Group: Local Expert
Joined: 12-December 06
Member No.: 30044
SCOTLAND - Starter Kit
This starter kit is an informative collection of travel info on Scotland. The information given regarding Scotland has been sourced from various relevant websites. It's intended as a brief rundown to get you started. If you feel I have left something out feel free to contribute.
It is easy to get to and around Scotland. There are airports in Edinburgh; Glasgow; Glasgow Prestwick; Inverness and Aberdeen. The budget airline Ryanair has flights from all except Glasgow. (NB. Glasgow Prestwick airport is actually in Ayrshire, and is a 50 minute train journey from Glasgow city centre). Flights can be as cheap as £20 (including taxes) from all European destinations, when booked in advance. Other airlines include Easyjet; BMIbaby; Aer Arann; Zoom; Flyglobespan; BA; Aer Lingus plus many more. The skyscanner website is a good site to get the best deals for flights to get you here. There are also airports in Orkney and Shetland for those heading to the most northern points of Scotland.
Once here, try to travel by road, rail or car, as Scotland is small enough to do so, and you don’t want to miss the amazing scenery! The rail system is privatised, but you can search for all tickets from all companies (and buy them cheaper in advance) from www.thetrainline.com (NB. Sometimes it is also cheaper to buy two single tickets from this site instead of a return). Cheap bus tickets can also be bought for as little as £1 in advance from Megabus and National Express web-sites. Public transport is great for most major cities and towns, but to get to the Highlands and Islands, you are better off hiring a car, and obviously using ferry services where necessary. Calmac sail to 24 destinations on the West coast, and Northlink ferries service Orkney and Shetland from Aberdeen (NB. It can take up to 14 hours to reach Shetland by ferry)
Within towns and cities, buses or taxis can easily transport you, and the capital, Edinburgh, is currently installing a tram system (April 2008). All taxis are metered, and in some places you must buy your bus ticket before boarding local services from the machines at the bus stop. This will be easy to identify.
Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, and is therefore part of the European Union, allowing all member countries entry without the need for a Visa. Visit www.ukvisas.gov.uk to find out if you are required to have a visa for entry to the United Kingdom. Once in a country of the United Kingdom, you will not pass through any border control points (e.g. when traveling from England to Scotland)
Our currency is the Great British Pound (GBP). We also accept American Express, Bankcard, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa, JCB and their affiliates. Currency exchange is available at banks, hotels, travel agents and airports.
Scotland’s currency comprises coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 pence (p) and one and two pound (£) coins. 1p and 2p coins are copper coloured, while 5, 10, 20 and 50p are silver. The £1 coin is bronze in colour, and the £2 coin has a silver centre and gold border. Our notes are of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pound denominations. Scottish notes are issued by three banks: Bank of Scotland; Royal Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank. This means that you may have 3 very different £10 notes at any one time. In addition, Bank of England notes are accepted throughout Scotland. The money is of exactly the same value, and if you obtain your GBP outside of Scotland, you will be issued with Bank of England notes. You can use all Scottish money in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as it is all classed as ‘Sterling’, however you may get questioned in smaller shops, as they may not be familiar with the look of Scottish money. The only note that is not acceptable outside of Scotland, is the £1 note. It was withdrawn from circulation in England in 1984, but you will still see this in use in Scotland (although it is quite rare nowadays)
Healthcare in Scotland is provided by the National Health Service (NHS) as well as private practices. You will receive a high standard of care in this country, but you should ensure you have adequate insurance to cover yourself should you fall ill or have an accident.
Tap water is safe to drink, and we have a large supply of this! You don’t need any immunisations to visit Scotland, but if you have come from somewhere with a high rate of diseases like yellow fever, typhoid or polio, you may need to have proof that you have been vaccinated against them.
Accommodation , Internet & Weather
There are many forms of accommodation available within Scotland. Types of accommodation range from Apartments, Hotels, Motels, Hostels, Bed & Breakfast, Tourist Parks and Caravans. Prices range from as little as £5 to the sky is the limit, depending on your budget.
Internet facilities are widely available throughout Scotland, in both libraries and cafes
It can be common to experience four seasons in one day in Scotland, but generally the seasons are as follows:
Summer is June to August
Autumn is September to November
Winter - is December to February
Spring - is March to May
The West Coast of Scotland experiences wetter weather than that of the East Coast, which tends to be colder. High winds can also occur, when you may hear the expression “it’s blowin’ a gale” by locals. Snow can bring secluded highland areas to a standstill in winter, but you can also experience relatively high temperatures if we have a good summer, with temperatures sometimes reaching 30C. (Yes really! And some towns even have outdoor swimming pools, open in the summer months! They are usually heated though!)
Scotland is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). This means we also put our clocks forward one hour in Spring, and back one hour in Autumn (“Spring Forward, Fall Back”) In the summer, the sun sets later and later each day, so it can still be a light sky at 10pm on occasion!
Our country code is 44. Mobile (cell) phones are commonplace. Post offices are usually open 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings (some in the afternoon as well). The electrical current here is 220-240 volts (50 cycles), and a standard three pin plug adapter may be required by visitors.
Scottish people are some of the friendliest you will meet, and most will go out of their way to help a visitor to the area. The only difficulty a visitor may have in Scotland, is the wide everyday use of Scottish slang. Even for native English speakers, it can be difficult, but if you ask a person to slow down, they will understand why you’re having difficulty! Regional slang is also evident, so for example, a young girl may be referred to as “wee lassie” or “hen” on the West Coast, but as “quine” in Aberdeen and the North! In the highlands, Scottish Gaelic is also spoken.
If you have a disability and are planning to explore Scotland, many places have excellent provisions. The Capability Scotland web-site offers a wealth of advice.
Edinburgh – The Scottish Capital, and home to the stunning Edinburgh Castle, set high on the hill in the city centre, between the two train stations (Waverley and Haymarket). Prime location for spotting a traditionally kilt-clad Scot playing the bagpipes, but also great shopping and eating. Princes Street is the main shopping street, but running parallel to this is Rose Street where you can dine at a number of humorously named restaurants like “Filthy McNasties” or “The Cat and Bagpipes”. Get off the main shopping stretch and into the cobbled street areas for traditional shops filled with all the tartan style goodies your heart could desire. Oh, and try some ‘Edinburgh rock’! It’s soft, unlike normal rock candy – delicious!
Glasgow - Scotland’s biggest city, and the future host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. In 1990, Glasgow was named “European City of Culture” and then “UK City of Architecture and Design” in 1999. You won’t find it hard to see why, and won’t be stuck for things to do in Glasgow. Check out “The Merchant City” for eating, drinking and socialising.
Aberdeen - “The Granite City” is its nickname, due to the wide use of granite in most buildings. A prime location for the oil industry, with the offshore business a key asset to the city. It is also the jumping off point to reach Orkney or Shetland by ferry. The main street in this city is Union Street, where you will find an abundance of shops, bars, and places to eat both on this street, and the smaller ones off of it. Little Belmont Street is a good bet for a night out, and is often packed with students during term-time.
You’ve not visited Scotland unless you have….
• Been to a ceilidh (pronounced Kay-lee). This is traditional Scottish dancing, where no-one is allowed to sit back in the audience! Not as scary as it sounds – there’s usually someone explaining the steps at the start of a dance, and you just copy those in front of you. It is really fun! With dances for two people like “The Gay Gordons” to groups of eight for “The Eightsome Reel” you will have a lot of fun, and you will make lots of new friends!
• Had a summer night out with the midges!! (This is the Scottish equivalent of the mosquito, and will be ever present if it’s warm enough to have a barbeque)
• Experienced Hogmanay (Scotland’s New Years Eve. From live music in Glasgow or Edinburgh, to fireball swinging in Stonehaven, the Scottish know how to party. So much so, the 2nd January is a public holiday for the Scots!
• Gone Nessie hunting! (Looking for the infamous Loch Ness Monster!)
• Visited Gretna Green (This is the first town you get to on the M74 in the Scottish borders, when you have just left England. It is famous for people eloping to get married here, because legally you can get married in Scotland at 16, rather than 18 like in the rest of the UK, without parental approval!)
• Tried some Scottish food/drink, for example
o Haggis, neeps and tatties (Haggis, turnips/swedes and potatoes)
o Deep fried mars bar (yes, they do exist, and no, I haven’t eaten one personally…but you are the visitor!)
o Tattie (potato) scone and black pudding (instrumental parts of a “Scottish breakfast”)
o Irn-Bru – orange in colour, but not in flavour. How would you describe it? (Traditional Scottish soft drink that regularly outsells Coke in Scotland!)
o Whisky – a “wee dram” will warm your tootsies on a cold winter night!!
Related Guide Books & Websites
I have only summarised 3 cities above, but this does not even begin to cover the vast number of attractions in Scotland. I have suggested some websites below, and if you have any queries, please feel free to ask me. I was brought up near Glasgow and also lived in Aberdeen, so I have friends all over (even in Orkney!), so if I don’t know the answer, there’s a high chance I will know someone who will!
www.travelpod.com/members/kathryn77 (see my Scotland folder for places I've been since March 2008)
www.visitscotland.com (excellent site for arranging your itinerary. Provides further internet links for all things Scottish)
www.skyscanner.net (to get you your cheap flight to Scotland in the first place!)
www.thetrainline.com (cheap rail travel in Scotland and the UK)
www.megabus.com (cheap bus travel in Scotland, the UK and America)
www.nationalexpress.com (cheap bus travel)
www.hogmanay.net (New Years Eve is a BIG event in Scotland. This site will tell you all, from the traditional concert in the capital, to the fireball swinging in Stonehaven!)