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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
872 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
556 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, are 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
10009 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
2010 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.