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Eastern Scotland Itinerary Advice

Traveling to Scotland in late August, taking a red eye from the States to Edinburgh. This is my rough itinerary for a a weekish long trip to Eastern Scotland:

Day 1: Edinburgh (early morning arrival)
Day 2: Edinburgh
Day 3: Explore Fife (Anstruther, ferry to Isle of May, maybe St. Monans)
Not sure yet where to spend the night
Day 4: Drive to Aberdeen (on way stop at Glamis, Dunnator)
Spend night in Aberdeen
Day 5: Day trip to either Castle Drum, Crathes, or Frasier (any suggestions?)
Spend the night in Aberdeen
Day 6: Craigievar, Balmoral
Stay in Ballater
Day 7: Royal Lochnagar Distillery, drive to Stirling
Spend night in Stirling
Day 8: Stirling, drive to Edinburgh at night to catch morning flight
Stay near airport

Looking for suggestions of things to add/ take away. Hoping to get a good mix of city, small towns, castles and nature. Want to make the most of this trip, but not be too rushed.

Also looking for suggestions of cool places to stay (ie castles, churches, interesting hotels/ airbnbs)

Posted by
156 posts

I am partisan because I live not all that far from Ballater and will suggest you do not stay in Aberdeen but spend your nights in Ballater rather than two in Aberdeen and one in Ballater.

You can visit Glamis on the way from Fife to Ballater and by using Ballater as a base you have the potential visit all the other places on your list as day visits. Time wise I don't think you would be able to visit every place you list, so you would need to decide where to go by what interests you most.

You could visit Balmoral Castle and the Royal Lochnagar Distillery on the day you drive to Stirling from Ballater. The drive from one to the other is about two hours, so it is doable.

Ballater is a very pretty highland village with lots of small shops and places to eat to suit all pockets. If you are travelling in August I do advise you to book accommodation in advance to avoid disappointment when you arrive and also to perhaps take advantage of any multi-night discounts on offer.

Posted by
931 posts

Hi, Emma,

On day three, you could spend the night in Dundee. The Premier Inn at Discovery Point is very reasonable if booked in advance, parking is three pounds, and there are many good (and not so good) restaurants within walking distance. Plus you'll be right next to the RRS Discovery, which is an excellent exhibit, as well as the newly opened Victoria & Albert Museum. If you stay at the Premier Inn, ask for a room overlooking the Tay.

From Dundee, you can take the coast road (A92) through Arbroath and Montrose, on your way to Dunnottar Castle and Stonehaven. That would mean skipping Glamis Castle, but the coast road is excellent, and if you have any interest in seabirds, the Nature Reserve at Fowlsheugh, just south of Dunnottar, has thousands of seabirds of all types, including puffins, nesting on the sea cliffs.

In addition to Drum, Crathes, and Fraser, you should also visit Fyvie Castle and Haddo House, which are just outside of Aberdeen. As you've no doubt heard, Balmoral Castle may not have a lot on view, as Queen Elizabeth I usually takes up residence there during her August hols. If you do end up there, keep a wary eye out for Prince Philip. He's a bad driver! Yes, I know that he turned in his license, but that's not going to stop him from driving on the castle grounds!

If you're looking for a place to stay in Aberdeen, the Premier Inn at the Bridge of Don is really nice. I've stayed there many times over the last 18 years. It's far enough outside the city that you really feel as though it's a country hotel. Also, it's convenient for visiting Haddo House, Fyvie Castle, Alford, and Craigievar. The Premier Inn is about a 10 to 15 minute drive in to town, depending on traffic, and Aberdeen is chock-a-block with restaurants.

Hope you enjoy the Granite City!

Best wishes for your travels, and make those reservations soon!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
156 posts

It is Queen Elizabeth II not I and as for the driving of HRH Prince Philip, you will not be allowed in the grounds of Balmoral Castle to witness it because it will be closed to the public by then. I should have remembered this when making my earlier post. It's been a long day!

In August the nearest you can get to Balmoral will be the main gates which will be guarded by armed police, or a fleeting glimpse of the top of the tower through the trees from the A93 as you drive by.

You can visit Crathie Kirk which is near to Balmoral Castle and has been the place of worship for the British Royal Family when in this part of Scotland since the days of Queen Victoria. If you are in the area on a Sunday there's nothing to stop you from joining regular worshipers to attend 11.30am service if you wish, or you can stand outside to watch the comings and goings of the Royal Family instead.

Posted by
931 posts

Hi, sownack,

My understanding was that the Scots never acknowledged the legitimacy of the first Queen Elizabeth, resulting in the current queen being considered Queen Elizabeth I in Scotland. Elizabeth I was never Queen of Scotland, as her reign ended prior to the Union of the Crowns, ergo the current Queen Elizabeth is the first Queen Elizabeth of Scotland.


Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: There's a song about the situation, which dates (I think) from the early 1960s. "Coronation Coronach," by "Thurso Berwick," (Morris Blythman) appears on the "Ding Dong Dollar" album, which was put out by the Glasgow Folk Song Collective.

Posted by
2711 posts

Just to say that Glamis Castle is well worth a visit if you're interested in a castle that (a) dates back to the centuries when a castle was more fortress than grand country house, and (b) was occupied by the family well into the 20th century. The interior is kept much as it was during the Queen Mother's lifetime, and the tour is with a live guide. The grounds include gorgeous gardens, and there's a shop and a cafe / tea room. See

Posted by
156 posts

I am not Scottish, so to me she is Queen Elizabeth II irrespective of the Pillar Box War.

Posted by
931 posts

Hi, sownack,

Thanks for that reminder. I'd been trying to find references to those events, but I'd forgotten that letter boxes were called "pillar boxes" back then, as most of them were. Anyway, it sounds as though you really enjoy living near Ballater. You are indeed fortunate. It's a lovely town. I'm pleased to see that the railway station has finally been reopened.

Best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
80 posts

Day 3 - a trip to the Isle of may is a full day in itself, so you won't have time to drive from Edinburgh to fife, take the boat trip there and visit the other places you mentioned. Bear in mind too that it is most definitely not a ferry to the Isle of may! - it's a small boat that you walk on and walk off. Lastly, the main reason to visit the Isle of may is the seabird colonies, but by the end of August the vast majority of nesting birds and nestlings will have left a long time ago, so in my opinion it's not really the best time to visit the island and I would consider a skipping it.

More generally I would say there's enough to see and do in Fife for most people to fill a couple of full days or more, so you could spend longer there if you wanted. Don't write st Andrews off as just golf as it has has very nice beaches, a pretty town centre and a ruined cathedral and a castle.

Day 4+5 - Aberdeen has a fair amount of traffic problems and can be quite congested - as such I wouldn't really choose to drive into the city centre unless I had to. Due to the oil industry hotels in the city can be quite expensive particularly during the week. I would tend agree with the other suggestions about staying somewhere outside the city.

Day 8 - Stirling is barely 40 minutes from Edinburgh airport by freeway. There shouldn't really be any need to stay at Edinburgh airport the night before, you should be able to get there fine from Stirling.