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Scotland 18 Day Itinerary in September 2018

We are planning an 18 day trip to Scotland in early September and would love some feedback on our itinerary. What we are wondering about is the following:

Where to spend the night and for how many nights?
What locations should we consider removing?
What locations should we consider adding?
Must see Castles and Distillers.
Golf course recommendations for a round of golf for the Hubbie.

Fly into Glasgow and taking the train to
Edinburgh – 3 nights confirmed
St Andrews
Isle of Skye
Loch Lomand
Glasgow – fly home

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. 

Posted by
2740 posts

First off let me say I'm jealous you have 18 days in Scotland! I'm sure you will have a fabulous time.
If you could give us more information we would be better equipped to help you.
Age range, what activities you like to do etc.
Will you have a car or are you confined to public transportation?
I will suggest a few things that are obvious..........Edinburgh castle, Ebradour distillery in Pitlochry, Culloden Battlefield, Perhaps Cawdor or Brodie castle, National Museum of Scotland.
Get a good guidebook and come back here with specific questions!
Happy planning!

Posted by
14 posts

Hello Diveloonie,
My husband and I are in our mid 50's and are fit and raring to go. We love history, castles and he loves his Scotch and he would also like to play a round of golf along the way. I've done a lot of research to date and have listed the route I thought we would take. We are flying into/out of Glasgow and are renting a car. Not sure if we should wait and get the car once we have spent our 3 nights in Edinburgh that I have committed to already. From there we are open to suggestions. The towns I listed came from my research but before I can book accommodations, this itinerary has to be firmed up. I guess what I'm wondering is do I have too many places listed and where should I stay at least 2 nights at?
Thanks So Much!

Posted by
228 posts

Unless you have a specific reason for staying in Aberdeen then I would instead stay in the Braemar or Ballater areas which are easily reached from St Andrews. Both are very pretty villages and will allow you to experience more of the highlands than going to Aberdeen. Lots to see and do in the vicinity. There is nothing at all wrong with the Granite City and it might be worth a day trip for you. This can be done easily by public transport from Braemar and Ballater if this appeals, or you can drive.

Useful information may be found here

Posted by
3046 posts

Wait to pick up your car until you're ready to leave Edinburgh. And make Stirling a day trip from Edinburgh (again, no car, and don't change hotels). Get the car at the airport and head for St. Andrews.

Since hubby is a golfer, he may want to get into the lottery to play at St. Andrews. Note you have to have a certain handicap. If not actually playing, never fear, there's plenty to see and do. The walking tour of the Old Course is great for golf fans (mostly standing around on the 1st/18th holes hearing about famous golfers in famous tournaments); if lucky your guide may get you a photo op at the iconic Swilcan Bridge. The British Golf Museum is great, and its cafeteria has huge picture windows overlooking the 1st/18th holes. You can play the Himalayas (Ladies Putting Green) for very little money; note there are no lockers or other facilities to hold your belongings while you play. For the Himalayas and the walking tour you don't have to have golf shoes, just no high/spike heels.

When you head up to Inverness, you might want to stay in Nairn instead of Inverness -- Nairn has at least a couple of golf courses. I can recommend the Tali Ayer B&B but there are many others in town.

Have fun!

Posted by
279 posts

I highly recommend the Undiscovered Scotland website to find places to visit—

Also, TripAdvisor is a great source for accommodations and restaurants. I relied on them exclusively for our UK trip in 2012 and Ireland in 2014 and found fantastic places like the Pottery House on Loch Ness just outside of Inverness.

Another location to consider visiting is Orkney, especially if you are into history and prehistory. You can see stone circles, tombs, and a village that are all about 4500 years old; Viking places; medieval palaces; a 1000 year old cathedral; going all the way up to a beautiful little chapel built by Italian POWs in WWII. Not to mention the scenery and the shopping, which are terrific.

Oh, and you can tour the northernmost distillery in Scotland, Highland Park near Kirkwall.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks for all the great feedback. It’s exactly what I’m looking for.

I will review Ballater or Braemar over Aberdeen. These are the suggestions that will improve our trip.
I didn’t realize there was a lottery for St Andrews so I will definitely look into that. It would be a dream to play there.
OMG! Kathy, Orkney is now on my radar. It’s does look great and the website seems awesome to gather info. I will have to give up some towns which are fine (Dumfries, Ayr and Paisley). Are there any other locations that I should consider removing to accommodate Orkney?

Posted by
44 posts

I too am going to Scotland in September and would advise you to not wait too long to book your accomodations. I had a hard time finding a good spot on Skye. I got a lot of my other lodgings on and always chose the ones that you could cancel without a charge because we changed our itinerary a couple of times. I also had some luck with RS recommended b&bs that don't have websites like the Marine House in Portree. However, if you plan to stay at pricier places it won't be as much of an issue. Good luck and I hope you have a great trip!

Posted by
7135 posts

I think you could skip Loch Lomond and not regret it. It was the one part of our trip last summer that we felt was a miscalculation. We walked part of the West HIghland Way, but we had recently come from walking along Hadrian's Wall and felt it didn't begin to compare. We really enjoyed Oban and wished we had spent more time there and out in the Hebrides and had skipped Loch Lomond.

I really encourage you to take the three island tour from Oban. It was certainly a fun part of our trip.,-iona-and-staffa/

I second the advice about playing the Himalayas Ladies Putting Course at St. Andrews. So much fun for so little money! I enjoyed standing just a short distance from the players on the Old Course with their caddies, etc. while I played and had at least as much fun as they did. I had lunch in the restuarant above the golf musuem and it made for a very pleasant view and luncheon.

If you enjoy canals or technology at all, consider stopping at the Falkirk Wheel near Stirling. Here is a link to it.

I haven't been to the Orkneys, but my sister visited there when she attended the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland commemoration (our grandfather served in the Royal Navy at this battle) and fell in love with the place.

Posted by
1314 posts

Hi! Sounds like you are going to have a wonderful time! As you only have 15 days after Edinburgh, I'd recommend skipping Dumfries and Ayr, as they're in the opposite direction to just about everywhere else that you're going. Unless you have a strong interest in Robert Burns. Paisley, too. It's in what is pretty much an industrial area, and there's not a lot to see, unless you're interested in the history of clothmaking.

As you're committed to the first three days in Edinburgh, I'd recommend picking up your hired car at the airport, not in town. It'll be a lot easier on your nerves! You can take the new high speed tram line out to the airport. You can get a one way drop off, usually at no extra charge, so that you can drop the car off at Glasgow.

I'd recommend going counterclockwise on your tour. You can visit Stirling on either your outward journey or your return journey. As you're going counterclockwise, if you're not doing Stirling first, take the Forth Road Bridge and the M90 to Kinross, then the A91 to St. Andrews.

From St. Andrews, the A91 and A919 will take you to the Tay Bridge, which you'll cross to get to Dundee. If you aren't in a hurry, Discovery Point is worth a visit. You can go aboard the RRS Discovery, which Scott took on his first visit to the Antarctic.

As you leave Dundee, you have two choices: the coast road (A92), which takes you along the North Sea coast, past Carnoustie (golf!!), and through Arbroath, Montrose, and Stonehaven; or the A90 (the fast road). Both take you to Aberdeen.

From Aberdeen, you have two choices (again!). You can take the A93 through Aboyne and Ballater, toward Braemar. Along the way, you can visit Castle Drum and Crathes Castle. At Ballater, turn north on the A939 toward Corgarff. The A939 is the Old Lecht Road, frequently closed in winter due to snowfall. You'll go through the small village of Tomintoul, then meet up with the A95 at Speybridge. Turn left, and follow the A95 to the A9. You'll be about a mile from Aviemore. Once you've left Aviemore, you can follow the A9 straight in to Inverness.

The second option out of Aberdeen is to take the A96 through Elgin, Forres, and Nairn, and along the Moray coast to Inverness. Elgin Cathedral is worth a visit, as is Huntly Castle.

So far, you've made your way to Inverness. If you're going to Skye, there are several ways to get there. The best way to get there would be the A82 south to Invermoriston, then the A887 to the A87, and on past the Five Sisters of Kintail and Eilean Donan Castle to the Skye Bridge. You could also take the A9 north to the A835 at Tore, the A832 from Garve to Achnasheen, and the A890 to the A87 near Kyle of Lochalsh. The latter is the longer, but more scenic, route.

Coming back out of Skye, take the CalMac ferry from Armadale to Mallaig. You'll take the A830 from there to Fort William. Most of the 830 is very scenic. Camusdarrach Beach (Ben Knox's beach in "Local Hero"), near Arisaig, is well worth a side trip. From Fort William, you can take the A82 south to Ballachulish, then the A878 south to the A85, and from there to Oban. If you're interested in visiting the Isle of Mull, you can sail from Oban to Craignure on the CalMac ferry. Alternately, if you're coming back from Mallaig, you can take the A861 south from Lochailort, and catch either the Kilchoan to Tobermory (recommended) or the Lochaline to Fishnish ferries to Mull, and then take the ferry from to Craignure to Oban. Tobermory is delightful!

Once you leave Oban, you can take the A85 to Tyndrum, then the A82 down the west bank of Loch Lomond. The best place to stop along the way would be the village of Luss, near the south end of the loch. Once you leave Luss, the A82 will take you directly to Glasgow. Alternately, if you want to see Glencoe, which seems to be on everyone's "must see" list, you can take the A878 back up to Ballachulish, and turn south on the A82 there.

Posted by
1314 posts

If you're going on to Stirling on the return trip, take the A82 from Tyndrum to Crainlarich, the A85 from Crainlarich to Lochearnhead, then the A84 in to Stirling.

Recommended castles, in addition to Edinburgh and Stirling, would be Castle Drum and Crathes Castle on Royal Deeside; Fyvie Castle, north of Aberdeen; Craigievar Castle, near Alford (west of Aberdeen); and Castle Duart, on Mull. There are many castles within a short drive of Aberdeen. The most spectacularly located castle is Dunottar, which is just south of Stonehaven, off the A92. If you're birders, the Fowlsheugh Nature Reserve, at Crawton, just south of Stonehaven, has one of the largest seabird colonies on the East Coast. If you walk all the way out to the end, you may see puffins in the caves.

Happy travels!

Posted by
1314 posts

p.s.: Since you're going to be in Aberdeen anyway, there are several good golf courses: Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links, north of the city; and Stonehaven, which is in a spectacular location overlooking the North Sea. I hope that you're not supporters of the current occupant of the White House, but if you are, his golf course is located about 10 miles north of Aberdeen, on a now destroyed area of natural beauty.

Posted by
767 posts

We're preparing to head to Scotland in a week (never been there before). We've planned 17 days and nights and will be visiting many (but not nearly all) of the places on your list. However, we're traveling exclusively by train; but that's neither hear nor there.

I would like to make a suggestion. As we are also interested in historic venues, and will visit many during our time in Scotland, we opted to purchase a year membership in Historic Scotland You might want to consider this as there are many benefits, not the least of which (since you're driving) is preferred parking at some of the venues. Oh yes, maybe a second suggestion. We're reading Mangus Magnusson's Scotland The Story of a Nation so we can have a better understanding of how the venues we'll visit played a role in the complex history of Scotland.

Have a great holiday.

PS Since we are newbies to Scotland, we aren't aware of when the midges (we understand they are known colloquially in Scotland as "Wee Bastards") are at their zenith, but If this is your first visit, you may want to learn about these little pests and if they'll be around while you are there.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks for your reply.

We changed our itinerary a bit as follows:
Edinburgh 3 nights
Ballaster 1 night
Inverness 2 nights
Thurso 2 nights
Gairloch 1 night
Portree 2 nights
Oban 3 nights
Stirling 2 nights

We bought the Historic explorer pass so I will need to look into your suggestion regarding parking costs and change it. Your right about the midges, I’m ready for them! I love your suggestion about reading, Scotland, The Story of a Nation as I will be sure to read that.

Let me know how your trip goes. Safe journeys.