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Brown tourist signs

We can help you in your application for a brown tourist sign.

Brown tourist signs are widely recognised around Scotland and provide visitors travelling by car with clear and consistent directions on how to reach tourist destinations that might be otherwise hard to find.

If you're part of our Quality Assurance Scheme, we can help you find out if your business is eligible for a brown tourist sign and provide you with a letter of accreditation. You can then apply to your local traffic authority for a sign.

How to apply for a brown tourist sign

A quick guide to making your application

How to apply to your local authority for your brown tourist sign

  1. 1

    Check that you qualify as a tourist destination

    A tourist destination is defined in traffic sign legislation* as a permanently established attraction or facility that:

    • Attracts or is used by visitors to an area
    • Is open to the public without prior booking during its normal opening hours
    • Is recognised by VisitScotland.

    *As defined by The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016

  2. 2

    Join VisitScotland's Quality Assurance Scheme

    To be eligible for signage, you must be part of our Quality Assurance Scheme.

  3. 3

    Get your accreditation letter from VisitScotland

    Before you apply for a brown tourist sign, you'll need an official accreditation letter from VisitScotland. To ask for an accreditation letter, please email [email protected]

  4. 4

    Apply to your Home Traffic Authority

    Once you have your accreditation letter, you can make your application.

    • Local roads: to your Home Traffic Authority - your local authority roads department
    • Trunk roads or motorways, you'll need to apply to Transport Scotland

Further advice and guidance

The purpose of tourist signs, also known as brown signs or white on brown signs, is to provide clear and consistent directions to enable visitors to reach tourist destinations safely by car, and to minimise the risk of dangerous manoeuvres. Tourist signs are directional aids, not advertising signs, and should not be used as a substitute for effective marketing. They are intended to assist attractions and facilities which visitors would otherwise have difficulty finding.

Tourist attractions include: Tourist facilities include:
  • Visitor centres
  • Theme parks
  • Historic buildings and properties
  • Ancient monuments 
  • Museums 
  • Zoos
  • Parks and gardens
  • Natural attractions (such as nature reserves)
  • Tourist shops
  • Leisure/sport centres
  • Golf courses
  • Garden centres
  • Hotels
  • Guesthouses
  • Bed & Breakfasts 
  • Restaurants 
  • Holiday parks 
  • Caravan and camping 

Establishments primarily acting as retail outlets (including retail parks, shopping centres and garden centres) are only eligible for white on brown tourist signs if recognised by VisitScotland as a "tourist shop" through our Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme in addition to meeting all the other relevant criteria.

Tourist destinations not eligible for tourist signposting: 

  • Self-catering accommodation, except:
    • Where multiple units have a manned reception area and have on-spec accommodation available on a nightly basis
    • Where the accommodation is eligible for traffic management or road safety issues in certain circumstances
  • Worshiping churches
  • Exclusive use venues
  • Group accommodation providers 

Is my business eligible to apply?

In order to be eligible to apply for signage, you are required to demonstrate participation in a relevant Quality Assurance scheme. Our role in the application process is to provide an accreditation letter confirming that the applicant holds a current Quality Assurance award.

If your business has two distinct elements and you wish to mention both on the brown sign, then both elements need to meet the individual eligibility criteria. For example, with “hotel and restaurant”, both the hotel and the restaurant would need to be separately Quality Assured. Another example might be “gift shop and café”.

Please note that VisitScotland are only responsible for approving eligibility to apply for signage and is not responsible for approving signage. The final agreement to sign your establishment is at the discretion of your local authority for local roads and Transport Scotland for trunk roads and motorways.

How do I apply for a tourist sign? 

Written confirmation of your Quality Assurance scheme participation is a requirement and an official accreditation letter can be obtained by sending a request to [email protected]. Please note that we cannot issue a letter of accreditation in advance of a Quality Assurance visit, or before the star grading has been officially awarded.

Applying for a sign on a local road

Once in receipt of your accreditation letter an official application can be submitted to your Home Traffic Authority (HTA). For local roads your HTA will be your local authority roads department. They co-ordinate the application process and are able to offer guidance with queries relating to sign location, number of signs, costs, timescales and so on. They can also assist should your request cross local authority boundaries or include a mix of trunk road, motorway and local road sites. We can provide the most suitable HTA contact upon request.

Applying for a sign on a trunk road or motorway

In cases where a destination takes its access directly from a trunk road or motorway, Transport Scotland is the Home Traffic Authority. If your business is situated directly on a trunk road or motorway you should contact Transport Scotland with your accreditation letter to make a formal application. Please consult the "Trunk Road and Motorway Tourist Signposting Policy and Guidance" on the Transport Scotland website to find out more

Not currently eligible?

If you are not currently participating in one of VisitScotland’s Quality Grading Schemes and would like to join, you can find out more by visiting our Quality Assurance process page. If you think that there is not an appropriate scheme for your business, but you would still like to apply for a sign, please contact us to discuss your options. You can email [email protected]