scotland’s fascinating history runs deep. Here are five fast facts that’ll get you up to speed and turn you into a Scottish history buff:

1. Scotland has been inhabited for over 12,000 years, including by the Romans who conquered the lands from a local Celtic tribe known as the Caledonians in around 84AD. They then built many forts and the defence structures, including the Antonine Wall whose ruins still exist and make a great hiking route.

2. Scottish natives began to split themselves into clans in the 12th century, with each one owning certain lands and developing their own distinguishing tartan. Clans were made up of families but also their friends and loyal servants, and they would usually be ruled by one head clansman who lived in a castle or large manor. Clans began deep feuds with other clans which ran on for decades and caused much bloodshed across the country.

3. Scotland once had its own ruling royal family but it became part of Great Britain (along with Wales) in 1707. Despite this, Bonnie Prince Charlie (the grandson of Charles II) tried to reclaim the country in 1745 with the help of many local Highlanders which resulted in several fights including the infamous Battle of Culloden. He was unsuccessful and the Highland clans that helped him were punished, resulting in the end of the clan system.

4. The Scottish Enlightenment, a period during the 18th and 19th centuries that saw many Scots achieve great things in the field of science, art, education and industry, really put Scotland on the map. The country is known for inventing some amazing things, from penicillin and anaesthetics through to steam trains and the telephone.

5. Scotland finally got to once again rule its own government in 1999 after centuries of being governed by Westminster. They now have their own parliament in Holyrood in Edinburgh headed up by a First Minister, and are allowed to pass their own laws.

Transport in Scotland

Whether you choose to conquer the beautiful landscapes by car or public transport, Scotland is easy to navigate. There are many places to see beyond the obvious attractions so it really is well-worth exploring all your transportation options so you can make the most of this bonnie wee country.

Driving in Scotland

It’s hard not to fall in love with Scotland’s stunning countryside and picturesque remote islands. The best way to experience these extraordinary places is by renting a car and embarking on one of these epic road trips or scenic driving routes.

In the cities you can rely on the public transport and accessible walking paths.

You can easily get an internal flight, train or coach to farther flung locations, although having a car will give you more flexibility to explore off the beaten track.

When it comes to navigating Scotland’s more remote islands such as the Isle of Arran, the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland, you’ll need to take an internal flight or ferry to get to there and then either rely on local transport, rental car services or your own two feet.

The train network in Scotland connects most of the cities and major towns, making it a good way to travel around. There are direct trains to Glasgow and Edinburgh from lots of other UK cities including London, Manchester, York and Leeds. The train journeys in Scotland are an attraction in themselves, speeding through the glorious sweeping countryside.

If you’re travelling up from London, there’s also the option of the almost daily Caledonian Sleeper train that stops off in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fort William, Aberdeen and Inverness. While it does take a long time to reach even its first stop of Edinburgh (around 7 hours), the charming sleeper train is affordable if you book in advance plus you get to soak up some beautiful scenery from your window.

Bus and coach travel in Scotland

The most affordable way to travel in Scotland is by using their CityLink coach services that connect almost every corner of the country. They have services that go from Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as Skye and Dundee with prices varying depending on when you book.

If you’re planning on using public transport for the majority of your backpacking trip, it might be worth investing in a travel pass or combined ticket offered by ScotRail. Highland Rover passes allow you to travel off-peak by bus, train and ferry throughout the Highlands over four days for just £85. The Central Scotland Rover pass gives you three consecutive days of unlimited travel between Edinburgh and Glasgow, plus travel on the Glasgow Subway, for £39.

Flying to and around Scotland

Scotland has a few major airports that will connect you to both international destinations as well as most internal airports. These include Edinburgh Airport, Glasgow Airport, Aberdeen Airport and Inverness Airport. It’s usually quicker (and sometimes cheaper) to fly to some places in Scotland from the rest of the UK if you book in advance, with flights from London to Glasgow or Edinburgh starting at around £30 one way and around £65 to Aberdeen or Inverness.

Scotland also has a lot of smaller airports that help make more remote areas much more accessible. Lewis and Harris is served by Stornoway airport while Islay, Orkney and Shetland also have small airports.

Travelling around Edinburgh and Glasgow

Scotland’s two main cities are pretty well connected when it comes to transport. Glasgow Central, Edinburgh Waverley and Edinburgh Haymarket offer connections to major cities in the UK and other parts of Scotland and they’re also easy to navigate internally.

Glasgow has its very own underground subway (the third oldest in the world!) that goes around in a big circle. This, along with its orange colour scheme, has gained it the affectionate nickname ‘The Clockwork Orange’. Glasgow Subway is cheap to use with day tickets costing just £2.90. Alternatively, the city has a good bus system plus plenty of taxis and Ubers that are fairly inexpensive.

Edinburgh is a city that you can get away with exploring mostly by foot as a lot of its main attractions are positioned along or just off the Royal Mile. There’s also 24 hour bus services, plus a tram service that starts at York Place and goes all the way to Edinburgh Airport.

Travelling to the Scottish Isles

You can reach farther flung islands like the Outer Hebrides, Shetland and Orkney by plane from either Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Inverness. If you’re driving though, it’s also possible to get a car ferry to Stornoway on Lewis and Harris, and St Margaret’s Hope, Stromness and Kirkwall in Orkney. You can also get a NorthLink ferry to Shetland but be aware that it does take over 12 hours from Aberdeen or 9 hours from Orkney.

Places to visit in Scotland

There’s so much to do and see in Scotland, with options for romantic city breaks through to adrenaline-rushing adventures. You’d need more than two weeks to really see all that this small but mighty country has to offer, but here’s a selection of the best destinations to put on your backpacking itinerary:

Edinburgh

Scotland’s historic capital is definitely its most beautiful city thanks to its centuries old architecture and spectacular hilly position on the east coast. You’ll be spoilt for choice here when it comes to filling your day which is why it’s a destination that’s best visited several times to really get to its roots.

If you’re only in Edinburgh for a few days there are several unmissable sights. The photo-worthy Old Town dates back centuries and boasts Edinburgh Castle at its centre. It’s packed with fascinating history and Britain’s oldest crown jewels, and is situated on Castle Rock at the western end of the majestic Royal Mile. Edinburgh’s other palatial attraction is Holyrood Palace, an elegant building that’s been a home to royalty for generations including Mary Queen of Scots. This part of the city is buzzing with energy come August thanks to the Edinburgh Festivals. Another great attraction near here for fans of gore is the Surgeon’s Hall Museum that explores the city’s medical history including its reputation for Victorian bodysnatching.

Edinburgh is a great city to do a spot of shopping, with higher-end antiques and artsy wares found at the Grassmarket and plenty of gift shops and independent boutiques in quaint Stockbridge. The bar and restaurant scene is also incredible here, from Michelin starred restaurants to quirky cafes like The Elephant House (where JK Rowling wrote her early Harry Potter novels, don’t you know!) You can also take a masterclass in Scottish cookery at the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School or go to one of a few whisky or gin distilleries for a tasting of your preferred tipple.

If the weather is nice, make sure you take the 3km walk up Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano, for panoramic views of Edinburgh and beyond.

Time needed to explore Edinburgh: 2 days

Hostels in Edinburgh

📷: @vikttr

Skye

This little island off Scotland’s west coast is famous for its massively varied scenery which includes dramatic mountains, golden sand beaches and vibrant moors just waiting to be explored… yes, there are beaches in Scotland and they are awesome!

Begin your explorations in the bustling village of Portree which caters well to tourists with its eateries, shops and entertainment options including the Aros Centre that’s ideal for a rainier day. Beyond the village, you’ll find untouched scenery including the eye-catching rock named the Old Man of Storr as well as plenty of gorgeous lochs and waterfalls.

If you’re a hiker, making a stop at Quiraing, a Jurassic period stretch of land, is crucial and you can complete its wonderful walking route (that passes through the well-preserved Skye Museum of Island Life) in around three hours. Make sure to book in advance during peak seasons.

Time needed to explore Skye: 3 days

Hostels in Skye backpacking Scotland - Skywalker Hostel in Skye

Skyewalker Hostel

The Highlands

The majestic mountains and glistening lochs of the Scottish Highlands really are a sight to behold. Located in the north of Scotland with Inverness as its capital, this area should definitely be on your itinerary and there’s far more to it than the legendary Loch Ness.

Inverness is ideal for a city break and is surrounded by stunning scenery. It’s here that you’ll find some fantastic attractions like the immense Eden Court arts centre, the beautiful Caledonian Canal and historic structures such as the city’s 19th century castle and Victorian cathedral. Just a ten-minute drive out of Inverness is Culloden, the site of one of Scotland’s most brutal battles that took place between rebel Jacobite soldiers and the British in 1748.

While exploring The Highlands, you can keep going for miles and never get bored of the scenery, but it’s worth having a few places on your list to aim for as you wander. Glenfinnan sits towards the southern end of the region and is famous for its viaduct that you’ll recognise from the Harry Potter films. You can ride along it by catching the steam train from coastal Mallaig to Fort William, a town that sits in the shadow of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest peak, and is ideal for avid hikers, mountain climbers or skiers.

Time needed to explore The Highlands: 3 days

📷: @vikttr

Aberdeen

Famously known as the city of granite, Aberdeen is also the capital of the UK oil industry and a great pit stop after exploring The Highlands. It’s a modern city that boasts a great bar and restaurant scene as well as a few awesome museums including the Aberdeen Maritime Museum.

If you have time, take a drive along the Aberdeenshire coast to find dramatic coves, castles like Dunnottar near Stonehaven and pretty towns including Portsoy that’s well-known for its great ice cream. Fraserburgh is also worth a visit if you’re a seafood fan as it’s one of the biggest shellfish ports in Europe. If you’re lucky, you might even spot dolphins weaving through the waves on your coastal travels.

Time needed to explore Aberdeen: 1 day

Hostels in Aberdeen

Glasgow

Glasgow couldn’t be more different from the cobbled grandeur of Edinburgh that sits just 45km away. It’s a more youthful and budget-friendly city that’s known for its welcoming locals, lively student population and its huge range of free things to do – so it’s perfect for backpackers!

Glasgow has been largely regenerated and boasts a fantastic gastronomy and nightlife scene as well as endless new and historic attractions. Its world famous art institutions include the magnificent Kelvingrove Art Gallery as well as the Mackintosh Centre that showcases the architectural masterpieces of Charles Rennie Mackintosh as well as offering panoramic cityscape views from the top of its Lighthouse viewing platform.

Other worthwhile sights include the Glasgow Necropolis, a grand hilltop Victorian cemetery next door to Glasgow Cathedral. You can stroll towards George Square that’s filled with statues and busts of Scottish figures as well as one of only three Statues of Liberty in the world – eat your heart out NYC!

Natures lovers will no doubt enjoy taking a stroll around the Glasgow Botanic Gardens that feature huge green houses and several outdoor gardens. From there, it’s just a short walk to the stunning University of Glasgow (that dates back to the 1400s) with its Gothic style cloisters, famed from the Harry Potter films.

Time needed to explore Glasgow: 2 days

Hostels in Glasgow

Scottish Borders

Once the location of many strives and struggles between feuding clans, Scotland’s Borders are now a dream for keen hikers and those looking to get off the beaten track. They stretch from the rolling hills of Dumfries and Galloway in the west to the more rugged terrain of the central and eastern regions.

You can easily get lost for a few days meandering through the remote villages and towns of the Borders. One of the area’s main features are its countless historical relics that vary from castles and abandoned abbeys to battlefields.

Key spots include Melrose Abbey that’s set in an idyllic location outside Melrose town, and Selkirk that’s famous for both being the place where William Wallace became guardian of Scotland as well as it’s delicious fruity bannock cakes. You’ll also find grand Abbotsford House, the former home of author and historian Sir Walter Scott, located along the River Tweed.

Time needed to explore the Scottish Borders: 3 days

Dumfries & Galloway

Outdoor fanatics rejoice at the rolling hills and impressive wildlife in Dumfries & Galloway. Be on the look out for red squirrels, deer, and majestic birds of prey soaring across the skies. Oh, and how about a go on one of Scotland’s longest zip wires?! A sure fire way to experience the beauty below – albeit rather quickly!

If you’d rather slow things down a bit, why not explore the medieval grandeur of Caerlaverock Castle or take a wander through Logan Botanic Garden? Dumfries & Galloway is simply beautiful, so bring your camera to snap those FOMO inducing shots.

Time needed to explore the Dumfries & Galloway: 2 days

📷: @vikttr

Themed Scotland tours

Best places for foodies

Foodies will be in heaven when they get a taste of Scotland. If you’re after a trip filled with delicious and nutritious food, you’ll find plenty to fill your belly. Fresh seafood is in abundance along the west coast, especially around Loch Fyne that’s well-known for its oysters, mussels and kippers that you can try fresh from the water at most of the local eateries in the area.

Indulging in a fish and chips supper is also a must if you’re along the Scottish coastline, while the freshest salmon can be found in Perthshire. Stornoway on the Island of Lewis is famed for its black pudding made of all-natural ingredients including sheep or pig’s blood and Scottish oats, while the Isle of Arran is known for its melt-in-the-mouth cheeses.

Scotland’s cities are not short of great food either! Whether you’re after a Michelin starred restaurant or cheap but tasty street food, Glasgow boasts several weekend markets like the Big Feed Street Food Social and the newer Platform Market that’s housed in The Arches underneath Glasgow Central Station and populated by some of the best street food vendors in the city. Edinburgh’s Farmers Market takes place every Saturday on the ramparts of the Castle and sells up plenty of fresh local produce if you fancy cooking yourself.

Best places for an adventure

It’s no secret that Scotland is full of great walking routes, from the mountain trails of Glencoe and forests of the West Highland Way, to the Fife Coastal Path that’s dotted with picture-perfect fishing villages. Those who are always on the lookout for an adventure will definitely be in their element – and there’s far more to get involved in than just walking.

Fort William at the tip of Lochaber is nicknamed the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’ thanks to its range of activities that vary from hiking and fishing to more energetic white-water rafting and skiing. Nearby Glen Nevis also marks the beginning of the eight-hour trek to the top of Ben Nevis for awe-inspiring views as far as the eye can see.

If you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie, you’re in luck as Scotland is a fantastic place to try out skydiving. Soar above the beautiful Fife countryside from the skydiving centre near St. Andrews, and trust us, you definitely won’t regret it.

Scotland is a great place for skiers, with great slopes in Glencoe and the Nevis Mountains waiting to be explored.

For a more relaxed adventure that showcases the country’s natural offerings, taking a boat trip to the Isle of Mull in the spring and summer months will leave you breathless as you spot minke whales gliding under the dark sea. In fact, much of Scotland’s western coastline is home to all kinds of sea creatures, from dolphins and seals to sharks and killer whales.

backpacking Scotland - mountain hikes

Best places for history buffs

With its hundreds of years of epic battles and artistic and scientific accomplishments, there’s no shortage of historical attractions in Scotland.

Edinburgh may hold the title of most historic city but Glasgow is also packed with fascinating sights. Glasgow Green, now Glasgow’s largest green space with the People’s Palace Museum at its centre, is steeped in history thanks to its former uses as the city’s first public laundry, a common meeting park for 19th and 20th century reformers, a Victorian pleasure park, an execution ground and the location of contemporary music and arts festivals.

In the countryside too, Scotland is not short of beautiful historic attractions to visit including numerous castles that have either been beautifully restored or left in regal ruins. While the most famous ones are found in Edinburgh, Stirling and Balmoral, you’ll find loads dotted around the countryside. Aberdeenshire is where you can see different structures on the fantastic Scotland’s Castle Trail, while medieval Doune Castle just outside Stirling is a must-see for fans of Game of Thrones and Outlander as it was used as a filming location for both.

Scotland is also strewn with ancient battlefields with the most famous being Culloden and Glencoe in the Highlands, two of the most visited spots in Scotland! Other epic battles include the one fought by William Wallace in Falkirk in the 13th century. The precise battleground is unknown but the area is marked by the beautiful and mythical Falkirk Kelpies, the world’s largest horse sculptures.

Best places for art lovers

From the Gallery of Modern Art to the architectural masterpiece that is the Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow is the place to go in Scotland for any art enthusiast. While the former showcases works from contemporary Scottish and international artists, the latter is made up of 22 galleries packed with a collection of works from various well-known and up and coming artists.

Glasgow may be widely touted as the best place for art, but Edinburgh also has its fair share of galleries including the Scottish National Gallery. A few hundred miles to the north in Stromness in Orkney is where you’ll stumble across the Piers Art Centre that’s home to works from dozens of renowned 20th century British artists.

Best places for scenic views

There are so many stunning landscapes to soak up in Scotland, from the rugged wilderness of The Highlands to the stunning untouched beaches of the Outer Hebrides. If you’re looking for somewhere beautiful close to the country’s main cities, Loch Lomond is a wonderful pick. Enjoy fresh seafood at any one of its shore-side restaurants, head inland for a stroll around charming Puck’s Glen or catch a boat to one of the loch’s thirty-something islands including Inchconnachan that’s surprisingly inhabited by a settlement of wallabies!

You might not think it but Scotland is actually home to some jaw-dropping beaches. Those found on the islands of the Outer Hebrides (namely Lewis and Harris) are famous for their golden sands and clear waters that are akin to Caribbean coastlines. A wonderful walking route, or grab a wet-suit and test the waters for yourself!

The wide stretch of beach at St Ninian’s Isle near Lerwick in the Shetland Islands is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in Britain, while St. Andrews’ West Sands beach is a great seaside option a little closer to Scotland’s central region.

In the remote and more northerly areas of Scotland you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of one of the country’s best after-dark views – the magical Northern Lights. Shetland and Orkney are always blessed with its luminous sight but it’s possible to spot it along the Aberdeenshire coastline too on a clear night.

📷: @vikttr

Guided tours in Scotland

If you want to learn as much as you can about Scotland’s natural and man-made wonders, a guided tour is a great shout. With a variety of day trips out of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness to destinations like Loch Ness, Loch Lomond and St. Andrews as well as specialist whisky distillery and Outlander filming location tours to choose from you could explore Scotland for a year and never get bored.

Scottish food

Scottish cooking is all about using fresh, seasonal and readily available produce to create homely and filling dishes. The specialities will vary by area, from oysters, kippers and trout in the isles, salmon off the west coast of the Highlands, to Aberdeen Angus steaks in… you guessed it, Aberdeen and Angus! You’ll undoubtedly soon discover that there’s a wealth of things to try when it comes to Scottish food.

Haggis, a combination of minced sheep’s liver, lungs and heart cooked with onion, spices and suet stuffed inside an artificial sheep’s stomach, may not sound too appetising but it’s actually incredibly rich and surprisingly delicious. You’ll find it ready-made in most supermarkets and on a fair few restaurant menus, with some venues using it to create anything from haggis pakoras to haggis burgers. Traditionally eaten on Burns Night, it’s normally served with neeps and tatties (mashed potatoes and turnips mixed with butter and chives) and then ceremonially serenaded with a Robert Burns poem called ‘Address to a Haggis’.

The full Scottish breakfast is also a dish not to be missed; it’s essentially the same as a ‘full English’ but with the added addition of black pudding, tatties scones (griddled scones made of potato) and often haggis. This sort of breakfast will be served up in most cafes across the country. If you’re a vegetarian or don’t fancy that quantity of fried food, you could always try traditional Scottish porridge that’s usually unsweetened but added to with butter, sugar and dried fruit.

For those with a sweet tooth, there are several things to tempt your taste buds. Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert made of whipped cream, oats soaked in whisky, raspberries and honey. It used to be more of a summer or harvest pudding but it’s possible to now find it in many eateries all year round and especially on menus for special events such as St. Andrew’s Day and Hogmanay.

Typical Scottish drinks

Whisky
Whisky is Scotland’s national drink and you can’t say you’ve experienced Scotland properly without having a taste of the peaty tipple. As well as sipping on local single malts in any bar, pub or restaurant, you can also head to one of the country’s dozens of distilleries for a proper tasting session or attend one of many whisky events throughout the year.

Irn Bru
Irn Bru is adored by the Scots and you’ll find it practically everywhere you go. It’s a non-alcoholic fizzy drink with a bright orange hue, a high sugar content and a pleasant yet unidentifiable taste. It was first made in 1901 and the manufacturers have kept its recipe a closely guarded secret to this day.

Beer
Scotland has been producing beer and ale for centuries, and is currently scattered with over 80 different lager and micro-breweries. From Tennent’s in Glasgow and Innis and Gunn in Edinburgh to BrewDog in Ellon, so many bottles have come out of this small country and you’ll be spoilt for choice by the range in its bars and pubs.

Gin
There are a surprising amount of gin distilleries across Scotland and you’ll likely have heard of brands like The Botanist Gin, Edinburgh Gin, Pickering’s Gin and Harris Gin. Just like the whisky distilleries, you can often visit them for tasting and tours. There’s also a great gin scene in the cities with bars like Heads and Tails or One Square in Edinburgh and Gin71 and beGIN in Glasgow stocking dozens of different varieties to try.

Scotland travel tips

Currency

If you’re travelling to Scotland from another part of the UK, you’re in luck as the currency is exactly the same. You’ll notice that Scottish money notes are slightly different to English ones but you can still use them in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It’s a good idea to always have cash on you in more remote or rural areas such as the Scottish islands as a lot of businesses won’t always accept card payments.

Accommodation

Hostels are by far the most affordable way to keep a roof over your head during your Scottish adventure. There are hostels in all major cities and most of the smaller ones. From star-gazing huts in the middle of the countryside to quaint Victorian buildings with castle views, you’ll be sure to find what you’re after in our complete guide to the best hostels in Scotland.

Prices

As it’s part of the UK, you won’t find much difference in the cost of things in Scotland as you would in England. Almost everything, from buying a pint through to getting a taxi, will be cheaper than most English cities (especially London!) with the exception of Edinburgh which can often be quite pricey depending on where you go.

Language

Everyone in Scotland speaks English and many will also speak the local lingo, Scottish Gaelic, and you’ll quite often see it on road signs, especially the further west you go.

 

backpacking Scotland - road through mountains

Ready to go? We have more Scotland inspiration to help you plan the perfect trip including secret things you never knew you could do in Scotland, hostels in Scotland and your ultimate itinerary planner

About the author

Jemima is a full time travel writer and a part time explorer. Apart from gallivanting around the globe, she also loves tea, dogs and good books.

 

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The ultimate guide to backpacking Scotland

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Luke Moss

English sun-chaser with tic-tac addiction. Loves finding random bars in foreign cities that play 90s/00s hip-hop and R&b!

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