FAQ’s About Visiting Scotland

Money, food, weather, what to pack, when to visit etc.etc

Summer on the Outer Hebrides

“What is the best time of year to visit Scotland?”

As with visiting anywhere, there are pro’s and con’s for every season. Scotlands seasons all have something wonderful to offer.

Spring time (March, April, May) brings new growth and life as the countryside bursts into life following the long Winter. Tree’s are coming into leaf, newborn lambs play, rivers and waterfalls are likely to be spectacular following snow melt. Businesses that were closed over Winter will be reopening full of vim and vigour for the coming tourist season. Temperatures will be on the up (more about that in a minute) a huge added benefit too is that popular tourist spots will not be as busy as in the height of the Summer season and accommodation will be less expensive.

There are many festival’s and events well worth adding to your itinerary for a spring visit, these include the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, whisky, food, culture, heritage and music. The Edinburgh Science Festival, great for families with young children. The Beltane Fire Festival, celebrating the arrival of summer. The Islay Festival of Malt and Music. The list goes on and on

AGAIN rejoicing Nature sees Her robe assume its vernal hues: Her leafy locks wave in the breeze, All freshly steeped in morning dews.”

Robert Burns in a song about Spring

Summer (June, July, August) is the height of the tourist season. In Scotland we enjoy long hours of sunlight giving maximum time each day to explore. If you were to venture as far north as the Shetland Isles for example, by midsummer it barely gets dark at all.

The disadvantages being crowded tourist hotspots (although these can be avoided in favour of lesser know but still beautiful places). Also, accommodation prices will be much higher than in other seasons.

“I love Summer in Scotland. It’s my favourite day of the year.”

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But you just never know with the weather. Two Summer’s ago we went walking in the Outer Hebrides, we were attempting the Hebridean Way, a 156 mile hike from south to north covering 10 islands, wild camping en route. We were so concerned with making sure that we had enough layers and good waterproofs and in trying to get the weight of our back packs down, we decided sun screen was something that we probably didn’t need!! What a mistake. We didn’t manage to complete the hike due to the heat. We were burnt to frazzles and worried that the dogs would end up with heat exhaustion. My point being, we joke about our summers, but we do enjoy sunshine, so be prepared

Autumn (September, October, November) This is my personnel favourite season. I love the vibrant Fall colours, that smell of damp foresty earth, seeing migrating birds overhead and the deer start to come down off the hills. Things are starting to quieten down as children go back to school and accommodation prices are going down.

There is still so much to see and do in the Autumn. Here are just a few ideas. The Braemar Gathering, The Flavour Of Shetland, The Samhuin Fire Festival to name but a few.

Winter (December, January, February) Think cosy pubs, crackling fires, snow, Christmas markets, twinkling fairy lights, Christmas, Hogmanay, Burns Night, welcoming hotels to coorie into, comfort food and merriment. Just remember that the days are much shorter than in the summer and you need to check before you visit any tourist attractions as some do close during the winter months. There is still plenty to see and do though so don’t be put off.

Hiking in Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National park

Another thing to bare in mind if you were thinking of staying on an island is that ferries can and do get cancelled in bad weather. Hundreds of visitors were stranded on the Isle of Arran earlier this year when high winds and rough sea’s forced the cancellation of the ferry service.

Some noteworthy winter events include the Glasgow Whisky Festival, St Andrews Day and of course Christmas and Hogmanay

Heap on more wood! the wind is chill; But let it whistle at it’s will, We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.

from’Old Christmastide’ by Sir Walter Scott

Have a peek at Visit Scotland’s calendar of events for 2020 for lots more ideas.

“What do I need to pack?”

keep it simple

Obviously this depends on the time of the year that you will be visiting and what you will be doing. I’m going to assume that you will be general sight seeing with maybe a little hiking. You’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again. Layers is the rule of thumb when it comes to clothing. Especially in the winter, but any time of the year, the weather can alter from one minute to the next. Light base layers, that you can layer up or layer down and decent breathable waterproofs with a hood. Sensible shoes, trainers or sneakers, preferably waterproof.

Leave your umbrella at home. They are a pain in the neck in crowded cities and don’t cope well in the wind!

In the Summer you will need sunglasses, sunscreen and a good insect repellent in case of midgies. If you plan to spend much time outdoors a midgie face net is a good idea. More often than not there is enough of a breeze to keep them at bay but honestly, when they are out they are rotten! Smidge is a good tried and tested repellant. Avon’s skin so soft works for some people, but not me.

Woolly hat and gloves for the winter.

the problem is when it comes to eating!

Generally speaking the dress code here is fairly casual, but obviously if you are staying in five star luxury accommodation then smart attire for the evening will probably be in order.

Definitely do bring your camera, chargers, travel plug adapter

“What might the weather be like?”

July on the Isle of Skye!
December blue skies on the Isle of Islay

As I’ve already said, the weather in Scotland can be unpredictable, you may experience all seasons in one day. Winter temperatures average from about 2 to 6 degrees Celsius (35F-43F) rising up to between 12 and 19 degrees Celsius (54F-66F) Scotland boasts a mostly temperate climate although it can get much colder, especially at higher altitudes and taking in the wind chill factor. It can get hotter in the summer too, these are just average temperatures as a guide.

There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes!

Billy Connolly

“What is the currency in Scotland?”

Pound Sterling. You can spend ‘English’ notes in Scotland and vica versa. Credit cards are also widely accepted.

“What should I try to eat and drink whilst I’m in Scotland?”

We have deservedly gained a world renowned reputation for our food. Our climate, farms, surrounding sea’s and rain provide us with a rich natural larder. Our fish and seafood is second to none as is our meat and game. Not to mention our wonderful whisky, craft gins and real ales are widely available and come highly recommended by me should you have a thirst. If you have a sweet tooth try Irn Bru a bright orange pop, Scottish tablet which is similar to fudge, deep fried mars bars (I have yet to try this myself).

Haggis is not for me, but Donald and both of our sons love it. Vegetarian versions are widely available and very tasty . In fact we cater very well for vegetarians and for people with food allergies too. My nephew has a life threatening peanut allergy and I was very impressed with the way he was catered for by all the restaurants we went to when he visited us in Edinburgh.

Fish and chips. Whats not to love, especially when eaten out of paper preferably sitting on a harbour wall, or if its raining in the car with a sea view.

We’re also very good at home baked cakes and scones, perfect with a nice cup of tea in the afternoon. Or any time for that matter.

We have many wonderful regional foods too, be sure to check out what is produced local to where you are visiting. For example, Aberdeenshire butteries, a melt in the mouth pastry which were historically made for fishermen sailing out of Aberdeen harbour. They were made full of fat so that they did’t go stale as quickly as bread and provided an excellent source of energy. Cullen Skink a soup from the town of Cullen in Moray made with smoked haddock, potatoes, onion and creamy milk, wonderful with crusty bread to dunk in.

A number of Scottish foods have been granted European protected status, these include Scotch beef, Scottish wild salmon, Arbroath smokies, Orkney beef, Shetland lamb, Stornoway black pudding, Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar. The list goes on, we have much to be proud of in the culinary department.

“How far in advance do you recommend to book?”

make sure that you are organised and book well in advance! Or else you’ll end up with the dregs. Especially during the height of the summer season and in particular popular areas such as the Isle of Skye.

“Can I drink the tap water?”

Absolutely YES. Our water is perfectly safe and tastes great. Bring a reusable water bottle, fill it in the morning before you go out and most cafes, restaurants etc. will be more than happy to refill it for you over the day. It’ll save you money and help to cut down on single use plastic.

“Do I need to tip?”

A 10% tip is appreciated when you have had good service in restaurants and taxis.

“Do I need to worry about ticks?”

You don’t need to worry, just take precautions to protect yourself against them. The NHS provide good advice, click here for everything you need to know.

“Can I travel around Scotland by public transport?”

Yes and no. Travel from city to city is relatively simple by bus or train, although our train service is expensive and not always super reliable. To get bus’s from towns and cities into more rural areas is possible to a degree but you could potentially spend most of your vacation staring out of a window. At least you are guaranteed great views.

A better option if you want to see more of Scotland and all her beautiful off the beaten path locations is to drive yourselves or book a private tour. Click here for some inspiration.

Typical Highland hold up

I hope that this article has been of some use to you, I am sure you must have a load more questions, but these are the most frequently asked. If you have any more, please ask below or email us through our website at Nicolson Tours.

Warm Regards

Anna

Published by nicolsontours

I love exploring Scotland, I love food, cooking, walking, nature and our great outdoors.

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