I love to visit Scotland. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. I have been so many times now that I thought it was about time I published a compilation of the advice I have and the experiences I have had so it’s easier to share with others when they ask me, “when should I visit? what should I do?”
I hope to update this post often over the years. But right now, it will cover my visits to Scotland in Winter and Autumn. I have not yet been in Spring or Summer. I hope to change that.
- If you're going to visit Scotland in Winter
- If you're going to visit Scotland in Autumn
- If you do want to visit Scotland in Spring or Summer
- How to Visit Scotland
- When you do visit Scotland - Where to stay
If you’re going to visit Scotland in Winter
I recommend doing so for Hogmanay which is essentially New Year’s Eve. These are the posts I have published about visiting Scotland for that festival:
My First Time in Scotland for my First Hogmanay
What the #$*! is a Loony Dook?
My Report on a Second Time at Hogmanay
My Report on a Third Time at Hogmanay
Experiencing a Bucket List Day in Scotland
A Scottish Highlands Road Trip
Where to Eat and Drink in Edinburgh
Photo Essay from Edinburgh’s Torchlight Procession
If you’re going to visit Scotland in Autumn
I recommend taking a drive through the Highlands and visiting an island like Skye or Arran.
This is my post about a visit to the Isle of Arran.
This is my post about visiting in Autumn, focused on visual inspiration that gets you to want to go!
If you do want to visit Scotland in Spring or Summer
I recommend checking out these bloggers and businesses for advice. They’re all friends – and locals: so they know what they’re talking about!
Kathi of Watch Me See and the Wild for Scotland podcast. It is full of inspiration and includes natural sounds in each episode that make it so great.
Kay aka the Chaotic Scot
Aeneas and Michael at Away from the Ordinary. Their blog is terrific.
My friend Kim is a Dane who has now lived in Scotland for so long he’s Scottish by default. And sounds like Sean Connery!! His tweets about Scotland are the best!
You could also tune in when #ScotlandHour occurs on Twitter as it’s always packed with information. I’m part of the team that helps run it.
How to Visit Scotland
Getting there and then getting around
I have taken the regular commuter train up from London and I enjoyed that. The scenery along the way is nice.
I have flown into both Glasgow and Edinburgh before renting a car to drive myself around. I’ve also picked up rental cars from right in Edinburgh. As long as you have experience driving in the UK and are comfortable with a manual, this is a great way to see Scotland. Though trains, buses and tours can take you to many parts of Scotland inexpensively – it’s a country that really lends itself to the self drive road trip style of travel!
I recommend Delta if you are flying into Scotland. That’s always been a superb experience for me and often upgrades have been more widely available if I was flying directly there, rather than into London first. I have been a Diamond before and that’s helped. But even when I wasn’t, flying Delta to or from Scotland has always been terrific for me.
I have also taken a train around Scotland after arriving by plane. That too, was terrific! The smaller train stations that dot Scotland are often historic and full of such character! It’s a great country to see by train. You have probably seen the photos of the famous viaduct train the Harry Potter movies made so iconic! On my bucket list to do is the Belmond Royal Scotsman!! I’ve never heard a report that would make me doubt it’s worth the price. And again, the scenery you’d see!
Should you take a tour or hire a guide?
I did a tour with Haggis Adventures during my first ever trip to Scotland. I was younger then and more their target market. It’s a budget way to see Scotland. And I really enjoyed it for what it was!
I have been longing to have my friends at Away from the Ordinary organize a bespoke tour for me or hire me a guide for my next trip to Scotland. Even though I know a lot, I know they will know more. They’ll make it possible for me to experience things I couldn’t on my own! That’s a luxury way to do it. But that’s what I want to do next!
When you do visit Scotland – Where to stay
On Isle of Arran: we had a delightful, cozy time at The Douglas Hotel. It’s conveniently located to the ferry as well so a nice base from which to explore.
In the Highlands: consider a stay at Glencoe House. We absolutely love the honor bars in the rooms, the hot tubs, fire places, in-room dining and the level of service. It is not particularly trendy or trend-driven. It’s comfortable and relatable while still being luxurious. We love it so much!
- Monachyle Mhor is super tucked away and very much a destination on its own. Their culinary program is truly next level – even in the UK – which doesn’t deserve the bad rap it still gets.
- Inverlochy Castle Hotel is a Relais & Châteaux property that’s very much that old manor/castle experience many tourists crave. You’ll be dressing up for dinner and you’ll want to have cocktails before the dining room opens in the grand salon. The grounds are stunning.
- Kingshouse Hotel is in the absolute heart of Glen Coe and Glen Etive and is quite cozy. If there’s a property more in the thick of it all I have somehow not discovered it yet, despite being in the area many times now.
In St. Andrews: the Rusacks is terrific and is nearly on top of the iconic course that put the town on the map as the place in which golf was invented. Lots of tartan when I stayed there and many terrific windows in which to look out at the course if you’re between outings in town.
In Glasgow: We truly loved our stay at Hotel du Vin. One of the common areas in the property is in the photo below. Breakfast was some of the best porridge I have ever had in scotland. Make sure to drop just a nip o whisky in to try it as many Scots do.
In Edinburgh: I have stayed at several hotels that closed or changed ownership since, so I don’t feel comfortable still recommending them in case things changed. Still open and under the same brand or ownership as when I stayed are
- The Balmoral
- InterContinental The George was The Principal when we stayed there. I cannot imagine is has changed much, though, since it had only just been completely redone before it became an IHG. And assuming they didn’t change much, the decor and feel of the hotel was terrific. Our cozy suite there was actually my favorite hotel room I ever had in Edinburgh.
- Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa which is terrific and on a roof level so some of the pools are outdoors plus it has the best view of Edinburgh Castle!
- Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian is not only a good place to stay, it has one of my favorite afternoon teas in Edinburgh.
You can also find all my recommendations including things to do and places to eat on this Google Map of Scotland that I made.
Acknowledgements and Disclosures: Photo of “Harry Potter viaduct” train by Jack Anstey on Unsplash. No one has paid for a link in this post. All links are by my choice and chosen for their personal connection. Promoting Scotland was first an assignment and over the years has turned into a passion project, some would even say an obsession. But my opinions now cannot be bought. I’ll tell you if I don’t like something in Scotland, wouldn’t recommend it or can’t stand behind it. And that’s because I don’t ever want anyone to walk away disappointed after they visit Scotland!