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Scotland and Ireland July 2018 with two teenage boys!

Hi all
This is my first time posting here, so please go gentle with me. Myself, hubby and two teenage boys (16 and 13) are planning a trip to Ireland/Scotland next year. We will first be doing a 7 day River Cruise that finishes in Budapest. From there, we would like to fly out to either Ireland or Scotland( not sure where first) , hire a car and drive around.

I have a gazillion questions so bear with me:

Firstly, we will need to end our trip at an airport that gets us home to Australia - so I guess any airport that goes via London will get us there. Keeping that in mind and the fact we have a hire car, would it be best to start in Ireland or Scotland? From what I have read, it seems it would be cheaper to hire a car for one country, then fly or go on the ferry on foot to the next, and then pick up a new rental car. Does this sound right? My gut instinct is to fly to Edinburgh first and end the trip somewhere in Ireland.

I was thinking two night in Edinburgh, and then three somewhere else and three somewhere else.....we aren't really city people, so thinking two nights will be enough. Then the question is where to next. I don't want to run ourselves ragged driving from place to place, rather find somewhere lovely to base ourselves for a few days, where we can make day trips. We do try to avoid the well beaten tourist path and love to soak up the atmosphere of a place. It's ok if we don't see everything, but a castle or two would be great, beautiful scenery, a walk in the wild, definitely need to see the coast and some culture/history.

So I need suggestions for two or three places that are in good locations for day trips. If there is some magic spot where someone thinks we could base ourselves for the rest of our Scottish trip, I am open to suggestions.

Accommodation wise, we really prefer a two or three bedroom fit out, otherwise, we will surely kill each other, especially my boys. We like our own space. Apartments, B&Bs, historic accommodation, Quirky accommodation, even a farm stay - throw at me any recommendations you have.

Then we are onto Ireland. So thinking of flying out, bypassing Dublin and landing somewhere like Cork? Again, I'd like a similar plan for Ireland. Quality rather than quantity, villages, rather than cities etc. any suggestions as to where we could base ourselves, maybe three nights somewhere and two or three nights somewhere else and a night at the start in Cork. We do need to end our trip somewhere where we can drop the car off and get a flight home to Oz.

Any advice/Tips/recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.


Posted by
6113 posts


A few questions back!

Please confirm that you are planning 8 nights in Scotland and 6/7 in Ireland.

You mention July - would the holiday kick into August? August = Festival in Edinburgh = very busy and expensive.

Where in Oz are you flying back to? My brother is in Perth and when he returns for Christmas, as he is aiming for the Manchester area, he can't stand flying via London, so he flies from Manchester on Emirates or Ethiad via the Middle East as he says it's less jet lag. I would try to avoid going via London if you aren't spending any time there.

Check out websites such as Skyscanner to see how you would get home from Edinburgh or Dublin without going via London, if this is possible.

Flying is the best option from Ireland to Scotland, although there are ferries too. You can't take most hire cars on the ferries and you don't want a 1 way drop, so go for 2 hire cars.

I would be tempted to go to Ireland first if you are going back via London - Scotland gives you more options as to how to get to London. However, there are no direct flights from Budapest to Cork - just Dublin - Aer Lingus or Ryanair. Budapest to Edinburgh - Ryanair or Jet2. Buda to Glasgow - Wizzair.

Cork - Edinburgh or Glasgow - Aer Lingus.

Two nights only means one full day in Edinburgh - the Royal Mile, Castle, Parliament and Britannia are the obvious choices.

For accommodation, look at which has some great places to stay. Avoid Airbnb, which is expensive in Europe as you get stung on poor exchange rates. Trip Advisor rentals and offer better rates.

There are so many options for routes! will give you details of gorgeous driving routes. If you want to avoid tourists (difficult as the popular places and attractions are popular for a reason), I would suggest that you stay away from the tacky Loch Ness area (many nicer lochs around and your children are too old for Nessie hunting) and avoid equally tacky and busy Aviemore. Other than that, anywhere would be good. Skye will be busy too.

Some possibilities: Edinburgh - borders country e.g. Hawick, Jedburgh and Berwick upon Tweed - plenty of history and good walking but the scenery isn't as "big" as the Highlands.

Edinburgh - Stirling via Falkirk - Cairngorms stay Boat of Garten or Grantown on Spey - Nairn for Culloden Battlefield.

Edinburgh - Loch Lomond - Ardnamurchan peninsula for some of the best scenery in Scotland (you may have to stay in Fort William and drive).

The islands are another option e.g. Mull or Orkney.

Posted by
5 posts

Hi Jennifer
Thank you so much for your reply and all your assistance.
In answer to your questions:

The length of time in both countries will most likely be 7 or 8 days each. We finish the Cruise on the 1st of July and we are aiming to get back to Australia around the 18th/19th, so the boys don't miss too much of school. I am trying to stretch out as much time as possible in both countries - so I thought 8 days in one or both, or 7 in one and 8 in the other. Our flights aren't booked, so still mucking around with the length of our journey. Obviously we won't be running into the August Festival.

We have two options for flying home. Either via Sydney and then a flight to Toowoomba ( our home) or a flight to Brisbane and then it's a two hour drive from there to home. I've been looking at flights. We really prefer to fly Singapore Air - out of Edinburgh we can fly Lufthansa to Germany and Singapore Air. So maybe that's the better option then Heathrow. There doesn't seem to be any way ( from what I can gather ) to fly out of Ireland, without going via Heathrow. So your suggestion of starting in Ireland might be better. Is Heathrow a difficult airport?

If we start in Ireland, it seems we can only fly from Budapest to Dublin. That's ok. We can start our adventure in Dublin then. I was thinking we could either spend one night in Dublin and then hit the road, or hit the road immediately to somewhere quieter.

We were thinking of taking the ferry from Bangor to Stranraer. It appears to be a lot cheaper than flying and it may even be a time saver, once you fiddle around with airports. From what I can gather there are car rental drop offs near the Bangor ferry terminal. Do you know if this is correct? And it looks like we can pick up another rental car at Stranraer no problem.

As far as places to base ourselves - you have given me some good ideas. Thank you. I will try to do up a rough itinerary when I have one and post it here for some feed back. In your opinion, is it.
better to spend more time in Scotland than Ireland if need be, or vice versa? And it Isle of Skye worth the drive? We will definitely avoid Loch Ness and Aviemore. Some places that have caught my eye so far are obviously the Scottish Highlands, the Fife Coastal Path, Glen Lyon and Cathiness. I like the sound of the Isle of Arran as well. I haven't really begun to even think about Ireland yet.....

Being Aussie, we don't mind driving one or two hours for a day trip either. Your brother would definitely understand that, being in Perth.

Keep the ideas coming.

Thanks again Jennifer.


Posted by
6113 posts

Just putting a random date into Skyscanner looks as though you could do either Dublin or Edinburgh to Brisbane with only one stop in Abu Dhabi, but not on Singapore Airlines.

Personally, I would spend a little longer in Scotland, as I have always had worse weather whenever I have been to Ireland, so I am biased!

Belfast port (not Bangor) is in Northern Ireland, not Ireland, so there will be a one way drop fee for the car - different country and currency. There are car hire depots in Belfast and Cairnryan.

If you are taking the ferry, this lands in south western Scotland, so if you wanted to miss Edinburgh, this would be easier than if flying. I have had a good holiday in Dumfries and Galloway, the areas near to Cairnryan. There are plenty of good walks, lighthouses to climb and scenery to take in. Plus Rabbie Burns history if that interests you. Driving from here to Ardrossan, where the Arran ferry departs is c 2 hours.

I prefer the Ardnamurchan (near Fort William) to Skye. Skye really needs 3 days to explore, as many of the roads are narrow single track with passing places, so it takes time to get around. Although I liked Skye, if I only had a week, I would give it a miss, as there are too many other places worth a look. It takes more than an hour to get from the top to the bottom of Skye, even though it's not that far, especially by Australian standards. For longer journeys, work on averaging 30 mph if you are lucky or use Google Maps and add at least a third again.

Work on 2 bases in the week. You could easily spend the whole 2 weeks in Scotland. There are just too many options! You don't need a guidebook - use for starters to get a feel for each region.

Posted by
5 posts

Hi again Jennifer

You have been such a wealth of information. I totally forgot Northern Ireland is a separate country. Flying definitely sounds like the best option.

Thank you for your advice on the Isle of Skye. I felt that might be the case and will now know not to include it in our itinerary. Do you know if the Isle of Arran is worth a visit?

Your advice has motivated me and given me a starting point. I will go away and do some serious research now and will report back with my plans in the next few weeks.

As much as I would love to spend the whole two weeks in Scotland, we really want to see Ireland as well. If Australia wasn't so far away, we would save Ireland for another time, but unfortunately we don't have the luxury of quick flights to almost everywhere.

I have discovered a great website called Secrets of Scotland, who have also given me some ideas to work on.

Then I need to think about Ireland.

Thanks again Jennifer.


Posted by
8546 posts

I'm basically ignorant about school schedules in Australia. Your words " don't miss too much school" did raise a few red flags with me. I am the first to acknowledge that travel is an educational experience and very worthwhile. However, my experience as a high school teacher is that students that miss school for family trips often struggle with catching up when they return and that many don't recover from the time lost. You have plenty of time to plan your trip and can take some steps proactively to minimize school impact. Have your children get assignments and work in advance and do the work in advance. No point thinking that they will do it on the trip or that they will simply make it up upon their return. This hardly ever happens. if you are planning an absence of more than one week, I urge you to think very carefully about your plans. You know your children best and will be able to plan appropriately.

Posted by
5 posts

Dear Carol

Thank you so much for your concerns but you need not worry. As a highschool teacher myself, I am well aware of the downfalls of children missing too much school.

The boys will be on their three week break during this time. They will miss no more then two days of school at the end of Term 2 ( after their exams are finished) and two days at the beginning of Term 3. So this is not an issue at all.

I hope you have a great day.


Posted by
6113 posts


Sorry, but I haven't been to Arran yet, so I can't advise on that. All I know is that they make jumpers there! The whole of that coastline is stunning.

Good luck with your planning.


Posted by
9 posts

Hi Michelle,
We just returned from two weeks in Scotland, part of which we spent with our daughter and her family — four kids, including two teenage boys. So I can give you some specific comments on what worked best for them.

First, yes, Edinburgh for sure. They really liked Edinburgh Castle and the Camera Obscura.

Then, check out the Pitlochry area. It's about 1 1/2 hours north of Edinburgh with lots to do and see within reasonable drives. And it has spectacular scenery — you can get the feel of the Highlands without the long drives to the northwest of Scotland. There are a lot of self-catering options in the area. She rented a house called Chamberbhan, which has an amazing setting on Loch Tummel; four bedrooms, kitchen, sitting room, "family room" with TV plus dining table. All the facilities you would want. Only downside is that its location is 8 miles off the Pitlochry road down a narrow, winding road, then down a very steep track to the lochside.

Things to do:
Battle of Bannockburn, near Stirling ... your boys can actually "fight" the battle as they learn about it.
Scottish Crannog Centre, near Kenmore ... re-created Iron Age dwelling in Loch Tay
Blair Castle
Highland Folk Museum ... outdoor museum with rebuilt Highlands homes and other buildings; an hour north of Pitlochry, quite enjoyable

If you venture further north, Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness is great and the Culloden battlefield visitors centre now has a "battle immersion room" that your boys would like.

Have fun!

Posted by
5 posts

Hi Dave
Thanks for your reply and tips. Sounds like you had a wonderful time in Scotland. I will definitely take your advice onboard. I thought I had an itinerary sorted, but I keep changing my mind as to where to go.
It sounds like Pitlochry might be a good place to base ourselves for two or theee nights. I was also thinking Oban might be another good spot to base ourselves for two or three nights, and possibly Isle of Arran. Any further advice would be greatly appreciated.