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2 weeks in Scotland with 2 teenage boys

My family of 4 is traveling to Scotland in Mid July to beginning of August. We have our accommodations set. 3 nights in Edinburgh, 3 nights in Inverness, 1 night in Thurso for a day tour to Orkneys, 1 night in Ullapool, 1 night on Skye, 2 nights in Oban, 2 in Glasgow, then back to Edinburgh to fly home.

My boys are 14 and 16. We are big hikers and would welcome suggestions for seeing Skye, and the Glencoe area.

Also, my husband and I are professional musicians, and the boys are accomplished musicians in their own right. We are 2 violinists, a bassist, and a pianist who has dabbled with many wind instruments. We are VERY interested in the traditional music of Scotland - hearing it, and if possible, trying it out ourselves. I know my sons would love to try the bagpipes. I am worried, after seeing another post, that the boys won’t be allowed in the pubs to hear music, so any advice is welcomed!

Another thing is that we are foodies, and the kids want to try traditional foods, i.e. haggis, but we all much appreciate well-cooked meals.

Lastly (and please forgive for the long post), my mother’s family is of the Lindsay clan, so we are going to visit Edzell Castle. It doesn’t look like there is all that much to do except tour the castle, but if anyone knows of anything else there, or if any other connections to the Lindsays, that would be very exciting! And a recommendation for a kilt shop where I could get a kilt made from the Lindsay tartan (I can no longer fit into the one my mother bought me 25 years ago when she visited Scotland!).

Thank you so much!

Posted by
3307 posts

We took our two girls to Scotland last summer for 12 nights and did a similar itinerary, although not quite as much moving around. Your drive time from Ullapool to Skye with only one night on Skye and then another long drive to Oban is not something I would want to do. You won’t have much time on Skye! I think 2 nights on Skye is minimum, so you have one full day. We enjoyed the Old Man of Storr hike!
For haggis, we all enjoyed the Royal Mile tavern on the Royal Mile.
We didn’t have time to go, but Sandy Bells pub is good for trad music in Edinburgh.
Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
7573 posts

We had 3 days on Skye, and it rained a good part of the time (August), but got in some hiking:
1) south of Sligachan, there are parking pull-offs and trailheads
2) if you do Rick Steves’ Peninsula drive, rather than driving the entire route north along the coast, cut inland halfway up, and take the toad to The Quiraing rock formations. There’s a parking place near the summit of the road, and the area around it offers some nice hiking, but watch your steps if it’s been wet. Drive onwards to hook up with the peninsula loop again.

Posted by
103 posts

You seem to have your itinerary quite set, so I don't want to upset things - but 1 night on Skye isn't enough. As mentioned, the drive to Oban is a fair distance and you'll want to stop so that'll take up much of a day, leaving you with very little time on Skye.

Even in summer, the weather on Skye can be low cloud and mist, which means you can't see most of the scenery - if you're only there for one day and the weather's like that it will be a bit of a disappointment, but if you go for 2 or 3 days you've got more chance of hitting at least one decent day. If you can only spare one day or night then I'm not sure it's worth going there at all and I'd consider skipping it, or otherwise I add at least one night, if not two, on.

Conversely three nights in Inverness seems like a very long visit. Inverness is called a city but really it's a medium sized town and, although it's nice enough, there's not really that much to see in the town itself. One day is probably enough for most people - or are you planning to use it as a base for touring the wider area?

For bagpipes, you might want to visit the national piping centre in Glasgow.

The rules with respect to pubs are complicated and and can vary from region to region and even pub to pub depending on the licence they have. Places that are bar/restaurants or serve a significant food menu are generally no problem (at least earlier in the evening), but out-and-out pubs may be more of an issue.

I've certainly heard of people having issues in Edinburgh where a lot of places just simply won't let U-18s in. You might find its not as bad in some other towns and cities depending on the local licensing boards policy, but realistically I think you'll find a lot of places simply don't let U-18s in. The only way to know is to check the pubs website or phone ahead.

The majority of people in Scotland rarely, if ever, eat haggis so it's not something you see all that often on menus other than in places that are pandering to tourists, like many of those in Edinburgh around the royal mile - Tbh it might be better to have it somewhere else. Off the top of my head Cafe gandolfi in Glasgow certainly has it on the menu full tume.

Posted by
5678 posts

Have you found the website WalkHighlands? You should explore it. In Ullapool, there are some great walks in hills above town. If you climb Ullapool Hill you will have wonderful views of Loch Broom and the Summer Isles. You should check out the [Ceilidh Place].
2 you might catch a gig. The Gig Guide is another resource for finding local music.

Inverness is not a bad location for traveling to different places in the north and has places to go to in the evening. Note Hootananny. They serve food so you may able to bring your teens. There are live music places in Inverness. Check out Rocpool as a potential restaurant. Also, The Mustard Seed is another dining option.

There are many places to walk (hike) in Scotland. From Inverness, you can go to Glen Afric if you want a day-long hike around a loch. If it's drab and rainy elsewhere, Culbin sand has great beach walks.

In Edinburgh, there are lots of great restaurants. We ate last June at The Gardner's Cottage. It was wonderful. A few years ago we went to Stac Polly and had a wonderful meal. We went to the one in New Town. There are several seafood restaurants to consider. I have eaten at the Shore and at Fishers in New Town. I like the Mussel Inn as well. Lastly, you need to go to Sandy Bells for music.

Posted by
1188 posts

Hi Laura

You say your itinerary is set but as others have advised, 1 night on Skye will do no more than give you a tiny flavour of this large island. If it were at all possible and unless you have a compelling reason to have 3 nights in Inverness and 2 nights in Oban, I would consider ditching one of those locations to add more nights in Skye. Having said that getting accommodation this close to your travel dates could be problematic.

Regarding haggis, it is eaten in two different ways. As a main course with neeps and tatties (mashed turnips or swede and potatoes) as part of a Burns supper in late January each year - you might be able to find this version on the menu in some (touristy) pubs. The other way to have it (and the one I enjoy) is as a kind of sausage as part of a cooked Scottish breakfast. The haggis is formed into a long, thick sausage which is then sliced and either grilled or fried (we grill it) and then you serve one slice alongside bacon, 'normal' link sausage, fried eggs, potato scones, mushrooms, tomato, baked beans, and black pudding (a blood sausage). That constitutes the 'full' Scottish breakfast. This might a good way to try haggis!

Re hiking - as others have said is full of good suggestions and you can print their routes out ahead of time.

Re traditional music. Here on Skye there are two pubs in particular that have regular sessions. The Edinbane Inn have at least 2 sessions a week and welcome people joining in. The Old Inn in Carbost also often has sessions but I've not been so don't know if they encourage participation. I think there are also a few places in Portree that have live music. I guess it depends where your accommodation is and whether the music is happening on the night you are here.

Best wishes
Jacqui (skyegirl)

Posted by
27359 posts

I'm nearly certain that when I was planning my (still upcoming) trip to a Scotland late last year, I read that the National Piping Centre was temporarily closed. I suggest Googling to check on its statuss rather than possibly being disappointed.