Is Scotland Explorer Pass worth it – a detailed review about how to save £30 using the pass and from where to buy it (to get a free cancellation).
Scotland is full of magical castles. With more than 2,000 fortresses and palaces, no matter where you find yourself, a castle is never far away. Some of them lay in ruins, some are still standing proudly and welcome visitors to their halls.
Unfortunately, the castles are not free as most of the museums in Scotland are. To visit a large castle (like Stirling or Edinburgh Castle) you have to pay around £15-20, for a small one – around £7. If you have a few castles on your list, this can be quite a big part of your vacation budget.
How to save £30 with Scotland Explorer Pass
Scotland Explorer Pass is totally worth the cost. It gives you free entry to 77 sites in Scotland (including fast track entry to Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle). You can save more than £30 using the pass (and you’ll start saving after the second attraction).
In this Historic Scotland Explorer Pass review, I did the math to show you how much you can save.
Let’s take for example the 3-day pass. Imagine you’re planning to spend about 4-5 days exploring central Scotland. Your itinerary includes 2 days in Edinburgh and 2 days for day trips.
By using the 3-day pass you can save about £30.
Here is an example of a 4-day itinerary, that covers Edinburgh and some popular castles around. Activate the pass on the second day to benefit most.
Doune Castle is featured in Game of Thrones and Outlander. Stirling Castle is one of the most important castles in Scotland. Linlithgow Palace is the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. And Melrose Abbey is the final resting place of Robert the Bruce.
- Touring Edinburgh’s most popular attractions (see my Edinburgh itinerary for more details)
- Edinburgh Castle – £19.50
- Take a half-day trip to Melrose Abbey – £6
- Doune Castle – £9
- Stirling Castle – £16
- Blackness Castle – £6
- Linlithgow Palace – £7.20
Total without the card – £63.70
If you use the card – £33
Total savings – £30.70
As you can see the price of the 3-day pass (£33) is cheaper than separate tickets for Edinburgh Castle (£19.50) and Stirling Castle (£16). Plus, you’ll get fast track entry, that you’ll save you hours in waiting.
Scotland Explorer Pass Price 2020
There are three main types: a 3-day, 7-day and 14-day card.
- 3-Day Card – £33
- 7-Day Card – £40
- 14-Day Card – £45
Additionally, each of them has a family option (for 2 adults and up to 6 kids).
- 3-Day Family Card – £66
- 7-Day Family Card – £80
- 14-Day Family Card – £90
Where to buy Scotland Explorer Pass
You can buy the pass online or at the first visited site. However, if you decide to buy it in person at the first attraction, you’ll lose time waiting in line.
To save time, buy the pass online (I bought mine from Tiqets). I was wondering between them and the official website of Historic Environment Scotland (the price was one and the same).
Finally, I chose Tiqets, because the pass from the official website was non-refundable. And as we all know travel plans sometimes change. If you book with Tiqets you can cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours before the activity starts.
The 3-day card is valid for 3 consecutive days. During the buying process select the date on which you will use the card for the first time (for example 1 August). Your card will be valid until 3 August. You can use it to visit multiple sites in one day, but every site can be visited only once. The same applies to the 7-day and 14-day cards.
When you arrive in Scotland, just redeem the voucher at the first attraction you visit.
Historic Scotland Explorer Pass Benefits
What’s included in Historic Scotland Pass
- free entry to 77 sites in Scotland (plus a fast track entry to Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle)
- free entry to Historic Scotland daytime events
- 20% discount on audio tours at Edinburgh and Stirling Castles and Glasgow Cathedral
Free entry to 77 sites in Scotland
You get a free entry to the most popular castles and abbeys in all Scotland. This includes Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Melrose Abbey, Glasgow Cathedral, Doune Castle and many more. See the full Scotland Explorer Pass list at the end of the article.
And the best part is that you also get a fast track entry to the two most famous castles in Scotland – Edinburgh and Stirling.
20% discount on audio tours at Edinburgh and Stirling Castles and Glasgow Cathedral
You can tour the Edinburgh and Stirling Castles by joining a walking tour (included in its entry fee) or renting an audio guide.
The meeting point of the walking tour is through the Portcullis Gate past the audio booth by the clock.
The tour takes place on the hour (10 AM – 5 PM), starting at the well outside the Fort Major’s House.
If you prefer to explore the castles on your own pace, get the audio guide. With the pass you’ll get a 20% discount.
Scotland Explorer Pass list
By using the card you’ll have free entry to all sites listed below. Please note that this information is current as of the date of last update of the article (March 2020).
You can find here a pdf map of all attractions included in the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass.
Edinburgh and the Lothians
- 1 Blackness Castle
- 2 Cairnpapple Hill
- 3 Craigmillar Castle
- 4 Crichton Castle
- 5 Dirleton Castle and Gardens
- 6 Edinburgh Castle
- 7 Inchcolm Abbey and Island
- 8 Linlithgow Palace
- 9 Seton Collegiate Church
- 10 Tantallon Castle
- 11 Trinity House Maritime Museum
The Scottish Borders
- 12 Dryburgh Abbey
- 13 Hermitage Castle
- 14 Jedburgh Abbey
- 15 Melrose Abbey
- 16 Smailholm Tower
Dumfries and Galloway
- 17 Caerlaverock Castle
- 18 Cardoness Castle
- 19 Dundrennan Abbey
- 20 Glenluce Abbey
- 21 MacLellan’s Castle
- 22 New Abbey Corn Mill
- 23 Sweetheart Abbey
- 24 Threave Castle
- 25 Whithorn Priory and Museum
Glasgow, Clyde and Ayrshire
- 26 Bothwell Castle
- 27 Craignethan Castle
- 28 Crossraguel Abbey
- 29 Dumbarton Castle
- 30 Dundonald Castle
- 31 Glasgow Cathedral
- 32 Newark Castle
- 33 Rothesay Castle
Central and West
- 34 Argyll’s Lodging
- 35 Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace
- 36 Castle Campbell and Gardens
- 37 Doune Castle
- 38 Dunblane Cathedral
- 39 Dunstaffnage Castle and Chapel
- 40 Inchmahome Priory
- 41 Iona Abbey and Nunnery
- 42 Stirling Castle
The Kingdom of Fife
- 43 Aberdour Castle and Gardens
- 44 Dunfermline Abbey and Palace
- 45 St Andrews Castle
- 46 St Andrews Cathedral
Perthshire, Kinross and Angus
- 47 Arbroath Abbey
- 48 Edzell Castle and Garden
- 49 Elcho Castle
- 50 Huntingtower Castle
- 51 Lochleven Castle
- 52 Meigle Sculptured Stone Museum
- 53 St Serf’s Church and Dupplin Cross
- 54 St Vigeans Sculptured Stones
- 55 Stanley Mills
North and Grampian
- 56 Balvenie Castle
- 57 Corgarff Castle
- 58 Dallas Dhu Historic Distillery
- 59 Duff House
- 60 Elgin Cathedral
- 61 Fort George
- 62 Huntly Castle
- 63 Kildrummy Castle
- 64 Kinnaird Head Castle Lighthouse and The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses
- 65 Spynie Palace
- 66 Tolquhon Castle
- 67 Urquhart Castle
The Western Isles
- 68 The Blackhouse, Arnol
- 69 Calanais Standing Stones
- 70 Kisimul Castle
Orkney Islands and Shetland
- 71 The Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces, Kirkwall
- 72 Broch of Gurness
- 73 Brough of Birsay
- 74 Hackness Martello Tower and Battery
- 75 Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement
- 76 Maeshowe Chambered Cairn
- 77 Skara Brae Prehistoric Village
Is Scotland Explorer Pass worth it after all
If you plan to visit more than 2 castles, the Scotland Explorer Pass is worth it in all cases. Moreover, there will be no need to wait in line for tickets at Edinburgh and Stirling Castles.
If you decide not to use Scotland Explorer Pass, I strongly recommend booking tickets in advance for the following castles.
Edinburgh Castle – one of the most visited attractions in Edinburgh with long waiting lines (especially in the season). You can book your ticket in advance here.
Stirling Castle – one of the most popular day trips from Edinburgh or Glasgow. Book your advanced ticket entry to Stirling Castle to avoid the lines.