Poppy is the author of A Bard's Lament and the Black Diamond series. She lives in Enoshima with her husband and young son.
Scotland is the proud country of whisky, mountains, and fantasy-esque medieval castles. Because of its mild weather in the summer (well, mild for Scotland, at least), rich culture, and gorgeous scenery, it attracts millions of tourists a year who love to camp, hike, tour distilleries, and see local nature.
If you are planning on visiting Scotland sometime in the future, here are some tips and bits of advice for visiting the country that will help you make the most of your trip.
1. Hire a Car
Public transport is fine if you only plan on visiting the cities, but there is much more to Scotland than exciting Glasgow and historic Edinburgh. If you plan on visiting the more rural, mountainous areas of the Highlands, then it's a good idea to get yourself a car so you won't have to stick to any public transportation timetables. Buses and trains aren't as common or as frequent once you're north of Inverness.
Good companies for car hire include Avis. You can also check TravelSupermarket for the best rates.
2. Wrap Up Warm, Even If You're Visiting in Summer
Scotland doesn't have much humidity, and even in the peak of summer, temperatures rarely get warm enough to walk around without a jacket on, particularly if you are visiting the north. Be sure to pack a rain jacket and hiking boots for your trip, as well as warm socks and a cozy sweater to wear in the evenings. Even the warmest days bring cool or cold nights.
3. Avoid Going in August If You Don't Like Crowds
August is peak season in Scotland; it's the summer holidays for children and the popular Fringe Festival is on in Edinburgh. If you'd like to experience the real magic Scotland has to offer, try to visit outside August.
Obviously, if the Fringe Festival is your goal, then this will be impossible. But I was surprised to see that even the usually quiet Isle of Skye was booming when I visited there in mid-August of 2018. August is also peak season for midges, which are annoying, mosquito-like creatures that like to bite people in the warmer season.
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Winter is great because it's almost void of people in the mountains and really carries that sense of romance. The best weather is in May—it is usually sunny and clear, ideal for hiking and spending time outside.
4. Book Early
Flights, hotels, and train tickets should be booked early for the best rates, especially if you cannot avoid tourist season. Avoid disappointment by getting ahead of the game! Bed and Breakfasts are good choices, and they fill up quickly.
Train tickets, in particular, are important to get as soon as you know your itinerary. Ticket prices can double or even triple if you buy them the day you plan to travel.
5. Cook Your Own Food
Eating out in the UK is very expensive! It is normal to pay around £25 GBP (around $32 USD) for a meal if you have a main course, drink, and dessert. If you are camping or staying in self-catered accommodation and you're on a budget, visit supermarkets, buy your own ingredients (Lidl is very reasonable), and cook.
Eating out now and then is nice, and feel free to do so if you wish. Just remember that it can take up a lot of your budget to visit restaurants every day.
Take a look at the video below for a tour of a typical Scottish supermarket and the kind of prices you can expect.
6. Take Travel Sickness Pills
There are many great boat trips in Scotland to see local wildlife such as seals, puffins, and even sharks. It is also likely that you will be spending a lot of time in cars or buses if you plan on seeing a lot of the country. Avoid your plans getting spoilt by queasy stomachs by taking some travel sickness tablets with you.
A popular and affordable brand is Rugby Travel, which you can get on Amazon. Even if you don't usually get sick, it can be easy to feel nauseous on a small boat if the waves are rough. It's better to be safe than sorry.
Scotland is a beautiful and charming country that hundreds of people fall in love with every day! Explore old castles, hike for some breathtaking scenery, and enjoy the Scottish cities brimming with pubs and history. With the above advice, you can make the most of your trip and enjoy it as much as you possibly can. Fàilte air Alba!
© 2018 Poppy