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There are direct air services from London and other European cities to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness or Kirkwall, and from North America to Glasgow or Edinburgh. From Europe it's often cheaper to fly to London, and then catch a train or bus north. It's a one-hour flight from London to Edinburgh, but once you add on the trip to and from the airport you're getting close to the four-hour rail trip.
Long-distance buses are usually the cheapest method of getting to Scotland. A train from London can get you to Edinburgh in four hours, Glasgow in five, and there are plenty of discount fares available. Scotland has ferry links to Larne, near Belfast, and to Belfast itself. In summer there is also a weekly ferry between Aberdeen, the Shetlands and Norway, and a twice-weekly ferry from Aberdeen to the Faroes.
For those with their own transport, main roads are busy and quick - Edinburgh is 373mi (600km) from London and it will take you about eight hours to drive, as long as you don't get caught up in one of the numerous motorway hold-ups!
Although there are carriers operating domestic flights in Scotland, it's hardly worth the price unless there's no other way to get to the islands. Most of the islands are linked to the mainland by ferries. As well as a comprehensive bus network, various hop-on-hop-off bus services operate circuits around the Highlands. The Western and Northern Isles and Skye also have relatively good bus services. Train routes through the Highlands are stunning but limited, and more expensive than buses.
Roads are generally good and far less busy than those in England. On back roads you may have only one lane and petrol stations may be few and far between.
The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson by James Boswell includes visits to Skye, Coll and Mull, and is one of the great Scottish travelogues. More recently, Native Stranger by Alistair Scott recounts the efforts of a Scot who got to grips with the realities of modern Scotland by travelling the length and breadth of the land. Perhaps the best known of Sir Walter Scott's prodigious patriotic outpourings is Rob Roy, now popularly held to bear a striking resemblance to Liam Neeson. Several of Robert Louis Stevenson's novels have Scottish settings - locations in Kidnapped include Mull and Rannoch Moor. Compton Mackenzie's Whisky Galore is the humorous tale of what transpires when a cargo of whisky runs aground on one of the Hebridean islands during WWII. Life amongst Highland wildlife is rendered by Gavin Maxwell, whose works include Ring of Bright Water. Visitors to Orkney will enjoy reading George Mackay Brown's work, such as the novel Greenvoe or the short-story collection A Calendar of Love. John Prebble's The Highland Clearances and The Lion in the North are indispensable, passionate guides to Scottish history. For those interested in doing some walking, the six volumes of the Scottish Mountaineering Club's District Guides cover the whole country, including the islands, and are the most authoritative, detailed and best-written guides on the market. They're not cheap but are an excellent investment for serious walkers.
The Scots love their games, watching them with fierce, competitive dedication and identifying closely with teams and individuals competing both locally and internationally. The most popular games are football (soccer), rugby union, lawn bowls, golf (which the Scots claim to have invented), and the endemic shinty and curling. Shinty is an amateur ball-and-stick sport similar to Ireland's hurling. It's fast, very physical and played in winter. Curling involves teams of four propelling circular polished granite stones over ice as close to the centre of a target as possible. Another popular activity, among locals and visitors alike, is walking. Scottish walkers are fiercely protective of their right to roam the mountains and moors, and legal rights of ways plus responsible access agreements to private property have resulted in a multitude of paths for enthusiasts to enjoy.