Must Avoid in Scotland - or are we joking?
We have compiled a list of what to avoid in Scotland by way of places or experiences. We’re delighted to say it’s quite a short list. But for trip planners it’s worth a look. There is a ‘must avoid’ in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen for example.
Must avoid in Scotland
Surely there can’t be places or things you must avoid in Scotland during your visit? Well, there are some experiences you definitely should keep out of your travel plans. We sat around the office one morning and came up with a wee list.
But the first thing to point out that is that it is, definitely, a short list. We are relieved about that.
Nope, we thought and thought and didn’t come up with a very long line of doom-laden warnings for you. Basically, Scotland is a nice visit. You’ll have a great time.
We have tried to make the list not just things that get our personal goat. (I’m thinking here of, say, cheap tat on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, acrylic paintings of hairy coos and Irish-themed pubs. Actually, even Irish pubs are usually great - in Ireland.)
No, these are experiences etc you may not enjoy or do not merit your time - and they are all avoidable.
Not in any order:
City of Glasgow when Rangers play Celtic
Don’t want to see the worst side of sectarianism and drink-fuelled rowdiness? Then don’t stroll the city-centre after Rangers and Celtic have been playing. They are two high-profile football teams that represent a vehicle for religious hatred between two camps, now that no-one much goes to church in Scotland any more.
There’s a Glasgow blog piece about it here.
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile - top end - when the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is on
Unless you’ve got tickets for the Tattoo, in which case this suggestion obviously won't apply, you may want to avoid being carried along by the multinational tide that ebbs and flows at the top of the city’s Royal Mile around the time of performances of the Tattoo on the Castle Esplanade.
Granted it’s atmospheric, but it’s also a bit claustrophobic and you may get the impression that everyone else seems to be going in the opposite direction to you.
But maybe you enjoy this kind of ambience - though there are plenty of other bits of Edinburgh for you to stroll around in a more relaxed way.
Rush hours in Scotland’s cities
Kinda obvious, in a way. Edinburgh city bypass clogs up, so does the M8 through Glasgow, Aberdeen is unspeakable, though maybe improved by its bypass, Dundee is a pain... and so on.
Imagine picking up your hire car or worse, if you’re from the USA, having to manage a (gasp) manual gear shift in all that traffic.
And Johanna says make a special mention of Fort William at rush hour. Now, I wouldn’t have thought of that one. But it’s a reminder that ‘the Fort’ isn’t just a quaint wee Highland village, but a commercial centre for the area.
The golf venue for the British Open Championships, if in Scotland
Give the area a wide berth unless you are specifically going for the golf. Accommodation books out for miles around. Roads are jammed. Happily, after 2018 (Carnoustie in Angus) you can ignore this one until the competition comes back to Scotland in 2021 (St Andrews, Fife).
Beyond that, it’s not possible to say. By that time the Caliphate of Trump may have nuked Scotland for not allowing the Open to take place every year at the Turnberry Resort, Ayrshire, which he owns.
City of Aberdeen
What, a whole city? Yup. You don’t need to go there. Unless you want to see a place of missed opportunities. Can’t think of a single thing Aberdeen has that would interest any of you. Or that some other Scottish city doesn’t do better.
PS I still have relatives there. I went to university there. And I have been visiting Aberdeen all my days.
Ben Nevis and the ‘Tourist Path’
Oh, please, include Scotland’s highest mountain in pictures and views, certainly. And you’ll be fine choosing from the wide choice of accommodation the area of Lochaber offers.
Fort William - ‘in the shadow of the Ben’ as the brochures say - is also labelled Scotland’s Outdoor Capital. There’s lots to do all around.
But as for a day out on Ben Nevis itself, slogging up the path with hundreds of others, some in sneakers, some on sponsored walks or even endurance runs, then it’s probably Scotland’s worst hillwalking experience. At time of writing, there were 281 other Munros for you to enjoy. Read my blog post on Ben Nevis and is it worth climbing?
Isle of Skye in July or August (or at most other times, apparently)
Skye has the steepest mountains, the spikiest skyline and the most romantic image of all of Scotland’s islands. It has dinosaur footprints, weird geology and some fine places to stay. So what’s it doing on a ‘must avoid’ list?
Well, it’s being loved to death. It’s crowded - jam-packed during the peak season, which seems to lengthen every year. You’d enjoy the Isle of Mull just as much. It’s not quite so spiky but still spectacular.
Isle of Mull when the Mull Rally is on
Wait, wait…did we say Isle of Mull? What, that island that is famed for wild landscapes, wild nature, wild cliffs and coasts and sea eagles - all that kind of wilderness stuff?
Well, hold on a moment. For one weekend in the year all that unspoilt, green, environmentally sensitive image goes out the window. The Mull Rally comes to town. Actually, not so much town as a series of public roads, which are closed so that the petrol-infused enthusiasts can gawp at the boy (and girl)-racers speeding by.
So if you’ve come for the tranquillity and nature that weekend - too bad. Naturally, if you’re a motor-sport fan, then don’t miss that October weekend.
Deep fried Mars Bars
Instead of hanging its head in shame, a fish and chip shop in the town of Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, is proud to claim it invented this travesty of Scottish cuisine.
Maybe it was tongue in cheek, though it’s more likely it's your tongue that will be stuck to the roof of your mouth by the sugar if you try one.
No single stunt did more to damage the reputation of Scottish cooking than this gross offering.
But, hey, maybe, like the sugary empty calories offering of Scotland’s own ‘pepsi’ type drink, Irn Bru, you could see this as an authentic Scottish experience. If not, it’s a must avoid!
OK, you may already know this site is far from royalist in its sympathies but, really, with a wealth of other castles of historic significance or architectural beauty, should you really be spending time here?
A visit to the royals’ holiday pad, originally Albert and Vicky’s love-nest-hideaway of 1856, does not involve actually seeing much of it. Just the ballroom with an exhibition and the stables, plus access to the grounds.
Oh and they say that included in the ticket price is ‘access to the formal and vegetable gardens’.
If you think that £11.50 (adult price - 2018) is worth it to see the queen’s neeps, then go ahead. But remember you don’t get to see rooms and interiors. If you want that kind of stuff you should visit the Royal Yacht Britannia at Leith, if you really, really must.
North Coast 500
Scotland’s heavily promoted northern rim road has enough users now, thank you. That’s all.
Damp Highland places on a still evening in summer
Well, this one had to be in, didn’t it? Yes, it’s the visitor’s favourite topic. The habitat of the Highland midge. Though Culicoides impugnatus makes it on to the must avoid list, it maybe sits better on a ‘can’t avoid’ list.
Face it, if you find yourself north of the Highland line between, say, May and October, if the wind drops and there is any damp or wet ground anywhere near ...then the beasties will come after you. It’s a fact of Highland touring. North Coast 500 midges bites per hour, perhaps.
Tons of advice on how to avoid midges right here on this site.
Stornoway on a Sunday
The last bastion of Sabbatarianism in Scotland contributes to the idiosyncrasy or charm of Stornoway.
The hard-liners, fundamentalists or whatever they are labelled, believe that Sunday should be a day of rest.
For example, some of the locals on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides worship a god who, among other public misdemeanours, is filled with wrath at the sight of washing drying on the line on a Sunday.
He/she/it is fine with tumble dryers though. Or at least that’s what a local told us she uses if she finds herself having to dry washing on a Sunday.
It’s not so much what you can’t do on a Sunday, but what you can’t be seen to be doing.
So, though the situation has changed (or eased) in recent years and some businesses and hotels have taken the risk of being consumed by eternal hellfire for making visitors welcome on the Sabbath, others stay closed, just in case. (Finding visitor attractions that are open and fuel for your vehicle may be an issue for example.)
Do not flee off the island though as the Sabbath approaches. There’s still stuff to see. But you should be aware that Sunday closing still causes strong feeling. Here’s a report, for example, of a shop owner being harassed by Sabbatarians.
Based on your own belief system, you have to choose if this one goes on your must avoid list or not.
By the way, Glenfinnan on the Road to the Isles almost made it on to this list. The location can get pretty over-run at peak times. It's the Harry Potter viaduct that's done it.
However, elsewhere on this site (follow link above) we rate it as a must see, so we'd be a bit hypocritical to tell you not to visit now!
There now, that list didn't hurt a bit now, did it? There's nothing to be frightened of - nothing to justify staying away, in fact. So we look forward to seeing you here!