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Scotland Early May 2018

We're considering a transatlantic voyage in mid April 2018 that sails from Ft. Lauderdale and ends in Southampton. We are planning to spend a couple days in London (we've visited several times before) then take the train to Durham for a stop to visit the Cathedral and then continue by train to Edinburg. Spend a few days there and then rent a car for a counterclockwise loop around Scotland over the next week +, ending up back in Edinburg for the flight back to the US. From what I've read, weather is unpredictable from one hour to the next in Scotland, but, generally what would be the chances of some sun in early May? Where would be the best place to start to find flights from Edinburg back to the US east coast (via London, Paris, Amsterdam, etc.)? We'd prefer not to fly into Boston, NYC or Atlanta and we eventually need to get back to Cincinnati.

Posted by
4583 posts

It's Edinburgh and pronounced similar to Edinborough.

As for May the temperatures average around 12/13c and there's certainly possibility of sun. Whilst the weather is changeable in the UK it is not as extreme as changing one hour to the next.

Posted by
2926 posts

We've been in Scotland in May twice and the countryside and the gardens at various castles were beautiful with springtime blooms. Yes, it rains frequently, but dressing in layers and liberal use of waterproofing spray take care of that. You're unlikely to get nonstop all-day rain. The days are long since Scotland is rather far north.

Searching for flights, I'd say use Kayak. You might also consider flying home from Glasgow. I believe Aer Lingus has good connections from both Edinburgh and Glasgow via their local partner airline. You transfer in either Dublin or Shannon and go through US passport control there.

Posted by
1838 posts

We spent 4 nights in Edinburgh in the last week of May, 2017 and we ranged from " How do you turn the heat on!?" to 80 F, but it was unusually warm as we were told often. I can't comment more on weather, but suggest you contact the cruise line for air. We have done a few transatlantics, and twice to Japan ( all on Holland America ) and they were able to provide many options for air. We have always traveled on our own after the cruise, and flew home from cities other than the port of disembarkation, and had 30 days to use the ticket. The trip insurance purchased from them covered us the entire trip, until we flew home. In every case of our experience purchasing our own air would have been way more expensive.
If you need a place in Edinburgh, I can recommend Hugo's Place Grassmarket apartment. Beautiful, spacious, luxury bathroom, a decanter of scotch and shortbread waiting. . Quite reasonably priced too. I can even tell you how to work the thermostat now!

I don't have anything to add to this thread, but I am following it with interest. My friend and I are tentatively planning two weeks in Scotland and Ireland and planning to leave May 11, 2018. I say tentatively, because we may only have a week to 10 days, and will have to adjust accordingly, meaning Ireland may not happen.

Posted by
63 posts

We were in Scotland this year from May 4-22 and had lovely weather. Temps consistently in mid-50s, only one day of steady rain when we finally got to use the rain gear we had packed. Other days were mostly sunny with occasional passing rain showers. I'd suggest checking air fares from Glasgow which is easily accessible from Edinburgh. When we went fares from Glasgow were half those from Edinburgh.

Posted by
700 posts

Four Follow Up Questions. First, my thanks to all who have posted. It has been a while since I checked this thread and I'm grateful for the great information. My wife and I are continuing to plan this visit, but are now considering a BritRail Pass taking the train to and through Scotland. We are still planning a transatlantic cruise from the US to Southampton. We'd take the train from Southampton to London where we would board a train at Euston Station (for Scotland). We're considering taking the night train from London to Ft. William, then continuing on the Jacobite Steam Train to Mallaig then the ferry to Armadale. This brings us to our First Question are there busses between Armadale and Portee? We want to spend 2 full days at the Isle of Skye which leads to our Second Question are there small group tours around the Isle of Skye or could/should we rent a car in Portee? After the Isle of Skye, we will travel to Kyle of Lochlash where we'll board the train for Inverness; Third Question Is there a bus between Portee and Kyle of Lochalsh? After Inverness we'd take the train through Cairngorm to Edinburgh (via Sterling). Then our Fourth Question If we take 4 days between Inverness and Sterling, where should we stop along the way? We plan to visit Edinburg for 2-3 days then fly back to the US from Edinburgh.

We're thinking of 10 days and nights +/- from Ft. Williams to Edinburgh.

Posted by
5518 posts

Hi Jon - two more spelling corrections - the "main" town on Skye is Portree (with another "r"), and it's Stirling, with an "i" instead of an "e." We rented a car on the Scottish mainland and drove to Skye, but there's a bus from Armadale to Portree, and also from Portree to Kyle of Lochalsh. A taxi would be faster but not cheaper. You can also rent a car, but remember that you'd be driving on the left side of fairly narrow roads, and driving from the right-hand side of the car, which might complicate things, or might just add to the adventure. We used Rick Steves' and Rough Guide guidebooks to chart our own exploration of the island, but you might find guided tours.

Stirling has its own famous castle, but en-route, consider visiting the fantastic Doune Castle in Doune, which was featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Posted by
700 posts

Back with follow up questions. First, thanks to all who have posted, I welcome all the help I can get. We've decided we are definitely going to use a BritRail Pass (the Spirit of Scotland 8 day in 15 days version) for our time in Scotland and will rent a car only if it is absolutely necessary. Now I'm focusing on the train logistics.

We are still planning on beginning our visit in Edinburgh (where we'll stay two days and nights) and end in Glasgow for another two days and nights; or as I've noted earlier perhaps begin in Glasgow and end in Edinburgh. In addition to the time in Edinburgh and Glasgow, we've settled on two days and nights in Portree. This is where we will rent a car if we can't find a small tour or tours (plural) around the Isle of Skye. We're looking for advise on where to stop for the other 6-8 days we'll have in Scotland. We continue to think in terms of a "loop" train route. For purposes of my current question I'll use Edinburgh as the start and Glasgow as the end of the loop. So, Edinburgh to Stirling, to Perth, through the Cairngorms, to Inverness, then west to Kyle of Lochalsh then (by bus) to the Isle of Skye. After two days at Skye, to Mallaig (by bus and ferry), to Ft. William, to Loch Lomond ending in Glasgow (or the opposite loop direction if anyone reading this thinks there is a benefit in doing so).

Other than the two days and nights we've planned in Edinburg, Isle of Skye and Glasgow, where should we stop for one or more nights along the way. Since we won't have a car, any lodging would have to be accessible by a short taxi ride, bus, walk, etc. from the train station (as would any venues to be visited).

Again thanks for the great comments everyone has posted--even the spelling corrections--seriously I appreciate being corrected when I misspell a word. And (ahem) I think it is Kyle of Lochalsh.

Posted by
2926 posts

Your railway route looks reasonable. If I'm counting your list as 1 night per destination (except where you said 2 nights on Skye), you have about 9 days in all, is that right?

I will mention a couple of points of interest in western Scotland, if you have time to stop.

Loch Awe is a small stop that would require you to take the spur that goes out toward Oban. The Scotrail map indicates you'd change trains in Crianlarich. I think you have to tell them ahead of time if you want to get off at Loch Awe, that's how small it is! The station is right at the visitor centre for the Ben Cruachan "hollow mountain" hydropower station. The exhibits are really interesting and you can take a walking tour under the mountain. The visitor centre has a good cafe. There is a hotel in the village, though I've read it mainly caters to group coach tours.

If you want to experience Loch Lomond, you need to get off at the Tarbet-Arrochar station. You'd take a taxi down the mountain into the village of Tarbet, which has a couple of hotels/B&Bs. At the pier there are boat trips on the loch; see Cruise Loch Lomond. https://www.cruiselochlomond.co.uk/

Hope this helps!

Posted by
5775 posts

...generally what would be the chances of some sun in early May?

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/regional-climates/es#sunshine

This region includes the cities of Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

The number of hours of bright sunshine is controlled by the length of
day and by cloudiness. In general, December is the dullest month and
May or June the sunniest.

The graphs show the average monthly sunshine totals for Dyce and
Braemar, together with the highest and lowest totals recorded in the
stated periods. The sunniest month is May, rather than June, because
of the tendency for settled anticyclonic conditions in late spring
which is a feature of the weather over Scotland as a whole.
However,
this national trend is less marked and even reversed at places close
to the east coast because of the occurrence of sea-fog (haar) in late
spring. Here, June is marginally sunnier than May.

Posted by
214 posts

I've been to Scotland twice in late April/ & early May. First time it was cold, windy, with intermittent clouds and an occasional sun shower. The second time it was sunny and warm...so its kind of like flipping a coin. My friend and I just missed some snow by just 3 days this past time around, but it was hot by the time we arrived (well hot by their standards). I'm from So.California so I think anything there is innately cold compared to what I am used to. I'd just make sure to pack a good coat, an umbrella, a long sleeved shirt (waffle) and some t-shirts as well. You won't want to pack shorts, its way too cold for that...at least for us S.hemisphere folks.

Posted by
1316 posts

Hi Jon
If you haven't gotten your return flight yet, definitely purchase it through the cruise line. We did a Transatlantic last year and that was far and away the best pricing. You can choose flights from just about any location in Europe and also allow return dates several weeks after the cruise. For example we could have flown for as low as $380CAD from Paris but in the end chose Madrid for $509CAD (should have decided when Madrid was down to $445CAD). We were using Celebrity's ChoiceAir but I understand all the major lines work the same way.

As far as weather, we were in Scotland in late May 2013 and got some beautiful sunny warm (no coat) days. We also got windy cooler days (toque required) but not very much rain.

Posted by
4761 posts

Go to Oban instead of Loch Lomond for the night. The Royal Hotel has great proximity to the rail station and to the ferry dock. Ask for one of their refurbished rooms.

The advice about getting off at Tarbet if you do want cruise Loch Lomond was good, "but the taxi down the mountain to town" advice made me shake my head. No mountain , just a steeper incline for about a block and a then an easy 5-10 minute walk to town that is quite pleasant. No taxis waiting at the station, but I suppose you could call one.

We toured Scotland by train and enjoyed it immensely. This gives you so much more of an opportunity to meet and interact with locals . We met some very interesting people and had a great time. Pay attention to distance from the train station when selecting lodging. Also, you need to each be able to handle your own luggage up and down steps of trains. Tempting as it may be to pack a lot for your cruise, you will either need to store part of it later or haul it around Scotland .......

Posted by
103 posts

Jon,

I spent 3 weeks in Scotland last May without a car. I too wanted to take the train to Mailaig and a bus to Portree but unfortunately the busses don't run on Sunday so it didn't work with my itinerary. I did spend 4 nights in Portree and can not recommend enough taking a day tour with Real Scottish Journeys a local guide. Bill is an amazing story teller, you see all the beauty of Skye in a friendly relaxed atmosphere. We stopped for lunch and I had the best scone of my entire trip. The day I spent on that tour was the best day of my trip. You won't regret it. I used Rabbies tours to get myself from Inverness to Portree. I just departed the tour after their stop in Portree. Skye was gorgeous and well worth the time.

Good luck to you,
Kathleen