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Scotland Planning Help?

I posted my full 2 week plan on the England forum but I need some specific help with just the Scotland portion of our upcoming late summer trip. There will be 6 of us (Us parents and 4 adult-ish kids). Thanks in advance!

Here are a couple notes about the trip:

-We will have about 5-6 nights in Scotland after visiting England

-We fly in and out of London (tickets purchased)

-We HAVE! to see Fairlie and Paisley - Husband's grandparents were from there

-Kids Really Really want to see some of the Highlands

Below is my tentative plan but I need help with some specifics:

-best way to handle the portions of stay so that Fairlie/Paisley visit, Edinburgh and Rosslyn visit and the Highlands tour can all work?

-does renting a car make sense (worried about finding bus/taxi/Uber for Fairlie coast visit)?

1 - Taxi to Bristol from Cotswolds, Fly (EasyJet?) to Edinburgh, sleep in Edinburgh

2 - Explore Edinburgh, sleep in Edinburgh

3 - Explore Edinburgh, sleep in Edinburgh

4 - Rent a car, see Rosslyn Chapel then drive to Paisley, sleep in Paisley/Glasgow?

5 - Drive to Fairlie (25 miles E of Paisley on coast), then back to explore Paisley, sleep in Paisley/Glasgow?

6 - All day minibus tour to Highlands (Robbies?), sleep in Paisley/Glasgow?

7 - Drive to Edinburgh, return car, train to London (arriving by 6pm?), sleep in London

Posted by
5625 posts

I was going to suggest flybe as a possible additional airline consideration, but I see that their only connections with Bristol are the Channel Islands, although we used flybe in Scotland to/from other airports.

You asked whether renting a car was worthwhile, and we’ve found that having our own wheels helped getting around on our schedule and to our more out-of-the-way destinations, but you also mentioned that you were a group of 6, so with baggage and all, you may want a van yourselves, even if you’ve been in one of Rabbie’s, too.

If you do rent, consider picking up and returning your vehicle at an airport or other site away from a busy city center. Glasgow was a great place to visit, but we wouldn’t want to drive there. Driving on the left was less of a hassle in more outlying areas, without dealing with big-city traffic and navigating, too.

Posted by
611 posts

Hi there,
A taxi from the Cotswolds could be very expensive indeed. Most taxis cannot accommodate 6 people, so you would need to be certain that you had booked a van/people carrier that can take that many people. Depending where you are in the Cotswolds it might be easier/cheaper to get to a railway station (e.g. Cheltenham) and from there head to either Birmingham or Bristol from where you could get your flight to Edinburgh. It might even work out OK to catch the train from either Cheltenham or Birmingham to Edinburgh. It doesn't take that long once you've factored in getting to an airport and the check in times etc. There are also various railcard permutations (e.g. 'two together' which might save you quite a bit of money).

For your rental car you will need to specify that you need a people carrier that can accommodate all of you and your luggage. Most 7 seat people carriers in the UK have a very narrow row of seats in the back which wipes out the boot (trunk) space. You will probably need a proper mini van. Check carefully with your rental company.

If you are visiting Paisley it might be easier/more convenient to stay overnight there than backtracking back into Glasgow. You could even choose one of the airport hotels (Glasgow airport is really in Paisley anyway not Glasgow). We usually use the Holiday Inn Express (which has parking for £8 per night).

I would then see Paisley in the morning before heading to the coast later in the day. I'd find accommodation there rather than coming back to Paisley/Glasgow. Largs is a nice little town just north of Fairlie - which a famous ice cream parlour (Nardini). But Fairlie might be perfectly good too - I don't know as I've not been there.

As you've got a car/van you could fairly easily drive across the Erskine bridge, up the A82 alongside Loch Lomond and then head towards Glencoe. You could explore Glen Etive (beautiful with lots of red deer), before looping back via Crianlarich and Callander towards Stirling, where you could overnight before returning your car and continuing to London.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
102 posts

I'd agree about a taxi from the Cotswolds - Although you could probably find a local taxi company that'll offer you a pre booked fixed price transfer by people carrier to BRS or Birmingham airports. You'd need to search for this yourself online. If you're taking the train, Birmingham airport may be easier cause there's a station at the airport (there's no station at BRS airport). Flybe fly from Birmingham to EDI.

However, the simplest option of all major be to take the train all the way! Crosscountry trains (https://www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk) have a direct train pretty much hourly through the day from Cheltenham spa station to Edinburgh. It takes about 5.5h, but you just get on and it takes you all the way, no messing about. I guess it depends where exactly you're starting out - if you're nearest Bristol or Birmingham then fly, if your nearer Cheltenham then train.

Wrt the rest of your trip - Imo you don't need to hire a vehicle for this. As mentioned having a car in Glasgow isn't a good idea, it's busy, difficult to park and there are lots of one ways, bus lanes etc with cameras to catch you and issue automatic fines. The same goes for Edinburgh, but worse (so even if you do get a car, don't pick it up in central Edinburgh!).

  • Rosslyn chapel can be visited by bus from central Edinburgh. Take the 37 bus from north bridge or Princes Street - you can find details if you search Google for this.

  • You can take the train to Glasgow. See www.scotrail.co.uk. Incredibly frequent service via many routings, espress trains on the Falkirk high routing run every 15 mins and take 45-50mins. You do not need to book, just turn up and go. There are a few direct trains to paisley from Edinburgh too, although they take a while.

  • Paisley has about 10 trains and hour to and from Glasgow central station - journey time is as little as 11mins. Turn up and go.

  • Fairlie has hourly direct trains to and from Glasgow central station, about 50mins journey time. Turn up and go.

  • There is a local bus service (number 585A and 585) which runs through Fairlie every half hour up and down the coast. Search stagecoach west Scotland 585A.

  • As you probably know, there are a number of companies offering day tours to the Highlands from Glasgow, including Rabbies and discover Scotland. It's probably best to stick to the west highlands - loch Ness is a long way away and, some might argue not particularly worth the journey.

So you don't need a car to visit any of the places you mention. If you don't have a car the best place to stay is Glasgow city centre as it's got the best transport links to where you're going, as well as being where the tours depart from. I'd suggest that there's a good amount to see in Glasgow itself.

Although Paisley has one or two points of historical interest and is of interest to you for personal reasons, it's not really somewhere that offers much for tourists and as such I'd disagree about staying there - I really wouldn't recommend staying in Paisley tbh. You'll gain a lot (in terms of access to accomodation and restaurants) by staying in Glasgow, and lose very little cause Paisleys only 11mins away by train.

So all the above is without a car - if you really decide you want a car then:

  • Don't pick up in Edinburgh centre! Pick up at the airport - on the he right side of town for heading west.

  • where to stay is more problematic - car in Glasgow is not great, even in paisley it could be a bit of a pain (and I wouldn't stay in paisley anyway). GLA airport is easy to access by car and park, but pretty boring the rest of the time and poor access to restaurants etc - other than pricey chains in the airport! Staying in largs may be best in this case.

  • If you've got a car, why take a rabbies tour? Just drive up to loch Lomond and Glencoe yourself.

Posted by
102 posts

Continued.........

So, I'd suggest the choice is either - do it all by public transport and tour, staying in Glasgow, or get a car and stay in largs and do the Highlands day trip by yourself.

Either way your final day doesn't make sense - why drive back to Edinburgh to travel to London? - there are perfectly good rail and air services from Glasgow.

If you haven't got a car and are in Glasgow then the best option is probably the train. Virgin trains (https://www.virgintrains.co.uk) run a direct hourly service from Glasgow Central to London Euston that takes about 4.5hrs. You might also want to consider the overnight sleeper train (www.sleeper.scot), which would let you travel overnight and have more time in Scotland and London.

If you've got a car then the easiest is to drive to Glasgow airport, hand the car back there (you should easily get a one-way rental) and fly to London from there. There are very regular flights to all 6 London airports with BA, easyJet and Loganair.