After a year of planning my itinerary was set for my trip in June, but now I've got a year to re-think, adjust or just think about the trip. What is your absolute favourite site, memory or experience that you tell anyone who will listen as a must-see or must-do while in Scotland?
Hi Allan -
When approaching Glencoe across Rannoch Moor by road, the sight of the magnificent Buchaille Etive Mhor never fails to set the heart racing. Glencoe itself is also fabulous and it’s still wonderfully atmospheric even when the weather isn’t.
The mountain scenery in Torridon and up the west coast - Stac Pollaidh, Cul Mor, Cul Beag, and the implausible looking Suilven as seen from Lochinver, is also jaw dropping.
Not much in the way of ‘civilisation’ up that way, but I have soft spots for Ullapool and Gairloch - nice cafe, the ‘Mountain View’ I think, does great cakes, in the latter.
Skye is properly magnificent, but here I’m talking about the Black Cuillin and not the majority of the tourist spots. Not a hiker? If the weather is fair try a trip on the Bella Jane from Elgol to Loch Coruisk which drops you for an hour or two into a magnificent mountain landscape.
Oh gosh that is a tall order, Allan!
I think for me the very top would have to be the hospitality and beauty at the Glenfinnan House Hotel in the highlands — basically along the rail line between Fort William and Mallaig (just opposite Skye).
An old country house converted into a hotel. Not too fancy and not too modest, wonderfully cozy with a nice restaurant and a good pub (with music on Thursday nights).
The view from the pub onto Loch Shiel is extraordinary, and just steps from the front door you can join the boat to take any of several boat rides down the loch.
Walk a few hundred meters and you are at the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which fans of Harry Potter will recognize — and an element of one of Britain’s most spectacular rail lines. You can take a steam train along it for the Harry Potter effect, or the regular ScotRail line.
I spent “extra” days there taking the train a few stops to say Morar and doing a walk out to the gorgeous sandy beaches; or the bus into Fort William.
It’s funny you asked, because I had just commented on a FB post of Glenfinnan house — since they have been unable to open for the season, they are cooking meals and distributing them.
A wonderful place with a very special feel, and natural beauty a go-go. And don’t forget the Highland history — it’s where Bonnie Prince Charlie came to await the clans that he hoped would join him to challenge the English . . .
Husband, being a outdoorsy guy with an attachment to big open spaces, really fell in love with the Highlands. Not anything specific in the Highlands but spending as much time as possible exploring the area. I particularly liked Oban and the Isle of Iona.
We took the RS Scotland tour Aug 2019 and thoroughly enjoyed most of it. We’re already planning a 2nd visit on our own of just the Highlands and the islands in 2021.
That's pretty easy for me. My favorite place in Scotland was Skye. And you need at least 3 days. Get out and explore and enjoy.
Taking the 3 island tour out of Oban to Iona and Staffa. It was a gloriously sunny day and we got to visit an abbey with amazing history, get very close to puffins and see a unique geological feature. A highlight of our 12 night trip.
My husband and I spent a little over two weeks in Scotland in September 2018. We had a wonderful time just being rather loose and free. We saw a ton - sights big and small - and would do everything again in a heartbeat. Driving in Highlands is a delight, but there are two things that stick in my mind. Neither were costly.
We were driving from Oban to Pitlochry and stopped in Killin for lunch. We ate in a very atmospheric pub across from the Falls of Dochart. Lunch was delicious - one of those pubs you bring to your minds eye when you think of countryside pubs in the UK. A beautiful candle was lit in the window. We walked the falls after lunch. It was perfect. Something about that afternoon just stays with me. Total cost: About 25 GBP for lunch with beer. Walk was free.
We attended the Pitlochry Highland Games. The weather was PERFECT. Probably 70 degrees and bright sunshine all day Not something common in Scotland. LOL. In a trip full of wonderful experiences, this was probably our favorite day. To be able to spend so much time with locals, eating great fare food (strawberries and cream should be a requirement at every public event), and enjoy sports we would rarely see at home. Afterwards we walked up to Moulin and had dinner at the pub. Delightful day. Total cost: About 20 GBP for games entry for two adults, about 30 GBP for dinner with beer for two, and 4 GBP for strawberries and cream. :)
Driving the Ardnamurchan peninsular is always stunning. We saw otters on the last visit. There are some great cafes too. Hardly any other tourists, which can’t be said of Skye or much of the Highlands.
If you like museums, the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh is wonderful. But for an overall #1, I'd say Iona. Give yourself a few hours at least to hang out there.
It has to be a tie for me between driving through Glencoe, and going to Staffa and Lunga to see puffins! Both were remarkable experiences. There is so much to love in Scotland though!
I could also list two or three other places that I absolutely adore . . . .
and look so far I'm not sure anyone has given the same answer, just to give you the idea of HOW MANY places Scotland has that will set your heart aflutter!!!!
Orkney (all of it that I was able to see in a couple days) and Lewis.
Three Island Tour and playing the Himalayas putting course at St. Andrew.
here is my trip report I did after our trip to Scotland in summer of 2018.
Buckfast. So much Buckfast.
Oh, and a munchy box! Can't forget that, either. The two just go together perfectly.
-- Mike Beebe
Thanks Tammy, I remember reading that trip report before during our planning stage, and now reading it again it builds up some of the excitement for some of the places you visited. We're spending 2 nights on Mull and really looking forward to Iona and Staffa.
Do you have info on that 10 part History of Scotland show you watched?
Here's my itinerary that I posted a few weeks ago. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/scotland/itinerary-by-request
Thanks for everyone's insights so far. I love cities more than natural scenery and so I'm curious how this trip will go with wide open spaces for the 5 days we're not in Edinburgh or Glasgow.
Hiking the Quiraing. It will be one of my all-time favorite memories in my entire life, I think!
I've haven't been to other places in Scotland besides Edinburgh and Glasgow. As a fellow "city person," I loved them both, but they're completely different. Both have far more to see and do than you'd expect for cities of their size, and the contrast between them makes them the perfect pair on a single trip.
Most memorable in Edinburgh were the Georgian House, a special exhibit on Emil Nolde at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (alas, this is long gone), and the Royal Yacht Britannia. Most memorable in Glasgow were the People's Palace, the Tenement Museum, and the House for an Art Lover, as well as the city's incredible energy (just like New York, it feels like the whole place is plugged in to a high-voltage circuit). But I'm sure you'll discover your own favorites.
The 10 part history of Scotland DVD’s we watched were from our local library and done by the BBC.
Allen, are you planning exactly the same itinerary? Having to postpone my Scotland trip also, I find I am wanting to add an extra day here and there (and planning to do so) that I was not going to have time for in 2020. However I have been to Scotland once and, while I loved Edinburgh a lot, I do love the countryside more.
Travelmom, right now we're planning the same itinerary, and planning the same 2 weeks in June. Our hope is even to book the same hotels and tours. But with another year to think, who knows.
The three places that stand out from our week in Scotland are, in chronological order:
The drive up Glen Etive. Driving through Glencoe was nice more for my Mom who could enjoy, but as the driver, I didn’t see as much as I wanted. The scenic view spots were all packed with tour buses and cars, and I just felt like I wouldn’t appreciate the view surrounded by so many people (this was in 2012, so pre-virus). However, pulling off the main road onto the Glen Etive Road was like disappearing from the rest of the tourists into our own world. It wasn’t as stunning as Glencoe, but the quiet beauty with only one other car hopscotching ours on the drive to the loch and all of the really pretty spots to pull over and snap a few pictures was just so refreshing! At the end of the road at the loch, I was able to get a panoramic shot that is on both my wall and Mom’s, one of my favorite photos ever.
Dunrobin Castle. My favorite manor house on that entire trip of Britain. It is impressive, yet surprisingly homey in its layout so you don’t feel overwhelmed by sprawl, because it is compactly designed around the medieval keep that wasn’t torn down when the grand house was built, unlike every other manor house I saw. Mom and I had a lovely chat with the woman arranging a huge floral display at the base of the grand staircase, and we thoroughly enjoyed the falconry demonstration in the gorgeous gardens.
- Orkney. My favorite area of the entire trip. Given the choice, I would retire here, I loved it so much. Not just the Neolithic sites or the later medieval, post-medieval, and modern attractions, but the two towns of Stromness and Kirkwall, the shopping, the people...just, everything! I loved how it felt like a small town sprawled out over an entire island. I have kept up on news from there in the years since, and been ever more charmed by it from a distance.