Is Scotland Safe? What Travelers Need to Know

Find out which dodgy locations you should avoid, and how to identify gangs who wander around the streets of Scotland.

Salisbury Crags, Holyrood Park with Edinburgh city the in background Photo © Getty Images/Andrew Merry

The cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow are exciting destinations to visit for the architecture, culture and music scene. The capital city draws large crowds each year – some for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, others for the questionable 'summer' weather.

Glasgow, once Edinburgh's seedier little sister, is growing in popularity and has polished up its image a bit since the 1990s. Just like anywhere, though, the streets of both cities can get rough and rowdy after dark. Here are a few things travelers should know. 

Places to Avoid in Scotland

While the city center of Edinburgh should treat you well, some spots, particularly housing estates, are spooky after dark, such as the Meadows, Grassmarket, Cowgate, Tollcross and Lothian Road.

Areas you'll probably want to avoid completely include Muirhouse and Pilton in the north, Niddrie and Craigmillar in the southeast and Sighthill and Wester Hailes in the west.

If you look on several popular travel forums, many claim Glasgow has problems with drunks and fanatical football fans, who either side with the Celtic or Rangers, but what city doesn't?

Residents downplay this part of the population, whose members may get drunk and loud after a match no matter if their team won or not, though admit there are wandering drug addicts, who won't do much harm other than maybe ask for money, out-of-control youth and those who like to fight with knives.

A resident points to an area between Central Station and St. Enoch Square housing homeless shelters and vagrants. If this population makes you nervous, stay away.

Stay away from housing estates known as Govan and Partick.

None of these people are likely to cross your path and do you harm if you keep your wits about you.

Neds (Gangs) of Scotland

There are some "unsavoury" youths in the form of NEDs, which stands for "Non-Educated Delinquent." You can spot them by their tracksuits, flashy jewelry, immaculate-white sneakers and baseball caps. They're often seen loitering and drinking cheap booze around Scotland. They like to start trouble and may aggressively pester passerby.

In Glasgow, a resident points to Sauchiehall Street as having a tendency to get loud when bars close at 3am.

There is sometimes some grumbling and rumbling in the taxi queue, and if someone bumps into you, just ignore them, and don't try to queue-jump.

Walkabout, an Aussie bar on Renfield Street, carries nothing of the laid back nature from Down Under, and is the scene of fights and trouble on weekend nights.

Some bars in Glasgow also attract mostly Old Firm football fans, so they'll be packed full of rowdy folks on game days. These pubs are often in one area, like the Celtic stretch of bars in Barrowlands , while the Rangers stake out a few bars near Paisley Road West.

Some pubs and clubs in the city center and West End of Glasgow require very nice attire, and sneakers and any sports gear are normally not allowed. Some even have a "regulars-only" policy. Some establishments also won't let in a group of more than four men at a time. You can usually get around this by going in two at a time and acting like you don't know the other pair until you're deep into the pub's dark corners.

As a patron, never argue with a bouncer in Glasgow. Pick up your pride and move to the next pub. They have their reasons for kicking you out or denying you, and they don't want to tell you them.

If you must use night buses in Glasgow, keep to the lower deck and be mindful of your belongings to avoid thieves.

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8 Comments

  • jay said

    You should add to your list of places to avoid whilst in the capital city, Kirkgate Leith due to the amount of alcoholics that frequent the area day and night! Places not to venture at night: Carlton hill, rose street, salamander street, Leith links park, the footpath from St leonards to Bingham (via Arthur seat) Magdeline, Peirshill (holyrood side) the footpath from the Scottish parliament along to easter road, Lochend/craigintinny high amount of junkies!

    Reply

  • jay said

    You should add to your list of places to avoid whilst in the capital city, Kirkgate Leith due to the amount of alcoholics that frequent the area day and night! Places not to venture at night: Carlton hill, rose street, salamander street, Leith links park, the footpath from St leonards to Bingham (via Arthur seat) Magdeline, Peirshill (holyrood side) the footpath from the Scottish parliament along to easter road, Lochend/craigintinny high amount of junkies!

    Reply

  • Nikki said

    Partick is not a housing estate and is a very popular and safe place to visit in Glasgow’s west end.

    Reply

  • Lorna said

    Is this a parody? The area between central station and st Enoch square in Glasgow Just has a McDonald’s, a bank and a Pizza Hut. In “areas to avoid” most of them are a load of rubbish, Who wrote this? Lothian Road is perfectly safe, full of cinemas and restaurants, the grass market is safe too. Scotland is probably one of the safest countries in the world, you are very unlikely to get stabbed or assaulted by bouncers - very strange.

    Reply

  • Matthew Dawood Khaghani said

    I have travelled to Scotland many times and have always found the people there to be very friendly. The best form of self defence in Scotland in my opinion is treating others with respect.

    Reply

  • John said

    For the comment stating you are very unlikely to be assaulted or stabbed in Glasgow is just naive and not true . Although it has improved you should still avoid these stabbing/gang hotspots : Drumchapel,Gorbals,Calton,Easterhouse,
    Possil,Springburn,Govan,Castlemilk,Blackhil
    Bridgeton. Etc. Also Scotland was the most violent country in the developed world / Murder Capital of Europe , so definitely not safest. Avoid these areas and stick to the city centre/west end and you should be fine . Also avoid walking alone after dark . Also if you venture out into Glasgows neighbouring areas avoid : Greenock,Port Glasgow,Cumbernauld,Saltcoats,Ardrossan,Irvine,Largs. Should note Largs is safe if you stick to the affluent front of the town, when you move back towards the scheme ( Council Estate ) violence and stabbing/slashings aren't uncommon.

    Reply

  • WILLIAM HOGG said

    Native-born Glaswegian speaking. In Glasgow you'd have to be looking pretty hard to wander into an ''iffy' area at night. You have no reason as a tourist to go anywhere near Easterhouse, Castlemilk, Drumchapel, Pollok or Possilpark so you won't go there at all. Partick is no more dangerous than many other parts of Glasgow and in fact is close enough to the university quarter to be relatively safe at night. Govan has nothing of great interest for a tourist - OK not much - so again you needn't stroll there of an evening. The one area I'd mention is the part between the Citizens' Theatre and Bridge Street subway station which can seem rather intimidating at night to a first-time visitor. Just keep your wits about you (and avoid the McDonalds in Argyle Street late at night) and you'll be fine. And welcome to my city !

    Reply

  • JohnB said

    Glasgow is a very safe city, the city centre is extremely safe at any time. There will be rowdy drunk people all over the place at night but will be in good spirits. Even in the rare event someone is randomly looking for a fight as soon as they realise you are not Scottish they will become your best friend.

    Stabbings and violence is contained in the housing schemes outside of the city centre and between rival gangs/people who have previous issues with each other. There is no reason for any visitors to go near these areas and even if they mistakenly do the threat of violence or muggings will be extremly rare, most people you come across will help you get to an area you are looking for.

    NEDS are a dying breed in Glasgow and rarely visible now, young peole no matter were they come from are more intersted in fashion, haircuts,the gym and looking good now, Glasgow has a higher standard of living than ever before and young people are taking advantage of it and enjoying life rather than being pests.

    Glasgow has its issues with drugs and alcohol, the people involved keep themselves to themselves even beggers are polite if you decline to give them money, they will wish you a good day.

    You will not have any issues with bouncers if you are polite, respectable and not too drunk

    Glasweigans are very respectable to tourists and will go out their way to make them feel welcome. If you look for trouble in Glasgow you will get it from anyone, but it wont find you.

    As for Celtic and Rangers playing against each other, it will be busy and rowdy but there will be a heavy police presence, there may be flash points when the two sets of fans come together but agaian the police will disperse it and it will be rare to see.

    Reply

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