Scotland is a worldwide famous destination thanks to its nature, landscapes and heritage. As a matter of fact, there’re so many places of historical interest distributed across the nation that you may include in your list of the top things to see during the trip. For this reason, some tourist passes have been introduced and permit to visit castles, museums, historical palaces and sites. Thanks to these ones, you can enjoy your holiday and save money on individual entry prices.
In this article I explain you how they work, which attractions are included and then you can buy them online before your trip.
The tourist passes to buy to go for a holiday in Scotland
They’re are issued by official organisations and heritage charity and feature castles, historic buildings, abbeys, prehistoric sites and battlefields. Thus it’s possible to experience Scotland at its most, learning about the history and culture of this wonderful country. The attractions included are located throughout the nation – from Edinburgh to the Highlands and the most remote islands – so that you might think of a specific itinerary based on the historical sites that inspire you the most.
The Edinburgh Royal Ticket
Starting from Edinburgh, this ticket gives you fast track admission to the three royal attractions of the Scottish capital – Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Royal Yacht Britannia – plus 2 days‘ unlimited tourist bus travel around the city with audioguides on board.
The Edinburgh Royal Ticket is perfect for those people that stay in town for 48 hours and want to get the most from it. Indeed, you can save a lot of time by travelling by bus to reach all the main attractions and discover some other amazing sights.
The pass allows you to save up to 25% over the individual tickets and the prices are the following:
- adult (16-59) – £52,00;
- child (5-15) – £29,00;
- concession (over 60 and students) – £46,00.
How to purchase the Edinburgh Royal Ticket in advance
You can buy your Edinburgh Royal Ticket directly from this page.
The process is very easy and took me just 5 minutes:
- Select the number of people (adult, child or concession), the date of the visit and “Check availability”;
- After the item has been added you can choose if go to the payment or add some other products;
- Then you can check the items you have selected, the delivery method plus the total amount to pay and the approximate price in your currency;
- Put your Billing Details and select the Payment Method;
- Just wait few minutes to receive the e-voucher by email.
After the purchase you must print the e-voucher and bring it to Edinburgh Bus Tours Ticket Sellers, located in Princes Street Gardens near the Scott Monument and just few steps from Waverley Bridge.
The Historic Scotland Explorer Pass
This is certainly the most popular pass used by tourists who visit Scotland each year. It’s issued by Historic Scotland, the official organization that manages historic residences, abbeys, castles and other sites throughout the country.
Thanks to the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass it’s possible to discover 77 sites across the nation, including some of the most famous attractions. Besides that, you get the priority access when visiting Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. This is a great benefit, especially during summertime when you may have to queue for 1 or 2 hours! Otherwise, if you’re travelling in autumn or winter, please note that some sites could be closed so check it in advance. Anyway, all the attractions are closed on 25-26 of December and 1-2 of January.
The card is very flexible because depending on the length of your stay you can choose the 3 days out of 5 or the 7 days out of 14. In any case, it’s a big deal as it’s more convenient than the individual attractions’ price. Just to give you an example, Edinburgh Castle costs £17 while the pass valid for 3 days costs only £31 (adult fare) and then you can visit many other sites in the surroundings of the Scottish capital like for example Aberdour Castle, Linlithgow Palace and Blackness Castle (all of them were used as locations in the tv series Outlander).
Buy the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass in advance
As for the Edinburgh Royal Ticket, you can purchase the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass before your trip from GetYourGuide.
Again, the process is quite simple and takes few minutes. The only difference is that you have to bring the e-voucher printed after the purchase to one of the properties so that you’ll get the pass. You can check the full list of the attractions included in the same page where you buy the card.
The National Trust for Scotland Discover Ticket (no longer available)
National Trust for Scotland is the largest conservation and heritage charity of the country, featuring castles, estates, museums, gardens and battlefields. Overall, it includes more than 60 sites and properties (Culloden Battlefield, Glencoe Visitor Experience, Culzean Castle & Country Park, Castle Fraser, Drum Castle…) and it’s really convenient in comparison with the single fares of every attraction.
Apart from that, the National Trust for Scotland Discover Ticket is very flexbile as it’s available for 3, 7 or 14 days. The prices are the following:
- 3 days, adult £26,60 and family (2 adults + up to 4 children under 17) £53,00;
- 7 days, adult £31,50 and family £63,00;
- 14 days, adult £36,50 and family £73,00.
Purchase the National Trust for Scotland Discover Ticket via “VisitBritain online shop”
It’s possible to buy the NTS Discover Ticket in advance simply connecting to the Visit Britain online shop (click here).
After the payment you’ll receive a voucher via email, please print it and bring it to one of the NTS property so that you’ll get the pass. You can check the entire list of the attractions at the moment of the purchase.
When planning the trip remember that some places may be closed in wintertime, especially for Christmas. For this reason I suggest you to visit the official website before the trip.
The Scottish Heritage Pass
The last card I write about is probably the most complete as it includes all the properties from Historic Scotland and NTS. That means you can visit places like Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Linlithgow Palace, Elgin Cathedral or Culloden Battlefield with just one pass.
The Scottish Heritage Pass is the best deal for your summer holiday in Scotland and you can choose from more than 120 historical sites across the country. Then consider that if you visit for example just five attractions you can save at least 15% comparing to the individual fares. The only thing to keep in mind about this tourist pass is that you can use it only from April to October and it’s valid for 7 consecutive days. These are the prices:
- adult, £55,00;
- child (5-15 years), £35,00;
- under 5 years, free;
- concession (over 60), £45,00.
Buy the Scottish Heritage Pass with the “VisitBritain online shop”
Though the card is valid from 1st April to 31st October, you can buy the Scottish Heritage Pass in advance all the year. Like for other products you can do so through the Visit Britain online shop.
After the purchase you’ll get a voucher by email to be printed and exchanged in any of the properties from Historic Scotland (and NOT from National Trust for Scotland). The full list of the attractions is available in the proper section of the website. As always please check the opening times or extraordinary closures before travelling.
How to reach the properties by public transport
To rent a car is obviously the best way to visit Scotland because gives you total free of movement. Having said that, if you prefer to use the Scottish public transport you won’t be disappointed at all.
As a matter of fact, as a lonely traveller, I’m used to exploring Scotland by bus and train and up to now my I haven’t had any kind of problem as the service is really efficient. For this reason I want to highlight two travel passes that may be useful for your trip:
- BritRail Central Scotland Pass, valid for those will be travelling just in the area between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, North Berwick, Falkirk and other intermediate stations;
- BritRail Scottish Freedom Pass, valid throughout the country and it also includes bus and ferries journeys.
Please note that both must be bought in advance as they’re not available in UK and for those who have a UK passport.