FREE | First-timer's guide to Scotland
This comprehensive guide has everything you need to confidently navigate and see the best places in Scotland. Specifically tailored for first-time visitors. Includes: A detailed explanation of transport options A customizable itinerary of up to 8 days with possible extension Food recommendations Hotel recommendations Money saving tips Fun facts and more!
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I. Introduction

Hi there! I'm so excited to be part of your travel journey to Scotland. Get ready to embark on an adventure filled with breathtaking landscapes, historic monuments, magnificent castles, and a vibrant culture that will captivate your heart.

This guide is designed to provide you with all the essential information and tips you need to make the most of your trip. From preparing for your adventure with Scotland's transportation network and general travel tips to diving into the enchanting cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, this guide has you covered.

Immerse yourself in the wonders of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the highlands with a carefully crafted itinerary. Along the way, you'll find food recommendations and hotel suggestions to enhance your experience. However, do feel free to customize your itinerary by selecting the activities and days that best align with your travel preferences.

So pack your bags, embrace the spirit of adventure, and let's go on this amazing journey together!

II. Preparing for Your Trip

 Understanding Scotland's Transportation Network

Whether you prefer to avoid the hassle of parking, don't want to navigate unfamiliar driving rules, value opportunities to interact with locals, or just want some extra shuteye time, I get it. As a fellow traveller, I'm a massive fan of taking public transportations during my travels. Fortunately, Scotland boasts a fantastic and efficient transportation network that is both cost-effective and convenient. Familiarizing yourself with the various options will help you navigate the country with ease.

Trains

  The National Rail is the UK's railway network and there are different train companies that operate within this network. Scotrail is the train company that operates in Scotland, and you will likely be using their services between cities during your trip. Trains are a convenient and scenic mode of transport, connecting major cities, towns, and even reaching remote areas.

 You can purchase train tickets online or at the train station. I recommend using the official ScotRail website or mobile application as they do not have booking fees (some third party websites such as Trainline charges booking fees!).  By using the ScotRail app, you can store your tickets digitally and activate them on the day of travel. This eliminates the need for printing physical tickets and provides easy access to your tickets on your smartphone. Just scan the QR code of your mobile ticket at the barrier to enter the platform!

Types of Tickets:

a. Advance Tickets: The best value for money they come with restrictions (non-refundable and limited to a specific train journey). They are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and can be purchased up to 12 weeks in advance. If you don't see this option when you are buying tickets, it is likely that it has been sold out. 

b. Off-Peak Tickets: These tickets are cheaper than Anytime Tickets and are valid for travel during less busy times, typically outside peak hours (In general, Off-Peak hours begin at 09:30 from Monday to Friday in cities and large towns, and at 09:00 everywhere else. Weekends and bank holidays are Off-Peak all day). Off-Peak Tickets can offer significant savings and are ideal for travellers with a flexible schedule.

c. Anytime Tickets: These tickets offer the most flexibility, allowing you to travel on any train at any time on the chosen date. They are generally more expensive, so consider them only if you require complete flexibility.

d. Rover and Explorer Tickets: If you plan to do extensive travel within Scotland, consider these tickets, which allow unlimited travel within a specified area or for a set number of days. For the following itinerary, you will not be needing these tickets. 

Discounts:

a. For a child aged 5 to 15, a discount of 50% applies. This will automatically be tabulated when you are buying the tickets online.

b. Railcards are available for purchase by various groups and can provide 33% of more savings on top of your ticket choice. For this itinerary, railcards will not be recommended as it is likely that the total cost of your rail journeys will be below £90. As railcards cost £30 per year, its not worthwhile to get a railcard unless you intend to travel to other parts of the UK by rail or are intending to visit again. For more information on railcards, click on the link below.

Buses

Scotland has a range of local and regional bus networks that provide transportation within specific cities, towns, and regions. Taking the bus between cities is cheaper but will take a longer time than the train, and will hence suit budget travellers with a lot of time. Within cities and towns, many local buses provide comprehensive coverages. I will go in-depth into what bus services you can use later on in the itinerary. 

Uber

Uber is available in major cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow and is a convenient but expensive way of getting around.

Ferries

Scotland is home to numerous islands, locally known as the Isles. These enchanting destinations are accessible primarily through ferry transportation, which I will delve into further in the upcoming sections of the itinerary. 

General travel tips and important information

Visa requirements

Check if you need a visa to enter Scotland. Visit the official website of the UK government or consult with the nearest British embassy or consulate in your country.

Currency 

The official currency in Scotland is the British Pound (£). Most businesses in Scotland, including shops, restaurants, and attractions, accept card payments, including contactless payments.

I personally use Revolut, which offers competitive currency exchange rates, allowing you to convert your funds into the local currency (British Pound) easily. You can conveniently manage your currency exchange within the app, which can be beneficial for travelers seeking favorable rates. However, it will still be wise to have some backup cash as a failsafe. 

Fun fact! The notes in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are different, even though they are all denominated in pounds sterling. This is because each country has its own central bank that is responsible for issuing notes. 

The Bank of England issues notes in England and Wales. 

The Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank, and TSB Bank issue notes in Scotland. 

The Bank of Ulster and First Trust Bank issue notes in Northern Ireland.

Note that Scottish and Northern Irish notes are not legal tender in England and Wales, while the Bank of England notes are legal tender in all four countries of the United Kingdom.  

Language

English is the primary language spoken in Scotland and you should have no problem getting around. You might find it a little hard to understand the Scottish accent especially if you are not a native speaker. Don't hesitate to politely ask the person to repeat or clarify certain phrases or words that you didn't fully understand. Most Scottish people are friendly and accommodating and will be happy to help you.

 Scotland has a rich variety of slang words and phrases that are unique to the region. Here are the most common slangs you may encounter:

'Wee' - small or little

'Scran' - Food

'Cheers' - Thanks

'Aye' - Yes

'Dreich' - Dreary, gloomy, and bleak

'Brolly' - Umbrella

Scottish Gaelic is another language spoken in Scotland. It is a Celtic language that is spoken by around 1% of the Scottish population. 

Weather

Ah, the Scottish weather, some people love it, but most people hate it. Scotland's weather is notoriously unpredictable. It can be sunny one moment and rainy the next. If you are visiting during winter, be prepared for snow and the unlikely event of snowstorms. The best thing to do will be to check the weather forecast for the dates you are planning on visiting and pack accordingly to that. See below for packing essentials.

Safety

Scotland is generally a safe destination, but exercise the usual precautions such as not leaving your belongings unattended and avoiding poorly lit or isolated areas at night. 

Health and insurance

You can purchase selective medication (such as anti-diarrhoea pils, fever pills, antihistamines etc) at grocery stores like Tesco or drugstores like Boots where there are pharmacists who can assist you.

If you need to see a doctor, you will likely be using the NHS, or National Health Service, which is the healthcare system in the UK. It is recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses. 

If you are an EU citizen, you may be able to get free NHS care in Scotland if you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You can apply for an EHIC in your own country before you travel.

If you are not an EU citizen, you will need to pay for all medical care in Scotland. You can pay for care at the time of treatment or you can claim back the cost from your travel insurance company (do check with them beforehand). 

If you need emergency medical care, you should go to the nearest Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. A&E departments are open 24 hours a day and they will treat you regardless of your ability to pay.  

If you need non-emergency medical care, you can see a doctor at a GP surgery. GP surgeries are open during the day and you will need to book an appointment.

Tipping

There is no tipping culture in Scotland as workers here are paid the full minimum wage and are not reliant on tips to make a living. Many restaurants in Scotland add a service charge to the bill, which is then distributed to the staff. This means that customers are already paying for the service, so there is no need to tip separately. You are not required to tip taxi drivers, tour guides, and hotel staff either but you certainly can if you would like to. 

Packing essentials

Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Layers are the best way to stay warm and comfortable in Scotland. You can always add or remove layers as needed. Bring a waterproof and wind-resistant jacket (An umbrella is not going to cut it, and yes I am speaking from experience). Comfortable walking shoes, gloves, hat/cap, and scarves. 

Carry a lightweight daypack to hold your belongings during outings. Include essentials like a reusable water bottle (tap water is drinkable in scotland!), snacks, a camera or smartphone for capturing memories, and a portable charger.

Travel Adapters: Scotland uses the Type G electrical outlets, so bring a suitable travel adapter to charge your electronic devices.

Medications and First Aid: Pack any necessary medications, along with a basic first aid kit containing essentials like band-aids, pain relievers, and any specific personal medical supplies.

III. Exploring Edinburgh

Getting to Edinburgh Central (Waverley station)

Waverley Railway Station
@yingyu
The central train station in Edinburgh. Within walking distance to most attractions.
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From the Airport:

a. Airlink bus: The Airlink bus is the most convenient way to get to the city centre. It runs every 10 minutes and takes about 25 minutes to reach Waverley, the main train station in Edinburgh. The fare is £5 for a single adult ticket and £8 for a return.

b. Tram services are also available. From the airport, head to the tram stop, which is located outside the terminal building. Buy a ticket from the ticket machine. Tickets cost £7.50 for a single adult fare and £9.50 for a return. The journey to Waverley station will take around 30 minutes.

c. Taxis and private transfers are alternative options for a more direct and comfortable ride. The fare is usually around £20, but it can be more during peak times.

From Other Parts of the UK:

a. Edinburgh is well-connected by train services from various cities in the UK. You can easily reach the city's central station, Waverley Station, by taking a train from London, Glasgow, or other major cities. You can purchase these tickets on ScotRail. Take note that if you are choosing this option, it may be worthwhile to purchase a railcard as it is likely that the total cost of your train journeys for this whole trip will be over £90. 

b. A generally more cost-effective but time-consuming option would be to take the long-distance bus services to Edinburgh's main bus station, conveniently located in the city centre. Check out FlixBus, Megabus, and National Express for these services. 

Overview of Edinburgh's Culture and History

What better way to start off your Scottish adventure than in this exciting capital of Scotland! Edinburgh offers a captivating blend of medieval and Georgian architecture. Explore the Old Town's narrow alleys and the grandeur of the New Town, both designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. Immerse yourself in the captivating tales of Edinburgh's historic figures and enjoy the vibrant arts scene that thrives within the city.

Funfact: Did you know that Edinburgh was built on top of three extinct volcanoes: Castle Rock, Salisbury Crags, and Arthur's Seat?

Itinerary - Must Visit Attractions

Day 1: Exploring the Old Town (West)

Morning:

Start your day by visiting Dean Village, a picturesque and tranquil neighbourhood located near the city centre. Admire the quaint, well-preserved 19th-century buildings and the peaceful Water of Leith flowing through the village. Capture some stunning photos and immerse yourself in the idyllic atmosphere.

Dean Village
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25 minutes walk from Edinburgh Central. Pass by the Dean Village View Point, Water of Leith Walkway, Well Court, The Dean Bridge, and St. Bernard's Well.
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Make your way to Edinburgh Castle, a majestic fortress perched atop Castle Rock. Explore the castle's historic buildings, admire the stunning views of the city, and learn about Scotland's royal heritage and military history. 

Edinburgh Castle
@yingyu
Remember to book tickets online in advance. Enter latest by 12.30pm to witness the One O'Clock Gun, which is fired every day at 1pm from the castle. The tradition dates back to the 18th century when the gun was used to signal to ships in the Firth of Forth that it was time to raise their anchors. The location of the demonstration is Argyle Battery, and I personally found the bottom of the Lang Stairs a good spot for clear views of the demonstration. Expect to spend around 2-3 hours here exploring the numerous castle attractions (National War Museum of Scotland, Argyle Battery, Prisons of War, Fight for the Castle etc).
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Fun fact: 

Did you know that J.K. Rowling spent time writing the early chapters of Harry Potter in The Elephant House Cafe? It is stuated near Edinburgh Castle, and offers a charming atmosphere and stunning views of the city.

Afternoon:

Take a break for lunch and enjoy a traditional Scottish meal at a nearby restaurant. Delight your taste buds with dishes like Cullen Skink (smoked haddock soup), Scottish salmon, or haggis (sheep).

Afterwards, it's time for dessert. Visit Mary's Milk Bar, which is a small, family-run ice cream shop in Edinburgh, Scotland for one of the best icre cream in town!

Mary's Milk Bar
@yingyu
Mary's Milk Bar is open Wednesday-Sunday from 11am to 7pm. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
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As you eat your ice cream, take the stairs up the unassuming Vennel View Point. This hidden gem offers a gorgeous view of the Edinburgh Castle, Marvel at the sweeping vistas and take a moment to appreciate the historic architecture that surrounds you.

The Vennel Viewpoint Edinburgh Castle
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Spend the rest of the afternoon walking along the Royal Mile, the famous stretch connecting the castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Immerse yourself in the medieval atmosphere as you pass by centuries-old buildings, charming shops, and lively pubs. If you are lucky, you will see street performers playing bagpipes etc. 

Royal Mile
@yingyu
A lot of shops here sell the same items at different prices. Visit a few shops and compare the prices to get the best price. Popular souvenirs include: Walkers shortbread biscuits Scottish Wool and Tartan Scottish whisky Be sure to walk around the streets lining royal mile (especially Victoria St for nice pictures!)
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Pop in to see St. Giles' Cathedral, a beautiful Gothic masterpiece that is along Royal Mile. 

St Giles' Cathedral
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Entrance is free!
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Evening:

Go on an Underground City Tour, such as the popular Mary King's Close tour to explore the hidden secrets and underground passages beneath Edinburgh's streets. 

Experience the bustling nightlife of the Old Town by sampling some of the local whiskies at a traditional Scottish pub. Enjoy live music performances and soak up the lively atmosphere.

Day 2: Exploring Old Town (East)

Morning: 

Start your day with an easy and short walk up Calton Hill, a prominent landmark in Edinburgh's cityscape. Admire the stunning panoramic views of the city and explore the fascinating monuments and structures on Calton Hill, such as the National Monument, inspired by the Parthenon in Athens, and the Nelson Monument. 

Calton Hill
@yingyu
Easy 10 minutes walk up for an amazing panoramic view of the city
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Head over to Em's kitchen for one of the BEST breakfast/brunch in town!

EM's Kitchen
@yingyu
They serve classic brunch dishes such as pancakes, french toasts, and eggs benedict, but also offer Scottish breakfast classics. Highly recommend the Scottish Stack!
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Afterwards, stroll along the royal mile heading west, towards the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Stop by two notable fudge shops along the way and sample some fudge! Both shops offer an array of fudge flavours that are made in-house.

Fudge Kitchen Ltd - Edinburgh
@yingyu
Very friendly staff. You can watch the fudge being made in-store, as they showcase the traditional fudge-making process. I personally found their fudge to be on the crumblier side and overly sweet for my liking.
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The Fudge House of Edinburgh
@yingyu
I absolutely love this fudge shop. They are known for their creamy, melt-in-your-mouth fudge that is not overly sweet. If you can't decide, they have a leftover cut section where you get to try 4-6 different flavours for a cheap price of £4.5.
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Afternoon:

Museum time! Here are some museums you can consider visiting

Museum of Edinburgh
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Learn about Edinburgh's evolution, notable residents, and significant events that shaped the city. Free entry! Opens 10am-5pm daily.
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Surgeons' Hall Museums
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This museum will interest those who are interested in medicine, health, and the human body. It is home to a collection of over 50,000 objects, including anatomical specimens, surgical instruments, and medical artwork. Allocate around 2-3 hours here. Adults - £9.00 Concessionary Rates - £5.00 Students with valid ID - £5.00 Due to the nature of displays, pictures and videos are not allowed!
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National Museum of Scotland
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Free admission. It was founded in 1788 and is one of the largest museums in the United Kingdom. The museum has a collection of over 8 million objects, which are displayed in a variety of galleries covering Scottish history, art, and culture.
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Afterwards, head towards the Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Depending on time, you can either purchase a ticket to explore the palace or just head straight for Arthur's Seat.

If you are blessed with good weather, consider hiking up Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano that offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscape. From Holyrood Park, follow the well-marked paths that lead towards Arthur's Seat. There are several routes you can choose, depending on your preference and fitness level. 

The most popular route to the top of Arthur's Seat is the "Radical Road," which skirts along the base of the hill before ascending towards the summit. It's around 2.4km long and will take you around 30-60 minutes to reach the summit. This path offers stunning views and is relatively straightforward to navigate. Remember to wear good walking shoes!

Arthur's Seat
@yingyu
Relatively easy hike. Lots of people on the well-marked trail so you don't have to worry about getting lost. I saw many families with children on the trail as well.
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Evening: 

Conclude your day with a memorable dinner at a restaurant of your choice in the Old Town or nearby area. Sample Scottish delicacies or choose from a variety of international cuisines.

Day 3 - Exploring New Town

Morning:

Start your day with a delightful breakfast or brunch. A brunch spot you can consider trying is the Edinburgh Larder. Remember to book a reservation in advance as they are pretty popular.

The Edinburgh Larder
@yingyu
Take note that service charge is not included in the prices!
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Afterwards, take a leisurely stroll through the charming streets of Edinburgh's New Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its elegant Georgian architecture. Admire the grand townhouses, beautiful squares, and wide avenues as you soak in the sophisticated ambience.

Explore Princes Street, the city's main shopping boulevard, where you can browse through a mix of high-street stores, boutique shops, and department stores. Grab lunch at one of the charming eateries here. 

Afternoon:

Visit the Scottish National Gallery to discover an impressive collection of artwork. Plus entry is free!

Scottish National Gallery
@yingyu
Free entry!
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Spend the afternoon wandering through the delightful Princes Street Gardens, situated at the foot of the castle. Enjoy the tranquil green spaces, beautiful flower beds, and stunning views of the city's landmarks.

If you have time and visiting on a Sunday, you can consider visiting Stockbridge Market where you can discover local produce and crafts.

Stockbridge Market
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Only open on Sundays
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Evening: 

Free and easy. Indulge in a final dinner at a local or international restaurant, and take a leisurely stroll through the city's street. 

Hotel Recommendations

I've curated a list of accommodation that are located ideally for easy access to the above itinerary. 

Budget: CoDE Pod 

Located in the heart of Edinburgh, CoDE Pod provides stylish and comfortable pod-style rooms at affordable prices without compromising on comfort. Each pod is equipped with a personal locker, USB charging ports, and individual lights. The communal areas are vibrant and offer a great opportunity to socialize with fellow travellers. 

CoDE Pod – THE CoURT
@yingyu
CoDE Pod provides a budget-friendly option without compromising on comfort and convenience. Throughout all my travels, this has been the best hostel I've stayed in. The pod has ample space and sufficient privacy when curtains are drawn. Toilets are extremely modern and clean as well.
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Mid-range: Market Street Hotel

A stylish and contemporary hotel located in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town. The hotel features modern and well-appointed rooms with sleek designs and comfortable furnishings. Guests can enjoy stunning views of the city from the rooftop champagne lounge, which offers panoramic vistas of Edinburgh's skyline. 

Market Street Hotel
@yingyu
Market Street Hotel combines a central location, modern amenities, and a touch of luxury, making it an excellent mid-range option for travellers seeking a comfortable and stylish stay in Edinburgh.
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Luxury: The Balmoral

A luxurious and iconic hotel in Edinburgh with elegant architecture. Located on Princes Street, it offers stunning views of the city and is known for its elegance and impeccable service. The rooms are beautifully designed with luxurious furnishings, and the hotel boasts a range of amenities including a spa, fine dining restaurants, and a stylish bar. 

The Balmoral
@yingyu
The Balmoral provides a sophisticated and indulgent experience for those seeking a high-end stay in Edinburgh.
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Additional information

For the above itinerary, the Edinburgh City Pass does not provide extra savings, and hence there is no reason for you to get one. However, if you would like to visit other attractions, you can consider getting one of the many city passes. The following website breaks down the different passes available and the attractions they cover. 

IV: Discovering Glasgow

Getting to Glasgow from Edinburgh

a. Train

The train is the fastest and most convenient way to travel between the two cities. Trains depart from Edinburgh Waverley station every 15-20 minutes and take around 50 minutes to reach Glasgow Queen Street station. Tickets are £14.

b. Bus

Buses are a cheaper option than trains, but they take longer. There are several bus companies that offer services between Edinburgh bus station and Glasgow, Buchanan Bus Station. MegaBus tickets start at £4.30 and take 85 minutes. National Express tickets start at £4.00 and take 70 minutes. 

Overview of Glasgow's Culture and Art Scene

Glasgow is known for its vibrant cultural and art scene, offering a wealth of museums, galleries, and creative spaces. The city has a rich industrial history that has influenced its architecture and culture. Glasgow is also renowned for its music scene, with numerous live music venues showcasing a diverse range of genres.

Getting around Glasgow

First Bus is a prominent bus operator in Glasgow, providing extensive services throughout the city and its surrounding areas. Some attractions in this itinerary are a 60 minutes walk away from Glasgow central, so I recommend taking the bus. 

Glasgow is split into a city zone and a network zone. In the following itinerary, all attractions lie within the city zone. In this bus zone, single tickets cost £1.95 for adults and £0.97 for children, while a day ticket cost £5.40 for adults and £2.70. 

Hence, if you are planning on taking the bus more than 2 times, it will be more cost-effective to get a day ticket. For convenience, you can download the First Bus App and buy the day ticket online. Otherwise, you can purchase a single ticket or a day ticket from the bus driver using contactless payment or cash. 

Itinerary - Must Visit Attractions

Day 1 - City Centre

Morning:

Start your day with a nice brunch at  Singl-end Garnethill, a charming Scottish café offering a range of breakfast and brunch options. 

Singl-end Merchant City
@yingyu
Fresh Scottish Salmon and generous portions. Homebaked goods are available as well. Remember to make a reservation!
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Visit Glasgow Cathedral, also known as St. Mungo's Cathedral, a stunning medieval structure that showcases Gothic architecture. 

Glasgow Cathedral
@yingyu
Free entry but booking in advance is recommended to guarantee entry. Last entry 4.30pm.
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Visit the Glasgow Necropolis next, which is right behind the cathedral. It is a Victorian-era cemetery featuring ornate tombstones, elaborate memorials, and winding paths. Located on a hill with panoramic views of Glasgow's skyline. 

Glasgow Necropolis
@yingyu
Remember to be respectful
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Afternoon:

Head to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, a must-visit cultural institution housing an extensive collection of art and artefacts. Spend time admiring the diverse exhibits, including works by renowned artists and historical artefacts.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
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Free entry
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Enjoy a leisurely stroll through Kelvingrove Park, located adjacent to the museum. Take in the beautiful scenery, relax by the fountain, and enjoy a picnic if the weather permits.

Evening:

Do some shopping at Buchanan Street, Glasgow's premier shopping destination. Take a stroll along this bustling pedestrianized street, lined with a mix of high-street retailers, department stores, and luxury brands. 

Indulge in a nice dinner at one of the many restaurants here. Pick from a wide range of cuisines that will be sure to pique your fancy.

Buchanan Street
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Main shopping district of Glasgow
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Day 2: West End and Riverside Attractions

Morning: 

Start your day with a visit to Tantrum Donuts, a popular spot known for their delectable and creative donut flavors. Enjoy these fresh donuts in George Square, the city's main square, and admire the impressive architecture and statues.

Tantrum Doughnuts Gordon Street
@yingyu
Get ready to have the BEST donuts in your life! I highly recommend the Creme Brulee and chocolate millionaire flavours. I won't be surprised if you come back for more the next day because I certainly did.
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George Square
@yingyu
Lots of benches around. Lots of pigeons too...
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Head towards Pollok Country Park, to see the cutest Highland Cows, also known as Highland cattle or "coos" in Scottish slang. They are a distinctive breed of cattle native to the Scottish Highlands are known for their unique appearance and iconic long horns and shaggy coats. You probably would have seen them featured in tourist campaigns or souvenirs. 

Pollok Country Park
@yingyu
Please remember to respect the animals! They might look cute but don't pet them.
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Afternoon:

Take a leisurely walk along the Clyde River Walkway.

Visit the Riverside Museum, a fascinating transport museum located on the banks of the River Clyde. Discover the history of transportation, explore vintage vehicles, and engage with interactive exhibits. Afterwards, head to the Clydeside Distillery for a whisky tour. Remember to make a booking in advance!

Riverside Museum
@yingyu
free entry!
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The Clydeside Distillery
@yingyu
Informative distillery tour with whisky tastings included. Remember to eat before coming!
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Alternatively, you can visit the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Explore the beautiful green spaces, vibrant flower beds, and glasshouses filled with exotic plants.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens
@yingyu
Pretty glasshouses with an assortment of plants. Coming from a southeast country, I was pretty shocked when I saw a Durian tree here!
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Evening:

  Immerse yourself in Glasgow's vibrant music scene by visiting one of the city's live music venues. The King Tut's Wah Wah Hut and the Barrowland Ballroom are popular choices, known for showcasing both established and emerging artists. Alternatively, revisit Buchanan Street or Merchant City for more shopping.

Day 3 onwards - Trip to the Scottish Highlands

Unfortunately, getting to the remote areas of Scottish Highlands, which features impressive mountains, wildlife, and pristine nature, is impossible by public transport. Luckily, there are several bus tours that will help you experience the best of the Scottish Highlands in a fuss-free manner.

Timberbush Tours offers a variety of day trip options from Glasgow, allowing visitors to explore the stunning landscapes and historic sites of Scotland. Here is a summary of some popular day trip options:

1. Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Highlands: Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the Scottish Highlands on this tour. Discover the legendary Loch Ness, home to the mythical Loch Ness Monster. Travel through the hauntingly beautiful Glencoe, known for its dramatic landscapes and historic significance. Marvel at the stunning scenery of the Highlands and learn about Scotland's intriguing history along the way.

Loch Ness
@yingyu
Beware of Nessie!
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2. The Glenfinnan, Mallaig, and Glencoe Adventure. Marvel at the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, a railway bridge that gained popularity from its appearance in the Harry Potter films. Travel to the charming coastal village of Mallaig and admire the colourful fishing boats. Lastly, venture into the iconic Highland region of Glencoe, and explore the rugged mountains, deep valleys, and cascading waterfalls. 

Three Sisters Of Glencoe
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Faith, Hope, and Charity
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There are also multi-day trips available. One of the most popular tour is the Isle of Skye, The Highlands, and Loch Ness tour. Embark on a memorable journey to the mystical Isle of Skye, known for its rugged landscapes and charming villages. Explore the famous Fairy Pools, the dramatic Old Man of Storr, and the picturesque Quiraing. Discover the stunning beauty of the Scottish Highlands and visit iconic landmarks like Eilean Donan Castle and Loch Ness, home to the legendary Loch Ness Monster.

The Storr
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Spectacular landslide feature forged by ancient volcanic activity
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Feel free to visit Timberbush Tours' website to explore their tour options. It's worth mentioning that this recommendation is based on my personal experience and is not sponsored or affiliated :)

Hotel Recommendations

Here are some centrally located hotels in Glasgow that cater to different budgets. All of them are highly-rated and offer top-notch amenities and services to enhance your stay in Glasgow

Budget: citizenM Glasgow

The hotel offers compact yet stylishly designed rooms with modern amenities. Guests can enjoy a comfortable night's sleep on the signature XL-sized beds and control the room's settings with the intuitive MoodPad tablet. The hotel features a communal living room area where guests can relax, work, or socialize. 

citizenM Glasgow
@yingyu
citizenM Glasgow is a great choice for travellers looking for affordable accommodation without compromising on style and comfort.
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Mid-range: Radisson Blu Hotel

An international hotel chain known for its modern rooms with contemporary decor and amenities. Guests can enjoy access to an on-site restaurant, bar, and fitness centre. The hotel is conveniently located near popular shopping streets, restaurants, and cultural attractions.

Radisson Blu Hotel, Glasgow
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Luxury: Blythswood Square Hotel

A luxurious and elegant option for those seeking a high-end stay in Glasgow. Located in a beautiful Georgian building, the hotel offers spacious and lavishly designed rooms with upscale amenities. Guests can indulge in the on-site spa, fine dining options, and stylish cocktail bar. 

Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel
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IIII: Conclusion

As your memorable journey through Edinburgh and Glasgow comes to a end, I invite (highly recommend) you to consider extending your trip from Glasgow to explore the charming town of Oban.

Known as the 'Seafood Capital of Scotland' as well as the 'Gateway to the Isles', Oban presents a refreshing blend of coastal charm, tranquillity, and breathtaking natural beauty.

Fingal's Cave
@yingyu
Many boat tours combine Treshnish Isles and Fingal's Cave. This awe-inspiring geological wonder features basalt columns and sea caves. If visiting between the months of Jun-Aug, you may even see puffins on the island!
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Oban is my favourite place in Scotland, and I'm always looking forward to my next visit. I've written a separate guide dedicated specifically to this town. Check it out below!

In conclusion, I hope this guide has provided you with the necessary information to navigate these captivating cities and make the most of your time in Scotland. Until we meet again, farewell and safe travels!

IV: Miscellaneous

Did you know that ...

1. Scotland has over 790 islands. 

2. The Loch Ness Monster, also known as "Nessie," is one of Scotland's most famous legends, drawing visitors from around the world to Loch Ness in search of the elusive creature. Loch = lake 

3. Golf originated from Scotland.

4. The Unicorn is the national animal of Scotland.

Other tips: 

1. When in Scotland/the UK, you have to try Little Moons Mochi!! They are delightful bite-sized treats featuring a soft chewy outer layer filled with decadent/refreshing ice cream. Popular flavours include Passionfruit Mango, Pistachio, Belgian Chocolate, and more!

Asian restaurants may sell these mochis as desserts but you can get them at way cheaper prices in grocery stores such as Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons, and Asda. 

2. Keep an eye out for ceilidhs, traditional Scottish social gatherings featuring lively music and dancing. These events are a fantastic way to experience Scottish culture firsthand and join in the fun.

3. Check out the local event calendars as Scotland hosts a vibrant array of festivals and cultural celebrations throughout the year. From the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world's largest arts festival, to Highland Games and traditional music festivals, attending these events will immerse you in the Scottish spirit and provide unique cultural experiences.

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FREE | First-timer's guide to Scotland
This comprehensive guide has everything you need to confidently navigate and see the best places in Scotland. Specifically tailored for first-time visitors. Includes: A detailed explanation of transport options A customizable itinerary of up to 8 days with possible extension Food recommendations Hotel recommendations Money saving tips Fun facts and more!
39 Places • 12 Saves • ago
Free

I. Introduction

Hi there! I'm so excited to be part of your travel journey to Scotland. Get ready to embark on an adventure filled with breathtaking landscapes, historic monuments, magnificent castles, and a vibrant culture that will captivate your heart.

This guide is designed to provide you with all the essential information and tips you need to make the most of your trip. From preparing for your adventure with Scotland's transportation network and general travel tips to diving into the enchanting cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, this guide has you covered.

Immerse yourself in the wonders of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the highlands with a carefully crafted itinerary. Along the way, you'll find food recommendations and hotel suggestions to enhance your experience. However, do feel free to customize your itinerary by selecting the activities and days that best align with your travel preferences.

So pack your bags, embrace the spirit of adventure, and let's go on this amazing journey together!

II. Preparing for Your Trip

 Understanding Scotland's Transportation Network

Whether you prefer to avoid the hassle of parking, don't want to navigate unfamiliar driving rules, value opportunities to interact with locals, or just want some extra shuteye time, I get it. As a fellow traveller, I'm a massive fan of taking public transportations during my travels. Fortunately, Scotland boasts a fantastic and efficient transportation network that is both cost-effective and convenient. Familiarizing yourself with the various options will help you navigate the country with ease.

Trains

  The National Rail is the UK's railway network and there are different train companies that operate within this network. Scotrail is the train company that operates in Scotland, and you will likely be using their services between cities during your trip. Trains are a convenient and scenic mode of transport, connecting major cities, towns, and even reaching remote areas.

 You can purchase train tickets online or at the train station. I recommend using the official ScotRail website or mobile application as they do not have booking fees (some third party websites such as Trainline charges booking fees!).  By using the ScotRail app, you can store your tickets digitally and activate them on the day of travel. This eliminates the need for printing physical tickets and provides easy access to your tickets on your smartphone. Just scan the QR code of your mobile ticket at the barrier to enter the platform!

Types of Tickets:

a. Advance Tickets: The best value for money they come with restrictions (non-refundable and limited to a specific train journey). They are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and can be purchased up to 12 weeks in advance. If you don't see this option when you are buying tickets, it is likely that it has been sold out. 

b. Off-Peak Tickets: These tickets are cheaper than Anytime Tickets and are valid for travel during less busy times, typically outside peak hours (In general, Off-Peak hours begin at 09:30 from Monday to Friday in cities and large towns, and at 09:00 everywhere else. Weekends and bank holidays are Off-Peak all day). Off-Peak Tickets can offer significant savings and are ideal for travellers with a flexible schedule.

c. Anytime Tickets: These tickets offer the most flexibility, allowing you to travel on any train at any time on the chosen date. They are generally more expensive, so consider them only if you require complete flexibility.

d. Rover and Explorer Tickets: If you plan to do extensive travel within Scotland, consider these tickets, which allow unlimited travel within a specified area or for a set number of days. For the following itinerary, you will not be needing these tickets. 

Discounts:

a. For a child aged 5 to 15, a discount of 50% applies. This will automatically be tabulated when you are buying the tickets online.

b. Railcards are available for purchase by various groups and can provide 33% of more savings on top of your ticket choice. For this itinerary, railcards will not be recommended as it is likely that the total cost of your rail journeys will be below £90. As railcards cost £30 per year, its not worthwhile to get a railcard unless you intend to travel to other parts of the UK by rail or are intending to visit again. For more information on railcards, click on the link below.

Buses

Scotland has a range of local and regional bus networks that provide transportation within specific cities, towns, and regions. Taking the bus between cities is cheaper but will take a longer time than the train, and will hence suit budget travellers with a lot of time. Within cities and towns, many local buses provide comprehensive coverages. I will go in-depth into what bus services you can use later on in the itinerary. 

Uber

Uber is available in major cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow and is a convenient but expensive way of getting around.

Ferries

Scotland is home to numerous islands, locally known as the Isles. These enchanting destinations are accessible primarily through ferry transportation, which I will delve into further in the upcoming sections of the itinerary. 

General travel tips and important information

Visa requirements

Check if you need a visa to enter Scotland. Visit the official website of the UK government or consult with the nearest British embassy or consulate in your country.

Currency 

The official currency in Scotland is the British Pound (£). Most businesses in Scotland, including shops, restaurants, and attractions, accept card payments, including contactless payments.

I personally use Revolut, which offers competitive currency exchange rates, allowing you to convert your funds into the local currency (British Pound) easily. You can conveniently manage your currency exchange within the app, which can be beneficial for travelers seeking favorable rates. However, it will still be wise to have some backup cash as a failsafe. 

Fun fact! The notes in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are different, even though they are all denominated in pounds sterling. This is because each country has its own central bank that is responsible for issuing notes. 

The Bank of England issues notes in England and Wales. 

The Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank, and TSB Bank issue notes in Scotland. 

The Bank of Ulster and First Trust Bank issue notes in Northern Ireland.

Note that Scottish and Northern Irish notes are not legal tender in England and Wales, while the Bank of England notes are legal tender in all four countries of the United Kingdom.  

Language

English is the primary language spoken in Scotland and you should have no problem getting around. You might find it a little hard to understand the Scottish accent especially if you are not a native speaker. Don't hesitate to politely ask the person to repeat or clarify certain phrases or words that you didn't fully understand. Most Scottish people are friendly and accommodating and will be happy to help you.

 Scotland has a rich variety of slang words and phrases that are unique to the region. Here are the most common slangs you may encounter:

'Wee' - small or little

'Scran' - Food

'Cheers' - Thanks

'Aye' - Yes

'Dreich' - Dreary, gloomy, and bleak

'Brolly' - Umbrella

Scottish Gaelic is another language spoken in Scotland. It is a Celtic language that is spoken by around 1% of the Scottish population. 

Weather

Ah, the Scottish weather, some people love it, but most people hate it. Scotland's weather is notoriously unpredictable. It can be sunny one moment and rainy the next. If you are visiting during winter, be prepared for snow and the unlikely event of snowstorms. The best thing to do will be to check the weather forecast for the dates you are planning on visiting and pack accordingly to that. See below for packing essentials.

Safety

Scotland is generally a safe destination, but exercise the usual precautions such as not leaving your belongings unattended and avoiding poorly lit or isolated areas at night. 

Health and insurance

You can purchase selective medication (such as anti-diarrhoea pils, fever pills, antihistamines etc) at grocery stores like Tesco or drugstores like Boots where there are pharmacists who can assist you.

If you need to see a doctor, you will likely be using the NHS, or National Health Service, which is the healthcare system in the UK. It is recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses. 

If you are an EU citizen, you may be able to get free NHS care in Scotland if you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You can apply for an EHIC in your own country before you travel.

If you are not an EU citizen, you will need to pay for all medical care in Scotland. You can pay for care at the time of treatment or you can claim back the cost from your travel insurance company (do check with them beforehand). 

If you need emergency medical care, you should go to the nearest Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. A&E departments are open 24 hours a day and they will treat you regardless of your ability to pay.  

If you need non-emergency medical care, you can see a doctor at a GP surgery. GP surgeries are open during the day and you will need to book an appointment.

Tipping

There is no tipping culture in Scotland as workers here are paid the full minimum wage and are not reliant on tips to make a living. Many restaurants in Scotland add a service charge to the bill, which is then distributed to the staff. This means that customers are already paying for the service, so there is no need to tip separately. You are not required to tip taxi drivers, tour guides, and hotel staff either but you certainly can if you would like to. 

Packing essentials

Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Layers are the best way to stay warm and comfortable in Scotland. You can always add or remove layers as needed. Bring a waterproof and wind-resistant jacket (An umbrella is not going to cut it, and yes I am speaking from experience). Comfortable walking shoes, gloves, hat/cap, and scarves. 

Carry a lightweight daypack to hold your belongings during outings. Include essentials like a reusable water bottle (tap water is drinkable in scotland!), snacks, a camera or smartphone for capturing memories, and a portable charger.

Travel Adapters: Scotland uses the Type G electrical outlets, so bring a suitable travel adapter to charge your electronic devices.

Medications and First Aid: Pack any necessary medications, along with a basic first aid kit containing essentials like band-aids, pain relievers, and any specific personal medical supplies.

III. Exploring Edinburgh

Getting to Edinburgh Central (Waverley station)

Waverley Railway Station
@yingyu
The central train station in Edinburgh. Within walking distance to most attractions.
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From the Airport:

a. Airlink bus: The Airlink bus is the most convenient way to get to the city centre. It runs every 10 minutes and takes about 25 minutes to reach Waverley, the main train station in Edinburgh. The fare is £5 for a single adult ticket and £8 for a return.

b. Tram services are also available. From the airport, head to the tram stop, which is located outside the terminal building. Buy a ticket from the ticket machine. Tickets cost £7.50 for a single adult fare and £9.50 for a return. The journey to Waverley station will take around 30 minutes.

c. Taxis and private transfers are alternative options for a more direct and comfortable ride. The fare is usually around £20, but it can be more during peak times.

From Other Parts of the UK:

a. Edinburgh is well-connected by train services from various cities in the UK. You can easily reach the city's central station, Waverley Station, by taking a train from London, Glasgow, or other major cities. You can purchase these tickets on ScotRail. Take note that if you are choosing this option, it may be worthwhile to purchase a railcard as it is likely that the total cost of your train journeys for this whole trip will be over £90. 

b. A generally more cost-effective but time-consuming option would be to take the long-distance bus services to Edinburgh's main bus station, conveniently located in the city centre. Check out FlixBus, Megabus, and National Express for these services. 

Overview of Edinburgh's Culture and History

What better way to start off your Scottish adventure than in this exciting capital of Scotland! Edinburgh offers a captivating blend of medieval and Georgian architecture. Explore the Old Town's narrow alleys and the grandeur of the New Town, both designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. Immerse yourself in the captivating tales of Edinburgh's historic figures and enjoy the vibrant arts scene that thrives within the city.

Funfact: Did you know that Edinburgh was built on top of three extinct volcanoes: Castle Rock, Salisbury Crags, and Arthur's Seat?

Itinerary - Must Visit Attractions

Day 1: Exploring the Old Town (West)

Morning:

Start your day by visiting Dean Village, a picturesque and tranquil neighbourhood located near the city centre. Admire the quaint, well-preserved 19th-century buildings and the peaceful Water of Leith flowing through the village. Capture some stunning photos and immerse yourself in the idyllic atmosphere.

Dean Village
@yingyu
25 minutes walk from Edinburgh Central. Pass by the Dean Village View Point, Water of Leith Walkway, Well Court, The Dean Bridge, and St. Bernard's Well.
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Make your way to Edinburgh Castle, a majestic fortress perched atop Castle Rock. Explore the castle's historic buildings, admire the stunning views of the city, and learn about Scotland's royal heritage and military history. 

Edinburgh Castle
@yingyu
Remember to book tickets online in advance. Enter latest by 12.30pm to witness the One O'Clock Gun, which is fired every day at 1pm from the castle. The tradition dates back to the 18th century when the gun was used to signal to ships in the Firth of Forth that it was time to raise their anchors. The location of the demonstration is Argyle Battery, and I personally found the bottom of the Lang Stairs a good spot for clear views of the demonstration. Expect to spend around 2-3 hours here exploring the numerous castle attractions (National War Museum of Scotland, Argyle Battery, Prisons of War, Fight for the Castle etc).
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Fun fact: 

Did you know that J.K. Rowling spent time writing the early chapters of Harry Potter in The Elephant House Cafe? It is stuated near Edinburgh Castle, and offers a charming atmosphere and stunning views of the city.

Afternoon:

Take a break for lunch and enjoy a traditional Scottish meal at a nearby restaurant. Delight your taste buds with dishes like Cullen Skink (smoked haddock soup), Scottish salmon, or haggis (sheep).

Afterwards, it's time for dessert. Visit Mary's Milk Bar, which is a small, family-run ice cream shop in Edinburgh, Scotland for one of the best icre cream in town!

Mary's Milk Bar
@yingyu
Mary's Milk Bar is open Wednesday-Sunday from 11am to 7pm. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
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As you eat your ice cream, take the stairs up the unassuming Vennel View Point. This hidden gem offers a gorgeous view of the Edinburgh Castle, Marvel at the sweeping vistas and take a moment to appreciate the historic architecture that surrounds you.

The Vennel Viewpoint Edinburgh Castle
@yingyu
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Spend the rest of the afternoon walking along the Royal Mile, the famous stretch connecting the castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Immerse yourself in the medieval atmosphere as you pass by centuries-old buildings, charming shops, and lively pubs. If you are lucky, you will see street performers playing bagpipes etc. 

Royal Mile
@yingyu
A lot of shops here sell the same items at different prices. Visit a few shops and compare the prices to get the best price. Popular souvenirs include: Walkers shortbread biscuits Scottish Wool and Tartan Scottish whisky Be sure to walk around the streets lining royal mile (especially Victoria St for nice pictures!)
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Pop in to see St. Giles' Cathedral, a beautiful Gothic masterpiece that is along Royal Mile. 

St Giles' Cathedral
@yingyu
Entrance is free!
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Evening:

Go on an Underground City Tour, such as the popular Mary King's Close tour to explore the hidden secrets and underground passages beneath Edinburgh's streets. 

Experience the bustling nightlife of the Old Town by sampling some of the local whiskies at a traditional Scottish pub. Enjoy live music performances and soak up the lively atmosphere.

Day 2: Exploring Old Town (East)

Morning: 

Start your day with an easy and short walk up Calton Hill, a prominent landmark in Edinburgh's cityscape. Admire the stunning panoramic views of the city and explore the fascinating monuments and structures on Calton Hill, such as the National Monument, inspired by the Parthenon in Athens, and the Nelson Monument. 

Calton Hill
@yingyu
Easy 10 minutes walk up for an amazing panoramic view of the city
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Head over to Em's kitchen for one of the BEST breakfast/brunch in town!

EM's Kitchen
@yingyu
They serve classic brunch dishes such as pancakes, french toasts, and eggs benedict, but also offer Scottish breakfast classics. Highly recommend the Scottish Stack!
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Afterwards, stroll along the royal mile heading west, towards the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Stop by two notable fudge shops along the way and sample some fudge! Both shops offer an array of fudge flavours that are made in-house.

Fudge Kitchen Ltd - Edinburgh
@yingyu
Very friendly staff. You can watch the fudge being made in-store, as they showcase the traditional fudge-making process. I personally found their fudge to be on the crumblier side and overly sweet for my liking.
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The Fudge House of Edinburgh
@yingyu
I absolutely love this fudge shop. They are known for their creamy, melt-in-your-mouth fudge that is not overly sweet. If you can't decide, they have a leftover cut section where you get to try 4-6 different flavours for a cheap price of £4.5.
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Afternoon:

Museum time! Here are some museums you can consider visiting

Museum of Edinburgh
@yingyu
Learn about Edinburgh's evolution, notable residents, and significant events that shaped the city. Free entry! Opens 10am-5pm daily.
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Surgeons' Hall Museums
@yingyu
This museum will interest those who are interested in medicine, health, and the human body. It is home to a collection of over 50,000 objects, including anatomical specimens, surgical instruments, and medical artwork. Allocate around 2-3 hours here. Adults - £9.00 Concessionary Rates - £5.00 Students with valid ID - £5.00 Due to the nature of displays, pictures and videos are not allowed!
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National Museum of Scotland
@yingyu
Free admission. It was founded in 1788 and is one of the largest museums in the United Kingdom. The museum has a collection of over 8 million objects, which are displayed in a variety of galleries covering Scottish history, art, and culture.
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Afterwards, head towards the Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Depending on time, you can either purchase a ticket to explore the palace or just head straight for Arthur's Seat.

If you are blessed with good weather, consider hiking up Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano that offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscape. From Holyrood Park, follow the well-marked paths that lead towards Arthur's Seat. There are several routes you can choose, depending on your preference and fitness level. 

The most popular route to the top of Arthur's Seat is the "Radical Road," which skirts along the base of the hill before ascending towards the summit. It's around 2.4km long and will take you around 30-60 minutes to reach the summit. This path offers stunning views and is relatively straightforward to navigate. Remember to wear good walking shoes!

Arthur's Seat
@yingyu
Relatively easy hike. Lots of people on the well-marked trail so you don't have to worry about getting lost. I saw many families with children on the trail as well.
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Evening: 

Conclude your day with a memorable dinner at a restaurant of your choice in the Old Town or nearby area. Sample Scottish delicacies or choose from a variety of international cuisines.

Day 3 - Exploring New Town

Morning:

Start your day with a delightful breakfast or brunch. A brunch spot you can consider trying is the Edinburgh Larder. Remember to book a reservation in advance as they are pretty popular.

The Edinburgh Larder
@yingyu
Take note that service charge is not included in the prices!
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Afterwards, take a leisurely stroll through the charming streets of Edinburgh's New Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its elegant Georgian architecture. Admire the grand townhouses, beautiful squares, and wide avenues as you soak in the sophisticated ambience.

Explore Princes Street, the city's main shopping boulevard, where you can browse through a mix of high-street stores, boutique shops, and department stores. Grab lunch at one of the charming eateries here. 

Afternoon:

Visit the Scottish National Gallery to discover an impressive collection of artwork. Plus entry is free!

Scottish National Gallery
@yingyu
Free entry!
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Spend the afternoon wandering through the delightful Princes Street Gardens, situated at the foot of the castle. Enjoy the tranquil green spaces, beautiful flower beds, and stunning views of the city's landmarks.

If you have time and visiting on a Sunday, you can consider visiting Stockbridge Market where you can discover local produce and crafts.

Stockbridge Market
@yingyu
Only open on Sundays
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Evening: 

Free and easy. Indulge in a final dinner at a local or international restaurant, and take a leisurely stroll through the city's street. 

Hotel Recommendations

I've curated a list of accommodation that are located ideally for easy access to the above itinerary. 

Budget: CoDE Pod 

Located in the heart of Edinburgh, CoDE Pod provides stylish and comfortable pod-style rooms at affordable prices without compromising on comfort. Each pod is equipped with a personal locker, USB charging ports, and individual lights. The communal areas are vibrant and offer a great opportunity to socialize with fellow travellers. 

CoDE Pod – THE CoURT
@yingyu
CoDE Pod provides a budget-friendly option without compromising on comfort and convenience. Throughout all my travels, this has been the best hostel I've stayed in. The pod has ample space and sufficient privacy when curtains are drawn. Toilets are extremely modern and clean as well.
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Mid-range: Market Street Hotel

A stylish and contemporary hotel located in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town. The hotel features modern and well-appointed rooms with sleek designs and comfortable furnishings. Guests can enjoy stunning views of the city from the rooftop champagne lounge, which offers panoramic vistas of Edinburgh's skyline. 

Market Street Hotel
@yingyu
Market Street Hotel combines a central location, modern amenities, and a touch of luxury, making it an excellent mid-range option for travellers seeking a comfortable and stylish stay in Edinburgh.
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Luxury: The Balmoral

A luxurious and iconic hotel in Edinburgh with elegant architecture. Located on Princes Street, it offers stunning views of the city and is known for its elegance and impeccable service. The rooms are beautifully designed with luxurious furnishings, and the hotel boasts a range of amenities including a spa, fine dining restaurants, and a stylish bar. 

The Balmoral
@yingyu
The Balmoral provides a sophisticated and indulgent experience for those seeking a high-end stay in Edinburgh.
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Additional information

For the above itinerary, the Edinburgh City Pass does not provide extra savings, and hence there is no reason for you to get one. However, if you would like to visit other attractions, you can consider getting one of the many city passes. The following website breaks down the different passes available and the attractions they cover. 

IV: Discovering Glasgow

Getting to Glasgow from Edinburgh

a. Train

The train is the fastest and most convenient way to travel between the two cities. Trains depart from Edinburgh Waverley station every 15-20 minutes and take around 50 minutes to reach Glasgow Queen Street station. Tickets are £14.

b. Bus

Buses are a cheaper option than trains, but they take longer. There are several bus companies that offer services between Edinburgh bus station and Glasgow, Buchanan Bus Station. MegaBus tickets start at £4.30 and take 85 minutes. National Express tickets start at £4.00 and take 70 minutes. 

Overview of Glasgow's Culture and Art Scene

Glasgow is known for its vibrant cultural and art scene, offering a wealth of museums, galleries, and creative spaces. The city has a rich industrial history that has influenced its architecture and culture. Glasgow is also renowned for its music scene, with numerous live music venues showcasing a diverse range of genres.

Getting around Glasgow

First Bus is a prominent bus operator in Glasgow, providing extensive services throughout the city and its surrounding areas. Some attractions in this itinerary are a 60 minutes walk away from Glasgow central, so I recommend taking the bus. 

Glasgow is split into a city zone and a network zone. In the following itinerary, all attractions lie within the city zone. In this bus zone, single tickets cost £1.95 for adults and £0.97 for children, while a day ticket cost £5.40 for adults and £2.70. 

Hence, if you are planning on taking the bus more than 2 times, it will be more cost-effective to get a day ticket. For convenience, you can download the First Bus App and buy the day ticket online. Otherwise, you can purchase a single ticket or a day ticket from the bus driver using contactless payment or cash. 

Itinerary - Must Visit Attractions

Day 1 - City Centre

Morning:

Start your day with a nice brunch at  Singl-end Garnethill, a charming Scottish café offering a range of breakfast and brunch options. 

Singl-end Merchant City
@yingyu
Fresh Scottish Salmon and generous portions. Homebaked goods are available as well. Remember to make a reservation!
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Visit Glasgow Cathedral, also known as St. Mungo's Cathedral, a stunning medieval structure that showcases Gothic architecture. 

Glasgow Cathedral
@yingyu
Free entry but booking in advance is recommended to guarantee entry. Last entry 4.30pm.
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Visit the Glasgow Necropolis next, which is right behind the cathedral. It is a Victorian-era cemetery featuring ornate tombstones, elaborate memorials, and winding paths. Located on a hill with panoramic views of Glasgow's skyline. 

Glasgow Necropolis
@yingyu
Remember to be respectful
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Afternoon:

Head to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, a must-visit cultural institution housing an extensive collection of art and artefacts. Spend time admiring the diverse exhibits, including works by renowned artists and historical artefacts.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
@yingyu
Free entry
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Enjoy a leisurely stroll through Kelvingrove Park, located adjacent to the museum. Take in the beautiful scenery, relax by the fountain, and enjoy a picnic if the weather permits.

Evening:

Do some shopping at Buchanan Street, Glasgow's premier shopping destination. Take a stroll along this bustling pedestrianized street, lined with a mix of high-street retailers, department stores, and luxury brands. 

Indulge in a nice dinner at one of the many restaurants here. Pick from a wide range of cuisines that will be sure to pique your fancy.

Buchanan Street
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Main shopping district of Glasgow
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Day 2: West End and Riverside Attractions

Morning: 

Start your day with a visit to Tantrum Donuts, a popular spot known for their delectable and creative donut flavors. Enjoy these fresh donuts in George Square, the city's main square, and admire the impressive architecture and statues.

Tantrum Doughnuts Gordon Street
@yingyu
Get ready to have the BEST donuts in your life! I highly recommend the Creme Brulee and chocolate millionaire flavours. I won't be surprised if you come back for more the next day because I certainly did.
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George Square
@yingyu
Lots of benches around. Lots of pigeons too...
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Head towards Pollok Country Park, to see the cutest Highland Cows, also known as Highland cattle or "coos" in Scottish slang. They are a distinctive breed of cattle native to the Scottish Highlands are known for their unique appearance and iconic long horns and shaggy coats. You probably would have seen them featured in tourist campaigns or souvenirs. 

Pollok Country Park
@yingyu
Please remember to respect the animals! They might look cute but don't pet them.
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Afternoon:

Take a leisurely walk along the Clyde River Walkway.

Visit the Riverside Museum, a fascinating transport museum located on the banks of the River Clyde. Discover the history of transportation, explore vintage vehicles, and engage with interactive exhibits. Afterwards, head to the Clydeside Distillery for a whisky tour. Remember to make a booking in advance!

Riverside Museum
@yingyu
free entry!
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The Clydeside Distillery
@yingyu
Informative distillery tour with whisky tastings included. Remember to eat before coming!
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Alternatively, you can visit the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Explore the beautiful green spaces, vibrant flower beds, and glasshouses filled with exotic plants.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens
@yingyu
Pretty glasshouses with an assortment of plants. Coming from a southeast country, I was pretty shocked when I saw a Durian tree here!
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Evening:

  Immerse yourself in Glasgow's vibrant music scene by visiting one of the city's live music venues. The King Tut's Wah Wah Hut and the Barrowland Ballroom are popular choices, known for showcasing both established and emerging artists. Alternatively, revisit Buchanan Street or Merchant City for more shopping.

Day 3 onwards - Trip to the Scottish Highlands

Unfortunately, getting to the remote areas of Scottish Highlands, which features impressive mountains, wildlife, and pristine nature, is impossible by public transport. Luckily, there are several bus tours that will help you experience the best of the Scottish Highlands in a fuss-free manner.

Timberbush Tours offers a variety of day trip options from Glasgow, allowing visitors to explore the stunning landscapes and historic sites of Scotland. Here is a summary of some popular day trip options:

1. Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Highlands: Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the Scottish Highlands on this tour. Discover the legendary Loch Ness, home to the mythical Loch Ness Monster. Travel through the hauntingly beautiful Glencoe, known for its dramatic landscapes and historic significance. Marvel at the stunning scenery of the Highlands and learn about Scotland's intriguing history along the way.

Loch Ness
@yingyu
Beware of Nessie!
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2. The Glenfinnan, Mallaig, and Glencoe Adventure. Marvel at the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, a railway bridge that gained popularity from its appearance in the Harry Potter films. Travel to the charming coastal village of Mallaig and admire the colourful fishing boats. Lastly, venture into the iconic Highland region of Glencoe, and explore the rugged mountains, deep valleys, and cascading waterfalls. 

Three Sisters Of Glencoe
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Faith, Hope, and Charity
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There are also multi-day trips available. One of the most popular tour is the Isle of Skye, The Highlands, and Loch Ness tour. Embark on a memorable journey to the mystical Isle of Skye, known for its rugged landscapes and charming villages. Explore the famous Fairy Pools, the dramatic Old Man of Storr, and the picturesque Quiraing. Discover the stunning beauty of the Scottish Highlands and visit iconic landmarks like Eilean Donan Castle and Loch Ness, home to the legendary Loch Ness Monster.

The Storr
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Spectacular landslide feature forged by ancient volcanic activity
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Feel free to visit Timberbush Tours' website to explore their tour options. It's worth mentioning that this recommendation is based on my personal experience and is not sponsored or affiliated :)

Hotel Recommendations

Here are some centrally located hotels in Glasgow that cater to different budgets. All of them are highly-rated and offer top-notch amenities and services to enhance your stay in Glasgow

Budget: citizenM Glasgow

The hotel offers compact yet stylishly designed rooms with modern amenities. Guests can enjoy a comfortable night's sleep on the signature XL-sized beds and control the room's settings with the intuitive MoodPad tablet. The hotel features a communal living room area where guests can relax, work, or socialize. 

citizenM Glasgow
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citizenM Glasgow is a great choice for travellers looking for affordable accommodation without compromising on style and comfort.
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Mid-range: Radisson Blu Hotel

An international hotel chain known for its modern rooms with contemporary decor and amenities. Guests can enjoy access to an on-site restaurant, bar, and fitness centre. The hotel is conveniently located near popular shopping streets, restaurants, and cultural attractions.

Radisson Blu Hotel, Glasgow
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Luxury: Blythswood Square Hotel

A luxurious and elegant option for those seeking a high-end stay in Glasgow. Located in a beautiful Georgian building, the hotel offers spacious and lavishly designed rooms with upscale amenities. Guests can indulge in the on-site spa, fine dining options, and stylish cocktail bar. 

Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel
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IIII: Conclusion

As your memorable journey through Edinburgh and Glasgow comes to a end, I invite (highly recommend) you to consider extending your trip from Glasgow to explore the charming town of Oban.

Known as the 'Seafood Capital of Scotland' as well as the 'Gateway to the Isles', Oban presents a refreshing blend of coastal charm, tranquillity, and breathtaking natural beauty.

Fingal's Cave
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Many boat tours combine Treshnish Isles and Fingal's Cave. This awe-inspiring geological wonder features basalt columns and sea caves. If visiting between the months of Jun-Aug, you may even see puffins on the island!
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Oban is my favourite place in Scotland, and I'm always looking forward to my next visit. I've written a separate guide dedicated specifically to this town. Check it out below!

In conclusion, I hope this guide has provided you with the necessary information to navigate these captivating cities and make the most of your time in Scotland. Until we meet again, farewell and safe travels!

IV: Miscellaneous

Did you know that ...

1. Scotland has over 790 islands. 

2. The Loch Ness Monster, also known as "Nessie," is one of Scotland's most famous legends, drawing visitors from around the world to Loch Ness in search of the elusive creature. Loch = lake 

3. Golf originated from Scotland.

4. The Unicorn is the national animal of Scotland.

Other tips: 

1. When in Scotland/the UK, you have to try Little Moons Mochi!! They are delightful bite-sized treats featuring a soft chewy outer layer filled with decadent/refreshing ice cream. Popular flavours include Passionfruit Mango, Pistachio, Belgian Chocolate, and more!

Asian restaurants may sell these mochis as desserts but you can get them at way cheaper prices in grocery stores such as Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons, and Asda. 

2. Keep an eye out for ceilidhs, traditional Scottish social gatherings featuring lively music and dancing. These events are a fantastic way to experience Scottish culture firsthand and join in the fun.

3. Check out the local event calendars as Scotland hosts a vibrant array of festivals and cultural celebrations throughout the year. From the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world's largest arts festival, to Highland Games and traditional music festivals, attending these events will immerse you in the Scottish spirit and provide unique cultural experiences.

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