How to Plan a Trip to England, Ireland and Scotland

How To Plan A Trip To England, Ireland And Scotland

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Thinking of visiting England, Ireland and Scotland but don’t know where to start when it comes to planning? This guide will help you put together a fuss-free trip. 

When it comes to preparing for a trip, especially to three countries, there are so many different things to keep in mind – what to do, where to go, accommodation, how you’re going to get around… the list goes on. To make it easier for you, I’ve put together a guide to organising your travels around England, Ireland and Scotland.

Keep reading for the ins and outs on planning a trip to England, Ireland and Scotland.

England

England truly has it all – charming little villages, thriving cities, dramatic coastline and expansive countryside. There’s also plenty of history, culture and heritage to explore everywhere you go. 

Planning What to Do & Where to Go

Many people make the mistake of going to England and only visiting London. There is so much more to England and if you take the time to explore it, you’ll find plenty of fascinating history and culture. 

Cities

Kat in Kingly Court
Kat nearly Kingley Court

England has some fantastic cities that offer plenty of things to see and do. You’ll find vibrant food and drink scenes, world-class attractions and cultural activities. In the South West, you have cities like Bath, Bristol, Plymouth and Exeter which offer history, cultural attractions and plenty of outdoor activities. In the South East, find super-cool Brighton, historic Oxford and nautical Portsmouth.

Towards the East of the country, you’ll find the famous Cambridge, home to the world’s fourth oldest university. Although it doesn’t get as many tourists as southern cities, Central England and the Midlands has some exciting cities to visit. It’s home to England’s second largest city, Birmingham, where you’ll find Victorian architecture and heritage museums. Head to Lincoln for the medieval Cathedral Quarter, and Nottingham for the famous Robin Hood trail.

It’s definitely worth visiting the North of England. In the North West, there is the Roman city of Chester, vibrant Manchester and cultural Liverpool. In the North East, find cities like Leeds, Newcastle, York and Durham, all offering a mix of history, culture, food and drink, museums and sports.

But despite how amazing the rest of England is, London is still a fantastic place to visit. It’s a vibrant, world-class city with a lot going on. London is made up of many different neighbourhoods, each with their own vibe.

The great thing about London is that there’s something for every kind of traveller. Whether you’re a backpacker or a luxury traveller, whether you’re into tourist sites or discovering history, you’re bound to find something up your alley.

Sometimes the best way to get a feel for a city is to get off the tourist trail and experience it the way locals would. Check out this guide to what to do in London as a local.

Countryside

Puzzlewood-Gloucestershire
Puzzlewood Gloucestershire

It wouldn’t be England without the rolling green hills, misty moors, forests and lakes. If you’re keen to get outdoors, England has plenty of forest and woodland walks.

England has 10 National Parks, each offering a beautiful diversity of landscapes. There are plenty of activities within these National Parks, including walking, hiking, horse riding, cycling, rock climbing, stargazing, sailing and water sports.

Whether it’s exploring dramatic caves in North Yorkshire, discovering beautiful lakes in the Lake District, or riding on heritage railways through different counties, England truly is a haven for lovers of the outdoors.

Coastal towns

While you wouldn’t necessarily think of England as a great destination to relax on the beach, you’d be surprised at how stunning some of the coastal areas are. England is home to some charming coastal towns and fishing villages, as well as exciting seaside resorts. No two parts of the English coast are the same, so wherever you go, you’re bound to find something different.

You’ll find some of the warmest spots around the South West, where counties like Cornwall, Dorset, Devon and Somerset boast warm weather, blue seas and family-friendly beaches. Thrill-chasers looking to experience a traditional English seaside holiday should visit Brighton, Scarborough, Blackpool, Weymouth, Margate, Falmouth, Southport and Tynemouth.

The beaches and coastal towns in England have plenty of activities, whether it’s arcades, coastal walks, fossil hunting or watersports. Not to mention the choice of fresh seafood on offer!

Some useful resources to help you plan:

  • Visit England is a really useful site. As the official tourist board for England, you’ll find a whole ton of information on places to visit, things to do and practical information and advice. What’s useful is that you can explore England by county, making it so much easier when putting together an itinerary. 
  • English Heritage is a charity that takes care of over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites all over the country. On their website, you can find information of the different places to visit throughout the country. If you’re interested in visiting a bunch of different historic sites, you can purchase an Overseas Visitors Pass which is better value for money than if you were to pay entry prices at each individual place. Valid at over 100 places, you can choose between 9 or 16 day passes. If you’re on a budget, you can also find a whole range of days out for under £20 for the whole family. 
  • National Trust is also an independent charity, focusing on environmental and heritage conservation. It owns over 500 heritage properties which include historic houses and gardens, social history sites and industrial monuments. On their website, you can find information about the range of days out, whether it’s outdoors, houses and buildings, or parks and gardens.
  • The National Trust also has a wide selection of accommodation, whether it’s campsites, holiday cottages, hotels or bothies and bunkhouses. Like English Heritage, you can also get an Overseas Visitors Pass which can save you money and time when visiting National Trust sites. You can purchase either a 7 or 14 day pass which gives you free entry to over 300 historic houses and gardens. 

How to Plan Accommodation 

If you’re visiting during the holiday season, it’s best to book your accommodation well in advance. England is a very popular tourist destination, with most tourists visiting during the summer months, which is between June and August. The peak season tends to peter out in September, so you may find more options around that time. 

When it comes to choice, you won’t find it difficult to find your dream accommodation. England has a great range of accommodation to suit every kind of budget and traveller, whether it’s hostels, B&Bs or luxury hotels. You can even find more unusual types of accommodation, such as castles, canal boats and farms. If you’re the outdoorsy type, you might even be interested in camping, caravanning or glamping (if the weather’s decent!).

Hostels

If you’re travelling on a budget, you might want to consider staying in hostels, as you can get some pretty good deals. Websites such as Hostelword and Hostelbookers are some of the best known sites. YHA is a charity that provides over 150 youth hostel accommodations in England and Wales. You can find high quality and low cost hostels, camping and glamping which are suitable for both families and backpackers. Here’s a general guide I put together to how much you should budget for a week in England.

Budget hotel chains

Budget hotel chains are always handy if you’re looking for comfortable and affordable accommodation. Some of the most common ones you’ll find throughout the country include Premier Inn, easyHotel, Holiday Inn Express, Ibis, Travelodge and Point A Hotels in London. 

Hotels

For anywhere mid-range to luxury, your best bet is to find accommodation using websites like Booking.com, Trivago, TripAdvisor, Agoda, Expedia and Kayak. If you’re the type of person to leave things to the last minute, LateRooms is great for finding last minute deals. 

Staying with locals

A large part of travelling is getting to know the country beyond its famous sights, meeting locals and immersing yourself in the culture. A great way to do this is by staying with locals. You get to know more about the country you’re visiting, and get precious insight to the best places to eat, drink, shop and hang out! There are paid accommodation sites like AirBnb and Homestay, but you can also find free accommodation on sites like Couchsurfing and Trustroots. 

Camping, glamping and caravanning

During the warmer months, it’s pretty fun to camp in England. The country is a treasure trove of camp spots, whether you head into the remote woods, set up your campervan by the beach or load up your touring caravan and bring your whole family to a holiday park. There are some very helpful websites you can use to find campsites throughout the country, including Camping in the Forest, Pitchup and Campsites.

How to Plan your Arrival 

If you plan on arriving in London, it might be useful to point out that London has six airports (London City, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton, London Stansted and London Southend). All of these airports are well connected to central London. 

If you’re planning on being based in the North, then the best airport is Manchester Airport. As the main international gateway for the north of England, you can easily get to anywhere in the North from here. The airport has a coach and train station with links to other major northern cities. 

If you’re arriving from Europe, you may consider arriving by Eurostar. Travelling through the Channel Tunnel, you’ll arrive at St Pancras International in London. 

Planning Travel Logistics 

First things first, we need to talk safety. In this guide I put together, you can read up on why getting travel insurance for your trip to the UK is a good idea. 

Now that we’ve got the boring stuff out of the way, let’s get travelling! A great thing about England is that it’s so easy to get around. To give you an idea of the places you can see, have a read of this guide to the best places to visit in England without a car.

If you’re going to be spending time in London, then Transport for London (TfL) is the main transport network you’ll encounter. Whether you use buses, the Tube or the Overground, London is well-connected and in general, you get anywhere within the hour. To get into stations and on buses, you can tap your contactless card to pay.

Alternatively, you can get an Oyster card and top it up with credit, which you then tap at the pay points. There’s also the option of getting an Oyster Visitor card which is a quick and easy way to pay for travel. It’s convenient because you can get it delivered straight to you before you even arrive in England.

The great thing about London is that it’s super easy to get around on foot. Walking is one of the best ways to take a city in and to soak up the atmosphere. If you plan on doing a lot of walking while in London, check out this guide to the best places to stay in London for walking

Trains

England has a great rail network. While it’s considerably more expensive than other countries in Europe, there are fantastic connections and they do generally run on time. Trains are one of the easiest ways to get around the country. It’s also a scenic and relaxing way to discover England. Why not find some inspiration with this guide to the best places to visit in England by train.

To book tickets, I would recommend using Trainline. It’s an independent ticketing platform where you can search train times and buy tickets. Be aware that individual train companies like TransPennine Express and LNER can sometimes have flash sales, so it’s worth checking their websites.

Coaches

If you’re on a budget and aren’t pressed for time, I would suggest using coaches to get around. They’re so much cheaper than trains, and you can still get to major cities around the country. However, they don’t generally go to smaller towns so you’ll need to use local public transport connections if you do plan on going a little more rural. 

There are two main coach companies that operate in England: National Express and Megabus. National Express has a nationwide network of over 1,200 destinations. Megabus links 90 locations around the UK, and even offers tickets from as little as £1! 

A transport tip for budget friendly travellers is to book in advance. Anything up to two weeks in advance (especially on trains) can save you a significant amount of cash. 

Car hire

Hiring a car is a great way of getting round, especially if you’re travelling with younger family members or plan on visiting remote, rural areas. Some of the most popular car hire companies are Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar and Sixt. If you want to shop around first, websites like Kayak and Travel Supermarket are handy when it comes to comparing different companies to get the best deals.

Ireland & Northern Ireland

Kat at Giants Causeway
Kat at Giants Causeway

Ah, the Emerald Isle. Not to be confused with Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland is a country independent to the UK. This green, friendly island attracts millions of people each year to experience the breathtaking scenery and magical culture. 

Planning What to Do & Where to Go  

Ireland and Northern Ireland have a variety of places to visit, whether it’s landmarks, vibrant cities, mountains, beaches and countryside. 

Cities

It goes without saying that no visit to Ireland is complete without a trip to Dublin. This rowdy city is home to Guinness-fuelled pubs, beautiful Georgian architecture and exciting attractions. Whether you’re looking to live it up at Temple Bar, learn how Guinness is made at the Guinness Storehouse, delve into history at Dublin Castle and Malahide Castle or relax at the National Botanic Gardens, there is plenty to do here.

You can also take a trip to Cork, Ireland’s second largest city. This lively, fun-loving city has tons of coffee shops, traditional pubs and historic attractions. Another must-see city is Galway City. Once a Medieval trading port, this city is an artsy, bohemian destination with plenty of history to explore. Although tourists don’t tend to visit Limerick, it’s worth stopping by if you’re interested in castles, cathedrals and museums. It’s also a fabulous place for foodies, with a great selection of artisan food markets and street food. 

Belfast is definitely a hidden jewel of the UK. The city and country has had a turbulent past, called the troubles but now that has settled it has allowed the country to grow. The city became popular to visit after Game of Thrones! I highly recommend visiting Crown Liquor Saloon, grabbing some food at St Georges Market, enjoying the nightlife in Cathedral quarter and wandering around the Botanic Gardens.

Countryside

Ireland is known for its breathtaking vistas and natural wonders. If there’s only one thing you do in Ireland, make sure you head out into the countryside. An entire list of beauty spots would be exhaustive, but a good place to start is National Parks. Ireland is home to six National Parks, each offering stunning views, lakes, mountains, woodlands and wildlife. Visit any of them and you won’t be disappointed.

One of the country’s most famous natural attractions, the Cliffs of Moher, stretch for five miles along the west coast of Ireland, and reach up to 702 feet high in some parts. Let’s just say the views from here are inconceivable. If you’re feeling up for a challenge, take a boat ride out to Skellig Michael.

This towering, emerald green island is home to the remains of a 6th century monastery – but you’ll have to climb the 600-step staircase to get there! If you fancy a scenic drive, the Ring of Kerry is a must. The trail runs through 120 miles of southwestern Ireland’s most incredible landscapes. As well as glacial lakes, lush meadows and rugged mountains, the trail also passes iconic landmarks like the Beara Peninsula and the Kerry Way. 

Coastal towns

With over 1,450km of coastline surrounding the island, there’s bound to be some fantastic coastal destinations. If you want to visit the seaside but don’t want to travel too far from Dublin, the beautiful little town of Skerries is a great place to visit. With pastel coloured shops and cafes along the seafront, stunning scenic walks and a variety of watersports, it’s an ideal place for a quick day trip.

Tramore is a seaside village in County Waterford that has become one of Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations – and for good reason. Take a stroll along the promenade, or relax on the 5km stretch of beach and sand dunes. There are plenty of leisure activities for the whole family to enjoy, including surfing, horse riding and visiting sites like Reginald’s Tower.

If you’re travelling with your family, you might consider visiting Enniscrone in County Sligo. This small seaside town has sandy beaches and campsites, and is popular with families. Try adrenaline-fuelled activities like surfing or horseback riding, or unwind in the Enniscrone Seaweed Baths. 

Some useful resources to help you plan:

  • Ireland.com is the official tourism website for the country. It’s a really handy tool that you’ll want to keep referring to on your trip. There is information on different destinations in the country and things to do depending on what you’re interested in (eg. cycling, food and drink, sports, literature).
  • If you’re not really sure where exactly you want to go, or if you’re interested in seeing a bit of everything, they’re even put together different trip ideas where you can journey through the most beautiful parts of Ireland. Whether you’re after culture, coastal views, film locations, or want to get off the beaten track, you’ll find something to suit your interests. There’s even a Game of Thrones trip where you can visit the different filming spots! On the website, you can also find a range of accommodation, and get help and advice about travelling within Ireland. 
  • Discover Ireland is another great site that you should take advantage of. This website is geared towards things to do, and you’ll find activities grouped by theme, for example cities, surfing and cruises, as well as Viking Adventures, Medieval Mysteries and Mighty Kingdoms. If you’re interested in exploring the country by region, you’ll find a guide to different areas, including Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Dublin.

How to Plan Accommodation 

Like England, Ireland’s peak season is in the summer months, which is between mid-June and mid-September. If you’re visiting during this time, I’d recommend you book your accommodation well in advance to avoid any disappointment. If you want to avoid the tourist crowds but still want to catch some of the good weather, it’s a good idea to visit during the shoulder season which is April, May, early June and early October. Plus, prices tend to be cheaper around this time so you may bag some great deals. 

Ireland offers a wide variety of accommodation for every kind of budget and traveller. From hostels and budget hotels for the cash conscious traveller, to staying in local homes and sleeping on the road.

Hostels 

If you’re on a budget, then you may want to stay in a hostel. Aside from saving money, staying in hostels also allows you to meet like minded travellers and make new friends! 

You’ll find plenty of choice on websites like Hostelworld and Hostelbookers. Additionally, you can try independent sites like Hostels Ireland, or Independent Hostels Ireland. An Óige is the Irish Youth Hostel Association. They have 22 youth hostels located around the country that offer safe and comfortable accommodation for families, groups and individuals of all ages. 

Budget hotel chains

If you’re the kind of traveller who is out exploring all day and only comes back to the hotel to sleep, then you may want to consider staying at a budget hotel. They’re comfortable and affordable, and are usually quite centrally located. You’ll find the same budget hotel chains in Ireland as you would in England: Premier Inn, easyHotel, Holiday Inn Express, Ibis and Travelodge.

Hotels

To experience the delightful Irish hospitality, there is a huge choice of hotels to stay at, from one star to five stars. The easiest way to find hotels is by using accommodation booking websites like Booking.com, Trivago, TripAdvisor, Agoda, Expedia and Kayak. Ireland Hotels is also pretty useful as it gives you advice and information based on region, type of accommodation and type of holiday. 

Staying with locals

The Irish are a friendly bunch, and a great way to get to know them better is by staying with them. Sites like AirBnb and Homestay let you find paid accommodation where you can stay with an Irish host. If you’re on a tight budget, you can try websites like Couchsurfing and Trustroots where you can stay for free.

Camping, glamping and caravanning

As Ireland is full of stunning natural spots, it makes sense to camp if you can. Bring your tent, touring caravan or motorhome to experience the freedom of Ireland’s landscape. To find campsites, use websites like EuroCampings and Pitchup.

For something a little fancier, try glamping. Ireland Glamping is a handy tool to find the best glamping spots around the country. If you enjoy the freedom of camping and caravanning but prefer something a little comfier, self-catering accommodation could be the right choice for you. Imagine Ireland have a fantastic choice of holiday cottages all around the country. 

How to Plan your Arrival 

Before arriving in Ireland, you should take into consideration where you would like to arrive and where you’ll be spending the most time. Ireland has five international airports: Dublin Airport on the east coast, Cork Airport on the south coast, Shannon Airport on the west coast, Knock Airport in the North West and Belfast Airport in Northern Ireland.  

If you’re arriving from Scotland, England or Wales, there is also the option to take a ferry. The main Dublin ferry port offers the most convenient location. It also has great connections to the M1 motorway if you wish to travel up North. If you’re planning on travelling further south of the country, Dublin’s second ferry port of Dun Laoghaire is located in the southern suburbs near Blackrock. It’s also the better choice if you want to avoid the traffic of central Dublin. 

Planning Travel Logistics 

Ireland’s compact size means it doesn’t take long to get around the island. In fact, driving across the country from Dublin to Galway only takes two and a half hours which makes the perfect place if you’re on a tight schedule. As well as driving, you can also travel around by boat, train and coach.

Boats

Ireland is home to numerous islands, rivers, lakes and canals which are worth exploring by boat. Most of the islands can be visited by ferry, depending on the weather. Some ferry companies only operate seasonally between June and August, so make sure to check timetables in advance! 

Trains

Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) is the main rail network in Ireland. It’s not very extensive, and only serves larger cities and major towns. If you’re planning on travelling to rural, remote areas, I’d recommend using the local bus services instead. If you decide you’ll be travelling by train, you may want to consider using Iarnród Éireann’s Explorer Tickets which give you different travel options and cheaper deals. If you’re spending most of your time in Dublin, I’d recommend purchasing a Dublin Explorer Ticket for the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit), the electric rail system that lets you get around Dublin quickly and easily. 

Coaches

Getting around Ireland by coach is a great way to take in all the sights. Bus Éireann is the main coach company in Ireland and has routes all around the island. There are also many private coach tour operators which run city to city trips, airport transfers and themed trips. There are numerous tour companies in Ireland that going through them all would be exhausting. Tourradar makes it easier to decide as you can filter by age range, price, destination and duration. 

Car hire

The best way to get outdoors and see the rural side of Ireland is by car. You’ll have more luck finding car hire companies in airports and cities. There are different options when it comes to booking, including travel booking sites like Kayak and direct websites like Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, Six, Europcar and Budget. If you prefer to shop local, choose the Irish owned Irish Car Rentals. 

Scotland

There’s a lot more to Scotland than haggis, bagpipes and the Loch Ness Monster. Scotland is full of historical attractions, cultural experiences and breathtaking natural beauty. Whether you want to explore the cities or head out into the wilderness, this country offers something for everyone. 

Planning What to Do & Where to Go  

highland cow in Isle of Skye, Scotland

Cities

Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city and one of the top spots for tourists. To immerse yourself in history, head into the Medieval old town and discover sites like Edinburgh Castle and Mary Kings Close. Hike up Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano boasting panoramic views over the city. Make sure to visit Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city.

If you’re a shopaholic then you’ll feel right at home here, as it’s known for being a great shopping destination. Glasgow also has a fantastic music scene (with a status as UNESCO City of Music) with plenty of music venues each offering something different. Dundee is another fabulous city, and is the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design. All year round there are exciting events, including the Jazz Festival and Scotland’s biggest food festival.

Its compact streets are packed with treasures like old bookshops, artisan cafes and architectural delights. Believe it or not, Scotland does get its fair share of sun, although most of it seems to shine down on Aberdeen. Regularly named the UK’s sunniest city, Aberdeen is the best place to spend some time if you’re looking for a mix between city and outdoor activities. With beautiful beaches dotting its coastline, it’s an ideal place for a relaxing getaway.

Heading further north you’ll find Inverness, a cathedral city in the Scottish Highlands. It’s the perfect base if you’re going to be exploring Scotland’s magnificent outdoors. But the city itself doesn’t disappoint. With a vibrant culinary scene, fantastic shopping opportunities, and art, history and heritage events and festivals. 

Countryside

Renowned for its mountains, lochs and glens, Scotland truly is a special place when it comes to the outdoors. A definite must is a trip to the Scottish Highlands. This mountainous region in northwest Scotland boasts majestic views and wild scenery everywhere you look.

Go in search of the famous Loch Ness Monster, or follow in Harry Potter’s footsteps on the West Highland Line across the Glenfinnan Viaduct. If it’s castles you’re after, Eilian Donan Castle is arguably the most iconic and photogenic castle in Scotland. There’s also the fairytale Dunrobin Castle, Ardvreck Castle, Cawdor Castle and Castle Varrich, to name a few.

If you’re a serious climber, why not challenge yourself to hike up Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest peak. Scotland has two National Parks – Cairngorms National Park and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. You’ll find plenty of walking routes for all abilities, as well as other activities like cycling, rock climbing, mountain biking, pony trekking and even skiing! If you have the time, you should consider taking a trip to the Isle of Skye. With incredible spots like The Storr and Quiraing, the island is just full of epic landscapes. 

Coastal towns

Scotland isn’t a place that screams beach destination, think again. This country has numerous seaside towns and villages that offer beautiful views, exciting activities and rest and relaxation. Plockton, also known as the ‘Jewel of the Highlands’ is a picturesque Highland village set on the shores of Loch Carron Bay.

There are many water activities to get involved with, as well as cycling and hiking. Or if you just feel like relaxing, the harbour is a peaceful place to sit and watch the boats and come and go. Aberdour is a lovely seaside town in Fife. Featuring two beaches, a harbour, a 13th century castle, a golf course and plenty of shops and cafes, the town is a great place to bring the family.

For somewhere with a little more going on, head to North Berwick which isn’t too far from Edinburgh. From fancy hotels and spas, to restaurants and funky coffee shops, the lively town has plenty to keep everyone occupied. Relax on the sand and enjoy views across the water to Bass Rock, an island described by David Attenborough as “one of the 12 wildlife wonders of the world”. 

Some useful resources to help you plan:

  • Visit Scotland is the official website of Scotland’s national tourist board. The website is an incredibly useful tool when planning your trip to Scotland, as it has information on pretty much everything you need. There are sections on all the top destinations, as well as interactive maps which make it easier to plan your itinerary. Things to see and do are divided into different categories, from ancestry and castles, to film locations and island hopping.
  • You can also find information based on the type of holiday you’re interested in, whether it’s budget stays, city breaks, family breaks or romantic breaks. If you’re pressed for time (or need a little help), the website also has a bunch of itineraries ready to go. There are itineraries for every part of the country and to suit every interest. There is also information on different types of accommodation, as well as practical resources like how to get there and getting around the country. 
  • Scotland.org is another helpful tool. It’s more generalised than Visit Scotland, and also has information on working, studying and living in the country. However, the Visit section is really useful, and has a lot of information that can help you put together a great trip. Find inspiration on things to do, or whet your appetite with the inside scoop on the food and drink scene. You can also find out about the different kinds of accommodation and essential information about getting around the country. 

How to Plan Accommodation 

Like England and Ireland, Scotland’s peak season is in the summer months when the weather is warmest, from July to August. If you’re visiting during the summer, then try to book your accommodation well in advance to avoid any disappointment. Having said that, the best time to actually visit Scotland is in spring (between May and June) and autumn (between September and October). This is when the weather is most likely to be dry and pleasant, plus you won’t have to deal with huge crowds of tourists. 

Scotland offers a wide variety of accommodation so you’re bound to find your dream stay. Whether you’re on a budget and in need of a hostel, or whether you want to make the most of the Scottish Highlands, there’s something for everyone. 

Hostels

It’s really easy to find a hostel in Scotland. Plus, they’re not just for the young. Hostels welcome everyone including solo travellers, groups, families and backpackers. You’ll find plenty of choice on websites like Hostelworld and Hostelbookers. You can also try Hostelling Scotland, a non-profit charity who have been welcoming visitors in 1931!

Budget hotel chains

If you want to level up from hostels but don’t want to spend too much, budget hotel chains are your best bet. Scotland has the same hotel chains as England and Ireland, including Premier Inn, easyHotel, Holiday Inn Express, Ibis and Travelodge. 

Hotels

There is a huge choice of hotels in Scotland which range from one star to five stars. The easiest way to find hotels is by using accommodation booking websites like Booking.com, Trivago, TripAdvisor, Agoda, Expedia and Kayak. 

Staying with locals

The Scots have a reputation for being some of the friendliest bunch in Britain. So what better way to get to know them than to stay in their homes with them? Sites like AirBnb and Homestay are great for finding local hosts you can stay with. If you’re on a tight budget, check out websites like Couchsurfing and Trustroots where you can stay with people for free.

Camping, glamping and caravanning

Scotland is a playground for camping enthusiasts. Camping is permitted on most unenclosed land, so bring your tent, touring caravan or motorhome and enjoy Scotland’s natural landscapes. Plus, it’s a good option if you’re on a budget! To find campsites, use websites like Pitchup where you can find campsites with facilities like showers and kitchens. 

Glamping is also a fun option if you’re looking for something a little more comfortable than a sleeping bag. There are glamping spots all around Scotland, from forests to lakes to coasts. For somewhere that feels a little more homely, self-catering accommodation is a good choice for a home away from home. Embrace Scotland is a good site to find cottages around the country. 

How to Plan your Arrival 

Scotland has five international airports: Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Glasgow Prestwick and Inverness. The airports are all served by flights from European and long haul destinations. Glasgow Prestwick is the only airport which is served by its own station, but if you’re travelling to any of the others, there are numerous buses, coaches and taxis that you can get. 

If you’re arriving from England and Wales, you can also take a train. Glasgow and Edinburgh have frequent and direct services from London with operators like LNER, Avanti West Coast and the overnight sleeper services. If you’re arriving from other cities outside London, there are a number of services like Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry and First TransPennine Express. 

If you’re arriving from Ireland, there is also the option of taking a ferry which arrives in ports such as Cairnryan, Port Ellen and Campbeltown. All ferries take between one and two hours, depending on the route.

Planning Travel Logistics 

What I love about Scotland is that it’s a relatively small country, with most places being pretty accessible. Travelling to all the main tourist spots is pretty straightforward, and you’ll find that even getting to remote places isn’t all that difficult. 

Trains

Scotland has an extensive and well-developed train network. There are six main companies: ScotRail, LNER, CrossCountry, TransPennine Express, Avanti West Coast and the Caledonian Sleeper. Although there may seem like plenty of choice, it’s best to focus on the particular route you want to take rather than which company you want to travel with.

The best way to look up routes is by using Trainline, an independent ticketing platform. You can also look up coaches on the app. If you think you’ll be travelling by train a lot, it might be worth using a travel pass to save extra cash. ScotRail offers flexible travel passes depending on how far you want to go.

The Spirit of Scotland Travelpass gives you unlimited train travel within Scotland, and you can even use it on some buses and ferries. There is also the Highland Rover and Central Scotland Rover which offer unlimited train travel, as well as the Rail and Sail which combine train and ferry tickets. If you’re travelling in Glasgow, a cheap and efficient way to get around is by the ‘Clockwork Orange’, Scotland’s only subway. 

Coaches

A good way of saving money getting around is to travel by coach. Bear in mind that coaches take much longer than trains, but you can travel for a fraction of the price of a train ticket. To save the most money, make sure to book in advance to get the best deals. Scotland has the same coach companies as England: Megabus and National Express which have routes to all the major destinations in Scotland. 

Car hire

In my opinion, the best way to get around Scotland is by car. It gives you so much more freedom in visiting remote places, and you can set your own pace and stop wherever you like. Visit Scotland has a handy section on driving in Scotland, where you can read up on rules and get useful tips. Hiring a car in Scotland is pretty straightforward. Websites like Kayak and Travel Supermarket are great for comparing different companies. You can find all the same car hire companies like in England and Ireland: Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar and Sixt. 

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