Here are a few things I found out while planning (and during) our trip to Scotland this December. When traveling anywhere near the poles in the winter, you have to realize it’s going to be dark. Ergo, when it’s dark, it’s usually cold. Outdoor time is limited and photographing hours are short.
Scotland is no different. The UK is notoriously cloudy and rainy (especially in the winter months), but when the suns out, the golden hour is extended, thanks to the sun’s position on the horizon. With the cold and short winter days, shops and activities tend to close.
Make sure to check websites for up to date information on opening hours on those must-see places. The perks of this is that you are not competing with other tourists at a lot of the major sights. I found that even though prices to go up quite a bit at Christmas, early December can offer really good deals. Be careful not to wait too long to book; lower prices can draw other people in! Things can book up really quick.
I’ve found with traveling anywhere, booking during the week brings better prices than booking on the weekends. It can be tempting to plan your trip on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but a lot of sites know that and jack up pricing then. I also find that in Europe, staying in big cities is much more expensive than staying out in the countryside. You are really paying for the convenience of accessibility.
If you don’t know where to start when planning your trip to Scotland, Visit Scotland is a useful and easy tool, and you can find their site here. It’s great for anything from finding stuff to do to a place to rest your head at night. I loved how everything related to the tourist industry in Scotland was given a rating by the Scottish Tourist Board. Judging the quality of something was very easy because it was already done!
We decided to rent a car while we were there, and although hiring a car can be very inexpensive, if you are under 25 there are fees. It can be ten times the price of your rental car if you aren’t over 25 pretty much anywhere. We rented from Sixt, as they are one of the only companies who will even allow an under 25 to drive a car from their fleet. Our diesel car got us a long way on very little fuel. We both found that a 3 hour distance to cover in Scotland is more than enough for one day. You can pull over every five minutes to take a picture because the scenery is so condensed. The driving is also so active (compared to North America) that you’ll be too tired (especially after driving a standard when you don’t usually) to continue on.
We weren’t supposed to fly into Edinburgh airport, but I was glad we did because it was so small and convenient. There are many options to get into town. Taking a train to or from Waverley station is also a fantastic way to arrive.
Did I find Scotland particularly expensive? Not necessarily. Traveling in Canada is just as expensive, and we were lucky because the British Pound isn’t as high as it once was, although the Canadian dollar is quite low. The nice part about Scotland is that a lot of your activities are free. Sightseeing and memory-making doesn’t cost a whole lot. Compared to Italy, where you have to pull out your wallet to see everything (even if it is only 7 euros), Scotland was easy. I hope you enjoyed reading some of my thoughts on planning a trip to Scotland in December. Overall, we had a blast and definitely can’t wait to go back!