If you're planning a visit to Scotland you will no doubt be wanting to experience as many things as you can within your budget. It's still possible to have a fantastic holiday in Scotland even if your finances are limited so I thought I would share a few of my tips to help make your money go that little further.
I have broken down my tips into two parts and this blog is designed to help you save money on transport, attractions and souvenirs. Watch out for part two which will have advice on saving money on your accommodation, food and drink.
Scotland is a small country and pretty easy to get around by car, however fuel prices in the UK can be costly and any savings you can make when filling up your tank will help you travel that bit further for that bit less. The cheapest fuel prices are normally found at supermarket petrol stations and it is possible to save up to 10 pence per litre over your out of town and rural garages. The main supermarkets with petrol stations are ASDA, Morrisons and Tescos.
If you are travelling by public transport then look out for off peak travel, all day tickets and multi journey tickets which can be more economical than paying for single journey tickets. For example if you were take a return train journey between Glasgow and Edinburgh for the day, travelling at on peak times it would cost £22.50 yet an off peak ticket would only cost £12.60, off peak times can vary so check the websites or ask at the ticket office.
The main transport providers that you will probably use during your journey are Scotrail for trains, City Link for long distance buses and CalMac for ferries. You can compare ticket prices online and order in advance.
If you are travelling in Glasgow then the Subway is a cheap and easy way to get around and if you are travelling in Edinburgh then the new tram system runs from the Airport and through the city centre, again you can check the website links for the best value tickets.
There are often travel discounts on national and local transport routes for senior citizens and students so it is worth carrying your ID and asking at the booking office.
In larger Scottish cities you can also get around by taxi with a choice of either a black cab or private hire car although only black cabs can be hailed in the street, private hires must be booked in advance for a designated pick up location. Black cabs can be costly to travel in so it would be worthwhile getting the number of a local reliable private hire company from your hotel which will work out much cheaper. It's acceptable to ask your accommodation or restaurant to call a private hire taxi on your behalf.
The cheapest and best way to see a place is by walking around, even the main cities have compact centres which are easy to explore on foot. Stop by the tourist information office and pick up a free city centre map and if you get really lost a friendly local will be happy to point you in the right direction!
The Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon has taken on a whole new lease of popularity and growing international fandom since the TV series began broadcasting this year.
Much of the story takes place in the 18th century Highlands of Scotland and surrounds the adventures and romance of the two main characters, Jamie and Claire.
The filming of the show took place at multiple locations around Scotland with many scenes shot in the historical towns and castles of Fife. It may not have the mountains of the Highlands or Skye but Fife is one of the most important royal historical regions of Scotland and is still often referred to as the Kingdom of Fife.
From a Pictish Kingdom to Scotland's ancient capital, from the home of golf to the resting place of King Robert the Bruce, this area of the country is steeped in history. If you add in some colourful fishing villages, the only award-winning blue flag beaches in Scotland, the highest number of national attractions in the country and the fact it has been voted 'No 1 outdoor destination' by Scottish Natural Heritage for seven years in a row and you might wonder why this area is often overlooked in favour of a Highland roadtrip.
If you are a fan of Outlander you now have even more reason to visit (six more in fact) and explore some of the filming locations of the show.
Thanks to a contact from TayScreen I managed to get a list of the Fife locations where the filming of Outlander took place and decided to book myself a few days in the area to explore them all and compile a blog post with the details. My list included the towns of Falkland, Culross and Limekilns, and the castles of Balgonie and Aberdour. Quite by chance I also found some standing stones nearby Culross which I have included in my guide just as a point of interest and in case anyone fancies testing them out! So here is my guide to 6 places you must visit in Fife if you are a fan of Outlander.
Many fans will already be aware that Falkland was used for filming a 1940s Inverness which is quite ironic as many of the houses are preserved from the 17th and 18th century, some even older. With traditional pubs, shops and 28 listed buildings it is certainly a glimpse of times gone by (if you can block out the cars!).
The town is dominated by Falkland Palace which is well worth visiting so make sure you set aside an extra 1- 2 hours to explore the former country residence of the Stuart monarchs and it's unusual gardens. The guides in the Palace are very helpful and will provide you with lots of interesting stories about it's original use as a royal getaway to it's restoration and sometimes dark and turbulent past.
Outlander fans can recreate one of the first scenes of the show by standing at the Bruce fountain in the town centre and looking up to the window of Mrs Baird's B&B just as the ghost of Jamie did in the first episode. Mrs Baird's is in fact The Covenanter Hotel so you can go inside and enjoy a drink if you need a refreshment to quell all the excitement! Just along from the hotel you will find Fayre Earth which was used as Farrell's in the show, although it does look quite different on the outside in it's 21st century colours. Campbell's Coffee House in the show was previously a pharmacy. however after filming it has remained a coffee house and is situated just opposite the fountain.
If you are visiting the town make the most of your time here, take a walk around and look out for all the little details on the buildings including marriage lintels, stone carvings and original signs and get a real sense of historical Scotland.
I recommend half a day here if you want to explore the town, palace and enjoy a meal or drink without feeling rushed.
This week I visited the Royal Burgh of Culross which is full of the most characterful streets and cottages. It is situated in the south west of Fife on the edge of the Firth of Forth and is the most complete example in Scotland today of a Burgh of the 17th and 18th centuries.
I visited as part of my research for a blog on locations in Fife where the Outlander TV show was filmed and it easy to see why this quaint little town was chosen as a location from the 1740s.
I ended up taking so many photographs of the buildings, windows, doorways, plaques and scenery that I have decided to dedicate a photo blog to this scenic part of Scotland.
It is certainly a unique place to visit and if you can ignore the cars and wheelie bins it really does feel like you have been transported back in time without the need to even touch a standing stone, although there are some nearby if you still feel the need...
The Cowal Highland Gathering is billed as one of the biggest and most spectacular Highland Games in the world. Staged in the west coast Scottish town of Dunoon, flanked by elevated green hillsides and the busy waters of the Firth of Clyde, the setting is certainly a picturesque one.
As I joined the meandering crowd heading to the stadium we were met with 'greeters' high fiving people with giant foam hands. This reminded me of my time at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games when I was welcomed by cheery volunteers at every venue and was certainly a first for any Highland Games I've attended. Once in the stadium I made my way around the various stands selling food, gifts and clothing although I was a little disappointed that there wasn't a wider choice of Scottish products available.
Being a Highland Games pro I whisked out my trusty picnic blanket and joined the many spectators on the hillside overlooking the main arena. Thankfully the weather was kind and this was a perfectly pleasant place to enjoy the action. Many people even more prepared than me (or maybe just more pessimistic than me!) had brought tents to keep sheltered from any rain which thankfully never materialised.
Highland dancers, pipe bands, heavy athletics and wrestling were the main activities taking place in the arena below. Personally heavy athletics is my favourite element of any Highland Games and there were some impressive competitors taking part.
For fans of Highland dancing the world championships with the best competitors from around the globe was a real highlight and the Cowal Hill Race is another draw with runners taking part in one of the toughest 5k races in the country.
Many people travel to Scotland to view the beautiful scenery and there is no denying that it has some of the most stunning landscapes in the world. However, Scotland has much more to offer those looking for a memorable adventure, there are some things that you can't do anywhere else in the world. Here is my list of 10 things that you can only do in Scotland, just in case you need another reason or ten to visit...
1. Take the world's shortest commercial flight - The flight between the two Orkney Islands, Westray and Papa Westray takes a mere 47 seconds!
2. Bag a Munro - A Munro is a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 ft. Climbing to the peak is known as 'Munro-bagging', the aim is to 'bag' them all (282 at last count).
3. Play at the world's oldest golf course - St Andrew's Old Course is the oldest golf course in the world with the game first played here as long ago as 1400.
4. Enjoy the view from the tallest, fully rotating free-standing structure in the world - at 127 metres high, The Glasgow Science Centre Tower provides panoramic views of up to 20 miles across the city of Glasgow.
Guest Post by Glen Moyer
Many thanks to Glen Moyer from the USA for providing this guest post about Monarch of the Glen Country. Glen was inspired to visit earlier this year after watching the TV show and went on to write a travel blog about his time exploring many beautiful parts of Scotland. I was lucky enough to meet Glen on his travels and I'm delighted that he has written this blog about the place that originally awakened his passion for Scotland. Even if you have never watched the show, this area is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the country and Glen has included many suggestions for making the most of your time here.
For fans of the BBC drama “Monarch of the Glen”, like me, no tour of Scotland is complete without a visit to “Glenbogle” and the surrounding “Monarch Country” in the Scottish Highlands. Of course Glenbogle is fictional, but Ardverikie, the house and estate where the drama was filmed on location for 7 ‘seasons’ from 2000 to 2005, is very real.
Ardverikie is the historical home of the Clan Macpherson but through various circumstances ownership passed to Sir John William Ramsden in 1867. A family company of his heirs continues to run the estate today.
This present day version of the house is the 3rd, begun in 1870 and completed in 1877 after fires destroyed the first two. Long before it served as a television studio and fictional home to the MacDonald clan, it very nearly became a royal residence. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited here in August 1847 and fancied the house but not the Highland weather (or the pesky midgies) and so later purchased Balmoral as a royal Scottish residence instead.
“Glenbogle” was originally created by Sir Compton Mackenzie in his 1941 novel “Monarch of the Glen”, on which the TV drama was loosely based. It was the show’s creator Michael Chaplin who selected Ardverikie Estate and the region around it to serve as Glenbogle House and the village of Glenbogle for the BBC.
While the TV drama concluded filming and last aired (excepting reruns) nearly a decade ago, the hit series still enjoys a loyal worldwide fan base so Ardeverike draws visitors year round. Unlike many stately homes in England, Ardverikie - the house and the whole of the estate – remains private and as such is not open for public tours. This will no doubt surprise some fans should they arrive unawares. Still there are ways for fans (“Boglies” as they call themselves) and non-fans alike to gain access…
So you love Outlander and have fallen for all things romantically Scottish. You have booked your trip in the hope of finding your own kilted Jamie who will whisk you off across the hills and glens to live happy ever after in your cosy Highland home.
Okay, maybe that's a wee bit of an exaggeration (or maybe not!) but let's just hypothetically say you're coming to Scotland to admire more than the scenery. As a Scottish woman I totally understand, it is in my DNA to find men in tartan skirts more attractive than well cut, tight fitting jeans. However, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but a kilted man in 21st Century Scotland is an elusive creature and unless you know where to look it is possible that you may be left disappointed.
Now, if you are willing to hunt them down you will be well rewarded as they seldom roam alone, meaning you are likely to find a large pack gathered in the one spot. If you are one of those people who are hypothetically coming for purposes of this sort or know a friend of a friend who might be interested then here is my guide to five places you are guaranteed to find a kilted man in Scotland.
Mauchline is a characterful little town in East Ayrshire with a long and varied history. It is the home of Mauchline ware the famous wooden souvenirs and the only curling stone factory in the world, however the main reason many people visit here is the strong connections to Scotland's National Bard, Robert Burns.
Mauchline is mentioned in every Burns trail and with good reason. He spent four important years here from 1784 to 1788 and during that time he experienced many highs and lows including
I had never been to Mauchline before and decided this week that it was time to visit the area of Scotland that inspired many of my favourite Burns poems. The day I visited it was bucketing with rain which meant that I didn't manage to enjoy a full walk around the town, however there was still plenty to do and my first stop at the free Burns House Museum was a warm and welcome shelter from the wet deluge outside. A 20 minute video about the Bard's life during the period he resided here was an informative introduction to the complicated life of the poet. The museum is situated in a building where Burns and his wife Jean Armour spent some time living and features a recreation of the room they lodged in. The museum also houses Burns artifacts and even has a listening snug where you can relax and enjoy his poems. There has been alot of thought put into this museum and it's exhibits and the fact that it is free makes it an ideal starting point when visiting the town.
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