Guidebook Updates for Scotland

When we learn of critical changes to the information in our guidebooks on Scotland, we post them here. (Of course, it's still smart to reconfirm critical transportation and sightseeing details locally.) Armed with a Rick Steves guidebook and these late-breaking updates, you're set for a great trip!

Across Britain

  • Visitors to the UK are no longer able to get a VAT (value-added tax) refund on purchases made in UK shops, and tax-free sales at airports, Eurostar train stations, and in ports have been discontinued. In Great Britain, overseas visitors can still buy items tax-free at stores that offer this service, provided that the items are sent directly to an overseas address outside the UK. (Visitors to Northern Ireland may shop tax-free if the items are sent directly to an address outside the UK and the EU.) The UK's rules around tax-free shopping may evolve further as the UK continues to adjust to the fallout from Brexit.
  • Jurys Inn has rebranded as Leonardo Hotels.
  • The phone number for English Heritage is now +44 3703 331 182.

Across Scotland

For books printed before December 2022, the following may also apply:

  • Scotland's popularity as a travel destination hasn't slowed, making it especially important to book your rooms and must-do sightseeing well ahead for a summer visit. Many B&Bs and hotels report that by February they're already mostly booked up from May through September. In certain areas, most notably on the Isle of Skye, good restaurants can book up weeks in advance, and across Scotland, many distilleries say they've had to turn away droves of would-be visitors.
  • A new Citylink bus, #913, runs once a day from Edinburgh to the Highlands, stopping at Glencoe (4 hours from Edinburgh) and Fort William (4.5 hours); with a transfer, you can continue on to Oban (4.5 hours, change in Tyndrum) and Portree on Skye (8 hours from Edinburgh, change in Fort William).

Edinburgh

  • Buses to the B&B neighborhood south of the city center no longer stop on North Bridge but do stop in front of the Marks & Spencer near Waverly Station. (From the station, cross the street and head left to find two bus stops in front of the store.)
  • Airlink bus #100 no longer goes to/from Waverley Bridge. Buses bound from the airport to the city center stop on Princes Street and South St. David Street; outbound buses to the airport leave from South St. David Street (no Princes Street stop).
  • Advance timed-entry tickets for Edinburgh Castle are now required, not simply recommended. Book online as far ahead as possible.
  • There is no longer a secondary entrance to see the Crown Jewels at Edinburgh Castle (and the Disney-esque "Honours of Scotland" exhibit is gone, too).
  • The Scottish National Gallery has reopened, with 12 new galleries, after a years-long renovation.
  • Tours of the Scottish Parliament Building generally run Mon–Sat throughout the day, and are best booked ahead.
  • The Fringe Festival's Half-Price Hut building has "retired"; half-price offers are now available at the Fringe box office.
  • The Museum of Childhood has reopened.
  • As St. Giles Cathedral is undergoing renovation in preparation for the cathedral's 900th anniversary in 2024, some areas of the church may be closed during your visit.
  • The Queen's Gallery may be closed for renovation during your visit (it's scheduled to reopen sometime in 2024, possibly as the "King's Gallery").
  • The shopping center that's home to the Royal Yacht Britannia's visitors center is being renovated in early 2024; while it's underway the visitors center is relocating to the ground floor.
  • The Princes Street Gardens Dancers have ceased performances for the foreseeable future.
  • The Taste of Scotland at Prestonfield House is no longer putting on its kitschy folk show.
  • The Royal Mile Tavern suffered a fire in early 2023, and may still be closed when you visit.
  • The Saboteur restaurant has closed.
  • Hanedan restaurant has closed.
  • Apiary restaurant is closing, to be replaced by an eatery called "Wine Hive," which may only offer snacks, not full meals.

For books printed before December 2022, the following may also apply:

  • The "Radical Road" — the most scenic part of the hike along the Salisbury Crags is closed following some rock falls. If it's still closed during your visit, head to the left from the Palace of Holyroodhouse (with the big playing field on your left) and find that find the trail that cuts through the meadow across the saddle of land between the peaks (or follow the more demanding, and more scenic, path to the top of the crags).
  • The shuttle bus between the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is no longer running.
  • Several recommended restaurants have closed: Hewats on the Mile, Hendersons, Hendersons Vegetarian, Hendersons Vegan, and Damm 27. The Tower restaurant at the National Museum of Scotland has also closed.
  • Several recommended shops have closed: the venerable Jenners department store, 21st Century Kilts, Scottish Regimental Store, and Cranachan & Crowdie.
  • St. Valery Guest House and Gil Dun Guest House have closed.

These older updates may also apply to our Royal Mile audio tour:

  • Gladstone's Land can only be visited by booking a one-hour tour. Travelers can book ahead to ensure a spot in person or by phone (+44 131 226 5856).
  • The tourist information office has moved to the Royal Mile across from St. Giles' Cathedral.
  • The road next to the Scottish parliament building has permanently closed; it no longer connects to the Royal Mile.

Glasgow

  • Mackintosh at the Willow tearoom discourages pop-in visits (enjoy it by booking a meal or guided tour there).
  • The Lighthouse (Charles Rennie Mackintosh's first public commission) remains closed to visitors for the foreseeable future.
  • The Good Spirits Company now offers tasting events in their shop (book online well in advance — these can sell out weeks ahead).
  • Brasserie at Òran Mór is now Fonn Mór.
  • Baffo restaurant (near the Kelvingrove Museum) has closed.

For books printed before December 2022, the following may also apply:

Glencoe & Fort William

  • The Jacobite Steam Train no longer sells one-way tickets from Fort William to Maillaig; only round-trip fares are sold.
  • Glencoe Café has closed.
  • Callart View B&B has closed.
  • Glencoe Indepdendent Hostel is now Heart of Glencoe Holidays and offers cabins, permanently parked caravans, cottages, and private rooms in a bunkhouse.
  • Crank It Up Gear bike rental has closed.

Inverness & Loch Ness

  • Working Sheepdogs now charges £15 for demos (cash only), generally offered several times a day May–Oct (including Saturdays), but it's still important to contact them ahead of your visit to confirm the schedule. The farm has new contact info (+44 7888 314 412, [email protected]) and signage for finding it: Once you've continued through Kincraig on the B-9152, watch on the right for a brown Working Sheepdogs sign; from the access road look for signs reading Welcome to Working Sheepdogs—Leault Farm.
  • The Rose Street Foundry has closed.
  • SoBar has closed.
  • The correct URL for the website of Gellions Bar is www.gellions.com (not .co.uk).
  • The correct email address for Heathmount Hotel is [email protected] (some editions of our guidebooks are missing the M).

For books printed before December 2022, the following may also apply:

  • John O'Groats Ferries no longer offers all-day tours to the Orkneys from Inverness.
  • Inverness Castle remains closed for extensive renovations through at least 2025.
  • It's worth planning your Culloden visit around the free 40-minute tours of the battlefield; you can see the exhibit on your own before or after the tour. (Audioguides may have been phased out by the time you visit.)
  • We recommend booking ahead for a visit to (and parking at) Urquart Castle in July and August.

Isle of Skye

  • Skye Minibus Tours has gone out of business.
  • Easdale B&B in Portee has closed.

For books printed before December 2022, the following may also apply:

  • The Marine House in Portree has converted from a B&B to a self-catering guesthouse with three bedrooms.

Northeast Scotland (Aberdeenshire, Pitlochry & Loch Tay)

  • The Scottish Crannog Centre is moving across Loch Tay and should reopen in its new location in spring 2024 (the center's original crannog replica was destroyed by fire in June 2021).
  • The Whisky and Heritage Centre in Dufftown has closed.
  • Pitlochry's Edradour Distillery remains closed to the public (no tours) and as of September 2023 has no plans to reopen to the public before 2025. (Consider touring the Blair Atholl Distillery in town instead.)
  • Kenmore Hotel is closed until some point in 2026.

Oban

  • Backpackers Plus hostel has closed.
  • The Fish Box and Taco Bay restaurant has closed.

For books printed before December 2022, the following may also apply:

  • We now recommend booking ahead for the Oban Whisky Distillery tour.
  • There's no longer a "Tour Shop Oban" by the ferry terminal — instead, book tours at the West Coast Tours office along the harbor, a block from the train station.

Orkney & Northern Scotland

  • The Tomb of the Eagles has closed to visitors, with no definite plans to reopen. Its artifacts are now in the Orkney Museum.
  • The dig at the Ness of Brogdar is closing at the end of 2024, after which the site will be covered back up.
  • Hildeval B&B in Kirkwall no longer rents rooms to the general public.
  • The tourist information office in Durness Town may have closed.

For books printed before December 2022, the following may also apply:

  • The Highland Park Distillery (in Kirkwall) now requires reservations.
  • We now recommend booking online in advance for visits to Skara Brae and Maeshowe.
  • The bus station on Orkney no longer stores bags.
  • 2 Dundas Crescent B&B in Kirkwall has closed.
  • The Reel music venue in Kirkwall has closed.

St. Andrews

  • Recommended guide Richard Falconer has expanded his tour options beyond ghost tours and now offers six daily itineraries with themes including history, the Old Course, a town walk…and ghosts.
  • The Doll's House restaurant is now The Bothy and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

For books printed before December 2022, the following may also apply:

  • The Himalayas golf course must now be booked online one or two days in advance.
  • After an extensive renovation, the British Golf Museum has reopened as the R&A World Golf Museum.
  • The Museum of the University of St. Andrews has reopened as the "Wardlaw Museum" with new hours, bigger gallery spaces, and a rearranged collection.
  • Glenderran Guest House and the St. Andrews Tourist Hostel have closed.
  • The Burns Sweet Shop has closed.

Stirling

For books printed before December 2022, the following may also apply:

  • The town no longer has a hop-on, hop-off bus. (The Wallace Monument and Battle of Bannockburn visitors center are still easily reached by bus #52 or taxi). 
  • We now recommend buying tickets online in advance for visits to Stirling Castle in peak season (and at any other particularly busy times).