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Advance reservations needed?

Are there any sights / events that require (strongly advise) advance reservations or timed admissions in Scotland during June? I am primarily interested in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oban, Inverness. Thanks in advance for keeping me from missing something.

Posted by
25532 posts

I went to Scotland in 2019, so this advice is not especially current.

It's probably smart to get the ticket for the two- or three-island tour out of Oban in advance if you're going to buy the package from West Coast Motors. The ships are large enough, but the buses used for the tours (with live commentary) might conceivably fill up. I bought my ticket in person, the day before the trip.

You can visit Mull and Iona on your own, but I liked having the tour ticket since the buses were so closely aligned to the ferry schedule and I knew I'd have a place on the bus. I don't know how manageable Staffa is if you travel independently.

I'm not aware of any sight in Glasgow that calls for advance booking--maybe the Willow Tearoom if you want to go there at a busy time? As busy as Europe is this year, it might be necessary to book the Mackintosh tour as well.

Restaurants in central Edinburgh can be very busy. If you don't want to just settle for what's available, it would be prudent to have dinner reservations there.

I haven't visited Inverness.

Posted by
1430 posts

We are visiting Scotland for the first time, leaving on May 29. I did book dinner reservations for most of our trip based on people saying restaurants fill up quickly during the summer months, and there could be long lines. When I made my dinner reservations for Edinburgh, some time slots were already full for some restaurants.

In Inverness we plan on visiting Urquhart Castle. I did book our tickets online because their website recommends purchasing in advance if you want to be guaranteed entry, and you also have to reserve your parking spot. Whether or not it's absolutely necessary to do this I don't really know. But I didn't want to miss out on seeing Urquhart.

I also booked the Royal Mile tour (including Edinburgh Castle tickets) with Mercat Tours. The morning time slot was full so I chose the afternoon.

Posted by
5105 posts

If you plan on going to Stirling Castle, I would book ahead. I was there this morning and it was pretty crowded. I think you would be OK booking a week or so ahead and it would definitely make things easier for you.

And if you’re not planning on going to Stirling castle, I would rethink that, especially if you’re in Glasgow. It’s a very quick 30 minute trip from Glasgow Queen Street station and it is really wonderful.

Posted by
1075 posts

Things that we are doing in Scotland seem to be filling up for faster than the things we are doing in England. I don’t know why. We already booked our real Mary King’s Close tickets, as well as the department of magic potion making tickets. I’m keeping a close eye on Edinburgh castle tickets, luckily, they show you how many are left.

Posted by
2884 posts

Rabbie's sent us an email that said we needed to book the sites they visit in advance or we may not get in. My guess is they know what they're talking about.

Posted by
1133 posts

Inverness - I do suggest dinner reservations. The Mustard Seed was very good but their time slots for dinner a day before were filling up quickly when I made mine.

Posted by
1876 posts

Just back from Scotland. Advise, pre-book everything you want to visit, and even some restaurants in Edinburgh. We ate at 3PM most days, so not a big deal, but if you want dinner at 6 or 7, plan to have them ask if you have a "booking"/ Places there are small, so not a lot of room for drop ins.

For sure get tickets for Stirling and Edinburgh castles if you want to go.

Also, if you want to do a Rabbie's tour, book it now. We booked one tour and figured we had an extra day and wanted to do another, no luck at all, fully booked. One day trip out of Edinburgh. Might not be so bad out of Glasgow though.

Surprised how busy the Royal Mile was first week of May, you'd think it was mid summer already....

Posted by
5808 posts

Any major tourist attraction should be booked in advance in June. Edinburgh was the only place we needed restaurant reservations. Where you probably wouldn’t need to book in advance are rural attractions where a rental car is needed to reach.

Posted by
2884 posts

jaimeelsabio, you need restaurant reservations in Edinburgh? Are these the fancy places or does it not matter?

Even in Paris we didn't need reservations, but that was years ago and this looks like a wild summer.

Posted by
1430 posts

jaimeelsabio, I assume you recently returned from Scotland? Where else did you go besides Edinburgh? If one doesn't have restaurant reservations, were there long lines? I have made most of my dinner reservations except for a few nights.

Posted by
5808 posts

Mike - they were not fancy places. One place was Bertie’s Proper Fish & Chips and another was The World’s End. We did get into No. 1 High St. without a reservation.

In Alnwick, England, we went to three restaurants before we found one that could seat us without a reservation, but in all the other towns we visited it was fairly easy to get a table for our group of four.


We visited there in September into October last year and had a rental car.

The towns we stayed in were Edinburgh, Stirling, Montrose, Nairn, Kinlochleven, Dumbarton, Keswick, Alnwick, Peebles, and Edinburgh for our last night.

The places we visited are represented in the photos on my website from the trip, but some of the main places included:
Edinburgh, Stirling, Doune, Dunnottar, Urquhart, Alnwick, Bamburgh castles
Forth bridge
Holyrood house
HMY Britannia
Falkirk wheel and the Kelpies
Scones Palace
Fort George
Clava Cairns
Caladonian canal
Glenfinnan viaduct
Inveraray Castle
Caatlerigg stone circle
Grasmere for Sarah Nelson’s gingerbread
Cartmel for sticky toffee pudding
Hadrian’s wall
Holy Island
Kelso, Jedburgh, Dryburgh, Melrose Abbey
Rosslyn Chapel

Posted by
2884 posts

jaimeelsabio, thank you. I guess I'll make reservations for each night just to play it safe. I do recall going from one restaurant to the next in some cities and getting hangry because it was so crowded.

edit: Thanks, folks. We went ahead and made reservations for our week in Edinburgh in July. No need to do with the stress of walking around looking for a restaurant that doesn't have a waiting list. Late in the day when we're hungry and tired is no way to end the day.

Posted by
434 posts

I'm currently in Edinburgh; so far we've managed to get by with making reservations a day or two ahead. That's been a hassle, so now we have reservations for all of next week (Edinburgh, Dundee and Inverness). We're not eating on the Royal Mile every night or at "fancy" restaurants, but all are very busy. For June I would reserve as much as possible from home. Then you can relax and enjoy your travels!

Posted by
1430 posts

jameelsabio, thank you for your detailed information. I have purchased tickets for a Mercat tour of the Royal Mile, including tickets to Edinburgh Castle. I wanted morning tickets for the day after we arrive but it was full so I bought afternoon tickets. Also bought tickets for Stirling Castle, Urquhart Castle, and Elgin Cathedral.

Den, thank you for your information, too, about restaurants. It's helpful to hear from people who are there. I have made dinner reservations for every night except for two nights. The 2 restaurants I want to go to those nights don't take reservations. One is the Anstruther Fish Bar in Ansruther. They told me they generally don't have very long waits. And the Clachaig Inn in Glencoe.

Posted by
8 posts

One of our solutions for Scotland and England is to join the National Trust and English Heritage organizations. You can do so even if you don't live in the UK. Members don't usually need an advanced ticket (typically free), but you can always get entry as a member. This saved us more money than the memberships, ensured we saw the places we wanted, and supported keeping fantastic places running.

The other thing to do is verify that any place you're going is fully open by calling or emailing first. We started traveling a lot as soon as countries opened up after COVID. We would show up to a museum or manor house only to find that in spite of the website hours, the place would be completely closed, or operating different hours than on the website, or a substantial part was closed for refurbishment with no discount offered for seeing only 1/4 of the place We would have planned two very long trips quite differently if we had thought to contact the places instead of relying on a website.