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Gay Travel Guide to Scotland

Gay Travel Guide to Scotland

Here's our gay travel guide to Scotland with all the facts and unmissable sights for gay travelers.

With landscapes full of drama and wonder, accents so heavy and thick they sent ripples down our spines, and gorgeous men who go full commando under their kilts, is it any wonder Scotland will always have our hearts? 

We’ll never forget our road trip around the rugged Scottish countryside, the natural phenomena that we got to witness up close, and the wonderful people that we met along the way.

An outsider’s perception of Scotland may be that it’s nothing but rolling hills, a few lakes, fields of sheep and cows, and tiny villages full of red-headed bearded men. It couldn’t be further from the truth! While there is plenty of nature (and gingers, but hey, we think they’re very hot), Scotland has an incredible history and mythical side to it.

There’s Nessie, the legendary Loch Ness monster. The shape shifting kelpies. The piercing shrieks from the banshee – or maybe that sound was just me having to work through a muddy field in a rainstorm!

It also has incredible modern cities to go shopping with vibrant gay scenes. In the space of two days, Seby and I went from shaking our booties to Ariana around Edinburgh’s Pink Triangle, to posing in front of a beautiful lake in Glencoe. Now if that ain’t versatility, we don’t know what is! Here is a full rundown of our time in our gay travel guide to Bonny Scotland:

Hiring an electric car from Pike Bambridge is a great way to get around Scotland

Getting Around Scotland

When it came to exploring the beautiful landscapes of Scotland, we got around in our very own magical coach! Well, the closest thing you can get in this day and age, an electric car from Pike + Bambridge. They lease business cars with a truly personal touch and excellent service.

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Gay rights in Scotland

Homosexuality has been legal in Scotland since 1981 – a shockingly long time after their neighbors, England and Wales, who decriminalized it in 1967. 

In 2010, they introduced a full range of anti-discrimination laws, including protection against hate crimes for reasons of sexuality and gender identity. And in 2014, the Scots legalized same-sex marriage (again, a bit later than England and Wales, but hey, they got there in the end). 

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In 2021, Scotland became the first country in the world to introduce LGBTQ history into their school curriculum – an impressive feat given that not so long ago Thatcher’s ridiculous and absolutely toxic Section 28 law was in place, which in effect banned all reference to gay issues in schools!

Scotland also has plans to progress trans rights, including improving the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which allows people to legally change their gender, as well as lowering the legal age of transition to 16.

Scotland is very gay friendly and offers plenty of protection for gay and trans residents
Out and proud in our kilts in Edinburgh!

Is Scotland safe for gay travelers?

It is indeed!

In fact, we’d argue that Scotland is even more gay-friendly than other parts of the UK. As we touched off in the previous section, Scotland has enacted many laws to ensure the protection of its LGBTQ citizens. Plus, the people there are very laid-back, kind-hearted, and look out for one another – they don’t like seeing others getting picked on. 

We felt extremely comfortable traveling across the entire country as a gay couple. From booking a hotel room with a double bed to sitting down for a romantic meal, we were treated no differently than a straight couple would be. 

However, Scotland is like anywhere else. Incidents of homophobia and general ignorance exist across the nation. It is mainly confined to rural areas, but it can creep into the cities too, so be aware of your surroundings if you are engaging in any PDA. 

Scotland is absolutely stunning and incredibly gay friendly to boot!
Celebrating being completely ourselves in beautiful Scotland!

Top experiences in Scotland for gay travelers

Scotland is full of beautiful scenery, fun-filled adventures, and incredible people. So much so that your itinerary will soon become jam-packed with things to do. We've narrowed down our personal favorite things to do for gay travelers.

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Sashaying down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Edinburgh's Royal Mile and Old Town area is packed with stunning architecture, shops and things to see

Walk, run, crawl, sashay, or prance – whatever your preferred mode of movement may be, get yourself down the Royal Mile! The Royal Mile is cobbled path that dissects the city of Edinburgh, linking two royal landmarks, Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood House. Full of shops, cafés, restaurants, museums, and the majestically medieval St. Giles Cathedral, every step you take is worthy of a photograph. And yet, despite the Mile’s quaint beauty, it has quite a muddled history. 

Located right outside the cathedral, visitors will find a mosaic formed in the shape of a heart. This once marked the entrance of The Old Tolbooth, a jail-house where the city criminals received extremely harsh punishments – anything from having your ears, tongue, or hand nailed to a plank of wood to a vicious hanging. Today, locals and tourists spit on the mosaic to show contempt for the gruesome history that occurred there (not that we would, spitting is gross). Other notable spots to hit up along the Mile include the Mary King’s Close Museum, Gladstone’s Land, and the Scottish Parliament building. Make sure you check out our full Edinburgh gay guide for more!

The Parliament House Hotel is our top pick of gay accommodation in Edinburgh

Our gay friendly pick: The Parliament House Hotel

The unbeatable location is just the tip of the iceberg for reasons why you should book the Parliament House Hotel. Exceptional staff, cosy bedrooms, and a mouth-watering breakfast makes staying here an unforgettable experience.

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Search for Nessie the Loch Ness Monster

Kayaking on Loch Ness is a beautiful way to look for Nessie the Loch Ness Monster

When we heard there was something long, thick, and wet hiding beneath the dark surface of Loch Ness, we couldn’t resist heading there for a day trip. Turns out they were talking about Nessie the Monster and not…*cough* something else… Before heading up to the loch, we scoffed at the fantastical tales of a monster swimming around in the middle of the Scottish Highlands. But we were to be proven wrong. There truly is an undiscovered creature who lives within the loch’s 800 feet of water.

Scientists just haven’t figured out exactly what it is… meaning Nessie could very well be real! Regardless of whether you catch a glimpse of her, a trip up to Loch Ness is well worth it. The dark waters of the loch, the surrounding glens, and the crumbling Urquhart Castle will give you the ultimate Gothic fantasy. If you are extra determined to find Nessie, why not hire a canoe or kayak and head out onto the loch yourself? Best base for Loch Ness? Inverness! It's the nearby city – you'll want to check out our gay guide to Inverness for more.

The Ness Walk hotel is our favorite place to stay while exploring Loch Ness in Scotland

Our gay friendly pick: Ness Walk Hotel

Snuggled within the lush trees along the bank of River Ness, a 10-minute stroll from Loch Ness is the Ness Walk Hotel. You’ll rest in a fabulously decorated room or grand suite, dine in the opulent Torrish Restaurant and receive top-tier service from the dedicated staff.

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Discover the magic of Glen Affric

We loved exploring the stunning landscapes of Glen Affric in Scotland

Even the most outdoor-phobic person will find it hard to resist the magic of Glen Affric. Over 30 miles of flourishing woodlands, blossoming flora and fauna, sparkling rivers, and an intoxicating aroma of pine, make this an unforgettable experience to behold. Fall is easily the best season to go and explore, with the area bursting in rustic autumnal colors. Found in the southwest of the Highlands, Glen Affric is a nature enthusiasts dream come true.

The woodlands have been deemed as a nature reserve, with ongoing projects to ensure the conservation of the natural beauty and its wildlife. The largest national park in the UK, Cairngorms, can be found close by. Full of hiking and cycling trails, picturesque castles, and a sled dog center (that one caught us by surprise too!), you could easily fill a day’s worth of activity hanging around there. 

Eagle Brae is a beautiful choice of gay friendly accommodation in the Scottish Highlands

Our gay friendly pick: Eagle Brae

10 luxurious wooden cabins surrounded by the Highlands wilderness make this the quintessential self-catered getaway. Wake up every morning to the scurrying of wildlife in the woods, the whistle of wind through the trees, and the gurgling of the river.

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Drive through James Bond landscapes in Glencoe

Movie buffs will love exploring stunning GlenCoe in Scotland since it's been used in many films

Looking for a romantic way to Bond with your partner during your trip? How about a 007-type of Bond? Much of the GlenCoe landscape’s irrefutable beauty was used as the backdrop of 2012’s James Bond blockbuster, Skyfall. And despite us cruising around the area in a rental car, dressed in pink and purple tank tops, we managed to feel like total gangsters! We traveled down Skyfall Road, where the irritably handsome Daniel Craig sped down in a high-speed chase, and we couldn’t help but feel totally bada$$. 

But if the sexy, crime-fighting, whiskey drinking agent isn’t your nerdy obsession, then maybe a certain boy wizard is? Glencoe is also home to the iconic viaduct that appears in every Harry Potter movie. Even if you aren’t into the Bond or Potter franchises, the scenery alone will blow you away. One of our favorite parts of the trip was spotting all of the Highland wildlife – red deer, squirrels, and golden eagles, just to name a few. 

The Kingshouse Hotel is a cozy spot to stay in the midst of Glen Coe's incredible scenery

Our gay friendly pick: Kingshouse Hotel

Surrounded by the gently sloping hills of Glencoe, it doesn’t get any more natural than a stay at the Kingshouse Hotel. Their staff’s country charm, bountiful dining menu, and rustic-style accommodation will allow you to liberate the passionate nomad inside you.

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Get passionate about whiskey in Islay

Islay is a stunning island in Scotland that's home to nine different whiskey distilleries

It’s 25 miles long, 15 miles wide, home to only 3,000 people, and yet the Isle of Islay manages to pack in a whopping 9 whiskey distilleries! It goes without saying that a visit here is a must for whiskey lovers. The island is home to the iconic brands Bowmore (which has been around since 1779), Laphroaig, and Ardbeg, which are enjoyed all around the world. A whiskey tour of the island’s distilleries was at the top of our list.

We learned all about how Islay’s exposure to rain and sea spray allows for the production of the whiskey’s signature pungent peaty and smoky flavor. Leaving our obsession with the peat-infused malt aside, the Isle of Islay is also a place of extreme beauty. So visually striking, so rich in nature, so grand in culture, that Islay is referred to as the Queen of the Hebrides. Found among a group of islands (known as the Hebrides), Islay is easily one of the most magnificent spots in all of Scotland.

The Islay Cottages offer boutique and charming accommodation across the Isle of Islay

Our gay friendly pick: Islay Cottages

Choose between a stay in the Islay village, close to the Bowmore distillery, or the rural Kilchoman, surrounded by nature. Either way, these B&B cottages will serve you just the kind of break you need, with cosy rooms, a delicious breakfast, and wonderful staff.

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Be WOWed by the magnificent scenery of Caithness

The scenery in Scotland's Caithness county is incredible, especially the Duncansby Stacks

A highlight of our trip around Scotland was our experience moving through the historic county of Caithness. A place so full of dramatic scenery, we thought we’d crossed over into a fantastical land full of magic and mythical creatures. One of our favorite spots was the Duncansby Stacks – two rugged stones jutting out from the sea’s surface, with a twinkling lighthouse in the background. We also stopped by the charming village of John O’Groats, beloved for its stunning coastline, thriving wildlife, and successful Book Festival that takes place every April. 

miles west of John O’Groats is the Castle of Mey, which once belonged to the Queen Mother (no, not my mum, but the actual Queen Elizabeth II). Strolling through the grounds we came across a fabulous farm zoo, a walled garden, and unbeatable views of Pentland Firth – a strait that divides Caithness and the Orkney Islands. Also worth visiting is the Dunnet Head, the most northern point of Britain, where we could see adorable seals basking in the water.

The Mackay Hotel is our top pick for accommodation in Scotland's Caithness region

Our gay friendly pick: Mackays Hotel

Family-run since the 1960s, Mackays Hotel knows a thing or two about offering their guests an outstanding night’s stay. Bright and cosy bedroom décor, a bistro with a scrumptious menu, and close to the must-see sights of Caithness, this hotel is utterly remarkable.

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Feeling grand at Scone Palace

If you're visiting Scone Palace in Scotland then you also need to see the massive Kelpies statues

No, it’s not a palace made of the delicious baked good (but wouldn’t that be fabulous?) Scone Palace is a historic building, located near the wonderful Scone village. Instantly recognizable due to its Gothic-style red sandstone façade, a wander around the palace grounds is a fabulous way to spend an afternoon. There are over 100 acres of grounds to explore, including the Moot Hill where the crowning of the ancient King of Scots would have taken place. The Head Gardener offers private walking tours through the grounds, where visitors can learn all about the techniques and skills needed to preserve such a stunning garden.

A tour through the Palace itself is also a must, where you’ll be brought through Palace State Rooms where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert would have dined during their visit in 1842. For some extra Scottish magic, take an hour's drive out from Scone to the Kelpies. These are two striking horse head sculptures that stand 30-metress tall and represent the mythical kelpie creature, a shape-shifting water spirit that can transform into a handsome man – tell us where we can find a real one!

Deanspark Holidays provide lovely self contained (and dog friendly) accommodation in Scotland

Our gay friendly pick: Deanspark Holidays

Settle down in the delightful village of Scone and enjoy a total reset in the Deanspark Holidays guesthouse. With almost 2 acres of garden to relish and a charming country-style house to lounge around in, this is the tranquil experience you’ve been waiting for.

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Stunning hikes and sceneries in Loch Lomond

Enjoy stunning views like this one of Conic Hill while exploring Scotland's Loch Lomond

When people think of Scottish lakes, Nessie steals away all of the excitement for Loch Ness. What an attention-seeker! Really, when it comes down to it, there are many lakes that are far prettier. One of those being Loch Lomond! Popular for hiking, water sports, horseback riding, and snapping pictures for Instagram (has to be done), nature lovers need to make time for a visit. It’s the largest body of water on the island of Great Britain, standing at over 22 miles long and, at points, almost 5 miles wide.

Visitors can take a boat trip over the water, which is a great way to explore the surrounding islands and learn about the loch’s history and geography. A walk-up Conic Hill is truly i-Conic (we know, cringey pun), allowing for stunning views over the Loch and its many islands. There is also a Bird of Prey Centre, where you can see amazing birds up close, from those native to Britain to the rarest species from around the world, including owls and golden eagles.

The Loch Lomond Waterfront Guesthouse provides lovely accommodation surrounded by stunning natural scenery

Our gay friendly pick: Loch Lomond Waterfront Lodge

A self-catering experience has never felt so good. Each lodging contains their own private hot tub, steam cabin, a fully equipped kitchen, and a stunning view of the loch and surrounding gardens.

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Gay tours of Scotland

If you’re keen on exploring Scotland with a group, you’re in luck! There are two gay tours that travel across the country. We always find that joining a tour group is a great way to meet new people, as well as getting the chance to relax and let the tour company worry about logistics.

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1. Brand g Scotland Royal Majesty Cruise and Exploration

Seeing the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct that featured in the Harry Potter films is a highlight of Brand g's gay Scotland cruise!

From exploring ancient castles in the Scottish wilderness to a prowl around Loch Ness in search of the legendary monster, Brand g’s Scotland gay cruise is packed full of adventure. Ahead of the 7-day cruise, you’ll spend two nights in Inverness, where you’ll enjoy a tour of Balmoral and a scenic drive through the countryside, whilst enjoying a stay at the Culloden House. Guests then embark on the MV Lord of the Glens, a 150ft cruise liner that’s small enough to squeeze through the Caledonian Canal, yet big enough to feel comfortable and luxurious. 

Rooms are decorated with polished woods, exquisite fabrics, and plush furniture, to ensure you have a lavish place to sleep at night. Highlights include a tour of Iona, the birthplace of Christianity in Britain, a chance to see the iconic viaduct that featured in all 8 Harry Potter films, and a cryptic trip to Macbeth’s Cawdor castle. The experience closes with a visit to Edinburgh, where you’ll enjoy a trip to Edinburgh Castle, the chance to shop around the Old Town, and discover the Royal Mile. 

BrandG is offering our readers an exclusive 5% discount valid for this tour. Click the button below to find out more.

Fill out this form to check availability for the Brand g Scotland Royal Majesty Cruise and Exploration and claim your discount (*).

(*) You can also contact BrandG directly, but don't forget to mention the promo code NOMADICBG at checkout to get your 5% discount off the total price.


2. HE Travel Scotland Gay Multisport Adventure Tour

Adrenaline-seekers will love the exhilarating Scotland gay multisport tour offered by He Travel

After spending 2 days in Edinburgh’s Old Town, where you’ll enjoy a welcome tour and a historical walking tour, you’ll wave goodbye to city life and head off to the rural Scottish countryside on this exciting tour with He Travel. Over the following 6 days, you’ll canoe across Loch Tay taking in the impressive mountain scenery, hike through the wondrous Caledonian pine forests, and zoom through the woodland trails of the Cairngorms on a mountain bike.

Sound intensive? Well, honey, we’re just getting started. Our highlight included a private tour around a closed whiskey distillery. Take the chance to learn all about the production of Scotland’s most popular export, including a cheeky taste of the delicious malt. Plus, a visit to the osprey reserve center, where guests have the chance to spot the nests of the beautiful birds. This tour is very much directed towards the single gay traveler, meaning it serves as the perfect opportunity for guys to make new friends or maybe even meet the one.

HeTravel is offering our readers an exclusive 5% discount valid for any cruise and tour you book with them. Click the button below to find out more.

Fill out this form to check availability for the Scotland Gay Multisport Adventure Tour with He Travel and claim your discount(*).

(*)You can also contact HeTravel directly, just make sure to use the promo code NomadicHe5 in your enquiry to claim your discount.


Pride and gay events in Scotland

Some parts of the world will throw one Pride march a year and call it a day. Not Scotland. They show their LGBTQ community tons of love by throwing queer-centric events all year round. Here are our highlights

LGBT History Month – February

If you're in Scotland in February, make sure you catch some of the events organized as part of the UK's LGBT History Month

Across the UK, cities throw cabaret nights, film screenings, and theater performances as part of LGBT History Month. The organization does run events all year long, but it is in February where they truly amp things up. Their aim is to increase the visibility of the queer community, encourage schools and organizations to create safe spaces for their queer members, and raise awareness on the issues that still plague the LGBTQ community. In Scotland, they host support groups, tea and coffee chats, LGBTQ-themed film nights, and so much more!


Pride Edinburgh – June

Pride Edinburgh is a fabulous event which includes a parade, workshops, movie screenings and more

With drag shows in the city’s Pink Triangle, queer-themed movie screenings with a follow-up panel discussion, support group meet-ups, and a massive Pride march, who wouldn’t want to be in Edinburgh for June? Pride’s existence in Edinburgh goes back to the 1990s, where the city’s gay residents decided to host a protest against the injustices they faced living in Scotland. And thank golly they did, as now Scotland is considered one of the world’s most gay-friendly countries. 

When we took part in the Pride Edinburgh march, we couldn’t believe that this joyous city once had gay people running for the hills (many queer folk headed off to the bright lights of London). In modern days, it’s a gay person’s dream city. To keep up with all the events planned for the upcoming Edinburgh Pride event, head on over to their Facebook page.


Pride Glasgow – August

Glasgow Pride is the largest LGBTQ event in Scotland, so you can't miss it!

It’s the largest LGBTQ festival in Scotland – and they make sure everyone knows it. It takes place during a week in mid-August and envelopes the entire city. Glasgow Pride takes the phrase “go big or go home” and runs with it. Events are plentiful and are often beautifully random. In the past, they’ve ranged from nature walks to puppy shows, gin tasting sessions to cabaret nights. There is no telling what is on the cards! 

At the end of the week, Glaswegians take to the streets to march in their thousands, brandishing rainbow flags with their faces painted and outfits on fleek. It all comes to a climax in a fabulous block party at Kelvingrove Park, where drag artists perform and pop music gets played into the wee hours.


Edinburgh Festival Fringe – August

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe always features plenty of excellent LGBTQ content to see

Oh, us gay people do love a show, don’t we? So, what could be better than a month-long theater festival that takes over an entire city? Hundreds of performances take place across the city of Edinburgh every August. And to put it in perspective how big of a festival this is, previous years have sold up to 3 million tickets across the entire line-up! There are shows to suit the taste of just about anyone. But our focus is on all things LGBTQ. Shows that focus on all the nuances of what it means to be LGBTQ always catch our eye.

And, of course, the cabaret and drag shows are always fun to attend. One of the hottest tickets each year is to The Ladyboys of Bangkok – a fantastical, joyous, over-the-top cabaret that has made its way to the Fringe every festival for years.

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Scottish Queer International Film Festival – October

The Scottish Queer International Film Festival is a must-see during the month of October

Calling all gay movie buffs – the Scottish Queer International Film Festival is what your dreams are made of. It's a week in the vibrant city of Glasgow, with a schedule jampacked with LGBTQ-centric films. Expect a line-up full of incredible films that represent a wide range of people from the LGBTQ community. What we love most about this festival (and queer-themed film festivals in general), is the opportunity for folk to discuss the challenges LGBTQ people face in everyday life and how cinema can be used to combat those issues. 

Filmmakers and actors from the films screened often appear at discussion panels to do just that, and the conversations that stem from them can be absolutely fascinating. It’s also a fabulous way to become exposed to new directors, producers, writers, and actors. As well as make new friends who are as equally passionate about films as we are. Plus, the acronym is SQIFF, which is just awesome.


BearScotFest – October

Bear Scots organize fun events for bears and their admirers in Edinburgh, including the annual BearScotFest

We’re all aware of how the media likes to represent gay men as just one body type. Skinny, hairless, perfect. And whilst men who have those bodies are absolutely valid (and beautiful!), it isn’t necessarily attainable for everyone. That’s why events like BearScotFest are super important as they celebrate what it means to be a bit bigger or a bit older or a bit hairier. The BearScots organization run events all year round to bring the bear community and their admirers together, but it’s their main festival in October that celebrates the best of the bears. Club nights encourage people to dress up, party hard, and then vote for who they think deserves the title, Bear of the Year.


Food and drinks of Scotland

The Scots have quite the knack for invention. And it doesn’t just extend to science and technology. Their people have introduced many different food and drink items to the wider world. For better or worse… well, that is up to you. But we certainly enjoyed sinking our teeth into these delicious goodies and savory treats:

whiskey (not whiskey!!)

Going to Scotland and not sampling some Scottish whiskey is almost a crime

Whether you take it on the rocks or straight-up, there is a type of whiskey for everyone. Made from fermented grain mash, whiskey is a type of alcoholic beverage that can be enjoyed in a number of ways. Scotland has their own proud way of distilling and producing whiskey to achieve its signature peaty allure. All Scotch whiskey is aged within oak barrels for three years before distribution – though, the longer it is left, the better it tastes. You’ll often hear whiskey connoisseurs bragging about how old their stored bottles are – one of the few times you’ll ever hear anyone gloat about old something is. Oh, and in case you ever need to write it down, Scottish whiskey has no e in it!


Haggis (with ‘neeps and tatties!)

Haggis might sound gross but it's actually a pretty tasty Scottish dish

We’ll be the first to admit, we were skeptical about trying haggis. After all, who would sign up to eat a plate of sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, mashed up with onion and spices, and stuffed inside a sheep’s stomach… But when people described it as having a somewhat “nutty” taste, our interest piqued. The consumption of haggis is believed to harken back to the days of cattle drovers, where women packaged up leftover ingredients in animal stomachs for their husbands to eat during their travels to the Edinburgh markets.

It definitely has a love/hate reaction from those who try the dish. But we feel everyone should try it at least once. Plus, nowadays places often offer up a vegetarian version of the dish, meaning no one has an excuse to pass up this staple of Scottish culture. We tried haggis as part of an authentic Scottish breakfast in Edinburgh although it's also often served with ‘neeps (turnips) and ‘tatties (potatoes).


Black Pudding

Black pudding is another Scottish delicacy that tastes better than it sounds

No Scottish Full breakfast would be complete without it. Served up alongside a plate of bacon, sausage, fried eggs, haggis and beans, black pudding is what pulls it all together. What is it you wonder? Well, it’s a type of pork fat ground up with oats and pork or beef blood. Sound intense? It doesn’t actually have that overpowering of a taste. But it does compliment the other flavors in the Scottish breakfast quite well. It can be eaten hot or cold, baked or fried, grilled or battered – so much like the perfect Grindr profile, it’s fairly versatile!


Scotch Pie

The perfect dinner for a cold, winter night, this Scottish dish is a warm-crusted, meat pie bursting with mince, spices, and (for the bold), haggis. Recipes vary from piemaker to chef, and those who prepare it like to keep their personal formula close to their chest, so replicating the pie that you adored in a restaurant can be tricky. So beloved is the scotch pie in Scotland, that every year The World Championship Scotch Pie Awards are held to determine who makes the best savory delight. Food businesses from across the globe submit their entry for scotch pie (plus other Scottish food items like haggis) and are tasted by a judging panel.


Cullen Skink

It might have a funny name but Cullen Skink is actually a delicious fish and potato soup from Scotland

A popular starter that hails from the northeast of Scotland, Cullen skink is a soup made of smoked haddock, potato, and onions. It’s best enjoyed alongside a fresh roll of homemade brown bread. It reminded us of an American chowder, except this dish had a smoky quality and a stronger aftertaste. The perfect recipe for this Scottish delicacy is widely contested, and the dish may taste slightly different depending on where you go in the country. In some areas, it is made with milk, in others, it’s made with water… some places even use cream. The name for the soup comes from its town of origin, Cullen. Whereas the word ‘skink’ is the Scottish term for a shin of beef.


Shortbread

No shortbread cookie is as delicious as Scottish shortbread cookies!
Glane23, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Shortbread is Scottish as a kilt-wearing ginger man rolling around the Highlands playing a song by The Proclaimers on bagpipes. Named after its crumbly texture, shortbread can be traced as far back as the 12th century. It was first seen as a luxury food item, eaten for Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations by the well-to-do. It was also enjoyed at weddings, where guests would break a piece of shortbread over the head of the bride as a token of good luck.

Now, you can pretty much find shortbread biscuits in any shop in the country. It’s as common a food item as flour, sugar, and butter (coincidently, the ingredients you need to make shortbread!). To properly enjoy the delicious, sugary biscuit, pop the kettle on and whip up a strong cup of tea.


Deep-fried Mars Bar

It may be super bad for you but a deep-fried Mars Bar is a delicacy you have to try while in Scotland!
xian from Lancaster, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This Scottish fave is exactly what it sounds like – a Mars bar… deep-fried in batter… and then eaten. You can get them in any Scottish fish-n-chip shop for about £2-3 and they’re typically enjoyed alongside a chilled Irn Bru. A weight-watchers nightmare, you better be prepared to ingest a whopping 25% of your recommended daily fat intake with this bad boy! But, if you’re in the “treat yourself” mindset and up for trying the dynamite dessert, prepare for the gooiest, chocolatiest, messiest experience ever. It tastes just like a warm Mars bar, except with an extra crunch. Seby and I are unashamed sweet-tooths and total daredevils when it comes to trying new things, but even we found this one a bit intense. However, we must admit… we totally loved it. 


Plan your trip to Scotland

We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Scotland. Read on to find out everything the gay traveler should know before they go.

How to get there: If you're already in the UK then you can catch a train from London (or other major cities) to Edinburgh or Glasgow in a few hours, or simply drive over the border to Scotland. There are also direct flights to Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports from many cities within Europe, even from as far away as Doha. If you're heading over from the United States though, you will most likely need to transit in Paris or London. Edinburgh Airport is about a half-hour drive from the city center (depending on traffic) and is served by taxis, buses, trams, and trains, although we personally prefer to organize a private airport transfer.


Visa requirements: If you are from the United States, an EU country, or certain Commonwealth countries (including Australia, Canada, and New Zealand), you do not need a visa to visit the UK for up to six months. Make sure you check your personal visa requirements well ahead of time though and organize a visa if you will need one before you head to Scotland.


Getting around: Scotland has very good rail and bus systems to get around the country, but the most convenient way is by leasing a car from Pike + Bambridge. They provide luxury electric cars that are a dream to use and their service is just wonderful as well.


Power Plugs: In the United Kingdom (including Scotland) the three-pin power plug and socket type G is used. If you're traveling from anywhere outside of the UK then you will need to bring a travel adaptor with you to charge any devices.


Travel insurance: As gay friendly as Scotland is, any place you travel can see you winding up with lost luggage, canceled flights or even injuries that need medical treatment. We always ensure we've organized travel insurance before we go anywhere and urge you to do the same. We've been using World Nomads Travel Insurance for years and never have any problems making an online claim if something does go pear-shaped. Their cover is very affordable and extensive.


Vaccinations: The CDC recommends that all travelers to the United Kingdom should be up to date with routine vaccinations for things like measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, etc, and, of course, Covid-19. You may also need vaccinations for Hepatitis A, B, and rabies (if you're going into the wilderness), so make sure you speak to your travel nurse or doctor before heading to Scotland.


Currency: The currency used in Scotland (and the rest of the United Kingdom) is the pound sterling, also called the British pound, and it's abbreviated to GBP. £1 converts to about €1.12 or $1.23.


Tipping culture: While Scotland doesn't have as much of a tipping culture as, say, the United States, you should probably still tip around 10% for good service in restaurants or hotels. If you're catching a cab, you can generally just round up to the nearest note amount and it will be appreciated.


Accommodation: When looking for accommodation in Scotland we always use Booking.com because they have so many choices at great prices, often with free cancellation included. We often like to change our travel plans on the fly so free cancellation means you can be as spontaneous as you like. They also have excellent online customer support available 24/7.


Sightseeing and adventure: For the best things to see and do in Scotland we love to see what's on offer at GetYourGuide. They have tours and activities for all tastes and interests, plus fantastic online support 24/7. It's also really easy to book your activities online.


When to visit: Scotland is pretty much gorgeous at any time of year, but it is colder than most parts of the UK since it's in the north. If you tend to get chilly, you might want to time your visit to summer, which isn't always that warm but is definitely warmer than winter! Summer is also the most popular time for visitors, so you can save money on accommodation and attractions by visiting in spring or autumn.


Safety tips for gay travelers to Scotland

Is Scotland safe for gay travelers? The short answer is absolutely yes, but you may occasionally want to be a bit more cautious in rural areas. Unfortunately, bigots can be found anywhere, so it still makes sense to use our gay safety tips while you're in Scotland.

  • Check official government advice before you go. We recommend you do this any time you're traveling so that you are aware of any recent developments that might create difficulties. This is the most recent travel advice for US citizens to the United Kingdom, but check your own government website if you're traveling from somewhere else.
  • Although homosexuality is legal in Scotland, be careful of public displays of affection outside of the gay friendly areas. In the main touristy areas and big cities, you shouldn't encounter any problems, but in the more rural or remote areas of the country, locals may still be a tad hostile.
  • Just like anywhere in the world, be aware of your surroundings, especially in big cities. Traffic can be different to what you are used to and obvious tourists are always seen as the easiest pickings for thieves. But if you're paying attention to what's going on around you, you should be fine.
  • Avoid excess alcohol and drug use. Be careful not to drink too much when in a new country, as you're a much easier target when obviously intoxicated.
  • Don't wear valuables in public. This is basic common sense. Whilst we felt very safe in Scotland, pickpockets operate everywhere, so the more bling you show off, the more alluring you become as a target. We recommend leaving your valuables and important items locked away in your hotel safe!
  • Invest in a good money belt. It's always better not to carry too much cash or credit cards anyway, but having a good money belt hidden under your clothes is one of the best ways we've found of ensuring your valuables stay safe and secure out of harm's reach.
  • And while it's not really a safety tip – we definitely recommend checking out the website Inverness Things to Do to find the most fun activities to do while you're in Inverness!

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Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor, and author of the gay travel blog nomadicboys.com. As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about traveling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends, and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gaycation Magazine, Gaycities, Gay Times, Pink News, and Attitude Magazine. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay-specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practiced as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

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