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Scotland/London this May/June

We are taking our daughter to London and Scotland (a treat before she starts Med school in August) and will have roughly 9 full days for sightseeing. Our plan is to see London, Edinburgh and Inverness. My daughter would love to see Isle of Skye but until I know more about travel time through the highlands that's optional. Our flights will be in/out of London (Heathrow). I have several questions:
1.) We're thinking it would be better to travel immediately from London to Edinburgh then on to Inverness and save seeing London for last. In any event we plan to take the train to and from. I'd love suggestions on the best ticket to buy, if the sleeper cabins are worth it, etc. I personally would prefer our own space, more room to move around, etc.
2.) We will take the train from London to Edinburgh but are thinking it would be good to rent a car to go on from there to Inverness - just for more flexibility. Most of what I've read of the tours out of Edinburgh say there's too much "riding time" so we aren't excited about doing any of those.

3.) Isle of Skye seems like a trip unto itself, especially good for hikers and definitely one where a car is needed.

We're pretty much set with our London plans but I'd love any and all suggestions about how much time to spend in each of Edinburgh and Inverness and what to see while we are there.


Posted by
388 posts

With only 9 days, I think the Isle of Skye may not fit into your itinerary. London deserves at least 2-3 days minimum and Edinburgh about 2 days. Inverness is light on sights but most folks use it as a home base for seeing Loch Ness and the Highlands. If you are certain you are doing Inverness, try to book a highlands tour in the US before you go or rent a car and do it yourself.

As for transportation, since you are relatively short on time, I would skip the night train to Scotland and do a direct budget flight. You can fly direct on Easy Jet from London to Inverness, then train south ending in London. You could also do a direct flight from Edinburgh to London as well saving some time and money. Look on for budget flights. For trains, you can find times and prices on

Finally, on Skye, you can take a 3.5 hour bus from Inverness one way. Skye usually takes a good 2 days or more to do it justice. If you cut out Inverness you could probably do it, but not both. I hope this helps some.

Posted by
7176 posts

Best of luck to your daughter in med school, and what a great treat beforehand! You may want to consider a cheap flight from London to Edinburgh instead of the train. We're going this August for 2 weeks and were originally considering seeing a bit of England (Cumbria and Hadrian's Wall) along with Scotland. With the time we think we'll want to tour the Highlands, Skye, and Orkney Islands, etc. we've decided to save England for another trip. We're flying in and out of Heathrow from the USA, with immediate flight connections to Edinburgh. On a trip way back in Feb. 2000, we had a few days in London first, then took the train to Edinburgh. It was so cold and raining so hard when we reached a stop that would've given us the option of visiting Hadrian's wall that we stayed on board and continued to Edinburgh, and so that remains on our "Must See Sometime" list. Anyway, the train's pleasant enough, but not that long a trip - only 4 1/2 to 5 hours. I don't know if a sleeper service is available on any evening/night trains, but you won't get a full night's rest. The British trains are pleasant, but pricey. If you're flying into Heathrow and considering going straight to Edinburgh, you're already at the airport -- just get on an Edinburgh-bound plane. If you took the train, you'd have to get yourselves into London first in order to catch the train, taking time and money. Have a great trip -- hopefully by going in the Spring you'll miss the midges that we'll be dealing with in August!

Posted by
9110 posts

When you arrive you're going to be standing in an airport. Walk to another gate and hop a flight to Edinbugh. BA or VA ought to be able to do it for a hundred bucks and you'd be there in a bit over an hour.

Rent a car at Turnhouse and start driving. Inverness is about three hours north. If that's too much the first day, Pitlichry is at the midpoint and makes a good overnight stop.

There's no real need to spend the night in Inverness since it doesn't offer much for a short trip. Pick somewhere else. Two nights in the hinterlands should be enough.

When you're done with that part, and all your driving, drop the car at either Turnhouse or Waverley.

You can only give a couple nights to Edinbugh since you'll need as much as you can for London.

Fly or train back to London.

Skye won't work due to time.

Posted by
2145 posts

I don't usually post when others have given such good advice, but I have to second the vote to fly to Edinburgh from London. Or, if you do opt for the train, get 1st class. I thought my husband was going to kill me for smashing him into a 2nd class seat for 4 1/2 hrs.after flying from the west coast. The train was full and the scenery was not that special.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you so much everyone for the advice. I'm not what you'd call a seasoned traveler and I really appreciate the straight forward advice.

We are now flying to Edinburgh and back from London. Also looking at side trips out of Edinburgh to visit instead of going to Inverness. Can anyone recommend any good side trips that don't involve hours of drive time? I'm into watching the scenery but my husband and daughter are all action. Is it worth a trip to Loch Ness? We are not golfers - is St. Andrews worth the trip?

Posted by
7176 posts

Susan, one destination we're planning on is Stirling, with Scotland's "other" great castle (after Edinburgh's), and other sights. It's less than an hour west of Edinburgh -- Rick's book has lots of details. Also, just southeast of Stirling is Falkirk, with the Falkirk Wheel, a relatively new and unique contraption that transfers canal boats between one canal and another, and the canals are at different elevations, over 100 feet difference in height. You can do a boat tour that includes a ride on The Wheel, or rent bikes and tour the area on bike paths. There are lots of other options near Edinburgh, but Stirling/Falkirk is close and appears to have lots to offer.

Posted by
792 posts

I was underwhelmed by Loch Ness. It is huge and scenery is beautiful. But in my opinion, it wasn't any more beautiful than the other things I saw and can be very out of the way depending on your home base.

Posted by
3 posts

Are you absolutely committed to going to both London and Scotland? There is so much to see in both places that the 9-day time frame will not do either justice. I would suggest spending all 9 days in London and save Scotland for another trip. Believe me, you will still not see everything there is to see in London in 9 days, but if you want to get out of the city there are very nice easy day trips. For example, Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Windsor, Stonehenge. I've lost count of how many times I've been to London and there are still things to check off. I'm going to Scotland for the first time in June, and I'm finding a week and a half isn't enough. Whatever you do, you will have a wonderful time!

Posted by
15 posts

If you did 3-4 days in London and 2 days in Edinburgh, that would leave 3-4 days for trips outside those cities.
Out of Edinburgh we enjoyed
-Stirling, you could stop at Culross on the way
-St Andrews and Anstruther
-You could take the ferry out to Inchcolm island and abbey

Out of London we took a day tour that hit: Avebury, Stonehenge, Old Sarum and Salisbury which was fun.