Please sign in to post.

Scotland in July (1 week with small children)

Hello! I've done some research for destinations that suit our personality and interests, now I'm hoping to have some feedback regarding how realistic and recommendable these plans/locations are. We are Canadian, so the flight will be long and our children are 6 and 9. We love history (especially me) and my kids are interested in it as well, as long as I (or the guides) are able to bring it to life. We've never driven in the UK, but my husband has driven all over the world, so we are planning to rent a vehicle. My husband is a sommelier, so stopping at a couple Whiskey distilleries would be great. The trip is planned for late July this year. We already have a place to stay in Edinburgh, but we haven't booked Day 5 or 6 yet because we were finalizing the plans.

Day 1 - Edinburgh (we arrive at 7AM)

Day 2 - Edinburgh

Day 3 - Edinburgh

Day 4 - Hadrian’s wall (strongly considering Heart of Scotland small group tour. They only go 3 times per week, this is a Saturday)

Day 5 - Stirling, Highlands, Loch Ness & Inverness

Day 6- Inverness to Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire? (we'd like to be near the castles and distilleries and close to Edinburgh so we can keep the drive short to Edinburgh the next day to catch our flight)

Day 7 - Edinburgh: flight to continental Europe leaves at 5:30PM

Posted by
5669 posts

Wow, for Day 6 you would need Scotty to Beam You Up a few times. :) I guess you could drive it, but I would recommend that you do Stirling as a day trip from Edinburgh and then pick up a car for the trip north. Stirling Castle is a great castle and there are ramparts for kids to see and the kitchen is interesting so it's a good choice. I would drive Inverness on day 5. Bear in mind that this is a four hour drive. If you're looking for a place to stop and stretch your legs there are lots of places to consider. You could stop at Birnam and check out the little Beatrix Potter Garden and go for a walk along the Tay. Just north of Pitlochry are a couple of places--Kiliiecrankie Pass you can go to the visitor center and go for a walk in the woods. If you want a longer break think about Blair Castle. A bit further north and just before Kingussie is the Highland Folk Museum. A bit further north yet in Aviemore is the Strathspey Steam Railway. . If you make a more extensive stop you may not get to Loch Ness that day.

I think you really can't be near Edinburgh, Castles and a Distillery. Maybe someone will come up with a suggestion, but you might be wiser to consider Blair Castle on the way north. I wonder if you should look into staying in Pitlochry. There is a distillery in town. You could do a day trip to Loch Ness on Day 6 and then have a shorter trip south on on day 7.

Pam

Posted by
9 posts

Those are great points/recommendations. I was starting think Pitlochry might be a better option than going all the way to Aberdeen. Truthfully, being Canadian, we are used to long drives and (my husband is Portuguese) so we know the mountain roads will be slow, so we were trying to find ways to see castles but not leave a long drive for the day we need to catch a flight.

I was looking into the tour taking us to Hadrian's Wall and Housesteads Roman Fort. I'm wondering if instead of a tour, we might drive ourselves on a day tour from Edinburgh and stop at Alnwick Castle. This seems fun for the kids (and I'm a huge Harry Potter fan) and might shorten the trip (as we could make our own stops). Any suggestions regarding this and places to visit in that area? Also, if we weren't limited to the days that the tours go out, we could shuffle this tour back to day 2 or 3, which would give us a break between road trips.

Do you suggest maybe leaving Inverness, Culloden & Loch Ness out of this trip and staying in the Cairngorms area to visit castles & distilleries (and maybe just do a day trip to hike in the highlands?)

Posted by
5669 posts

I have made several trips to Scotland, so I am a great believer in saving some things for another trip. The only reason for keeping Loch Ness on your agenda would be that children are intrigued by the monster....If castles are the main interest then head for Aberdeenshire. There are a lot of options.

Pam

Posted by
1247 posts

Pamela is right on with her suggestions. I would leave Hadrian's Wall for another time when you can spend more time in North England.

Posted by
5556 posts

You are trying to cover too much ground, as has already been said. You either need to exclude the Hadrian's Wall trip and focus further north or go to Edinburgh then go to Hadrian's Wall and stay in the gorgeous Northumberland (this never gets a mention on this forum). You have a sensible length of time in Edinburgh.

Scotland option - stay in the Cairngorms rather than head up to Aberdeen (an oil city). Loch Ness is a tacky tourist area, but it may appeal to your youngest. If the weather is grotty (which has been known in Scotland!), it will be a disappointment.

If your husband is the one that is going to be doing the driving, then he won't be able to drink much whisky unless you go on an organised bus tour. Many don't allow children access.

Northumberland - they have plenty of castles - visit Alnwick Castle (Harry Potter), Bamburgh Castle, Holy Island (watch the tides on the causeway), walk on the gorgeous sandy beaches - some of the best in Britain. Durham could be covered as a day trip. This option is far less driving and more "doing" than your northern Scotland option. With only 3 days post Edinburgh, I would go for the Northumberland option. You won't be disappointed!

Posted by
102 posts

If you're coming to see Scotland, castles and distilleries then I wouldn't personally spend half my time in the N of England tbh.

You are trying to do far, far too much though, particularly on days 5-7, you'd need a car that travels at warp speed and would only see the sites as you drove past them at high speed!;-)

Some might argue that if you ve seen Edinburgh castle then Stirling is quite similar, if youre desperate to see it it might be as well done as a day trip by train from Edinburgh. As mentiontioned, parts of Loch Ness are a bit of a tacky tourist trap and there are tbh prettier lochs in Scotland.

I think somewhere like Pitlochry or the surrounding area is a good option. There are distilleries at Edradour just outside the town and at Aberfeldy just down the road. You can also easily visit the likes of Blair castle and Glamis castle. The Highland countryside is very attractive and there are lots of easy/moderate hikes suitable for children. It's also easy to drive back to Edinburgh (about 2hrs).

If you're really into whisky and want to focus on speyside then I would just go there and focus on there, but bear in mind that itll take half of day 5 to get there and the same on day 7 to get back. I wouldn't stay in Aberdeen itself, there's not a great deal for the tourist and the oil industry can make accommodation expensive during the week.

Posted by
1345 posts

I am one of those Outshined mentions who would counsel against both Stirling and Edinburgh castles in the same trip if the time budget is restricted.

I would also counsel against the Highlands and Hadrian's Wall in the same limited trip. You may wish to look into the Scottish Borders and Northumberland. Read up on the Reiver families and you might find something to really appeal to the kids. Nice and gory. Back north look at the Loch Tay Crannog for Scotland before Scotland, Arbroath for the birthplace of the country. Dunadd in Argyll for the other birthplace. I think we have at least three.

I would say distill and concentrate. Remember the Highlands are a big area, stretching from Glasgow's suburbs across the north and west. The part that has the council name is the size of Belgium, and Highland Council covers only part of the Highlands.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you all for your advice and information! I'm VERY thankful! It saddens me to not be able to see Culloden and Inverness (Loch Ness was more for the kids), but I see the wisdom in making the visits more concise and really seeing what my heart is set upon and I love history. I've changed the itinerary and I have 2 options:

OPTION 1:

July 20 - Edinburgh

July 21 - Edinburgh

July 22 - Edinburgh

July 23 (Sat.) - Alnwick Castle, Hadrian’s wall, Housestead Roman fort (day tour from Edinburgh)

July 24 - Stirling & Edinburgh

July 25 - Blair castle, Glamis Castle, Pitlochry, distilleries (overnight in Pitlochry)

July 26 - Edinburgh: Leave around 5:30PM

OPTION 2

July 20 - Edinburgh

July 21 - Edinburgh

July 22 - Edinburgh & Stirling

July 23 (Sat.) - Blair castle, Glamis Castle, Pitlochry, distilleries (day tour from Edinburgh)

July 24 - Alnwick Castle, Hadrian’s wall, Housestead Roman fort

July 25 - Overnight somewhere in Northumberland?

July 26 - Edinburgh: Leave around 5:30PM

If anyone has an opinion about these two options or suggestions to add/reorder things to see in the areas we will be in, we'd be happy to hear your suggestions! Maybe some ideas for the evenings in Edinburgh, since we will be sleeping there many nights.

Posted by
5669 posts

I still don't understand why you are spending so many days in Edinburgh. I love the city, but for a first visit when you want to do so much and you put two huge castles and a distillery in one day it's quite baffling. Can you outline for us what you want to see in Edinburgh?

If you really have your heart set on seeing Hadrian's Wall, then it really makes more sense to center the Scottish portion of your trip around the Borders and save the north for another trip. It's a bit like going to NYC and spending time in Philadelphia while making day trips up to Boston. :)

In the Borders there are lots of interesting things to see and do--Traquair House--complete with a maze, the abbey's Jedburgh, Melrose, Kelso etc, Floors Castle, Abbotsford, and if you really want to get into a moody Border Castle, try Hermitage. Or when you're in Stirling head north a bit and visit Doune. I think that they'll let your kids borrow the coconuts.

Pam

Posted by
9 posts

Hi Pam,
Actually, we're not really tied to Edinburgh, although we've heard it's amazing. Honestly, I'm happy pushing the trip to stay in the Borders, but I don't know much about the area (so your recommendations are priceless). I am trying to do research, but it's tough when you don't have much of a clue where to begin. I'm happy to shorten the stay in Edinburgh in order to maybe stay a couple of nights in Pitlochry and maybe a couple in the Borders, but I didn't know there was a lot to see there. I've loved your suggestions so far (I've researched them after I had the name/location), but beforehand I didn't really know where to start. When I've looked online on sites and other posts, people are going from Isle of Skye, to Ary to Glasgow, Inverness, Edinburgh... It's tough to know what is a "must see." I really appreciate your help and suggestions. Does an itinerary like this make more sense:
July 20 - Edinburgh (The Royal Mile)

July 21 - Edinburgh (caves, ?)
July 22 - Alnwick Castle, Hadrian’s wall, Housestead Roman fort (overnight in Borders)

July 23 - Borders: Traquair House, Melrose, etc...

July 24 - Stirling, Doune & Pitlochry (overnight in Pitlochry)

July 25 - Blair castle, Glamis Castle, distilleries (overnight in Pitlochry)

July 26 - Edinburgh: Leave

Posted by
102 posts

There's obviously quite a lot to see in Edinburgh, but as cities go it's medium to small sized (roughly half a million population) so 2 or 3 days is fine. If you're flying in from Canada you need to take into account jetlag for the first couple of days though, particularly with children - I suspect you'll find all they want to do on your first day is sleep and they won't have much interest in sightseeing!;-)

I don't think there are necessarily any must sees, it all depends on your specific interests. Whilst it's a pleasant area, tbh I wouldn't personally say the borders or hadrains wall are must sees, but you obviously have a specific interest in them so that's a must do for your itinerary.

The basics of the last itinerary you posted are probably a good choice. However I think youre still trying to pick too much into some days. The 22nd is a lotonce you build in time to pick up a car etc. The 25th is likely too much, you will struggle to see the 2 castles and distilleries. Best pick one castle and the distilleries. You obviously know your own kids best, but I suspect many children (and quite a few adults!) would find visiting more than one distillery quite boring - Unless you're a connoisseur who's interested in the technicalities then one distillery can be much like another!;-)

If your flight doesn't leave till 530pm on your final day then you don't need to stay in Edinburgh the night before. It's less than 2 hours drive from Pitlochry so you can comfortably leave around lunchtime and easily make your flight. In the morning you could maybe do a visit to somewhere, perhaps Stirling castle on the way south.

Youre coming in peak season too, so some touristy places may be quite busy with tourists, particularly in Edinburgh and Pitlochry. There are other towns in the Pitlochry area that are good substitute if you want somewhere in the same area but not as busy like Dunkeld and Aberfeldy.

Posted by
1345 posts

Given your time budget, one or either of the Highlands or Borders is doable, probably not both. You will want to recover the jet lag so I would keep the couple of days in the capital. But as others are saying, if you want to see more of Scotland and border England you need to cut there.

If you are hiring a car, don't bother with the last night in Edinburgh. As said above Edinburgh International is on the western outskirts of the capital and an hour or two drive from much of South Eastern and Central Scotland. I would rationalise this to a two centre break - Edinburgh and one other place and use the other as a base. Castles and distilleries are found across the country, and the ones in the Borders are not quite the ones you'd expect.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you to everyone who offered their feedback! It was very useful to help guide my research!
Cheers!