We are planning a trip with two families. 4 adults 5 kids for Summer 2019. Last trip to Ireland was adults only and we did not book anything ahead of time. I am guessing that would not be reasonable with the number of people we have. We plan on going all over but generally don't like to create a schedule ahead of time. We are more go with the flow type of travelers. I am wondering if it is reasonable to pick one hotel/resort location and drive from that location for the whole trip or if we should try and stay at multiple locations? Also wondering what would be the least busy time from beginning of June to middle of August? Or is that time all about the same?
Staying in one location means you’re not going to see the whole country. Scotland may look small on the map but travelling to popular, remote areas is time consuming. You may need two or three bases.
The months become increasingly busy as summer progresses. The world comes to Edinburgh in August - a wonderful madhouse.
June will be slightly quieter, but this is a time popular with those not tied to school holidays, so it won’t be quiet.
How long is the trip? What does “all over” mean? Do you have weeks and weeks to see all of Scotland?
Some places like Skye with a group of 9 will need to be booked before Christmas if you are travelling in August. For Edinburgh in August, book now.
The N500 route has become swamped with visitors, so you will stand a better chance of finding accommodation in summer if you pick an alternative route.
The friends and family rail pass might be of interest to you if you consider alternate transportation.
I would put Oban on the list. It is an interesting location and the ferries out to the islands would have something for everyone. If you were interested in a tour, I can highly recommend West Coast Ferries, 3 island tour.
I think you need to provide a bit more information to get focussed help.
1. What are your interests? Hiking, history, distilleries etc.....
2. Do you like big cities, remote, wild locations, or both?
3. Are you planning to rent a cars or a mini bus or try to do this by public transport? Public transport will greatly restrict the areas you can access, car rentals will require reservations on the ferries.
As others have said you need to be thinking about booking accommodation by Christmas. Your numbers will be difficult to accommodate in small B&Bs in rural areas. Edinburgh will be very, very busy in August due to the festival.
Given the size of your party, "going all over but generally don't like to create a schedule ahead of time" would pose a major challenge. You could easily get stuck sleeping in the least desirable / most overpriced accommodations on many nights.
If you wanted to rent a house and make day trips in various directions, that could be fun and economical -- but you would see less of Scotland that way than if you spent 3 nights here, 3 nights there, etc.
Early June will be a little less busy than July and August because many schools & universities are still in session in June, not just in Britain but also in the USA and other countries. And the days are longest surrounding the solstice, making June a great month for sightseeing.
One other thought is about rental car(s). Personally I'd rather not drive a big van ("people carrier") on Scotland's roads. I'd also prefer the flexibility of having two cars for two families so that if a couple of the kids (or spouses!!) are having a feud they can ride separately for a day.
June would be your best bet for travel. Scots children don't start their school hols until early July, and England is pretty much the same. There is greater competition for accommodation in July, and especially August.
As others have replied, you definitely don't want to pick just one location and make day trips. It can be done, but you'd miss so much. With the size of your group, B&Bs and many hotels are not practical. Your best options would be self-catering or hostels. Self catering is available all over Scotland, and there are many excellent houses/flats available for short term rentals. On the other hand, there are some dire accommodations listed as "charming," "cozy," "conveniently located," etc. If you decide to go the self-catering route, be sure to check out reviews on a reputable website.
Hostels have come a long way from the rough cold water only bunkhouses of years ago. Many now have all mod cons, including hot showers, cooking facilities, and comfy beds with actual linens. Some of us are old enough to remember the old SYHA hostels with scratchy blankets and the requirement that you had to bring or rent a sleeping sheet. You can even rent out entire hostels for your group. I can highly recommend the Skyewalker Hostel in Portnalong, and the Rum Bunkhouse, if you do some island traveling.
As far as transportation, as epitd pointed out, a "people carrier" isn't practical for a lot of single track Scottish roads. Although I've seen many of them on roads where they had absolutely no right to be. But if the designated driver has nerves of steel, then by all means go for it. Best to avoid any roads that are designated as unsuitable for caravans. Unless you really want to try the Bealach na Ba! You didn't say how long you are going to be in Scotland, so you'll probably have a lot of luggage as well, including entertainment for the kids. Be sure to take that in to consideration when you're choosing your rental vehicle(s).
Best wishes for your holidays. Be sure to take in some of Scotland's stunning beaches, which the kids (and the adults) will really enjoy!
It would help to know the ages of the children. Look at the self-catering options. You are a big crowd, so I would plan early.
If you've not been to Scotland before, you'll want to spend some time in Edinburgh. That would be one place. And from Edinburgh, there are some nice little day trips that could be taken. If you don't always want to travel in a pack. For example, your golfing fiends could do a day trip to St. Andrew's while others could head over to Glasgow and tour the Tenement House or the Riverside Museum. Or do a tour that takes you to the Abbey's. There is a lot of variety.
I would then find two other places to stay. I love the Inverness area. My reasoning is that you can get to the west, the north and the center for day trips and you can pick your direction depending on the weather. Other locations might be in the west, or in Aberdeenshire.
I suggest that you play around with the VisitScotland Accommodation site. You tell them how many adults and how many children and they make suggestions.
We are interested in history, breweries, castles, nature. Kids will be ages 18, 15, 12, 10, 8. We know we will need to rent 2 cars at least part of the time. I was thinking we would need to plan more than we normally do with this many people so all of these suggestions and comments are very helpful. I would not have thought about booking train tickets in advance. We were thinking we would have to do Air b&b or VRBO. We have liked doing that in the past. It helps save money on meals with a group this large. We will be booking airline tickets and accommodations in the next 4-6 weeks. I will have everyone in our group put down their must sees and we can figure out how many different places we need to stay to make that work.
Hi again rosettajr
If you do end up looking at self catering properties then in addition to VRBO and Airbnb many providers here list their properties with agents such as Unique Cottages, Wilderness Cottages and also don't discount booking.com as there are many self catering places on there too.
Early June is likely to offer more choice as it won't be school holidays here and in my opinion the weather tends to be a bit more reliable in June than August, although of course it can (and does) rain at any time here.
I agree with Skye Girl. Look outside the standard sites for self-catering. Scotland has had the self-catering option for decades and had a system in place prior to Air B&B. They have rating system too for self-catering just as they do for hotels. When I looked up space for 9 people on the Visit Scotland site quite a few places came up for next June.
I did something similar with 12 people (ages 9-18 plus adults) this past summer and 8 people in France a few years ago. I agree with a lot of what other posters are advising. The major lessons that I took away from our trip this summer were: Scotland is not well designed for large groups at b&bs and for places that I didn't book before Christmas, we were stuck out of town which made for difficulties with dinner. Also check for any highland Games going on while you're there.
Assuming that you have about 10-12 days, I would start in Edinburgh then rent two cars and base myself in a house or the dorms of St Andrews and day trip out from there and then a few days in Inverness and a few days on Skye and one or two nights in Glencoe seeing the Jacobite Steam train and the white sand beaches of Morar en route to Glencoe and then end in Glasgow for one night.
Things you need to book in advance: accommodations especially Skye, Jacobite Steam Train (at least 4 months in advance) and the rental cars(a month or two in advance) I hope that helps.