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Romantic Trip- what do you think?

My husband and I will be celebrating a delayed anniversary trip and would like to make this as romantic and relaxing as possible. We are late 30s/early 40s and hope to spend up to 2 weeks between Scotland and Ireland. We can fly into either place but need to leave from Manchester (due to airline miles). Also we do not want to drive and are willing to hire someone, take a train, bus, tour, etc. I spent the day researching places and would like your opinion about if these look good, if I should also go somewhere else, and in what order you would do these, as well as how long you would stay in each place.
I have:
Edinburgh
Glasgow
Inverness
Aberdeen
St. Andrews
Tobermory
Stirling
Portree
Also looking at the Jacobite Steam Train and how we can fit that in. Any help would be appreciated!

Posted by
489 posts

So you’ve got 8-9 places is Scotland alone for 14 days. Plus the need to get to Manchester on day 13. That doesn’t necessarily equal relaxing or romantic, so I’d start narrowing things down a lot. I’d be looking at 2-3 home bases and what day trips are easy from each base. I spent a week in Glasgow, which included a day trip by train to Edinburgh and a day tour with Rabbie’s to Stirling Castle, Loch Lomand and a whiskey distillery. I would look at what tours are offered and where they go from. I’m not usually a tour kind of person, mainly because you’re on a tight timeframe. But when you’re wanting to see so much area and don’t want to drive, it might be your best bet. I recall that Rabbie’s used to do multi day tours also.

Posted by
18892 posts

Yes, that looks like more than 14 days to me even at a not-so-relaxing pace. Public-bus service to places like Tobermory and Portree isn't very frequent, and travel through the Highlands isn't generally rapid. To do most of what you want to do in Scotland without a car will probably involve taking advantage of one or more tours offered by a company like Rabbies. I haven't taken a Rabbies tour, but they get a lot of positive comments.

I don't mean to insult Aberdeen--I haven't been there--but I think that might be the first place to drop. It's a geographical outlier and I haven't seen it cropping up as a suggestion in earlier threads about short trips.

With the amount of time you have, I think you need to forget Ireland this time around unless you want to focus on Ireland to the exclusion of Scotland.

When do you hope/plan to take this trip?

Posted by
228 posts

You need to cut back drastically on that itinerary, which is not going to be relaxing! Why have you chosen these places as to be honest some of them I wouldn't describe as romantic... I would cut out both Inverness and Aberdeen for a start.

You may need to decide between Portree and Tobermory and just do one. Tobomory is the easiest.

St Andrews can be done as a day trip (train or bus) from Edinburgh. Stirling can be done as a day trip from either Edinburgh or Glasgow by train.

From Glasgow, you can catch a train to Oban and then catch the ferry to Mull and then a bus to Tobermory. Spend the night at Oban and then catch the train to Fort William, where you can pick up the Jacobite Steam Train. (This follows exactly the same route as the 'normal' service train, which is cheaper, so unless you are determined to do the staem train, this is an alternative).
From Fort William take the train back to Glasgow and then train to Manchester.

Even this is pushing it in your time frame. Assuming an equal split between Ireland and Scotland, my suggestion would be to start in Edinburgh and do St Andrews. In many ways Stirling is similar to Edinburgh, so could be scrapped if you are pushed on days. Then head to Glasgow and Oban...

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you all for the suggestions. I really wasn't sure how much time I would need for each place and what was worth visiting, so this is very helpful. I have visited Edinburgh before and loved it, so would like to do at least one night there, if not more. I will check out Rabbie's and see what they have. We actually do like tours and have done many walking tours before (not so much other ones, but aren't opposed to them).

Is public bus the only way to get to Tobermory and Portree? Those might be places it would be worth hiring someone to drive then or do a tour. I don't think we will want to do public bus, although train might be ok if it's reliable.

I don't mind dropping Aberdeen- I can drop others too- and maybe I'm forgetting somewhere that would be amazing to visit. It just looked like it had things to do and seemed nice. If you think something here isn't a good place to visit, let me know and I can drop it also, or if it's going to be too difficult, it won't be worth going.

We really don't want to drop Ireland, as that was the original place we were visiting. We will be going in June or July and are flexible, if you think there's a better time to go. We have to use Flying Blue miles to get there, so that means Air France or KLM. We most likely would fly into Dublin or Scotland but do need to leave from Manchester.

Is the steam train not worth doing? It seemed like a nice ride and we like trains. We could do the normal route if it's the same- I thought the interior looked nice and it would be special, but maybe easier not to?

Really appreciate the help. If you had a week, what would you recommend? Any special experiences or must-sees? Thanks again!

Posted by
18892 posts

The long-distance buses are comfortable. The trains don't go to the islands. There's ferry service to the islands, of course, but not necessarily to the towns people most want to visit on the islands. Buses to Skye take the bridge near Kyle of Lochalsh. In most European countries buses exist as much for use by locals as for tourists; often they're more for locals commuting to jobs and schools. So the schedules may be spotty from a tourist perspective. Rural Scotland doesn't have a lot of population, so there are often not a lot of departure times to choose from. I was pleased about the frequency of buses doing the Trotternish Peninsula loop out of Portree, though.

You can explore bus schedules on travelinescotland.com. I prefer to use nationalrail.co.uk for trains. TravelineScotland does show train as well as bus service, but when I was researching my 2019 trip I found there were differences in the information shown on the two websites, and I decided NationalRail seemed more reliable.

A lot depends on how you value museums as compared to outdoor sights. And what about castles or gardens, many of which are not in the cities? I really enjoyed the new V&A Design Museum in Dundee (not too far north of St. Andrews), which also has other good museums, but on a short trip I wouldn't recommend trying to squeeze in Dundee. I really, really liked Glasgow, whose architecture is more appealing to me than much of what I saw in Edinburgh. However, if returning to Edinburgh is important to you, I would probably skip Glasgow and spend the non-Edinburgh time in the Highlands and islands. A large city like Glasgow really needs more than a one-day visit, and I don't think you have time for that if you want to enjoy rural Scotland. In addition to skipping Aberdeen, I also did not go to Inverness or Stirling, so I can't evaluate them compared to Mull and Skye.

I did appreciate the convenience of the West Coast Motors tour from Oban to Mull and Iona. (I didn't go to Staffa because the weather wasn't very good that day.) You can do that by yourself, purchasing ferry and bus tickets on your own, but it was convenient to buy the package deal (at not a great deal of extra cost), and we had a dedicated bus across Mull. I did my own thing to get to Tobermory from Oban. The bus trip across was narrated, which was nice.

Posted by
5975 posts

Its probably just me, (only been once) but I have a hard time seeing Inverness, Aberdeen, Stirling, or St Andrews as romantic destinations.

Posted by
3 posts

So now I'm wondering if I should just stick to Edinburgh and Glasgow and do 1 or 2 day tours to visit some other parts. What would be your top "other cities/areas" to make sure to hit if we have to just pick a couple?

And what would you say are the most romantic spots?

I really appreciate the help!

Posted by
228 posts

It is very difficult to advise as what I might think are top romantic spots may not be yours...

Get a copy of DK Eyewitness Scotland and start reading. It has excellent pictures and covers many areas ignored by the usual guides..

Posted by
561 posts

I would not consider Inverness romantic; we only went there to rent a car as, at the time, we could not rent a car in Fort William. Whatever you decide, I would strongly suggest time in the Highlands, whether it is a one day tour, or a stop over. If you are the outdoor type, then I would suggest a hike in the highlands. It was one of the most memorable days ever for me (and that includes hikes in the Alps, Andes, and throughout the United States).

Posted by
512 posts

Portree is a tiny village, although it is the largest settlement on the Isle of Skye. The only way to get here on public transport is on the CityLink long distance bus from either Glasgow or Inverness. Portree itself is not at all romantic, so I am guessing that you might want to actually see some of the sights and natural beauty on Skye? If so then you will need to either rent a car (best done before you get here) or book a tour. Skye Jeep Tours is a very small company that I would recommend, as they will build a bespoke day tour based on chatting to you about what your interests are. They will also take you to more out of the way places that you would not necessarily visit or find on your own.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

PS: I have recommended Skye Jeep Tours a few times now and should point out that while I do know the couple who own the company, I have no connection with their business.