2 weeks in Scotland – Part 1 : General approach

Hello sweeties,

So there we are, the so waited post about my trip in Scotland. There are so much to tell!

Let’s go back in 2013. We are mid october, it’s been only a month since I went back to school and I already am considering going on holiday. In a conversation with boyfriend, I pop a “We should go on holiday. In Scotland and then we go to Iceland”, just like that. I don’t really mean it, it’s some kind of fantasy. And he says “we can leave on December or January”. Wait what? Really? Yes. “No. No we don’t”. 

(Skip to 1:40)

Yes, we do. And that’s how we decided to go to Scotland (the budget and the schedule not allowing us to go to Iceland too).

I know he wanted to go there for quite a while, but I don’t really know why I actually wanted too. Probably because some of the Doctors are scottish (David Tennant wink wink)(and Peter Capaldi, but I’m not updated and I didn’t see any episode with him yet, so I can’t say I like him (yet)). Also because some friends of mine went to Scotland last year and it seemed so nice. And because Scotland’s official animal is the unicorn, which makes it the coolest place on Earth. But I didn’t know much about Scotland and it was a really pleasant surprise.

We first planned to stay a small week. Boyfriend wanted to go only to Edinburgh, but I really wanted to go to the Highlands (and Glasgow), because that’s pretty much the point when being in Scotland. But the length of the stay was pretty short, so we extended it to 9-10 days. And when we booked the plane tickets, it increased from 10 days to 2 weeks (well, 12 days actually). Don’t ask me why.

We set 5 main places : Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fort William, Isle of Skye and Inverness. We finally decided to land at Glasgow and fly off from Edinburgh for practical reasons.

Now excitement goes up a notch, here’s the map of the places we’ve been to :

Scotland map WinaClick for more details

Pretty exciting eh? Now let’s be pragmatic. What follows is not very exhaustive and is only based on my experience, but I hope it will help some of you.

How to go to Scotland :

Well, there are many ways. From Western Europe, I guess you can take the train to France or Belgium, before using a local travelling way. From Paris, you can take the Eurostar to London, then take a bus, a train, a local flight, whatever you want. You probably can also take the ferry somewhere on the French west coast. I think you land at Aberdeen if you do so… But I don’t know about this way, so I can’t help.
 Wherever you come from, the easiest way (and probably cheapest if you do it well) remains the plane. We flew with Easyjet, from Charles de Gaulle Airport. It cost us about 130€ per person, extra luggage charge included (20€ per person).

National transports :

Scotland has an important bus network. That’s the travelling way we chose. It takes almost as much time as if taking the train and it’s a great way to discover the landscapes.
For the main routes, we bought a Citylink Explorer Pass. We took the 5 days of unlimited travel out of 10 days. It cost us £62 per person. That’s a very good value. Indeed, if we hadn’t take it, we would have taken the bus only 3 times for the same price. But don’t forget to calculate the cost of your travels without the Explorer Pass before  buying it! Depending on your trip, you don’t necessarily save money.

/!\ What you need to know about the buses : I don’t know how it works in the different countries, but I was quite um surprised about the Scottish buses. Indeed, they don’t indicate the name of the station when they stop (if they stop at the station you want to get off). There is no sign in the bus that indicates the station and the bus driver doesn’t say it. You have to know the timetable of the service you take, so that you know when to get off of the bus. And more important : inform the bus driver about the station you want to get off. 
The first time we took a national bus, we didn’t know it and we missed the station in Balloch and couldn’t go to Loch Lomond. So keep this in mind! 

Local transports :

Glasgow has a subway network, but Edinburgh doesn’t (I don’t get it). On the other hand, Edinburgh has its own bus company (the Lothian buses), while Glasgow uses the national companies. This explains why taking the bus in Edinburgh isn’t expensive.
In the Highlands, we mainly took the national bus companies: Stagecoach to travel through Skye and Citylink for the return Inverness/Drumnadrochit.

Food :

Haa food. You can eat decently for less than £8 in the pubs, snacks or tea rooms.  You can have Scottish breakfast for about £5 or £6, which is really nice. 
If you want to go to the restaurant, then it’s more expensive. I’d say you should count at least £12 for a non vegetarian meal (I noticed that vegetarian meals were generally less expensive). But in most of the restaurants, there is a pre-theatre menu that is less expensive than the classic menus.
 Of course, the most money saving solution is to buy your food at the supermarket. This doesn’t sound very funny, but sometimes you don’t really have the choice, as some eating places close at… 5:00 pm. If you’re French and you’re used to eat at about 8:00 pm, you’re doomed haha.

We mostly ate fish & chips, baked potatoes, pies, sandwiches… And haggis, of course! For those who don’t know what haggis is, it’s a pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach. Yum-my. It is traditionnaly served with mashed turnips and potatoes. I dreaded this moment, but haggis actually tastes good (when you forget what’s inside).

Weather :

The weather in Scotland is… INSANE. It changes really quick. In a same hour, you can have rain (both drizzle and downpour), snow, hail (the small and the big ones) and the great sun. And I’m not even exagerating! When we experienced it at Fort William, it was unbelievable.
It’s not so cold in cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. But in the Highlands, it’s pretty freezing. So always have a raincoat or any waterproof outerwear and don’t forget the scarf and the gloves!

A few things to know :

  •  At the restaurant/pub/tea room/bar /café: Most of the time, the service is not included in the check, so don’t forget the tips (well, except if you think that the service was lame…). It’s from 10 to 15% of the total. 
    You don’t need to give tips if you order a drink at the bar counter.
  •  Most of the attractions are closed in winter. Think about checking the opening times of the attractions you want to do before going.
  • If you’re a student, bring your student card with you, it’s a valid ID (if it has a photo on it) that lets you enjoy the concession price of some attractions.
  • The shops mainly close at 5:00 pm, sometimes at 4:30 pm or 6:00 pm. So do the tourist information centers. In the biggest cities, the center shops close later (at about 7:00 or 8:00 pm).
  • And again : always, always check the buses timetables. Trust me.
  • Scottish people are, for the most, adorable.

I think I said it all… If however you have some questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Ok, next time, we start the trip town by town. And we’re going to Glasgow first!