From Highland peaks to deep lochs, Scotland boasts the most dramatic landscapes in Britain, along with many of its best preserved heritage sites and most dynamic cities.
Travel between the major cities of Edinburgh in the east, Glasgow in the west and Inverness in the north to get a taste of each region's distinctive character, and enter the Highlands on a tour of magnificent lochs, crumbling castles and misty mountains.
Get the most from your Caledonian cruise by visiting Scotland's unspoilt islands, from Skye to Orkney, and experience one of the world's most underrated cruise destinations.
- Currency - part of the UK, Scotland uses British Pound Sterling (GBP). Coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50-pence (cent) and 1 and 2-pound denominations. Notes come in 5, 10, 20 and 50-pound denominations. Scottish banks print their own notes, which may not be accepted in other parts of the UK, so exchange your Scottish money for standard bank notes before you leave.
- Population - Scotland has a population of 5.3 million, with 70 per cent of people living in the Central Lowlands, particularly the major cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
- Language - English is the official and most widely spoken language in Scotland. The Scottish English dialect has several regional variations, which can sometimes be difficult for visitors to understand. Scottish Gaelic is spoken in some parts of the country, especially the Highlands and the Hebrides.
- Time Zone - Scotland occupies the same time zone as the rest of the British Isles, observing UTC±0 (or Greenwich Mean Time) during the winter months and UTC+1 (or British Summer Time) in the summer.
- Weather - Scotland's climate varies considerably between the east and west coasts, with the west being one of the wettest places in Europe and the east between Inverness and Edinburgh being comparatively dry. July and August average around 19 degrees Celsius, while January and February average 6 degrees Celsius.
Did you know..?
The county of Inverness-shire features the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis, as well as the deepest lake at Loch Morar. The second deepest lake is the famous Loch Ness, one of Scotland's premier tourist attractions.
Who goes there?
Ports such as Invergordon, Kirkwall, Leith and South Queensferry are typically included on tours of the British Isles and Northern Europe. Visiting cruise lines include Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas and Seabourn.
British-based cruise lines also offer dedicated tours of Scotland, from affordable 3-night cruises between Liverpool, Edinburgh and Newcastle to luxury cruises of the Scottish Islands by Hebridean Island Cruises.
Best time to go?
June to September is high cruise season in Scotland, when temperatures are highest and summer events such as the Edinburgh International Festival draw crowds.
Spring and autumn cruises can still offer comfortable temperatures and less chance of rain along the east coast, but few cruise lines operate in the winter when temperatures are the coldest in the United Kingdom.
- Edinburgh - Scotland's most visited attraction, Edinburgh Castle presides over the capital from atop the Royal Mile, where guided tours illuminate the often grisly history of the Old Town. Tourists and street performers descend on the city every August for the Edinburgh International Festival and its associated events, comprising the world's biggest festival of the arts.
- Glasgow - to the west, Glasgow holds its own with cultural attractions and museums, many of which are dedicated to the city's proud industrial heritage. Glasgow is also a gateway to other popular destinations on the west coast, including the maritime port town of Greenock and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Scotland's first national park.
- Isle of Skye - named 'Cloud Island' by the Vikings for its enchanting views of the Cuillin Hills, Skye is one of Scotland's most popular tourist spots, but the influx of visitors hasn't damaged its natural beauty. The isle offers postcard scenery including native deer, hares and other local wildlife.
- Orkney - the Orkney archipelago features more than 70 islands just off Scotland's northeast coast, many of which can be explored. Kirkwall is a favourite cruise port for its Viking buildings, and the whole region is a nature lover's paradise with a wealth of native and migratory species, including seals and whales.