Running a travel company, I’m often asked – when is the best time to travel to Scotland; when will I see Scotland at its very best; and there is no right answer to that. Yes, the summer is warmer, but then the roads are busy, and it’s harder to find places to stay. May or September are good months to visit; and there is usually plenty going on such as events, festivals and special open days; and believe it or not, winter is a fantastic time to explore Scotland as well.
Forget the stereotypes of incessant rain and cold, bad food and gruff hospitality – even in mid winter Scotland can serve up some cracking weather, wonderful landscapes of snow and rich blue seas, great local cuisine and the hospitality is always second to none. The bonus of the winter is that everything is much quieter, and often you will have a ruined castle, a forest walk or a winding Highland road all to yourselves. There are considerations – it is cold in the winter and the Highlands do get a fair amount of snow (but you can prepare – warm clothes, traffic updates and so on); many of the attractions close over the winter, although some open on certain days of the week; and the days are short – dark by 4.30pm at the latest. But, those cons are heavily outweighed by the many, many pros of enjoying our winter wonderland.
For those of you who like a bit of the outdoors and hiking then winter Scotlandoffers quite a range of options. There are all-year accessible low-level walks, such as around the Cathedral City of Dunkeld (lots of good warm bars and hotels here too), or in the Cairngorms and around Blair Castle – www.blair-castle.co.uk. There is also some fantastic mountaineering available too, where the winter transforms the Scottish hills into a climbers’ paradise. For more information check out Walkabout Scotland – http://www.walkaboutscotland.com/
Whether walking or hiking is on the agenda or not, there are other activities you can pursue, from landrover safaris and wildlife photography to white-water rafting and clay pigeon shooting; there’s skiing (Scotland has 5 centres), off-roading and mountain biking – all great for individuals, families, work groups or a bunch of friends. And at the end of each, high-octane, fresh-air-filled day there is always a warm bar serving good beer and better whisky. One of the top activity providers are Nae Limits in Perthshire – http://www.naelimits.co.uk Also, the Rothiemurchus Estate in the Cairngorms offers a wide range of activities – some escorted, while others your time is your own – http://www.rothiemuchus.net/
Speaking of good whisky, there are a hundred working distilleries in Scotland producing copious volumes of our world famous national drink. Even in mid winter many of the distilleries are open to the public for tours and tastings (although most are closed at weekends). Discovering Distilleries – http://www.discovering-distilleries.comwill start you off; but there are plenty of others too. There are a number of good distilleries within an easy drive of either Edinburgh or Glasgow.
If you are planning to drive yourselves around, and it is a great option as Scotland caters well for the tourist – road signs are easy to navigate, most attractions and hotels are clearly marked, maps are clear to follow and you will find lots of information at local Tourist Offices or online at Visit Scotland – http://www.visitscotland.com Hiring a car is also straightforward, and I would recommend Arnold Clark, as they have branches throughout Scotland and are very reasonable – http://www.arnoldclarkrental.com/ Plan your route carefully, figure out times and distances and it will be a great experience – we at Highland Experience can also help plan a Self Drive Tour for you.
We offer a number of one, two, three and five day tours around Scotland – all year round, including winter. So, if you don’t fancy driving yourself, then you might want to consider this as a way to experience Scotland, see the countryside and hear some fantastic stories along the way; with all the hassle of driving taken away. We can also create private, tailor-made tours as well – such as whisky based trips, family history packages, walking tours, city breaks, historical and scenic vacations. We can cater for all sizes of groups for any length of time – let us build you a perfect Scottish holiday – see our home page – http://www.highlandexperience-usa.com/
So, the idea that Scotland is closed for the winter is a myth, there is plenty to see and do; from the majestic mountains to ancient castles; warm distilleries to wildlife watching. It can be full of activity and pacy, or relaxed and peaceful; up to you. Flights into Scotland also tend to be much cheaper at this time of year, and you can fly direct fromNew York, Orlando, and Philadelphia; also fromVancouver and Toronto in Canada– either into Edinburgh or Glasgow. Both make excellent bases to tour the country, and there are a ton of things to do in each city as well: Edinburgh Castle, Scotch Whisky Experience and the Royal Yacht Britannia in the capital are worth seeing; while Glasgow Cathedral, Kelvingrove Museum and the many art galleries in Glasgow are open all year. And, like the flights, hotels and guest houses tend to be a good bit cheaper in the winter as well. It’s all win-win.
Scotland is a stunning and culturally rich nation at any time of the year; diverse and full of entertainment value, and a very rewarding destination. And as always we are on hand to help you choose Scotland, and to create a great vacation and trip. For further information, as I said go to the home page, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org