Though some things have been more expensive in Scotland than in Canada, we’ve really had our money’s worth on others. Top of the list is the membership in Historic Scotland. With free entry to many historic sites, this is a history geek’s delight! One thing I will do differently next time is to take out membership in the National Trust, too. Not only do members of both organisations get to visit historic sites free and enjoy discounts at the organisations’ shops, there are also discounts on admission to partner organisations’ sites in England.

Historic Scotland also offers short term Explorer Passes for those visiting the country for a shorter period of time, so if you’re only interested in visiting a few sites over a one- or two-week visit, you can opt for a 3-days-in-5 or a 5-days-in-7 pass. January through March, there was a promotion that offered a 30-day membership for £20. I took advantage of that when my daughters visited, as I knew that, even though they were here for only 10 days, we’d be visiting a lot of Historic Scotland sites. When you consider that entry to Edinburgh Castle alone is £14.50, entry fees can add up quite quickly. And even during the high season, if you’re going to be here for longer than a week or two and plan to visit a lot of sites, purchasing a membership might be most cost effective.

There’s another interesting phenomenon here — “gift aid”. As a UK taxpayer, I have the option to “gift aid” my entry fee to some places (Our Dynamic Earth, Holyrood Palace, Rosslyn Chapel) whereby the organisation leverages my entrance fee to get a tax break from the government. In return, the organisation will permit me to visit their site as many times as I want for a year, free of charge. Holyrood gets you to sign your initial visitor ticket, which they then stamp. The next time you want to visit, you produce photo ID to prove that you’re the ticket bearer. In the case of Our Dynamic Earth, they take your photo and produce a plastic card on the spot. For Rosslyn, you fill out an application and return it with a passport photo and they send your membership card in the mail. (And, if you live in the EH25 post code area — that of Rosslyn — the Chapel Trust will give you free admission at any time.)

Scotland is a much more compact country than Canada, so getting around to all the historic sites is somewhat easier than in Canada. And having a transit system that can take you just about anywhere, whether by bus or by train, or a combination of the two, makes places accessible (and cheaper, when you consider that petrol costs just under £1.40/L) in ways that Canada could only ever imagine.