Insight Guides: Pocket Scotland - Insight Guides (2016)
A-Z TRAVEL TIPS
ACCOMMODATION (SEE ALSO CAMPING, YOUTH HOSTELS AND RECOMMENDED HOTELS)
There is a great variety of accommodation in Scotland: hotels, guest houses, manor houses, castles and bed-and-breakfasts. The Scottish Tourist Board inspects and grades many of these establishments. There are also hundreds of self-catering cottages, caravans, chalets and crofts (small farmhouses). Farmhouse holidays and accommodation in private homes are other possibilities. The tourist office can supply information about all these options.
Hotels vary greatly in standards. Many of the most pleasant are converted country mansions in isolated settings. Some hotels have swimming pools, and quite a few have their own golf courses.
Book ahead for Easter, and July-September. Most tourist offices offer ‘local bed-booking’ services that assure overnight accommodation on the same day. You pay a minimal deposit for the reservation, which is deducted from your bill. Some tourist boards also charge a small booking fee.
VisitScotland (www.visitscotland.com) lists hotels that have special facilities for disabled visitors and young children, and those that offer low-season prices for senior citizens.
Guest houses and bed-and-breakfast (B&B) premises can be great bargains, although you’ll sometimes have to share a bathroom. Most establishments have a restaurant or can arrange for an evening meal.
Scotland has four major airports - Glasgow, Edinburgh, Prestwick and Aberdeen - and many regional airports scattered about on the mainland and the islands that are served by Loganair.
Glasgow Airport (www.glasgowairport.com) handles much of Scotland’s air traffic. It is a 9-mile (15km), 20-minute taxi or bus ride from the city centre. Buses, including the Glasgow Airport Shuttle, travel every 10-30 minutes between the airport and Buchanan bus station in central Glasgow. Buses from the Buchanan station travel to Edinburgh (about 70 minutes) and other destinations in Scotland.
Edinburgh Airport (www.edinburghairport.com) handles UK, European and a couple of transatlantic services, but is beginning to rival Glasgow in receiving international flights. The airport is 7 miles (11km) from Edinburgh, and is linked with Waverley railway station at Waverley Bridge, in the city centre by a special Airlink bus service that leaves every 10 minutes and takes about 30 minutes. A tram also runs from the airport to the city (York Place). Taxis are available just outside the arrival hall.
Prestwick Airport (www.glasgowprestwick.com), about one hour from Glasgow (32 miles/51km), handles European and domestic flights. The modern terminal has its own train station, with services to Glasgow approximately every 20 minutes. Public buses run to Glasgow and destinations in Ayrshire.
Aberdeen Airport (www.aberdeenairport.com), a 7-mile (11km), 35-minute bus ride from Aberdeen station, serves mainly British and European destinations.
Scotland offers many cycling opportunities. Local firms at tourist resorts will rent bicycles by the hour, day, or week. The Scottish Tourist Board list many rental firms on their website (www.visitscotland.com). Book ahead for July or August. Click here for information about biking trails.
BUDGETING FOR YOUR TRIP
Although good value for money is still the general rule in Scotland, bargains are rare and inflation relentlessly does its familiar work.
Accommodation: Double in moderately priced hotel with breakfast, £60-70 per person. Double per person in guest house with breakfast £40-50. Bed-and-breakfast (without bath), £30-40 per person.
Airport transfer: Edinburgh: bus £4 (£7 return), taxi about £25. Glasgow: bus (Glasgow Shuttle) £6.50 (£9 return), taxi £22; Citylink bus between Edinburgh city centre and Glasgow Airport (standard ticket) £13.80 (£17.20 return).
Bicycle hire: £15-17 per day, £70-80 per week.
Buses: Edinburgh-Glasgow (standard tickets) £7.50 (£11.40 return). Explorer Pass: 3 days £41; 16 days (8 days of travel) £93; www.citylink.co.uk. City and local buses: fares can depend on distance. Minimum bus fare in Edinburgh is £1.50 and £4 for 3 or more journeys in a day. Glasgow bus fares start at £1.20; exact fare is required.
Campsites: £15-20 per tent per night.
Meals: Lunch in pub or café £8-12; moderately priced restaurant meal with wine £24-30; afternoon tea £7; a pint of beer ranges from £2.70-3.50.
Shopping: Pure wool tartan, about £46 per metre; cashmere scarf, from around £35; kilt: man’s from £250, woman’s from £125; cashmere sweater from £100; lambswool sweater £25-40.
Sights: Most museums are free. Edinburgh Castle adult £16.50, child £9.90.
Taxis: Basic rate (Edinburgh) for two passengers begins at £2.10; increases by 25p every 210m/yds until 11.30pm, then for every 242m/yds; 20p extra for each additional passenger.
Tours: City on-and-off bus tours £14; sightseeing day tours from £14; cruises from one hour to full day £12-40.
Trains: Prices vary according to day or time of travel. Glasgow-Edinburgh £12.50 off-peak travel one way. Freedom of Scotland pass (accepted on trains, buses and most ferries): 8 days (4 days of travel) £134, 15 days (8 days of travel) £179.70. Saver one-way fares (on ScotRail services only and bought at least one day in advance): London-Edinburgh £66.50; Edinburgh-Inverness £21.30; Glasgow-Aberdeen £11.30; www.scotrail.co.uk.
There are more than 600 campsites in Scotland. The most elaborate have hot showers, flush toilets, laundry facilities and shops and can offer nature trails, forest walks and even access to golf courses. Many sites are more basic, with just a handful of pitches. To camp or caravan on private land you must have the owner’s permission.
See VisitScotland’s website (www.visitscotland.com) for more information. Some of the most attractive locations are operated by the Forestry Commission; for more information visit http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk or www.campingintheforest.co.uk for a comprehensive list of their camp sites.
As a rule, it is cheaper to book a hire car before you leave on your trip. Be sure to check whether your credit card covers insurance. A medium-sized compact family car £240 per week, £48 per day, including vat, unlimited mileage, but not insurance. Prices vary widely according to season. Beware hidden extras.
To hire a car you must be 21 or more years of age and have held a driver’s licence for at least 12 months. Valid drivers’ licences from almost all countries are recognised by the British authorities.
Major car rental companies are: Avis, tel: 0844-581 0147, www.avis.co.uk; Budget, tel: 0844-544 3407, www.budget.co.uk; Europcar, tel: 0871 384 9900, www.europcar.co.uk; Hertz, tel: 0870-844 8844, www.hertz.co.uk. For competitive rates, try Arnold Clark, tel: 0141-237 4374, www.arnoldclarkrental.com.
The best months to visit Scotland are May and June, which have the most hours of sunshine and comparatively little rain. There aren’t many of the midges and other stinging insects that become a problem, especially on the west coast, in full summer.
Even if you’re holidaying in Scotland in midsummer, take warm clothing and rainwear. Anoraks are very useful: buy a bright colour to make yourself conspicuous to hunters if you’re going to be hiking or climbing. Sturdy shoes are a must both for outdoor walking and traversing cobblestone streets.
Scotland makes some of the world’s best clothing, and you’ll find a fine selection of knits, woollens and tweeds, although not at significantly lower prices than elsewhere in the UK.
CRIME AND SAFETY
As everywhere, crime in Scotland can be a problem, but even Glasgow, with Scotland’s highest crime rate, is not dangerous by world standards. Take all the usual precautions. Honesty, however, is still quite prevalent in Scotland, even in the cities.
Road Conditions. A limited number of motorways connect Glasgow and Edinburgh with other major cities and areas. Be aware that most A roads are winding, two-lane roads, often skirting Scotland’s many lochs and they can be slow-going. A surprise to most visitors are the single-lane roads found in the hinterland and on the islands. Most of these are paved, with passing places for giving way to oncoming traffic or allowing cars behind you to overtake (thank the driver who pulls over for you). Obviously, you should never park in these essential passing places. The twisting roads, along with the need for pulling in and out of the side slips, will more than double your normal driving time even over short distances. Other obstacles include sheep and cattle that often wander onto minor roads. Signposting is adequate, but a good map is essential.
Rules and regulations. The same basic rules apply in all of Britain. Drive on the left, overtake on the right. Turn left on a roundabout (traffic circle); at a junction where no road has priority, yield to traffic coming from the right. Seat belts must be worn. Drinking and driving is regarded as a serious offence and penalties are severe, involving loss of licence, heavy fines, and even prison sentences, and the law is strictly enforced.
To bring a car into Scotland you’ll need registration and insurance papers and a driver’s licence. Overseas visitors driving their own cars will need Green Card insurance as well.
Speed limits. In built-up areas, 30 or 40mph (48 or 65kmh); on major roads, 60mph (96kmh); on dual carriageways and motorways, 70mph (112kmh).
Fuel. Petrol is sold by the Imperial gallon (about 20 percent more voluminous than the US gallon) and by the litre; pumps show both measures. Four-star grade is 97 octane and three-star is 94 octane. Unleaded petrol and diesel is widely available. Most petrol stations are self-service. In the more remote areas stations are rather scarce, so take advantage when you see one.
If you need help. Members of automobile clubs that are affiliated with the British Automobile Association (AA) or the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) can benefit from speedy, efficient assistance in the event of a breakdown. If this should happen to you, AA members should tel: 0800-887 766, RAC members tel: 0800-828 282. Green Flag Motoring Assistance, tel: 0800-051 0636, (free to members or you may join on the spot).
Parking. There are meters in major centres and vigilant corps of traffic police and wardens to ticket violators, even in small towns. Ticket machines take most coins and some now take credit cards. Do not park on double yellow lines.
In Edinburgh and Glasgow, your car is best left in a car park. Concert Square, next to Buchanan bus station in Glasgow, has a large multistorey car park. In Edinburgh, Castle Terrace is a large multistorey car park near Edinburgh Castle; St James’ Centre (enter on York Place) is at the east end of Princes Street.
Road signs. Many standard international picture signs are displayed in Scotland. Distances are shown in miles. In the Highlands and islands only, road signs may appear first in Gaelic, then English.
Throughout Scotland it’s 230 volts AC, 50 Hz. Certain appliances may need a converter. Americans will need an adapter.
EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES
Many countries have consuls or other representatives in Edinburgh, but others only have representation in London.
Australia: Australian High Commission, Australia House, Strand, London WC2B 4LA, tel: 020 7420 3690.
Canada: Canadian Consulate, tel: 07702 359916, email: email@example.com.
US: American Consulate General, 3 Regent Terrace, Edinburgh EH7 5BN; tel: 0131-556 8315.
To call the fire brigade, police, ambulance, coast guard, lifeboat, or mountain rescue service, dial 999 from any telephone. You need no coin. Tell the emergency operator which service you need.
GAY AND LESBIAN TRAVELLERS
Scotland is a conservative country and the gay scene is found primarily in Edinburgh and Glasgow; both have lively gay pubs and nightclubs. The centre of Edinburgh’s gay community is Broughton Street at the east end of town. Support is offered by the LGBT Helpline Scotland (tel: 0131-556 4049; www.lgbt-helpline-scotland.org.uk). The monthly magazine Scotsgay has a useful website (www.scotsgay.co.uk).
From North America. Direct transatlantic flights to Glasgow from Toronto are offered by Canadian Affair and Air Transat (Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver; US Airways (Philadelphia and Orlando), United (Newark, NJ). Flights from a variety of US hubs route flights via London or Amsterdam.
From Australia and New Zealand. Qantas offer non-direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London. Air New Zealand has daily flights to London from Auckland.
From England and Republic of Ireland. There are direct services from all parts of the UK on British Airways, flybe, EasyJet and Ryanair, including frequent departures from Birmingham, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Southampton, Bristol and Manchester. Aer Lingus and Ryanair have regular flights from Dublin.
From Europe. Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Ryanair and EasyJet have direct flights from continental Europe to either Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen.
Air fares. The highest air fares are from June to September; fares in other months of the year may be considerably lower. All airlines offer economy fares: PEX, APEX, etc. These are subject to restrictions - for example, APEX flights have to be booked at least 14 days in advance and tickets are not refundable.
From the US, a direct flight to London with a domestic flight to Glasgow may be the cheapest option. Many American airlines offer a variety of package deals, both for group travel and for those who wish to travel independently. Packages include airfare, accommodation and travel between holiday destinations and may include some meals.
By rail. The train journey from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh takes 4.5 hours, and from London Euston to Glasgow takes 5.5 hours. A sleeper service is available from London (Euston) to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William. Economy fares are offered.
Visitors can take advantage of a variety of special fare plans that operate in Scotland. The Freedom of Scotland Travelpass is available for either 4 days of travel over 8 consecutive days, or 8 days of travel over 15 consecutive days. The pass gives unlimited travel on many bus routes and Caledonian MacBrayne (www.calmac.co.uk) ferries as well as on Scotland’s rail network. It can be purchased at ScotRail stations or online (www.scotrail.co.uk), and at selected English travel centres. Travelpass holders can obtain a 20 percent reduction on NorthLink sailings from Aberdeen or Stromness to Orkney and Shetland. You can also choose from a selection of Rail Rover tickets; enquire at railway stations.
Visitors from abroad who wish to tour by rail can buy a BritRail Pass www.britrail.net before leaving their home countries. These offer unlimited travel on the railway network throughout Scotland, England and Wales during a consecutive period of 2, 4, 8, 15, 22 days, or a month. The Flexipass allows journeys to be made on non-consecutive days; for example, 4 days unlimited travel over an 8-day period. Children aged 5 to 15 pay half price. The BritRail Youth Pass is for youngsters aged 16-25. None of these can be purchased in Britain.
By road. From London the quickest route is to take the M1 north to connect with the A1. If you are in the west, the M5 merges with the M6 and connects with the M74 to Glasgow.
To take your own car to Scotland, you will need proof of ownership and insurance documents, including Green Card insurance.
There are frequent coach services from all over Britain to various Scottish destinations by National Express (www.nationalexpress.com) and Scottish Citylink (www.citylink.co.uk).
By sea. Ferry services from Northern Ireland operate from Larne to Troon and Belfast to Stranraer.
GUIDES AND TOURS
Dozens of bus tours are available in Scotland. Scotline Tours (www.scotlinetours.co.uk) and Timberbush Tours (www.timberbush-tours.co.uk), based in Edinburgh, offer three-, two- and one-tours to St Andrews, Loch Lomond, Loch Ness, the Borders and other destinations; Gray Line (www.graylinetours.com) and Glasgow-based Scottish Tours (www.scottishtours.co.uk) offer similar options. All tours can be booked through the tourist information offices, at Princes Mall in Edinburgh and George Square in Glasgow. Tour operators, centres, and hotels provide package holidays for sports such as golf and other outdoor sports.
Both Glasgow and Edinburgh have a number of city hop-on-hop-off bus tours. Tours originate at George Square in Glasgow (www.cityxplora.com /locations/glasgow) and at St Andrew Square in Edinburgh (www.hop-on-hop-off-bus.com/edinburgh-bus-tours).
Details of guides and tours can also be had from The Secretary, Scottish Tour Guides Association, Norrie’s House, 18b Broad Street, Stirling, FK8 1EF, tel: 01786-447784; www.stga.co.uk. Members of this association wear official badges engraved with their names. Most are based in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee. Some will accompany tours.
HEALTH AND MEDICAL CARE
Scotland, home of much pioneering work in medicine, is proud of the high standard of its health care. Medical care is free for EU (on production of the EHIC card) and Commonwealth residents under the National Health Service (NHS). Other nationals should check to be sure they have adequate health insurance coverage. US residents should be aware that Medicare does not apply outside the United States.
Emergency care. Major hospitals with 24-hour emergency service are: Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, tel: 0131-536 1000; Glasgow Royal Infirmary, tel: 0141-211 4000; Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, tel: 0845-456 6000; and Inverness Raigmore, tel: 01463-704000.
Pharmacies. In Edinburgh, Glasgow and a few other major centres you should find a duty chemist (drugstore) open until 9pm; otherwise, contact a police station for help in filling in an emergency prescription, or dial 999.
Tourist Information Offices can advise you on the duty chemist in your area.
Insects. In the summer midges are a nuisance or worse, especially on Scotland’s west coast. Clegs (horse flies) and tiny but devilish berry bugs also attack in warmer weather. Insect repellents aren’t always effective; ask the advice of a chemist.
Gaelic and old Scottish words and phrases in everyday use will baffle the most fluent English speaker. Today just over 60,000 Scots speak Gaelic, most of them residents of the Western Isles. English spoken with a strong Scots accent can take a while to get used to and place names are often not pronounced the way you’d expect: Kirkcudbright is Kircoobree, Culzean is Cullane, Colquhoun is Cohoon, Culross is Coorus, Menzies is Mingies, Dalziell is Dee-ell. Here are some examples to help you along:
aber river mouth
Auld Reekie Edinburgh (Old Smoky)
bide a wee wait a bit
cairn pile of stones as landmark
ceilidh song/story gathering
croft small land-holding
dinna fash yersel’ don’t get upset
ghillie attendant to hunting or fishing
haud yer wheesht shut up
inver mouth of river
kyle strait, narrows
lang may yer lum reek long may your chimney smoke (i.e. may you have a long life)
mickle small amount
sett tartan pattern
skirl shriek of bagpipes
strath river valley
tollbooth old courthouse/jail
wynd lane, alley
Free maps and helpful directions are available at any tourism office. For driving, a good map is essential. The Collins Touring Map of Scotland is published in association with VisitScotland. Collins also publishes street atlases of Edinburgh and Glasgow and the A-Z Street Atlas is available for both cities. Route maps for hiking and biking are available from the tourist office; you may also want to buy one of the series of ordinance maps that are available.
Television: Viewers in Scotland have plenty of choice with two main BBC channels and several commercial channels. Digital television services provide a wide range of extra channels. Many larger hotels offer a variety of cable and satellite TV channels and pay-per-view films.
Radio: Radio Scotland is the main BBC radio service and national BBC radio stations also operate in Scotland. A range of commercial radio stations cater for different areas of Scotland. Various international stations can also be received.
Newspapers and magazines: In addition to British national newspapers, Scottish daily papers are: the Herald (published in Glasgow), the Scotsman (published in Edinburgh), the Daily Record, and the Aberdeen Press and Journal. Details of events and entertainment in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh are given in the magazine The List (www.list.co.uk), published every two months. The International Herald Tribune, edited in Paris, and US weekly news magazines are sold in the major centres and at airports.
Currency. The pound sterling (£) is a decimal monetary unit and is divided into 100 pence (p). Coins consist of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2; and banknotes consist of £1 (a few Scottish notes are still in circulation), £5, £10, £20, £50, and £100.
Scottish banks issue their own notes, which are not, technically, legal tender in England and Wales, although many shops will accept them and English banks will readily change them for you.
Currency exchange. You will get the best exchange rate for your foreign currency at banks (see Opening Hours); currency exchange bureaux rarely offer as good a rate, and you’ll get the worst rate at your hotel. Many Tourist Information Offices have currency exchange facilities.
Credit cards. Major credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, petrol stations and shops, although not always in small guesthouses and B&Bs - signs are usually displayed indicating which are accepted.
Travellers’ cheques. Travellers’ cheques are accepted throughout Scotland. You’ll need your passport when cashing them, and banks will charge a fee. The American Express office will cash its own travellers’ cheques without a fee.
Opening hours may vary from place to place. However, banks are usually open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, with branches in city centres open on Saturday mornings. Banks in small towns may close for lunch. Some rural areas are served only by mobile banks that arrive at regular intervals and stay for a few hours.
Offices and businesses are usually open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm; some have Saturday hours.
Post offices are open Monday-Friday 9am-5.30pm and Saturday 9am-12.30pm. Sub-stations have a half-day closing on Wednesday or Thursday.
Shop hours are normally Monday-Saturday 9am-5.30pm, some until 7pm or 8pm on Thursday. Some shops in villages and smaller towns close on Sunday and may close for lunch. In the larger cities in major shopping areas, shops open at either 11am or noon on Sunday and close at 5pm or 5.30pm.
Museums and sightseeing attractions have greatly varying opening hours. As a rule, attractions are open from about 9.30am until late afternoon, or early evening in summer. In winter many castles and other places of interest are closed to the public or open for limited periods. It’s best to call for information. Museums in the cities are generally open Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm and noon-5pm on Sunday.
Major tourist information offices are open all year round, usually Monday-Saturday 9am-8pm and Sunday 10am-8pm in July and August. At other times of the year, they close earlier.
Scottish police do not carry guns. Police patrol cars usually have yellow stripes and a blue light.
The emergency telephone number for police aid is 999 all over the country. You can also dial 0 and ask for the police.
Letters and packages sent within the UK can use the first- or second-class postal service. Because second-class mail may be slow, it’s advisable to pay the modest extra postage for first class. Postcards and letters to Europe and elsewhere overseas automatically go by airmail. The post office offers an express mail service, Parcelforce International.
Stamps are sold at post offices (found in almost every Scottish village even if they share space with grocery shops) and newsagents, as well as from vending machines. Postboxes are red and come in many shapes and sizes.
Edinburgh’s main post office is in Princes Mall Shopping Centre, Waverley Bridge (tel: 0131-524 6901). Glasgow’s main post office is 47 St Vincent Street, tel: 0141-531 7511.
Postage: within the UK 62p; to Europe and the rest of world, airmail 97p.
Bank holidays in Scotland are not always closing days for offices and shops. Many towns have their individual holidays, generally on a Monday. VisitScotland publishes an annual list of local and national holidays and the chart below is a guide to fixed holidays. If one falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it is usual to take off the following Monday.
1 January New Year’s Day
2 January Bank Holiday
25 December Christmas Day
26 December Boxing Day
March or April Good Friday/Easter Monday
May Spring Bank Holiday
August Summer Bank Holiday
Public phones are located in pubs, restaurants, post offices, shops and in the street. BT booths can usually accept coins, phonecards or credit/debit cards. Internet kiosks are also available. Phonecards of various denominations can be purchased from newsagents, post offices and tourist information offices. Some phones in small towns and public buildings are still coin-operated.
Public phone booths display information on overseas dialling codes and the international exchange. Dial 118 505 for international directory inquiries, 155 for an international operator. Local directory enquiries are provided by several companies - numbers include 118 500, 118 365, 118 212 and 118 118, and for operator assistance, dial 100. To make a local reverse-charge call, dial 100 and ask the operator to reverse the charges.
Mobile (cell) phone coverage is not as good in Scotland as the rest of the UK, with rural areas particularly neglected by service providers. Edinburgh, however, has good coverage, including 4G. Coverage varies extensively between different mobile phone companies. You will need a GSM cellular phone for use in Scotland. It is possible to rent these but this is an expensive option, especially for a short stay. If you have a GSM phone the roaming charges may well be high. The cheapest option is to buy a local UK SIM card to use in the GSM phone; incoming calls will be free and local calls inexpensive. Check out all the options before travelling.
Scotland, like the rest of the United Kingdom, is on Greenwich Mean Time. Between April and October clocks are put forward one hour.
New York Edinburgh Jo’burg Sydney Auckland
7am noon 1pm 9pm 11pm
While tipping is customary in Scotland, there’s no pressure. Hotels and restaurants may add a service charge to your bill, in which case tipping is not really necessary. If service is not included, add about 10 percent to your bill. Many cafés and informal restaurants have a box for tips beside the cash register.
Tip hotel porters about £1 per bag, and tip your hotel maid about £5 per week. Lavatory attendants should get 20-50p. Your taxi driver will be pleased with 10 percent, and so will your tour guide. Hairdressers should get 10-20 percent.
There is probably no tourist destination in the world that produces more information for visitors than Scotland. Strategically placed throughout the Lowlands, Highlands and Islands are some 150 tourist information centres, offering a wide range of publications, free or for sale, as well as expert advice. For a complete list of their addresses, write to the headquarters of VisitScotland at the address below. They’re identified by blue-and-white signs with an italicised i (for ‘information’).
In Edinburgh the Tourist Information Centre is in Princes Street Mall, 3 Princes Street, tel: 0845-225 5121, or there’s an Information and Accommodation Service at Edinburgh Airport. In Glasgow, the information centre is at 170 Buchanan Street; tel: 0845 859 1006.
The national headquarters of VisitScotland (www.visitscotland.com) is at Ocean Point One, 94 Ocean Drive, Edinburgh; tel: 0131-524 2121. Don’t turn up here for help; only written and telephone inquiries are accepted. National tourist information can be supplied by any major tourist information centre in Scotland. For further information on Scotland and the rest of Britain check www.visitbritain.com. In London you can drop into the City of London Visitor Centre, St Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8BY; tel: 020-7332 1456.
Scotland’s extensive public transport network can be of considerable use to tourists. If you’re touring the north without a car, a Travelpass (for more information, click here) enables you to travel on most coaches, trains and ferries operating in the Highlands and Islands at a significant saving. Maps, timetables and brochures are available free from tourist offices and transport terminals (for more information, click here). There are also money-saving excursions, weekend and island-to-island ferry schemes. On the Western Isles post buses are scheduled to link up with ferry services.
City transport. Most Scottish towns and cities have good bus services, particularly Edinburgh and Glasgow. Night bus services in cities are less frequent. Family and other discount tickets are available in Edinburgh at the Lothian Buses Travelshop at Waverley Bridge (tel: 0131-333 3708; www.lothianbuses.com). The First Bus (www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/scotland_east) company serves urban and rural areas around Edinburgh. In Glasgow, the main bus company is First Bus; contact the Travel Centre at Buchanan bus station, Killermont Street.
Edinburgh Trams (tel: 0131-555 6363; www.edinburghtrams.com) work in partnership with Lothian Buses. Trams run for 15 stops between York Place in New Town and Edinburgh Airport.
Glasgow also has a simple but efficient subway system, nicknamed ‘the Clockwork Orange’, which operates in the city centre. The Park and Ride scheme involves parking your car at certain underground stations on the outskirts of the city and then taking the subway into the centre.
Coaches. Comfortable and rapid long-distance coaches with toilets link the major towns. For details, call National Express (tel: 0871-781 8181; www.nationalexpress.com); Scottish Citylink (tel: 0871-266 3333; www.citylink.co.uk) or Buchanan Street Bus Station (tel: 0141-333 3708). Citylink offers the Explorer Pass for three days’ travel out of five, five days’ travel out of ten or eight days out of 16, good on both major and local routes.
Trains. Train services include the InterCity trains, with principal routes from London to Glasgow’s Central Station (5.5 hours) and to Edinburgh’s Waverley Station (4.5 hours); there are day and night trains. From Glasgow’s Queen Street Station, routes continue on to Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness and there are smaller, secondary lines. For National Rail Enquiries, call 0845-748 4950 or visit www.nationalrail.co.uk.
Ferries. Ferries to the Western Isles are generally run by Caledonian MacBrayne (tel: 0800-066 3000; www.calmac.co.uk), NorthLink Ferries, (tel: 0845-600 0449; www.northlinkferries.co.uk), connect with Orkney and Shetland; there are ferry services from Aberdeen to Lerwick and from Scrabster to Stromness. There are also many ferries between the islands. Reservations are essential in peak season for the more popular car ferries.
Taxis. In Scotland’s major centres you’ll find most taxis are black, London-style cabs. A taxi’s yellow ‘For Hire’ sign is lit when it’s available for hire. There are taxi ranks at airports and stations, and you can hail them on the street. Major centres have 24-hour radio taxi services. There’s an extra charge for luggage. If you hire a taxi for a long-distance trip, negotiate the price with the driver before setting off.
TRAVELLERS WITH DISABILITIES
Capability Scotland is Scotland’s leading disability organisation, providing a range of flexible services which support disabled people of all ages in their everyday lives. Contact: Capability Scotland, 11 Ellersly Road, Edinburgh EH12 6HY (tel: 0131-337 9876; www.capability-scotland.org.uk).
VISAS AND ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
For non-British citizens the same formalities apply at Scottish ports of entry as elsewhere in the UK. Citizens of EU countries need only an identity card. Visitors from the US and most Commonwealth countries need only a valid passport for stays of up to 6 months.
On arrival at a British port or airport, if you have goods to declare you follow the red channel; with nothing to declare you take the green route, bypassing inspection, although customs officers may make random spot checks. Free exchange of non-duty-free goods for personal use is permitted between EU countries and the UK. Duty-free items are still subject to restrictions: check before you go. There’s no limit on the amount of currency you can bring into or take out of Britain.
WEBSITES AND INTERNET ACCESS
The following are some useful websites for planning your visit.
www.visitbritain.com British Tourist Authority
https://peoplemakeglasgow.com Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley
www.thisisedinburgh.com Local guide to Edinburgh
www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk Undiscovered Scotland
www.scotland.org.uk Travel Scotland
www.visitscotland.com Visit Scotland
www.historic-scotland.gov.uk Historic Scotland
www.nts.org.uk National Trust for Scotland
www.eventscotland.org Forthcoming festivals and sports events
www.scotsman.com The Scotsman
Scotland is well serviced when it comes to internet access, with even some of the remotest locations supported by dial-up, broadband or even Wi-fi. Larger towns and cities in Scotland have internet cafés and you will increasingly find hotels and guest houses offer internet and wireless access; many B&Bs are slowly following suit. Public libraries across Scotland offer free internet access and airports have computers available to access the internet, as well as Wi-fi hotspots.
The Scottish Youth Hostels Association runs around 70 hostels. Visitors can stay without being members of the association but membership brings many benefits, including reduced prices for rooms. Their address is 7 Glebe Crescent, Stirling FK8 2J (tel: 01786-891 400 or 0845-293 77373 for reservations; www.syha.org.uk). Hostels are graded by the VisitScotland quality assurance scheme.