Ireland and Scotland — pros and cons for travellers

Ireland and Scotland — pros and cons for travellers

This article will outline the pros and cons of visiting Ireland and Scotland including things like affordability, activities, and attractions in order to help you pick the best country for your particular travel style. Both countries have innumerable things to offer travellers and one could easily spend months and months wandering around both of them. But which is the right destination for you? In general, choose Scotland if you want countless archaeological sites, myriad islands to explore and a well-established walking and camping culture. On the other hand, choose Ireland if you’re interested in great food, recent history and bucolic landscapes.

Key Takeaways

  • Ireland is known for its great food, recent history, and beautiful green landscapes.
  • Scotland offers countless archaeological sites, numerous islands, and a strong walking and camping culture.
  • Both countries provide a range of activities and attractions, making it difficult to choose between the two.
  • Affordability can be a deciding factor, with Scotland potentially being a cheaper option for accommodation.
  • Your travel style and preferences will ultimately determine which country is the best fit for your trip.

Accessibility in Ireland

Public Transportation Options

Ireland offers a variety of public transportation options, making it relatively easy to navigate, especially in city centres like Dublin, Cork, and Galway. These cities are well-connected by buses, trams, and trains, providing convenient ways to explore urban areas without needing a personal vehicle. However, outside of the bigger cities, public transportation can be less frequent and less reliable.

Driving in Ireland

Driving in Ireland can be a great way to explore the country's scenic landscapes and historical sites. Rental cars are relatively cheap, and the road network is extensive, covering even remote areas. However, be prepared for narrow roads and driving on the left side, which can be challenging for those not used to it. Having your own personal vehicle can significantly enhance your travel experience, especially if you plan to visit rural areas.

Major Airports

The Republic of Ireland is quite a small country, both in population and in land area, and it is likely that you will fly into the capital of Dublin, which is the highest-traffic airport in the country. Other major airports include Cork and Shannon, which also offer a range of international and domestic flights. These airports are well-equipped with modern amenities, making your arrival and departure as smooth as possible.

Discover the beauty and inclusivity of accessible Ireland. This guide unveils hassle-free journeys, welcoming attractions and accommodations.

Accessibility in Scotland

Scotland is an incredibly easy nation to get to and a fairly straightforward one to get around. However, outside of the city centres in places like Edinburgh and Glasgow, it can be fairly tricky to get around if you’re planning on relying solely on public transport.

Affordability in Ireland

Accommodation Costs

Ireland offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit any budget. While cities like Dublin can be extremely expensive, more affordable accommodation is available towards the outskirts. Conveniently, most places come furnished, including couches, tables, dressers, and usually a new mattress.

Food and Drink Prices

Food and drink prices in Ireland can vary significantly depending on where you are. Dining out in major cities can be pricey, but there are plenty of affordable options, especially if you explore local markets and smaller eateries. Cooking your own meals can also be a cost-effective option.

Transportation Expenses

Ireland has a pretty extensive network of public and private buses that are the most affordable way to travel. Transport for Ireland is a handy route planner that can help you navigate the system efficiently. Driving can be more expensive due to fuel costs and car rental fees, but it offers the flexibility to explore more remote areas.

Ireland has a reputation as being an expensive country, but with careful planning, you can manage your expenses and enjoy a memorable trip without breaking the bank.

Affordability in Scotland

Accommodation Costs

Scotland offers a range of accommodation options to suit different budgets. Wild camping is a popular and cost-effective option for those looking to save money. Renting entire cottages can provide a homey feel, but prices can vary significantly depending on the season and location. Hotels in Edinburgh tend to be more expensive, especially during the summer and Christmas seasons, while Glasgow offers more affordable options.

Food and Drink Prices

Food and drink prices in Scotland are generally reasonable. Many attractions that require entry fees rarely cost more than £10-15, and most museums in bigger cities are free to enter. This can help you save money on dining out, as you can allocate more of your budget to experiencing local cuisine.

Transportation Expenses

Transportation in Scotland can be quite affordable if you plan ahead. Public transportation options like buses and trains are available and can be cost-effective. Renting a car is another option, but be mindful of fuel costs and parking fees. Overall, Scotland can be an affordable destination if you research and plan your travel expenses in advance.

Activities and Attractions in Ireland

landscape photo of mountain island

Historical Sites

Ireland is a country rich in history, with ancient sites and centuries-old churches scattered throughout the Emerald Isle. Notable attractions include the Kilmainham Gaol Museum and the Little Museum of Dublin. These sites offer a glimpse into Ireland's storied past and are must-visits for history enthusiasts.

Outdoor Activities

For those interested in outdoor adventures, Ireland offers a variety of options. From hiking along the Antrim Coast to exploring the daring cliffsides, there is no shortage of amazing trails. While Ireland may not have the plentiful mountains found in Scotland, its countryside boasts unique beauty with rolling hills and scenic views.

Cultural Experiences

Ireland is firmly cemented on the tourist trail for a reason: there are seemingly infinite things to do in such a small island nation. Whether you're visiting a local pub, attending a traditional music session, or exploring one of the many museums, Ireland offers a rich cultural experience that is hard to match. The Guinness Factory is also a popular attraction, providing insight into one of Ireland's most famous exports.

Activities and Attractions in Scotland

Historical Sites

Scotland is a treasure trove of historical sites, offering a glimpse into its rich past. Edinburgh Castle is a must-visit, perched atop a hill and offering stunning views of the city. Another iconic site is the Royal Yacht Britannia, which provides a fascinating insight into royal life. For those interested in geological formations, Arthur's Seat is a popular destination, offering both historical significance and natural beauty.

Outdoor Activities

Scotland's diverse landscape makes it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you're into kayaking, mountaineering, or skiing, there's something for everyone. For a more relaxed experience, consider a boat ride or a leisurely walk through the countryside. The Three Lochs Way offers excellent hiking opportunities, while the North Coast 500 is one of the best road trips in the world.

Cultural Experiences

Scotland's cultural scene is vibrant and varied. Cities like Edinburgh are hubs for cultural events and festivals. Don't miss the chance to visit a whisky distillery; Scotland is home to hundreds of them, offering tours and tastings of some of the finest single-malt whisky in the world. Additionally, most museums in the bigger cities are free to enter, making it easy to immerse yourself in Scottish culture without breaking the bank.

It really is not hard to find things to do and see in Scotland – it really is more about making a feasible list of priorities.

Natural Landscapes in Ireland

Coastal Scenery

Ireland's coastal scenery is nothing short of breathtaking. The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare are a must-see, offering dramatic views over the Atlantic Ocean. The entire Wild Atlantic Way, stretching along the country's west coast, is renowned for its stunning landscapes and is considered one of the best road trips in the world. Don't miss out on the rugged beauty of Achill Island and the unique geological formations at the Giant's Causeway.

Countryside Views

The rolling green hills and bucolic farms of Ireland are iconic. Known as the Emerald Isle, Ireland's countryside is a patchwork of lush, green fields and quaint villages. The Twelve Bens in Connemara and the Midland region offer some of the most picturesque views. For those interested in hiking, the Wicklow Way provides a scenic route through some of the country's most beautiful landscapes.

National Parks

Ireland boasts several national parks that are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Killarney National Park is one of the most popular, featuring lakes, mountains, and woodlands. Connemara National Park offers a mix of rugged terrain and serene beauty, making it a great destination for hikers and nature lovers alike. Phoenix Park in Dublin, one of the largest enclosed parks in any European capital city, is another highlight, offering a mix of natural beauty and historical landmarks.

Natural Landscapes in Scotland

a rainbow shines in the sky over a farm

Scotland's coastal scenery is nothing short of breathtaking. From the rugged cliffs of the Isle of Skye to the serene beaches of Eoligarry Beach, the variety is astounding. Scotland’s landscapes have inspired poets, songwriters, and artists the world over. The coastal areas offer a mix of dramatic cliffs, sandy beaches, and picturesque fishing villages that are perfect for exploration.

The Scottish countryside is a tapestry of rolling hills, lush valleys, and expansive moorlands. The Trossachs National Park and Cairngorms National Park are prime examples of Scotland's natural beauty. These areas are not only visually stunning but also offer a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and wildlife spotting. The countryside views are so captivating that they have been the backdrop for numerous films and TV shows.

Scotland boasts some of the most beautiful national parks in the British Isles. Cairngorms National Park, with its subarctic plateaus, offers a unique ecosystem that is unlike anywhere else in the region. The Trossachs National Park, on the other hand, is known for its lochs and dense woodlands. These parks provide ample opportunities for outdoor adventures and are easily accessible, making them ideal for visitors of all ages.

Scotland’s nature truly cannot be beaten. The garden of Dunvegan Castle or the area of Kilt Rock are really just leisurely strolls on gravel paths. A lot of the most beautiful viewpoints are accessible by car!

Cultural Differences: Ireland vs Scotland

Music and Festivals

Both Ireland and Scotland are renowned for their vibrant music scenes and lively festivals. Ireland is famous for its traditional Irish music, often featuring instruments like the fiddle, tin whistle, and bodhrán. Popular festivals include St. Patrick's Day and the Galway International Arts Festival. Scotland, on the other hand, is known for its bagpipes and ceilidh dances, with notable events like the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Hogmanay.

Local Traditions

Ireland and Scotland each have unique local traditions that reflect their rich histories. In Ireland, you might encounter customs such as storytelling sessions in pubs and Gaelic games like hurling. Scotland boasts traditions like the Highland Games, where participants compete in events like caber tossing and tug-of-war.

Language and Dialects

While English is the primary language in both countries, there are distinct differences in dialects and regional languages. In Ireland, you'll hear the melodic tones of Hiberno-English and might come across Irish (Gaeilge) in certain areas. Scotland features Scots and Scottish Gaelic, particularly in the Highlands and Islands.

When visiting either country, embracing the local culture and traditions can greatly enhance your travel experience.

Weather and Best Time to Visit

Ireland's Climate

Ireland experiences a temperate maritime climate, characterized by mild winters and cool summers. Rain is a common occurrence year-round, so packing waterproof clothing is advisable. The best time to visit Ireland is during the late spring (April to June) and early autumn (September to October) when the weather is relatively mild and the tourist crowds are smaller.

Scotland's Climate

Scotland's weather is notoriously unpredictable, with the possibility of experiencing all four seasons in a single day. The summer months (June to August) offer the warmest temperatures, but spring (March to May) is often the driest period. Visitors should be prepared for sudden changes in weather regardless of the season.

Seasonal Activities

  • Spring (March to May): Ideal for hiking and exploring the countryside in both Ireland and Scotland.
  • Summer (June to August): Best for outdoor festivals, coastal activities, and enjoying the longer daylight hours.
  • Autumn (September to November): Great for scenic drives and experiencing the fall foliage.
  • Winter (December to February): Perfect for cozy indoor activities, visiting museums, and enjoying local pubs.
To avoid extremes in both climate and crowd size, travelers should consider visiting in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall.

Food and Drink: Ireland vs Scotland

red citrus berries on gray surface

Traditional Dishes

In Dublin, some traditional food you have to try includes Irish stew, Boxty pancakes, Coddle, Soda bread, and a properly poured Guinness. On the other hand, Edinburgh offers Haggis, Hog roast sandwich, Stornoway black pudding, Cranachan, and Whisky. Personal preference plays a significant role in choosing between these culinary delights.

Local Beverages

Ireland is renowned for its beer, especially Guinness, which is a must-try. Scotland, however, is famous for its whisky, with numerous distilleries offering tours and tastings. Both countries provide unique beverage experiences that reflect their rich cultural heritage.

Dining Experiences

Ireland boasts a high concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants and a vibrant food scene, making it a haven for foodies. Scotland, with its hearty traditional meals and modern culinary innovations, also offers memorable dining experiences. Both countries promise cities full of history, nightlife, welcoming hospitality, and ancient architecture that’ll have you feeling as though you’ve gone back in time.

The choice between Ireland and Scotland is too close to call with each country boasting fascinating things you simply don’t want to miss. Scotland has the landscapes, but Ireland has the castles. Scotland has the food, but Ireland has the beer.


Choosing between Ireland and Scotland for your next travel destination can be a challenging decision, as both countries offer a wealth of experiences and attractions. Scotland is ideal for those who are drawn to archaeological sites, island explorations, and a strong culture of walking and camping. On the other hand, Ireland is perfect for travelers who appreciate great food, recent history, and picturesque landscapes. Ultimately, the best choice depends on your personal travel style and preferences. Both countries are rich in history, natural beauty, and friendly locals, ensuring that whichever you choose, your trip will be memorable and fulfilling.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between visiting Ireland and Scotland?

Ireland is known for its great food, recent history, and bucolic landscapes, while Scotland offers countless archaeological sites, numerous islands to explore, and a well-established walking and camping culture.

Which country is more affordable to visit, Ireland or Scotland?

Generally, Scotland may be a bit more affordable, especially in terms of accommodation, as wild camping is more accepted. Ireland can be more expensive, particularly for accommodation.

What kind of activities can I do in Ireland?

In Ireland, you can explore historical sites, enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and fishing, and immerse yourself in cultural experiences such as traditional music and festivals.

What kind of activities can I do in Scotland?

In Scotland, you can visit historical sites, engage in outdoor activities such as walking and camping, and enjoy cultural experiences including local festivals and traditional music.

What is the best time to visit Ireland and Scotland?

The best time to visit both Ireland and Scotland is during the late spring to early autumn (May to September) when the weather is milder and more conducive to outdoor activities.

How is the public transportation in Ireland?

Ireland has a decent public transportation system, including buses and trains that connect major cities and towns. However, rural areas might be less accessible without a car.

How is the public transportation in Scotland?

Scotland offers a well-connected public transportation system, with buses, trains, and ferries that make it easier to explore both urban and rural areas.

Can I drive in Ireland and Scotland with a foreign driver's license?

Yes, you can drive in both Ireland and Scotland with a valid foreign driver's license. However, it's recommended to check specific requirements and regulations before your trip.

Curtis Duggan

Curtis Duggan

Curtis is a serial tech entrepreneur, content creator and the host of the Remotely Serious podcast on the future of remote work and digital nomadism.


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