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First time traveler to Scotland-Help Please

I will be flying to Europe in mid-May. First stop is Scotland then take the train to England and down the East coast taking the ferry to Rotterdam, Netherlands where I will visit friends. I will be away for about 28 days. I won't have a car and will need to rely on trains and busses. My time in Scotland and England can be about 20 days. I am not going to London on this trip. I have read many posts about Scotland and bought a Rick Steve's book..Best of Scotland. and planning map. I have found this year's journey difficult to plan. What do I like? Museums, Castles, outdoor gardens (a major interest) and the list goes on. I am not able to hike due to back surgeries. I am an amateur photographer and love landscape photography. I am at a loss on what I can see during my stay. Here are my want to see places..Edinburgh, Sterling, Isle of Aaron if I can get around by bus and how much time there? I would like to visit Glasgow and take a train or bus to Inveraray and the castle there. Guess it takes 4 hrs one way.
It has been mentioned... St. Andrews? a train to Dunked and explore the village and cathedral
Train to Dunfermline and castle there.
I would like to end my journey in Scotland by taking the train down to Dumfries, spending a couple days on that coastline as far as Kirkcudbright. I can spend maybe 10 to 12 days in Scotland on this leg of my journey. I would like to spend a few days in England and guess I will need to reach out to the England Forum for that part of my journey. Any advice would be most appreciated. I have used the forums for years and you have made my trips so wonderful with your advise. Could anyone suggest places to stay and good Scottish food? I need to book soon but will wait for your response

Posted by
626 posts

I am just curious to know where you are picking up the ferry for Rotterdam? Hull or Harwich? Just wondered how far down the East coast of England you are coming. The ferries take a long time and are not necessarily cheaper than a quick European flight deal. Stirling, Edinburgh, Glasgow will be easy as far as public transportation goes. Once you get into the county of Argyll, your public transportation options are going to be somewhat limited. If I was you, I would stick to the highlands for this trip. Inverrary is nice but a little remote without a car and I'm not sure it is worth it for a day trip. Even though you have 28 days in Europe you are going to spend a lot of those days traveling. Especially if you are going to use the Ferry to get to Holland. Have you been to Scotland before? with back problems and relying on public transportation in more remote places you may find you still end up doing a lot of walking and hanging around waiting on buses. Have you thought about taking small bus tours out from say Glasgow or Edinburgh? It might be worth doing these instead of trying to figure this all out by yourself. You will still have to plan to get to the ferry. If its Harwich I can help you with that area.


Posted by
5564 posts

When you are in Edinburgh be sure to get the day pass for the bus. If you have issues with walking it will help you keep you going. You mentioned that you like gardens. I'm going to suggest that you a little bit further north to Pitlochry and visit the Explorer's Garden. It's got some hills, but the walks are paved and you can see a lot without having to go all the way down the hill. You can probably take the train from Dunkeld. Catch a taxi to the garden. And if you are at all interested in distilleries and whisky, there is one right in town.

Dunkeld is one of my favorite places. It an easy train ride from Edinburgh. There is a nice level short walk along the Tay in Birnam, so you can claim to have walked in Birnam Wood. :) I stayed at the Bridge B&B a couple of times and they came to pick me up at the railway station. You can get some beautiful pictures along the Tay. I hope that you get to hear some great music while you're there.

Posted by
941 posts

Hi, vjmasters1,

You mentioned traveling to Arran. Arran is extremely easy to reach by public transportation, and once you get there, the bus service around the island is excellent, frequent, and relatively inexpensive.

To get to Arran, take Scotrail from Glasgow, or from Edinburgh via Glasgow to Ardrossan. The last stop that the train makes is a very short walk from the ferry terminal... Hop on the ferry, which will take you to Brodick on Arran. All of the buses stop at the ferry terminal, so if you know where you're going, just hop on the bus. I believe that there is a day ticket available, which runs around six pounds for unlimited rides. All of this information is in the Lonely Planet guide. You won't find it in the RS guide.

I can highly recommend the Glenartney Guest House in Brodick. It's walking distance from the ferry terminal, and the hosts are wonderful. Brodick Castle and Gardens are excellent.

If you're going to St. Andrews, you can take a bus from Edinburgh, or a train to Leuchars and the bus from there.

Getting to Dumfries from Glasgow is no problem by train. If you're planning to visit the rest of Kirkcudbrightshire, you'll need to rely on the buses once you get to Dumfries. There is a separate train line out of Glasgow that runs down the west coast through Ayr and Girvan, terminating at Stranraer on the Rhinns of Galloway. Once again, the Lonely Planet will be your best guide for the Borders and Galloway.

Best of luck with your plans!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
2774 posts

Inveraray Castle and its gardens are very pretty, though the castle is rebuilt from a serious fire in (I think) the 1970s so not a historic castle in the purist sense. It would be approximately a 2-hour bus ride each way from Glasgow -- doable in a day trip. The route goes along the western shore of Loch Lomond and then over mountain passes so it is scenic. If you're starting from Edinburgh instead, then it's more like 3 1/2 hours each way.

Inveraray castle has a small cafe, but for a better selection of food you may want to go to Brambles in the high street. (Brambles also has nice B&B rooms, they just don't serve dinner -- for that and a pub atmosphere go to the George Hotel). The town itself is attractive, having been planned & built by one architect during the Georgian period.

Obviously with a limited number of days, you'll have to decide which destinations in Scotland are your top priorities. I haven't been all over Scotland, but can say that Inveraray is really pleasant.

Posted by
50 posts

I would like to thank you all for your replies. My research is coming along. Have more questions regarding the coastal area in the Southern part of Scotland. I will add a new post tomorrow.
Thank You again