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Advice

Hi! My adult daughter and myself are planning a trip to Scotland late Aug 2023. I'd like any advice anyone would like to give! We are from Canada. What interests us most is the culture, history, castles and the beautiful country side. Im not too good at doing strenuous walks. Im considering the Fairy Pools, it sounds like I could manage the walk...
Aug 22 - arrive in Edinburgh
Aug 22-24 stay in Edinburgh. We were wondering about doing a day trip to Stirling sometime here?
Aug 25-29- Rabbies tour of North Coast 500. We wanted to do this tour so that we both enjoy the scenery instead of one driving and missing alot. Orkney Island is one of my top interests.
Aug 29- overnight in Edinburgh
Aug 30- Rent a car. Over night in Dundee. Stop in St Andrews
Aug 31 - Overnight in Aberdeen.Explore Aberdeen.
Sept 1 - Leave Aberdeen, lunch in Inverness and on to Ullapool, Overnight in Ullapool
Sept 2- Ferry over to Stornaway, tour Black houses and Lews castle, overnight here.
Sept 3 - Drive down island to Tarbert and overnight.
Sept 4- Ferry to Uig. Tour north part of the island and overnight in Portree.
Sept 5- Tour south part of the island and up to Fort William, overnight here.
Sept 6- Jacobite Train and explore Ft William.
Sept 7- I had hoped to take the West Highland train down to Glasgow but I dont think that will work as I dont think I can drop off the rental car in Ft William. I would imagine we will just drive to Glasgow and spend a few days there. I do want to see Stirling and I would like to do a boat tour of Loch Lomond.
We fly out Sept 10.
Im not sure if this all sounds too much?? We'd obviously like to see as much as we can and dont want to miss any of the top list of things to see. Any advice or comments would be greatly appreciated! I'm 69 and Scotland has been on the top of my list of places to see since I was probably 12 or 13! I'm VERY excited!

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, annemccormick4,

That is a very ambitious itinerary, but I don't think that it sounds like too much. I think that the first thing to ask is whether you have started to make accommodation arrangements. Edinburgh is going to be very busy in August, so you need to start looking now, if you haven't already done so.

I have a question about the Rabbies' NC500 tour. Does it originate in Edinburgh or Inverness? And does the tour include the Orkneys, or are you breaking off from the tour to go there?

You definitely won't be able to drop off your hired car in Fort William.

I would recommend visiting Stirling during your time in Glasgow. Even though Stiring is about equidistant from both Glasgow and Edinburgh, you probably want to maximize your time in Edinburgh.

Be sure to make those ferry bookings early if you want a specific time. For instance, if you want to maximize your time on Skye, you'll want to take the early ferry from Tarbert.

Hope that gets you started. I'm away to my bed, so I may think of more in the morning.

Don't forget to start on those accommodation arrangements. Finding twin rooms is going to be a little more difficult than finding a double.

Good luck, and best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
11 posts

Hi Mike
Thanks so much for the comments! The Rabbie tour leaves from Edinburgh and Orkney is part of the tour.
We are just firming up our itinerary so we havent booked any accommodations yet. I was wondering if you have any thoughts such as pros and cons regarding B&B's vs hotels?

Any other thoughts are so greatly appreciated!

Posted by
27104 posts

Honestly, in some of your locations you may not have a great deal of choice. I had trouble in 2019, and I was looking for a room 6-7 months before my July trip. You have a big advantage in that you'll have a car for at least part of the time. I did not, so I needed rooms in towns with good public transportation.

Edinburgh gets very tight in August because of all the festivals.

Posted by
5736 posts

I'm not sure if it's still there but in Stornoway harbour there is or was a lighting installation for the victims of the HMY Iolaire disaster. It was originlly temporary, but there were moves to make it permanent- it is quite a meaningful thing to see.
You will see mentions of the disaster all around Lewis- it was a ship bringing local lads home from WW1, which sank at the harbour entrance on New Years Day 1919, with the loss of 201 lives- an incalculable tragedy to such a small and tight knit community.

Posted by
6299 posts

I'm not an expert on Scotland by any means (my first trip there is coming up in May) but you have a lot of one night stays, which can be very tiring. You also might find it easier to book accommodations for 2 nights rather than one. When I was booking my stays, there were quite a few places that had a minimum of a 2 night stay.

For example, you could consider spending 2 nights in either Tarbert or Stornoway, rather than one night in each. Harris and Lewis is not that large and it's a little less than an hour between the two places.

Posted by
6299 posts

I was wondering if you have any thoughts such as pros and cons regarding B&B's vs hotels?

I don't think you'll have the luxury of being too picky at this date. As the others have mentioned, you need to book Scotland accommodations as early as possible (I started booking mine for May in August of 2022) so I would just start looking for places. Keep in mind that most hostels offer breakfast as well as B&B's (some charge; some do not). You can find many recommendations on this forum - just do a search for "name of city" and "hotel" or "lodging" etc. For example, I just did a quick search for Edinburgh hotels and came up with this: https://search.ricksteves.com/?button=&date_range=2y&filter=Travel+Forum&query=edinburgh+hotel&utf8=%E2%9C%93

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi once again, annemccormick4,

I think that your questions regarding hotels vs. B&Bs have been answered. Each has its benefits. With a B&B, you get breakfast, which is sort of implied. :) Most times it's a communal breakfast. You'll be sharing the dining room with the other guests in the house. This can be off-putting if you are not terribly social, but it is a wonderful way to meet people from other parts of the world.

Some small independent hotels have this same situation. The main difference would be that the tables are slightly farther apart. Your chain hotels, like the Premier Inns, do serve breakfast, but for an extra charge over and above the room rate. However, if booked well in advance, the room rate plus breakfast would compare favorably to a regular B&B rate. In late August/early September, expect to pay between 80 and 120 pounds per night B&B, with the possibility that it may be more in Edinburgh and on Skye.

There is not a lot to see in central Aberdeen. If you have just the better part of a day, your best bet would be to see the Art Gallery, the Maritime Museum (currently closed for renovation), and the Winter Gardens in Duthie Park. Unfortunately, the best of Aberdeen is outside the city, in the Shire. There are several castles worth visiting.

On your way from Dundee to Aberdeen, you should definitely look in on Dunnottar Castle, which is just south of Stonehaven. It is in a dramatic location, and has a quite violent history.

You cannot leave Lewis without visiting the Callanish Standing Stones. One of the most fascinating sites in Scotland. And while you're out that way, I'd also recommend a stop at the Dun Carloway Broch, which is the most complete example of a broch on Lewis.

If you're staying in Tarbert, I'd recommend the Harris Hotel. It's a grand old hotel, and yes, they do include breakfast. Let them know that you're catching the early ferry. Evening meals at the Harris Hotel are a bit pricey. You can get a really good meal at a good price at the Pierhouse Cafe in the Hotel Hebrides, which is near the ferry terminal.

Please be sure to start making your booking arrangements as soon as you can. As I mentioned before, it is difficult to find rooms with twin beds (or with two beds) in Scotland. If you get really stuck, many of the hostels have private rooms with twin bedded accommodation. The downside is that you may have to share a bathroom with other hostellers.

Once again, very best wishes. Start on those accommodations tomorrow!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
8 posts

I just did Scotland with my mom last spring break and had a great time. This is the advice I would give myself.

First of all, do not plan to drive in Edinburgh!!! It was horrible. The roads are too narrow, no parking is allowed anywhere and the trains/busses will take you where you want to go as well as Uber. Also, make time for Stirling Castle (they have great tours for free) and it is furnished so you get an idea what everything really looked like in that time period. I went to a bagpipe shop in Stirling and ended up buying a cantor (practice bagpipe) to take home. I practice it and it takes me back to that trip every time.

We went and got a cup of tea and sandwiches in downtown Edinburgh at a delightful little tea shop after going to the castle in Edinburgh as well. Definitely make time for tea and sandwiches wherever you are. I wasn't as impressed with the Edinburgh castle but it was still beautiful.

Inverness is nice for an afternoon, but not much to see. I liked Craigh na doon but the battlefields were disappointed.

I adored Portree. Stayed there for four days and had the most fun. I hiked every day and my mom watercolored at our air b n b. The restaurants are great and the pubs are even better there. Shopping in downtown is great lots of authentic homemade items where you can meet the actual creator. Fairy pools were nice, but I actually enjoyed the fairy ring hike more. It was much shorter (my mom is 76 years young) and less crowded.

Have fun on your trip and make sure to take time to smell the daffodils (which are everywhere!!!).

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, c.miller9,

You gave me a good laugh! That was a chanter that you purchased. You'd be more likely to find a cantor in a synagogue!

Thanks for that!

Best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks everyone! There are some great comments and advice that we really appreciate and we are doing a bit of adjusting and reconsidering
! We have started to book accommodations! Has anyone rented a car recently out of Edinburgh? Any recommendation or comments on which company to use?

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi once again, annemccormick4,

I've usually rented through Avis, and have been able to get an AARP discount. However, Celtic Legend, which offers vehicles through Arnold Clark Car Hire, has received excellent reviews from this forum. You may want to check them out, then compare prices with Avis or another car hire company. Looking at their website, it appears that they may have free satnav (GPS) included, which could be a big help if you or your daughter are not used to map reading.

Good luck with your accommodation planning. Don't forget to make those ferry reservations. If your plans change, those ferry reservations can easily be amended or cancelled.

Best wishes once again!

Mike (Auchterless)