Please sign in to post.

Itinerary Suggestions for 2 weeks in Scotland

I am beginning to plan a vacation for myself and my boyfriend for next summer. Our primary interests (for this trip) are history, hiking, and whisky. The only "must-dos" are Edinburgh and the Isle of Islay, although my boyfriend also requested we spend some time in the Highlands.

I'm having a hard time deciding on when to actually go ... I'm thinking either May/June or August. May/June appears to have the advantage of less midges in the Highlands and a slightly better potential for some sunny days. While August gives us a break from the summer heat at home and the chance to attend the Military Tattoo, but along with that comes increased crowds and costs. Thoughts?

Below is the preliminary itinerary I've put together and I welcome any comments, suggestions, etc. In particular, does anyone have a recommendation on where to stay the first Friday/Saturday? Ideally, it would be a "quintessential" Highland town with a great pub, that is located between Glencoe and Culloden.

SATURDAY: Depart PHL around 19:00.

SUNDAY: Arrive at EDI around 11:00. Settle into rental apartment located in New Town. Explore the neighborhood. Possibly hike up Arthur’s Seat. (Sleep in Edinburgh)

MONDAY: Explore sights along the Royal Mile. (Sleep in Edinburgh)

TUESDAY: Explore the National Museum of Scotland. Literary Pub Tour in the evening. (Sleep in Edinburgh)

WEDNESDAY: Pick up rental car. Explore Rosslyn Chapel and the Falkirk Wheel. (Sleep in Stirling)

THURSDAY: Explore Stirling Castle and Bannockburn Heritage Centre. (Sleep in Stirling)

FRIDAY: Explore the Scottish Crannog Centre and Highland Folk Museum. Attend the Leault Working Sheepdogs demonstration (if time). (Sleep in Kingussie or Newtonmore or ???)

SATURDAY: Explore Culloden Battlefield and Cawdor Castle. (Sleep in Kingussie or Newtonmore or ???)

SUNDAY: Hiking in Glencoe. (Sleep in Glencoe)

MONDAY: Drive to Kennacraig via Kilmartin Glen. Ferry to Isle of Islay. (Sleep in Bowmore)

TUESDAY: Distillery Tours and/or Hiking. (Sleep in Bowmore)

WEDNESDAY: Distillery Tours and/or Hiking. (Sleep in Bowmore)

THURSDAY: Distillery Tours and/or Hiking. (Sleep in Bowmore)

FRIDAY: Travel to Glasgow. Drop of Rental Car. Spend the rest of the day exploring Glasgow. (Sleep in Glasgow)

SATURDAY: Depart GLA at 10:45.

Posted by
467 posts

I always go to the UK for a few weeks in the summer and prefer to go in July just before the Uk schools let out for their summer break. Are the first few weeks in July an option for you? May/June will have less predictable weather and May can be quite cold in parts North. Daylight hours are long 16-17 hours in Scotland from May to July but are certainly more enjoyable when the sun is actually shinning and not hidden behind some grey rainy sky. The end of May is also another week long school break for the UK so keep that in mind (whit week) If early July is not an option, I think I would go mid to late June.

Posted by
2565 posts

Either time period would probably be wonderful, but I agree about May/June and midges -- also fewer tourists since school is still in session in many places.

Note for your Kennacraig - Kilmartin segment there is a major yacht race & golf tournament in May based in Tarbert (south of Lochgilphead and Kilmartin). All the hotels for miles around book up far in advance during the event. If this is the correct website, here are the dates:
DATES FOR 2017 - FRIDAY 26TH - MON 29TH MAY
http://www.clyde.org/scottish-series/

Posted by
1078 posts

We toured the UK in April, May/June, Sept/October and had a variety of weather each time. Stirling is small so a day may do it. Culloden to Glencoe would be a long drive. Unless you are Whisky experts that many days at Distilleries might be too much. They do have DUIs in Scotland. I think that you may be over planning...not allowing time for serendipity, a chance for stuff that could be the most memorable thing ever. Check Visit Scotland and Historic Scotland online sites for info on passes and great photos of your must sees. Most Americans seem to ignore the part of Scotland that is south of Glasgow and Edinburgh which is where most of the medieval history (Castles) took place. However, we did enjoy our loop trip up through the Whisky trail to Culloden and then down by Loch Ness to Glencoe. It depends on how much time you have.

Posted by
31 posts

@mpaulyn Thank you for the info regarding the school break in May … we will want to avoid that! Early July is not an option. And when looking at late July, I’d rather just go in August so we can see the Military Tattoo. We don’t mind the cold, so that’s not a concern for us in May. Instead, I’d like to optimize our chances for having a least some sunny days (with the full understanding that Scotland’s weather is highly unpredictable!).

@epltd Thank you for the info on the yacht race and golf tournament. Looks like the last week of May is definitely out!

@Kathleen Yes, I am always guilty of over planning! However, based on past travel experiences, we’re not that great at trying to “wing it.” If we don’t have something pre-planned for the day, we tend to lounge around and waste a lot of time trying to decide what to do, often getting extremely frustrated with each other. The good thing, is that when we happen upon that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we have no problems forgetting what was originally planned and going for it.

And some general clarifications …

My boyfriend is a bit of a whiskey aficionado, and if it was up to him, we’d spend a whole week on Islay visiting every distillery. I’m not really a fan of straight whiskey, but do find the history, manufacturing process, etc. interesting, so I’m willing tag along to some distillery tours. I’ll be the designated driver on those days, and when I’ve had my fill of distillery tours, I’ll just drop the boyfriend off (or make arrangements for a taxi) and go for a walk/hike on my own.

We don’t really mind longer drives and are used to long work commutes (eg. 40 miles one-way). Also, I wasn’t planning on staying near Culloden, but was looking for a place sort of in between Culloden and Glencoe for that first Friday/Saturday.

Posted by
1078 posts

Urquhart Castle is a quaint stop between the Culloden and Glencoe. On Loch Ness is the perfect stop for "Nessie" sightings. Goggle says that Culloden to Glencoe takes just over 2 hrs if you go straight through. But then you really don't have time to savor what's inbetween. It just seem to take time because the view is mostly trees and the loch the whole way.

Posted by
351 posts

3 full days on Islay are not too many, IMO, especially if you'd like to hit all 8 distilleries and also do some hiking.

We just spent a week there in September (we spent 2 days in 2013 and that was not enough!)

Islay has a wealth of things to see & do - good walking/hiking, bird/wildlife watching, standing stones, iron age sites, historical sites, etc. And life there is slow paced, so you should go slow. :-)

Distillery tours - do only 1 or 2, they are essentially the same, pick your 1 or 2 favorite whiskys and tour their homes. Do tastings at the others. Consider a special tasting if you're not going to do a tour - check each distillery's website, and book some tours or tastings in advance. They fill up during busy times.

Even when we were there in late September we were hearing from other visitors that many tours and special tastings were fully booked in advance. We really enjoyed the Bunnahabhain Warehouse 9 tasting.

The distilleries are far apart ("far" meaning take a while to drive between, not genuinely distant from each other)
The most convenient grouping is as follows:
Group 1: Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila
Group 2: Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg (walk these along the 3 Distilleries Path from Port Ellen)
Group 3: Kilchoman, Bruichladdich, Bowmore

You could fairly easily visit one group per day and have time to do hiking and sightseeing before/after/between. Kilchoman and Ardbeg both are good places to have lunch.

Take the drinking + driving limits very seriously!

I am only 1/3 of the way writing my trip report, so I am not ready to post it, but if you have questions about Islay, fire away!

Posted by
2731 posts

I normally try to do open jaw flights like this, but GLA and EDI are so close together that it may not be worth paying the one way charge on the rental car.

Posted by
31 posts

Thank you everyone for your suggestions!

@Kathleen We are planning on driving to Glencoe from Newtonmore (not Culloden) which according to Google is a 1.5 hour drive. Hopefully the weather is nice (anything but pouring rain) and we can spend lots of time soaking up the views in Glencoe. But the sights on Lock Ness might be a foul-weather option.

@Motorgirl I agree, 3 days isn’t too much on Islay. Actually, I’m now thinking about taking a night from Stirling and adding it to Islay. I look forward to reading your trip report! I was looking at that book as a potential Christmas Gift, and now with your recommendation I went ahead and ordered it. Any idea how far in advanced we should book the tours/tastings? We definitely want to do some of the more in depth tours.

@Tom_MN Based on your recommendation, I spent some time trying to figure out how to do a round trip flight (vs open jaw) and pick-up/drop-of the car rental in the same city, but I couldn’t see how it would work without adding days to the car rental or a train trip between cities. Both of which would probably cost more than the one-way rental fee of about $60. Are you seeing something I’m not?

Posted by
4 posts

Amy,

We're flying out of Philadelphia in June for 17 days it's our second trip back. We will take the non-stop PHL-GLA flight pick up the car in GLA and head onto our adventures. I find Glasgow to artsy/modern for our taste. We then do a clockwise journey around the country ending up in Edinburgh on the last 3 days, and fly out from there. The nice thing about travelling at time of the year is the days are LONG and you really get to see so much. We're reside in Delaware County, if you want to meet locally up to discuss trip planning email directly at Elizamclean@yahoo.com. I've done all the research for both of our trips and might be able to give you some ideas.

2017 itinerary Fort William, Skye, Harris, Nairn, Blair Atholl, Pitlochory and Edinburgh

Eliza

Posted by
351 posts

@Amy - I finished my trip report, finally!

For booking one of the whisky tours in advance, unless you're there during one of the festivals, I'd guess maybe 6-8 weeks in advance, or even less time, would be OK. Just don't count on getting space on a tour as a walk in.

Hope your boyfriend enjoys the book. It's old enough that it doesn't cover Kilchoman.