Visit Scotland | Scotland Tourism | Scotland Vacations

Visit Scotland | Scotland Tourism
Scotland is a well-developed tourist destination, with tourism generally being responsible for sustaining 200,000 jobs mainly in the service sector, with tourist spending averaging at £4bn per year. Tourists from the United Kingdom make up the bulk of visitors to Scotland. In 2002 , for example, UK visitors made 18.5 million visits to Scotland, staying 64.5 million nights and spending £3.7bn. In contrast, overseas residents made 1.58 million visits to Scotland, staying 15 million nights and spending £806m. In terms of overseas visitors, those from the United States made up 24% of visits to Scotland, with the United States being the largest source of overseas visitors, and Germany (9%), France (8%), Canada (7%) and Australia (6%), following behind.

Scotland is generally seen as clean, unspoilt destination with beautiful scenery which has a long and complex history, combined with thousands of historic sites and attractions. These include prehistoric stone circles, standing stones and burial chambers, and various Bronze Age, Iron Age and Stone Age remains. There are also many historic castles, houses, and battlegrounds, ruins and museums. Many people are drawn by the culture of Scotland.

The cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow are increasingly being seen as a cosmopolitan alternative to Scotland's countryside, with visitors year round, but the main tourist season is generally from April to October inclusive. In addition to these factors, the national tourist agency, Visit Scotland, have deployed a strategy of niche marketing, aimed at exploiting, amongst other things, Scotland's strengths in golf, fishing and food and drink tourism. Another significant, and increasingly popular reason for tourism to Scotland - especially by those from North America - is genealogy, with many visitors coming to Scotland to explore their family and ancestral roots.

Map of Scotland:

Edinburgh Scotland Weather:

Scotland Facts:



Largest city:


Official language(s):


Recognized regional languages:

Scottish Gaelic, Scots2


78,387 km2 30,414 sq mi


Pound sterling (GBP)

Time zone:

Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)

Transport in Scotland:

Scotland is connected to England by a road, rail and air network. The airports Glasgow-International, Glasgow-Prestwick, Edinburgh and Aberdeen serve as the main international gateways to Scotland, with an expanding route network. In terms of international air links with Europe, the country is generally well connected, with daily flights from a variety of European cities, There are also direct flights operated from the main Scottish airports to destinations in North America such as New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. The expanding budget airline network from Scotland's airports is making a significant contribution to bringing more visitors to the country.

The country is also connected to mainland Europe by a car ferry service operating daily from Rosyth in Fife to the Belgian port of Zeebrugge. Ferry services also connect Scotland with Northern Ireland, operating between Stranraer and Belfast and Cairnryan and Larne.

The ferry to Gothenburg, Sweden, from "Newcastle" (actually North Shields) in northern England (currently run by the Danish company DFDS Seaways), ceased at the end of October 2006 "DFDS scraps Newcastle-Gothenburg line", The Local, 7 September 2006: "Danish shipping company DFDS Seaways is to scrap the only passenger ferry route between Sweden and Britain, with the axing of the Gothenburg-Newcastle route at thekey route for Scottish tourist traffic from Sweden and Norway. The company cited high fuel prices and new competition from low-cost air services, especially Ryanair (which now flies to Stansted from Gothenburg City Airport), as being the cause. DFDS Seaways' sister company, DFDS Tor Line, will continue to run scheduled freight ships between Gothenburg and several English ports, including Newcastle, and these have limited capacity for passengers, but not private vehicles. It is unclear if the Newcastle-Kristiansand, Norway, route.

Visit Scotland Vacations:

Edinburgh Scotland:

Edinburgh is the capital city. The Old and New Towns of the city constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Edinburgh is the largest tourist destination in Scotland, and the second largest in the United Kingdom after London. The cities' major tourist attractions include Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh Zoo, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Our Dynamic Earth and the Royal Mile. It has three universities including the University of Edinburgh founded in 1583.

Glasgow Scotland:

Glasgow is the largest city in the country, and the second largest tourist destination after Edinburgh. Its attractions include the Burrell Collection, Glasgow Cathedral, the Glasgow Science Centre and the Kelvingrove Museum. In addition to this many tourists come to Glasgow for its renowned Victorian architecture and Gothic architecture as well as its shopping. The city has three universities, including the University of Glasgow founded in 1451.


Stirling is a historic town in central Scotland, some 30 miles to the north-west of Edinburgh, and is generally known as the "Gateway to the Highlands", due to its geographical position between highland and lowland Scotland. Amongst its attractions are Stirling Castle, the Wallace National Monument and the Thieves Pot/Thistles Centre.


Aberdeen is known as the "Granite City" and is renowned for its gothic architecture. It is a city of approximately 210,000 people and serves as the main administrative centre for the north east of Scotland. With its large port and harbour, Aberdeen serves as the departure point for the many ferries that connect the Scottish mainland with the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland. Aberdeen also has two universities, and a large student population.

St Andrews:

St Andrews is a small, but busy town in north-east Fife. The royal burgh's economy is centred around the golf industry, with St Andrews being regarded as the home of the modern game. The University of St Andrews (the oldest in Scotland) has colleges located throughout the town.


Dundee is known as the "City of Discovery" and is the home of Scott of the Antarctic's ship the RRS Discovery. Dundee has two universities. It has a Jute museum called Verdant Works, an Anchor Point of ERIH - The European Route of Industrial Heritage.


Perth is a small but historic town on the east coast, which stands on the River Tay. Perth is known for its abundant parkland. Close by is the village of Scone, ancient capital of Scotland and former home to Scottish kings.

Inverness Scotland:

Inverness is the administrative centre for the Highlands, close to Loch Ness and serves as a transport hub for much of the Highlands, with rail and bus services departing here to much of the northern and west Highlands. It is a popular destination for tourists wishing to explore the north of Scotland.


Ayrshire offers wonderful scenery, outdoor activities, enthralling history with links to William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Scotland’s best known poet, Robert Burns. Ayrshire also offers some of the finest golf courses in the world (32 in total).

Other areas which are popular for tourists include the Highlands and the Hebrides, such as the Isle of Skye. Perthshire, the Scottish Borders and Orkney and Shetland are also popular tourism destinations.

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the United Kingdom, but there are many other significant mountains in Scotland, though by international standards all the mountains are relatively small. The Cuillin on the Isle of Skye offer some challenging climbs, such as the Inaccessible Pinnacle.

Scotland also has amusement parks. One such park is M&Ds in the Strathclyde area

Scotland also has many lochs, including Loch Lomond, and Loch Ness, which is considered by some to be the home of the Loch Ness monster. There are also many rivers, which are good for salmon and fly fishing. These include the Tay, Tweed, Don, and Dee.

Scotland's best known export is Scotch Whisky and over a million visitors a year enjoy a tour around its Whisky distilleries.

Scotland has some good hunting, especially deer and grouse.

Scotland is also the home of golf, with many historic and famous courses including, St Andrews, Gleneagles, Royal Troon, Carnoustie, and Muirfield. There are hundreds of other courses in the country.

National symbols of Scotland:

The national flag of Scotland, known as the Saltire or St. Andrew's Cross, dates from the 9th century, and is thus the oldest national flag still in use. Since 1606 the Saltire has also formed part of the design of the Union Flag. There are numerous other symbols and symbolic artefacts, both official and unofficial, including the thistle, the nation's floral emblem (celebrated in the song, The Thistle o' Scotland), 6 April 1320 statement of political independence the Declaration of Arbroath, the textile pattern tartan that often signifies a particular Scottish clan, and the Lion Rampant flag. Highlanders can thank James Graham, 3rd Duke of Montrose, for the repeal in 1782 of the Act of 1747 prohibiting the wearing of tartans.

Although there is no official National anthem of Scotland, Flower of Scotland is played on special occasions and sporting events such as football and rugby matches involving the Scotland national teams and as of 2010 is also played at the Commonwealth Games after it was voted the overwhelming favourite by participating Scottish athletes. Other less popular candidates for the National Anthem of Scotland include Scotland the Brave, Highland Cathedral, Scots Wha Hae and A Man's A Man for A' That.

St Andrew's Day, 30 November, is the national day, although Burns' Night tends to be more widely observed, particularly outside Scotland. Tartan Day is a recent innovation from Canada. In 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St. Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, designating the day to be an official bank holiday.

Scotland History:

Prehistoric Scotland

Repeated glaciations, which covered the entire land mass of modern Scotland, destroyed any traces of human habitation that may have existed before the Mesolithic period. It is believed that the first post-glacial groups of hunter-gatherers arrived in Scotland around 12,800 years ago, as the ice sheet retreated after the last glaciation.

Groups of settlers began building the first known permanent houses on Scottish soil around 9500 years ago, and the first villages around 6000 years ago. The well-preserved village of Skara Brae on the Mainland of Orkney dates from this period. Neolithic habitation, burial and ritual sites are particularly common and well-preserved in the Northern Isles and Western Isles, where a lack of trees led to most structures being built of local stone.

The discovery in Scotland of a 4000 year old tomb with burial treasures at Forteviot, near Perth, the capital of a Pictish Kingdom in the 8th and 9th centuries AD, is unrivalled anywhere in Britain. It contains the remains of an early Bronze Age ruler laid out on white quartz pebbles and birch bark. It was also discovered for the first time that early Bronze Age people placed flowers in their graves.

Scotland may have been part of a Late Bronze Age maritime trading culture called the Atlantic Bronze Age that also included the other Celtic nations, England, France, Spain and Portugal.

Roman influence:

The written protohistory of Scotland began with the arrival of the Roman Empire in southern and central Great Britain, when the Romans occupied what is now England and Wales, administering it as a province called Britannia. Roman invasions and occupations of southern Scotland were a series of brief interludes.

According to the Roman historian Tacitus, the Caledonians "turned to armed resistance on a large scale", attacking Roman forts and skirmishing with their legions. In a surprise night-attack, the Caledonians very nearly wiped out the whole 9th Legion until it was saved by Agricola's cavalry.

In AD 83–84 the general Gnaeus Julius Agricola defeated the Caledonians at the Battle of Mons Graupius. Before the battle Tacitus wrote that the Caledonian leader Calgacus, gave a rousing speech in which he called his people the "last of the free" and accused the Romans of "making the world a desert and calling it peace". After the Roman victory Roman forts were briefly set along the Gask Ridge close to the Highland line (only Cawdor near Inverness is known to have been constructed beyond that line). Three years after the battle the Roman armies had withdrawn to the Southern Uplands.

The Romans erected Hadrian's Wall to control tribes on both sides of the wall, and the Limes Britannicus became the northern border of the empire, although the army held the Antonine Wall in the Central Lowlands for two short periods—the last of these during the time of Emperor Septimius Severus from 208 until 210.

The Roman military occupation of a significant part of northern Scotland only lasted about 40 years, although their influence on the southern section of the country, occupied by Brythonic tribes such as the Votadini and Damnonii, would still have been considerable between the first and fifth centuries. The Welsh term Hen Ogledd ("Old North") is used by scholars to describe the North of England and South of Scotland during its habitation by Brythonic speaking people around AD 500 to 800. In the 400s, Gaels from Ireland established the kingdom of Dál Riata.

Medieval period

The Kingdom of the Picts (based in Fortriu by the 6th century) was the state that eventually became known as "Alba" or "Scotland". The development of "Pictland", according to the historical model developed by Peter Heather, was a natural response to Roman imperialism. Another view places emphasis on the Battle of Dun Nechtain, and the reign of Bridei m. Beli (671–693), with another period of consolidation in the reign of Óengus mac Fergusa (732–761).

The Kingdom of the Picts as it was in the early 8th century, when Bede was writing, was largely the same as the kingdom of the Scots in the reign of Alexander (1107–1124). However, by the tenth century, the Pictish kingdom was dominated by what we can recognise as Gaelic culture, and had developed a traditional story of an Irish conquest around the ancestor of the contemporary royal dynasty, Cináed mac Ailpín (Kenneth MacAlpin).

From a base of territory in eastern Scotland north of the River Forth and south of the River Oykel, the kingdom acquired control of the lands lying to the north and south. By the 12th century, the kings of Alba had added to their territories the English-speaking land in the south-east and attained overlordship of Gaelic-speaking Galloway and Norse-speaking Caithness; by the end of the 13th century, the kingdom had assumed approximately its modern borders. However, processes of cultural and economic change beginning in the 12th century ensured Scotland looked very different in the later Middle Ages.

The impetus for this change was the reign of King David I and the Davidian Revolution. Feudalism, government reorganisation and the first legally recognised towns (called burghs) began in this period. These institutions and the immigration of French and Anglo-French knights and churchmen facilitated cultural osmosis, whereby the culture and language of the low-lying and coastal parts of the kingdom's original territory in the east became, like the newly acquired south-east, English-speaking, while the rest of the country retained the Gaelic language, apart from the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland, which remained under Norse rule until 1468. The Scottish state entered a largely successful and stable period between the 12th and 14th centuries, there was relative peace with England, trade and educational links were well developed with the Continent and at the height of this cultural flowering John Duns Scotus was one of Europe's most important and influential philosophers.

The death of Alexander III in March 1286, followed by that of his granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway, broke the centuries-old succession line of Scotland's kings and shattered the 200 year golden age that began with King David I. Edward I of England was asked to arbitrate between claimants for the Scottish crown, and he organised a process known as the Great Cause to identify the most legitimate claimant. John Balliol was pronounced king in the Great Hall of Berwick Castle on 17 November 1292 and inaugurated at Scone on 30 November, St. Andrew's Day. Edward I, who had coerced recognition as Lord Paramount of Scotland, the feudal superior of the realm, steadily undermined John's authority. In 1294 Balliol and other Scottish lords refused Edward's demands to serve in his army against the French. Instead the Scottish parliament sent envoys to France to negotiate an alliance. Scotland and France sealed a treaty on 23 October 1295, that came to be known as the Auld Alliance (1295–1560). War ensued and King John was deposed by Edward who took personal control of Scotland. Andrew Moray and William Wallace initially emerged as the principal leaders of the resistance to English rule in what became known as the Wars of Scottish Independence (1296–1328).

The nature of the struggle changed significantly when Robert the Bruce, Earl of Carrick, killed rival John Comyn on 10 February 1306 at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries. He was crowned king (as Robert I) less than seven weeks later. Robert I battled to restore Scottish Independence as King for over 20 years, beginning by winning Scotland back from the Norman English invaders piece by piece. Victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 proved that the Scots had regained control of their kingdom. In 1315 Edward Bruce, brother of the King, was briefly appointed High King of Ireland during an ultimately unsuccessful Scottish invasion of Ireland aimed at strengthening Scotland's position in its wars against England. In 1320 the world's first documented declaration of independence, the Declaration of Arbroath, won the support of Pope John XXII, leading to the legal recognition of Scottish sovereignty by the English Crown.

However, war with England continued for several decades after the death of Bruce, and a civil war between the Bruce dynasty and their long-term Comyn-Balliol rivals lasted until the middle of the 14th century. Although the Bruce dynasty was successful, David II's lack of an heir allowed his nephew Robert II to come to the throne and establish the Stuart Dynasty. The Stewarts ruled Scotland for the remainder of the Middle Ages. The country they ruled experienced greater prosperity from the end of the 14th century through the Scottish Renaissance to the Reformation. The Education Act of 1496 made Scotland the first country since Sparta in classical Greece to implement a system of general public education. This was despite continual warfare with England, the increasing division between Highlands and Lowlands, and a large number of royal minorities.

This period was the height of the Franco-Scottish alliance. The Scots Guard – la Garde Écossaise – was founded in 1418 by Charles VII of France. The Scots soldiers of the Garde Écossaise fought alongside Joan of Arc against England during the Hundred Years War. In March 1421 a Franco-Scots force under John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Buchan, and Gilbert de Lafayette, defeated a larger English army at the Battle of Baugé. Three years later, at the Battle of Verneuil, the Scots lost around 6000 men, but the Scottish intervention bought France valuable time and likely saved the country from defeat.

Early modern era:

In 1502, James IV of Scotland signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace with Henry VII of England. He also married Henry's daughter, Margaret Tudor, setting the stage for the Union of the Crowns. For Henry, the marriage into one of Europe's most established monarchies gave legitimacy to the new Tudor royal line. A decade later James made the fateful decision to invade England in support of France under the terms of the Auld Alliance. He was the last British monarch to die in battle, at the Battle of Flodden. Within a generation the Auld Alliance was ended by the Treaty of Edinburgh. France agreed to withdraw all land and naval forces and in the same year, 1560, the revolution of John Knox achieved its ultimate goal of convincing the Scottish parliament to revoke papal authority in Scotland. Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic and former queen of France, was forced to abdicate in 1567.

In 1603, James VI, King of Scots inherited the throne of the Kingdom of England, and became King James I of England, and left Edinburgh for London.[63] With the exception of a short period under the Protectorate, Scotland remained a separate state, but there was considerable conflict between the crown and the Covenanters over the form of church government. The Glorious Revolution of 1688–89 saw the overthrow of the King James II of England by the English Parliament in favour of William and Mary. As late as the 1690s, Scotland experienced famine, which reduced the population of parts of the country by at least 20 percent.

In 1698, the Scots attempted an ambitious project to secure a trading colony on the Isthmus of Panama. Almost every Scottish landowner who had money to spare is said to have invested in the Darien scheme. Its failure bankrupted these landowners, but not the burghs, which remained cash rich. Nevertheless, the nobles' bankruptcy, along with the threat of an English invasion, played a leading role in convincing the Scots elite to back a union with England.

On 22 July 1706, the Treaty of Union was agreed between representatives of the Scots Parliament and the Parliament of England and the following year twin Acts of Union were passed by both parliaments to create the united Kingdom of Great Britain with effect from 1 May 1707.

18th century:

With trade tariffs with England now abolished, trade blossomed, especially with Colonial America. The clippers belonging to the Glasgow Tobacco Lords were the fastest ships on the route to Virginia. Until the American War of Independence in 1776, Glasgow was the world's premier tobacco port, dominating world trade. The disparity between the wealth of the merchant classes of the Scottish Lowlands and the ancient clans of the Scottish Highlands grew, amplifying centuries of division.

The deposed Jacobite Stuart claimants had remained popular in the Highlands and north-east, particularly amongst non-Presbyterians. However, two major Jacobite risings launched in 1715 and 1745 failed to remove the House of Hanover from the British throne. The threat of the Jacobite movement to the United Kingdom and its monarchs effectively ended at the Battle of Culloden, Great Britain's last pitched battle. This defeat paved the way for large-scale removals of the indigenous populations of the Highlands and Islands, known as the Highland Clearances.

The Scottish Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution made Scotland into an intellectual, commercial and industrial powerhouse. So much so that Voltaire said "We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation." With the demise of Jacobitism and the advent of the Union thousands of Scots, mainly Lowlanders, took up numerous positions of power in politics, civil service, the army and navy, trade, economics, colonial enterprises and other areas across the nascent British Empire. Historian Neil Davidson notes that “after 1746 there was an entirely new level of participation by Scots in political life, particularly outside Scotland.” Davidson also states that “far from being ‘peripheral’ to the British economy, Scotland – or more precisely, the Lowlands – lay at its core.”

19th century:

Scotland became known across the world for its excellence in engineering, as typified by the Clyde built ships and locomotives built in Glasgow. Prefabricated cast iron buildings made in Scotland are still in use in India, South America and Australia. Prominent scientists, engineers and architects of the industrial age included David Dale, Joseph Black, Thomas Telford, Robert Stevenson, James Watt, James Nasmyth, Robert Adam and John MacAdam.

Scottish diaspora:

Scots born migrants also played a leading role in the foundation and principles of the United States (John Witherspoon, John Paul Jones, Andrew Carnegie, John Muir), Canada (John A MacDonald, James Murray, Tommy Douglas), Australia (Lachlan Macquarie, Thomas Brisbane, Andrew Fisher), and New Zealand (James Mckenzie, Peter Fraser)

20th century

First and Second World Wars:

Scotland played a major role in the British effort in the First World War. It especially provided manpower, ships, machinery, fish and money. With a population of 4.8 million in 1911, Scotland sent over half a million men to the war, of whom over a quarter died in combat or from disease, and 150,000 were seriously wounded. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, was Britain's commander on the Western Front.

The war saw the emergence of a radical movement called "Red Clydeside" led by militant trades unionists. Formerly a Liberal stronghold, the industrial districts switched to Labour by 1922, with a base among the Irish Catholic working class districts. Women were especially active in building neighbourhood solidarity on housing issues. However, the "Reds" operated within the Labour Party and had little influence in Parliament and the mood changed to passive despair by the late 1920s.

The shipbuilding industry expanded by a third and expected renewed prosperity, but instead a serious depression hit the economy by 1922 and it did not fully recover until 1939. The interwar years were marked by economic stagnation in rural and urban areas, and high unemployment. Indeed, the war brought with it deep social, cultural, economic, and political dislocations. Thoughtful Scots pondered their declension, as the main social indicators such as poor health, bad housing, and long-term mass unemployment, pointed to terminal social and economic stagnation at best, or even a downward spiral. Service abroad on behalf of the Empire lost its allure to ambitious young people, who left Scotland permanently. The heavy dependence on obsolescent heavy industry and mining was a central problem, and no one offered workable solutions. The despair reflected what Finlay (1994) describes as a widespread sense of hopelessness that prepared local business and political leaders to accept a new orthodoxy of centralized government economic planning when it arrived during the Second World War.

The Second World War brought renewed prosperity, despite extensive bombing of cities by the Luftwaffe. It saw the invention of radar by Robert Watson-Watt, which was invaluable in the Battle of Britain as was the leadership at RAF Fighter Command of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding.

Since 1945:

After 1945, Scotland's economic situation became progressively worse due to overseas competition, inefficient industry, and industrial disputes. Only in recent decades has the country enjoyed something of a cultural and economic renaissance. Economic factors that have contributed to this recovery include a resurgent financial services industry, electronics manufacturing, (see Silicon Glen), and the North Sea oil and gas industry. The introduction in 1989 by Margaret Thatcher's government of the Community Charge (widely known as the Poll Tax) one year before the rest of the United Kingdom, contributed to a growing movement for a return to direct Scottish control over domestic affairs. Following a referendum on devolution proposals in 1997, the Scotland Act 1998 was passed by the United Kingdom Parliament to establish a devolved Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government with responsibility for most laws specific to Scotland.

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