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Scotland Advice?

My husband and I are planning out our end of May Scotland trip and finalizing how many days we intend on staying in each location, etc.

We will be there for 9 days/8 nights and flying in and out of Edinburgh.
We are lookinng for some advice on itinerary. Some background on our prior travels: We have been to Ireland on 2 separate occasions and rented a car there, so do not have any issues with a car rental. However, from our Ireland trips, while we enjoyed Dublin and Galway, we did not like spending any more than 1-2 days in a major city. We tended to enjoy smaller towns while in Ireland (Kinsale, Dingle , Kilkenny). My husband loves castles and I love landscapes.

-Is Edinburgh a city that we could do all the "must sees" in a course of 1- 1/2 days?
-We do want to see some of the highlands and perhaps some small hikes...is it worth renting a car and driving the entire time?
--Or not renting a car at all and taking all train transportation or a mix of both?
Is Glasglow worth visiting?
-is there any recommendation on a couple towns worth using as our basecamps?
-one more question- is there any "castle/hotel" that is worth at least staying at least one night?

Posted by
97 posts

We were in Edinburgh for nine days in November for a wedding and some touring. It was our first visit and we found the city to be wonderfully interesting for both its history and the way people live within that history today. We were there for a friend's wedding (men in kilts!) but had some time before and after for touring. Lots of walking, friendly pubs, and warm locals. Can't wait to return!

-Is Edinburgh a city that we could do all the "must sees" in a course of 1- 1/2 days?
You could, I suppose, but just the castle takes a half-day, the National Museum is massive, the hike up Arthur's Seat is magnificent and, for a hiker, not to be missed, and Holyrood Palace is a must see for a castle lover. I'd say two days at least, with targeting your particular 'must-sees'. Three days wouldn't be too much.

-We do want to see some of the highlands and perhaps some small hikes...is it worth renting a car and driving the entire time?
--Or not renting a car at all and taking all train transportation or a mix of both?
We took a highlands tour through Timberbush Tours to Eilean Donan castle, overnighting in Fort William. Totally worth it, but I do wish we had had the opportunity to hike. The views are amazing! We'll do that next time for sure, during warmer months with more daylight. That being said, we were glad for the driver on the winding narrow roads, especially when an accident closed the highway for most of the day. He knew how to maneuver the back roads (through charming villages!) to get us to our main destination. I don't know how you would manage with trains, since we found the tour efficient. If you've done the car rental before, I think that would give you more flexibility.

-is there any recommendation on a couple towns worth using as our basecamps?
-one more question- is there any "castle/hotel" that is worth at least staying at least one night?
We overnighted in Fort William at Myrtle Bank Guest House. It was particularly lovely with a warm friendly hostess, and a terrific Scottish breakfast. Fort William is near Ben Nevis and a popular hiking destination.

-Is Glasglow worth visiting?
I can't say for sure. Our tour stoped here VERY briefly, but we had enough time to pop into the Glasgow City Council Building. AMAZING architecture and free to poke around on the main floor. If you do go to Glasgow, don't miss it!

Posted by
2774 posts

-Is Edinburgh a city that we could do all the "must sees" in a course of 1- 1/2 days?
Yes, considering that you're not a big fan of cities. I'd say to start at the castle and work your way down the Royal Mile though you may not get all the way. For a great view of the skyline, book dinner at the Tower Restaurant (located in the National Museum, which BTW is a nice spacious place to spend time indoors out of the weather).

-We do want to see some of the highlands and perhaps some small hikes...is it worth renting a car and driving the entire time?--Or not renting a car at all and taking all train transportation or a mix of both?
I would do one or the other, and my preference would be the car because it lets you go at your own pace and take detours as your interests may guide you. I'll put in a vote for the western highlands, Inveraray and beyond. A highlight of our trip was a boat ride on Loch Lomond from the village of Luss.

Is Glasglow worth visiting? Can't say, haven't spent time there except in the (very nice) airport.

-is there any recommendation on a couple towns worth using as our basecamps?
Nairn, east of Inverness, is a nice town and convenient to Clava Cairns, Cawdor Castle, and Culloden Battlefield. I can recommend Tali Ayer B&B for lodging and The Classroom for dinner.
Inveraray, in the western highlands, is also lovely, with its castle, a historic gaol (jail), and Auchindrain Township open-air museum just south of the town. I can recommend Brambles for lodging and the George Hotel for dinner/pub.

-one more question- is there any "castle/hotel" that is worth at least staying at least one night?
We enjoyed staying at Stonefield Castle Hotel, on Loch Fyne about an hour beyond Inveraray. It is actually a ca. 1830 country house, not a medieval castle; it made me feel like I was visiting Downton Abbey. The nearby fishing village of Tarbert is worth a visit (pleasant walk up to the ruins of Robert the Bruce's castle) as well as a drive southward along the Kintyre peninsula coast.

Posted by
5564 posts

If you haven't sorted this yet, here are some comments.

You'll see the core of Edinburgh in 1.5 days but will miss some interesting bits. Focus on the Roya Mile, do try to get over to New Town and see that area. I recommend the Georgian House as an alternative to the medieval history of Old Town. Think about lunch at the Mussel Inn in New Town.

Yes, it's worth renting a car. Don't get it until you are ready to leave Edinburgh. You can take the train to Inverness and pick up a car there and then drop it off in Glasgow or Edinburgh airports. Typically, I've not seen a huge charge for doing that.

Glasgow has some very interesting sights to visit. You can do it as a day trip from Edinburgh or end your trip there. The Riverside Museum has the old Transport Museum and more. I really need to visit it and plan to in June if I can! The Cathedral is quite old, it's not as big or magnificent as Durham or the other famous cathedrals but has its own charm. (BTW Pat McIntosh has some lovely mysteries based in Medieval Glasgow and she talks about the Cathedral.) The Tenement Museum is quite wonderful. I love its sister museum here in NYC as well. And then there is the Pollock Collection. It's a little trickier to do on a day trip, but well worth a visit if it fits with your plans.

In my opinion, Inverness itself, while not cute and quaint, has a lot to offer as a base. You can get east or west or north from there. It has lots of restaurants. You can catch so wonderful music. And, there are great local jewelry designers! If you want a smaller town, Nairn is likely good. I've stayed in Strathpeffer and in Fortrose. I was at the Richmond in the former and the Anderson in the latter.

I stayed in Stonefield Castle near Tarbert. I would recommend looking for a country hotel or a castle. My sister and brother-in-law stayed in one in Torridon that they really enjoyed. Both can be lovely.

Pam