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Should we base in Edinburgh or Glasgow?

Hi!

My husband and I (both in our early 30s) are planning to travel to England and Scotland for 10 days in September. It's a short trip I know, but we want to make the best of it. Right now we are in the very early stage of planning our trip and haven't nailed down a thorough itinerary yet so we are welcoming all suggestions!

One question we have is should we base in Edinburgh or Glasgow for a few nights after England given the below?
- We are not going to have a car (would this be a problem IF we decide to visit Isle of Skye? We would LOVE to visit this place but we really don't want to drive).
- My husband is very into Scotch so we want to visit a few distilleries (we would love to hear your opinions on the ones you have been to).
- We like to stay in a lively neighborhood. We are night owls and would love to have a somewhat nightlife where we base.

Thanks for your help!

Posted by
903 posts

Why not split time between both? Edinburgh seems more traditional and historic and has a great Pub Crawl; while Glasgow is more Arty and probably more trendy Music scene. You can get tours from both places. Look at Visit Scotland web site for some great visuals.

Posted by
658 posts

Hi, TMerry,

Getting to Skye by public transportation will not be a problem. Getting around the island once you get there will be a problem. There is bus service, but it's not frequent, so you could end up being stranded somewhere you're visiting until the next bus comes by. The buses mainly operate on the main roads between Kyleakin, Armadale, Broadford, Portree, Dunvegan, and Uig. However, if you want to get off the beaten path, you'd need to take a taxi or go with a tour group.

Talisker is the only distillery on Skye, and is a good one to visit. However, you really don't need to visit a lot of distilleries, as the distillation process is fairly uniform. The water used, and the casking, really make the difference. Several posters here recommend Edradour, outside of Pitlochry, which is easily reached as a half day trip from Edinburgh or Glasgow. Your husband will have plenty of opportunity to sample single malts in every pub that you visit. Good thing you're not driving!

As far as choosing between Edinburgh and Glasgow, as Kathleen pointed out, Edinburgh is best visited for history; Glasgow for fun. There is a lot to see and do in each city. I have a personal preference for Glasgow, as it's more working class, and less tourist oriented. But that's just me. If you have enough time to spend in Scotland, you could base yourselves in both.

If you're staying in Edinburgh, the liveliest place to stay would be in one of the hotels in the Grassmarket. There are lots of pubs and restaurants within walking distance, and the pubs and restaurants on Rose Street are a short taxi ride away.

In Glasgow, your best bet would be in the central area, around George Square, as there a lot of late night venues in the vicinity. A couple of the best music venues in Scotland (King Tut's Wah Wah Hut and the Barrowlands) are only a short distance away. Another good location would be out at the west end, near the university, somewhere off of Byres Road. Again, lots of night time activity.

Hope that's a start. Best wishes for your travels. Next trip (the one after this), spend the whole holiday in Scotland!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
10253 posts

Before you answer the "Glasgow or Edinburgh" question, you have to figure out the following:

Are you able to get a flight into London and out of Scotland (or vice versa)? If you have only 10 days and have to both start and end in London, it's very hard to see both England and Scotland in that time.

With only 10 days, what are your absolute priorities? Cities, small towns, history (which period), etc. Even if you limit yourself to just England or just Scotland, 10 days means you only get to see a few places, and unless you want to change hotels every night, you'll want no more than 3 or (tops) 4 bases to stay overnights. I only get 10 nights myself when I travel, so I know how hard it is to cut places down, but it's a must, or trips become nightmares.

With no car, are the places you want to see accessible in the time you have? It definitely takes longer to get some places without a car; others (like going from London to York) are faster by train.

Once you have figured out your absolute must sees, and limited yourself to only a few bases, and figured out where you're flying into and out of, then you can decide if you see Edinburgh, Glasgow, both, or neither. Note that they are very different, and they are only an hour apart, so you can see both from one base if you wish. I spent 4 nights in Glasgow in 2016, and 3 nights in Edinburgh in 2018, and found lots to do in both. If you want to know what I did in Glasgow, here's my trip report (just skip the Manchester and Liverpool sections, unless of course you want to go there as well): https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/uk-trip-report-glasgow-manchester-liverpool-in-september-2016.

Posted by
2114 posts

Even just to see Scotland (skipping England), 10 days is a short time. If you really want to include England, then fly open jaw arriving London and departing either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

As for using either Scottish city as a base, it depends very much on what you want to see. Glasgow is convenient to Loch Lomond to the north and Robert Burns country to the south. Edinburgh has more historic locations within range: Rosslyn Chapel, Linlithgow, Scone, St Andrews, etc. Falkirk and Stirling are convenient from either one. Scotland is more spread out than most people think -- it takes time to get from one location to another.

Posted by
25 posts

I ended up skipping London on my 30 day trip of Ireland and the UK because I wanted more time in Edinburgh. I spent four days in Glasgow and it was fun but I would give all four back to have more time in Edinburgh. Note that I was alone and Glasgow is not the most welcoming place.

SO long story short: Edinburgh! There is plenty of scotch to be had there. When I was in Edinburgh the first time I did a Rabies Highland day tour that included a trip to Aberfeldy, a distillery by Dewars (Ed Sheeran visited the day before I was there and I was crushed). It was a cool experience because I got to see a snap shot of the highlands, have scotch, and then be back in Edinburgh to meet up with friends for the night! I agree that one distillery is enough. I am not a science nerd so I care more about the actual drinking part.

Enjoy!

Posted by
658 posts

Hi, kjt1003,

I hope that you meant a "Rabbie's" tour and not a "Rabies" tour! It does conjure up some interesting scenarios, though! Lots of visits to farms and wildlife refuges. :)

Mike (Auchterless)

Hi TMerry! My hubs and I did a trip a couple years back and we're close in age to you. I was adamantly against renting a car. My husband really had to talk me into it but I'm so glad he did! We were able to explore so much more of Scotland and it wasn't nearly as difficult to drive on the other side of the road as I thought it was going to be.
I would base out of Edinburgh. It seemed more welcoming with more to do in a smaller footprint then Glasgow did. I highly recommend the Scotch Whiskey Experience. It was a great interactive and informative tour and a lot of fun!

Posted by
37 posts

My wife and I are going in June. We had a hard time deciding where to stay and ended up staying in Falkirk. With the ability to take the train between the two cities we figured we would stay half way between the two and take a 30-40 min train in.. Plus it was cheaper to stay out of town.

Posted by
11 posts

I have been to Glasgow and Edinburgh as few times each. I would definitely use Edinburgh as a base. To me, there's much more to do in and out of town. I felt Glasgow was more of a "working city" and not a whole lot to do there.

Posted by
64 posts

People are obviously entitled to their oponions and preferences and that's absolutely fine...........but at the same time I'd suggest that the claim that there's "not a whole lot to do" in Glasgow doesn't stand up to any sensible examination or discussion.

Posted by
658 posts

Totally agree, outshined78.

To paraphrase the great Dr. Samuel Johnson:

"...when a man is tired of Glasgow, he is tired of life, for there is in Glasgow all that life can afford."

Slainte!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
3935 posts

Agreed, Outshined and Mike. I love love love glasgow and find it so vibrant and interesting. Combine that with closer access to thebHighlands and it’s the place for me!!

Posted by
4534 posts

If touring the US should you base in San Francisco or New York? That said, a Glaswegian told me that I would have more fun at a Glasgow funeral than an Edinburgh wedding.

Posted by
515 posts

I have also been to both Edinburgh and Glasgow and found lots to do in both places. They are quite different so it will come down to what you want to do the most. It sounds like your time will be quite limited, and for that reason I would probably favour Edinburgh simply because the main sights are close and easily walkable. You could easily spend an entire day starting with a visit to the castle then wandering down the royal mile and ending with a visit to Holyrood at the bottom and then climb up Calton's hill to watch the sun set. I found Glasgow a little more spread out, and I used the HOHO bus to get around, but in Edinburgh it was easy to walk to most things from the Scott monument on Princess St.

Posted by
331 posts

With 10 days, honestly I would choose England or Scotland. You would have time for Edinburgh/Glasgow and a couple of distilleries on the way to Skye.

Glasgow is a busy working city, full of things to do, architecturally very modern in parts. I read a recent trip report somewhere where the US traveller felt it looked like an American city because it has blocks and tall buildings.

Edinburgh has a certain fairytale quality to it because it’s absolutely dominated by the castle on the hill. It looks like nowhere else on Earth.

I love them both but feel first-time tourists to Scotland will generally get more of a kick out of Edinburgh because it looks so magical. The accent is easier to understand too.