Ah… The land of unicorns, bagpipes, whisky, Hadrian’s Wall, Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster), and not the least, of amazing sceneries with storybook-like features wherever your eyes, and mind, take you.
And yes, it’s the birthplace of Harry Potter!
Some Tips on Visiting Scotland:
- The best way to get to Scotland is via car, train, bus or plane from England; or through one of its international airports at Edinburgh or Glasgow. I always use public transportation when traveling, but Scotland for me is an exception with a car hire ending up as more practical. Scotland is such a massive country and to get from point to point via bus or train is not as straightforward as it seems. If I may recommend a car hire company, go for Avis or Budget Car as they offer transparent pricing. I haven’t tried Hertz. But please, avoid Europcar at all costs. R and I have rented with them before and they surprise you with so many hidden charges when you return the car. Not to mention it’s almost impossible to contact them when you have the slightest questions.
- Scotland is ‘still’ part of the UK after the first referendum on Scottish independence was voted against by a small margin. However, a second referendum was proposed and we can only wait for the results. For now, as Philippine passport holders, let us just be glad visa-wise that a UK visa can grant us entry to Scotland. For more info, visit VFS Global, now the only authorized UK visa processing facility in the Philippines.
- There is just SO much to see in Scotland. My advice? Savor every moment and don’t try to see everything on the must-see list. To be in Scotland is like to walk in King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, in Robert Louis Stevensons’ world, in the Grimm Brothers’ tales, and in the Harry Potter series all at once. You can visit one of its hundreds of castles, and watch over the sea as you savor your packed lunch. You don’t have to drive another 20 miles just to have a picnic. And this is the beautiful thing about Scotland– it lets you take out the unnecessary fuss in building the ‘perfect’ itinerary.
- There are several free walking tours offered, mostly in Edinburgh. Highly recommended are Sandeman’s Free Tour and the muggle-friendly The Potter Trail.
- Scotland is known for its nationalistic pride having gone through a long history of battles, sacrifices and discrimination from the invasion of England and the Vikings. The road for its long-sought independence will never be forgotten, so please do not mistake Brits for Scots; or Britain for Scotland. Unless, you’re prepared for a lecture.
- Download Google Maps and make use of its offline access feature. I used to download a different app per country, but this just beats all of them for finding the best routes and restaurants. Plus, I don’t have to be on data all the time. CNET has a definitive guide on how to make the most of this new feature.
- As with any country in the world: eat (then walk), pray and love!
Get lost and find yourself. Happy travels!
P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut