FAQs About Scotland

Useful Facts

Accommodation Accommodation Agencies Airlines B&B's & Guest Houses Climate Country House Hotels Credit cards
Crime Currency & Credit Cards Disabled Tourists Disability Scotland Drink Electricity Embassies
Emergencies Ferries Festivals & Public Holidays Fishing Health Care Hunting, Shooting and Fishing Language
Maps & Brochures Measurements Motoring Newspapers Opening Hours Passports Rail
 Religion Self Catering Cottages Shopping & Souvenirs Sports & Activities Soccer Skiing Telephone & Postal Service
Tipping Tourist Information Offices Traveler's cheques Travelling in Scotland Useful Addresses Wildlife Youth Hostels & Camping


Scotland's northern latitude in line with Norway, Labrador and Moscow should make it much colder than it is, but the Gulf Stream has a warming effect. Often the best weather is found in May and September. These are also the months that the north-west of Scotland is relatively midge free. For the rest of the summer months, these tiny, biting insects can cause some discomfort if you are by water, in wooded areas or on the hills.


Throughout Scotland, there is generally a high standard of all types of accommodation including B&B's, guest houses, country house hotels, larger hotels, self catering cottages, youth hostels and camp-sites.

If you are travelling independently, a useful tip is to call in at the local Tourist Information Office (listed at the end of each chapter) which will find suitable accommodation at short notice through their Book-A-Bed-Ahead scheme. This, of course, depends on availability and, in popular areas, can occasionally lead to disappointment if all rooms are taken.

To help you plan your trip in advance, each area tourist board publishes accommodation guides to their region which list a wide range including camp-sites and hostels. There is a 10 per cent booking charge on the Advanced Booking Service as well as the Book-A-Bed-Ahead scheme, but this is deducted from your accommodation bill.

The Scottish Tourist Board inspects hotels and guest houses that are members of their scheme and grades/classifies them annually, so this is a useful indicator to help your choice. Grades and classification are included in the guides and also indicated by blue oval plaques placed outside an establishment with information such as whether it is Approved, Commended, Highly Commended or Deluxe.

The accommodation found in the Additional Information section of each chapter of this book is categorized by a star system based on price as follows: 

expensive ***       medium **       moderate *

Hotels often offer restaurants, bars and leisure facilities all within the property which can be quite useful in Scotland when the weather turns nasty. Special deals are also advertised in local and national press. Hotel chains such as Best Western, Consort, Mount Charlotte, Thistle and Stakis have hotels throughout the country and are worth contacting through your travel agent. 
Country House Hotels 
This is one category of accommodation Scotland does particularly well. With individually designed rooms, open log fires, home-made scones and jam in the afternoon and excellent dinners at night, they add a much more personal touch. They, too, form themselves into marketing associations such as Pride of Britain, Connoisseurs Scotland and the Tartan Collection. Some of the member hotels are quite pricey but you are assured of a unique and comfortable stay. 
B&B's & Guest Houses 
Scotland's Bed and Breakfast and Guest House industry offers some of the best budget accommodation available. It forms into a vast network of excellent and varied accommodation facilities, most now with en-suite bathrooms as well as television and coffee-makers, all at very reasonable prices. Look out for the Scottish Board's grading system for some assurance of standards. 
Self Catering Cottages 
These are available, especially in more remote areas, for those that wish to enjoy a quieter or more activity-oriented break such as hill-walking. There are companies that specialize in this type of accommodation such as Country Cottages in Scotland (Tel 01328 851155). 
Youth Hostels & Camping 
Youth Hostels represent excellent value for money as well as the camaraderie of close quarters with fellow travelers from around the globe. You are required to join the Scottish Youth Hostel Association to use these facilities at a very modest fee and this can be done at any SYHA establishment when you arrive. The SYHA address is for more information or to join in advance is 161 Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh EH9 16Q Tel 0131 229 8660. 
in Scotland varies wildly and is dominated by caravans whose site facilities also allow tents. Most sites are well provided for with showers and washing-up facilities, although others are simply a corner of a field. Wild-camping is possible especially in the north-west, but permission should be sought from the landowner where-ever possible. 
Accommodation Agencies 
Beyond the recommended establishments in the individual sections of this book, there are several agencies offering properties of all kinds throughout Scotland. 
Holiday Cottages (Scotland) Limited Scottish Farmhouse Holidays 
Lilliesleaf Drumtenant 
Melrose Ladybank 
Roxburghshire RD6 9JD Fife KY7 7UG 
Tel 01835 870481 Tel 01337 830451 

The Landmark Trust Scotland's Heritage Hotels 
Shottesbrooke 2d Churchill Way 
Maidenhead Bishopbriggs 
Berkshire SL6 3SW Glasgow G64 2RH 

Scottish Country Cottages Scottish Tourist Board 
Suite 2d 23 Ravelston Terrace 
Churchill Way Edinburgh EH4 3EU 
Bishopbriggs, Glasgow G64 2RH Tel 0131 332 2433 
Tel 0141 772 5920 
Scottish Youth Hostel Association 
7 Glebe Crescent 
Stirling FK8 2JA 
Tel 01786 451181 
Like everywhere these days, some precautions should be taken in protecting your property, such as leaving bags or cameras out of sight in the trunk of a car and keeping the passenger compartment free of other tell-tale signs that the car is being used for touring. In golfing areas, such as St Andrews or East Lothian, vehicles have been targeted by organized thieves, mainly from the south, who will follow a vehicle that they know contains golf equipment, to break in later. Take your clubs into your accommodation. 

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance is an essential ite in all overseas travel and perhpas more so in Scotland, especially if travelling outside the cities and if you are planning to do some wildcamping and such in Scotlands extremely changeable weather.

Scottish companies that provide insurance for travellers include the following:

AXA Travel Insurance
Globelink International
Insure and Go
McKinlay Kidd
The Bank of Scotland
The Post Office
The Royal Bank of Scotland

More information can be found at
Currency & Credit Cards 
The basic unit of currency in Scotland and throughout the UK is Sterling which is based upon 100 units or pennies. Coins in circulation are lp, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p and &#pound;1, with 100p to the pound. There are &#pound;1 notes circulating in Scotland but the &#pound;1 coin is now more common. &#pound;1 notes have been discontinued in England. Scottish banks such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank issue their own sterling notes which are legal tender throughout the UK, although occasionally you will find reluctance to have these accepted should you take them to England. 
Traveler's cheques 
are accepted in most city outlets but occasionally these might prove difficult to use in smaller establishments located in outlying areas, especially if the traveler's cheque is more than &#pound;20. In the north or more remote west be sure to obtain cash, especially before the weekend when banks are closed. Banks are open Monday to Saturday morning and in most cases later on Thursdays. Bureau de Changes are found in larger towns only and have longer opening hours than banks.
Credit cardare widely accepted with Visa and Mastercard the most established. Small hotels, restaurants and B&Bs in the north might not be equipped to accept credit cards so cash will be required. Filling stations almost always accept credit cards. Using your credit card to obtain money from a bank's outside cash dispenser is a simple and often cost effective method, depending on the exchange rate at the time. This avoids the double fee paid on obtaining and cashing traveler's cheques. It is worth ensuring you know your pin (personal identification) number. Cash dispensers are found throughout Scotland. 
Disabled Tourists 
Scotland has not kept pace with providing facilities for disabled traveler's but this is gradually changing and major attractions such as Edinburgh Castle as well as many hotels and shops now make access for wheel-chairs available. The rail network is the most advanced travel organization on this front with special facilities at most main stations and helpful staff to ensure disabled traveler's are catered for. Public transport within towns has generally not recognized the need for disabled facilities. Car hire companies do have hand-controlled vehicles but these are often in the higher priced categories. 
'Disability Scotland' 
is an organization that will provide a list of tour operators, hotels and guest houses, self-catering holidays, university accommodation and groups activities that cater for disabled traveler's. This can be obtained from 'Disability Scotland', Princes House, 5 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh, EH2 4RG (Tel 0131 229 8632). The information is free to disabled individuals. 
As a rule, Scots do not drink at home other than on special occasions and so Scottish pubs are the mainstay of social life, as they have been for many centuries. At lunch time and between 5 and 7pm most pubs now become eating places. They then stow away the menus and crockery to welcome a more social evening crowd. Opening hours in Scottish pubs were extended some years ago, now usually from 11am to midnight and this helped change the image from hard drinking to a more genial environment. 
The electrical current throughout the UK is 240V/AC using a large 3-pin plug. An adapter is required for Australasian appliances. Both adapter and transformer are needed for North American appliances making it less useful to bring appliances from these countries. Most hotels provide hairdryers and irons but it might prove useful to buy your own hair-dryer in Scotland, especially if you intend to stay in B&Bs. 
The are no Embassies in Scotland. British Embassies abroad include: 

3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW 
Washington DC 20008 
Tel 202 462 1340 

80 Elgin Street 
Ontario, K1P 5K7 
Tel 613 237 1530 

Commonwealth Avenue 
Canberra, ACT 2600 
Tel 062 270 6666 

New Zealand 
Reserve Bank Building 
2 The Terrace 
PO Box 1812 
Tel 04 726 049 

31-33 Merrion Road 
Dublin 4 
Tel 01 695211 

General Koningslaan, 44 
Tel 676 43 43 


To summon the police, ambulance or fire brigade, telephone 999 on any phone. There is no charge. It should be used only in genuine emergencies. 


Scotland's main forms of entertainment for the visitor is surely the scenery and the delightful characters you are likely to meet. Pubs are the most popular form of evening entertainment while there are plenty of cinemas, theatres, bowling alleys, ice rinks and leisure complexes. Check with the local tourist information for a copy of their What's On publication. For traditional Scottish entertainment such as a 'Ceilidh', that is Scottish dancing to accordion, fiddle bass, drums and a variety of other instruments, look in the Glasgow Herald or Scotsman's entertainment sections. In the Lowlands, ceilidhs are less frequent, with centers in the Highlands or island such as Tobermory or Aviemore the more likely venue for this gregarious occasion. 

Festivals & Public Holidays

The only statutory public holiday in Scotland is New Year's Day. Bank holidays are frequent and include 2 January, the Friday before Easter, the first and last Friday in May, the first Monday in August, 30 November and 25 and 26 of December. 

Besides banks, many offices close on these days but most retailers, accommodation and visitor attractions are open. All towns have local trade holidays which vary from district to district. Again, this does not usually affect tourist activities. Tourist boards often carry a leaflet entitled Public Holidays in Scotland and there is booklet printed by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce detailing local holidays. Write to them at 30 George Square, Glasgow, G2 1EQ. 

Health Care

Most travel agents offer health insurance along with your other travel arrangements, and this is recommended. If you need to attend a doctor in Scotland, many nationals of EEC countries as well as others are treated free of charge under the NHS scheme. Residents of countries such as the USA and Canada and several others, are treated as private patients and a consultation with a GP will cost around &#pound;30. Most surgeries operate an appointment system, so generally speaking an appointment should be made. In emergencies patients will be seen as soon as possible. 


Apart from Gaelic which is spoken by around 70,000 people (mainly in the Western Isles and Skye) who all speak a lovely lilting English as well, Scotland is an English- speaking country. Some, in fact, most dialects may pose a problem for visitors but again, locals will switch to a softer, more easily discerned version of their regional vernacular when speaking to a visitor.

Road signs in the Western Isles are displayed in Gaelic but most good maps or instructions from the Tourist Information Office will avoid any problems. Buy a copy of the bilingual Western Isles Leisure Map from any of the outlets on the islands. 

Maps & Brochures

Maps are always a good investment and the best for general touring purposes is the Scottish Touring Map published by the Scottish Tourist Board. It includes most of the important attractions and facilities in each area and is accompanied by a useful little book, 1001 Things to See in Scotland. Every Tourist Information Office carries copious amounts of brochures and flyers on attractions in their own and other areas, mostly free of charge.

What's On Guides are useful indicators of events as well as places of interest in each town or region and can be obtained in the local Tourist Information Office. Occasionally, free maps are available accompanied with advertising of tourist attractions, accommodations and local restaurants. Some newspapers produce a yearly publication such as Welcome to the Highlands and Islands published by the Highland News Group, available free at Tourist Information Offices throughout the North. 


The imperial system is used in Britain 

2.21b = lkg (1,000 grams) 
1 3/4 pints = 1 litre 
1 gallon = 4 1/2 litres 
5 miles = 8 km 
5ft = 1 1/2 m 


For a broad view of what is going on is Scotland as well as the rest of the world, the Glasgow Herald or the Scotsman newspapers are the best buy. Local newspapers are useful for local information or events. If you are looking to take home a kilt or a set of bagpipes, it might be worth looking in the classified sections of local papers for a second-hand version, as these items are quite expensive new.

Foreign papers and magazines can be purchased in some shops in Edinburgh or the larger chain stores such as Menzies or W.H. Smith. The European, Time and Newsweek are quite widely available as are some American golf magazines etc. There are magazines such as Scottish Field or the Scots Magazine that visitors might find mildly useful, although the features are written mainly for those that know the country well or for expatriate Scots. 

Opening Hours

Opening hours for shops and most relevant facilities are generally 9am-5pm, as is the case with offices and other places of employment. Banks have outside cash-points that can be used at all hours. Convenience stores open from 8am until late. Pubs typically are open llam to midnight. Businesses in the north-west and especially the Western Isles (including filling stations and stores) are usually closed on Sundays. 


Visitors from North America, Australia and New Zealand only require a passport to enter Scotland (Visa is not needed). Poland, Albania and Bulgaria require both passport and a visa however. All other European Countries only need to show their passports. 3 month Duration is usually permitted but 6 month durations will require a visa. No vaccination requirements are needed.


Scotland's religion has past through many phases from the early Celtic foundations in Iona and Whithorn through the Reformation and on to a less zealous form today. It is broadly divided between Presbyterian and Catholic, and visitors are free to attend services or mass at most churches. 

Shopping & Souvenirs

Scotland's best buys are probably woolens, smoked salmon and whisky although the latter may be cheaper in your home country as taxes make spirits quite expensive in Scotland. Having said that, the choice of malts is greatest here, so it is probably worth purchasing some of the less exported brands. Some clothes items can be of a superior quality. VAT (Value Added Tax) is added to most purchases with the exception of food and books but this can be claimed back on goods taken out of the country by non-nationals. Not all shops participate in this 'Retail Export Scheme' so, before purchasing, look for a sign or enquire. 

Sports & Activities 


Football is Scotland's most popular spectator sport. Scots have an insatiable appetite for the game with huge crowds gathering at grounds around the nation once or twice a week from September through May to support their teams. 


Skiing in the Cairngorms and Grampians is popular if a little unreliable. There are winters where the climate remains mild and not enough snow falls throughout the season. Poor visibility and rain can also make it rather miserable. 

Hunting, Shooting and Fishing 
Hunting and shooting are popular on estates throughout the Highlands and Border uplands. This can be arranged through the local Tourist Information Office which will put you in contact with estate gillies or stalkers that can take you on to the hills for deer or grouse. The 'Glorious 12th' of August is the start of the grouse shooting season and rows of 'beaters' drive the birds on to the line of guns. These sports can be expensive and attract a rather elitist clientele. 


Fishing is the most popular participant activity in Britain, and Scotland has some of the best-known salmon and trout beats in the world. The River Tay is considered by many to be the finest salmon river in Scotland with its source at 3,708ft (1,130m) on Ben Lui. It flows 117 miles (188km) to the sea on the east coast at Dundee. The Tay has a catchment area of some 2,800 sq miles (7,258sq km), which helps to maintain good water levels from January to October.

The Tweed is most popular too, with fees ranging up to &#pound;1,000 per rod for a few days. The Dee is similarly popular and pricey. Salmon fishing has been struck by the effects of over-fishing in Greenland and netting near the mouths of the rivers. Spring salmon enter Scottish east coast rivers as early as November and are well distributed throughout the system.

Fly fishing is very popular but instruction on how to cast properly is essential to be effective as well as to stop you becoming exhausted after an hour. Courses are available throughout the country. 

Telephone & Postal Service

The British phone system is highly efficient and poses little difficulty. The biggest problem has been the recent change in area codes and additions to rural numbers throughout Scotland. These changes have added a 1 to all area codes commencing with 0 and all 3, 4, or 5 digit numbers have been increased to 6. This means that some numbers you may see in older reference material will be out of date. However, a recorded message will inform you of the changes to the number you have dialed at no extra cost. Most of the numbers listed in this guide have been upgraded. 

Useful Operator numbers on the British Telecom system are:

100 for the UK Operator 

155 for the International Operator 

192 for UK Directory Enquiries 

153 for International Directory Enquiries 

The cheaper rate for making international call is 8pm - 8am through the week and all day Saturday and Sunday. To instigate a call routed through your own telephone credit card company dial 155, British Telecom's international operator and they will connect you. International reverse charge calls (Collect) are also available through 155. When dialing foreign countries from the UK, start with the country code followed by the area code then the number. All country and area codes are found in the front part, (section 3), of British Telecom's telephone directory or by dialing 153. 


In restaurants a 15 per cent service charge is often added to the bill, so check this before you leave a further tip. With credit cards the final total is left blank to allow you to leave a gratuity. Taxi drivers, hair dressers and hotel porters are used to a small tip for their services. Otherwise, a tip is not compulsory but is always appreciated, especially if someone has given you particularly good service. 

Tourist Information Offices

Scottish Tourist Board 
Central Information 
23 Ravelston Terrace 
Edinburgh, EH3 4EU 
Tel 0131 332 2433 

19 Cockspur Street 
Trafalgar Square 
London SW1Y 5BL 
Tel 0171 930 8661 

British Tourist Authority  
BTA Toronto  
111 Avenue Rd  
Suite 450  
M5R 3JB  
Tel 416 925 2175 

British Tourist Authority 
New York BTA  
North American HQ 
40 West 57th Street 
Suite 320 
New York,  
N.Y. 10019-4001 
Tel: 212 5814708 
Fax: 212 265 0649 

Travelling in Scotland 


Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports are the main air gateways to Scotland with good connections available to most outlying areas. Many visitors to the UK first choose to see London. They then use the frequent shuttle flights from both Heathrow and Gatwick to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Prestwick or Inverness. Shuttle fairs are competitive between operators and service is frequent. You do not have to book ahead. Most shuttle services and tickets can be purchased on the day of travel at the airport or on board the plane. 


The National Railways Enquiry Scheme (Tel 0345 484950) offers a variety of tickets to reach Scotland from the south and for travelling around Scotland, cheap fares can be had if you can book well in advance. Scotrail's sleeper service from London is a useful way of covering the distance in comfort for an extra cost that is little more than a night in a B&B. 


To explore the islands off the west coast or north to Orkney and Shetland you need to use a ferry or plane. Caledonian McBrayne offers good services to most of the Western Isles and P&O operate between the mainland and Orkney and Shetland. 


The most versatile way of seeing Scotland is by car. The advantages of having your own transport are obvious including transporting your luggage right up the hotel door. Fly-drive tickets purchased in your home country are probably the most economical way of car-hiring, as prices in the UK tend to be comparatively expensive. Internationally known car-hire companies are found at the airports and throughout most towns. Vehicles use the left side of the road. Negotiating roundabouts or circles might be the most hazardous problem for visitors who have never driven in the UK or on the left. These are intended to slow traffic and provide a safe entrance or exit to or from a busy road. 

Seat belts are compulsory in the UK, both front and rear. Speed limits on motorways might seem fast for North American drivers. 

Parking a car in Glasgow and Edinburgh city centres is a taxing experience for everyone so, if you have a hire car whilst visiting these cities, leave it at your hotel and use public transport. This will prove cheaper in terms of parking charges and a lot less hassle. Other cities and towns are no more trouble than can be expected. 

In more rural parts, hazards of driving can take the shape of sheep which, along with the rest of the Highlands, reckon they own the roads as well. With little consideration for other users, they will saunter across to check out the grass on the other side of their sunbathing patio. There is a great sense of permanence, driving on some Scottish back roads. Old dry-stone dykes, wood copses and hedgerows have often been standing for 200 years or more. 

Useful Addresses

National Trust for Scotland 
Head Office,  
5 Charlotte Square 
Edinburgh EH2 4DU 
Tel 0131 226 5922 

RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)  
17 Regent Terrace  
Edinburgh EH7 5BN  
Tel 0131 556 5624  
Own or run numerous Reserves across Scotland 

Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland 
14a Napier Road  
Edinburgh EH10 5AY  
Tel 0131 229 11081 

Scottish Countryside Activities Council 
39 Clepington Road 
Dundee DD4 7EL 
Tel 01382 41095 

Scottish Inland Waterways 
139 Old Dalkeith Road 
Edinburgh EH16 4SZ 
Tel 0131 664 1070 

Scottish National Heritage 
Caspian House 
Mariner Court 
Clydebank Business Park 
Clydebank G81 2NR 

The Scottish Wildlife Trust 
25 Johnstone Terrace 
Edinburgh EH1 2NH 
Tel 0131 226 4602 


Wildlife remains one of Scotland's greatest assets. Scots are used to seeing plovers, chaffinches, seals and deer. But for the visitor, they are often struck by the numbers of native birds and animals that can be easily spotted when, at home, they rarely come in contact with anything more than sparrows or pigeons. It is luck more than skill to spot Scotland's rarer species such as a golden eagle or lynx, confined, as they are, mostly to the north-west Highlands.