mist covered road on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

14 things you absolutely should not do when visiting Scotland

A few years ago I wrote a post about some of the Scottish stereotypes people like to perpetuate (and why you shouldn’t believe them…), and, as that post remains popular to this day, I figured it was about time for a follow up. Without further rambling, then, here are 14 random things you absolutely should not do if you’re visiting Scotland: mostly because Scottish people hate them – trust me on this…

14 things Scottish people wish you wouldn’t do when visiting Scotland:

Mountain in Glencoe, Scotland: from 'Things Scottish People Hate'by Forever Amber

Wear tartan to “blend in”.

Honestly, you’d be better off just hanging a sign round your neck saying, “HELLO, I’M A TOURIST!”

While some Scottish men do wear kilts to things like weddings, or other formal events, if you’re wandering round Edinburgh or Glasgow, say, you’re not going to see hoards of Scottish people heading to their office jobs all decked out in kilts, tartan dresses, or those tartan hats with the pom poms on top that are always being attributed to us. Nuh-uh.

You will, however, see a lot of tourists in tartan and sporrans, all thinking they’re blending in perfectly: I mean, it’s cute, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re hoping to be mistaken for a local, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed…

(If you DO see a Scotsman in a kilt, meanwhile, please don’t ask him what’s under it, and under NO circumstances try to check…)

Ask us if we know your Auntie Janet, who visited the Orkney Islands in 1969, and has never been back since.

Funnily enough, my two-year-old ALSO thinks I know everyone in the whole world, so that should tell you a lot about how the whole, “Oh, you’re Scottish? Well, you must know my neighbour’s sister’s daughter!” thing sounds to us.

It’s a small country, yes, but no-one knows 5.5 million people, surely? Imagine how hard it would be trying to remember all their names!

Make fun of our accents.

Yeah, we know you think Scottish people talk funny: we think you talk funny too. What we won’t find funny, though, is your hilarious attempt to mimic us by adopting a ‘Groundskeeper Willie’ accent to tell us, “There’s been a murdurrr!” or yell “FREEDUUUMMM!” at us. Just… don’t. (Also: “Och aye the noo,” is Not a Real Phrase. I repeat: Not a Real Phrase…)

Expect us to know what clan we’re supposedly part of.

I mentioned this one in my last post on this subject, but, well, what can I say: I guess Outlander has a lot to answer for, hasn’t it?

Only pack for one type of weather.

For a recent day out (At the end of July, no less…) I wore a pair of trousers with a t-shirt, and brought with me:

01. A thin sweater.

02. A lightweight jacket

03. A much warmer, waterproof jacket

04. Sunglasses

I ended up wearing just the t-shirt and light jacket (And trousers, of course: never forget your trousers…), but any or all of these items could easily have had to be deployed – the weather is that changeable. Two things that all Scottish people know:

01. Don’t trust the weather report.

02. LAYERS. Lots and lots of layers.

Ask someone which football team they support.

Because, if you do, you’ll actually be asking them what religion they are, and they probably won’t assume you’re asking out of innocent curiosity. Yes, it’s… complicated.

Assume all Scottish people hate the English.

Sadly, there is a small minority of Scottish people who harbour ancient grudges against The English, but the majority of us are as repulsed by that as you probably are, so please don’t assume we’re all like that: while most of the items on this list are just mildly amusing rather than actively annoying, this one is really, really offensive to those of us who have friends and family in the south, and, well, who’re just not bigots

sunset over Loch Lomond : from 'Things Scottish people hate' by Forever AmberStart a conversation about Scottish independence.

They rarely end well: trust someone who only just made it through the referendum with all of her friendships intact…

Tell us all about how you’re Scottish too, because your great-great-grandfather’s sister’s cat’s cousin lived in Aberdeen.

Look, you’re either Scottish or you’re not: one-sixty-eighth Scottish is not a thing here, so when when you start earnestly explaining your Scottish heritage, which turns out to be some tenuous link from four hundred years ago, we will nod and smile politely, but every time you claim to be “Scottish”, we’ll be secretly thinking, “No you’re not, you’re from Kansas.”

Refer to Scottish people as “Scotch”.

Scotch is whisky (and no, the stuff we make doesn’t have an ‘E’ in its spelling…). Scottish people are… Scottish. We will only tell you this once.

Tell someone from Edinburgh that you like Glasgow better, or vice versa.

If asked, it’s safest just to say that both cities are awesome (which they are), and leave it at that. Even though Edinburgh is obviously better.

Speaking of Edinburgh…

Call it “Edinboro” rather than “Edinburgh”.

BURRR-UHH. Ed-in-BURR-UH. Say it with me…

Ask us if we’ve ever heard of Netflix / iPhones / the Internet / the round wheel etc.

My brother-in-law once sat next to an American gentleman on a flight to London: at one point, the man asked how my brother-in-law would be getting back to Scotland once they landed, and almost fell off his seat in astonishment when he learned we have airports here, that you can fly into in one of those newfangled flying machines: imagine!

Turned out he – like a lot of people, to be honest – had bought into the idea that Scotland is some kind of Land That Time Forgot, and that it’s still the 18th century here or something. The same brother-in-law, for instance, has also been asked if we have the internet here in Scotland, and I quite often get blog comments from people asking me if I’ve heard of really quite ordinary things, like Starbucks, or McDonalds, or whatever. Like I said, Outlander has a LOT to answer for…

Complain about how hot it is in your country.

Even if you literally burst into flames every time you leave the house, you’ll get no sympathy here, sorry. Actually, we’ll just assume you’re trying to do some weird kind of stealth boast, and judge you for it. In general, Scottish people don’t tend to enthuse over cold, wet weather: it’s not really a novelty for us, unfortunately…


With all of that said, here’s a quick and tedious caveat to say that this post is supposed to be lighthearted, so if you’ve visited Scotland and done any of these things, don’t worry, Scottish people don’t ACTUALLY hate you for it: we might talk funny and have weather that will make you want to weep, but we do love our tourists – promise!

Fellow Scottish people: feel free to add to this list!



11 Scottish Stereotypes that are blatantly untrue

The Ultimate Guide to Outlander Filming Locations in Central Scotland

Things I Learned About Scotland from Historical Romance Novels

Things Scottish People Will Understand 

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  • Emerald

    15: On no account buy one of those Tam O’Shanter with the tufts of carrot hair attached. No explanation needed for this one!

    16: Say to someone “Call yourself Scottish and you don’t drink alcohol?” Heard the hell out of that. And if it comes up that my dad’s background is Irish…

    17: Make jokes about Scots being mean. This really riles me because someone would say that about my late grandfather, rather than attributing his being careful with growing up in the 1920s in a not exactly flush family. Hence he learnt to be financially careful (plus worked in a bank). Yes, there are tight people here – as there are everywhere!

    August 4, 2020
    • Birdie

      Right! And when people say that Scott’s hate Irish people!

      March 4, 2023
  • Amy

    I’ve only visited Glasgow once for a long weekend and I’m relieved to say I did none of the things on the list! I had a fab weekend with my local friend and I would love to go back again.

    August 4, 2020
  • Jennifer

    My daughter and I were on vacation in Scotland this time last year. I am relieved to realize we did none of these things! We had a wonderful time on our vacation and my daughter has now decided that when she grows up she is going to somehow move to Scotland. It is fine by me–then I can visit her.

    August 4, 2020
  • Ashlea Smalley

    Husband and I honeymooned in Scotland last year. Very relieved that we did none of these things ???? We had such an amazing time, loved the weather, loved the people, the landscape, and the Scotch. Can’t wait to come back someday ❤️

    August 4, 2020
    • Donald Illingworth

      The only thing that is mildly annoying is dropping litter

      August 27, 2021
  • Brenda

    Lol! I could write up a very similar list for Canada. It’s amazing how many people think we are a nation of lumberjacks who live in Igloos – oh have you met my friend’s cousin’s friend, who lives in Toronto??? Anyway, I did go to Edinburgh a couple years ago and I did buy myself a beautiful tartan cashmere scarf, but I didn’t wear it there! Whew!? How could I resist when there is literally a cashmere shop on every corner!?!? I can’t wait to go back and explore more of the highlands and Glasgow is definitely on my list too.

    August 4, 2020
  • Mary Katherine

    Good stuff and a good chuckle! Can’t wait to visit Scotland again, and will bear this in mind.

    August 4, 2020
  • Dee

    Re. point 13: when I was at uni in Edinburgh I had a friend from the north-east of England whose mum would send her cash in the post because she didn’t think Scotland had banks for paying in cheques!

    August 4, 2020
  • Suz

    Assume that Scotland is SO small you can drive it in a day. The number of tourists I educated at accommodation across Scotland when I worked for VS was amazing. I once sat in a hotel in Portree and overheard: ‘We’re just going to pop down to Eilean Donan Castle, we’ll be back in a hour…’

    Eh, no you won’t. I know we’re not as big as the US, but it’ll still take you at least an hour just to *get* there. And that’s if that traffic’s ok and you’re not stuck behind a caravan.

    People are still amazed it takes me 6 hours to drive to West Lothian from North Wales. It’s a long way, folks!

    August 4, 2020
  • Claire

    This post really made me chuckle! I blame Outlander too for the way Americans view Scotland <3

    Claire, G is for Gingers

    August 5, 2020
  • Erin

    God I could totally see drunk, twenty year old me screaming “Freeeedummmmm” like an asshole. I have matured and promise not to do this or any of the above if Covid ever goes away and I can come to your lovely country.

    August 5, 2020
  • Maria

    That random Kansas mention made me chuckle but also hurt a little cause I used to live in Kansas 🙂 Didn’t meet anyone bragging about their Scottish heritage though…. Re the touristy purchases, every time I visit a new place, I always wonder what to buy. I want something unique and representative of the place, but not touristy as you mentioned. For some reason, it is very difficult to distinguish between the two. Perhaps you can write another post on what to get from Scotland? 🙂

    August 5, 2020
  • Steph

    Ha, I totally was that numpty who wore tartan when I went to Edinburgh! In my defense, I didn’t think I’d be blending in, I was just a bit obsessed with a new blackwatch tartan dress I had at the time and thought maybe it would be a bit kitsch. But then I actually spent the day feeling a bit stupid and stressed out that everyone hated me. And now I know the truth, nooooooooo!

    August 6, 2020
  • Rachael

    Your list made me laugh! I’ll make a note of not doing any of these thing when I evenutally get to come, was hoping to go to Edinburgh over winter last year and didn’t get chance.
    Helpless Whilst Drying

    August 10, 2020
  • Fiona

    Outlander has so much to answer for. I’m in a couple of Facebook groups – joined as I read all the books and had nobody to talk to about them. They are awful awful places, but I can’t bring myself to leave.

    Anyway, yes, the hundreds upon hundreds of people on there who claim to really “feel” their Scottish heritage and have a huge affinity to the country because their great great grandmother was 1/4 Scottish makes me quite ragey. “I’m descended from Clan Whatever,” also gets me as it’s pretty meaningless given how diluted bloodlines get down hundreds of years. You’re descended from dozens of clans/ families/ individuals.

    And lastly: We don’t all come from Gaelic speaking areas and therefore it’s not weird that we’re not avidly trying to protect a language that nobody in our history spoke in the first place.

    August 10, 2020
    • Brice

      If someone is annoyed by someone else’s affinity or pride of actual Scottish heritage in their family then it says more about the person who becomes annoyed and vents about it than the person who has proud feelings of their familial background when they know which clan they have family ties to.

      February 27, 2021
      • Siobhan

        Oh behave yourself. It’s not about being annoyed by someone proud to have Scottish heritage it’s them claiming they’re Scottish. I’m in Canada and every 3rd person tells me they’re scottish so I ask where from and they reply “well I’m a Campbell/Douglas/Stewart It’s in me somehow ????

        February 28, 2021
      • Cynthia

        Very nice said, Thank u,

        September 27, 2023
    • Kaci

      I may have been born in Oklahoma, but according to a 23 and me DNA test, I am 85% Scottish and 15% Indigenous American (my grandmother is 60% Cherokee). I’ve always been proud of my heritage, but after reading how Scots feel about their American cousins, a little less proud now.

      December 12, 2022
  • Rali

    We did the “Edinburgh” -gh in Glasgow’s bus station. It was amazing to see the face of the person who we asked for:))) I love your blog, we are living in Dundee and before 3 years we moved to live in Scotland just because we love it and like it. People are amazing and nature is beautiful. I started to follow you blog because of the high level of literacy and interesting posts. I’m trying to work on my English and mostly I’m reading your blog. Next time when you decide to explore Dundee again, would be fantastic if we could meet and talk!

    August 25, 2020
  • Norm Sutherland

    I’M not scottish(only 20%), but loved visiting ,Circular tour, Edinburgh, Inverness,Dunrobin,Mailbag?,Glasgow,etc. Fortunate to have had mostly dry weather. My biggest take away? Scots are among the most friendly and helpful people I have met. I’m a Sutherland and a funny take away was a tour guide in Inverness saying “We hate you people” refering to the Clearances of course. But it was all in jest. We had fun and eill be back after covid has passed.

    February 23, 2021
  • Brice

    If someone is mildly annoyed because someone has legitimately Scottish ancestry and they are proud of it then then that says more about the person that is annoyed rather than the person that is proud of their family.

    February 27, 2021
  • Brice

    If someone is annoyed or mildly bothered by someone being proud of an actual family heritage connection to Scotland & a Scottish clan then it says more about the person who is annoyed than the person who has an affinity for their ancestry & pride of their familial background when they know where they came from. With that embrace it tourism should welcome it.

    February 27, 2021
  • Doug

    A friendly piece of advice for our American friends;
    Don’t refer to a kilt as a skirt
    Don’t say plaid when you mean tartan
    Don’t say your more Scottish than me because you support Independence, you’ve just watched a shite film more times than me
    Ask if it’s safe to drink the water, was also asked if it was safe to drink Gordon’s gin as they had never heard of it
    Yes I used to work in the tourist industry

    March 3, 2021
  • Claire Robert

    Very funny post!

    LOL I always say I’m Scottish (proudly I’m ???? Scottish but have a bit of Irish blood from a few women who moved to the lowlands to marry Scotsmen). But as a Canadian, I’m definitely “one of those” people who claim the Scot in me! I like to differentiate between my family and the next because of the way I was raised with the food, the manners, the literature, Hogmanay, etc. Culturally, the Scots are strong, smart, conservative, and awesome.

    And re: tartan… it’s winter Canadiana, so forgive us. We wear tartan a lot!!! (Not so much the kilts though)

    March 13, 2021
  • Mica

    My Ancestry results says I’m 33% Scottish and I was very surprised. I had no idea! So just for fun, what’s a good way to learn a little about the culture?

    April 10, 2021
  • Jamie Moran

    Yes, it is irritating for someone with tenuous link long ago to say they are Scottish. An easy target. But there is a more serious issue, and it is complicated. Say you and an extended family of let’s say 20 are forced to leave Scotland [bc of economics/politics/religion] and go unwillingly.. You try to, bc you want to, remember the Old Country in the new place you have ended up. Do you keep telling children, g-children and great-g-children about your knowledge of and love for ‘tjhe old country.’ Or do you give up? I notice Hindus in UK keep a lot of Hindu culture going down generations. Is that impossible with Scottish folk in USA??

    December 6, 2021
  • Patti

    Much ado about nothing. People are often uncomfortable in new surroundings and say things that might offend your more delicate sensibilities. Please give them a break.

    January 19, 2022
  • Julie

    American here. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. We have many stereotypes too that people will assume when visiting the U.S. some amusing, most insulting! That being said I am one of those cliches who would love to see Scotland because that’s where the majority of my heritage is from, it’s tough to say you have “roots” in a country when you only go back 2 generations! Also my family loves old architecture so all the castles!(I know another touristy thing). We don’t have all that many here! Someday I hope to get there and I will definitely remember your suggestions! Thank you again, from Pennsylvania, USA

    January 27, 2022
  • david

    call it plaid and not tartan,

    March 7, 2022
  • Diane

    What fun! Can’t wait to visit scotland in June! So glad some travel has opened up!!

    March 26, 2022
  • Beth

    I have Scottish ancestors, and I’ve always been proud of them. I’m also into genealogy, so I’ve traced my family tree a bit. If I ever visited Scotland, I would bring this up, because I am proud of my ancestors. But I have never been lucky enough to visit.

    April 12, 2022
  • Frozen Willow

    Hi – I was born and bred in Glasgow, moved to Ayrshire when I was 15. Been here for the past 25 years and want to move to another part of Scotland, sometime soon. I am a descendant of both King Malcolm of Scotland and the Kings of Ireland (The O’Neils of County Tir’ Eoghan)

    Now that I have that out of the way, a message to tourists. Please don’t think that we all love haggis, because some of us actually do think it’s boggin! (Disgusting) Also, don’t think we can just summon up Nessie at any time. I read a review from an English gentleman who was upset after visiting Loch Ness (Loch – ch – Pronounced like clearing phlegm from the back of your throat) because the weather was sh!t3 and Nessie was nowhere to be seen.

    Ditch the stereotypes before you come here and remember there is more than just castles to visit. There is the stunning beauty of Scotland that rates it the most beautiful country in the world. May I suggest the Isle of Arran (Scotland in Miniature) where you can climb to the peak of Goat Fell in around 3 hours (4 if you’re older thna middle age, 2.5 if you’re a teenager/youngadult) where you can see the white sands of Lamlash and look onto Holy Isle and taste Scotland’s finest whisky around at Blackwaterfoot (we all don’t drink whisky either – sterotypes! ditch them) Also you can visit the cave where King Robert The Bruce came across the spider and declared “If at first you don’t secede, try, try again”

    Also, don’t be feart to ask for directions – we don’t bite 😉 Much :p

    May 27, 2022
  • Judi

    Thank you all for the advise. I will be in Scotland next month to celebrate retirement and will try to keep your comments in mind. I have heard the Scottish people are friendly and gracious…. I am from the southern portion of the US and a lot of people in my own country think all southerners are uneducated and talk funny so I can relate to some of the comments.

    May 26, 2023

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