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Scotland Trip - Itinerary Thoughts?

My wife and I are bringing our 10 year old son to Scotland in June (his first trip abroad). Any thoughts on the following itinerary?

Day 1 - arrive Glasgow;
Day 2 - drive Loch Lomond, up to Fort William;
Day 3 - Harry Potter train near Fort William;
Day 4 - Drive to Inverness (stay in town or somewhere outside?);
Day 5 - train from Inverness to Edinburgh;
Day 6-7 - Edinburgh;
Day 8 - Fly home from Glasgow.

We like to explore by car, but also wanted some time in Scotland's cities. We're hoping this is a trek that makes sense to enjoy a little of both.

Generally we are interested in history, hiking/nature, churches/castles/traditional architecture, small towns, etc.

Any comments, suggestions, things not to miss in these areas would be helpful. Thanks!

Steve

Posted by
3419 posts

I think you are moving too fast. You will want 2-3 days in Glasgow, and 3-4 in Inverness (or more). Also, though Scotland looks small and distances seem short, your drive time will be much more than you think- plus you want to allow time to stop and see all the wonderful scenery. If you want to add a slightly more rural destination, I'd suggest adding Aviemore. It is in the Cairngorm mountains, between Inverness and Edinburgh. Lovely views! There is a funicular up Mt. Cairngorm, a restored steam train that does round trips along the River Spey, a reindeer preserve, a heather center, and the Rothmurchie Estate which has canoeing, horseback riding, walks and hikes and other similar activities. For the adults, there are quite a few wonderful distilleries that give tours in the area, also.

If you only have the 8 days (6 really with arrival and departure taken out), I'd suggest skipping Glasgow and going straight to Inverness. Base there (you can do the Harry Potter train from there) for 3-5 days. Possibly do 1-2 days in Aviemore, then 1-2 days in Edinburgh. Perhaps you could look into flying into or out of Edinburgh (or both).

Posted by
1737 posts

Day 1 - arrive Glasgow;
Day 2 - drive Loch Lomond, up to Fort William;
Day 3 - Harry Potter train near Fort William;
Day 4 - Drive to Inverness (stay in town or somewhere outside?);
Day 5 - train from Inverness to Edinburgh;
Day 6-7 - Edinburgh;
Day 8 - Fly home from Glasgow

Steve, this looks like a good itinerary given the amount of time you have. I've been everywhere you listed except Inverness.
Can you rent a car in Glasgow and return it in Inverness? Is it more expensive? Do you know how much the train tickets are from Inverness to Edinburgh? How will you get from Edinburgh to Glasgow? How much will that cost?

Here are some tips. When we went to Scotland, we also started and ended in Glasgow and rented a car for the entire trip. I suggest you stay at a B&B outside of the major cities and take the commuter train into town. It would be cheaper and more convenient to do that than try to negotiate in the cities and pay for parking. We stayed near the charming village of Uplawmoor, southwest of Glasgow. It took us 5 minutes to drive to the train station and another 20 minutes on the train. We stayed in Linlithgow, which is northwest of Edinburgh. We stayed at a small B&B that was a working farm where they raised Clydesdales. We were 30 minutes from the heart of Edinburgh.

When in Edinburgh, take the Ghost Tour of the Miracle Mile.

The scenery from Glasgow to Fort William is spectacular.

The only change you might want to consider is to go to the Isle of Mull instead of Inverness. Check to see which suits you better. On Mull we stayed at the north end of the island in a village called Dervaig. There's standing stones nearby. We scooted over to Tobermorry, then drove over and caught the ferry to Iona. Outside the abbey there's a graveyard where many Scottish kings are buried, including MacBeth.

Also, if you drove from Inverness to Edinburgh, you could stop at Birnam. There, you can visit Mr. MacGregor's garden (it really existed). Beatrix Potter spent her summers next door when she was a child. You can also see Birnam wood, there are still mighty oaks that were alive when Shakespeare wrote of the Birnam wood in MacBeth.

[Edit] I tend to agree with Toni, you're packing in a lot of stuff in a short period. The idea of basing in or near Inverness might be worth considering. It's only 65 miles or 1 1/2 hours from Inverness to Fort William. Is there any way you could extend your trip 2-4 days? It would be well worth it.

Posted by
4895 posts

You are trying to cover too much in your time and of the places you have suggested, I would drop Inverness, as it is too far off route and is the least interesting city, although the surrounding countryside is attractive. The roads take much longer to get around than looks from a map.

You should spend at least a full day in Glasgow once you have got over your jetlag. Glencoe or the gorgeous Ardnamurchan peninsula, IMO one of the nicest areas in Scotland, can be covered from Fort William, so add a day here.

Scotland has lots of great countryside and you can't hope to cover much of it in 6 days. Personally, I find Aviemore to be one of the tackiest towns that I visited in Scotland and there are more authentic places to visit, but each to their own. Many Scottish towns are disappointing architecturally.

You should book accommodation in advance as June will be busy.

Posted by
1294 posts

I agree with the others, you are probably better looking at this as a two centre rather than four.

If you want to see both Edinburgh and Glasgow, Glasgow is a better place to stay as it is the transport hub.

Posted by
2128 posts

I don't think this is a bad plan, give the short amount of time you have. Of course, I know nothing about the Harry Potter train. I really like Inverness (you don't have to stay in the town) and there's a lot to do in the area. I think you are smart to give yourself two full days in Edinburgh. It's a very beautiful and romantic city with lots of history - my favorite city in Europe. Your mix of driving and train makes sense to me. This will give you a good taste of Scotland.

Posted by
5564 posts

I agree that while this is a lot it is doable. And yes you can ditch the car in Inverness. I've done it. The train ride down to Edinburgh is beautiful.

The drive from Fort William to Inverness is a great one. It's a straight shot up the north shore of Loch Ness. A couple of things to look for are:

  • The Commando Monument---this is just outside of Spean Bridge and commemorates the Commandos who fought in WWII. They trained in this area. There are wonderful views of Ben Nevis as well as the eerie feeling of thinking about all the young men training to fight Hitler.
  • Caledonian Canal--Fort Augustus--the Canal connects the west coast with the east coast through Loch Ness. It's interesting to check out.
  • Urquhart Castle--I love this castle ruin on the shores of Loch Ness. It has a good visitor center. You can stretch your legs after a long drive.
  • Drumnadroichit--this is where all the Nessie tourist spots are. If it's your cup of tea, plan to stop.
  • Hiking--there are some nice walks right around here. If you are interested, I can scare up the directions.

National Car rental had an office in the city Centre of Inverness, which is something to think about. I think it is worth going to Culloden. I find the battle field very evocative. You can also see the Clava Cairns which are quite near by. A visit to Fort George is interesting--it's a working base, but has lots of historical bits and has beautiful views of the Moray Firth.

Alternatively, you could take the train down to Edinburgh, but plan on stopping off at Birnam. There's several lovely walks in the hills of Perthshire that you can do from Birnam and Dunkeld. You could likely leave your bags in a local hotel if you tip the bar maid or barman. I think I tipped the maid staff once to stash a bag.

Pam

Posted by
5094 posts

Hi Steve - lots of good points and suggestions above. In 2013 we rented from Arnold Clark in Inverness and turned the car in at the Edinburgh Airport - no extra charge for picking up and dropping off at different locations.

Are you prepared for driving on the left while sitting on the right?

Are you prepared for a 50% chance of rain at any time? Hiking outside of Fort William is great, if the weather and your time and interests allow. One night in Fort William, most of the pubs and restaurants were completely full, but we went to a great Indian Restaurant and got in before they, too got packed full. Scotland is a great place for Indian!

Posted by
262 posts

Thanks everyone for your replies. Unfortunately, we may be able to add only 1 day to our trip. And the theme seems to be that this is an ambitious itinerary. I love these RS boards because you get so many good ideas from experienced travelers - thanks again for sharing.

Posted by
3254 posts

I assume that you are flying into Glasgow because you are using Icelandair. They also fly out of Aberdeen so it is possible to open jaw if you have not yet bought your ticket. Icelandair does not serve free food to adults but usually it will for children.

Consider getting a self catering cabin around scenic Glencoe and not staying in Ft William which is a small city. You can save a lot of money by cooking yourself, here is one option http://glencoe-cottages.co.uk/ the east cottage is a bit more secluded. It's about a 30 minute drive to Ft William from here. You can access Loch Ness easily from Glencoe also.

As a substitue for the expensive Harry Potter train, you could simply watch it go over the famous Glenfinnen viaduct for free. https://www.google.com/search?q=jacobite+train+glenfinnan&espv=2&biw=1615&bih=869&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwib8ey-987JAhVK1GMKHXZGD5sQ_AUIBygC#imgrc=wcB7L__MeU09bM%3A Parking area not marked as serving the viaduct but it is free.

Also consider just staying in two places instead of 3 for a fairly short trip.

Posted by
30 posts

Steve,

My girlfriend and I completed most of the itinerary you have in about 5 days. Granted the pace was pretty challenging, we managed to see what we wanted to.

We left Orlando at about 7pm (after a full days work) and got into Glasgow at about 8am (both times are estimates, cant remember exact times), rented a car, stopped for a bit at Loch Lomond then headed straight to Ft. William (we were running on adrenaline, so a full day in Glasgow would be good for you to catch your breath) where we proceeded to hike to Steall Falls. I don't think I've ever been so exhausted but it was absolutely worth it.

Day 2 we left Ft. William, toured to Eilean Donan, drove over the Skye bridge and took a boat tour of Kyleakin (which was awesome--seals, salmon fisheries, mountains, and WWII history), then drove from there to Urquahart Castle and Loch Ness and finally settled in Aviemore (recommend booking ahead of time, the town is small).

Day 3 we left Aviemore, toured two distilleries in Speyside then drove down to Dunnotar Castle (one of our favorite castles in Scotland). From there we drove to St. Andrews and toured the course and town for about an hour then made it to Edinburgh by like 9:30pm

Day 4. Hop-on-hop-off tour of Edinburgh--got out to tour Edinburgh Castle and walk up Calton Hill, drove to Haddington to see my great-great grandmothers grave at St. Mary's church, and back to Edinburgh for a drink at a few different pubs.

Day 5. Drove to Berwick-Upon-Tweed (like an hour or so from Edinburgh), spent a few hours visiting the ramparts and town. Drove to Dunbar (which is a really cool city) and then back to Edinburgh and finished the day with a sunset hike up Arthur's seat--then an absolutely phenomenal steak dinner at 'Steak' in Edinburgh--the Aberdeen Angus was awesome :)

Day 6. We rented the car in Glasgow, so on the way back for our 5pm flight, we stopped by Stirling and saw the castle and Wallace Monument, and toured around Glasgow and saw a few of the soccer complexes.

We did a ton at a pretty intense pace but covered everything we wanted to!