The original scone was round and flat, usually as large as a medium-sized plate. It was made with unleavened oats and baked on a griddle (or girdle, in Scots), then cut into triangular sections for serving. Today, many would call the large round cake a bannock, and call the triangles scones. In Scotland, the words are often used interchangeably.

The griddle scone (or "girdle scone" in Scots) is a variety of scone which is fried rather than baked. This usage is also common in New Zealand where scones of all varieties form an important part of traditional colonial New Zealand cuisine.

Other common varieties include the dropped scone, or drop scone, like a pancake, after the method of dropping the batter onto the griddle or frying pan to cook it, and the lemonade scone, which is made with lemonade and cream instead of butter and milk. There is also the fruit scone or fruited scone, which contains currants, sultanas, peel and glacé cherries, which is just like a plain round scone with the fruit mixed into the dough.

In some countries one may also encounter savoury varieties of scone which may contain or be topped with combinations of cheese, onion, bacon, etc.

Scones were chosen as the Republic of Ireland representative for Café Europe during the Austrian Presidency of the European Union in 2006, while the United Kingdom chose shortbread.

In Hungary, a pastry very similar to the British version exists under the name "pogača". The name has been adopted by several neighboring nations' languages. (E.g. Pogatsche in German.) Pogácsa is almost always savory and served with varied seasonings and toppings, like dill and cheese.

Pumpkin scones, made by adding mashed cooked pumpkin to the dough mixture, had increased exposure during the period when Florence Bjelke-Petersen was in the public eye. Date scones, which contain chopped dried dates, can also be found in Australia. Another old style of cooking scones, generally in the colder months, is to deep-fry or deep pan-fry them in dripping or oil, when they are called "puftaloons".

Round British scones can resemble North American biscuits in appearance, but scones traditionally rely on cold butter, while biscuits are more often made with other kinds of animal fat or vegetable shortening. Also, while scones are frequently (but not always) sweet, and served with coffee and tea, biscuits are served more as a bread, often with breakfast in the South.

In recent years, scones under that name have begun to appear in coffee houses. They are universally sweet, often containing fruit such as blueberries or raspberries, or else such flavorings as cinnamon.

Scones are quite popular in Argentina as well as Uruguay. They were brought there by Irish, English and Scottish immigrants and by Welsh immigrants in Patagonia (Britons are the third largest foreign community in Argentina). They are usually accompanied by tea, coffee or mate.