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Itinerary Advice on Glasgow, Oban, Inverness and Edinburgh (5 days only)

We only have August 8th to 12th to spend in Scotland and seeking some advice on and mad-dash through this wonderful country.

  • Thursday the 8th | Fly in to Glasgow early AM and Drive to Oban (overnight)
  • Friday the 9th | Drive to Inverness (overnight)
  • Saturday the 10th | Drive to Edinburgh (two nights)
  • Monday the 12th | Fly out of Edinburgh

Long story short... we (family of four) have limited time so we are jamming a lot in a short amount of time. We are in Northern Ireland first, then Scotland, and heading to Switzerland and Barcelona after. I'm considering cutting out Scotland entirely to spend more time in our other destinations. Not because I don't want to go, just concerned about having a sub-par experience from doing too many locations in too little time. That... would be disappointing to say the least.

Posted by
877 posts

Personally, I would never attempt this. All you are doing is driving, there won’t be much time to see the sights. What are your reasons for visiting each location? Most people go to Oban to do day trips to the islands, but you won’t have time to do that. Inverness is not a city with tourist sights, most people would go there to visit Culloden or Loch Ness, or use it as a rest stop on the way to Skye or elsewhere. You could easily split your time between Glasgow and Edinburgh and do a couple day trip to places like Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond, and many other options. You wouldn’t have to rent a car. Plus both cities have enough of interest that you could spend your entire time just seeing sights in town. If I had to pick one over the other I would probably pick Edinburgh, and spend the whole five days there.

Posted by
1169 posts

This seems like a crazy itinerary. Inverness is not a tourist town - but rather a working town. Oban as said previously, while a nice town is really a jumping off spot for Mull and other islands. I'd say stick either stick to the west coast and Oban/Mull or plan an Edinburgh city break.

Posted by
391 posts

I agree with Anita, if you decide you want to taste Scotland. Stay in Edinburgh. You only have 2 full days plus parts, so I really don't think it's worth the time or expense, at least not worth renting a car and venturing far from the city. Your consideration to spend more time at your other destinations is wise. I'd opt for Northern Ireland.

I just read your other post in which you said Scotland was to be your personal highlight, so I'm sorry to recommend skipping it. Plan to devote a whole trip to Scotland and you will still feel you are shorted! You will find lots to love in Northern Ireland. We had a great time in our quick week in Scotland last fall, but we also have had a couple of wonderful trips which included time in Northern Ireland. If you have any Ulster Scots heritage, in particular, you may enjoy the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh. https://www.ulsteramericanfolkpark.org/
It's fun just stopping at little villages along the Antrim coast, walking on a beach, etc. https://www.frommers.com/slideshows/833206-road-trip-ireland-s-antrim-coast

Posted by
20 posts

I just want to throw out a quick thank you for taking the time for your thoughtful responses.
I REALLY appreciate this community.

The Steves' Scotland book suggested much of this itinerary and Culloden Battlefiled was high on his list. That being said, I'm starting to lean toward what y'all advised and to maybe cut Inverness and Culloden Battlefield? That would allow us to focus on Edinburgh with, maybe, one overnight in Oban for dinner and a tour of the distillery.

I have a Masters of Architecture and teach with a background in commercial architecture photography so... top sites are:

  • Architecture by Mackintosh so... Hill House? Is it worth the trip?
  • Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile with Camera Obscura.
  • Doune Castle (life long Monty Python fans)

If we did one night in Oban and three in and around Edinburgh and Glasgow... any other must-see sites during our limited time? (I crave architecture. So maybe Dunfermline Abbey and Palace? I'm very tempted by SO many places!)

Cheers and thanks again!

Posted by
6698 posts

I agree with what the others said above. In response to your question, Dunfermline Abbey is wonderful and I really enjoyed going through it. It's not too far from Edinburgh and is worth a stop. Stop in the church as well, so you can see the tomb of Robert the Bruce. If you are driving, there is a car park just down the road on St. Margarets Street. While you are there, you might want to check out Pittencrieff Park, which is a huge park donated by Andrew Carnegie, that is right next to the Abbey. It's a lovely walk and there are some interesting things to see there.

I would also consider seeing Stirling Castle (and the town), which are both wonderful places of interest. There is a lot of history at Stirling, and the views are amazing from up there. The town also has many interesting and historic places as well.

Posted by
6170 posts

By Hillhead House, do you mean The Hill House at Helensburgh?

I haven't been, it's on my list, but everyone says it's worth it. Otherwise I've never heard of a Hillhead House.

Posted by
1169 posts

If you mean the Hill House, then for anyone even remotely interested in architecture it's a 'must see'. Not only because of the original Rennie Mackintosh interior and exterior design but also because of the conservation work that is ongoing. I have been several times and think it's fascinating and beautiful.

Posted by
719 posts

I was going to mention House For an Art Lover too, but the link NancyG posted covers it all, including the Willow Tea Rooms and the display at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It's a few years since I've been up that end of town, so I'm not sure what state the Glasgow School of Art is in currently after their two disastrous fires.

Glasgow is quite rich architecturally in general. The fruits of the British Empire (for better or worse) built a rather grand city centre, which feels like a bit like one of the big east coast US cities in its layout. You have to remember to look up when you're walking around the city centre as there's some fantastic flourishes and detail that you may miss. Alexander "Greek" Thomson is another architect to research that you can look for when you're in Glasgow.

Posted by
20 posts

I did mean the Hill House. Yes!

Kelvingrove and House For an Art Lover look breathtaking and by cutting out the drive up north we'll have some flexibility.
My understanding is that Glasgow School of Art is no longer a meaningful destination due to the fires?

I'm also very interested in driving through Glencoe and visiting the Falkirk Wheel on our trip from Oban to Edinburgh.

I've added Stirling to our list.

Thank you for all of this wonderful advice.

Posted by
6170 posts

That's my understanding about the GSA as well- at least currently.

It is all being faithfully restored to be fully reopened by 2030- the latest published date.

No cause was ever found for the 2nd fire.

So are you going to visit the Hill House on the way to Oban, and the Falkirk Wheel on the way back?- going up the M80 Stirling Bound from Glasgow. On the way down the M9 into Edinburgh from the Wheel (and maybe the Kelpies?) you pass Linlithgow Palace. Is that somewhere which would interest you.

From the modern era what about touring the Scottish Parliament building?

Posted by
6 posts

I would skip going to Oban and Glencoe with such a short amount of time, even though Glencoe is beautiful. The area between and around Edinburgh and Glasgow has so many great places to go and you will use up less of your time time driving. The Falkirk Wheel, the Kelpies and the little well preserved historical village of Culross are worth a visit. Stirling is a wonderful smaller city between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and it’s near Doune Castle and the Trossachs, which is a lovely area that would give you a taste of natural beauty without having to drive so far. In Glasgow try to take a walk around the University to experience some impressive architecture.

Posted by
719 posts

I'd concur with saf (welcome to the forum) as to The Trossachs as a trip out into the country from Glasgow. Callander, Aberfoyle or on the other side of Loch Lomond, Luss, are good destinations to drive to for a nice day out.

I was lucky enough to see quite a bit of Glasgow School of Art years ago. I had a friend there and it seemed fine to just go in to hang around while they painted. I had many a good night out at the Vic Bar at the Art School too, which I'm not sure still exists in the form it did back then.

My favourite modern building in Scotland might be Zaha Hadid's Riverside Museum in Glasgow. I like the zig zag roof profile.

Posted by
6170 posts

As this is an Architecture Visit, if you do still want to go to the West Coast, I would suggest staying overnight at the Empire Travel Lodge at Lochgilphead rather than getting to Oban.
By all accounts it is a very nice conversion of a classic Art Deco former cinema/movie theatre- the Empire Cinema- https://www.empirelodge.co.uk/
The building was originally constructed as the Empire News Theatre for the Empire Exhibition of 1938 in Glasgow. Once the exhibition was closed the Empire News Theatre (one of a very few buildings that survived) was dismantled and re-built in Lochgilphead as the Empire Cinema.

This is an independent business- nothing at all to do with the Travelodge budget hotel chain!!

You still get most of the scenery, and Kilmartin, and other possible routes back to Glasgow from there, also the Crinan Canal. You could for instance visit the Isle of Bute and Mount Stuart House. That should be on any architecture tour. Even if you stay in Edinburgh or Glasgow that is an easy day visit via the ferry from Wemyss Bay then a local bus. And while in Rothesay you must not miss the Victorian Toilets.

When you drive off the ferry at Wemyss Bay, park up and look into the Railway Station- a wonderful piece of architecture purpose built to handle mass crowds for the ferries as fast and efficiently as possible.

The ferry hopping route from Lochgilphead is to drive to Tarbert (Loch Fyne) then ferry to Portavadie, drive to Colintraive then ferry to Rhubodach (Bute)- probably the shortest car ferry route you will ever take-timed at 5 minutes but more like about 3 minutes. Easier than it sounds, and a delightful route.

Posted by
20 posts

@isn31c - Yes... that is very much the plan. Thanks for the advice and Lithingow as well. It looks epic.
Also... tempted to go to Inverary for lunch then to Lochgilphead and Kilmarten to overnight in Oban. (We travel a lot in the US Pacifc northwest and Alaska so we are used to driving a lot between locations)

@skyegirl - Thank you for affirming Hill House. I look forward to "geeking out" on some Mackintosh design there! Nailed that one down for sure.

@Mardee - I really hope we can fit in both Stirling and Dunfermline! Good to know we are on the right trak. My goal is to spend some quality time at both locations.

@Nancy G - Yes! I saw that. I would love to come back to Scotland to indulge my Mackintosh cravings to photograph Mackintosh designs (where I'm allowed of course) for a week or two. Since I'm traveling with the family I think I'll only get one or two destinations. I'm going to run that link by the rest of us.

@saf and @GerryM - I agree that sticking to Edinburgh and Glasgow and nearby locations makes the most sense but I got the kids all wound up on Hagrid's Hut. (I know it's basically a hillside by a road but... if they're excited by it I'm going to indulge) I also get to indulge MYSELF with an Oban distillery tour and my wife is looking forward to dining at Coast Restaurant.

We've moved our night in Inverness overnight between Edinburgh and Glasgow. This will allow for a lot more flexibility. Nights three and four are in Edinburgh where we are going to try to make the best of the crowds on a Sunday so Parliament is closed. Bummer!

Any lunch/dinner recommendations in Edinburgh would be appreciated!

I'm so glad I jumped on this forum. All of this is so VERY helpful!! If you ever need Alaska and Oregon advice... I'm your guy. ;-)

Posted by
6 posts

If your children are excited to see Hagrid’s hut and it will make the trip something they remember fondly, then it’s worth the drive! Glencoe is splendid. Since you love architecture, 2 lovely places to stop in for a rest and to enjoy the beautiful surroundings are: The Corinthian Club in Glasgow and The Dome in Edinburgh. I’ve never eaten in either, just stopped in for a drink and a break from walking. Both are in former bank buildings and the interiors are quite impressive in my opinion.

Posted by
158 posts

A heads-up: I just realized your dates are in August, which means you'll be in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the city will be absolutely heaving with crowds. Be prepared for accommodations to be scarce and their rates to be vastly inflated. I just did a quick search on Booking.com for Edinburgh on August 10-11 and it said, "80% of places to stay are unavailable for your dates on our site."

I would seriously consider spending those nights in Glasgow instead and making a day trip or two into Edinburgh (less than an hour by train).

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks @NancyG. We booked a place back in November and I am bracing myself for impact. We have limited time available so, unfortunately, we will be in Edinburgh on... the... weekend!

cringe

I've been warned and am looking forward to making the best of things. Many restaurants aren't taking reservations or are fully booked so I'm a mostly nervous about having a comfortable sit-down on a Saturday. I wanted to treat my mushroom-loving-kiddo to Makars Gourmet Mash Bar but they don't take bookings in August. We do have reservations for the rooftop of Cold Town House for a Sunday sunset dinner. (Hoping it doesn't rain)

How to the restaurants manage the crowds???

Posted by
158 posts

Ah, glad to hear you booked early and know what to expect! :)

Posted by
1340 posts

Archi, you asked about restaurant recommendations for Edinburgh, I’ve cut/paste a portion of the trip report for my 2022 August trip.

“Recommended Restaurants & Eateries:
Edinburgh: Printing Press (Atlantic Salmon with baby potatoes, asparagus and samphire). Here in the NW we turn our noses up at Atlantic salmon but it was delicious. I learned later that the salmon in Scotland is sustainably farmed. Mussel Inn (salmon lox with fried caper on sourdough and bucket-1/2 kilo of mussels cooked in their own juices). I loved the food here and the service is excellent (2 meals here; must reserve). Howie’s (excellently prepared hake on a bed of tomatoes and other vegs) service very good; must reserve. Royal Yacht Britannia nicely set table and service was very good, (cream tea scrumptious as well as the light sandwich)”

Posted by
6170 posts

From a previous thread of mine- at Newhaven (at the Leith terminus of the Tram Line) there is the Newhaven Harbour Bistro. They are currently booking for August and have availability.

So very easy to access from the city, but away from the melee.

Posted by
20 posts

@Linda I can totally appreciate your take on Salmon. My wife is from Alaska and my son summers up there, off-the-grid, with his adventurous Aunt and Uncle. I've landed many a Sockeye fishing in AK both riverside and charter. I am also keen on seeing what a good Scottish Chef can do and I've heard GOOD things. :-)

Printing Press is listed as "permanently closed" unfortunately.
Mussel Inn is 500' from our hotel. Now you're talking. They only make reservations 1 month out so I'm crossing my fingers.

@isn31c Newhaven Harbor Bistro looks AMAZING. I just about fell out of my chair looking at the review photos.

Posted by
6698 posts

ArchiBish, you could always try to get into Dishoom on St. Andrew's Square, as they do not take reservations. There's always a queue but if you get there early enough, you might not have to wait long.

Also if you have to choose between Stirling Castle (and town) and Dunfermline, go with Stirling. It's just amazing touring the castle. They offer free guided tours every hour on the hour that are well worth attending. And the town, as I mentioned, is very unique and has a so much history.

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks @Mardee. I appreciate all this advice VERY much. It is official... the only way I'm going to be able to enjoy all these amazing sites and all the amazing food is to move to Scotland. Now... just need to figure out how to become independently wealthy...

Posted by
6698 posts

the only way I'm going to be able to enjoy all these amazing sites and all the amazing food is to move to Scotland

Ha ha, yes, you've definitely caught the Scotland bug! Just wait till you get there as it gets much worse. :-) Scotland is wonderful!

Posted by
19 posts

If you do end up around Oban, Castle Stalker (Castle Aaargh) is north of Oban.

Posted by
20 posts

Oh my gosh! That's right. Thank you so much for the reminder.

I love that when you search Google for "Castle Aaarhg" Castle Stalker comes up.

Posted by
20 posts

Again... sincere thanks to all of you for your advice. We've made several changes based on your wonderful feedback. Looks like we'll be doing a night in Oban, a night near Stirling and two nights in Edinburgh. We're also planning to come back in 4-5 years for a more leisurely trip so we can spend more time in Glasgow and then head to Skye, Inverness and points in-between.

Posted by
1260 posts

I believe the Nippy Chippy is still running on Lismore.
On a glorious blue sky evening ,I preordered on the ferry in Oban and then when it docks run up the slipway to collect then eat them on the return trip.

Posted by
20 posts

Wonderful advice. Thanks so much again. (Looking forward to fish & chips in oban)

I"ve updated our itinerary...
- Thursday the 8th | Fly in to Glasgow early AM and Drive to Oban with many sites in-between (overnight)
- Friday the 9th | Drive to Culross through Glencoe, Doane Castle & The Kelpies (overnight)
- Saturday the 10th | Back through Stirling & then Drive to Edinburgh (two nights)
- Monday the 12th | Fly oug of Edinburgh

I can't wait to spend some travel time in a country that isn't overloaded with interstate freeways. Spending some time to see the country and take in the environment is something I want my kiddos to see.

SO excited for Edinburgh. Wish we were there when it wasn't an August weekend but... will make the best of it.