Scotland Travel Guide
Scotland's main hubs are Glasgow, Prestwick (near Glasgow), Edinburgh, Inverness, and Aberdeen. Glasgow and Prestwick are the gateways to the west and southwest, Edinburgh the east and southeast, Aberdeen and Inverness the north. All these cities have excellent bus and train transportation services and well-maintained roads that link them with each other and other cities within Scotland. Taxis are also an efficient and reliable option, but they are three to four times the cost of going by public transport.
Traveling by air is straightforward in Scotland. Security is heavy but efficient. You can often breeze through check-in lines by using your airline's online check-in option or bag drop, but confirm this ahead of time.
Flying time to Glasgow and Aberdeen is 6½ hours from New York, 7½ hours from Chicago, 9½ hours from Dallas, 10 hours from Los Angeles, and 21½ hours from Sydney. Flying time to Edinburgh is 7 hours from New York, 8 hours from Chicago, 10 hours from Dallas, 10½ hours from Los Angeles, and 22 hours from Sydney. Not all airlines offer direct flights to Scotland; many go via London. For those flights allow an extra four to five hours of travel (two to three for the layover in London plus an addition hour or two for the duration of the flight).
Smoking is prohibited on all flights.
Transportation Security Administration (www.tsa.gov.)
The major international gateways to Scotland are Glasgow Airport (GLA), about 7 miles outside Glasgow, and Edinburgh Airport (EDI), 7 miles from the city. Both offer connections for dozens of European cities and regular flights to London's Gatwick (LGW) and Heathrow (LHR) airports. Aberdeen Airport (ABZ) has direct flights to most major European cities. Prestwick (PIK) has direct flights to most major British and European cities at discounted rates. Inverness (INV) offers direct flights in and around the United Kingdom.
Airport tax is included in the price of your ticket. Generally the tax for economy tickets within the United Kingdom from European Union countries is £13. For all other flights it is £67 to £69. For first- and club-class flights from the United Kingdom and European Union the tax is £26; for all other destinations it's £134 to £188.
All Scottish airports offer typical modern amenities: restaurants, cafés, shopping (from clothes to food to tourist trinkets), sandwich and salad bars, pubs, pharmacies, bookshops, and newsstands; some even have spas and hair salons. Glasgow is the largest, most interesting airport when it comes to a delayed flight. Good food and shopping options abound—try Discover Glasgow for Scottish-inspired goods—and if you're in need of some tranquillity, head for the Relaxation Station for a clothed massage, no reservation necessary.
There are plenty of hotels near all airports, and all airports also have Internet access.
Aberdeen Airport (AB21 7DU. 0844/481–6666. www.aberdeenairport.com.)
Edinburgh Airport (EH12 9DN. 0844/444–8833. www.edinburghairport.com.)
Glasgow Airport (PA3 2SW. 0844/481–5555. www.glasgowairport.com.)
Glasgow Prestwick Airport (KA9 2PL. 0871/223–0700. www.glasgowprestwick.com.)
Inverness Airport (IV2 7JB. 01667/464000. www.hial.co.uk/inverness-airport.)
The best way to get to and from the airport based on speed and convenience is by taxi. All airport taxi stands are just outside the airport's front doors and are well marked with clear signs. Most taxis have a set price when going to and from the airport to the city center but will turn on the meter at your request. Ask the driver to turn on the meter to confirm the flat-rate price.
If you're traveling with a large party, you can request a people carrier to transport everyone, luggage included. Luggage is included in the taxi fare; you should not be charged extra for it.
If you're traveling alone, a more economical transfer option is public transportation. Buses travel between city centers and Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Inverness airports. Trains go direct to Prestwick Airport. All are fast, inexpensive, and reliable.
Transfers Between Airports
Scottish airports are relatively close to one another and all are connected by a series of buses and trains. Flights between airports add hours to your journey and are very expensive (between £200 and £400). The best way to travel from one airport to another is by bus, train, car, or taxi. Normally you must take a combination of bus and train, which is easy and—if you travel light—quite enjoyable.
From Edinburgh Airport you can take a bus to the city center (£3.50) and then a train to Glasgow city center (£12.50) and a bus to Glasgow Airport (£4.50). This journey should take you less than two hours. Taxis are fast but costly. The price of a taxi from Edinburgh Airport to Glasgow Airport is around £85, a good choice if you're traveling with a few people. Renting a car would be a good choice if you want to get from Edinburgh to, say, Aberdeen Airport and you're traveling with a few people. Otherwise, take a bus to the city center and then take a train.
Scotland has a significant air network for a small country. Contact British Airways or British Airways Express for details on flights from London's Heathrow Airport or from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Inverness to the farthest corners of the Scottish mainland and to the islands.
Among the low-cost carriers, Virgin has service from Heathrow; and easyJet flies from London Luton/Gatwick/Stansted to and between Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Inverness, plus to and from Belfast. Flybe has services to Sumburgh (Shetland) and Kirkwall (Orkney) from Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, where you can continue on to Bristol, Exeter, Manchester, and Southampton.
Major Airline Contacts
British Airways (800/247–9297 in U.S.; 0844/493–0787 in U.K. www.britishairways.com.)
KLM (866/434–0320 in U.S.; 0 871/231-0000 in U.K. www.klm.com.)
United Airlines (800/864–8331 in U.S.; 0845/607–6760 in U.K. www.united.com.)
US Airways (800/428–4322 in U.S.; 0845/600–3300 in U.K. www.usairways.com.)
Virgin Atlantic (800/821–5438 in U.S.; 0844/209–7770 in U.K. www.virgin-atlantic.com.)
From London to Edinburgh and Glasgow
easyJet (0843/104–5000. www.easyjet.com.)
Ryanair (0871/246–0000 in U.K. www.ryanair.com.)
Flybe (0871/700–2000. www.flybe.com.)
The least expensive airfares to Scotland are often priced for round-trip travel and must usually be purchased in advance. Airlines generally allow you to change your return date for a fee; most low-fare tickets, however, are nonrefundable.
If you intend to fly to Scotland from London, take advantage of the current fare wars on internal routes—notably among London's four airports and between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Among the cheapest fares are those from easyJet, which offers bargain fares from London Luton/Gatwick/Stansted (all with good rail links from central London) to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Inverness. However, British Airways now offers competitive fares on some flights, especially those booked in advance.
Oneworld’s Visit Europe Pass offers packages based on mileage that allow travel throughout Europe on airlines that include British Airways (which has an extensive network of European flights).You must purchase this pass before you leave home through the Oneworld website. In Britain the best place to search for consolidator tickets, or so-called bucket-shop tickets, is through Cheap Flights, a website that pools all flights available and then directs you to a phone number or site to purchase tickets.
Air Pass Information
Cheap Flights (no phone number. www.cheapflights.co.uk.)
Flightpass by Europe by Air (866/478–810 in U.S. www.europebyair.com.)