Kudos on swapping in a different dad for the “family friendly” photo! That’s probably a fantastic way to maintain family harmony after being crammed into hotel rooms together for a week or so! 😉
Scotland vs. Ireland, which one should you visit?
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Scotland and Ireland are not the same!
I think for many people, Scotland and Ireland have a lot of similarities. Both countries are part of the British Isles and speak English, but they are not the same!
I have been asked multiple times which country is “better.”
That is an impossible question because they are each so unique, and everyone should visit both! But I know that it isn’t realistic for many people to do that, so let’s look at how they are similar and how they are different.
Scotland is a part of Great Britain and is known for its rolling hills, lochs, and whisky. There are many unique cultural aspects to Scotland that are not part of Great Britain, such as a distinct accent, sports teams (like the Glasgow Rangers), and a traditional national dress called the kilt. Scotland
Scotland is also home to many great universities like Edinburgh University and St Andrews. It’s rich in history and ancient castles, such as Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle.
Parts of Scotland could easily be mistaken for the green hills of Ireland, but in addition, you will find tall mountains, flat lowlands, and the iconic Scottish Highlands.
Ireland is a beautiful island nation in the British Isles that offers its own unique culture, music, and language. The Republic of Ireland is not part of the United Kingdom, while Northern Ireland is.
The Irish language (Gaelic) is still spoken in many parts of the country, and traditional music is a big part of life there. Ireland is known for its lush green landscape, rolling hills, and vibrant nightlife. It’s also home to some great universities, such as Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin. It has many charming towns and villages and is also known for its pubs, which offer great music and a lively atmosphere.
Scotland vs. Ireland
We will be comparing the two beautiful countries in 12 different categories and will let you be the judge. (Although I am team “visit both”!)
Driving on the left side
In both Scotland and Ireland, you will need to be prepared to drive on the left side of the street!
Driving on the left side of the street is overwhelming if you are from North America. I did not know what I was getting myself into when we drove to Ireland. The first time you are driving on the left side of the street is a bit harrowing, but it doesn’t take long to get used to, and after that, it feels just like home!
Ireland has much narrower streets than Scotland due to hedgerows on each side of tiny winding streets, so if you are a very nervous driver, Scotland might be better for you!
Driving on the left side of the street does not stop there. In Ireland, when you are driving in a roundabout (or rotary), all vehicles must “go left,” which is quite confusing for first-time drivers.
Just take it slow, and you will be like a pro by day two of driving in Ireland or Scotland!
Public Transportation in Scotland vs. Ireland
Scotland and Ireland both have public transportation with clean, safe, and affordable buses. In Scotland, you can use a bus pass on weekends as long as it is within the same region or travel outside of your area for £20 for an annual pass. You can also buy monthly passes in advance if you plan to hop onto the bus more than once per week!
Ireland does not have this option, but their prices are lower at €25 euros for one year, which is about $25 US dollars. (at the time of this writing. Please check the exchange rates! )The downside to Irish buses is that they don’t have designated bus lanes since the roads are narrower.
Prices to stay a week in each Scotland and Ireland
Scotland and Ireland offer competitive prices for flights, hotels, food shopping, and entertainment, but it really depends on what you want to do with your money! Prices for hotels in Scotland are about 115 pounds a night for one room; in Ireland, they are around $129. Please keep in mind these prices are for single occupancy! (Prices vary constantly, but this is an up-to-date average.)
You can find the best deals in Scotland if you plan ahead. Hotels outside of cities like Edinburgh or Glasgow usually cost less than hotels in major metropolitan areas, where prices start at £75 to stay overnight. In Dublin, however, it’s not uncommon that hotel rates rise to €150 per night during busy seasons—but there are often great deals online if you book well in advance.
Prices for a week for a family of 4 range from $2000- $4000 in Scotland and $1500-$3000 in Ireland.
Castles in Scotland vs. Ireland
If you love to visit castles, you will love Scotland and Ireland. There are more castles per capita in Scotland than in any other country, and in Ireland, you can find some of the most beautiful castles on Earth.
The types of castles are very different in each country. You can find many more stone castles in Scotland, and you will see Irish castles with their trademark round towers. They are both fascinating and beautiful.
In Ireland, the biggest castle is Dublin Castle, where visitors can explore over 120 acres of land! Scotland has two giant castles: Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle.
Visiting Castles in Ireland is something we have done several times and found that we preferred them to Scotland’s castles.
Where is the better scenery? Scotland or Ireland?
I would say Scotland has the better scenery. Ireland is green but not as varied in the landscape as Scotland. The greenest time to visit for either is from March to June when the grasses turn bright emerald hues with lush vegetation filling each valley.
But honestly, both are gorgeous! Scotland has more striking mountains and rugged coastlines vs. Ireland’s green hills and gorgeous vistas.
Both are spectacularly beautiful countries, and you won’t be disappointed with either.
Does Scotland or Ireland have better food?
Ireland has undergone something of a food renaissance. Every time we visit, the food is better than the last time. Ireland has a lot more food variety than Scotland does, and in general, Ireland is just an eating destination. There are some traditional Irish foods that you simply must try while you are there, like, Irish Stew, Colcannon, and Barmbrack.
There are plenty of pubs to visit, but the Irish also have delicious pasties, pies, crisps (potato chips), or even cabbage rolls! And don’t forget about their famous beers too.
Scotland doesn’t really compare when it comes to food, but they do offer some yummy meat pies that come with pickled cucumbers on top and cheese curds, as well as Scottish shortbread which is a buttery biscuit dipped in sugar icing.
Where are the people most welcoming and helpful?
In terms of being welcoming, both countries are very friendly! Scottish and Irish people will be inviting if you want to chat about anything. If you need directions or help you will be happy to know that people in both countries are very helpful.
But if I had to pick one (and I’m not saying it has to be only one), Ireland is a bit more welcoming. The country itself has a better accommodation system with more hotels, hostels, B&Bs, etc., which can make booking easier or at least give you options. In Scotland, there aren’t as many choices, so book early!
Busiest Time Of Year in Scotland and Ireland
If crowds of people make you feel uncomfortable, you are in luck! Even the busy times of year for Scotland and Ireland don’t feel nearly as busy as other European countries.
The busiest time period for Scottish tourism starts at Easter – June- September, while Ireland’s peak tourism lasts between April – October.
If you choose to travel in the off-season, you can find some amazing deals for hotels and car rentals, but check before you book because some of the castles won’t be open.
Flight prices to Scotland vs. Ireland
Prices for flights to Scotland and Ireland are fairly interchangeable from big East Coast cities. On the whole, I find cheaper flights to Dublin or Shannon Airports than to Edinburgh.
You can find cheap flights from Stewart Airport to Ireland if you live near NYC. We have flown to Scotland via Dublin and taken advantage of cheap Ryan Air flights to make our flights cheaper.
Find your cheapest flights to Ireland here!
Weather in Scotland vs. Ireland
Ireland is a little more temperate with less extreme weather than Scotland and has really nice summers when they are not too overcast or rainy. For the most part, the summer months will be sunny, but it can get quite chilly at night so pack accordingly!
On the other hand, Scotland doesn’t have a great summer season, but the weather is often pleasant, and if you are lucky, it won’t rain. Inverness, Aberdeen, etc., make sure you bring your rain gear because it does rain there year-round. It often rains (not just during winter) and usually heavily rather than drizzling all day long
The temperatures stay fairly consistent from season to season, making traveling easier.
Does Scotland or Ireland have better cities?
Edinburgh – It’s an old city with lots of history, heritage, and beautiful architecture! There are plenty of places to explore, including museums, parks, gardens, castles (you can even drink at one!), historic buildings, live music venues & more. When exploring Edinburgh, make sure to take in the view from Arthur’s Seat-a hill that overlooks all of Edinburgh. If you want something green, visit Falkirk National Park, which is only 45 minutes away by car or train from Edinburgh.
Glasgow – Glasgow has many modern facilities like shopping malls, cinemas, great music venues, parks, and museums. Glasgow has a bit of everything for everyone!
Highlands of Scotland– the stunning landscapes in the Highlands of Scotland will never disappoint!
Inverness– Inverness is a quaint city with beautiful views and loads of history. There are many places to explore, see attractions, or visit festivals like Highland Games
St. Andrews – an old coastal town with a rich heritage and golfing options (the Old Course at St. Andrews is one of the most famous courses in the world)!
Perth– Perth is quite different from other cities because it’s set on estuaries, so there isn’t much green scenery but instead more urban scenes like banks and shops. It still offers diverse cultures, though, notably Chinese New Year celebrations every January, which often include fire dragons dancing around the main street.
Isle of Skye– Isle of Skye may be the most beautiful spot in all of Scotland. It is known for its dramatic landscapes and has the most spectacular coastline in Scotland.
Dundee– Dundee is a small city, but it’s also one of the country’s biggest cities! You can explore all types of cultural heritage, like Dudhope Park, which encompasses green spaces and wetlands, including an adjacent wetland reserve.
Dublin – Dublin is a very modern and contemporary city. It has many shopping opportunities with places like Brown Thomas, Iveagh Garden Shopping Centre & more. If you’re looking for something green, then head down to the Phoenix Park in Dublin, which is also home to many landmarks, including Croke Park, where all Gaelic sports are played
West Cork– West Cork is great if you want to get away from it all because it’s not touristy! Many beautiful beaches and rocks make up this region, and scenic drives along the coastline.
Galway– Galway is located on the coast in the western part of Ireland. It has a very picturesque town with many cafes, pubs, and restaurants, as well as traditional Irish music playing throughout to make it feel more festive.
Dingle Peninsula-The Dingle Peninsula is a small part of Ireland and has many tourist attractions. It’s known for its scenic views, making you feel like the only one there!
Scotland vs. Ireland, which is more family-friendly?
Scotland and Ireland are family-friendly, but they are different in that Ireland is more of a party scene. (At least in the cities.) Ireland seems to have more festivals, clubs, and pubs than Scotland.
But both a great family vacation destinations. There are plenty of things to do with your kids in each country.
Both have tons of things for kids to do and kids’ meals at most restaurants.
Hotels in Scotland vs. Ireland
Hotels are similar in both countries. Both countries have hotels all over the country. However, in Ireland, you will find more large chain-based hotels that might be better for families or people looking for something they are already familiar with. Ireland does have a lot of Airbnbs and VRBOs everywhere you go!
Plus you can stay in a castle hotel in Ireland!
Scotland has many “B&Bs” that offer great personal service and care to their guests. You can find some amazing B&Bs at reasonable rates, though!
For those looking for something a little different and who enjoy the personal touch, trying out Scotland’s B&Bs is worth it! You will find many that offer all you need, plus they are often cheaper than hotels with even better service! Plus if your trip includes children, there are some great places to stay at where they can play outside safely or do arts and crafts while you relax nearby, reading or working from home.
If my family could only ever go to one country again, it would be……Scotland! I love the variety of topography and the massive mountains in Scotland. The highlands are green and beautiful, and the cities offer tons to do.
If you feel differently, please let me know why!
No matter which country you visit, you will have a wonderful time! I hope this has helped narrow down the best fit for you and your family.
Check out our itineraries for Ireland and Scotland below:
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