Travel & Transport Tips
for Scotland (Vacation / Holidays)
Phone Numbers & Address Postcodes
Brochures - Money - Useful info addresses
Disabled access / Mobility assistance
How to get to/from Ireland
Travel by air - ferry - train - coach
Car hire - Campervans - Motorbikes - Cycle hire
Guided coach tours
Tours and excursions
Summer Schools / Teaching English / Learning English
Accommodation web sites - Hostels - Campsites
For travel and transport details on specific places
see the appropriate regional pages.
Most phone numbers in the UK now follow the format: 01 plus 8 or 9 digits which is easy enough to dial if you are already in the country. However if you have to call from outside the UK, first dial the international dialing code, then dial 44, omit the lead zero, then dial the rest of the of the number you are calling. For example if the phone number is 01475 650 100 and you are not already in the UK, this is what you dial: international code + 44 1475 650 100. A phone number beginning with 07 is probably a mobile phone (cellphone).
Looking for the exact address of a house or business? If you wish to mail/post something to someone in the UK, you can find their postcode via the Royal Mail web site (click on Postcode and address finder).
Brochures by mail
The currency in the UK is the pound sterling where 1 pound (£) is made up of 100 pence. This is the currency of England, Wales and Scotland, although you will find that Scotland has some different banknotes.
Credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are accepted in major shops and hotels, but not so much at small B&Bs.
Useful info addresses & sites
Visit the official UK Government Foreign Office web site for all information about Visa Requirements.
VisitScotland (formerly the Scottish Tourist Board) has various offices. You can view contact details for them at visitscotland.com
Or if you are in North America, visit their US site at toscotland.com
Also try the main UK tourism agency VisitBritain which has offices worldwide.
VisitScotland's Convention Bureau has useful information for conference planning and group visits.
For advice on hospital and medical treatment for visitors to the UK - visit the Citizens Advice Bureau.
First time visitors
- www.i-uk.com: UK Government web site
- Although aimed at Americans moving to live in the UK, the uk-yankee.com is also useful for tourists with practical tips including articles on cultural differences, electrical goods, money, etc.
- To see the status of the roads, check out the CCTV traffic cameras.
- Capability Scotland which offers an Advice Service at 11 Ellersly Road, Edinburgh EH12 6HY. Tel: 0131 313 5510. Fax: 0131 346 1681.
- Holiday Care Service. Tel: 01293 774 535 / Fax: 01293 784 647
- ShopMobility - great scheme offering mobility scooters for shoppers in many UK cities including Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Inverness
- Blue Badge parking guide - searchable maps for holders of the disabled 'blue badge' showing accessible public toilets, disabled parking bays, etc.
- Nevis Mobility offers mobility equipment for hire (mobility scooters, wheelchairs and walkers). Collection/delivery anywhere in the Glasgow/Edinburgh area. Tel: 01698 711103.
- VisitScotland, the national tourist board, checks accommodation and attractions for accessibility, and this information is included on their web site. Click here to search their accommodation database by location and degree of accessibility (see explanation of categories). All accommodation and attractions listed are part of VisitScotland's grading schemes. You can also call them on 0845 22 55 121 or email VisitScotland via their web site.
- The Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions lists contact details for over 400 places - email them about disabled access to the properties you want to visit.
To calculate driving distances, use the RAC route planner.
If you are trying to identify the location of specific places, check out these other sites where you can view searchable maps online:
Old maps (circa 1850) are available courtesy of Landmark and are currently browsable by county name.
The Scottish Gazetteer is another useful resource online.
Ferries between Scotland and Ireland:
- P&O Ferries: between Larne (in Ireland) and Cairnryan (in Scotland)
- Stena Line from Cairnryan to Belfast (Northern Ireland).
- Combined coach and ferry tickets to Belfast: CityLink
- Also check out air travel below.
For international and domestic flights, see:
- British Airways online searchable timetable. Tickets from London Heathrow or Gatwick to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, also to Inverness (more expensive).
- EasyJet operates daily cheap flights from Gatwick (London), Luton Airport (about 30 miles north of London) direct to Inverness, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Single journey tickets allow flexibility to fly into one part of the country and fly out of another.
- Loganair is Scotland's own airline and operates services from Scotland to the rest of the UK and Europe. It also flies to the Inner and Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland.
- RYANAIR operates cheap flights from Glasgow airport, Glasgow Prestwick, Edinburgh and Aberdeen to other airports in the UK and many European cities.
- KLM UK is another company which is offering flights from London City Airport to Edinburgh, or from Stansted to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow.
Main Airports in Scotland:
Other airports in Scotland include:
- Edinburgh Airport (7 miles from the city centre). Coaches every 10-20 minutes. Taxis available. Car hire available
- Glasgow Airport ( 8 miles from the city centre). Coaches every 20 minutes direct to city centre. Coach service to railway station 2 miles away. Frequent coach service to Edinburgh. Taxis available. Car hire available
- Prestwick Airport. 30 miles south of Glasgow on the Ayrshire coast. Coaches every hour to Glasgow. Trains every 30 minutes to Glasgow. 50% discount on rail tickets. Taxis available. Car hire available.
- Aberdeen Airport (at Dyce 7 miles from city centre). Regular coach service at peak times. Dyce railway station is a short distance away by taxi. Taxis available. Car hire available.
- Inverness Airport (at Dalcross, 8 miles from Inverness, 7 miles from Nairn). Frequent bus service to/from Inverness city centre. Taxis available. Car hire available. The nearest train stations are at Inverness and Nairn.
- Dundee Airport
- Stornoway (Isle of Lewis)
- Balivanich (Isle of Benbecula)
- Isle of Barra
- Isle of Islay
- Kirkwall (Orkney)
- Sumburgh (Shetland)
- Lerwick (Shetland)
For more info on these, visit the Highlands and Islands Airports official web site.
Most ferries in western Scotland are operated by Caledonian MacBrayne based in Gourock. They sail to 23 islands off the west coast and have special tickets for multiple journeys (Island Hopscotch and Island Rover tickets). Tel: 0800 066 5000.
Ferries to Orkney and Shetland from the Scottish mainland are run by NorthLink Ferries.
Ferries between the various islands of the Orkney group are run by Orkney Ferries Ltd. in Kirkwall - Telephone: 01856 872044 / Fax: 01856 872921.
Ferries to/from Europe:
- P&O North Sea Ferries operate ferry links from Holland and Belgium to Hull (northern England) from where it is a 6 hour drive to Edinburgh.
- DFDS Seaways operate ferries from Europe to Newcastle (northern England) from where it is a 3 hour drive to Edinburgh.
- For all the different European ferry routes, visit ferrybooker.com.
The main railway lines within Scotland operated by Scotrail are:
- Between Edinburgh and Glasgow
- From Glasgow south to Dumfries
- From Glasgow south to Stranraer (via the following places on the west coast: Wemyss Bay, Largs, Ardrossan, Irvine, Troon, Prestwick, Ayr, Girvan).
- From Glasgow north to Oban
- From Glasgow north to Fort William and on to Mallaig
- From Edinburgh north to Inverness (via Stirling, Perth, Pitlochry, Blair Atholl and Aviemore)
- From Edinburgh north to Inverness (via the east coast stations of Dundee, Aberdeen and Nairn)
- From Inverness north to Thurso
- From Inverness west to Kyle of Lochalsh
Since there are now so many cheap flights from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow, the rail companies have had to do special deals to compete. It takes about 4 hours to travel from London to Edinburgh on a day-time train and 5 hours to Glasgow. Sleeper trains are available from London to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen.
trainline is the official way to check timetables and book train tickets online.
Savings within Scotland can be made with TravelPass & Rover tickets. For example the Highland Rover allows 4 days unlimited travel out of 8 consecutive days on Highland rail lines plus the Inverness-Fort William-Oban Citylink bus service. The Freedom of Scotland Travelpass allowing unlimited travel throughout the country on trains plus Cal Mac ferries and some bus services is available for 4 days travel out of 8 consecutive days (or for 8 days out of 15). For more details and prices see the special tickets page on the Scotrail web site.
- Railtrail Tours Couriered Holidays - exploring the Scottish Highlands and other parts of the UK in style.
- The Royal Scotsman - luxury tours of Scotland by train departing from Edinburgh.
- Great Rail Journeys - escorted rail tours throughout Scotland and the Scottish Isles.
National Express is probably the biggest company - tel: 0990 808080. It takes almost 8 hours to travel from London to Edinburgh (twice daily) or Glasgow (up to 6 buses a day).
The Scottish Citylink web site gives the timetables of all their services within Scotland (click on Journey Planner). If you are a student aged 16-25, or if you are aged over 50, you can get a Smart Card offering you discount fares. Another option is the Explorer Pass which offers for unlimited travel between certain dates.
Megabus is a budget double decker bus service operating between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen and Inverness. MegabusGold services offer free Wifi and complimentary refreshments, as well as bunks on overnight sleepers.
travelinescotland.com is the official public transport guide with online timetables and a journey planner.
Each island has its own bus service run by a local operator. Some places (both on the mainland and on the islands) are also served by Royal Mail post buses which not only take the mail around to villages, but also transport a few passengers for a small fee. Telephone 0131 228 7407.
- Based near Stirling, Campers Scotland have campervans for hire with a collection and drop-off service for all major Scottish airports and stations.
- Carty's Campers offer classic VW campervan for hire (based in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, central Scotland)
- Deeside Motorhomes (based in Aberdeenshire) have a fleet of motorhomes for hire.
- Happy Highland Campers - fully equipped vintage VW Camper Vans for hire (based near Inverness).
- Highland Campervans - offer 4-berth campers and motorhomes for hire. Automatic and 4-wheel drive. Based in Inverness.
- Openroad Scotland - 2-berth VW campervan and luxury 6-berth motorhome hire (based in Glasgow).
- OutThere Campervans offer a choice of campervans or motorhome. Based between Nairn and Inverness. Free transfers from Inverness Airport, railway or bus station.
- Based in the west end of Glasgow, Scotland Campervans offer luxury VW T6 campervan hire. Airport transfers on request.
- Scottish Tourer - motorhome hire based in Perth
- Based in the English county of Cumbria, South Lakes Motorhome Hire offers 6-berth motorhomes for hire. Family friendly and ideal for visiting England and Scotland.
- Strathpeffer VW Campervan Hire have a range of T25 Autosleeper Trident campervans (sleeping up to 4). Based 15 miles north of Inverness.
- The Tartan Camper Co have VW campervans for hire, based just 15 minutes drive from Glasgow Airport and and 20 minutes from Prestwick Airport.
Make sure you have enough petrol (gas) in your vehicle - some islands may only have one filling station. It is more expensive than in North America for example. (Note that 1 US gallon is about 3.785 litres but 1 UK gallon is 4.546 litres). Diesel is more expensive. Prices fluctuate frequently of course.
Yahoo keeps up-to-date figures on currency rates (select British Pounds).
Motorbike Hire & Tours
- AMTURUS - Guided motorcycle tours through Scotland and Ireland with accommodation, baggage transfer, and a German and English-speaking motorcycle tour guide. Hire of Harley-Davidson motorcycles available as extra.
- Caledonia Motorcycle Services - based in Aberdeen.
- Highland Motorcycle Holidays - based in Invergordon. They can also arrange itineraries and biker-friendly accommodation in the Highlands if you are visiting on your own bike or hiring one from them. Contact Nigel Newell - tel: 01862 842260.
- Guided motorbike tours can be arranged by Highland Rider. Bring your own bike or hire one of theirs. Based near Edinburgh.
- scotlandbybike.com offers guided motorcycle tours throughout Scotland.
Click here for my list of places where you can hire bikes. Other places are listed on the appropriate regional pages.
List of trains / ferries / bus services which can take cycles.
- Rabbie's offer award-winning 5 Star tours from Edinburgh in a 16 seat Mercedes minicoach. 1-day tours available including Outlander Adventure; Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Highlands; Loch Lomond National Park, Kelpies & Stirling Castle; Discover Malt Whisky; Highland Lochs, Glens & Whisky; St Andrews and Fife; Rosslyn Chapel & the Scottish Borders. Longer tours (2 - 17 days) include Outlander, Scottish Highlands, Inner Hebrides, Outer Hebrides, Orkney, Speyside Whisky, etc. as well as a variety of destinations in England. Some tours also available from Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice 2018, British Travel Awards 2017 and 2018.
- Best Scottish Tours is a family business with over 20 years experience. They specialise in small group tours (maximum 8 people per vehicle) with accommodation and meals included. Scheduled tours (from 3 to 10 days) cover destinations across Scotland from the Lowlands to the Highlands, Hebrides and Orkney. Tailor-made tours can be arranged for you. Summer and winter tours available.
- Brightwater Holidays specialise in coach tours including gardens, castles, islands, wildlife, etc.
- Timberbush Tours offer a choice of small coach tours with a driver-guide from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. Tours include the Scottish Highlands, Fife, Perthshire, Stirling, Loch Lomond and the Edinburgh area. Half day and one day excursions are available, plus longer tours of 2, 3 and 5 days. Accommodation not included, but a booking service is offered if required.
- Discover Scotland have several day tours by 16-seater mini coach with regular departures from Glasgow. Tailor made private tours can also be arranged.
- Walk Wild Scotland - day tours by minibus for groups of 2 - 12 people with pick up from Edinburgh, Glasgow, or Stirling. Walking trips explore Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and include a guided walk, picnic lunch and a boat cruise or cycle ride. Sightseeing day tours can include Stirling Castle, Doune Castle & Glengoyne distillery, Inveraray Castle & Kilmartin (Argll) or Edinburgh & Rosslyn Chapel.
- Shearings Holidays
For tours departing from Inverness - click here.
Departing from Edinburgh:
- The Hairy Coo orange coaches will take you on 1, 3 or 5 day tours from Edinburgh to see the real Scotland. Trips include Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond, Loch Ness, Highlands, Isle of Skye, St Andrews. They also offer a free 1-day tour from Edinburgh to the Highlands where you only pay what you want. Scottish Tourist Board 5 Stars. Private tours can be arranged.
- Highland Experience Tours offer daily scheduled tours by minibus from Edinburgh and Glasgow (1, 2, 3 or 5 days) including Loch Lomond, Rosslyn Chapel, St Andrews, Loch Ness, Oban and west coast, Highlands & Skye. Multi-day tours offer a range of accommodation from hostels to B&Bs and small hotels. Private, bespoke tours can be arranged. Scottish Tourist Board 5 Stars.
- Heart of Scotland Tours - daily minibus tours all year round. Tours include Lothian castles & distilleries, St Andrews & the fishing villages of Fife, Stirling Castle & Loch Lomond, Rosslyn Chapel & Hadrianís Wall, Loch Ness.
Booking Tel: 01828 627799. Tours can be booked at Edinburgh Tourist Information Centre. All tours depart from Waterloo Place, Edinburgh. Private tours for groups can be arranged.
- Haggis Adventures: 1, 3, 5 and 7 day tours of the Highlands & Islands. 5 star tours. The longest running backpacker tour company in the UK.
- Timberbush Tours offer a choice of small coach tours to the Scottish Highlands, Fife, Perthshire, Stirling, Loch Lomond and the Edinburgh area. Half day and one day excursions are available, plus longer tours of 2, 3 and 5 days.
- Scotline Coach Tours - daily minibus tours all year including Stirling, Perthshire, Loch Lomond, Loch Ness, the Borders.
- Gray Line offers a wide selection of day coach trips including Loch Ness, Outlander, Loch Lomond, St Andrews, Roslyn Chapel, Northumberland, etc. Book online via their web site or contact them at 81 Salamander Street, Edinburgh. Free pickup from your accommodation. Tel: 0131 555 5558.
- Based in Edinburgh, Jackie Queally of Celtic Trails / Earthwise offers unique half day and whole day personalised tours from Edinburgh to sites of prehistoric, Celtic and medieval/Templar interest, including Rosslyn Chapel and other sacred sites.
Tours and excursions
( For walking/cycling tours see below. )
Here are just some tour companies who operate in Scotland:
Based in Inverness, Spirit Journeys Ltd is a travel agency/tour operator which can arrange tailor-made holidays (for individuals or groups), honeymoons, bespoke weddings or other special events. Half day and full day private tours of Scotland can be arranged (including themes such as wildlife, birdwatching, golf, culinary, whisky, archaeology, etc.). Outlander tours are available (from 1 to 10 days). With over 25 yearís experience, this company is registered with ATOL and the Travel Trust Association.
Scotland Made Easy can plan a customised itinerary for a self-drive tour to suit your interests, budget and time available. They will book you into recommended accommodation where you are assured of quality, comfort and hospitality - usually in 4 or 5 star B&Bs in Scottish homes. Optional 'specials' include a night in a castle, church, lighthouse, country mansion, etc. Whether you have already decided which places you want to visit or if you haven't a clue where to start, Scotland Made Easy will advise and take care of all the planning for you.
Clansandcastles.com can arrange bespoke self-drive tours with accommodation reservations (your choice of castles, hotels or B&Bs). They can also offer small group tours by minibus (max 7 passengers) with a tour guide. Itineraries can include Outlander locations or your Clan Lands.
Absolute Escapes is a specialist Destination Management Company providing tailor-made travel packages for individuals, groups and corporate clients. Packages can include acommodation and activities - either self drive or with a private tour guide.
Celia Ffitch-Stewart is a fully insured driver-guide with Mercedes limousine for your tailor-made guided tour. Based near Inverness. She offers half day, full day or extended tours. Airport collection (Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Inverness). Services can include itinerary planning and accommodation reservations. Meet your clan chief, trace your roots, stay in a castle, tour the distilleries. Member of HOSTGA (Highlands of Scotland Tour Guide Association).
Kathleen Cameron is a professional Scottish tour guide living in Inveraray, Argyll (tel: 01499 30 2361, fax: 01499 30 2435 or mobile phone: 07777 5691641). For walking or driving tours in cities, towns, or countryside, she can accompany groups of any size, from independent travellers (up to 7 in her own vehicle) to coach parties. Tours can be started from any destination including Edinburgh or Glasgow. Fluent in Spanish.
Hans Arends is a tour guide for German speakers who wish to visit Scotland.
- Hebridean Princess - small cruise ship (48 guests) offering 5 star luxury. Sails from Oban to the Inner and Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland. March - November.
- Lord of the Glens - small cruise ship (54 guests) offering 4 star luxury. Sails from Inverness/Loch Ness to Fort William and the Inner Hebrides.
- Fred Olsen Cruises - a fleet of ships with capacities ranging from 800 - 1350 passengers. Variety of itineraries around Scotland and Ireland, and/or the rest of the British Isles. Departure ports from England or Scotland.
- Noble Caledonia - variety of itineraries and cruise ships, including expeditions to various Scottish islands.
- Northern Light Charters has 4 small ships which offer a variety of private charter, wildlife cruises, bird-watching and whale-watching cruises, dive charter, island cruising, and research and survey services. Based in Oban.
- The Majestic Line operate 3 and 6-night cruises from Oban and from Holy Loch (near Dunoon) in converted traditional wooden vessels with 6 cabins (for 12 guests) to explore the coastline and islands of Argyll. April to October.
- Links list of Cruising & Charter companies in Scotland.
Summer Schools / Learning English / Teaching English
- Association of Recognised English Language Services (ARELS) - private language schools in the UK
- British Association of State English Language Teaching (BASELT)
- English courses for adult foreigners in Stirling
- English language courses in Edinburgh - price comparison
- Gordonstoun International Summer School
- Lingua Service - based near Oban. Tailor-made, English language courses for business people or families.
- List of Universities & colleges in Scotland
- Stevenson College Edinburgh is the largest provider of English language programmes in Scotland
- TEFL Org UK provides highly accredited classroom-based TEFL courses in Scotland and across the UK as well as online.
- The Scottish Universities' International Summer School (SUISS)
- Walking & Talking - combined language and walking holidays in Perthshire
Scotland is well known for its unpredictable weather. It can change very fast in a matter of minutes, especially in mountain and sea areas. When travelling around Scotland it is always best to be prepared for anything, good or bad.
In the height of the summer, the hours of daylight are long and it may not get dark until after 11pm, particularly the further north you are. In winter, daylight hours are reduced to around 7 hours at the lowest point in December (click here for a useful daylight hours summary table) or use the Sunrise and sunset calculator for Edinburgh (and other places).
Average Temperatures for Edinburgh are approximately as follows:
January 6 C / 42 F May 14 C / 58 F September 16 C / 61 F February 6 C / 42 F June 16 C / 61 F October 12 C / 54 F March 8 C / 47 F July 18 C / 68 F November 9 C / 49 F April 11 C / 52 F August 18 C / 68 F December 7 C / 45 F
Web sites providing useful weather forecast information include:
- The BBC(app also available)
- The official UK Meteorological Office including an overview of Scotland's climate
- Mountain Weather Information Service
- SportScotland Avalanche Information Service (app also available)
- World Weather Online (inc. current & annual figures, etc.)
- Weather Online (inc. current & annual figures, etc.)
- The Weather Channel
- The Internet Guide to Scotland list of recommended accommodation throughout Scotland - includes list of Special Offers.
- Scotland's Best B&Bs: an organisation with members throughout the country - all have 4 or 5 star VisitScotland awards, and are friendly places welcoming no more than 8 guests at a time.
- Inverness & District B&B Association: over 15 bed and breakfast establishments around Inverness
- VisitScotland - the Scottish Tourist Board (which has an accommodation search engine)
Selected, individual hostels:
- Euro Hostels - Glasgow with 360 beds. Choice of rooms sleeping 1, 2, 4, 8 or 14. Each room has ensuite bathroom with shower, WC, bunk beds, lockers. Continental breakfast provided. 24-hour reception and security. Bar, TV, games room. Luggage storage. Cycle store. Secure online booking. Open all year.
- Euro Hostels - Edinburgh offering 250 beds in 43 apartments open from June to early September. Ideal central location in the Cowgate. Secure online booking.
- Glencoe Independent Hostel - choice of accommodation in the hostel, bunkhouse, log cabins, caravans and camping in Glencoe just south of Fort William.
- Globetrotters Independent Hostel (Glasgow)
- Scottish Youth Hostels Association
- 'Scotland's Top Hostels'
- Scottish Independent Hostels
- International hostels web site - Scotland listing
- Hostelz web site - Scotland listing
- Cairngorms Hostels in the National Park
Searchable database of campsites covering Scotland and the rest of the UK:
- You can also search the official tourist board databases by clicking on the Accommodation section of their web site and specifying your requirements - see visitscotland.com
Click here for advice about wild camping (courtesy of walkscotland.com) and also read the advice leaflet by The Mountaineering Council of Scotland.
Be responsible and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
It is always best to book accommodation in advance on the islands during the tourist season. Some islands are so small they don't have that many places where you can stay and you might find that they are all full.
Allow yourself plenty of time when driving from A to B since many of the roads in rural areas are narrow and sometimes twisting. Also, don't underestimate the number of times you will be stopping to admire the views and take photos!
Be sure to take waterproof clothing and good shoes or boots. The weather in Scotland can change very quickly particularly in mountain areas and by the coast (which means most of the country!). It can be sunny one minute and pouring with rain and blowing a gale the next. Be prepared for anything and everything.
If you are walking the hills and moors during the hunting season, make sure that there is no deer stalking or grouse shooting in progress, as I'm sure you wouldn't want to get shot. Ask your host or the people at the Tourist Office which are the areas to avoid at this time. The usual season for deer stalking in Scotland is from 1 July to 20 October for stags. Hinds are culled from 21 October until 15 February. No stalking on Sundays. You should also take care during the grouse-shooting season from 12 August to 10 December.
I have always found people in Scotland to be very welcoming and friendly. Often they will go out of their way to help visitors, particularly in the islands where the community spirit is still very strong. They will pick up hitch-hikers and offer people a lift even if you are just walking along.
Scotland is a wonderful place - visit it if you can. And once you have been there, it will keep drawing you back.