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itinerary recommendations please

After a 25 year hiatus, I will return to Scotland for a month long visit next summer, mid July - mid August. This will be my third visit to Scotland, and I expect my last. I know what I want to do in the beginning (visit Glasgow) and end of the trip (Orkney), but am having trouble figuring out the middle two weeks.

I don't wish to retrace earlier trips; the Border, Edinburgh & coastal towns north, Skye, Stirling, Glencoe. I prefer the country and small towns, like to walk (moderately), watch birds, visit gardens and generally be outdoors. I love music, am not a big drinker. I will have access to a car, can travel freely, and prefer not to spend hours in the car.

Would love hear favorite location(s) of fellow travelers.

Thanks, Adrianne .

Posted by
1217 posts

Hi Adrianne
You might want to think about how you intend to get to Orkney. Will you fly? If so which airport will you fly from? Will you drive and take the ferry? The answers to these questions might guide your itinerary. Also which airport will you fly into (assuming you are not already based in the UK)? Again this might influence the direction of travel.
It seems you have already explored the main route north via the west (Glencoe etc), but have you headed north via Pitlochry and the Cairngorm national park? If not then that could be something to look at. Also have you decided how long you want to spend in Glasgow and on Orkney? It would probably be helpful to know roughly how much time you have to spend exploring between those locations.
Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
279 posts

When I was planning the Scotland portion of our Britain trip, I really relied on the Undiscovered Scotland website—super comprehensive, has suggestions for one-day driving tours, and the individual site entries include photos to give you a taste of what they offer.

Posted by
9 posts

Jacqui, I am planning to fly in/out of Glasgow. Spend 4 nights in Glasgow and then head out. As to Orkney, I'm booked for 10 nights, including an archaeology tour. A girlfriend will join me for Orkney portion, probably in Inverness, and we've not yet sorted out whether we'll fly to Kirkwall or drive and take ferry. (I lean to flying. She to car) I have been looking at Cairngorm NP, wondering if it might be beyond my abilities, but maybe not.

Kathy, thanks for suggesting Undiscovered Scotland.


Posted by
27414 posts

Since your previous time in Scotland was so long in the past, a couple of logistical points--based on my experience this summer--may be useful to know:

  • There is a lot more demand than supply when it comes to lodgings in towns with public-transit connections on islands and along the coast. I had a great deal of difficulty finding rooms in places like Oban, Mull and Skye six or seven months prior to my July trip. If you're driving, you'll have a lot more flexibility as to location, but if you're picky about quality, you should look soon.

  • Unless you want to have dinner at 5 PM in those high-demand locations, you may well need a reservation. Even at 5 PM, Sunday may be a challenge because some of the restaurants will be closed.

Posted by
3122 posts

Knowing that you're traveling overland (as opposed to flying) to Orkney, I think it's a natural to explore the Sutherland and Caithness regions. From Glasgow you could go to the Inverness / Nairn area, then head northeast and take your pick of villages and scenic roads. If it were me, I'd make a point of visiting Dunrobin Castle and the Castle of Mey.

Posted by
1386 posts

Hi, Adrianne,

Just a few quick suggestions, based on your likes:

Outer Hebrides - HebCelt Festival in late July in Stornoway; spectacular beaches on Harris and the Uists; Balranald Nature Reserve (North Uist), and Handa Island (near Scourie) for bird watching.

St. Kilda. UNESCO World Heritage site. Hard to get to, but oh so worth it. Best trip from Leverburgh in South Harris. Thousands of puffins.

Arran. Great hiking; charming villages; Brodick Castle and Gardens

Fowlsheugh Nature Preserve. Thousands and thousands of sea birds, including puffins, perched on the cliffs.

Dunnottar Castle, Pitmedden Gardens, Crathes and Craigievar Castles, Fyvie Castle and Haddo House, all near Aberdeen, if you haven't hit that part of the coast on your previous trips.

The Small Isles - Rum, Eigg, and Canna. Rum for Kinloch Castle, Eigg for An Sgurr, easy walking/hiking, and great music on the weekends; and Canna, to really get away from it all. Note: No cars on any of these islands. You'd need to leave your car in Mallaig or Arisaig.

Knoydart: Great food, music almost nightly. Also only accessible by boat (from Mallaig), or a 10 hour hike in from Kinlochhourn. Accommodations need to be reserved well ahead for this one. Good walking, and a peaceful retreat from the tourist hordes. One of those places that you'll always remember once you've been there.

Hope that gives you some ideas. 25 years is too long to stay away!


Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
279 posts

Another vote for Dunrobin Castle! We saw a few manor houses in northern England and Scotland, and Dunrobin was far and away our favorite. I really liked it because it wasn’t overwhelming in its size but was a compact jewel—both the house and the grounds are well-crafted and beautiful, and can be seen in about 90 minutes. Be sure to check out the bathroom; it was redesigned when the plumbing was overhauled in the 1920s and is a gorgeous example of Art Deco in pale green and chrome. We had a lovely chat with a woman creating a massive floral arrangement at the bottom of the staircase who had worked there her whole life.

Schedule your visit to coincide with the falconry demonstration and try and sit near the front and in the center. We did, the falconer parked the eagle owl on the empty bench right in front of us when he moved onto the peregrine falcon, and I could not take my eyes off that magnificent creature standing two feet away.

Posted by
13 posts

That's good to know about Dunrobin and the falconry demonstration. I have that on my list of things to do when we are there next June. I love watching birds but am not fond of being too close -- I saw "The Birds" at a young age and I think that made an impact. I will be sure to not sit too close to the front and center, lol!


Posted by
9 posts

Thanks to all for your recommendations! Very helpful.