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First trip to Scotland - and it's winter...


We're planning our first trip to Scotland over Christmas and New Year. We don't have any control over the time of year - it's when we have holidays, and it's in conjunction with a family trip to visit our son who's at university in Durham. At this stage we're planning to get the train to Edinburgh and stay there for a week over Christmas (and most likely rent a car to allow for day trips). We then have one more week before we need to head back to London. Ideally we would have a relaxed week, not too much rushing around, and plenty of countryside. I was considering Braemar, but I'm aware it's possible/likely it will be snowing, and I wanted to get a sense of how much that might restrict our movements. We're from Singapore, so it's not exactly what we're used to!

Any suggestions would be welcome - we literally have no idea what we want to do in the other week, and we've been in London so frequently that we don't need to spend any additional time there. I know I need to sort it out soon given it's New Year...

Posted by
5042 posts

Whilst you may get snow, this is more likely in late January/February, but it will be cold and daylight hours will be short. To lessen the risk of snow, stay at a lower elevation.

You say you want countryside, but is this still the case if it is cold and rains or snows all week? Or would you prefer somewhere where there are indoor activities?

Glencoe as a base would permit visits to Oban, the gorgeous Ardnamurchan peninsula for a stunning drive and plenty of walking.

The Scottish celebrate Hogmanay (new year) more than Christmas, so you may have a limited choice of accommodation.

Alternatives from Edinburgh would be the stunning Northumberland coast - visit Holy Island (reached via a tidal causeway, so check the tide times), lots of castles, one of my favourite National Trust properties - Cragside and great walks on deserted beaches or in the Cheviot Hills.

If you want something more urban, York is easily reached from Edinburgh by train. The city itself could keep you occupied for several days plus you are close to the North York Moors and the Dales for countryside galore plus Whitby on the coast.

Posted by
5581 posts

I think that this will be a lovely trip, but Jennifer is right in that you need to realize the daylight situation. Here's a link for the specifics. I think I would base myself in Inverness for the second half of your trip. I have two main reasons. First, there will be restaurants and stores that will be open. Smaller towns will have some options, but is less dependent on tourist which are that prevalent in the winter so is more likely to have options for you. My second reason is that you can do lovely day trips there to each coast, down to the Cairngorms, or north. You will be able to see a lot of Scotland's beautiful scenery. I think I would end my stay by driving over to the west coast and back to Glasgow and the Central Belt.

I am not sure I would have the car the whole time in Edinburgh. Parking can be a challenge and driving can be daunting. I drive all the time in Scotland, so for me it's more about what might make. There are some easy day trips that you can do by train--Stirling, Glasgow and even St. Andrews. There is also a train to Tweedbank now! So think about what you want to do in Edinburgh before booking you car.


Posted by
39 posts

Thanks to both for your lovely suggestions. We wanted to go somewhere we haven't been before (and we have been to York and surrounds quite a few times) we opted for the Cairngorms, and have booked to spend a week in Tomintoul - staying in a pub, walking and reading lots of books.

We did consider Inverness, but decided in the end that countryside was what we wanted. Noted on the hours of daylight though.