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Things to do in Scotland
Most historic sites are maintained either by the National Trust of Scotland or by Historic Scotland . Both offer memberships (with free priority access and other discounts) for a year or a lifetime - and have reciprocal arrangements with their English and Welsh equivalents. Depending on how much you get around and how long you are staying, they may well be worth buying... Membership also contributes to the sites' preservation and new acquisitions.
- Historic Scotland - sites and prices, yearly membership starts at ?34 adult, ?65 family (properties include Edinburgh and Stirling Castles). Historic Scotland also offers a 3-day Explorer Pass
- the National Trust of Scotland -sites and prices, yearly membership starts at ?33 adult, ?54 family (properties include Craigievar and Crathes Castles, numerous wilderness areas)
- Football is easily the most popular spectator sport. If you are in Scotland between mid-August and mid-May you should be able to obtain tickets for a match.
- Drive - take a Driving tour of Scotland.
- Motorcycling - Scotland has some of the best motorcycle touring roads in the world, although you'll need good weather to get the most out of them. With good surfaces, little traffic outside of the main conurbations and welcoming cafes touring is a real pleasure. It is also possible to hire a motorcycle
- Cycling - Even though there are only a few cycle trails compared to England, Scotland makes a great cycling country as there are many roads with little traffic. See Cycling in Scotland.
- Rail Travel - Scotland is home to the most scenic railway line in the world - the West Highland Line, and travelling the area by train is very much recommended. Fares can be high, but the scenery can be priceless.
- Hillwalking - Scotland is famous for hillwalking. You can try to climb all 284 Munros of Scotland (which are mountains higher than 3000 feet / 914.4 m) and become a Munroist, or you could hike the popular West Highland Way, which stretches for 153km (95 miles). Scotland's official National Tourist Board publishes a free Scotland Walks guide, available from their Walking site. There is also an independent site giving lots of details on over 420 routes - Walk Highlands of Scotland
- Whisky Tour - Many of Scotland's distilleries welcome visitors and many have guided tours. Map of Scotch Whisky distilleries open to the public:.
- Golf - Scotland is the birthplace of the game of golf and home to the oldest course in the world, St. Andrews. Scotland's National Tourist Board publishes a free guide to golfing in Scotland.
- Edinburgh Festival occurs during late July to Mid September. The Festival is an umbrella term for several festivals, including the International Jazz and Blues Festival, the Fringe Festival, and the Literary Festival. VisitScotland, the official Scottish Tourist Board, maintain a calendar of events and festivals taking place throughout Scotland.
First ScotRail operates the majority of the Scottish rail network, which covers most of the country. A few Inter-City services operate within Scotland (however these may start or terminate in England are provided by East Coast, Virgin Trains, TransPennine Express and CrossCountry Trains. The main rail terminals are:
- Aberdeen Station - with trains to Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Inverness. Also connections for the East Coast and London
- Edinburgh Waverley Station - with trains to Aberdeen, Fife, Glasgow Queen Street Station, Inverness, Perth and Stirling. Also connections for the East Coast and London
- Glasgow Queen Street Station with trains to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Cumbernauld, Fort William, Mallaig, Perth and Stirling. For trains to Inverness, change at Perth.
The train services to Fort William and Mallaig from Glasgow Queen Street take in some wonderful views of the Scottish landscape, and footage from the line was used in the Harry Potter movies.
Although Scotland is not a big country, travel can take significantly longer than you may expect depending on where you're from. With the exception of motorways and dual carriageways where travel is fast and easy, road conditions in Scotland are generally below Western European standards. Beware of defects such as potholes, ruts, cracks and patches in both urban and rural roads. Many rural roads follow old horse trails and have an overabundance of bends and twists. In remote areas many roads are single track.
The bus is one of the cheapest way of getting around in Scotland, however it is also the slowest and least comfortable. You can get to most large towns and cities on the Citylink bus, but it is more expensive than Megabus. Megabus is a very cheap way to travel, as ticket prices start at ?1 if booked weeks in advance, and rising to over ?10 for peak-rate or last-minute fares. A 50p booking charge is applied to every ticket.
Megabus departs from Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Perth, going between these Scottish cities as well as to English destinations. Note that with Megabus you can book only online (from 45 days to 30 minutes before departure).
A regular and extensive ferry service operates between most large islands, and across the Clyde estuary.
- Caledonian MacBrayne (usually known colloquially as CalMac ) is the largest ferry operator and provides services on the west coast and Clyde. Discounts are available in the form of "Island Rover" tickets which allow unlimited travel on the entire network for 8 or 15 days and "Island Hopscotch" tickets which often give discounts on various itineraries.
- NorthLink Ferries is the state-sponsored ferry operator running services to Orkney and Shetland, from Scrabster (near Thurso) and Aberdeen.
- Pentland Ferries and John O'Groats Ferries provide alternative routes to Orkney from the Scottish mainland.
- Orkney Ferries and Shetland Islands Council operate ferry services within Orkney and Shetland respectively.