Travel

Living in Scotland – The Complete Guide

I have been living in Scotland my whole life. Twenty-two years to be exact – and who better to share the Scottish culture than a Scot herself. If you’re thinking about moving to Scotland or even just a quick pit stop, this is the guide for you.

What’s included in the guide?

Daily Life in ScotlandExploring your backyard
Transport The Weather
Cost of LivingDrink Culture
The FoodGlasgow vs Edinburgh
Signal Free Healthcare

Daily Life in Scotland

I currently live in Carstairs Junction which is a small town outside Lanark. To put it more to scale, it’s around a forty-minute drive to Glasgow and a fifty-minute drive to Edinburgh. I’ve lived around this area my full life and there are some pros and cons to living in a small town in Scotland.

Exploring your backyard

Living in the countryside has it’s perks as there are numerous beautiful places you can visit that are on your doorstep. Some that I’ve visted recently are:

  • Lanark Loch
  • Devil’s Pulpit
  • Loch Lomond
  • Oban
  • Glentress
  • The Clyde

The best thing about living in the countryside is there a view from any point.

This makes it easier to exercise as the environment is beautiful. Speaking of exercise, due to the excessive amount of hills, it’s easy to stay in shape. There are 282 Munros across Scotland.

Munro’s are hills/mountains that are over 3,000 feet.

The highest Munro in Scotland is Ben Nevis, at 4,411 feet. I’ve cheated and used the lift up to the middle viewpoint of Ben Nevis. There is also a cafe, gift shop, ski hire and information desk. I would recommend visiting Ben Nevis as the views are incredible.

Using the gondola to get up to the middle point of Ben Nevis, Scotland.
Ben Nevis

Another great sport in Scotland (due to the number of hills) is mountain biking and trails. The Foresty and Land Committee takes care of the trails to ensure that they are safe for riders.

All trails are colour coded for difficulty, making it easier to find spots around Scotland for you.

A guide for the mountain bike trails in Scotland. This is the difficulty guide.

Weather

You’d think living in Scotland my whole life, I would be used to the rain, wind and snow, BUT I hate it.

It rains on average, 250 days of the year. Which doesn’t seem a lot but it’s estimated, we only receive 45 days a year with sunshine. (which is under 4 days a month)

This means wellies and winter coats all wear round.

On the flip side, a snowy Christmas is usually on the cards – which creates a more Christmas vibe.

Transport

The best thing I ever did was sitting my driving test at 18. Living in the countryside, you’re restricted to either a bus every hour or every three on a Sunday.

That means if you miss it, you’re stranded for three hours…

If you cannot drive, buses are the main form of transport going from town to town. If you’re travelling to Glasgow or Edinburgh, the train is your best option.

Sadly that option is extortionate.

I have calculated what I was paying to get to work each month, from Carstairs to Glasgow. This doesn’t include my subway fairs.

If you're living in Scotland this is the train prices from Carstairs.

As you can see… it’s daylight robbery.

Although these prices are expensive, it’s sometimes the better option. Driving on the motorway before 9 am is a task itself. It would take me around an hour and a half to get from Carstairs to Glasgow.

You also have to remember the parking. The cheapest parking in Glasgow is the Subway stations for £5 per day, which also includes your subway ticket.

If you are planning on living in Scotland, but not in the city centre – think about transportation cost.

Drink Culture

Scotland is known for drinking. So much so, multiple rules have been put in place over the years to limit drinking.

Has it helped?

Nope.

Drink culture in Scotland is something I’ve never experienced anywhere else. No matter the occasion, time or reason – alcohol is usually involved.

Scotland is ranked 8th in the world for alcohol consumption.

I fell “victim” to the drinking culture in Scotland. I was binge drinking every Thursday to Sunday when I was eighteen.

Free Healthcare

This has to be the best perk of living in Scotland. Not having to worry about getting ill and not having health insurance.

If I feel ill, I can then get an appointment within the week depending on how busy it is. I also received all my prescriptions for free.

I did some research. The only medication I take is the contraceptive pill. This would cost between 19-29 pounds per month.

£25 per month = 300 per year

People with conditions would have to pay thousands. I am grateful for the free healthcare as it makes me feel more at ease.

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Cost of Living

As a young person, I found it almost near impossible to save money whilst living away from home. My salary was swallowed up by bills, rent and life. I decided to move home to save for travelling.

If you’re considering living in Scotland and having to private rent, I’ve outlined expenses below.

(Private) Renting

I private rented a two-bedroom flat for a year. This was based thirty minutes from Glasgow. Overall the flat was in great condition, but the expenses were a little steep.

These figures are based on per month.

  • Rent – £600
  • Council Tax – £150
  • Electricity and heating – £100
  • WI-FI – £40

Before I could even think about food, lifestyle or any other expenses I had, I was £890 just to have the basics. Don’t get me wrong, there are cheaper properties out there, but the saying “you get what you pay for” comes to mind.

You also have to include travel expenses. It was £30 per week to get the train from Carfin to Glasgow. On top of that, I had to use the Subway to get to work, which was an extra £50 per month. My travel totalled to £170 per month.

I’ve used the basic minimum wage for my age to calculate a monthly wage.

The minimum wage in Scotland for 20-24 year old is £8.20. If you were working forty hours per week, after-tax you would walk away with 1,272 – 1060 (rent and travel) you’re left with £212. At first glance, would be ok.. but then you have food, a car, life, savings.

It all adds up.

Private renting is an expensive choice, but sometimes the only one people have.

Glasgow vs Edinburgh

I was never one to take sides because both have characteristics that make them better than the other.

Glasgow

I know Glasgow a lot better, but I find it easier to get around. You have the underground subway which is £3.20 for the day.
The people. I much prefer people from Glasgow than Edinburgh. Much more friendly! You could go a night out and have a new group of friends by 10 pm.
It’s Cheaper. I have found bars, restaurants and shops cheaper in Glasgow,
Live entertainment – Most bars have something on at the weekend
If you’re into football, Glasgow is the place to be. The home of Rangers and Celtic.

Edinburgh

The City is beautiful. I honestly couldn’t believe how stunning the city was. You can see Edinburgh castle from just about any point.
Festivals. Edinburgh can do a festival right. The Christmas fairs are always amazing with good food and drink. They also have the Fringe festival which I’ve heard is amazing and a must,
Great public transport. There are buses everywhere along with trams.
Edinburgh is quieter than Glasgow when it comes to the city.
Shopping. If you’re into high-end fashion, Edinburgh is the place for you. Places like Harvey Nicholas, Louis Vuitton and Hugo Boss.

Signal

The signal around Scotland can be shocking! Some parts of Scotland have no service at all.

The highlands are terrible! I noticed when travelling to Oban and Fort William, I had next to no signal in the city centre.

Vodafone and EE have been rated the best networks in Scotland.

I’m currently with O2 and I struggle to get service in a lot of places.

Food

I didn’t realise how many items of food are specific to Scotland and to be honest – most of these I have on a weekly basis.

If you’re travelling to Scotland for the first time or have never tried these before, get them on your list:

  • Haggis. I wouldn’t recommend looking up what Haggis is until you’ve tried it. Take my word for it, it’s delicious!
  • A full Scottish breakfast. This includes Lorne sausage, link sausage, fried egg, bacon, baked beans, fried tomatoes, potato scone, black/fruit pudding, haggis, mushroom and toast. (a real filler)
  • Tablet. This is by far my favourite Scottish sweet. It’s made up of sugar, milk and butter. Simple but tastes like heaven.
  • Chip shop dinner. You cannot beat a Friday night dinner of a chippy. I personally don’t like fish, but usually fried fish and chips are the go-to for most people. I’m a sausage and chips kind of gal myself.
  • Bacon/sausage butty. If you’re not in the mood for a full Scottish breakfast, a roll will do you just fine! With lots of tomato sauce!
  • Scotch Pie. I only had one of these recently for the first time and it was lovely! It’s a pastry crust with a mince filling. This can be served hot or cold.

Overall

Overall, Scotland is a beautiful place and should be on your bucket list to visit. There are pros and cons to living here, but that’s just like any other place. I’ve enjoyed my twenty-two years here, but ready to pack my bags and move on.

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