Practical Guide on Traveling to Scotland

Here, we will look at some practical information about traveling to Scotland from overseas, Europe or the rest of the UK. I hope this will provide help, ease your planning, and hopefully answer your concerns and questions.

Getting to Scotland from overseas or from the UK could not be easier. Scotland has well-connected airports with international flights to the major cities: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. But, Scotland is also accessible by ferry, train, and bus. 

Yet, before you dive into how to travel to Scotland for your dream vacation, let’s start at the beginning! If you want to travel to Scotland, you’ll need to make all of your travel arrangements ahead of time. Check what you’ll need to do before you leave for the UK. 

The first and foremost question for the people coming to Scotland from abroad is: Do you need a visa to enter the UK? What are the visa and passport requirements for the United Kingdom, and what can you expect at UK customs and immigration? What can you bring with you? What is your personal allowance? 

Check here if you need a visa 

Check here what you can bring without paying UK tax or duty tax

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Table of Contents

So, how exactly do you get here?

Visiting Scotland from Overseas

Scotland’s international airports – Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Glasgow Prestwick and Inverness – are all served by flights from a growing number of European and long haul destinations.

Fly direct to Scotland from USA and Canada

To Edinburgh Airport:

  • From New York (JFK) to Edinburgh with Delta
  • From New York (Newark) to Edinburgh with United
  • From Chicago to Edinburgh with United
  • From Toronto to Edinburgh with Air Canada rouge

To Glasgow International Airport:

Direct flights from Middle East

Getting to Scotland from Australasia, Asia, Africa, Central and South America

The easiest way to get to Scotland from Asia and Africa is to travel via airport hubs in Europe or the Middle East. For those flying to Scotland via a connecting airport in Europe, the major European hubs are London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Reykjavik-Keflavik Airport, Frankfurt am Main, Amsterdam Schiphol and Madrid Barajas airports.

Flying to Scotland from Europe

Many European cities link directly to Scotland with all major airlines. Apparently Edinburgh and Glasgow Airport are the most popular ones, also Aberdeen serves passengers from Scandinavia, Spain, France and more, while Inverness Airport seasonally welcomes travelers from Switzerland.

There is also a seasonal service from Sumburgh Airport, the main airport serving Shetland to Bergen, Norway, running from the end of May until late August.

Flight-free travel to Scotland from Europe

Travelling to Scotland by Eurotunnel

Car: The 35-minute journey provides a contact-free crossing during which travelers remain in their car. However, to get to Scotland you are required to drive around 7h (450 miles).

This is an option for desperate travelers (if you can’t fly) as the journey across the country can be very stressful. Especially if you are not an experienced driver on the other side of the road.

But, if you are comfortable with driving and if you plan to make overnight stops and explore the country on a longer trip, this could be an alternative.

I have done this many times and there were many times we were stuck in gigantic traffics around London, or between London and Dover/ Calais, we missed the ferry many times which resulted in extra costs.

So, overall if your destination is Scotland, I would not recommend driving through Channel.

Eurostar train: There is a good connection between Paris, Lyon, Lille, Calais, Brussels and London. With trains running several times a day and a relatively quick journey, it’s an option for a more relaxing and stress-free journey.
To access Scotland by rail, travelers from Europe must first travel to London. For example, the journey from Paris to the heart of London takes around 2 hours 20 minutes.

From there to get to Scotland’s one of the main train stations like Glasgow or Edinburgh, you’ll need to get a train and further 4.5h.  This option is perfect for people who break their trip overnight in London.

Traveling to Scotland by Coach

The most affordable way to travel to Scotland is a coach, but also the most lengthy. For example a journey from Amsterdam to Glasgow takes 22h. The most popular is international bus service is National Express. International coach services go to London Victoria where you can change it to an intercity coach service. Buses go direct to Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Another European coach operator is Flixbus. It offers more destinations than National Express and beyond – so you can travel even from Vienna in 26h or from Prague to London in 24h.

Traveling to Scotland by Ferry

In a car or as a foot passenger

  • From Amsterdam (Ijmuiden) to Newcastle with DFDS Seaways (This is the closest connection, as Newcastle is just over an hour’s drive from the Scottish border). Journey time: 15.5 hours (overnight only, one ferry per day).
  • From Rotterdam or Zeebrugge to Hull with P&O Ferries (Hull is around four hours’ drive from the Scottish border). Journey time: 12 hours (overnight)
  • For people from France or Spain, there is a ferry crossing to Southern English seaports with Brittany Ferries. Again, driving from south to north can take the entire day through busy motorways. I would advise you to plan it carefully.

From Calais or Dunkirk to Dover with DFDS Seaways or P&O Ferries Similarly to travelling with Eurotunnel, I would not recommend this option as very stressful and taking a long day to reach central Scotland.

Traveling to Scotland from Northern Ireland

By plane

  • Belfast International to Glasgow with EasyJet
  • Belfast City to Glasgow, Inverness Aberdeen, Dundee with Loganair

Ferry with a car or as a foot/with bike passenger

We have two direct ferry links connecting Scotland with Northern Ireland;

  • Larne (NI) to the Cairnryan (Scotland) ferry route operates by P&O Ferries. Cairnryan is a small Scottish village in the south-west of Scotland and Glasgow is 80 miles away.
  • Belfast (NI) to Cairnryan (Scotland) by Stena Line Ferry in a crossing time from only 2 hours 15 minutes.

Both depart multiple times a day, seven days a week, year-round.

Kintyre Express is a fast passenger ferry service that opens up Scotland and Northern Ireland Passenger only ferry services operate from the beginning of April to the end of September.

Journey times are 1 hour 30 minutes between Campbeltown (Kintyre) or Port Ellen (Islay) and Ballycastle a small town on the northern coast of Northern Ireland.

DFDS Ferry traveling to Scotland
DFDS Ferry traveling to Scotland

Travelling by air to Scotland from the Republic of Ireland

What is the best way to travel to Scotland from Wales and England?

By train

Forgot the airport madness and motorway stress and take a train to Scotland, a budget-friendly travel option. Scotland is well connected with the rest of the UK and within just under 4.30h you get from central London to Edinburgh or Glasgow. 

If you are planning a train journey to Scotland click here to the interactive map, which shows the most popular train routes from England and Wales

Travelling from the South of England, CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast (formerly Virgin Trains) and London North Eastern Railway (LNER).

First TransPennine Express operates direct services to Edinburgh and Glasgow from Manchester Airport via Manchester, Preston, Lancaster, Oxenholme Lake District and Carlisle.

From London King’s Cross railway station  LNER offers direct high-speed services, passing through scenic Lake District

From London Euston station Avanti West Coast passing through with beautiful coastline views on the way from Newcastle to Edinburgh.

If you like to travel in comfort and style, or perhaps you want to travel further north than Edinburgh or Glasgow, then The Caledonian Sleeper is the best option for you. 

This overnight train travels from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen or Fort William. From comfort seats, double rooms and ensuite hotel room experience The Caledonian Sleeper has the offer to everyone’s budget. 

For people travelling with a dog, children, bike or in a wheelchair could not be easier. Buy tickets here 

By plane

Not always a faster route (if you fly from busy London Airports) a plane still might be a good choice. The flights from another part of the UK to Scottish major airports are frequent and often at low cost.

Kiwi.com – Book Cheap Airplane, Train and Bus Tickets

By car

From England to Scotland are two main driving routes:

  • A1 along the east coast of England passes by Peterborough, Doncaster, Newcastle and Berwick-upon-Tweed. This journey is 1h driving longer, however, I would recommend it because the road is much quiet plus has amazing views of the coast as soon as you pass through Newcastle.
  • M6, A74 (M) and M74 is the longest motorway in the United Kingdom and one of the busiest runs along the west coast and links traffics from Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool and Carlisle. 

This motorway might be a dual carriageway, but very often there are long queues around Manchester plus diversions could potentially lead to a longer and more stressful journey. 

Rentalcars.com — international online car booking service

By bus

Inter city busses run to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness from most UK cities. They are usually more affordable than the train, they can be just as comfortable, and the journey time isn’t all that much longer.

Traveline offer more detailed journey planning services in addition to local travel information, including travel news and fares and ticket advice

Coach services to Scotland are operated by National Express, which runs routes to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.

Megabus and Megabus Gold cover some routes including Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Perth. On some overnight services, passengers have their own berth as well as a standard seat for greater comfort during their journey.

traveling to scotland by bus
Traveling to Scotland by bus

Please note: the information on this page aims to give you a reasonable idea of ferry, train and coach routes, in order that (hopefully) there’s enough detail to know what’s available, how to plan a journey and where to book tickets. The information was up to date at time of publication, and although we will make every effort to update services provided, we cannot take responsibility for any errors or inaccuracies we provide. Always confirm details when you book

Practical Guide on Traveling to Scotland
About me
kasia

My name is Kate and I created Scotland Itinerary Planning to give you those life-changing experiences right in the beautiful country I call home.

I’m proud to live in Edinburgh, Scotland, one of the world’s most beautiful capital cities. Living in Edinburgh has provided me a base to explore extensively around this magical little country.

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