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5 days in Scotland

We have five or six full days in Scotland next Spring (late April) and would appreciate and enjoy hearing thoughts on an itinerary…we will be traveling from London by train into either Glasgow or Edinburgh. We have heard that driving a car there can be stressful (Is this true?) and are not interested in a multi-day, organized group tour.

Questions we have:
1. Is it possible to do day trips with local tour guides from both Edinburgh and Glasgow—we were thinking of staying a few days in each of these locations as our home bases.
2. We have never been to Scotland and enjoy castles, HP and The Highlands (clearly we would not be able to see ALL of it—but seeing the Highland Cow is, ironically, on our list). 😊
3. We are empty-nesters that can easily walk 4-5 miles a day but would prefer not to spend all day on our feet.

Thank you,
Cici

Posted by
887 posts

Getting around Scotland without a car will be time consuming, but driving there is not stressful. I managed on my own for ten days. It will take you about half a day to get used to driving on the left, but the roads are good, the sights are well marked (follow the brown signs), and I found Scottish drivers to be better than what I encounter here at home. Having said that, you don’t have a lot of time, and it may be easier for you to just base yourself in either Edinburgh or Glasgow and take day trips to see some sights. There are many to choose from, and both cities have a variety of choices. With so few days I would suggest you pick one city or the other to base yourself in so you aren’t wasting time changing locations. It is a short train ride from one to the other so you can do it as a day trip on your own. You could easily spend at least two days just seeing the sights in Edinburgh, and a minimum of one whole day in Glasgow. That doesn’t give you a whole lot of time left to get up into the highlands. My personal choice would be to stay in Edinburgh and do day trips from there. Here are some popular suggestions https://independenttravelcats.com/day-trips-from-edinburgh-scotland/

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Cici,

HP =

Hewlett Packard?

Hire Purchase?

HP sauce? (You can find that in London)

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
27359 posts

If you take a day tour of the Highlands from Glasgow (which is closer than Edinburgh), you're going to be spending a lot of time on a bus or van and not a lot of time outside the vehicle in the Highlands. Rabbies does draw positive comments, however.

Posted by
1986 posts

You don't want to drive in either Edinburgh or Glasgow ! Once away from either of these cities, driving is OK and I wouldn't describe it as stressfull. Secret Scotland website has suggested itineraries which give an indication of what you could achieve in the 5-6 days you have available.

Rabbies get consistently good reviews and are a suggestion for day trips from either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Posted by
6732 posts

For Harry Potter (HP), maybe a day trip down to Alnwick and its castle that was used in the first two HP movies. It’s about two hours easy drive on the A1 from Edinburgh, if you wanted to rent a car. There are probably busses that go there too, but we had a car. Near it is Bamburgh castle. A couple popular castles are Edinburgh and Stirling. We also stopped at Doune, near Stirling. It featured prominently in the first season of the series Outlander if you watch it.

Without a car, I’m not sure how you’d get there, but not far from Doune is Trossachs Woollen Mill. There are Highland Cows there.

@Allan - it’s a shame your wife didn’t get to Doune castle since it featured prominently in Outlander season 1.

Posted by
4241 posts

I agree that a car in Edinburgh and Glasgow isn't needed or worth it. We were in Scotland in June and take day trips from both. In Edinburgh we used Rabbies and we took a train from Glasgow to Stirling Castle- which I highly recommend, we enjoyed it much more than Edinburgh Castle.

As for driving, we did some of that as well and I didn't think getting used to driving on the left was all that challenging. But I did find some roadways and highways stressful because they were narrower and curvier than I was used to at home.

Here's my trip report. Maybe you'll find it useful. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/trip-report-scotland-the-search-for-jamie-fraser

Posted by
2775 posts

Anita, thanks for the link to that website. In addition to day trip ideas, they also have suggestions for thing to do in Edinburgh
https://independenttravelcats.com/21-things-to-do-in-edinburgh-scotland-the-highlights/

and lesser-known things to do

https://independenttravelcats.com/edinburgh-attractions-hidden-things-to-do-in-edinburgh-scotland/

I can’t wait to read through all of it in preparation for my 8 nights in Edinburgh this coming May. Although I already have too many great things on my list. 😊

Posted by
33131 posts

HP sauce? (You can find that in London)

but it worth knowing that HP Sauce - named for the Houses of Parliament as an early exercise in product placement and benefitting from perceived endorsement - is no longer manufactured in Birmingham, nor anywhere in the UK, but rather in the Netherlands since Heinz bought the brand and immediately shut down the plant and moved production to the Netherlands.

Posted by
91 posts

Hello everyone...thank you SO much for your ideas...I knew you would have the expertise we need.

Sorry, HP - Harry Potter. :)

I like the idea of one home base due to the limited time and agree, Glasgow looks pretty close, relatively speaking.

You have given us lots to discuss...I expect to be back with more questions, but thank you again.

Cici