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Ireland vs. Scotland: Which Is The Right Fit For You?

Posted May 7, 2018

Ireland and Scotland often get lumped into one big group - and it makes sense, as the two nations have, at one point or another, been considered a cornerstone piece of the British Empire. But an excursion to Ireland is a vastly different experience than a trip to Scotland, and creating a travel itinerary much easier when you take the time to compare the key similarities and differences between them.

Regardless of which destination you choose to visit next, both places will fill your soul with the spirit of a thousand years of incomparable history. From the stunning landscapes to the electrifying nightlife, there is something for everyone in both Ireland and Scotland. So let's get down to it and compare Ireland vs. Scotland to help you decide which one to see first!

The Language

Though each nation boasts a native Gaelic language, most Scottish people speak English. Signs and directions will be listed in English (yes, you'll have to get used to kilometers versus miles), but English is the prevalent language in either destination. While a mere 1.1% of Scottish people speak Scots Gaelic, more than 4 out of 10 Irish individuals speak Irish Gaelic on a daily basis. They'll happily converse with you in English, but this might not be the native tongue heard 'round the dinner table in all Irish homes. What does this mean to the intrepid traveler? Not much, with the exception that Scottish signage and language is generally friendlier to Western travelers.

The Government

Ireland and Scotland were both part of the British Empire at one point (Scotland still is), but the majority of Ireland gained real independence in the early 1920s. Only 6 counties on the Northern end of the island remain part of the UK, while Scotland is wholly part of the United Kingdom. You might get away with calling Irishmen or Scotsmen British, but think twice before calling them English!

Local Scenery

Regardless of which destination you choose to visit first, you'll likely be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of your chosen country. When you visit Scotland, it is cool in the summer (with an average of 66 degrees fahrenheit) and chillingly cold in the winter. Ireland is a bit more temperate, thanks to the Gulf Stream, and sees more rain and less snow than Scotland. The Scottish landscape is a bit sparse and rugged in places, while the Irish countryside is whimsical and green.

Historical Sites

Though both countries are packed full of incredible historical destinations, there is a difference between Ireland and Scotland history. Scotland boasts more than 3,000 verified castles across the countryside, and many of them look as if they were pieced together just a few years ago. Ireland, on the other hand, is a destination for those who want to see what 600-year-old castles look like. Ruins abound and make the ideal day trip for history-minded travelers.

The Food

Both Irish and Scottish cuisine are quite similar, but there are some unique attributes to each. Scottish food is generally simple, hearty, and relies heavily on fish, game animals, and oats. Big cities like Glasgow offer stunning, contemporary culinary destinations alongside traditional restaurants. Expect sausage, potatoes, smoked fish, buttery shortbreads, fried eggs, and oatcakes in Scotland. As a whole, Irish food is a bit more worldly than Scottish cuisine, but it is still pretty simple in execution. Potatoes abound, as do cabbage-based dishes, pork and lamb, and hearty breads.


With so much history to explore during the day, you may not have a lot of energy left for nighttime activities. But if you do, both countries deliver plenty to do after the sun goes down. Edinburgh and Glasgow are two cultural hotspots in Scotland, while Dublin is the center of all things modern in Ireland. An evening at a pub in one of these big cities will allow you to immerse yourself in local culture, while enjoying some of the distilled or brewed beverages the area is known for. To start planning your dream journey to either Ireland, Scotland, or both, contact one of our Destination Experts today or request a free brochure for more information.


A trip to Ireland or Scotland is a magical treat for the senses. From the verdant green countryside to the haunting beauty of centuries-old castles, these two nations should be on any discerning traveler's short list of spectacular destinations.