Famous for its whisky, quaint villages and the mysterious Loch Ness Monster, Scotland is a magical place with a fascinating history and dramatic landscapes that encompass everything from romantic lochs to mysterious lakes. Its numerous ancient castles are legendary, the food is sublime, and some of its beaches are even home to excellent surfing spots. And that’s just a taste of what’s in store for you on a Scotland holiday.
Scottish cities such as Edinburgh, Inverness and Glasgow offer countless diversions and activities. And Scotland’s tourist attractions, including ones that are remote and others that are household names, abound. Whether you choose to explore at leisure, visiting ancient sites and fascinating museums, or prefer to go hiking, climbing or cycling, Scotland’s scenic attractions and fabulous attractions await.
Why holiday in Scotland
It’s a diverse and exciting place to explore.
Its whisky is legendary.
A number of its stunning locations were used in the Harry Potter movies.
You can explore in so many ways – on foot, cycling, by car, skiing or boat.
On the island of Skye, you can see dinosaur footprints.
The scenery is exquisite, dramatic and ever-changing.
It boasts an incredible number of ancient buildings and monuments.
Its festivals are fabulous, exciting and fun.
The food – which includes haggis, shortbread and Angus beef – is fabulous.
Whisky tastings, fabulous feasts, fun festivals, great shopping, remote places to explore and stunning sights to see are all part of what makes a holiday in Scotland such an exciting adventure.
The best time to visit Scotland is in Spring (late March to May) and Autumn (September and October).
High season is during the summer months, June to August, when it is warmest. However, it also rains at this time.
Winter months are from December to March.
You will fly from South Africa to Edinburgh or Glasgow in Scotland – this flight typically has one stopover.
The flight duration from Johannesburg to Glasgow is 13 hours, 55 minutes, and to Edinburgh is 14 hours, 15 minutes.
Do I need a visa?
South African passport holders do not require a visa to enter Scotland.
However, South Africans visiting Great Britain require a Schengen visa to enter.
Passports should be valid for at least 6 months after travel and have blank pages.
What time is it?
Scotland is on the same time as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). During the winter months Scotland is 2 hours behind South Africa and in the summer (last Sunday in March to the Last Saturday in October), 1 hour behind South Africa.
The official currency is the Pound Sterling (£).
Credit cards are widely accepted & ATMs are prevalent.
Some small establishments may not accept cards or have a minimum spend, so always check before making a purchase.
Tipping is an accepted custom. It’s customary to leave 10-15% of the bill when dining out.
Food is quite expensive in Scotland.
Language & phrases
English is the official language.
Culture & religion
Christianity is the main religion. Scottish churches are mainly Presbyterian.
When visiting sacred sites and temples, dress conservatively. (See ‘What to pack’).
It is safe to drink tap water in Scotland. Bottled water is also readily available.
Vaccinations are not currently required, but do check with your travel clinic before you go.
What must I pack?
Depending on when and where you visit, lightweight clothing for summer, warm clothing for winter, rain gear and swimwear if relevant. Choose items that can be layered.
Dress modestly when visiting sacred sites – no shorts or tank tops. Legs & shoulders must be covered. Long, loose pants and long-sleeved cotton shirts are best.
Comfortable walking shoes.
Sunscreen, lip balm, hat and sunglasses for summer holidays.
Mini first aid kit and regular prescription medication.
Hand sanitiser and insect repellent.
Scottish cities have good transport systems including buses, trains and cars.
Towns in outlying areas may have less sophisticated transport infrastructure – it depends where you are going.
What can I do to be a responsible traveller?
Wherever possible, buy local food and souvenirs and support local artisans.
Avoid single-use plastic; rather take fabric shopping bags with you and use refillable water bottles (when local drinking water is available).
Respect each other's cultures and customs and avoid imposing your beliefs.
Do not support animal encounters and wildlife activities that are harmful or unethical.
Always have a map (or app) on hand, especially when travelling at night.
Be safety conscious: don’t display cash or valuables. Leave jewellery and expensive watches at home.
Keep your belongings safe – use the hotel safe for passports and valuables and watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers when out and about.
What do I do in an emergency?
If passports or valuables are stolen, report the theft to the hotel/police immediately.
Contact the Thompsons Holidays 24-hour care line to assist.
Things to do in Scotland
Whether you’re travelling to Scotland to enjoy its incredible culture and history or take part in active pursuits such as hiking or cycling, Scotland is an excellent place for a holiday. A relatively small country with numerous treasures and breathtaking scenery, from the sophisticated cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh with their historical sights and famous museums to the remote highlands with fortified castles and mystical lochs, there is so much to discover.
With its numerous celebrations of everything from New Year’s Eve (Hogmanay) to creativity and culture at the Edinburgh Festival in summer, its dramatic landscapes and delicious traditional food, Scotland is an absolute delight.
Things to do in Scotland
Visit on one of the islands of the Outer Hebrides with their stunning wildlife, Neolithic sites and beautiful sandy beaches.
Embark on a whisky trail to sample some of Scotland’s famous tipple.
Walk Edinburgh’s Royal Mile with its incredible UNESCO-listed buildings.
Travel to Loch Ness to find the legendary Monster.
Go birdwatching in Cairngorms National Park.
Explore the picturesque Scottish Highlands.
Discover magical Glamis Castle, said to be the setting that inspired Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Ride a seaplane to discover Loch Lomond.
Visit the ruins of Red Castle overlooking Scotland’s pink Angus Coast beach.
Explore famous Fingle’s Cave, a sea cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa.
Spend the night in Glengorm Castle in Mull.
Vikings and monsters, kilts and castles, drams of whisky and lovely lochs… all of these fascinating things are to be found on a holiday in Scotland. Thompsons Holidays can put together a unique, tailor-made travel adventure for you and your family, a honeymoon package or a travel deal for a group of friends.
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