Why I’m Going to Scotland and You Should Too

by Keith Savage · 85 comments

Scotland: It’s not all kilts, whisky, golf, and Mel Gibson in blue face paint – though I did have a surreal moment at the Flattie Bar one night in Stromness watching Braveheart with the locals.

But it’s forgivable if that’s the breadth of your Scotland knowledge; we have popular culture to thank for these generalizations, but all too often they overshadow the complexity and wonder of the real country.

After announcing Traveling Savage’s new focus on Scotland, many readers were excited because Scotland is a place they either know little about or haven’t considered for their own travels. It can be difficult for me to express why I love Scotland as much as I do, so I decided to challenge myself and describe why I’m going to Scotland and you should too.

I hope this post will serve as a reference for new and old readers about the mission and forthcoming content of Traveling Savage. This post has pages – if you’re reading this in your RSS reader, please click over to the site! Use the page links at the bottom to change pages.

Scotland Is Mastering Green Tourism

Scotland is rife with green spaces. Almost 70% of the population live in a lowland belt that includes Edinburgh and Glasgow, and much of the highlands and islands are lightly populated. Thankfully, Scotland and the greater United Kingdom have been prodigious in their efforts to retain its wilderness and natural beauty. The nation has implemented a green tourism business scheme (GTBS) that rewards businesses for adhering to a set of green principles that help protect and bolster the local environment, like conserving natural resources, reducing waste, and supporting the local economy. The GTBS is also linked to VisitScotland, Scotland’s main tourism Web site, which makes it easy to book accommodation and activities with green businesses.

Protecting indigenous species and habitats goes hand-in-hand with reducing the human impact on the environment. In conjunction with VisitScotland and the GTBS, a variety of protective organizations like the Forestry Commission and the Scottish Wildlife Trust are keeping a watchful eye on how tourism interacts with wildlife and natural spaces. I’ve seen the power and effectiveness of this system during my trips to Scotland, and I can’t help but cast a wishful eye toward the United States’ lagging green efforts. I feel comfortable visiting Scotland’s ancient forests, secluded lochs, and cliffs and crags knowing that such a thoughtful system is in place to mitigate the damaging effects of tourism.

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Margaret BlackburnNo Gravatar December 26, 2016 at 8:16 AM

I got a Christmas surprise! A trip to Scotland. It’s a dream come true! Will be there on Thursday. We are renting a car and just going to enjoy wherever it takes us!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 27, 2016 at 8:40 AM

Enjoy the trip!

David layNo Gravatar January 28, 2015 at 8:49 AM

i wish i could go to Scotland someday,but i am only 10,it will be fun when I go!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 28, 2015 at 9:04 AM

Ha! That’s great David. Keep learning about Scotland. The knowledge will make the trip all the better when it eventually happens.

david layNo Gravatar January 30, 2015 at 2:16 PM

thanks!Hope you have a great time in Scotland!

CarolNo Gravatar December 19, 2014 at 7:39 PM

This post is amazing. I am traveling to England next month and I do not have a lot of money, but I wanted to get the best of this trip since I have no idea when I will have the opportunity to do it again, and it probably won’t be soon. I decided I wanted to visit as many places as I could and then the idea of visiting Scotland popped up… After reading this post, I don’t know how I could stop myself from going there! I don’t know where is the money going to come from, but I gotta get to know Scotland.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 29, 2014 at 5:16 AM

A wise decision, Carol. Have a look at my itinerary ideas and best of posts to start your research.

LissetteNo Gravatar November 23, 2014 at 11:41 AM

I am considering going to Ireland or Scotland next year…It’s a tough decision. I have a question, is driving through Scotland scary or dangerous?

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 24, 2014 at 8:58 AM

No, driving is one of the great pleasures of traveling around Scotland. In general, drivers are extremely conscientious and roadways are well signed. Go to Scotland and rent a car! You won’t regret it.

LindsayNo Gravatar July 8, 2014 at 2:08 PM

thank you so much for this! i’m considering a trip to scotland next year and this is very helpful

CraigNo Gravatar January 18, 2013 at 9:24 AM

I loved the impromptu music sessions in the pubs. A lot of times it felt like the pub was one big family coming together, playing music, tapping along and enjoying themselves. It’s something I really miss here in the States.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 18, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Absolutely know the feeling you mention. I’ve never found it in the USA.

30TravelerNo Gravatar November 17, 2012 at 1:04 AM

It’s so dorky but the fact Will and Kate live in Scotland makes me want to go there! lol

KaylinNo Gravatar November 17, 2012 at 8:17 AM

Um… not to bust your bubble, but Will and Kate live in Wales…

They used to live in Scotland (when they both went to St Andrew’s University) but they don’t anymore

30TravelerNo Gravatar November 17, 2012 at 3:59 PM

oops! lol.

Holiday scotlandNo Gravatar November 8, 2011 at 10:40 AM

nice article keith you really got people thinking about going on holiday to scotland, you should work for the scottish tourist board.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 8, 2011 at 10:42 AM

Believe me, I’d love to. 🙂

JessicaNo Gravatar August 24, 2011 at 12:14 PM

I just applied to study abroad in Stirling for four months! I can’t wait to visit, and I can’t get enough of reading your blog, and the pictures. I am sure this will be a great resource for me in the next few months! (:

Safe travels,

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 24, 2011 at 1:52 PM

You will love Scotland, and being situated in Stirling you’re right in the center of things. The whole country is within your reach!

Jeremy BranhamNo Gravatar July 25, 2011 at 12:54 PM

I love the culture and history of Scotland it’s one of the top destinations on my list. I do think the weather and cost are drawbacks but it wouldn’t keep my from visiting. This is a great list and overview of Scotland. I have enjoyed learning more about a place I am excited to visit!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 25, 2011 at 1:16 PM

They are drawbacks, but it would be a travesty if they prevented a visit. You won’t regret any trip to Scotland. Trust me.

EmmaNo Gravatar June 24, 2011 at 5:44 PM

Scotland is a magical place, oft overlooked by travellers. The people are the friendliest people you’ll meet. I should know of course because I am one. And I’m not biased AT ALL! 🙂

London CallerNo Gravatar January 26, 2011 at 1:14 PM

I miss my bonnie Scotland so much! 🙂

Internet DatingNo Gravatar January 23, 2011 at 10:26 AM

very interesting blog. i’d like to go to scotland somday. thank you for all the nice information.

DonNo Gravatar January 20, 2011 at 3:25 PM

Love this post and all the info! I’ve never been to Scotland, but I have a bit of Scottish heritage so I’m looking to go soon!

MichelleNo Gravatar January 19, 2011 at 9:05 PM

Your post on Scotland is great! I’m planning on going to the UK this year on a youth mobility visa, and am planning on going to Edinburgh. I can’t wait! 🙂

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 20, 2011 at 3:34 PM

Enjoy your trip! Let me know if you need any tips (or just follow along :))

NikkiNo Gravatar January 18, 2011 at 11:23 PM

Hey, as I’ve mentioned before I’ll be all over Scotland in march with a few of my friends who live there. Would anyone know where I would be able to catch some good traditional folk music over there? We tried to find some the last time I visited them but unfortunately my friends are more of the club going sort and didn’t have any clue where I could catch a pub jam (one actually scoffed and told me they didnae live in Ireland lol). Any help with this would be wonderful and appreciated. Thanks much and happy travels to all.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 19, 2011 at 9:20 AM

I can remember a few places that pretty regularly have folk. For one, will you be in Edinburgh? If so, check out Sandy Bell’s. It’s a tidy pub just south of old town as you head toward the Meadows. They have a reputation as one of Edinburgh’s prime trad destinations.

Outside of Edinburgh, the Taybank Hotel in Dunkeld, a tiny town in Perthshire, has a special place in my heart for it’s traditional music. In fact, the Niel Gow Festival will be held at the Taybank Hotel this year from March 18-21. I’m planning on being there for that!

Michael TysonNo Gravatar January 16, 2011 at 2:02 PM

Heya Keith, we’re heading to Scotland this Spring! We cannot wait — it’s been on the priority travel list for a long time. We must catch up if chance conspires we’re in roughly the same place at the same time.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 17, 2011 at 8:57 PM

We should definitely connect up. Do you have specifics of where and when you are going?

Michael TysonNo Gravatar January 18, 2011 at 3:54 AM

Awesome! Not yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as we do – that’d be great =) Roughly, we’ll be leaving Wales early March, so at our usual pace it’ll probably be sometime in April when we arrive, then we’ll stay probably through May.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 18, 2011 at 9:02 AM

Fantastic, I’ll keep an ear out!

AkilaNo Gravatar January 14, 2011 at 2:37 PM

Keith, I love the new focus on Scotland and that your banner shows where you are headed. I’m going to follow along closely because we will be going to Scotland and spending at least a month there in a couple of years when we spend 3 months in the UK.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 14, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Hey Akila, I think you and Patrick will love it in Scotland. I’m looking forward to sharing the experience as well as tips from the road. Let me know if there’s anything in particular you’re wondering about.

OdysseusNo Gravatar January 14, 2011 at 3:16 AM

I’m drawing up my (sortof) final RTW plan right now and I keep shuffling Scotland between “definite” and “maybe.” I’m excited to see what your posts will reveal and which column in my itinerary Scotland ends up on.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 14, 2011 at 8:50 AM

I’m certainly biased, but I think you’d missing a special experience if you skip Scotland.

SabrinaNo Gravatar January 13, 2011 at 2:29 PM

Going to Scotland next week. Can’t wait to see what it has in store for me!!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 13, 2011 at 2:39 PM

Do you have an itinerary? What’s it look like?

SabrinaNo Gravatar January 13, 2011 at 3:48 PM

No, I plan on renting a car and traveling to a few places that interested me to take this trip.

Jill PhillipNo Gravatar January 13, 2011 at 10:52 AM

Scotland is a great place to walk and cycle – ideal ways to save on fuel and preserve the environment. Check out walking/cycling tours of Skye/Knoydart, Loch Katrine and the Trossachs, an Arran/Islay/Jura island odyssey and combine Glasgow’s cafes and culture with visits to the hills, lochs and coasts on its doorstep: http://www.bootandbike.co.uk/introduction-to-tours/

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 14, 2011 at 8:50 AM

I really need to get in some good hikes on these upcoming trips – it’s something I haven’t done much in my previous jaunts to Scotland.

Jill PhillipNo Gravatar January 16, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Well, even if you’re a bit out of practice, you don’t need to go out into the wilderness to enjoy the hills and glens. Base yourself in Glasgow (or any of the major cities) and you’ll find hills, lochs, forests, the coast all well within an easy day’s travelling of the city centre.
For some great trips out of Glasgow:

Erica at ExOfficioNo Gravatar January 12, 2011 at 7:07 PM

Okay, now I really want to go. Thanks for the inspirational post.

AlexisNo Gravatar January 12, 2011 at 2:36 PM

Looking forward to the Scottish posts….Scotland is magical

Zablon MukubaNo Gravatar January 12, 2011 at 1:05 AM

honestly i have never thought much about Scotland, but after your post it sounds very attractive

joshywashingtonNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 9:18 PM

I had never really given Scotland a second thought…hmmm, I definitely look forward to your impending blogfest!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 10:34 PM

I will definitely give you something to consider next time you’re trip planning.

CandyNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 8:41 PM

It is my dream to go to Scotland, not because of either Mel Gibson or James McAvoy but because of the Outlander series of books by Diana Gabaldon and her fictional highlander, James Fraser, and his time-travelling wife Claire (they are romance books, I know, but don’t judge me on that basis alone :)). The books got me so interested I would love to finally see all the castles, lochs and craghs she described so vividly. A visit to Scotland is in my bucket list.

ChristyNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 9:57 PM

I love that series! Romance, yes, but also historical fiction (which is my favorite). I learned a ton about Scotland through the Outlander books. 🙂

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 10:33 PM

Okay, my wife has been reading this series for a long time and she tried to get me to read it too. She also emphasizes that it’s historical fiction and not so much romance, but I read the first book and I know what’s going on 😉

That said, the series does appear to be highly thorough and accurate in regard to Scottish history.

KaylinNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 3:39 PM

I went to Scotland in September and LOVED it! I’d really like to go back sometime, as I only spent 5 days there (out of a 2 week trip to the UK). But I saw some amazing scenery in the highlands, everything is amazingly green and OMG Highland Coos! SOOOO cute! It’s a bit cold for me to ever want to live there (even in September it was around 50F and rainy most days) but I absolutely want to visit it often. 🙂

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 10:44 PM

My entire family and I were in Scotland last summer and my older sister just about burned out her digital camera taking pictures of highland “coos.”

AmandaNo Gravatar January 13, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Hehe, it made me giggle that you guys actually remembered to call the cows ‘coos’ also made me smile that you guys enjoy Scotland so much, you should come visit Stirling where the Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle is 🙂

KaylinNo Gravatar January 13, 2011 at 3:59 PM

I’ve been to the Wallace monument! I went on a 3-day tour of the highlands and LOVED it. It was so much fun! We went to Inverness and the Isle of Skye, and drove all around the highlands in between, saw Loch Ness, Loch Gerry, etc. I really want to go back!

AmandaNo Gravatar January 14, 2011 at 3:16 AM

Highlands are a beautiful place! Loch Katrin and Loch Vengar are also gorgeous

AnaNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 3:39 PM

Hola Keith. What’s your clan? My hubby’s Ancient Ferguson 🙂

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 10:37 PM

Looks like I’ve got branches of Stewart (not sure if it’s royal or not) and MacKenzie in my past. I’ve managed to peer into my primordial past and found Grants, Rosses, and McDonalds as far back as the 14th century.

KatieNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 2:13 PM

I’m so happy to hear that you’re covering Scotland this year. I studied there for six months last year and had the time of my life traveling the country and meeting so many wonderful people. The highlight for me was meeting my Scottish family members for the first time. I got to see the remains of my great-great grandparents’ home, which remains on my family’s property in the Outer Hebrides. Enjoy your travels, and I hope you come to love and appreciate beautiful Scotland as much as I do!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 10:42 PM

The highlands do their best to defy words, and I would love to get to the Outer Hebrides. I have a feeling I will soon 😉 That must have been a truly incredible meeting with your long-lost family. Had your family kept records of your lineage, or did someone do some recent research that led you there?

Christy @ Ordinary TravelerNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 11:14 AM

Scotland hasn’t been on my immediate radar, but I’m guessing this will change after I read your stories!

PhilNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Really compelling reasons and a thoughtful post Keith! I’ve got to say I like the approach of really getting to know a particular place rather than trying to cover ground. I look forward to reading more about this trip!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 11:07 AM

Thanks Phil! Have you been to Scotland?

AndiNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 8:53 AM

That part of the world doesn’t really pull at my heartstrings, but I can’t wait to read about your experiences there!!!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 11:07 AM

I completely understand that feeling, Andi. Maybe you’ll warm up to it after reading here for awhile.

Texas City HotelsNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 8:35 AM

If it weren’t for Mel Gibson, I wouldn’t have planned to go there in the first place. No, just kidding, actually I want to go because of James Mcavoy, perhaps I can catch him home:)) No, kidding again actually. I think I’m going to go thanks to your post:) Scotland looks like a really great healthy place to visit, just perfect for relaxation.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 11:05 AM

James McAvoy was excellent in The Last King of Scotland, wasn’t he? I can see how he’d make you want to visit that fine country 🙂

Texas City HotelsNo Gravatar January 12, 2011 at 1:17 AM

Yes, indeed, excellent performance! James never lets me down:P. Glad you’ve also seen that movie:)

villa lloret de marNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 5:26 AM

Hello Keith,

I have also desire to travel to Scotland. I want to visit it in future for sure but don’t know when.Now i have to search about all travel deals and aspects of Scotland and visit it soon probably at last of this year. Thanks for Good podt about Scotland.

NikkiNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 3:19 AM

Scotland is my favorite place to visit. I’m going back for my 3rd vacation there this march. I have a few close friends that live there so this year we are taking a road trip through the country with no real agenda just where ever the roads take us. I highly recommend visiting this country the people here are amazing and the scenery is breathtaking. Thanks for bringing attention to this place that has become a home away from home for me.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 11:03 AM

That will be an amazing vacation. In March it should be pretty quiet from a tourist perspective and some attractions and accommodations don’t open until April/May so keep that in mind. I’ll be in Edinburgh in March.

AndreaNo Gravatar January 10, 2011 at 6:57 PM

Interesting – I didn’t know that about the green tourism. John lived and worked in Scotland for awhile and we have some friends there, so we’ll be going there during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival later this year. Can’t wait! Have you chosen one city to explore or will you be moving around?

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Hi Andrea, for my first trip this March I’ll mainly be in Edinburgh for three weeks. On subsequent trips I plan to visit as much of the country as possible. On my previous trips to Scotland I’ve had the opportunity to explore large swaths of countryside during weeks of leisurely driving.

And yet, I haven’t been to the Fringe Festival yet. It’s on my radar as a possibility this year.

ChristyNo Gravatar January 10, 2011 at 6:20 PM

Scotland is in my “Top 5” list of places I’d love to visit, and it actually looks like I’ll be traveling there this year! I know the food gets a bad rap, but I’m really excited to try all of the local fare. Thanks for the blog post on this topic – I enjoyed reading about the area and I’ll definitely make use of the info on music festivals and the weather… I had no idea Scotland had such a narrow range of temperatures!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Hi Christy, this blog will be immensely informative to you then. Yep, the temp is pretty consistent though the wind and sun help it dip and spike. It can definitely get hot in the lowlands during the summer.

GrayNo Gravatar January 10, 2011 at 6:17 PM

I really should go to Scotland, that’s where my family came from.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 10:52 AM

Do you know what part of Scotland they’re from? It’s been quite fun tracing my lineage back. It’s hard to believe I can follow certain branches back more than 600 years!

GrayNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 12:47 PM

I’m sure I have it at home somewhere. I don’t recall offhand. I do remember that “Cargill” means “white fort.”

KenNo Gravatar January 10, 2011 at 4:13 PM

For me, Scotland is a magical place and on a recent first visit I had to make a conscious effort to prevent my mouth from hanging open in awe at the beautiful scenery everywhere we went. The whisky is near a sacrament as anything may be and, as you say, the scottish breakfast is a thing of beauty (don’t miss the Loch Fyne kippers if you’re in Inveraray). Great post, Keith, but you were a bit rough on haggis. It was one of my favorite things about breakfast. Wish I could be in bonny Scotland right now!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Oh, I don’t know, I said I liked haggis!

Karen BryanNo Gravatar January 10, 2011 at 3:31 PM

Yes everyone, come to Scotland, it’s really beautiful & I’m not just saying that because I’m Scottish. Anyway here are some tips for unusual and fun things for you do to in Scotland:

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 11, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Hi Karen, nice link you’ve shared. Those look like some great trips (and I’ve done a couple).

EmmaNo Gravatar July 25, 2011 at 1:19 PM

That’s an awesome post Karen!

Karen BryanNo Gravatar July 25, 2011 at 1:27 PM

Emma – I hope that you make it to Scotland soon to follow some of my tips.

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