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Scotland with 2 adult children

Last year, I went on RIck Steve's Alp Tour and Loved it!

This year, my 26 & 28 year old and I are heading to Scotland. We have seven nights total. We arrive from U.S. to Edinburgh on a Saturday late April, and plan to stay 2 nights. That leaves 5 more nights until we fly to the west of Ireland for a week. I'll get them to do one or two history tours total (stirling castle?) We like to wake and hike for a few hours, have lunch somewhere and I taxi back (my son likes challenging, I like moderate - we separate and meet up later) We love spectacular scenery. They like hip scotch distilleries and pubs. Great food. Off the beaten path. I like charming, authentic small towns. We'd all like to keep away from tourist areas. They're both adventurous.

I worry about spending too much time getting to the islands (particularly if it's raining). Is Fort William a good base? The South west? I'm confused about where exactly the Highlands are - Fort Williams area and Inverness, too? Is Inverness worth the long drive? We could leave Edinburgh, see Stirling and go one place for 2 nights, another place for 2 nights and spend the last night in Edinburgh to catch our plane. So, question: Edinburgh 2 nights; someplace else 2 nights; someplace else 2 nights, Edinburgh last night. (9 a.m. flight). What do you think? Fort William area and Inverness? South West Lake District and Fort William? Fort William area plus one of the Islands? My son will drive, but I don't want to be in the car the whole time after flying for ten hours nonstop across the Atlantic. Also, if Fort William does come up, I'd rather stay in a more charming location. Suggestions for a base? Thank you so much!

Posted by
5668 posts

Hi Eileen, For such a little country there sure are a lot of possibilities aren't there? To start, I think you've got the right amount of time in Edinburgh. :) So your list is:

  • Spectacular scenery
  • Distilleries
  • Pubs
  • Good food
  • Charming villages
  • Hiking
  • A bit of adventure

First of all the highlands is a vast area of Scotland that is basically north of the Central Belt--Glasgow to Edinburgh nexis. How far north it starts can be debated. Back in the olden times, Stirling was the gateway to the highlands. Today, if you're in Perthshire and north most would call that the highlands. Second, I think you're right that going to the islands uses up a lot of time. I love the west, but you can see beautiful Scotland without going to the islands or north of Loch Ness.

Here are some towns to think about:

  • Dunkeld--there are lots of walks in this area. If your son has not yet found walk highlands, send him to this link. There are short walks that you can access from town as well as more rigorous walks. There is a lovely pub, the Cathedral and its a sweet little town. If your son has the car, you could take the train up to Blair Castle and see it. Or stop at Pitlochry and check out the Explorer's Garden. But Pitlochry might be a town to stay in as well. There are two distilleries--Blair Atholl and Edradour. There is also a theatre. I've not done the walks in this area, but I bet there are some. Another day trip would be to drive over up to queen's view off the A9 and the west to Kinloch Rannoch. Then drive over the mountain toward Aberfeldy. It's a beautiful drive. I would drive out Glen Lyon a bit--there a nice gallery out that direction. Go back to Aberfeldy, drop your son off at the Birk's of Aberfeldy walk--although its' not rigorous--and go off to visit the Cranogg Centre.
  • Aviemore--this is not my favorite town, but there is wonderful hiking and there are things like the Funnicular Ride and Strathspey railroad.
  • Inverness--I know, it's not quaint, but it is modern Scotland in many ways and it is centrally located for many walks. And there's a great jewelry designer there. Hazel Passmore. :) I've stayed out on the Black Isle in Fortrose, which is lovely town, but you're a bit more isolated. There is a great hotel there The Anderson.

Hopefully, some others will make additional suggestions.

Posted by
183 posts

I live in the hamlet of Crathie in the heart of Royal Deeside here in Aberdeenshire and am always going to champion this particular area of Scotland to anyone looking for a place to visit. This is a somewhat undiscovered area of Scotland and is away from the more well known and busier tourist destinations of the country. From what you have said I think the Royal Deeside area would tick all your boxes.

With a car you could be in the Ballater and Braemar area in less than three hours from Edinburgh and take in some glorious scenery as you drive over Glenshee on the A93. Ballater and the smaller village of Braemar are both authentic and charming and there is plenty to do in the area. We have a distillery to visit in The Royal Lochnagar which is amongst one of the smallest in Scotland, but none the worse for that.

There are the two castles to visit one in Braemar and one in nearby Crathie at Balmoral (although access to Balmoral is limited because of its links to the British Royal family and all the security and privacy which comes with it). Braemar Castle is small as castles go, but has a long and interesting history going back hundreds of years. Balmoral Castle is more modern with the current castle completed in 1856.

There are many, many lovely walks of various lengths and for all abilities and it would take too long to list them here, so I recommend you have a look at the following two specific web pages from the Walk Highlands site. A favourite of ours is a circular walk of Loch Muick (pronounced “Mick” as in Jagger) which would take about three hours.

The Royal Deeside area is chock full of good places to eat and drink and a place we visit often is The Bothy in Braemar which has very pretty views over the river Clunie. Also we like the Deeside Inn in Ballater which provides good food and is gaining a reputation for being an excellent venue for music in the evenings.

The websites I recommend you look at for further information about Ballater and Braemar are

With a further site about Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms to supplement them

If there’s anything else I can help you with then feel free to send me a private message if you wish.

Posted by
1335 posts

The BBC Scotland logo is actually a good rendition of where the Highlands are. The top diagonal is basically the Highlands, the middle is the central lowlands running from Ayrshire to Aberdeen, and the third is the southern uplands that form the Border area.

Simplistic I know, but a useful guide.

Both Ft William and Inverness are in the administrative area called 'Highland'. It covers an area roughly the same size as Belgium, but does not include all the Highlands. The bottom of that top diagonal is Argyll and Bute, which covers Oban, Mull etc. And is in the Highlands. Some of Glasgow's suburbs and hinterland are also in the Highlands.

The Highlands also spread out into the Stirling, Perth and Kinross, Moray and Aberdeenshire Council Areas.

So remember it is a big place, with not brilliant roads. The main towns are good as bases, if you go up to Inverness, Oban, Ft William, you are probably going to treat them as bases.

I would suggest Argyll. You could get over to Mull and Iona from there. It is the southern end, the home of the Campbells to the extent it was a default mini state of its own for centuries. And is also historic Dalriada. Dalriada was the Dark Age kingdom that would eventually expand and become Scotland.

Posted by
8 posts

This is wonderful. I appreciate all your thoughtful suggestions. Your insider knowledge saved me hours and hours of research. Plus, I was getting nowhere despite all my hours and hours of research! :-) I'm forwarding your responses over to my children and we'll go from there. Thank you so much for taking your time to help me. I'm glad to be part of the Rick Steve's community.