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Is it smarter to get either the Historic Scotland Pass or the Explorer pass for sites I plan to visit. I will be in St. Andrews, Edinburgh, Inverness, and Sterling. Or is it better to just get individual tickets? Do I need reservations?
Thank you,

Posted by
98 posts

Hi Debbie,
We purchased Historic Scotland annual memberships, 2 concession, as we were in Scotland for over 14 days. The memberships paid for themselves about day 10. We did not need reservations but we traveled earlier in the season and we visited early mornings at opening times or later in the day when visitors were fewer. We simply walked up to the ticket counter and they scanned our cards.

If you add up the individual entry fees for the places you'll visit you'll be able to determine if the Explorer or manual membership pass will pay for itself.

A fun thing about the Historic Scotland sites.. they are doing a bingo card type thing, for HES members I think, where you collect a separate card for each site you are visiting. Collect 7 cards and you'll receive a pin. Now, there are different categories of cards so for instance you can't collect 3 ancient palaces cards, you'll need one card for each category. We managed to collect 5 cards so I left the 'bingo' card with our tour guide so she can have fun with it.

Posted by
6793 posts

Debbie, as suggested above, you need to do the math to figure it out. Add up the entrance fees for the places you want to visit and match it against Historic Scotland.

One other benefit of Historic Scotland is that you can make reservations online, but tell them that you were planning to purchase a Historic Scotland pass once you get there. That way you don’t have to pay to have it shipped, but you can still get your reservation in. That’s what I did. There’s a post of mine that has more info on it. Let me know if you cannot find it.

Another nice option is that if you were going back to the UK within the next 12 months, you get half price off any English Heritage properties with your first year Historic Scotland pass. That was a very nice benefit for me.

Posted by
1961 posts

There are also additional benefits to annual membership. You get discounts on audio guides as well as a 20% discount in their shops (useful if you are planning on buying their guide books or post cards) and 10% in the cafes.

You also get 20% off entry to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and 25% off the house tour of Dumfries house.

You get half price entry to all English Heritage, CADW and Isle of Man sites in the first year too. (Useful if you are planning to visit them as well as Scotland.)

Full details here.

You will need to do the maths as to which will give best value.

Posted by
6705 posts

As mentioned, simple math will give you the answer. For both Wales and Scotland trips we went to enough of the historic places to justify the annual pass. Because of our ages we were able to get the two concessions pass that was even less expensive. We bought our passes at the first historic property we visited; Edinburgh castle. That is also the only place we had a reserved entry time. Every la e else we just walked up to. The ticket person then scanned the bar codes on the receipts we were given when purchasing the tickets.