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First time to Scotland Solo Female in 50's

Ticket bought in and out of Edinburgh May 3rd to 23rd 2017. Decided against car for many reasons. I am very much an introvert. Will be pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Thought instead of being isolated in vehicle by taking public transportation it will give me the opportunity to be sociable. Looking to travel via train/bus/day tours. My rough (flexible) itinerary is below:

Arrive Edinburgh: stay 6 nights with one day trip to Stirling and a possible day trip to Rosslyn Chapel.
Oban: 3 nights
Iona: 1 night possibly 2 and short Oban 1
Glencoe: 3 nights (not sure how to get around here)
Inverness: 2 nights
Skye: 4 nights considering Rabbie Tours to get around Skye.
Edinburgh: 1 night before morning flight.

Love history, museums, churches, castles, soaking up scenery and hiking. Would love to take steam train from Fort William to Malliag. Also, could do loop in reverse not sure if that makes any difference.

Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions would be most welcome!
Kathleen

Posted by
47 posts

Congrats on embarking on a trip out of your "comfort zone"! There is a lot to do in Edinburgh, but 6 days might be too much. I would encourage you to consider adding another day trip can do from Edinburgh. Glasgow is a great city - very modern and vibrant with some great museums - and less than an hour by train. Also, we just returned from Edinburgh and found that staying at a small bed & breakfast was a good way to get quickly oriented to the city. If you don't already have reservations, check out the Kingsway Guest House (www.edinburgh-guesthouse.com). The inn keepers are lovely and its located a short bus ride from the Royal Mile. Have a great trip!

Posted by
144 posts

Jennifer,

Thank you for the great suggestion! What a coincidence, I emailed Kingsway Guest House this morning. Glad to hear your recommendation! I was concerned I might be a bit early on trying to nail down reservations but half the fun is the planning and looking forward to the trip.

Thanks again,
Kathleen

Posted by
5678 posts

Hi Kathleen, I stayed at the Inverleith Hotel because it is a small family run hotel. They have a residents' bar so you can get a whisky without going to the pub and can chat with the desk manager. The one's I've met there were quite nice--a couple of times it was the owner.

I am not sure I would do three days in Glencoe. What are you planning on doing there? I think you need to think about some tours if you really don't want to get a car. The west is where the train service is a bit more limited and you will find yourself riding buses.

So, here are some other ideas that are easily reachable by train. The train goes up the center of the country from Edinburgh as well as up the west from Glasgow. Stop in Dunked for a night and walk in the Birnam woods along the Tay, see the cathedral, go to the friendly pub and listen to traditional music. Take the train to Pitlochery. Tour one of the distilleries, visit the Explorer's Garden and go to an event at the Festival Theatre. Take the train further north and stop at Blair Castle. There is hotel right by the train stop. This is a great castle. Take the train further north and stop at Newtonmore and visit the Highland Folk Museum. Take the train further north to Aviemore and ride the steam train into the Cairngorms. Then finally get to Inverness. :) Obviously, you could stay in Pitochery and go back down or up to various sites, but they are all easy to get to from the train.

I would stay in Inverness for a few days. You can do some additional day trips from here. The train trip between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh is stunning. If you want to visit Skye without a car, I would find out what day tours are available. I expect that the most convenient place to stay for day trips is Portree.

Posted by
144 posts

Pamela,
Thank you for those suggestions. I have so enjoyed reading your posts and appreciate you sharing your knowledge and experience. All good ideas! I love the idea of taking in some traditional music. Initially when I planned my trip I was going to rent a car hence the 3 days in Glencoe. I must admit it is the scenery of the place and the history that intrigues me. Thank you for opening up some new locations to explore. I love the travel forum format for this very reason. A pooling of ideas so to speak. How would you compare train travel to bus travel in Scotland? Am I better off planning around train schedules?

Thank you,
Kathleen

Posted by
3122 posts

I can second Pamela's recommendation of the Inverleith Hotel. We stayed there this year and found the desk staff above & beyond helpful.

We went to Rosslyn Chapel by bus and by purchasing a day pass were able to go out by bus again in the evening for dinner at no extra cost. The Rosslyn Chapel site says there's also now a train to/from Edinburgh.

Another day trip from Edinburgh -- a fairly long day -- is southward to Hadrian's Wall. If you have an interest in the Romans and early Britain, it's fascinating. I believe there are a couple of tour operators who offer this by van, but you need to book well ahead. In the van on the day trip you'll surely make friends.

Oban accommodations availability might be affected by the annual Scottish Series yacht regatta (also a golf tournament and I think a running race) in late May in Tarbert (gateway to the Kintyre peninsula). Oban is well away from Tarbert, but the entire area for miles around gets booked up many months in advance for the event.

Posted by
610 posts

Rosslyn Chapel was a great stop, and it won't take you a full day. It's a small chapel. I think the bus ride was around 45 minutes and we spent 1.5 hours at the chapel. I also highly recommend Craigmillar Castle from Edinburgh. It's a quick bus ride and short walk, and we found it very interesting. We had the entire castle almost to ourselves and had free reign to just roam around the old walls and imagine what life might have been like there. Very different experience from the other castles we saw. Hope you have a wonderful trip - Scotland will always have a piece of my heart, it's such a lovely country.

Posted by
144 posts

Thank you for the great suggestions and tips! I will keep the route heading to Oban after Edinburgh to arrive in early May. Craigmillar Castle sounds perfect and doable. I am telling myself this will be my "first" trip to Scotland as I know I will want to return and don't want that feeling of I have to see it all right now. I want to have time to just absorb the country and learn about the people, places and culture.

Kathleen

Posted by
5260 posts

Kathleen,

While in Edinburgh...

Check the Stockbridge Farmer's market on Sunday.

Also, don't miss the Princes Street Gardens, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Grassmarket area. And... Calton Hill for amazing views of the city.

You may also enjoy the small Royal Mile market, housed within an old church with a beautiful stained glass window, where you'll find unique souvenirs.

You may find this post helpful to give you some ideas as to where to eat while in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is such a beautiful city, enjoy!

Posted by
5678 posts

The trains run back and forth quite regularly between Edinburgh/Glasgow and Inverness. You can explore at Scotrail.

You have a good amount of time. You can spend fewer nights in Edinburgh, unless you are doing more than a couple of day trips from there. (FYI it's Stirling in Scotland not like Pounds Sterling or the lovely brandy and brown sugar sauce that goes on plum pudding. :) )

Check out the tours and maybe do a three or four day tour to Skye, You could then take the train to Inverness and work your way back down to Edinburgh.

Pam

Posted by
144 posts

Priscilla,
Thank you very much for the marvelous ideas. It’s funny how you think you know what you want to see and then someone makes a suggestion and you think ah ha! I love gardens and Farmer’s Markets why didn’t I think of that? I am a nut about stained glass I will definitely check out the church.
Many thanks,
Kathleen

Posted by
1265 posts

Kathleen - A few years back our family stayed at St Ann's B&B(www.stannshouse.com) in Inverness. The host were extremely knowledgeable on the going in tow. We also used Puffin Tours for a day trip to the Highlands.

Posted by
144 posts

Thank you Joel I will check them out. Still trying to determine how many days I will be staying in Inverness. Any thoughts?

Kathleen

Posted by
5678 posts

I love Inverness. It's really the business heart of Scotland so lots of locals there. Of course, it's wonderful to see Culloden Battlefield and the Clava Cairns. But it's also interesting to visit Fort George. It's active military base that has lots of historical things to see and beautiful views of the Moray Firth. If you want to walk on the beach, I think that you can take a bus to Culbin Sands. You walk through the forest to the beach. There are lots of birds, seals and sometimes dolphins. Cawdor Castle has beautiful gardens and interesting history. Then there is Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness. You can also do day trips by train to some of the places I mentioned earlier. You can contact the Tourist Info office--which is one of the really good ones--in Inverness and ask them about day tours available from Inverness.

Pam

Hi Kathleen: I am a 60 something doing a similar thing.
Regarding Skye: There are some local tour operators On Skye you might want to check out such as SkyeScenic tours. com.
I am going the opposite direction than what you are. An idea a friend with Scotland experience had was to see if a small van tour company would take me to my destination, while stopping and seeing the sites along the way, and indeed they would. My example: I am taking a round trip van tour from Inverness to Skye, stopping at Eileen Donan Castle and other points of interest. They are going to drop me off in Portree. That way I can stop along the way, that with the public bus, can be limited.

Posted by
144 posts

Barbara,

I plan on leaving Inverness and staying in Portee for at least 4 nights. I see that I posted those in the wrong order. Thank you for the great suggestion on how to get there. I was wondering how to do that and be able to stop along the way with what I understand to be more limited bus service. Can I ask when you are going? Have you traveled solo before?

Kathleen

Posted by
40 posts

Kathleen-

Last year, I spent 2 weeks in Scotland/Ireland to celebrate my 50th birthday! It was also a solo trip (was supposed to be a trip for both my boyfriend and I, who also has a September b'day, but he could not get the time off).

It was a bit scary (just at first!) but then it wound up being the most amazing 2 weeks of my life. I felt like I finally "grew up"! It was so amazing, that I am going back in a few days for another solo journey!

  • I flew into Glasgow (much more flight options that EDI), and took train to Edinburgh (Queens St Station to Waverley). 3 nights at the Grassmarket hotel--- a really funky place in an amazing old building. I felt very safe and it was super comfortable. That was my 2nd trip to Scotland (however, the first was in 1992!) of course the Castle is a must, I also took a ton of walking tours-- I love old cemeteries, and Edinburgh is full of them! St Giles is gorgeous with amazing stained glass. Just walking up and down the Royal Mile (the lower end by Hollyrood is a tad less touristy) is great. (PS- Do not bother with Mary King's Close. I felt like I was in Disney's Haunted Mansion. Very cheesy) I also did a day excursion on Rabbie's called "Western Highlands" Doune, Kilchurn Castles, Loch Lomond, Inverrary, etc. was wonderful!

-I then took the train to Aberdeen. My grandmother was a Keith, and this is the region my family originated. It is known as the Granite City, and it is beautiful. I took the bus from the city center out to Dunnottar Castle, which is a MUST. Spent 2 nights at the Jay Guest House. George & Alice Jennings make you feel like family.

-From Aberdeen, I took the train to Inverness for 3 nights. Oak Villas B/B was lovely. Margo, the owner was a sweetheart, and her breakfast is one of the best! Very reasonable. I did a full day excursion on Jacobite Tours to Loch Ness (on my bucket list since I was about 7 years old) and it was the highlight of my trip. I also took a bus from Inverness city centre to Culloden Battlefield. My ancestor James Keith fought there and was banished to the colonies as an Indentured Servant. Not to be missed.

-As another 50ish female that travels alone, my best advise is to PACK LIGHT, do not be afraid to stray from your itinerary, and just be open to what might happen. I met so many friendly and interesting people! I HATE selfie sticks, and did not hesitate for a single second to ask someone to take my photo. No one ran off with my camera/phone. I ate mostly in pubs, and struck up conversations with those around me. A quick bite in Inverness (best fresh sea scallops!) turned into a several hour chat with a lovely couple at the bar.

Yes, there were moments when I felt lonely, missed my boyfriend and my dog, but 99.9% of the time I was exhilarated. This year's trip was again supposed to be the two of us to celebrate our birthdays ( his grandparents were from the Govan neighborhood of Glasgow) and once again he couldn't get the time off of work. I have to admit... I wasn't completely disappointed (I know, that's terrible!) I just fell in love with traveling alone.

This year I am again basing myself in Edinburgh's Grassmarket district (airbnb) taking the train to Stirling and Glasgow. After 5 nights, I am flying from EDI to Belfast for another adventure!

ENJOY!!!

Posted by
459 posts

Kathleen,
If you cant arrange to take the train out to Malliag I would encourage you to drive out to Glenfinnan and hike up to the viaduct to see the train chug through. It's a nice hike and really cool to see the train go thru, you to have to work out the timing. There is a pretty easy hike up to the viaduct and then if you hike around you end up at the train station that has a neat little train car diner. We enjoyed this trip after doing some heavier hiking the previous days. Get good waterproof boots for hiking and give this site a look for directions and map up to the viaduct. Numerous other hikes can be located on the site, including Glencoe, Skye, etc.

http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/fortwilliam/glenfinnan.shtml this link is to the viaduct trail.

Posted by
144 posts

Thank you for the encouragement. I would say I am considerably more excited than apprehensive. It sounds like you had a very good solo trip. Would love to hear how your second trip goes. Will definitely get the waterproof boots and try to see the train. This forum has boosted my confidence. I appreciate all the ideas. I am finding when I try to book rooms for May 2017 I am getting feedback I am too early. I had read in the Rick Steve’s Scotland to book early especially on Skye and Iona. I did speak with the Calva House on Iona. She was wonderful told me to send her a letter and she would put it on the calendar but mostly being told to check back in January.

Posted by
2475 posts

What a great trip! A short day trip from Edinburgh that I would recommend, particularly with your interest in history, is to take a short train ride up to the Dalmeny stop in Queensferry in order to see the Forth Bridge.

Posted by
7 posts

Hi Kathleen,

I am also going on a solo trip in October this year, form 1 Oct to 17 Oct. I am 62 y/o female. Will arrive in Edinburgh where I will spend 3 nights. Then on to Oban for two nights...I have already purchased a 'Three Isles Early Bird Tour' of Isles of Iona, Mull, and Staffa from Cal Mac Ferries. From Oban I will hire a car and travel to Portree, Isle of Skye where I will spend two nights. I will explore the island by car. From there I will travel over to Inverness on my way up north to Orkney. Will spend one night in Thurso and in the morning catch a car/ferry over to Stromness using NorthLink Ferries. Will spend two nights in Kirkwall, Orkney and then back to Inverness for one night and then back To Edinburgh for two nights for trip back to the US. Looking forward to it....

Posted by
144 posts

Sandra, your trip sounds marvelous! Did you arrange for the rental car in advance. I have vacillated back and forth on renting a car. As of now the plan is to use public transportation but if I find it too challenging I may try to hire a car at the last minute while I am there to see the Highlands. I would love to hear about your trip when you return. Have a wonderful time! Kathleen

Posted by
144 posts

Awesome review! Thank you for sharing. I love hearing how trips went after returning. Great suggestions. Kathleen