Please sign in to post.

Scotland and England Itinerary

Hello U.K. travelers,

We have a number of questions and are open to suggestions. My wife and I will be travelling to Scotland and England in late July, early August for the first time. We will be spending 18 days total. Our first 3 nights will be in the Ard-Na-Said B&B in Edinburgh. We are flying in and out of Heathrow as a round trip flight was much less expensive than 2 one ways from different cities; tickets are booked. I have not yet booked the flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh. How much time should I leave for arrival, picking up bag (we plan on taking a backpack each and checking one suitcase), getting through customs, and getting to the terminal for our connecting flight? What is the best way to get from the airport to the B&B?

We plan on a day trip to Glasgow in addition to exploring Edinburgh, the Castle and Royal Mile.

Next we will spend a week in the Highlands, staying in Craigendarroch at the Hilton. We are members of RCI and were finally able to book a stay here as well as where we will stay in England next week. Plans are to see Balmoral Castle, St. Andrews, Skye, and maybe catch the Highland Games in Dornoch. Should we rent a car in Edinburgh for the drive north or take the train to Aberdeen and rent a car there? I know we will want a car to explore the Highlands.

For our last week we will be staying in Golf Apartments Richmond Park near Thetford, England. Should we just keep the rental car or take the train and rent another car once we are there? Do we need to hire the car in advance? It's a fairly long trip so were thinking about stopping in York for one night, maybe catching the Minter Evensong. We have not booked anything there yet.

Once in Thetford we plan on a day trip to Cambridge and at least one day trip into London (would like to ride the London Eye for one thing), and maybe an overnight in Paris. Obviously we haven't booked anything there. Are we doing too much or are we too late? From Thetford we will travel to Heathrow for the trip home (Texas). Should we drive to the airport or take a bus or the train?

Any advice or suggestions concerning any of the itinerary will be appreciated!

Posted by
16771 posts

For future reference, on your next trip, the alternative to a round-trip flight you should be looking at is not two one-way tickets but rather a multi-city ticket. They were previously called "open-jaw" tickets. Depending on which cities you are combining, you may find an multi-city ticket for about the same price as a roumd-trip.

I'll let others answer your itinerary questions since they are outside my range of experience.

Posted by
2564 posts

How much time to allow upon arrival from Heathrow? That's a tough question because you have no control over whether your transatlantic flight might be delayed. Is there a way you can prevail upon the airline to add the Heathrow-Edinburgh flight to your same itinerary? That way if you are delayed through no fault of your own, the partner airline will be obligated to put you on the next available flight. It will also allow you to check your luggage through to Edinburgh so you won't have to pick it up at Heathrow and put it back onto your next flight.

If that's not possible, then I would allow 6-8 hours to be safe. Far better to be cooling your heels in the airport for a few hours if your flight isn't late, than to stress over missing your departure. And make sure you have good trip insurance in case of a major delay that causes you to miss the connection in spite of your diligent planning.

About the rental car, since you are planning to rent one, use it the maximum amount of time. It's unnecessarily complicated and expensive to buy train tickets to get somewhere like Aberdeen and then pick up a car. It may also be harder to get an automatic in a smaller location like Aberdeen. The car will begin to feel like home after a day or two, making your trip all the more relaxed.

Rent out of the airport and return to the airport. The airports are on the major Motorways and well marked so you will not have to navigate through city streets. You may be in a traffic jam on the Motorway leaving or approaching a major city, but I find that's actually rather a relief because it gives you more time to read the signs. When you're leaving Edinburgh airport, do ask the rental agent which signs to follow at the roundabouts to get onto the Motorway in your desired direction, because those signs are not always self-explanatory.

Hope this helps!

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you for the advice,
I will check with our airline to see what they can do about adding the Edinburgh leg. The car advice sounds good too, except we might not want to deal with it those first 3 days in Edinburgh. Maybe pick it up on day 4 and keep it for the rest of the trip? Do we need to reserve it ahead of time? The festival's will be starting. We will definitely want an automatic. First time driving on the left!

Posted by
2564 posts

About the rental car, yes, wait until you're ready to venture out into the countryside. You won't need or want a car during you days in Edinburgh. I would suggest reserving ahead of time, especially since you want an automatic. Even with a reservation, you may have to wait on the day of pickup because they don't have control over exactly how many of a certain type of car will be returned and ready to rent out during a given time slot.

BTW, if you should decide that Balmoral Castle is too far out of the way, Glamis Castle is only about 1 hour from St Andrews and it has a lot to offer. The interior is kept as the Queen Mother specified while she was alive, and the tour guides are very knowledgeable. There are vast & varied gardens and (I think) more than one cafe and restaurant to eat in.

Posted by
13 posts

I will look into getting the car reserved asap. Thanks for the tip about Glamis Castle!

Posted by
458 posts

Hi there Ace and Cooke
Yes you certainly do need to book your car ahead of time, especially if you want an automatic transmission.

Your hotel is not in a good location for doing a day trip to Skye. Google maps says 3 hours 40 minutes to the Skye bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh, but as I live on Skye, I can tell you that this is wildly optimistic. I would allow 5 hours from your hotel to the bridge. Skye is much bigger than most visitors expect. I live in north west corner of the island and in the summer I allow 1 hour 30 minutes to get from my home to the bridge. And I'm not stopping to take photos, and I know the roads extremely well so would be driving much more quickly than you, and overtaking where it's safe to do so. You will find our roads much narrower than in the States, with no shoulder and in places on Skye and elsewhere in the Highlands the roads are actually single track, i.e. traffic in both directions shares the same piece of road, with passing places to enable traffic travelling in different directions to give way to each other.

Once on Skye, you will find that the main sites that visitors want to see are spread far apart so seeing it all in a day just simply is not possible. Many people would allow 2 or 3 nights on Skye, and even then would only be scratching the surface. If you absolutely must see Skye, then an organised tour on a small bus with an operator such as Rabbies (maybe from Inverness) might be the way to go, with none of the stress of driving.

It will take you all day to get down to Thetford, probably around 12 hours (despite Google's ever over optimistic prediction of around 9 hours), so a stop in York would seem a good idea. It's probably stating the obvious but don't try to drive into London, take the train. Tickets are cheaper if you book well in advance and specify a particular train (they are called Advance tickets).

Hope this helps.
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
13 posts

Hello Skyegirl,
This is why we're on this website - to avoid aggravating mistakes. Skye will have to wait for the next trip. Exploring the Cairngorms, for one thing, makes a lot more sense. Thank you!

Posted by
2564 posts

You will be in the heart of the Cairngorms for your week at Craigendarroch (that's basically in Ballater, yes?). So, yes, enjoy what that region has to offer. If you want a variety of scenery you could drive out to the coast one day.

At the end of your trip, you mention "maybe an overnight in Paris." Personally I wouldn't do that because the travel to & from just wouldn't be worth it. There is so,so,so much to see and do in London!

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you for your advice epltd. We need to think through what we really want to see with the time we have.

Posted by
150 posts

I live in the Ballater (Royal Deeside) area and if there's anything which I may assist you with then please feel free to send me a private message.

This is a beautiful area of Scotland and it has plenty to offer visitors. By staying in Ballater you are well situated to visit places such as St Andrews, Glamis, Loch Ness, Culloden, Speyside, Pitlochry, Blair Athol and more besides for day excursions.

Posted by
13 posts

Hello sownack,
Thank you so much for your offer! Very likely we will be contacting you with questions.
In fact I have one about Highland Games. From what I have found so far the ones in Dornoch on August 2nd would be our best opportunity. Any suggestions?

Posted by
595 posts

I don't know if you have already ruled out Balmoral or not, but just in case, you may want to check if they are open or not, as the royal family spends part of the summer there. We were planning on visiting there at the end of July/beginning of August and they are closed then.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks Tamara,
Balmoral will be open until July 31st. We should be able to make it a day or two prior.

Posted by
595 posts

Oh, perfect, I am glad it will work out. I think we would have landed there on August 2nd, so we were just a tad too late. It looks beautiful!