The best guide to Scotland, updated every year
Edinburgh and Glasgow walks to churches, museums, gardens
Driving tours past lochs, hills, and valleys to ancient abbeys and castles, historic houses and universities
Best golf courses -- tee up in the land where "gowf" began
Highland hiking, fishing and water sports, island biking
Where to find tartans, tweeds, woolens, and malt whiskies
Where to stay and eat, no matter what your budget
Sleek city hotels, sea- and loch-side B&Bs, country estates, medieval castles, genteel town houses, farmhouse holidays
Smart restaurants and inns, village tearooms, warm bistros and brasseries, friendly pubs, international cafés
Fresh, thorough, practical -- off and on the beaten path
Costs, hours, descriptions, and tipsby the thousands
All reviews based on visits by savvy writer-residents
36 pages of maps, 30 vacation itineraries, and more
Important contacts, smart travel tips
Pleasures & Pastimes
New & Noteworthy
Scotland in film
Read an Excerpt
This excerpt, from the Pleasures and Pastimes section, gives you a taste of what Scotland has to offer and the sights and scenes that make it a great place to visit.
Cycling is an ideal way to see the country. A mountain bike with street tires is as good a touring bike as the traditional, slouch-forward road bikes. The flat lands of Fife, with its quiet side roads, offer good biking. Dotted with bike rental shops, the islands of Arran and Islay are also popular cycling destinations.
Castle fanatics will have a ball in Scotland: there's everything here from atmospheric medieval ruins, complete with gory tales, such as Kildrummy, to magnificent Georgian piles like Culzean, full of antiques and paintings, and surrounded by parkland. The North East of Scotland in particular, inland from Aberdeen, has a huge range of castles to admire, helpfully strung together along a "Castle Trail." Whether still in private ownership and full of family atmosphere, like Cawdor, or under the care of the National Trust for Scotland or of Historic Scotland, or just a jumble of stones atop a hill, Scotland's castles and forts vividly demonstrate the country's unsettled past and historically uneasy relationship with its southern neighbor.
The Edinburgh International Festival is the spectacular flagship of mainstream cultural events, from theater to comedy skits. This huge grab bag of performances spreads out of halls and theaters onto the streets of the capital. Also adding to the throng are the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and a range of smaller events such as the Book Festival and the Jazz Festival. Folk festivals are also held in many places at various times of the year, as are themed festivals. One of the most spectacular festivals is Up Helly Aa, held in Shetland at the end of January, when Viking ceremonies culminate in the burning of a replica Viking longship.
The best Scottish restaurants are noted for the freshest seafood, excellent red meats and game, and the use of traditional ingredients such as oatmeal and wild berries in new and imaginative ways. Places like Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen, of course, offer restaurants of cosmopolitan character and various price levels; of these, the more notable tend to open only in the evening. Most smaller towns and many villages have at least one restaurant where certainly if a local is in charge the service is a reminder of a Highland tradition that ensured that no stranger could travel through the country without receiving a welcome.
The process of producing whisky is closely monitored by the British government. It is strictly commercially licensed and takes place only in Scotland's distilleries. Many distilleries place strong emphasis on visitor facilities. A typical visit includes some kind of audiovisual presentation and a tour, and then a dram is usually offered. No tour of Speyside or Islay is complete without taking in at least one distillery.
Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, Scotland's lowland climate is very favorable to a wide variety of plants, and a highlight of a Scottish visit for any gardening enthusiast will be discovering its gardens. In the Southwest: Castle Kennedy Gardens (with landscape features built by soldiers under the command of their aristocratic field marshal), Logan Botanic Gardens, Threave Gardens, and Arbigland Gardens are all here to enjoy. On the east coast, in addition to the impressive Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, many of the stately homes are surrounded by beautifully tended gardens and parkland. Many private gardens open for one or two days each summer for charity under "Scotland's Gardens Scheme": look for the yellow posters as you drive along, to discover some normally hidden delights.
Scotland is often called the "home of golf" and, brushing aside any suggestion that the game probably originated in the Low Countries, claims it for her own. Certainly, Scotland has a number of old established courses, often lying close to town centers, where, had it not been for the early rights of golfers, the land would have been swallowed up by developments long ago. Now, with more than 400 golf courses some world-famous Scotland is a destination for golfers the world over.
Hiking is a superb pursuit for getting to know Scotland's varied landscape of low-lying glens and major mountains. From Edinburgh's Arthur's Seat to Ben Nevis, Britain's tallest peak, Scotland offers an unlimited number of walking and hiking possibilities.
The Scots enjoy their pub culture. Whether you join in a lively political discussion in a bar in Glasgow, or enjoy folk music and dancing in a rural pub in the Highlands, you'll find that a public house is the perfect site to experience the Scottish spirit and, of course, enjoy a pint or a wee dram. Most bars sell two kinds of beer lager and ale. An increasing number of pubs, especially in the major cities, also offer a small selection of "real ales" hand-drawn beers produced by smaller breweries, which in their range of flavors are a revelation compared to the usual pub beers. All pubs also carry any number of single-malt and blended whiskies.
One of the best ways to see Scotland is to rent a car and drive (on the left side of the road, of course). The following are some of our favorite scenic routes: the road west of Aberdeen into Royal Deeside, on either bank of the River Dee (Aberdeen); the east bank of Loch Ness, from Fort Augustus to Inverness via Dores (Around the Great Glen); the route between Brig o' Turk and Aberfoyle in the Trossachs (Central Highlands); and the Drumbeg road, north of Lochinver (Northern Highlands).
In Scotland, many visitors go for tweeds, designer knitwear, Shetland and Fair Isle woolens, tartan rugs and fabrics, Edinburgh crystal, Caithness glass, malt whisky, Celtic silver, and pebble jewelry. The Scottish Highlands bristle with old bothies (farm buildings) that have been turned into small crafts workshops where visitors are welcome but not pressured to buy attractive handmade items of bone, silver, wood, pottery, leather, and glass.
Table of Contents
On the Road with Fodor's
About Our Writers: Each year the Gold Guides are written and updated by more than 500 resident writers.
How to Use This Book: Describes organization, icons, and other key information.
Don't Forget to Write: Tells you how to get in touch with our editors.
The Gold Guide
Smart Travel Tips A to Z: An easy-to-use section divided alphabetically by topic. Under each listing you'll find tips and information that will help you accomplish what you need to in Scotland. You'll also find addresses and telephone numbers of organizations and companies that offer destination-related services and detailed information and publications.
Destination: Scotland: Helps get you in the mood for your trip.
What's Where: Gets you oriented.
Pleasures and Pastimes: Describes the activities and sights that make Scotland unique.
New and Noteworthy: Cues you in on trends and happenings.
Fodor's Choice: Showcases our top picks from special restaurants and one-of-a-kind accommodations to out-of-the-ordinary sights and activities... Let them inspire you!
Great Itineraries: Provides a range of options, geared to the length of your stay, that help ensure that you get the most out of your visit.
Festivals and Seasonal Events: Alerts you to special events you'll want to seek out.
Scotland: The Home of Golf
Golfing Throughout the Country
Edinburgh and the Lothians
The Borders and the Southwest
Fife and Angus
St. Andrews, Dundee
The Central Highlands
Stirling, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Perthshire
Aberdeen and the Northeast
Argyll and the Isles
Around the Great Glen
Inverness, Loch Ness, Speyside, Fort William
The Northern Highlands
The Northern Isles
Portrait of Scotland
Scotland at a Glance: A Chronology