Lonely Planet Scotland

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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Scotland is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Sip the water of life, whisky, in an ancient pub, trace the trails of the clanspeople fleeing Glen Coe, or play a round in St Andrew's, golf's spiritual home; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Scotland and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Scotland Travel Guide:

  • Full-colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - castles, lochs & mountains, islands, literature, food & drink, museums, culture, wildlife, the land
  • Free, convenient pull-out Edinburgh map (included in print version), plus over 50 colour maps
  • Covers Edinburgh, Glasgow, Highlands & Islands, Inverness & the Central Highlands, Orkney & Shetland and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Scotland , our most comprehensive guide to Scotland, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

Looking for a guide focused on the Highlands and Islands or Edinburgh? Check out Lonely Planet Scotland's Highlands and Islands guide for a comprehensive look at all these regions have to offer; or Pocket Edinburgh a handy-sized guide focused on the can't-miss sights for a quick trip.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every Scotland, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

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Edinburgh

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Pop 498,810

Edinburgh is a city that begs to be explored. From the vaults and wynds (narrow lanes) that riddle the Old Town to the urban villages of Stockbridge and Cramond, it’s filled with quirky, come-hither nooks that tempt you to walk just a little bit further. And every corner turned reveals sudden views and unexpected vistas – green sunlit hills, a glimpse of rust-red crags, a blue flash of distant sea.

But there’s more to Edinburgh than sightseeing – there are top shops, world-class restaurants and a bacchanalia of bars to enjoy. This is a city of pub crawls and impromptu music sessions, late-night drinking, all-night parties and wandering home through cobbled streets at dawn.

All these superlatives come together at festival time in August, when it seems as if half the world descends on Edinburgh for one enormous party. If you can possibly manage it, join them.

AMay Good weather (usually), flowers and cherry blos- som everywhere and (gasp!) no crowds.

 

Scotlands Museums

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Scotland’s rich culture and history are celebrated in countless museums, from internationally important collections to specialist exhibits such as the Grampian Transport Museum in Alford, and tiny museums such as Groam House Museum in Rosemarkie, with its carved Pictish stones.

The National Museum of Scotland is complemented by several other nationally important collections, including Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum and the Riverside Museum, a modern masterpiece celebrating transport, with a tall ship moored alongside. There are more things nautical at Dundee’s Discovery Point, a shrine to polar exploration, and Aberdeen’s superb Maritime Museum.

The culture and traditions of Scottish rural life come to the fore in places such as the Highland Folk Museum, where a farming township is re-created with historic buildings and demonstrations of traditional crafts. Other, smaller folk museums include the Glencoe Folk Museum and the Kildonan Museum (South Uist).

Each Scottish island has its own culture and identity. The hardy lifestyle of Hebridean crofters is told in the Arnol Blackhouse Museum in Lewis, and in the Skye Museum of Island Life in Trotternish, while the Norse influences of the Northern lsles is explored in the Stromness Museum and the Shetland Museum.

 

Glasgow

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Pop 596,500

Disarmingly blending sophistication and earthiness, Scotland's biggest city has evolved over the last couple of decades to become one of Britain's most intriguing metropolises.

The soberly handsome Victorian buildings, legacies of wealth generated from manufacturing and trade, suggest a staid sort of place. Very wrong. They are packed with stylish bars, top-notch restaurants and one of Britain's best live-music scenes. The place's sheer vitality is gloriously infectious: the combination of edgy urbanity and the residents' legendary friendliness is captivating.

Glasgow also offers plenty by day. Its shopping – whether you're looking for Italian fashion or pre-loved denim – is famous and there are top-drawer museums and galleries. Charles Rennie Mackintosh's sublime designs dot the city, which – always proud of its working-class background – also innovatively displays its industrial heritage.

Around the city are several worthwhile attractions. History beckons at Paisley and Blantyre, while exploring the Clyde's southern bank to the coast at Gourock also appeals.

 

Southern Scotland

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Though wise folk are well aware of its charms, for many people southern Scotland is just something to drive through on the way to northern Scotland. Big mistake. But it does mean you'll find breathing room here in summer, and peaceful corners.

Proximity to England brought raiding and strife; grim borderland fortifications saw skirmishes aplenty. There was loot to be had in the Borders, where large prosperous abbeys ruled over agricultural communities. Regularly ransacked before their destruction in the Reformation, the ruins of these churches, linked by cycling and walking paths, are among Scotland's most atmospheric historic sites.

The rolling west enjoys extensive forest cover between bustling market towns. The hills cascade down to sandy stretches of coastline blessed with Scotland's sunniest weather. It's the land of Robert Burns, whose verse reflected his earthy attitudes and active social life.

AMay Take a fortnight to cross the whole region, hiking the gorgeous Southern Upland Way.

 

Central Scotland

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The country's historic roots are deeply embedded in central Scotland. Key battles around Stirling shaped the nation's fortunes; significant castles from the region's history pepper the landscape; and Perth, the former capital, is where kings were crowned on the Stone of Destiny.

Arriving from Glasgow and Edinburgh, visitors begin to get a sense of the country further north as the Lowland scenery ramps up towards Highland splendour. It is here that the majesty of Scotland's landscape begins to unfold among woodlands and waterfalls, craggy hills and rushing rivers, with the silhouettes of soaring, sentinel-like peaks on the northern horizon.

Whether in the softly wooded country of lowland Perthshire or the green Fife coastline dotted with fishing villages, opportunities to enjoy the outdoors abound: walking, cycling and angling are all easy possibilities. The region also has some of the country's best pubs and restaurants, which greet weary visitors at day's end.

AMay A magical time to explore before summer crowds arrive, and to enjoy the cultural delights of the Perth Arts Festival.

 

Scottish Castles

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Scotland is home to more than 1000 castles, ranging from meagre 12th-century ruins to magnificent Victorian mansions. They all began with one purpose: to serve as fortified homes for the landowning aristocracy. But as society became more settled and peaceful, defensive features gave way to ostentatious displays of wealth and status.

Norman castles of the 12th century were mainly of the ‘motte-and-bailey’ type, consisting of earthwork mounds and timber palisades. The first wave of stonebuilt castles emerged in the 13th century, characterised by massive curtain walls up to 3m thick and 30m tall to withstand sieges, well seen at Dunstaffnage Castle and Caerlaverock Castle.

The appearance of the tower house in the 14th century marks the beginning of the development of the castle as a residence. Clan feuds, cattle raiders and wars between Scotland and England meant that local lords built fortified stone towers in which to live, from diminutive Smailholm Tower in the Borders to impressive Doune Castle near Stirling.

 

Northeast Scotland

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Many visitors pass by this corner of the country in their headlong rush to the tourist honeypots of Loch Ness and Skye. But they're missing out on a part of Scotland that's just as beautiful and diverse as the more obvious attractions of the west.

Within its bounds you'll find two of Scotland's four largest cities: Dundee, the city of jute, jam and journalism, cradle of some of Britain's favourite comic characters, and home to Captain Scott's Antarctic research ship, the Discovery; and Aberdeen, the granite city, an economic powerhouse fuelled by the riches of North Sea oil.

Angus is a region of rich farmland and scenic glens dotted with the mysterious stones left behind by the ancient Picts, while Aberdeenshire and Moray are home to the greatest concentration of Scottish Baronial castles in the country, and dozens of distilleries along the River Spey.

AJun/Jul Classic boats large and small fill Portsoy harbour for the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival.

 

Scotlands Islands

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Scotland’s sweeping array of islands – 790 at last count, around a hundred of which are inhabited – defines the country’s complex coastline. Ruins, from prehistoric religious centres to staunch castles, overlook landscapes where sheep crop lush grass, the scant remaining fisherfolk take on powerful seas, and urban professionals looking for a quieter life battle with unreliable wi-fi.

Though in the modern world these islands might seem remote outposts, Scotland’s complex geography has meant that, from Celts through to Vikings and the Lords of the Isles, transport, trade and power are intimately tied to the sea. Today’s lonely island stronghold was yesteryear’s hub of connections spreading right across western and northern Britain and beyond.

For the visitor, there’s bewildering scope. The once-Norse islands of Orkney and Shetland are Britain’s northernmost parts, while the Hebrides guard the west coast like a storm shield against the mighty Atlantic. The choice is yours: for scenic splendour with hills to climb and memorable walks you might choose spectacular Skye, diverse Mull, accessible Arran or lonely Jura. Neolithic villages, standing stones, evocative prehistoric monuments? Head to far-flung Orkney, Shetland or the Outer Hebrides. Abbeys, castles or stately homes? Magical Iona, Bute, Coll, Barra or Westray. Beaches? Pick Harris or Tiree. Birdlife? Unst, the Uists, Fair Isle, Noss, North Ronaldsay or Staffa. Whisky? It’s got to be Islay. A convivial pub, local seafood and a warm welcome? Take your pick of any and find yourself a snug cottage with a scent of the salty breeze and call it home for a day or three.

 

Southern Highlands & Islands

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The impossibly complex coastline of Scotland’s southwest harbours some of its most inspiring corners. Here, sea travel is key – dozens of ferries, happily now subsidised with cheaper fares, allow you to island-hop from the scenic splendour of Arran to majestic Mull or Tiree's lonely sands, via the whisky distilleries of Islay, the wild mountains of Jura, the scenic delights of diminutive Colonsay and Oban's sustainable seafood scene.

On fresh water too, passenger ferries, vintage steamboats, canoes and kayaks ply Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, a memorable concentration of scenic splendour that’s very accessible but possessed of a wild beauty.

Wildlife experiences are a highlight here, from the rasping spout of a minke whale to the 'krek-krek' of a corncrake. Spot otters tumbling in the kelp, watch sea eagles snatch fish from a lonely loch and thrill to the sight of dolphins riding the bow-wave of your boat.

AMay Fèis Ìle (Islay Festival) celebrates traditional Scottish music and whisky.

 

Inverness & the Central Highlands

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From the subarctic plateau of the Cairngorms to the rolling hills of Highland Perthshire and the rugged, rocky peaks of Glen Coe, the central mountain ranges of the Scottish Highlands are testimony to the sculpting power of ice and weather. Here the landscape is at its grandest, with soaring hills of rock and heather bounded by wooded glens and rushing waterfalls.

Not surprisingly, this part of the country is an adventure playground for outdoor-sports enthusiasts. Aviemore, Glen Coe and Fort William draw hill walkers and climbers in summer, and skiers, snowboarders and ice climbers in winter. Inverness, the Highland capital, provides urban rest and relaxation, while nearby Loch Ness and its elusive monster add a hint of mystery.

From Fort William, base camp for climbing Ben Nevis, the Road to the Isles leads past the beaches of Arisaig and Morar to Mallaig, jumping-off point for the isles of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna.

AApr–May Mountain scenery is at its most spectacular, with snow lingering on the higher peaks.

 

Lochs & Mountains

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Since the 19th century, when the first tourists started to arrive, the Scottish Highlands have been famed for their wild nature and majestic scenery, and today the country’s biggest draw remains its magnificent landscape. At almost every turn is a vista that will stop you in your tracks – keep your camera close at hand.

Scotland’s highest peak is a perennial magnet for hillwalkers and ice climbers, but it’s also one of the country’s most photographed mountains. The classic viewpoints for the Ben include Corpach Basin at the entrance to the Caledonian Canal, and the B8004 road between Banavie and Gairlochy, from where you can see the precipitous north face.

Scotland’s largest loch by volume (it contains more water than all the lakes in England and Wales added together) may be most famous for its legendary monster, but it is also one of Scotland’s most scenic. The minor road along the southeastern shore reveals a series of classic views.

From the Gaelic Sìdh Chailleann (Fairy Hill of the Caledonians), this is one of Scotland’s most distinctive mountains, its conical peak a prominent feature of views along Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch. It’s also one of the easier Munros, and a hike to the summit is rewarded with a superb panorama of hills and lochs.

 

Northern Highlands & Islands

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Scotland’s vast and melancholy soul is here: an epic land with a stark beauty that indelibly imprints the hearts of those who journey through the mist and mountains, rock and heather. Long, sun-blessed summer evenings are the pay-off for so many days of horizontal rain. It’s simply magical.

Stone tells stories throughout. The chambered cairns of Caithness and structures of the Western Isles are testament to the skills of prehistoric builders; cragtop castles and broken walls of abandoned crofts tell of the Highlands' turbulent history.

Outdoors is the place to be, whatever the weather; there’s nothing like comparing windburn or mud-ruined boots over a well-deserved dram by the crackling fire of a Highland pub. The landscape lends itself to activity, from woodland strolls to thrilling mountain-bike descents, from sea-kayaking to Munro-bagging, from beachcombing to birdwatching. Best are the locals, big-hearted and straight-talking; make it your business to get to know them.

 

Orkney & Shetland

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Up here at Britain's top end it can feel more Scandinavian than Scottish, and no wonder. For the Vikings, the jaunt across the North Sea from Norway was as easy as a stroll down to the local mead hall and they soon controlled these windswept, treeless archipelagos, laying down longhouses alongside the stony remains of ancient prehistoric settlements.

An ancient magic hovers in the air above Orkney and Shetland, endowing them with an allure that lodges firmly in the soul. It's in the misty seas, where seals, whales and porpoises patrol lonely coastlines; it's in the air, where squadrons of seabirds wheel above huge nesting colonies; and it's on land, where standing stones catch late summer sunsets and strains of folk music disperse in the air before the wind gusts shut the pub door. These islands reward the journey.

AJan Shetland's Up Helly Aa: horned helmets and burning Viking ships on the beach.

AJun Orkney rocks to the St Magnus Festival: book accommodation ahead.

 

Directory AZ

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For more accommodation reviews by Lonely Planet authors, check out http://lonelyplanet.com/hotels/. You’ll find independent reviews, as well as recommendations on the best places to stay. Best of all, you can book online.

For budget travel, the options are campsites, hostels and cheap B&Bs. Above this price level is a plethora of comfortable B&Bs, pubs and guesthouses (£35 to £55 per person per night). Midrange hotels are present in most places, while in the higher price bracket (£65-plus per person per night) there are some superb hotels, the most interesting being converted castles and country houses, or chic designer options in cities.

If you're travelling solo, expect to pay a supplement in hotels and B&Bs, meaning you'll often be forking out over 75% of the price of a double for your single room.

Almost all B&Bs, guesthouses and hotels (and even some hostels) include breakfast – either full Scottish or a continental style – in the room price. If you don't want it, you may be able to negotiate a lower price, but this is rare.

 

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