Scotland Sept 2014!

Yippee!!! Just booked our flights in Business using miles to London for next September! We've been to London before, so with two weeks, our plans are to spend at least a week in Scotland and part of the time in England or Wales countryside on the way to or from Scotland. We also plan to be near Edinburgh during the 2014 Ryder Cup as the Company I work for is a major sponsor, and if I'm lucky, I may actually get tickets. We'll likely rent a car for exploring Scotland outside of Edinburgh and thinking about spending few days either driving or taking the train from London to Edinburgh exploring along the way. We want to stay in castles where possible and plan on visiting a couple "Scotcheries" such as Oban, Talisker, and Glenkinchie. I've been lurking in the North helpline since we returned from Italy in April, and have the RS UK book. But would be happy to hear any suggestions based on your experiences; must sees, restaurants, castles, hotels, or "not worth visiting" advice to point me in the right direction.
Now I have 330 days to plan our trip.....

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

To begin with I would buy a copy of Rough Guide Scotland and also one for England if you need it. We have never had a bad meal in Scotland, any where. The Oban distillery is somewhat out of the way but its easy to get to if you want. The west coast of Scotland is very interesting, much like the west cost of British Columbia. We don't get excited about casltes so I can't help there. There are plenty os scotcheries and if that is a strong interest you should investigate that further by looking at the Scotch Whisky Society or buying a book on the dew. We bought a whiskey map once in Scotland and its good but the only distilleries we've visited are the eight on the Isle of Islay. You can drive via ferry or fly there. The only hotel I can speak to on mainland Scotland is the Victoria House in Glasgow. Its near the Glasgow School of Art, and about a fifteen minute walk from Buchanan bus station. Oh, we stayed three nights in one of the fine old hotels in Inverness, just by the Episcopal Church and the Ness River. Pamela will help you much more.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
2847 posts

1- 'Scotcheries"= In other words, Distilleries. Whisky (no e in the Scotch) is as varied as the Scottish landscape. We lucked up once and the local bar man at some friend's pub in Drumnadrochit (the village at the top of Loch Ness) prepared a whisky tasting for us. I found that I LOVE the Speyside whiskies, but don't really lie the Islay ones. I prefer the heathery/floral notes and a scotch that is smoky but not too heavily peated. We really enjoyed touring the Dahlwhinnie distillery. It is the highest (as in elevation) distillery in Scotland. They give an excellent tour. Easy to reach from Aviemore (our favorite village in the Cairngorm mountains) as are several others. The Strathislay distillery was also nice- and very beautiful. They make one of the single malts used in Chavis Regal (a blended scotch).
I don't think that there are many castles where you can stay. We've enjoyed staying at the Cairngorm hotel in Aviemore (across from the train station)- it looks like a miniature castle outside and a Scottish hunting lodge inside. We also like the Royal Highland hotel in Inverness- also next to the train station. If you see a pattern- well we like to travel by train. Driving on the 'other' side of the road, and on small, sometimes single lane roads through mountains and unknown territory is just not our thing. We have the trains (and occasional bus) to be easy to use and that they can get us just about anywhere we want to go.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

I have another book to suggest. :) Get Iain Banks book Raw Spirit. It will help you decide which distilleries that you want to visit and perhaps some lovely roads to travel. http://www.amazon.com/Raw-Spirit-Search-Perfect-Dram/dp/1844131955 Of course, you should spend some time in Edinburgh. The castle has wonderful views and great history. To delve into history a bit more, the Museum of Scotland is well worth a visit. Gladstone's Land gives you an idea of Old town Loving. I like the Georgian House in New Town for a glimpse of the city in Georgian times. I've had good meals at Creelers, Fishers, and Stac Poly. The Mussell Inn is good as well. There are lots of good restaurants in Edinburgh. I've stayed at the Inverlieth Hotel, which I like as it's a bit away from the hustle and bustle, but is close enough for walking and has a good bus connection. I've also stayed at the Walton which is closer to New Town. If were on a splurge I would look at The George Hotel, The Scotsman and the Balmoral. There are others, butI like the historical connections of these three. There are lots of other things to see in Edinburgh. Let me know a bit more about your interests and I can expand a bit. There are great art museums, wonderful walks and other fun things to visit such as the Royal Yacht Britannia. Pam

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

There are so many wonderful places to visit. Rent your car when you are ready to leave Edinburgh, or do countryside and then ditch the car when you coma back to Edinburgh. Stirling Castle is one of the best castles. The geography, the history, the views, the restoration, it's all there. You can either do a day trip from Edinburgh, or if you drive, stop of at Bannockburn on the way and check out the Wallace Monument on your way out. One of my favorite parts of Scotland is Perthshire. I like Dunkeld. There are some nice short walks in the countryside, you have a lovely old cathedral, and you can eat, drink and listen to music at the Taybank. There is a range of hotels in Dunkeld and Birnam. I stayed most recently at The Bridge B&B. But, you could also stay in Aberfeldy or Pitlochry. You'll want to get off the A9 and drive on the single track roads. If you decide to do this let me know and I can provide specifics. I also love the Inverness area. I've stayed in town, in Strathpeffer a bit to the Northwest and on the Black Isle at Fortrose. My home away from home on the Black Isle is the Anderson. There is a wee bit of the Fawlty Towers to it, but the whisky, the owners, the food all make it a welcome place to stay. Pam

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

From Inverness you can do daytrips to the west coast and to the north. You can also get down the Cairngorms or out to the east to Elgin and Speyside. Of course, Loch Ness is right there as is Culloden, and Cawdor Castle. But if you're like most Americans and in fact most people, you want to head west, because as my walking friends say, "west is best!" The drive from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh is beautiful. You can then explore Skye and take the ferry to Mailaig and drive south to Fort William, Oban, Glencoe, Kilmartin and a whole range of places on the west coast. This is where you'll find the peaty whiskys. If you want to really try something quite different, you could look at going to Orkney. Toni recommends the day trip out of Inverness, but I like the full on experience of flying to Kirkwall and spending a couple of days and then taking the ferry and train to Inverness and continuing your travels. The history and archaeology of the islands is amazing. That would be a tough one to do in a week, but you can put it on the list for your next trip, as once you've been to Scotland, you'll really want to go back! Check out these website: Visit Scotland and Undiscovered Scotland. PAm

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
614 posts

Thanks everyone for the great advice. I'm sure I'll come back with more questions later.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17796 posts

Karen, This is a moot point now as you've already booked your flights, but I would have suggested going to Scotland in late August and attending a performance of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo - it's incredible! Cheers!

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
916 posts

A little time searching on the Internet will turn up plenty of info on whisky tourism, including this so-called Malt Whisky Trail http://www.maltwhiskytrail.com/ There are other groups and routes, both private and promoted by government tourism.
Too bad you didn't book a multi-city plane ticket so you could have saved the trip back to London. Its a nice train ride along the east coast (try for seats on the coast side of the coach when heading north) but not twice. You could look at www.skyscanner.com for budget airline fares back to London from any of the Scottish cities, including Inverness.