Please sign in to post.

A bit of advice for 2 week trip

Howdy folks,
Mark here. My wife and I will spend 2 weeks travelling in Scotland and possibly York, arriving August 19th and leaving September 1st. We will fly into and out of Glasgow. We had no idea we were booking our trip during a traditionally busy holiday season for Scotland; we just knew we wanted to go somewhere interesting and get out of the lousy Texas heat!
We will spend the arrival night in Glasgow then head to Edinburgh for a few days. We have a hotel secured in Glasgow and an AirBnB in Edinburgh for a few nights. Beyond that we do not have accommodations secured as we like to be a bit spontaneous. We think that after a few days in Edinburgh we might head to York as that sounds rather interesting. After that we’ll head to the Highlands, over to the West coast of Scotland and arrive back in Glasgow a couple of days before our flight out so we can explore there.
Given that it is “busy” season; how important is it to have every night planned and rooms secured? We are not hard to please and do not require 5-star hotels, but we do not want to get caught out and have to sleep in a bus terminal! Can we find places to stay without reservations given that we are not overly picky?

Mark

Posted by
3224 posts

If you were going during shoulder or off season I would say go for it. In August, with the Fringe, I wouldn’t chance it.

Posted by
279 posts

If you are talking about August of this year, book now!!! You might not even get your first, second, or third choices, but at least you’ll be set before you go. I’ve shared this before, but on our trip in July 2012, I was going to leave one night to chance, near Inverness since I wasn’t too sure where exactly I wanted to stay. Well, four months before the trip, I got the notion to just do a bit of research on accommodations in the area. Only then did I find out that the Scottish Open PGA tournament was going to be starting in Inverness the night we were going to be there. I snagged the only remaining room in my first choice (the Pottery House on Loch Ness—highly recommended!) immediately.

On that day, we were driving up the opposite side of the loch and stopped for an early dinner before getting to Inverness and then checking in. While at the restaurant, an American couple came in and we heard them saying something about not finding a place to stay near there. I told them about the golf tournament and said that they might have to drive all the way to Fort William for accommodations. They were kicking themselves for not knowing about the tournament ahead of time.

Posted by
2375 posts

York is 200 miles from Edinburgh. That may not sound like much in Texas, but it's a long, long drive in Scotland. I suggest you skip York and add it to the highlands.

Posted by
1443 posts

Can we find places to stay without reservations given that we are not
overly picky?

Yes, almost certainly. Just keep handy a guidebook or a list of preferred lodging in each town so you can call the night before and make inquiries about availability. Don't worry about getting shut out of a town because it rarely happens. And if it does, so what? You won't have to sleep in a bus terminal, just go one town over in any direction.

However, I would advise to book ahead if you know for sure you're going to be in a certain town on a certain date, or if there's a major event taking place, or if there's a particular hotel you want.

Posted by
5259 posts

Leaving Scotland to visit York and then returning back to Scotland to travel to the Highlands isn't a good use of time. Driving in the UK and, in particular Scotland, is nothing like driving in Texas. Driving hundreds of miles on long straight roads such as those in Texas is easy but it's a completely different story in the UK.

I would be inclined to explore Edinburgh, the HIghlands etc and then tack on York before returning to Glasgow. If you are intent on visiting York then I would take the east coast route and take in some of the sights on the way, Bamburgh, Alnwick, Durham, Newcastle Upon Tyne and Whitby are all worthy of a visit.

I'll also urge booking now, you may find your choices quite limited this late.

Posted by
3 posts

I appreciate the input from everyone and I guess I should have mentioned this from the get go; it is my sincere hope that I will not drive a car while we are there. We hope to use trains/buses/taxis/Uber, whatever.

Between being on the opposite side of the road, not being familiar with where I am going and the desire to look at the scenery I see that as being a combination best avoided.

Mark

Posted by
4317 posts

Taking the train to York is faster than driving and there is lots to see there. If you like cathedrals, you might also want to spend one night in Durham. You may want to consider a Rabbies West Highlands tour from Glasgow-they do a great job. We just spent 2 weeks doing some of your itinerary-2 nights Edinburgh(not enough in my opinion but the kind of hotels my husband wants to stay in are expensive there) , 2 nights near Glasgow to go to St. Andrews and do the Highlands tour(but we didn't have time to see anything in Glasgow) , then Durham, then York before 2 nights in Bath and 5 in London.

Posted by
279 posts

Without the freedom of your own transport, I would maybe recommend situating yourself in a slightly larger town (instead of a small village) for several days at a time as a home base, and use either public transit (IIRC, trains are not really a flexible option outside of larger cities like Inverness or Aberdeen) or a private car hire if you can afford it to take you around for the day to nearby sites. Again, this would work best if you have accommodations already booked so you can determine what transportation would be best in that specific location.

Posted by
852 posts

If you don’t want to rent a car the you are going to be limited to where you can stay because you will need to be in larger towns with access to public transit. The main three would be Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Inverness. All of these towns will have guided day tour options to see the sights once you get there, but Inverness is a long train ride, while Glasgow and Edinburgh are only an hour apart. Considering that you only have two weeks, and want to get down to York and back as well, I would suggest sticking to the lower half of the country to avoid spending too much of your holiday on a train. You need to take a close look at the train schedules and maps before setting your heart on seeing certain places as without a car it may not be possible in the time you have. In the time you have you may be able to get in Glasgow, Edinburgh and one place in the highlands, or one place on the west coast, but not both the highlands and the west coast. Also, when you are thinking of spending a few nights in a particular town think about what you want to do, then figure out how you are going to do it without a car. Some small towns look like great places to visit, but they don’t always have much in the way of tourist services. Google guided day trips for the towns you think you want to stay in before you book your hotel. Personally, as pretty as York is I would leave it off the list this trip as it’s quite a long detour. Secondly, I am a directionally challenged person, but I still managed to find my way around Scotland by car on my own. I’m pretty sure you could, also.

Posted by
3 posts

I appreciate everyone taking the time to respond, thank you! We have revised our plans just a bit and we have taken York off the table. While we want to see and do everything possible we want to keep in mind that this is supposed to be a VACATION and if we spend 2 weeks running around everywhere and not relaxing some that we just won't enjoy ourselves as much. So from Edinburgh we'll head to Inverness for 3 nights. We are still planning our western loop and figuring out what we want to see/do after Inverness. It looks like we'll head to Fort William for at least one night; is the bus the best (only) way to get there from inverness? No Train?

Mark

Posted by
768 posts

Mark:
My wife and I traveled for 2 weeks in Scotland on the train this past April 28 to May 15. We purchased a Spirit of Scotland pass for use over 8 days within 15 calendar days. It worked out great. We made a counter-clockwise journey from Edinburgh to Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. We then hired a private driver to the isle of Skye, took 2 consecutive day-long tours on Skye, hired a private driver to the ferry at Armadale, took the ferry to Mallaig then resumed our train journey on the Jacobite Steam Train to Ft. William. The next day we hired another private driver to visit Glen Coe, Inveraray and on to Oban. At Oban we took the train to Glasgow. We also used the train for a day-trip from Glasgow to Stirling/Falkirk and back to Glasgow. The Spirit of Scotland pass isn't valid on the Jacobite Steam Train, but we used it for all other parts of the journey, except where there were no trains available.

We stayed mutliple nights in Edinburgh, Inverness, Portree (on the Isle of Skye) and Glasgow, and stayed 1 night in Aviemore, Ft. William, and Oban. We did have advance booking for all lodging. As noted by others, booking lodging in the smaller towns could be difficult this near August (and in Portree very difficult, if at all). You could do something similar to our journey, e.g., a counter-clockwise journey, except perhaps limit your lodging to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness (omiting the train from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh and the Isle of Skye)

Inverness, is a reasonable gateway for day-trips to Ft. George and Culloden, or maybe Nairn, or perhaps into the Caringorms, or to Ft. William (by bus). While in Inverness we took a half-day trip (technically a tour) on a brief bus ride to Loch Ness boarded a boat to Urquhart Castle and there returned to Inverness by the same bus. It was quite enjoyable and we didn't feel like we were on a tour. if you decide to do this be sure to have a cup of the "electric hot chocolate" on the boat to Urquhart. In inverness we had dinner one night at the Mustard Seed. We ordered from the "Early Evening" menu and the food was delicious. Try a "Woo-woo" cocktail.

You could visit many wonderful venues if you had lodging in these 3 "larger" cities and made a few day-trips. Importantly you wouldn't be unpacking and re-packing luggage except for the 3 city stays.

By the way, unless you've already booked your 1 night in Glasgow and it is non-refundable, why not head straight for Edinburgh when your flight arrives in Glasgow. You could take the express bus to the train Station in Glasgow and the train to Edinbugh and be in Edinburgh Waverly within a little over 2 hours after picking up your luggage in Glasgow.

Enjoy Scotland.