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Itinerary Suggestions--7 Day Sampler?

Hello! My partner and I are hoping to go to Scotland and Paris in October of 2021, depending on vaccine development and travel restrictions of course. In our Scottish leg of the trip, I'd really like to spend a few days in Edinburgh and Oban and take a peek at Glasgow, Stirling and Glencoe. Here's what I have in mind:

Day 1:
Land in Glasgow around noon, take a city tour and adjust to the time change. Sleep in Glasgow

Day 2:
Rent a car, drive to Stirling and sightsee for a few hours, then drive to Oban. Sleep in Oban.

Day 3:
Tour Mull and Iona. Sleep in Oban.

Day 4:
Drive up to Glencoe for a morning hike, then drive down to Edinburgh. Sleep in Edinburgh

Day 5 and 6:
Explore Edinburgh, sleeping there both nights.

Day 7:
Fly to Paris early in the morning.

I was wondering (for people who've gone and people who are planning to go), does this seem to rushed? Is there a more efficient way to do this trip? Or would you change anything about the order? Open to any and all suggestions :)

Keep on (dreaming about) travelin',
Rachel

Posted by
1207 posts

Rachel: It does seem a bit rushed...I recommend allowing 2 weeks to really take advantage of stopping to see all the places in between! If you've really only 7 days, do a smaller circle. Do some more online research. You may find other places that you rather go that suit your personal dreams rather than the tourist check list. If you've never been to Scotland; Edinburgh is a must!
P.S. I didn't notice that you were planning to be there in October. I was there then and we had very rainy weather. I would skip the Islands for now unless you like wearing full length raingear. The Trossachs is a good idea for castles and outdoor activities and is close to Glasgow which has several worthy Galleries and Museums and noted for it's nightlife. There are several Castles near Glasgow and Edinburgh. Check Historic Scotland. www.visitscotland.com is a great gateway site. Bon Voyage

Posted by
7 posts

Hi, Kathleen!

Thanks for the reply! I wish I could take two full weeks! Unfortunately, my partner and I are both working and short on paid time off, so one week per destination will have to do. If you were in my shoes, what place(s) would you consider skipping to allow more time at the others?

I've read the latest version of the Scotland guidebook, so I'm pretty confident of where I'd like to go--it's just a matter of fitting as much in without rushing the experience. Do you have any specific suggestions that are outside the tourist checklist?

Posted by
19378 posts

For me, too, it seems very rushed. If you haven't already done so, use ViaMichelin.com to check driving times. Keep in mind that those estimates are nearly always seriously optimistic. In addition, they make no allowance for stopping to admire the view, looking for parking, etc.

The reality is that western Scotland is very rainy, and October is one of the worst months of the year in that respect. Statistically, you should expect rain on about 2 out of every 3 days, according to the climate chart on the Wikipedia page for Oban. Your proposed schedule allows no recovery time if you're unlucky with the weather in places where you plan outdoor activities.

I liked both Edinburgh and Glasgow, but if you're limited to 7 days, I think you should choose only one of the cities. You can get to Edinburgh easily from the Glasgow airport if you want to make Edinburgh your big-city stop but must fly into Glasgow for some reason.

I'm a slow traveler and in your situation would opt to spend both weeks in France. I'd prefer to try Scotland during a warmer (and drier) month. As someone who needs sunlight, l'd also be concerned about the shorter days in October.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks for the tip about viamichelin.com, acraven! I've been looking at google maps' directions and times and they seem pretty similar, but it's probably better to compare multiple sources.

Posted by
26359 posts

Google maps can be quite optimistic in Scotland

Posted by
572 posts

My suggestion is that you return your rental car in Perth and then take the train to Edinburgh. It might take a little more time, but it will result in less stress. I believe we used Europcar and at that time, there was a place right near the Perth train station where we could drop the car. Also, due to the condition of roads, and adjusting to driving on the other side of the road, we found that it took longer to cover the distances than it would here.

Posted by
1284 posts

Your two driving days will be really long, but Day 4 in particular. I would suggest not going out of your way to Glencoe. It is hard to realize that the driver does not get to see nearly as much of the fascinating countryside as the passenger, so making many brief stops along the way makes sense but takes time.

Possible Day 4 options then could be: 1) spending your extra time in the Trossachs (then you would have the scheduled hike time plus the extra drive time) which would be more on your path. Or, 2) include Stirling Castle on Day 4 and have extra time on Day 2 in either Glasgow or Oban or stops between.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks, TravelMom! I really like your solution of spending a little more time in the Trossachs instead of Glencoe. That should save us two or three hours of road time, I would think. And we'd still get a hike in a little peek at the beginning of the highlands!

Posted by
2408 posts

It looks a bit on the rushed side to me too, but not extremely rushed.

A few comments:

  • As mentioned, Google maps is almost always very optimistic. As a general rule of thumb, adding 10-20% to their driving times will give you the minimum time required. Then you need to add time for breaks, finding parking, getting fuel etc. And driving on unfamiliar road in an unfamiliar car will also add to the travel time. Viamichelin is better, but can also be very optimistic.

  • The Scottish country roads and town streets can be narrow so rent the smallest car you can fit in.

  • Returning the car in Perth or some other place and taking the train to Edinburgh is a great idea.

  • You don't need to fly to Glasgow even if you want to start your trip there. It is very easy to get from Edinburgh airport to Glasgow as well, so check the prices and flight times to Edinburgh as well.

Posted by
527 posts

With this little time, I personally would miss out the city tour of Glasgow. But I can see you might be jet lagged. You are going back on yourself slightly by going east to Stirling and then west again to Oban. Maybe you could do Stirling on the way back to Edinburgh at the other end of the trip? Stirling castle is well worth a visit.

When in October are you coming? It can make a big difference weather wise. Early October I would say going to Mull would be OK. Later October maybe not so much as it's likely to be windier and wetter.

Have a look at www.walkhighlands.co.uk to get some hiking ideas. Glencoe is serious mountain territory and in October you would want to be well equipped with proper boots, water and wind proof clothing etc. Walk highlands web site has hundreds of hikes, well described, and graded in terms of length, terrain and how difficult the hikes are. There are probably better options (with equally good scenery) for an October visit. Also Glencoe is busy because people have heard of it. It doesn't make it the most stunning place to visit or hike. There are lots of other options.

Also definitely dump your rental car before you get into the city of Edinburgh - the airport would be a good place to get rid of it as transport links from there in to the city are excellent. You'll probably pay less to leave it at Edinburgh airport than you would to leave it in Perth.

Hope this helps.
Skyegirl (Jacqui)

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks for the excellent advice, everyone! At this point, I'm thinking about making Edinburgh our home base and doing two day trips to either Glasgow, Stirling, or the Trossachs.

We'll be going in late September, early October so I'll hope for the best but prepare for the wind and rain.

I also saw that there's a guide on the market place who offers trip planning advice. I'll talk to her before making any final booking decisions.

Thanks again, you guys rock!

Posted by
1284 posts

Edinburgh makes a great base with lots to see! And I haven’t used them myself but Rabbies tours come recommended, in case you choose to go that route for day trips and skip the car rental. You sure don’t need the car in Edinburgh. :)

Posted by
2408 posts

Thanks for the excellent advice, everyone! At this point, I'm thinking
about making Edinburgh our home base and doing two day trips to either
Glasgow, Stirling, or the Trossachs.

That sounds like a very good idea in my opinion!

Posted by
81 posts

As to Days 2 and 3, driving to Stirling and then backtracking to Oban will make for a long day. We thought Stirling Castle was fine enough for a couple of hours, but I think you can find just as interesting sights going west toward Oban without the backtrack. Stirling certainly didn't "wow" us out of our 2 weeks there.

We did Mull and Iona from Oban on a day trip. It was a long day, but breathtaking. If one day is all you've got, do it. The islands are....well, scenic doesn't even seem the right word. Otherworldly is more appropriate, I guess. Ferry from Oban to Mull was 1.5 hours or so, then 1-hour bus tour across Mull with a hysterical guide giving commentary, and then maybe 3 hours to explore Iona. If I could do it over again, I'd take a car on the ferry to Mull, spend a day in Mull hiking and driving the single-lane roads, and then spend one night in Iona. There's a good, inexpensive cafeteria-style restaurant just left of the boat ramp on Iona. There's also fancier sit-down places a few hundred feet away, but I think they require reservations.

We were there in mid-August and the weather was mostly chilly. Bring a medium to heavy coat if you go in October. Plan for periodic rain punctuated by bursts of sun.

Lastly, anticipate that every place will take nearly twice as long to get to as one would expect. Windy roads, lorries, and other cars will slow you down once you get out of Glasgow or Edinburgh and you're driving single-lane or two-lane roads.

Posted by
355 posts

When we went for one week many years ago we used a cottage in Stirling as our base, and easily visited (by car) Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Oban, and took the train from Fort William to Mallaig. Glasgow would have also been possible, but wasn't a priority at the time. It was great having a roomy cottage, and none of the drives were too much, even with two young teens and my mother-in-law with us.