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England/Scotland Itinerary

My husband and I are planning a trip to England and Scotland in August. Finding planning a little overwhelming because we've never been to Scotland. We plan to rent a car but are thinking we will wait until leaving Edinburgh to do so and take trains up until that point. We are thinking of the following itinerary but would like to get feedback as to whether it is too ambitious:
8/13 Arrive London mid-day (we have been before so don't need to do all the typical first timer sites)
8/14 London
8/15 London
8/16 Cotswolds--what village(s) in particular should we visit?
8/16 Cotswolds
8/18 York
8/19 Edinburgh
8/20 Edinburgh
8/21 Edinburgh
8/22 St. Andrew's/Stirling
8/23 Aviemore/Inverness--
8/24 Aviemore/Inverness
8/25 Aviemore/Inverness
8/26 Portree, Isle of Skye
8/27 Portree, Isle of Skye
8/28 Glasgow--last night before flying back to US from Glasgow on 8/29

Would like to hear pros and cons of sleeping in Aviemore vs. Inverness to see sites in Highlands. Also, has anyone driven the North Coast 500? My husband is interested in driving a small part of it. Thanks for any suggestions/recommendations anyone can provide!

Posted by
26510 posts

I can't help with your specific questions, but:

  • Is this your first trip to York? You're only going to have a few hours there; it's not a fast trip from the Cotswolds. York is a sight-rich city that really needs more than one night.

  • I think you'll be sorry to have only two nights on Skye, but you'll have your own vehicle (I didn't); if you're lucky with the weather (I wasn't), you'll be able to see some of the highlights.

  • Have you arranged your lodging in Edinburgh? August is the peak of peak season there because of the month-long Fringe Festival and the Military Tattoo. If you don't have lodgings yet, I recommend looking immediately.

Posted by
10 posts

This is our first trip to York. I really wanted to visit the Cotswolds, but if we did 1 night there and 2 in York, would only 1 night be worth it? I read about all the festivals in Edinburgh in August and don't have a hotel yet but plan to nail something down in the next few days. Thanks for your input.

Posted by
7221 posts

Be prepared for rain some of the days/nights in Scotland, and for potentially serious mud if you venture onto any Cotswolds trails.

You may find that tickets for Edinburgh Festival events are very expensive, and sell out early.

For the Tattoo, good seats can start selling out, too, so look at the Website and book, if you’re interested.

Festival Fringe events are widespread, and many are free, or much cheaper. Again, see if there are must-sees that you want to book online, but we found lots of things to just drop in on, and one New Yawk comedian where we got tickets for his show for just a few Pounds.

If Scottish trad music is on the agenda, be sure to take in the Royal Oak Pub one evening in Edinburgh. There’s also an excellent Mother India restaurant next door, if you fancy a curry.

After Edinburgh, we wound up in Inverness, and rented a car there from the Arnold Clarke company, then returned it back at the Edinburgh airport. You’d be able to rent in Edinburgh and return in Glasgow.

We haven’t driven any of the North Coast 500, but sounds interesting. For Skye, though, research Passing Places and driver etiquette. We found many of the roads much narrower than on mainland Scotland. August also had lots of foreign drivers (e.g., Belgian and Italian, in their own vehicles based on license plates) who weren’t completely staying in their lanes. Being in cars, vans, and motorhomes with the steering wheel on the “wrong” side probably didn’t help. Allow extra space for them! And for sheep, too, who can take their own Right of Way on the roads - walking or even sleeping in them!

Posted by
2420 posts

We have done part of your trip--basically up to Edinburgh. We went to both the Cotswolds and York but had six nights and even then I wished we had one more for York. The Cotswolds is difficult from a public transportation perspective. You could rent a car from Oxford and then return it there and take the train to York (given your present itinerary). Or alternatively, there are day trips in small vans from Oxford that would allow you to get a taste of the Cotswolds (we took one from Bath to get to the Cotswolds without a car.)

Logistically, it is much easier to go from London to York and then to Edinburgh. The train is much faster that way. York has enough for three nights. We took a day trip in a van to the coast which my husband really wanted to do because he wanted to see the moor. It took us to some small towns that were as charming as the Cotswolds so something like that might be a possibility. But because we did that, we actually did not have enough time to see everything in York even with three nights.

Posted by
3115 posts

First of all, when you drive from Skye to Glasgow airport, here are a few tips. If you want a bathroom break in a scenic location along the A82, pull off at the village of Luss on the shore of Loch Lomond. There's Pay & Display parking and coin toilets. You have to watch for the sign -- the village is off the highway. There's a major roundabout at Balloch (southern end of Loch Lomond) and you want to follow the signs to Glasgow. If you need to return your rental car full of petrol, Dumbarton is the last easy place to stop and fill up. After that, follow the signs for the Erskine Bridge and the airport (it will merge with the M8), and then for rental car return. Be aware that the airport is in Paisley, not Glasgow proper. Glasgow airport has several hotels right on the campus, easy walking distance to the terminals. I've stayed at the Holiday Inn (excellent!!!) and the Holiday Inn Express (perfectly OK).

Between Aviemore and Inverness for lodging, well, Aviemore is a much smaller town and IMO very oriented to outdoor sports. Inverness would give you more choices of restaurants and other services. So it depends on what you like.

With your allotted time, I wouldn't go off to drive the North Coast 500. You'll see plenty of awe-inspiring scenery to and from Skye, and on Skye too.

On 8/22, do you mean you'll choose either St. Andrews or Stirling? Because trying to visit both on the same day means you'll just be driving. They are pretty far apart.

Hope this helps!

Posted by
1811 posts

I suppose this is heresy, but I would skip the Cotswolds. They are a bunch of pretty little villages that are all very similar. Most of the cottages are vacation homes. If you do decide to visit them, you need a car to get from one to the other efficiently.

IMHO, add your time instead to York and the Yorkshire Dales which are filled with lovely villages, castles, and ruined abbeys. Spend a day in York, then rent a car for a couple of days to explore the countryside. Return the car and take the train to Edinburgh. It's a two hour ride, so you would have a half day in either York or Edinburgh. Do you have enough planned for Edinburgh to need three+days there? You might consider one less day in the Aviemore/Grantown/ Cairngorms day (skip Inverness) and add it to Skye. Try to plan a route that takes you through the Glencoe area (preferably south to north) which is one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland.

Posted by
26510 posts

I don't think most travelers need a great deal of time in the Cotswolds to get the flavor of the area unless they want to do some village-to-village hiking; that's a completely different story. Because of the limited public transportation in the Cotswolds (there are some buses fanning out from Moreton-in-Marsh), I took a one-day small-group (van) tour. The driver was expert at moving us efficiently from place to place; there was no time wasted, looking for a legal place to park the van. That tour allowed me to see some of the pretty countryside and quite a few small villages. I would have liked a bit more time at most of the stops (and I'm a fast walker who's not much into photography), but I've recommended the GoCotswolds tour I took to others here. One more day in the area would have been nice, but beyond a certain point, one thatched village is going to look a lot like the next thatched village. It takes two nights in area to fit in a one-day tour.

The question is whether a satisfying visit to the Cotswolds can be accomplished with only one night in the area. Having a car would help, but you'd need to check the driving time from London and on to York to see how many hours you'd actually have left to drive around the Cotswolds. I'd use ViaMichelin.com. Don't forget to factor in time for stopping, navigational errors, finding parking and walking from wherever you have to leave your car to what you want to see.

Travel always involves trade-offs. After all, by choosing to go to England and Scotland, you've given up the opportunity to see Rome, Venice, Vienna, Berlin... on this trip. Adding a full day to Skye or York would increase your sightseeing time by 12 hours or so, compared to far fewer hours in the Cotswolds. (Plus savings on fuel.)

The Cotswolds are not the only interesting destination in that part of Great Britain. They fit well with visits to Oxford, Bath, Wells, Bristol and southern Wales. I'd recommending taking advantage of the fabulous, fast trains from London to York on this trip and holding off on the Cotswolds.

Posted by
6113 posts

It’s not heresy to say skip the Cotswolds (sorry, Nigel). Getting from say Moreton-in-Marsh to York isn’t an easy journey by train - you need to take 3 trains and it will take about 5 + hours door to door. You only have one night set aside for York, so for ease of train routes, I too would suggest that you drop the Cotswolds and a night to York.

I am not an Aviemore fan and would prefer to stay in Inverness. Add the second Cotswolds night to Portree as it takes time to get round Skye.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks for all your responses and great information. We have decided to heed the advice to scratch the Cotswolds and visit St. Andrew's as a day trip out of Edinburgh, and instead will add a day in London, a day in York, and a day on the Isle of Skye.

Posted by
32318 posts

no probs, Jennifer - it was going to be a problem on this route