This page is designed to help out with those questions you may not want to ask or didn’t even know you wanted to ask! If you think there is a top tip we should include, drop us a line. Twitter works well with the hashtag #toptip!
True Highlands Top Tips
Are there midges?
Well yes, there is no denying there are midges. However, they are fussy little critters and don’t like to come out in a breeze, rain and hot sunny days. Their perfect weather is muggy, warm and still. It’s best to be prepared and (from experience) we can confirm that Smidge spray works a treat. It is also reported that Avon Skin So Soft works. Smidge seems to stop them coming near you were Avon allows them closer then stops them biting. Smidge also works for Cleggs (horse-flies). So it isn’t by any means guaranteed you will get midges, but best to be prepared. For the non-fashion conscious, you can also buy midge nets – unattractive but effective! To find out more, visit our helpful blog: The Scottish Midge and How to Cope
What’s a true Scotsman?
Ah-hem… It’s one who does not wear a stitch under his kilt!
How should I drink my whisky?
This is a much debated question. Some will say neat, but others recommend a drop of water to bring out the flavours. We think it is a personal choice and entirely up to you.
What is actually in a haggis?
Haggis is delicious and traditionally eaten on Burns Night on the 25th January. It is eaten with neeps and tatties (that’s turnip and potatoes!) and butchers often have their own secret recipe. As such, it wouldn’t be appropriate to divulge the ingredients! You can also get vegetarian haggis so no-one needs to miss out.
What exactly is salt ‘n sauce?
When visiting a chip shop, you may be asked if you want salt and sauce. This translates as salt and a mix of malt vinegar and brown sauce. However, if you prefer tomato sauce, this becomes red sauce!
Do you really batter and deep fry everything?
To the best of our knowledge, no Scotsman has ever deep fried a lettuce. However, although it is normal practice for everything in a chip shop to be battered, when placing your order, feel free to add “no batter please”.
Does Nessie exist?
That all depends on whether you’re a believer – as the Monkees said.
Can I camp anywhere?
Pretty much, although there are a few rules to follow which can be found on the Outdoor Access website.
Can I swim in the sea?
Absolutely where there are no warning sign on the beaches. The east coast is for the hardy, where the west can be very pleasant due to the Gulf Stream flowing through it. Find out everything you need to know about taking a dip here: Wild Swimming in the Highlands
Can I fish anywhere?
No. There is lots of free fishing, however, there are fishing bylaws which you should familiarise yourself with prior to heading into the hills. We would recommend speaking to a local shopkeeper or contacting the local fishing club in the area for more information.
Do I report it if I hit an animal?
It is a legal requirement in Scotland to report hitting livestock such as deer, sheep and cows and also dogs. This can also be important for your insurance claim.
Am I allowed to wear a kilt?
Absolutely! There are many hire shops around offering not only clan kilts but a wide variety of traditional and modern tartans. Such as Flower of Scotland, Black Watch and even football team tartans!
Do I need a passport or funny money?
Only if travelling from overseas. English money is legal tender and is accepted everywhere.
Do people speak Gaelic?
In some areas, particularly the western isles, Gaelic is still spoken. However, English is also spoken so don’t panic! If you fancy learning a few choice words, check out our blog: Gaelic Language and Origins
Can I get round the Highlands in a Day?
No. It is a lot bigger than you think! When planning a trip always add extra time for the single track roads, stops for photo opportunities and the odd Highland Cow! 30 miles on a single track can often take up to an hour.
Is white pudding vegetarian?
No. It is oatmeal and fat. However, there are vegetarian ones available.
Do things close in winter?
Very often, particularly in the more remote areas, shops, public toilets and attractions close for winter. If travelling between October and April you may want to check, if you feel you require the facilities. If not, enjoy the peace and quiet!
Where would be a good place to spend Hogmanay?
Anywhere! Hogmanay is a big deal in Scotland and many local pubs and community halls will put on live music and ceilidhs. Get along and join in the fun with the locals. We guarantee you’ll have a few stories to tell!
What’s a ceilidh?
A ceilidh is a social gathering with traditional music and dance. Often, storytelling makes an appearance and it’s a great event with everyone dressed up and possibly being thrown round the room. That is to mean, dancing to perhaps the Gay Gordons, The Flying Scotsman or maybe Strip the Willow!
What does “craic” mean?
Have a good laugh and a blether. Getting the “craic”.
What is a mountain bothy?
Often a stone or wooden hut for use by anyone. There is most definitely a Bothy Code which should be respected at all times. They are not plush, not catered, not heated and often unforgiving. Used mainly by serious walkers and hikers, but also by those who get caught out in bad weather and need to take refuge.
Should I book ferries in advance?
In summer it is definitely prudent to book the ferry in advance as they get booked up quickly to the more popular islands.
Do I need to take food and provisions to the Islands?
Absolutely not. Well, perhaps petrol. Fill the tank, but please do shop local on the islands, as tourists are often the only form of income for these remote areas.
Are paths in the mountains way marked?
Not usually. So be prepared and take a map. Plan your route in advance and let someone know where you’re going.
Can I walk in a farmers field?
It is ok to do so if there is no crop growing. However, it is not the done thing to walk on farmers growing crop. Access to fields with livestock is at your own risk and not recommended. However, the outdoor access code pretty much covers everything.
What’s the mobile reception like?
Not great in most rural areas to be honest. Check with your provider before travelling although Vodafone, O2 and EE seem to be the best with others being quite poor.
Do I have to go to Harris to buy Harris Tweed?
No. Harris Tweed can be found in a lot of shops now, but do check for the label stating that it is in fact Harris Tweed.
Does it really stay light all night in summer?
Pretty much! Particularly on the west coast and in the far north.
Can I see the aurora borealis (Northern Lights)?
Oh yes! We get some spectacular lights and the best time is a clear night, normally between September and April. Best in places without streetlights – which is the majority of the Highlands and Islands!
Can I swim with dolphins?
No. Dolphins are wild creatures and as such unpredictable. Particularly if startled or frightened. Only use reputable firms for dolphin trips and respect their choice to come near the boat or not.
Where’s the best place to trace my ancestors?
There are many sites offering this service but the Scotland People site is as good a place as any to make a start! Good luck!
How do I drive on single track roads?
Single track roads are beautiful, but can be tricky. A few simple guidelines and you’re good to go. Check out our helpful blog: Single Track Roads and Cow Congestion!