An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983.
Scotland: a picturesque land of castles and forts, games and kilts, and a mythical lake monster. The rugged mountainous terrain became the backdrop of a rich history from as far back as the Roman and Viking empires. It was the stomping grounds of William Wallace and the Bonnie Prince Charlie, both of whose influence on Scottish history continue to be felt in modern Scotland. The winding cobblestone roads in metropolitan Glasgow and Edinburgh starkly contrast Scotland’s barren highlands, but their beauty blends just as well as their whiskey.
Odyssey usually travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Scotland has a centralised and impressively extensive rail network run by Transport Scotland, which links towns to the major cities. It is also covered by a bus network that is said to place 95% of the popuation within 5 minutes walk of a bus stop, catering to local, national, and international services.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our long stay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, environment & weather
Scotland forms part of the United Kingdom, and the northern third of the island of Great Britain as well as 790 additional surrounding islands. These are encompassed by the Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands, and the Inner and Outer Hebrides. In terms of topography, it’s mountainous and rugged, although most of the population is to be found in the Lowlands in the south and east.
Scotland’s climate is above all distinguished by its changeability and variation. Sometimes, a short drive will take you to completely different conditions, so the key to preparation is layering! During Spring, Summer, and Autumn, max temperatures tend to range between 7 and 17 degrees celcius, and during winter, the average maximum temperature is 5 degrees. In Spring and Autumn, you’ll find that the weater is usually pleasant but there will still be snow on the mountains. The country is also known for its rain. However, because of Scotland’s topography, it rains far more in the west than it does in the east. Scotland’s sunniest location is The Fife Coast, with an average of 1500 hours of sunshine per year.
World Heritage Sites
The United Kingdom boasts 31 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, many of which are located in Scotland. You can view the official list of the sites here https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/gb. It is well worth visiting every site, if you are able. But here’s a few highlights from the bunch:
New Lanark – a picturesque restored 18th century mill village that sits on the River Clyde. It includes recreated houses of those who worked at the cotton mill, and includes a shop selling locally made textiles!
The Forth Bridge – This is a distinct and gorgeous bridge that crosses the Firth of Forth. In 2016, it was voted Scotland’s greatest manmade wonder, and is often seen as a symbol of the country.
The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh – This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but remember, if you’re visiting Edinburgh, take your time to explore and wander through one of the best-preserved cities in the UK.
Festivals & events
The most famous and grandest Scottish festival is, of course, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. If you’re interested in the Fringe, check out Odyssey’s tour, which runs every year and includes a series of hand-picked events!
Also worth putting on the calendar is the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Fesitval, which takes place around May each year, and includes over 500 whisky-centric events. These include distillery tours, tastings, and much more.
If you’re into literature, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is among the world’s finest writers’ festivals. Taking place in August, it usually hosts around 1,000 writers and thinkers from across the globe.
- The Island Nurse by Mary J MacLeod
- The Furrow Behind Me: The Autobiography of a Hebridean Crofter by Angus MacLellan
- Standing Stones by Beth Camp
- The Scottish Islands:
- A Comprehensive Guide to Every Scottish Island by Hamish Haswell-Smith
Eating & Drinking
Now is a better time than ever to explore Scotland’s food and drink culture. This is because in early 2018, Scotland began to implement a national strategy to position itself as a global destination for cuisine.
Scotland is probably best known for its whisky, the export of which brings billions of dollars into the economy. In regions known for whisky such as Speyside and the Isle of Islay, many distilleries are open for tours and tastings. You’ll also find that the flavour of whisky differs significantly depending on its region of origin, so it’s worth exploring a range of distilleries!
But Scotland isn’t simply a nation of whisky. Scottish lobsters are among the most sought after in the world, showing up on the menus of many Michelin-starred restaurants. Scotland is also known for its salmon, which is the nation’s biggest food export. It is generally of prestige quality, a product for which buyers will pay a premium.
Health & Safety
While much of Scotland is usually safe to travel around, it’s important to stay alert to anything unusual. Also, you will often see signs warning of pickpockets in areas popular with tourists, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. The electricity supply runs at 230V, 50Hz. British plugs have three flat, rectangular pins which form a triangle. These are shared by Ireland, Malta and some former British colonies, but Australia is not one of them.
Scotland has a single time zone , Greenwich mean time. The nation observes daylight saving time from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you make sure you tip an appropriate amount for services, as is the case throughout much of Europe. It’s customary to tip 10-15% of the bill at restaurants, or 1 to 3 GBP at a more casual establishment. It’s polite to round a bill up to the nearest whole figure or leave the change when buying drinks. It’s also customary to tip 10% in taxis, and leave a note or two with hotel porters and concierges.
Internet access is easily accessible, and most hotels and many cafes will be able to offer it.
However, when visiting the remotest parts of Scotland the service maybe non existent or of a poor or low quality until you reach more built up areas.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Scotland. Many providers will offer a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible Travel Tips for Scotland
- If sightseeing in rural areas, remember to be respectful of residents and locals. As well as being tourist attractions, these are peoples’ homes!
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice, a bit of Gaelic perhaps.. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language and it’s slang, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of euros in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.