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Scotland trip details for July--August--comments appreciated

We are taking a family of 4 trip this July-August to Scotland, for roughly 23 days. Haven't been before but have done a lot of research, so thought I would share (for others that might like the details), and also to get input from anyone on ideas or things we may have missed. It seems (a) really beneficial to have a car for touring yourself, and (b) very hard to actually find a car rental place outside the main cities (which is why we are picking up one on leaving Glasgow and keeping it basically as we make the loop all around ending up in Edinburgh. Any good areas we are missing in Scotland here?

  1. DAY1 ARRIVE EDINBURGH—TAKE TRAIN TO GLASGOW AND PARTIAL TOUR
  2. DAY 2 TOUR GLASGOW
  3. DAY 3 PICK UP CAR IN GLASGOW AND DRIVE TO OBAN, TOUR OBAN
  4. DAY 3 OBAN AND IONA
  5. DAY 4 FT WILLIAM, GLEN COE
  6. DAY 5 GLENFINNAN AND DRIVE TO ISLE OF SKYE
  7. DAY 6 ISLE OF SKYE
  8. DAY 7 ISLE OF SKYE
  9. DAY 8 HEAD OUT FROM ISLE OF SKYE, GO TO LOCH NESS, AND END UP IN INVERNESS
  10. DAY 9 INVERNESS
  11. DAY 10 INVERNESS
  12. DAY 11 AVIEMORE AND CAIRNGORMS
  13. DAY 12 PITLOCHRY AREA
  14. DAY 13 PITLOCHRY AREA
  15. DAY 14 PITLOCHRY AREA
  16. DAY 15 ST ANDREWS
  17. DAY 16 ST ANDREWS
  18. DAY 17 STIRLING AREA
  19. DAY 18 STIRLING AREA
  20. DAY 19 LOCH LOMOND
  21. DAY 20 EDINBURGH
  22. DAY 21 EDINBURGH
  23. DAY 22 EDINBURGH
Posted by
569 posts

Just a quick note....I think you might want more time in Oban if you are planning to go out to an island. That alone can be an all day trip. Personally, I skipped both Ft William and Glen Coe on the advice of the person who did my driving itinerary. Glen Coe would be a good stop if you plan on going for a hike, but there is otherwise not much to see. I don't think you need two days in Inverness unless you have a reason for it as there is not a lot to see in the town. You can make a stop at Culloden on your way out of town. It would be better to add another night to Skye. On your drive up to Skye consider skipping Loch Ness, also, it's just a tourist trap. I would highly recommend the drive out to Applecross. I did this on my way down from Skye to Oban. I don't think I would spend two days in in St. Andrews unless you are planning to play a game of golf. It's a pretty small town.

Posted by
5669 posts

If it were me, I would either head straight to Mull from Glasgow and stay there or I would stop and explore Kilmartin Glen and then head to Oban. Oban seems to have a lot of attraction for some people, but it's really a ferry port. It's a sweet little harbor. Get there in time for lunch and then head to Mull. On Mull there are a lot of things to visit and do. Duart Castle has a wonderful location and great history. I stayed in Tobermory and then did a day trip to Fionnphort where I caught tour to Staffa and Iona. I was able to get back to Tobermory by around 7. Other than it being 9/11 it was great trip.

I agree that unless you plan on hiking there isn't that much in Fort William. Glencoe is evocative, but you can do the visitor center fairly quickly. It is a gorgeous drive up the coast to Fort William and then to Mallaig and it takes you right past Glenfinnan. The stop at Glenfinnan is about a half hour. Okay, another way to go would be to take the ferry to Kilchoan. I found this new route when looking on Viamichelin. Or you could take a ferry to Lochaline which would give you a chance to still see Glenfinnan. I am feeling an incredible urge to go back to Mull and make this trip. Ardnamurchan is an amazing place.

I think Inverness is a fine place to stop for a couple of days. First, there is good dining. Second, you can do a easy day trip up to Dornoch or past Golspie to visit Dunrobin Castle, or just stay locally and do a boat trip on the Moray Firth or visit Cawdor Castle, or take a walk on the beach at Culbin Sands. Many people skip past Inverness because they don't see high value sights. Inverness is where modern highland Scots shop and you too spend a little time exploring the shops. I always explore Hazel Passmore's studio. :)

What do you want to do in Aviemore? I would be tempted to stop off and do it on the way to Pitlochry and stay there. There are some lovely drives out of Pitlochry. You can get over to the Cairngorms and down as far as Aberfeldy. Let me know and I can suggest some routes. Also, you should check out what's playing at the Festival Theatre while you're there. The Explorer's garden is good.

You've said you've been researching did you find Undiscovered Scotland? It's a great site.

What is the age spread in your group? That might help too with recommendations.

Pam

Posted by
102 posts

I wonder can you not get an open jaw flight into Glasgow and out of Edinburgh, given your visiting the west first it might save hassle. There is significant disruption on trains to Glasgow this summer - and in any case the train is generally not the best option for traveling from Edinburgh airport to Glasgow. There is a direct bus service with citylink, this is a much better option, see http://www.citylink.co.uk/timetables.php

I certainly wouldn't miss Glencoe, but I would agree with Anita regarding Inverness. It's a nice enough town, but it's only got a population of around fifty thousand and theres not a great deal to see. In your case you'll see many of the nearby sites either side so one night is fine, or you could even bypass it. I would draw a contrast with Glasgow, which is about twenty times the size of Inverness and has infinitely more to see/do, yet you've only got one full day there and 2 in Inverness - I'd maybe switch that round, especially if youve got children/younger members of your group who are perhaps more likely to find more of interest in Glasgow.

St Andrews is not just golf, but 2 days in the town itself may be a bit much - However, I would reccomend spending a day touring the pretty East Neuk villages nearby like Crail and Anstruther. Two days in Stirling is nasybe a bit much too. Base in Loch Lomond for longer and visit Stirling from there.

Have you booked accommodation on Skye already? You're going in peak season and accommodation in Skye can be limited, so you may struggle to find accommodation there if you don't book soon.

Posted by
88 posts

All great thoughts and advice. Let me give a few responses:

1) We are already booked on most of this trip in terms of stops/places to stay/flights. The responses about Skye being hard to book (right there! had to struggle to find a good place!)
2) Ages of our kids are 16 and 21. So basically we are 4 adults (almost) here.

3) As far as Oban, seems opinions differ here about stay longer/stay shorter. But we are basically already booked there. We should have basically one day to explore Oban and surrounding area. The other day there we are doing the Mull/Iona/Staffa tour all day. So I think we have that area covered
4) Ft William and Glen Coe, we are pretty much passing through there all in one day, so sounds like my trip planning was right there to not spend too much time there (but give a bit at least in each that one day)
5) At Inverness, we are basically there for 2 full days. Plan on seeing Inverness itself, plus things a bit outside of it like Culloden, Cawdor Castle, Clava Cairns and make our way up to Ft George. Dunrobin Castle was mentioned--looks like it is quite a drive north. Would it really be worth the drive up to that if we were in Inverness?
6) The plan was to go to Aviemore after Inverness, and just maybe see the Cairngorms area. Maybe the railway there? Would be open to any suggestions of things to do or routes to drive from Inverness to Aviemore.
7) The day after Aviemore, the plan is to drive to Balmoral Castle, and see it and then drive on to Pitlochry. But any suggestions on sights or routes along that way would be appreciated.

8) At Pitlochry, the plan was to explore there, and also use that as a base to explore many surrounding areas from there. Any suggestions on places and sights there would be great to hear. Any suggestions of a specific place to say in the Pitlochry area? Like a B&B or other local place?
9) St Andrews for 2 days--our plan is to play golf one day and then the other day (plus what is left on the golf day) explore St Andrews. Maybe (depending on time) also go to Glamis Castle and/or Dunnator Castle. Any thoughts on whether either are worth the trip? And suggestions for any place to stay at St Andrews or in that area?
10) Haven't booked anything specific for Stirling. Sounds like the consensus is stay instead in Loch Lomond area and use that as the base to visit Trossocks plus Sirling area? Is that the best way to do it? And any suggestions on places to stay in Loch Lomond area?

As far as websites, have been getting good info from Undiscovered Scotland, Rick Steves, Discover Scotland, Trip Advisor, Road to the Isles and Walk the Highlands. Any others that have good unbiased info? Or any other forums specific to Scotland?

On the suggestion of not to use the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow but use bus instead--what is the issue with the train this summer?

Thank you very much for thoughts

Posted by
608 posts

I haven't been to Dunrobin Castle, but from what I've seen about it online, it looks beautiful and would be worth the drive for me, but I love castles. On our tour we were able to comfortably see Culloden, Clava cairns and Cawdor castle in one day and still have some time in the afternoon and evening to explore Inverness. Personally, Inverness was our least favorite stop in Scotland. Aside from a great Indian restaurant and a nice afternoon stoll along the river to a park, we didn't find much we were interested in, unless you are really into shopping. I think I would you would have plenty of time in Inverness to do a day at Dunrobin as well as a day at Culloden, Clava cairns and Cawdor, and still have some time to see a bit of Inverness. Clava Cairns is very small, so it won't take long to visit. Sounds like a fantastic trip!

Posted by
1078 posts

I'm not big on Glasgow, but then again it has been a number of years since I've been there. When we were in Oban we took one whole day to do the ferry to mull, took a driving tour across the island to the harbor that the ferry to Iona and Staffa left from, saw the very cool formations of Staffa and spent some time to see the sights on Iona (also very cool), then back to Oban. This was an excellent day out and it took the whole day. We booked a tour at the info center. Another day we headed to Torosay Castle on Mull. Beautiful place with amazing gardens and statuary. And a third day we went out to Dunstaffnag Castle. So you might want to consider an additional day in Oban, and I would say one less day for St. Andrews to compensate.

You not only have the great things to see on Skye, but just across on the mainland is Eilean Donan Castle (Highlander). We were on Skye on a Sunday when everything was shut down so we managed to snag the one bus that was running back across the bridge to this lovely castle. Do go see it if you get the chance.

From Inverness since we didn't have a car we took the Discover Loch Ness tour and had a great time seeing a Neolithic burial cairn, playing pooh sticks off a packhorse bridge, and touring Urquhart Castle with 6 others and our guide. Also from Inverness a great (and surprisingly for me emotional stop) was the battlefield of Culloden. Clava Cairns is also nearby as is Beauly Priory I believe.

Edinburgh - Castle, Holyrood, Mary King's Close, Craigmillar Castle, Arthur's Seat for the view, Rosslyn Chapel.

Have a great time!

Posted by
102 posts

There are major engineering works at Glasgow Queen St station, meaning most of the platforms are closed and trains are diverted via circuitous routes - Trains from Edinburgh will take about 20-30mins longer than normal. If you're starting from the city centre then the bus and train are still about equal (as the bus takes longer than the train when things are operating normally). However, I presumed you were starting from the airport and in that case the direct bus from the airport is much quicker - this is that case even without any rail disruption.

Glamis castle is attractive, it's probably as easy to visit from Pitlochry and avoids having to drive through the middle of Dundee, which has a fair bit of road construction going on. Dunotter castle is a bit far away from St Andrews tbh, I wouldn't drive all that way there and back just to see a castle unless you were very interested in it. I would tend to spend sqare time in St Andrews in the East Neuk which is just down the road.

Posted by
458 posts

C, As for Glenfinnan I agree with Pam. I'm assuming the viaduct is your focus and you can walk up there and set up to see the train and if you plan it correctly be back to your car in a half hour to 45 minutes. If my plans were to go from Glenfinnan with the next stop Skye I would only view the train cruising over the viaduct and then I would head to Skye. We were in Ft. William for 3 days and loved it but we had time to do several hikes and we did the 1-2 hour hike listed on walkhighlands for the viaduct. If we were heading to Skye I would ration my time for hiking/site seeing on Skye vs taking the extra couple of hours to do the full Viaduct hike. I figure you know to look over the train schedules so you catch a train steaming thru! I found this next site interesting as I prepared to drive around the highlands http://trafficscotland.org/map/index.aspx?type=26 live camera views of roadways in Scotland, pretty handy. i also made my driving a bit easier by doing the whole street level road views for various spots I suspected might be confusing. I used google for that. I envy your time over there!!

Posted by
88 posts

Anyone have any specific recommendations on places to stay they enjoyed in (a) Pitlochry area, (b) Loch Lomond area, and/or (c) St Andrews area?