The Insider’s Guide: 5 Ways to Get to Know the Real Scotland

Heading to Scotland? Some tourists are perfectly happy to get the full tourist experience, but if you prefer a more authentic visit, your itinerary may look a bit different. Check out five ways to get to know the real Scotland. 

1. Visit a few lochs besides Loch Ness 

A loch is simply a lake or body of water that is at least mostly surrounded by land. And, Scotland is known for some of the most gorgeous lochs you can imagine. If you want to get to know the real Scotland, however, there are lochs far more rewarding than Loch Ness. Loch Ness is no doubt a nice place to visit—hey, who wouldn’t want a chance to catch sight of Nessie (aka The Loch Ness Monster)? But, if you want to set your eyes on some even more picturesque bodies of Scotland water, consider others like Loch Maree in the Highlands or Loch Awe near Dalmally. 

2. Check out small towns outside the main tourist attractions 

Certain Scottish cities are known as major tourist attractions, such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeenshire. These cities no doubt have a lot to do and see: museums, castles, bus tours, you name it. However, if you want to get an inside look at what life in Scotland is truly like, trek your way to some smaller, less-visited towns. Pittenweem, for example, is a seaside village north of Edinburgh. Here, you can stroll the streets, check out the fishing harbor, and buy fresh fish right from the local fishermen. 

3. Grab food from smaller cafés and eateries 

Scotland has some pretty amazing food, even if names like Cullen skink and neeps and tatties can sound a little odd. You’ll have no trouble finding amazing dining opportunities in just about any town. But food favorites can also vary from town to town. So, if you want something a little more cozy and local, check out the smaller cafes and eateries. For example, The Ceilidh Place in Ullapool is a quaint little place with a menu full of local ingredients. 

4. Book a stay in a bed and breakfast 

Scotland is full of inns and hostels, both of which can give you a chance to mingle with other travelers. However, if you’re looking to get to know the real Scotland, book a stay in a bed and breakfast instead. These more private accommodations put you in a residential environment in an authentic Scotland home. Plus, guests at B&Bs are more likely to be locals, and you get the chance to enjoy some local home-cooked food. 

5. Check in at neighborhood pubs 

Local pubs tend to be full of friendly locals. While some pubs are hot spots for tourists, such as Deacon Brodies Tavern in Edinburgh, the best way to find and mingle with the locals is to visit those establishments that are a little less noteworthy. You can find small pubs tucked into many neighborhoods in Scotland, and most are not all that large or flashy. Just the same, walk in and order a dram and the locals will likely strike up a conversation.