I plan on traveling to the UK for a couple months. My hope is to do a word way in Scotland. ... I'm having a hard time sorting through the visa information. so my question is do I need a visa to do work way in Scotland for a month? ( a workaway is where you trade labor for room and board)
Yes, if you are going to work for 5 minutes you need a work visa. You must be otherwise eligible to visit the UK, you must be coming for a job for which your employer is sponsoring you and they have to certify that they have tried all available channels to hire EU citizens and none are as qualified for the job as you are and that you will not be displacing an EU citizen. You also have to register to pay taxes in the UK and pledge that you will not be a drain on UK resources.
This all has to happen before you make the trip. Work visas are NOT granted once you are in the UK, the officers are VERY good at seeing through illegal immigrants' stories, and you will then have a very big bill for the plane trip back to Reno or wherever they send you before you get out of the airport, as well as their expenses.
Nobody here will encourage you to break the law. Going to the UK with the intention to work without the appropriate visa is breaking the law.
I encourage you to think long and hard about that option, and consider the unemployment rate in Scotland.
As Nigel pointed out, the rules are very strict concerning that sort of thing. When you enter the U.K., the stamp on your Passport will state "Does not provide leave to seek employment". AFAIK, it doesn't matter whether your employment pays in cash or in room & board, it's still considered employment (the rules are the same here in Canada).
The easiest way to work in the U.K. for those 18-35 is to use a Working Holiday Visa. Unfortunately, I believe that's only available for Commonwealth (and a few other) countries, as the U.S. and U.K. don't have reciprocal agreements. If you have dual citizenship with any of the countries in the WHV program, the situation will be different.
Your best source of information will be to contact the nearest British Embassy, as they'll be able to provide the most detailed and accurate information.
First of all, I admire you for wanting to visit another country. My suggestion is for you to save up, get a second job and/or a second bank account to save towards a legal trip overseas. My niece wanted to do something similar years ago. As a family, we agreed to put money in her trip account for birthdays, Christmas,etc. with her working second job for her trip, within a year she had enough to do a fairly frugal, hostel trip to Europe. I would not want to be worried about being able to come home due to illegal activities.
Lyndsey.. there are many volunteer abroad work exchange programs available in europe.. suggest you search through major data base.. I just found a site that lists over 100 different organizations..You should be able to find a good fit.. and not worry about putting locals out of work as the programs are specifically for foreigners to participate in.. have a lot of fun.. but do your homework.. some programs may leave you little free time to sightsee on your own.
Also suggest you check out a forum like Lonely Planets Thorntree it will have more budget minded or young or young at heart travellers on it and they will likely be more intune to what you are looking for.