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Scotland with kids itinerary review

I'm planning a trip to Scotland for 2019 (early!) with kids who'll be 7 and 10 by then. What prompted the trip was an opportunity for a timeshare exchange in Ballater in Cairngorms National Park. The Edinburgh festivals start 2 days before the timeshare week starts and the kids start school the week after, so those parts of the trip are a bit inflexible.

I'm a bit apprehensive about going in late July/August - I know it'll be busy! I hope it'll be worth it to experience the festivals and the Military Tattoo?

I'm thinking we'll fly into Inverness and out of Aberdeen to avoid backtracking.

Here's my preliminary itinerary. I'm not sure if it's too much to include Mull. I really want to go to Staffa. I thought about switching Mull for Skye, but looking at pictures, the dramatic scenery of Skye speaks to me in a way that Mull doesn't. The alternative I'm considering is skipping Mull, 2 nights Inverness (Loch Ness boat tour and to recover more from jet lag the second day) and 5 nights Edinburgh.

Day 1: Arrive Inverness (1 night)
Day 2: Drive to Isle of Skye (3 nights)
Day 3-4: Skye
Day 5: Drive to Isle of Mull (2 nights) via ferries Armadale-Mallaig, Lochaline-Fishnish
Day 6: Boat trip to Staffa
Day 7: Ferry Craignure-Oban, drive to Edinburgh (4 nights)
Day 8: Edinburgh
Day 9-10: Edinburgh festivals, Military Tattoo
Day 11: Drive to Ballater (7 nights)
Day 12-17: slow down, Ballater Highland Games, Cairngorms National Park, day trip to Stonehaven
Day 18: Fly home from Aberdeen

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
6282 posts

There's never enough time to see everything, it seems, but good for you for getting your planning started already! re the kids participating in the planning at all?

We visited in August 2015, during the Edinburgh Festivals, and while lots of people were in town, it never felt overwhelming.

Definitely try to find some music venues, in addition to the Tattoo - it shouldn't be too hard to do. The Royal Oak pub is a great place to start, along with what the Festival Fringe will have on offer.

We reserved Tattoo seats at the "curve" (if you imagine the seating arrangements as a giant letter "U," we weren't in the most expensive seats, but had a better view than the folks closer to the open ends of the "U."

After Edinburgh, we had 3 nights and part of 4 days on Skye -- wish there'd been more time. We didn't visit either Mull or Staffa, though.

Posted by
43 posts

You're right, there never is enough time! The more I research, the more I want to add. I always have to step back and reevaluate.

I haven't gotten the kids involved in planning yet. I usually do that towards the end of planning for things I picked more for them or things I'm on the fence about - show them pictures and gauge interest. Maybe as they get older, I'll involve them more. I like to plan and like the control though, so it might be hard giving up some of that. Luckily, my husband just goes along with whatever, as long as I don't ask him to get up early. :)

Glad to hear the crowds at the festivals didn't feel overwhelming to you, that's reassuring! How did you feel about the crowds at Skye?

Posted by
2601 posts

We are taking our kids (14 and 11) to Scotland this summer. I plan to post a trip report, so you could read that to see how it goes, and also check the trip reports part of this forum, for others that have gone before.
I am having my kids each pick a place to research and give ideas about what to do.
We are also watching movies and listening to Scottish music. It gets us all excited about the trip.
Our itinerary;
3 nights Edinburgh
3 nights Inverness
2 nights Skye
3 nights Oban (we also plan to do Mull and Staffa)
Then back to Edinburgh for 1 night before we fly out.

Posted by
213 posts

You have picked a good time to visit Ballater because the highland games are always held during the annual Ballater Victoria Week which is very family friendly. I know you are not coming until next year, but it's always good to plan ahead :-)

Here is the website for BVW to give you an idea of what to expect in 2019. The 2018 programme is not up yet.

I'm based in Royal Deeside myself not far from Ballater and lived there until 2009, so know the village well. If there's anything I can help you with then please feel free to send me a private message if you wish. I'm always happy to help visitors to the area if I can. You can reach a lot of places as days trips from Ballater and there's also plenty to keep you occupied in the immediate vicinity.

Posted by
43 posts

Thank you for the Ballater Victoria Week info! Looks like fun for the kids.

Hope this isn't an odd question, but is it common to see members of the Royal Family around the area during August?

Posted by
213 posts

If you drive up to nearby Crathie Kirk on a Sunday morning during August and September then you will see members of the Royal Family go into and out of the kirk when they attend service. As the annual Balmoral holiday is for HM The Queen, she is a regular worshipper along with HRH The Duke of Edinburgh who will accompany her. Other members of the family attend if they are at Balmoral at the time, but this depends upon what their schedules are.

Obviously there are folk outside waiting for a glimpse of the family members coming a going, but I don't think the crowds are usually that big. The event is policed and you will be told where to stand and quite probably have bags checked. You can attend Sunday service at Crathie Kirk if you wish, but you will not see very much of anyone from the Royal Family because of the way the kirk was designed. One door for the monarch and her family and another for everyone else.

The car park is across the road and it's just a short walk from there to the kirk, although it is uphill somewhat.

Other than that there is no absolute guarantee of seeing any member of the Royal Family out and about in the area during this time. It just depends on luck. Last year I was out in my car and The Queen drove past me in hers. I was in the vicinity of Balmoral, but had no idea I would see her and she just drove past me at a road junction. In law she had right of way in her vehicle and I was happy to let her pass :-)

If it is of interest Prince Charles (The Prince of Wales) does have a restaurant in Ballater which is run through one of his charities, The Great Steward of Scotland's Dumfries House Trust. The restaurant is called The Rothesay Rooms because in Scotland Prince Charles is known as The Duke of Rothesay.

The restaurant is high end and this is the website

The trust is also opening a coffee shop/bistro in The Old Station in Ballater this year, but the project is in development right now and there's no website at the moment. No doubt when you visit in 2019 the business will be up and running properly.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
43 posts

Thank you for the detailed info! That helps immensely.

Posted by
6282 posts

Although things didn't seem overly crowded in Edinburgh, we were just two adults, so while working our way down the Royal Mile (or elsewhere in town) it was easier to keep track of each other than if we'd been four. Making sure that everyone sticks together, and possibly having a contingency plan to meet somewhere if anyone gets separated might be a good idea.

If visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia isn't already on your list, I'd consider it. The ship's really cool, moored outside a shopping mall east of downtown Edinburgh of all things, and while there were a lot of visitors, even that wasn't jam-packed in August. I'd imagine the kids would get a kick out of the Rolls-Royce in its little enclosure onboard.

Skye was rainy for much of our visit, and sheep seem to outnumber people 3 to 1. It wasn't jam-packed in towns or the countryside there, either, but if you're eating dinner out, you may want to time your meals and/or plan where you're eating (or see if they take reservations) so you're not shut out or facing a long wait.

Posted by
43 posts

Thanks Cyn! Will have to see if we can fit in the Royal Yacht Britannia. The tea room looks very nice. :)