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Mother/Daughter - One Month in Scotland

We will spend almost one month in Scotland on the tiniest budget in the universe (what I've scrounged over ten years). There is so much to see and do so I need advice.

We'll be there from Mid August to Mid September (the first two weeks of July and the last two weeks of September in Ireland and England/Wales from mid July to Mid August.)

What is worth the expense?

Skye, Shetland, Orkney, and Lewis islands look so cool but it really worth the extra $$$? (we've been to Sequoia, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Hoh rainforest, Oahu, Maui, etc. in the US but that was more for me than her). I want to visit some Neolithic sites and they seem to be everywhere in Scotland. Are Skara Brae & Maes Howe a must see? (We also climbed Chichen Itza but, again, that was more my thing than hers.)

Should we hunt for Nessie?

Any warnings about travel in Scotland? Crazy serial killers, gangs, terrorists, etc.?

What about the weather? We are from Southern California where it's 86F (30C) in January.

I will be with my seventeen year old daughter who will have just graduated High School. I want to spend time with her before she's gone for college.

I am not interested in a party type scene but I want it to be fun and interesting for her too. What are some of the Scottish traditions we can experience during this time.

I want to take her to the Highland Games. Is it worth it?

She's an American girl so of course she likes to shop and loves music but she is also writer and a bibliophile. She consumes books and has read everything from Ayn Rand, Dorothy Sayers, Austen, Dostoevsky, Tolkien, Lewis, etc. to contemporary authors as well. Of course we want to see some Burns, Rowling sites while we are there.

I know the legal drinking age is 18 but it's 21 in the US. I'm not against her having a rare champagne toast or Margarita-ish drink with dinner but definitely no drunkenness.

What are the places and things that we should definitely not miss?

Any random advice? Off the beaten path memory makers?

Most importantly....where can we hunt for faeries?

Posted by
1341 posts

First of all welcome.

Scotland is a relatively small country but that should not be deceptive. It is also relatively safe.

There are always places to avoid anywhere you go but remember there is a reason the police in Scotland, like in England and Wales and the Gardai in Ireland do not carry firearms on a regular basis.

For the drinking, the actual drinking age in the UK is around 5. Yes you read that correctly. It is 18 to buy alcohol. If your daughter is over 18 and young enough to be carded, she will only be refused sale if the age cannot be clearly identified from the ID, or appears intoxicated. If you do not want her to drink, you will need to talk to her.

We are also a northern European country. Our summer high, summer in Scotland lasts from the the last Thursday in July to the following Monday, is around 25 celcius. But at the same time dawn is about 6AM and dusk is 11PM in much of the country.

Now the fun bits.

I would say if you can visit Orkney. It is different to the rest of Scotland, and indeed the rest of the UK. If you are going to the far north you will pass the tip of the Great Glen, An Glen Mhor in Gaelic. This is the fault line that runs from Inverness, through Loch Ness to Ft William and Loch Linnhe and beyond. Coming back it is worth seeing if you have never seen it before.

For literature, Burns is from Ayrshire, south of Glasgow. J K Rowling wrote in Edinburgh and much of the films had scenes in the Great Glen, the Ft William end. So the choice is yours. The National Trust for Scotland has a good collection of Burns properties in Ayr.

For shopping there is only one choice. Glasgow., Scotland's greatest city. It also has a number of good (free) museums and other attractions.

Finally and more importantly, touch iron, turn and throw salt over your shoulder. In Scottish legend, as in Ireland, Wales and bits of England faeries are not to be triffled with. Be very careful in dealing with them. If you want to see them the Borders seem to be the heartland.

Posted by
3661 posts

I posted this response on the England and Ireland sections where you posted this (edited for England and Ireland) question. Answering it in all three places could help the respondents provide better info.

So, I'm just trying to keep score here. Is this roughly right? Your total trip is 3 months long?

July 1 - 15 -- Ireland
July 15 - August 15 -- England/Wales
August 15 - September 15 -- Scotland
September 15 - September 30 -- Ireland

Excluding airfare, what is your tentative budget per person per day for the whole trip? And what is included in that? I know you are only asking about the Scotland part here , but knowing that info will help people provide more accurate information and suggestions.

Posted by
16883 posts

Lucky you, if you have two or three months to spend in Britain and Ireland! Sorry to say, I'm not taking your serial killer question seriously, which also makes me not take the rest seriously. All of Rick Steves' advice is in his guidebooks, some of which are excerpted for free on this web site. You may also get some good advice from more people on this forum. You can also consider one of our paid telephone consultations.

Posted by
484 posts

First, make a list of what interests both of you. There are some excellent visit Scotland websites. I can track them down for you at another time if you are interested. Consider castles, wildlife, beautiful isles for natural beauty, horse back riding, boating, bicycling, scuba diving, art galleries, distilleries for scotch, Highlands games and dancing, small group tours (rabbie's), museums, churches, dyson vacuum cleaners. Then, look at your time frame and a map and start planning. Have fun!

Posted by
10 posts

I meant no offense. We are 2 women (1 is more a girl) so I am just asking about safety.
I am from Southern California. My husband grew up in E.L.A., with drive by's and 4 blocks from where Richard Ramirez was caught, so there are definitely places I would say street clear of. Even when I take people across the border to Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada, Cabo's, etc. there are serious safety precautions because of crime. On the other hand, where we live now is very safe.
This is what I meant. Again, no offense.

Posted by
5539 posts

We're planning our August (2 weeks) visit right now. The only previous time in Scotland was 14 years ago, and only visited Edinburgh then.

A tiny budget doesn't make things easy, as food in Great Britain is realtively pricey, along with trains and lodging in some places. Although Rick doesn't cover Orkney, we're definitely going there, and to the Shetland Islands, too, after researching the Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, Fodor's and other sources. An overnight car/passenger ferry (not faerie) will get you from Aberdeen to Orkney. Another ferry (passengers only, no cars) will take you from Inverness to Orkney and back in one long day, for a quick visit & bus tour to the major sights. Those are a couple of options, but you'll have to research the costs and timing needed.

I don't know about Nessie or psychopathic killers, but we're reading that some places are now offering a "vegitarian" haggis. I'm hoping to try the real thing, sheep lungs, liver, spices, and all, but a vegitarian version sounds oxymoronic and really bizzarre!

If anyone is interested in something local and stronger than mineral water, although whisky is the national drink, we're reading that many craft breweries have arisen that are making outstanding real ales. Orkney is said to have one of the best. If you're also visiting Ireland on this trip, also try some Irish cider. No worries, and have a great trip!

Posted by
1341 posts

Cyn, the vegetarian haggis has been around for over a quarter of a century. What you want to try are the wild haggis.

The haggis is an interesting creature, native mainly to Argyll and into Perthshire, it has one leg shorter than the other to make running round the mountains that wee bit easier. Traditional hunting involves scaring them so they turn round.

And fall over.

However licences for wild haggis are increasingly difficult to get.

Posted by
5539 posts

I see, MC. So apparently wild haggises (or is it " haggisi ") don't eat plants in the wild, and none are vegitarians. I'll check to make sure mine is wild, and, therefore, organic/biologique. I fear that neeps and tatties these days are all, sadly, farmed & domesticated, but we'll see when we arrive.

I also imagine there must be a veterinarian in Fort William who's working on prosthetic limb extensions for wild haggis, to give them a fighting chance. So do all haggis travel around the hillside clockwise or anti-clockwise, or is it like right-handed and left-handed humans, with some of each?

Regarding the OP's question about dodgy places in Scotland, are there any Glasgow neighborhoods she/we might want to avoid, or some to make a point of seeing? Cheers!

Posted by
1341 posts

Hi Cyn. In the wild the haggis is omnivorous. Plants, animals, car keys, all form part of its natural diet. I believe one of the sexes is clockwise, the other anti-clockwise, though scientists are not sure which is which.

As per Glasgow, there is a thread about if the Dear Green Place is worth visiting. Apart from saying yes, again, there is little to add. Glasgow is not going to win a beauty contest, in Scotland for the cities that is going to be taken by Stirling, Perth and Edinburgh. But it is a good looking city. Very much a working city with all the good and bad that implies.

There are areas to avoid, but as tourists you are unlikely to go there and the best advice is to ask at the hotel if concerned.

Posted by
5668 posts

Hi momster, If you want to encounter serial killers and crime, read Ian Rankin's books and then avoid those sites. :) Seriously, I've traveled as a single woman in Scotland and never felt unsafe.

Orkney is truly a wonderful place to visit. Have you found the Orkneyjar website? Since you're interested in literature look up George Mackay Brown and ready some of his novels before you go. Also, check out Dorothy Dunnett's The King Herafter which is about MacBeth and the North.

On Orkney, do try to get over to Hoy. It's very different from the Mainland. I enjoyed getting over to Shapinsay and seeing Balfour Castle and the gardens. I loved seeing the Eagles Tomb, and St. Margaret's Hope had special meaning for me as my Great Grandfather was the postman there. The Hoxa Tapestries are worth a visit. Of course you need to see Scara Brae, the Ring of Brogdar, The Stones of Stenness and so on. They are special. On Hoy, you can walk or see the Martello Towers from Napoleanic times. Get a feeling for the history. Orkney was not part of Scotland until after 1400, but rather was part of Norway. There is a lot of Viking history.

There are some wonderful Scottish writers. Of course, you know Robert Louis Stevenson, but did you know that James Barrie of Peter Pan was Scottish and you can visit his birthplace in Kirriemuir. One of my favorite contemporary Scottish writers is Andrew Grieg. Check out his book The Return of John McNab. It's a great read. I also like Iain Banks and his book, Raw Spirit: The Search for the Perfect Dram, is much more than a quest for a good whisky. If you haven't ready Ian Rankin's books then get started. :)

As for music there are lots of pubs, but you might want to check out the gig guide once it's closer to your travel date to see what is playing. When you are in Inverness check out Hootananny. In Dunkeld in Perth go to The Taybank and in Edinburgh check out Sandy Bells. Of course, there are more places and there are festivals other opportunities for musk.

And then for faeries...Fairy Glen on the Black Isle and maybe you can find more possibilities from this site.

BTW don't miss the wonderful website Undiscovered Scotland. It's terrific.