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How much time for Edinburgh vs "rest of scotland"

Hi all- I'm getting so flustered trying to plan the trip my husband and I are taking in September- Sept 11 to 29. We'll be doing three nights in Bath after arrival in London, then planning to fly from Bristol to Edinburgh. The problems is, there is so much to do in so many places, I'm overwhelmed trying to pick! We'll need at least 3-4 days in London, I'm guessing, and are happy to spend the rest of the time in Scotland (that isn't already earmarked for Bath). We do plan to drive a car upon leaving Edinburgh- so how many days max do you think Edinburgh deserves before we take off for more rural areas? We pretty much like everything- museums, castles, gardens, architecture, hiking/outdoorsy things.

Thanks in advance- I know this is a very vague, broad question.

Posted by
9996 posts

We had a similar problem last fall. We ended up with only two nights in Edinburgh which was not quite enough. One of our travel companions likes to move faster than we do. I would have done three nights in Edinburgh then moved on.

Do consider the Cairngorms for outdoor activity. We stayed in Grantown-on-Spey for three nights and really enjoyed it. Good hiking, lovely scenery, fabulous Whiskey.

Posted by
120 posts

We just did three nights this past June prior to picking up our car at the airport and heading north. We also had one night at the end of the trip before flying out. Three full days was plenty of enough time. I was happy to have one last afternoon to explore as well before flying home though. After our first three nights in Edinburgh we headed north to Stirling, Aviemore (Cairnorgms),Inverness, Isle of Skye and Glencoe. There is a lot still on my list for next time. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
3588 posts

Three full days in Edinburgh should be enough to do just about all of the high spots. Been there several times so let us know if you need specifics.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks for the advice, friends! It's just so hard to pick when I want to do ALL THE THINGS. Looks like three full days in Edinburgh should do it, so we'll do that this go-round. Thanks again!

Posted by
2926 posts

If I'm doing the subtraction right, you have about 11 days in Scotland. I agree with the others that 3 days is adequate to enjoy the highlights of Edinburgh. That leaves you 7-8 days for the rest of Scotland. You could do a loop:

Stirling,

Pitlochry and that corridor up to Inverness (though I recommend staying in Nairn, east of Inverness and very near Cawdor Castle as well as Culloden Battlefield), then

along the north shore of Loch Ness (stop at Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition, and at Urquhart Castle),

either Isle of Skye or Oban,

Inveraray,

western shore of Loch Lomond, and finally

end up wherever you're flying home from -- Glasgow or Edinburgh, presumably?

Posted by
3886 posts

Believe we were in Edinburgh a couple days upon arrival and another couple at the end of the trip. There are buses that can get you to Craig-miller castle and Roslyn chapel. Both are outside of the city but worth a visit if you have the time. We had a couple weeks for the rest of the trip. Some places we visited include, Gamis castle, Dunnottar, Dunbarton, Urguhart, and Eilean Donan castles, Isle of Skye, Portree, Oban, loch Ness, and Glencoe. We did jog into England and saw Bamburgh, Caerlaverock, and Alnwick castles, York, Harrogate, Melrose Abbey and, Jedburgh abbey. At some point we'll return for another couple weeks.

Posted by
26 posts

I just returned from a 2.5-week journey to the UK (and 4 days in Paris), with Edinburgh as one leg. I loved Scotland! I would have loved to explore it even more; we basically had 4 nights, and spent 3 of the days exploring Edinburgh, only to find we'd wanted more time; we had an additional day on a Rabbie's tour (lochs, castles & highlands-- beautiful country, so yes, take your time exploring the rest of Scotland!).
You mention that "there is so much to do in so many places, I'm overwhelmed trying to pick!" This is the story of my travels, and most other people's, and in order to mitigate any regrets, I've tried two things...

  • Choose 1-2 things I really, really want to see or do (perhaps a 3rd as a substitute in case weather makes one of them iffy)
  • Allow time for exploration of 2-3 other things that are close together, with an eye towards exploring that area/region in the process to see what you stumble on
  • Allow a chunk of a day just to wander aimlessly, allowing for serendipitous discoveries (possibly my favorite memories off the bat); even if nothing big happens, that amble can allow you just to soak in what's around

My list of things I'd wanted to do that I didn't get to this round is longer than the list of things I did, and that's just always going to be the case! But on our ambling day, after a beautiful stroll through the Royal botanic Gardens, we thought we'd wander into the National Museum of Scotland for an hour (so I could see my adored Lewis Chessmen), and it turned out to be a wonderful place with a lot going on (especially fun for our teenage daughters). We were there 3 hours and still didn't get to everything.
That said, 3 days in Edinburgh will give you plenty of time to enjoy it. It's a charming city, and while London has been my first love, Edinburgh now rivals it, and in comparison is more navigable and a bit easier to get your mind around! Enjoy!

Posted by
4583 posts

Any particular reason for including Bath? It seems an choice of destination if your ultimate aim is visiting Scotland. If it's simply an interesting city experience that you're after then it would make more sense to take the train from London to York, spend a night or two there and then continue on to Edinburgh.

3 days in Edinburgh should be sufficient if you intend on visiting areas outside of the capital.

Posted by
1737 posts

We spent one day there as a day trip from our apartment in Callendar. That was enough for me.

Posted by
3 posts

JC- We planned to do Bath because of the prehistory/Roman history, as well Georgian history in the area. It does seem fragmented, but there's a method to the madness!

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions; I booked us for three full days in Edinburgh before we head west/north to the Highlands and play it a bit by ear- stopping where we want to see things and resting for the night when we're too tired to go on. I appreciate all the help!