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Scotland Summer 2023

Thinking about Scotland with our college student and newly graduated high school student (next summer). We would have 10-12 days.

Thinking these cities: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Loch Lomond (day trip from Glasgow?), Loch Ness/Iverness, Islay, maybe for whiskey, and Melrose (abbey).

I'm assuming we can go carless for Glasgow and Edinburgh. One city better than another for a base? What is a needed amount of time for each? If we stay in Edinburgh, 3 nights, I would choose to day trip to Glasgow or vice versa. We want to see the sites, but are generally happier in the country and away from cities.

From Edinburgh, day trip to Melrose Abbey? Is this doable?

Then rent a car and do 3 nights in Loch Lomond and 2 nights in Loch Ness, hiking, downtime, lakes, etc....

Where to fit in Islay? Swap it out for either Loch Lomond or Loch Ness? Worth spending time there or just get whiskey somewhere else in Scotland esp. since the teens are not old enough to drink and won't.

Should we spend any time in Aberdeenshire on the Castle Trail?

Thanks!

Posted by
6803 posts

To help with research I’d buy and read the RS Scotland book. His books are designed to help with travel decisions….i.e. where to go…:what to see…how to get there, etc. Intel provided very useful in determining an itinerary.

FYI both your children could have an alcoholic beverage at a restaurant in Scotland.

Posted by
15 posts

Hi Claudia, Yes, I know they can drink in Scotland. They will choose to abstain for personal reasons, I am quite sure :-) Therefore, I don't want to drag them to an all day adventure if there are not other things to see in Islay. Yes, I have some guide books on the way and have some done some Google mapping routes already. Mostly, I'm looking to see if this itinerary is realistic in 10-12 days. Thanks!

Posted by
1041 posts

Hi, PNW Rovers,

I would definitely add the Rough Guide to Scotland to the RS Guide. It's far more comprehensive. What do you plan to see in and around Loch Lomond? There is a boat trip from Balloch that will give you a tour of the loch, and you can climb Ben Lomond to claim a Munro, but other than that there's not a whole lot to see.

Pretty much the same thing with Loch Ness. A lot depends on your interests. The best views of the loch are actually from the East side. The boat cruises are very popular, but overcrowded. You'd be better served taking a walk through the Ness islands, and along the Caledonian Canal. There are much prettier lochs a short drive from Inverness.

With only 10 to 12 days, you're not going to have time to do both Islay and the Castle Trail. Personally, I'd go to Islay, but not for the whisky. It's a beautiful island, and there's a lot to see that doesn't involve alcohol.

If you do the Castle Trail, Dunnottar, Craigievar, and Fyvie should be at the top of your list, plus Haddo House.

At least you have plenty of time for decision making.

Very best wishes for your travels. You will love Scotland!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
2700 posts

My trip report from June may have some helpful nuggets in it. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/trip-report-scotland-the-search-for-jamie-fraser

  • Edinburgh is more tourist friendly, Glasgow is a big city that happens to have interesting sites.
  • Both are worthy of multiple day stays.
  • Edinburgh is more compact to see the sites but you need more than a day. Glasgow is spread out and worthy of extra days but I'd skip it if it's for a day trip only.
  • choose one and do a daytrip to Stirling instead.
  • Rabbies Tours has a daytrip that includes Melrose. It may be more convenient than renting a car for the day. https://www.rabbies.com/en/tour-search
  • It's slow driving up to Loch Ness even though the distance doesn't seem far. 2 nights = 1 day and that may not be enough to do much hiking. But the scenery around Ness and Lomond is spectacular.
Posted by
4486 posts

Melrose Abbey by itself might not be worth a separate trip. By car it’s only an hour away, but using public transportation seems to take a lot longer. If you had the rental car you could also visit Jedburgh Abbey and Dryburgh Abbey. Both are nearby to Melrose, as is the temporarily closed Kelsey Abbey. Also nearby is Thirlestane Castle. Watch the Historic Environment Scotland website since a number of abbey ruins are only partially open due to ongoing repairs to ensure walls don’t fall on people.

Posted by
15 posts

Thank you for helpful replies! Good to know about the loch's and yes, we would be hiking. No interest in a boat trip or hanging out with many other visitors. Trying to take into account midges. Appreciate the feedback.

Posted by
1041 posts

Hi again, PNW Rovers,

After taking a second look at your itinerary, if you are definitely planning to visit Islay, you should probably base yourselves in Glasgow, and take a day trip or two to Edinburgh. That way, you can drive from Glasgow to Kennacraig for the ferry. I'd recommend going from Kennacraig to Port Askaig, then Port Ellen back to Kennacraig.

The A82, your main road to get from Glasgow to Kennacraig, runs along the west shore of Loch Lomond. You can stop at Balloch and Luss to see pretty much all of Loch Lomond you need to see. At Tarbet, you can take your final view of Loch Lomond, then head west and south on the A83 for Kennacraig.

After you visit Islay, you can head straight north through Oban and Fort William on your way to Inverness. At Fort Augustus, head north on the B862/B852 for the best views of Loch Ness.

There are some good hikes on Islay, as well along the east bank of Loch Ness. Check out the WalkHighland website for some ideas.

If you do decide to do the Castle Trail, you can loop around toward Aberdeen once you're done with Inverness. It's a little over 3 1/2 hours from Inverness to Aberdeen via the A96, although you'll reach Fyvie and Craigievar before you reach Aberdeen.

A lot will depend on your arrival location in Scotland. Both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports have easy access into the cities.

Give those guidebooks a good going over. You can probably order them through ILL if your local library doesn't have them. That way, you'll know which ones you want to buy.

Once again, my very best wishes for your travels.

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
385 posts

Re age for drinking
How old are your children?. The legal age for drinking alcohol in pubs is 18 however they can drink beer cider or wine with a meal at 16 when bought by you

Posted by
3414 posts

Big Mike, or maybe they'll be glad to avoid the health and other risks that come with drinking, especially if one or both are women.

Posted by
15 posts

Regarding drinking, I will politely offer this: one has a health condition and that student will not touch alcohol for that reason. The other is on the spectrum and we can barely get that student to ingest more than a vitamin. We don't know each other's stories. It's a strange day when one feels chided for not exposing their kids to alcohol while on a trip. Never mind that all their family members love good food and excellent wine and whiskey. They do not lack exposure to alcohol. They just choose to abstain. Thanks for understanding.