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Best Tips about Scotland/Itinerary.. PLEASE HELP!

I will go ahead and apologize before hand for the long post, but I have a ton of questions about Scotland! First off, we are planning on staying approx. 4 days in Scotland with out a car, which brings me to my first of many questions...
1. Would we be better off renting a car for 4 days or relying on public transport (trains, buses, ferries)?
The next thing to tackle is our itinerary. We would like to spend at least one day exploring Edinburgh, but we are torn as to how to best spend the other three days. Some interests among the group are whisky distilleries, castles, the highlands (glencoe & ben nevis), and potentially the Isle of Skye. I do have a couple rough itineraries that I will share and I am open to changes/suggestions!
2. What are some of your favorite distilleries you have gone on?
3. What are the "must see" castles to visit based on your experience?
4. What were some of the highlights of the highlands that we shouldn't miss?

Itinerary Option 1:
Day 1: Explore Edinburgh (Don't have much on the list to explore here except the castle, Dean Village, and great food/shopping)
Day 2: Take a train towards Inverness from Edinburgh and tour a distillery relatively close to the city, explore the Cairngorms (saw a few land rover expeditions), and stay overnight in Inverness or whatever is convenient to what tours we may go on.
Day 3: From here we were thinking of taking a 1-2 day tour of the highlands with Rabbies potentially?? or just take a train tour which would take us to Fort William (ride the Jacobite train)??

Itinerary Option 2:
Day 1: Explore Edinburgh and keep Edinburgh as base for the rest of the stay in Scotland
Day 2-4: Take day trips from Edinburgh with tours

I must note that my husband is not a huge day tour fan. He would prefer to live more like a local and explore the "real" Scotland aside from tourist traps. As most of you know, finding a compromise between the two may be a bit of a challenge with the amount of time we have, but we want to make the most of our trip. From Scotland we are taking a train to London and spending a few nights there as well, so we would like for our ending point in Scotland to be convenient to travel to London.
Would you all suggest to spend less time in London and potentially add more time towards exploring Scotland??

Thank you all SO much for taking time to read my post! Any suggestions/advice is welcome!!
A 20-something who has never traveled to Europe

Posted by
7124 posts

A car for a few days would certainly allow you to see more. This is a real stretch ...

1. ARRIVE Edinburgh (2)
2. Edinburgh
3. Via Stirling & Glencoe to Fort William (1)
4. Via Oban & Loch Lomond to Glasgow (1)
5. DEPART Glasgow

An extra day would allow you to visit the Borders or St Andrews from Edinburgh.

Posted by
971 posts

Favourite distiilery: Edradour near the town of Pitlochry.
Favourite Castle: Doune Castle.

Posted by
228 posts

What time of year is your trip and how much time do you have in total for Scotland and London?

I wouldn't bother trying to fit Skye into such a short trip. There is plenty to see closer to your start and end points that won't mean spending half your holiday in the car, which you will indeed need if you wish to see rural Scotland and don't want to join the day trippers on coach tours (shudder).

Posted by
3 posts

We are doing a week between Scotland and London and are going in September! I agree that Isle of Skye would be a bit of a stretch, but that will just be an excuse to go back!

Posted by
2804 posts

If you only have one week and you want to see London as well as a bit of Scotland, you'll have to zero in on the top priorities. In London you could compromise the tour vs. "live like a local" by going on one or two London Walks walking tours and being on your own the rest of the time. Choose one hotel/B&B in each city and settle in.

I hope you'll be flying open jaw -- arrive London and depart Edinburgh, or the other way around. That will save you time & money.

I'd say do not rent a car for such a short time. Take the train between London & Edinburgh and use public transport, which is plentiful in both cities. In Edinburgh you can buy an all-day pass for the Lothian Bus system, which includes locations outside the city such as Roslin Chapel. The railways in Scotland serve a number of rural destinations so if you want to get out into the countryside for a walk (hike, in USA parlance) you can easily do so.

Posted by
123 posts

We did your option 2. We didn’t have a need to rent a car. You don’t need one in Edinburgh. We used Rabbies for various day tours out of Edinburgh and cannot brag enough about that! Was so enjoyable to relax and have someone else drive on challenging unmarked backroads.
Recommend: We built a ‘jet lag’ day for first full day. Got up early for first Rabbies tour of Edinburgh of day ($12 per person for 2 hours). Then hopped off tour and walked all over the Old Town. Was a fabulous way to learn our way around city, talk to tour guide, then burn off jet lag by walking around.
We were there this past November.
Hope that helps!

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks everyone! I think we may have to stick to some of the day tours out of Edinburgh and maybe take a day to venture out on our own towards Inverness! We are spending a week in Ireland prior to going to Scotland/London area so hopefully the jet lag wont be much of an issue!

Posted by
552 posts

Some people are going to disagree with me here, but I think if you have only a week you should spend it all in either London or Scotland. Otherwise, you are going to waste a lot of time getting between the two, time that could be spent seeing the sights. With only four days in Scotland you should probably just stick to Edinburgh as a base and make use of the many guided day tours available. You will probably see more this way as you won't have to deal with the hassle of picking up the rental car, getting used to driving on the left, and finding your own way around. I got lost the first day out with the car and missed a place I wanted to see, but I had the car for many more days so it didn't matter so much. If you spend your entire week in London you will get a good look at the city, but will probably still not be able to cover everything you want to see. You can spend an entire day just in the British Museum if you like that sort of thing. I spent six days in Edinburgh seeing the city and doing a couple of day trips. If you spend a whole week there you can also take the train over to Glasgow which is only an hour away. Keeping your focus small will make for a much more enjoyable, stress free, trip.

Posted by
1300 posts

London does not actually exist. It is a figment of your imagination. It is Fake News.

Posted by
3439 posts

If you decide to stay in Edinburgh there are also Craigmiller castle and Rosslyn chapel (seen in the da Vinci code movie and knights Templar connected) outside of Edinburgh that are easy to reach by bus. There’s no reason to have a rental car in the city.