Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides coach holidays
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Time Zone: GMT
Tipping: 10 to 12% is usual for hotels with 10 to 15% being usual for restaurants. In each case, it is not necessarily added to the bill. If a service charge has already been added, no further tip is required.
Scottish Isles - an introduction
Situated just off the north-eastern tip of Scotland on the near-edge of Europe, Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides are a wilderness in which to shake off the cobwebs. All sorts of nature abound here, from seals and otters to ponies and hundreds of birds, making it a wildlife lover's paradise.
From jagged cliffs to unspoilt beaches and stone circles left by settlers some 4,000 years ago, the region is steeped in age-old history. Explore the islands' Norse heritage on a coach holiday, where the sound of fiddles can still be heard drifting through the fresh air.
Cruising is another great way of accessing this remote Scottish wilderness, allowing you to explore in comfort. A selection of cruises incorporating the islands are available, with ports of call including Stornoway (Isle of Lewis) and Kirkwall (Isle of Orkney), as well as Edinburgh. As well as having full board accommodation in your choice of cabin, the services of a professional crew and on-board entertainment are also included. Some cruises also incorporate the Faroe Isles.
Tips & Advice
To help you have an enjoyable holiday in Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides, take a look at these useful tips and advice provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO):
Health and Travel Insurance
British Citizens are advised by some of our tour operators to have travel insurance before going on a tour or holiday, even if it happens to be in your country of residence. As a British citizen you will be entitled to free emergency health care on the NHS.
If you are visiting Scotland from outside the United Kingdom and fall ill or are involved in an accident and are from any member of the European Economic Area or Switzerland, you can obtain free or reduced cost treatment with The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Comprehensive travel insurance is advised for all other nationals planning on visiting Scotland.
If you need to contact the emergency services whilst in Scotland simply dial 999 or 112 to ask for an ambulance.
Most destinations are generally trouble-free, however as with all places that you are not familiar with, keep an eye on your belongings and if necessary lock them away somewhere safe back at your hotel if possible. Keep an eye on everyone in your party and do not go off with people you do not know. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times. Be aware of your surroundings and don't venture off on your own.
Local Laws and Customs
Queuing is a British Institution - jump a queue at your own risk!
Drug offences will carry penalties in the UK, so avoid getting involved with anything whilst in Scotland. Please note the narcotic plant Khat/Qat is legal in the UK, but is not in a majority of other countries so never try to export this when leaving the UK.
If you are visiting from outside of the United Kingdom, it is wise to check customs requirements before you travel. If you are planning to bring alcohol, tobacco or souvenirs into the country, you need to be familiar with the UK's custom laws. For those people coming to the UK from the EU, you are allowed to bring an unlimited amount of most goods for your own use without paying tax or duty.
However, if you are travelling to the UK from outside of the EU, you are given an allowance of how much alcohol, tobacco, perfume, souvenirs and other goods. If you go above this allowance you may have to pay tax or duty. It is worth checking the HM Revenues and Customs website before you travel.
When travelling between the UK, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man in most cases an official form of identification such as a Driver's License will be ok. However, some airlines will insist you show a passport so check before you travel.
If you are travelling to Scotland from Australia, Canada or the USA, you must have a valid passport for at least three months beyond the length of your stay. EU nationals need to have either a valid passport or identity card.
Visas for the UK are not required by those travelling from Australia, Canada, USA or EU for stays of up to six months.
Any other nationality looking to visit the UK must contact the local embassy to check visa requirements.
For further information about the Scottish Isles you can visit their official tourist board websites at:
The Shetland Isles: shetland.org
The Orkney Isles: visitorkney.com
The Outer Hebrides: visithebrides.com
Things to do
Although a remote wilderness, there is a lot to do in Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides. Some of them are:
Thought to be one of Orkney's most visited tourist spots, Skara Brae is an ancient site which is older than Stonehenge. In 1850 a fierce storm hit the Orkney Isles and the site of Skara Brae was uncovered; previously it was hidden beneath a grass mound. Today visitors can see eight dwellings, each connected by a series of low passageways.
Callanish Standing Stones
Located in the Outer Hebrides on the west coast of Lewis, the Callanish Standing Stones are a must-see attraction for all visitors to the Western Isles. The Stones were erected around 3000BC and it is thought that they were some kind of astronomical calendar associated with the moon. These stones have continued to mystify and amaze visitors with questions such as 'who built them?' and 'why?'
When visiting the Shetland Isles, why not visit Scalloway Castle? Built in 1600, this castle was once the home of the Earl of Orkney. The Tower has been restored over the past century, however not all of the original structure still remains. Visitors can climb up the tower of the Castle and visit the Scalloway Museum which is located next door.
One of Scotland's most sacred and historic sites, the Abbey was founded in 563AD and it still retains its spiritual atmosphere today. The Abbey was restored at the start of the 20th century and the Abbey now welcomes visitors from around the world who flock to enjoy its peaceful atmosphere.