What to expect in Scotland

Glendruidh House Hotel in Inverness - Reindeer Picture

I wanted this page to inform the visitor to Scotland what to expect, what preparations to make and most important of all how to enjoy their visit and get the most out of their holiday. I will try to cover most things but if upon reading this you find I have missed something please e-mail me – and if I agree I will include your input, thank you.

I have included a few quotes from a book that I recommend you read before your holiday. The book is amusing and had me laughing out loud, but it does capture the spirit of Scotland and the Scots. The book is called ‘The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Scots’ and is written by David Ross.

Scotland is quite a diverse country, split in two, Highlands and the Lowlands. It is well known for its magnificent scenery, rich culture and sometimes bloody past. But what to see and where to go?

The first thing to remember especially if you come from a large country like the USA is that Scotland is a small county and you can drive across it in a few hours and the length of it in a day comfortably.

What does this information mean? Well it means to see the most don’t move on each day. Depending on your length of stay, pick two or three centres, stay in each centre two or three days and travel out from your centre in a different direction each day. This saves you from spending a large part of your holiday looking for your next lodging, checking in and then checking out the following morning. You can also cut your costs by doing this. Most accommodation providers will offer discounts for people staying more than one night.

Scotland has some of the most breath-taking scenery in the world, it has many wonderful castles, battlefields, churches and abbeys. You can find golf courses both famous and little known that will rival the best in the world. Every outdoor activity is catered for.

Pubs with lively music and shops with world quality goods. All good reasons to visit Scotland but its greatest asset are its people. Natural History in abundance.

‘If there is one characteristic that the Scots cherish above all others, it is that they are different, not better than anyone else, certainly not worse, but definitely not to be confused with any other nation.’ From ‘The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Scots’ by David Ross – with the permission of the publishers, Oval Books, London. This is so true, they are also kindly folk, interested in other people’s way of life and always willing to lend a hand to someone in need.

What to expect?

Firstly – expect the unexpected!

Every bend you go around, as you go over the crest of each hill the scene changes, often quite dramatically. Even sheep sleeping in the middle of the road! Be careful in the spring when the lambs are about. If as you approach in a car a lamb and its mother are on opposite sides of the road, expect the young one to dart across the road to be with its mother – just as you reach them!

This is what will make your trip to Scotland a wonderful experience. Scotland is a place to do things and if you don’t want to do something watch others – either way it’s fun!

Traditional customs

When visiting another country some knowledge of that country’s customs is always an advantage. As with all customs people have different views and the following points are my own very personal view.

Tips and tipping

This is a custom many people have problems with but there is no reason for it to cause any concern. First, if you don’t want to tip don’t – it’s as simple as that. If you do want to tip follow these guidelines…Never ever tip when you have received in your view bad service. You should expect good service so I would not tip for good service. However I would thank the person concerned for carrying out their duties. If you have received outstanding service then tip and thank the person concerned. A tip is usually worked out at 10% of the total bill. If possible tip in cash, this will
ensure the person that has given you outstanding service will definitely keep the tip. Some less scrupulous proprietors will keep the tip if paid with the credit card – and the credit card company also gets a cut. Who to tip? Once again this is only if you have received outstanding service. Any person offering you a service in an hotel. Waiters, bell boys etc. However don’t forget the people you don’t see, house maids etc. Taxis, hairdressers, coach drivers of tour busses not scheduled busses. People working behind a bar are usually offered a drink and not tipped. The person concerned
will usually ask if you mind if they drink it later and take a nominal amount.

Driving in Scotland

I’m not going to try and teach you how to drive in the UK but there is a custom in Scotland that I feel should be mentioned. This is single track driving. Some of the roads in the North of Scotland carry so little traffic that it is simply not financially and environmentally worth building two track roads. So we have single track roads with passing places. These work really well with a little thought and consideration. As you drive along these roads and you see a car approaching stop at the first passing place you come across to allow the other motorist to pass. If the passing
place is on the other side of the road stop but stay on your side, DO NOT CROSS OVER THE ROAD! If the other driver has reached a passing place before you do they will stop, this allows you to continue, as you pass the other motorist a wave of thanks will always be appreciated.

Whilst we’re on the subject of driving there are a couple of other things to remember. When driving in the North of Scotland filling stations are few and far between, don’t let your fuel get too low! Some people are nervous of driving in such areas when you can drive for an hour or two and not see another person. Don’t be, everyone is friendly and helpful. If you were to have trouble with your car the very next person to come along would help you.

And finally…

I want this page to be a great help to travellers in Scotland and I want it to grow. So if you want something explaining or you feel I have missed something get in touch! I’m not going to promise a reply because I could be inundated with suggestions – however I will read them all and put up the ones I think will be of help to travellers.

Just to end a couple of quotes from ‘The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Scots’ by David Ross – to give you a flavour of what to expect during your journey through Scotland.

  • An Australian came into an Edinburgh bar, he stood happily chatting for a time, then one of the regulars asked him, ‘Where are you from, pal?’ ‘I’m from the finest country in the whole wide world,’ said the Aussie. ‘Is that so?’ said the local. ‘You have a damn funny accent for a Scotsman!’

  • Highlanders are not known for their respect of authority especially when that authority seems to come from afar. This is shown from this quote.

    Queen Victoria: ‘Is anything worn beneath the kilt?’
    Highlander: ‘No, Ma’am, it’s all in perfect working order!’

Have a great holiday.