5 full days in Scotland

Hi everyone, My mom and I are going to be in Scotland from the afternoon on May 10- afternoon on may 17. We are arriving/departing from Edinburgh, and are trying to figure out how to best use our time there. We generally like to be outside hiking or seeing castles. Of course, my mom wants some time for shopping. Additionally, if you have any suggestions on what to see/do/eat that cannot be missed, we'd really appreciate suggestions! This is what we planned so far: May 10: walk around Edinburgh in the evening May 11: Edinburgh castle, Arthur's seat May 12: day trip to St. Andrews May 13-May 14: overnight trip to Isle of Skye. This is the part I am struggling with most. We would like to not go via tour company, as most of these are 3 day tours. We can take a 6:30AM train from Edinburgh, and be at Isle of Skye around 2PM. Then we planned on staying overnight (any suggestions for places?), and having a day tour the next morning. Are there private/very small group tours that you could recommend? How much would an automatic car rental be for the day? Neither of us knows how to drive manual. We'd like to leave the Kyle of Localsh around 5PM to get back into Edinburgh. May 15: day in Edinburgh (is this too much time in Edinburgh)?
May 16: day trip to Glasgow May 17: morning in Edinburgh, leave in the afternoon. Thanks in advance for all of your helpful suggestions! Sherry

Posted by Barb
Central Florida
483 posts

Hey there! Can't help you with Isle of Skye. I believe you can hire a private driver/car to get you around the rocky tricky roads in Skye for one day. Look it up online. (Try visitscotland.com and Isle of skye region.)http://www.skye.co.uk/ www.scotland.org/visit/explore I would skip Glasgow. (I hope Glasgow citizens don't know where I live LOL). Go to Stirling Castle (Train, rental car or one-day small group tour/Rabbie's) Edinburgh is as good a place as any for shopping. Other Edinburgh sights are Holyrood Palace, Britannia, various museums. Try a cold Crabbie's Ginger Beer with or without alcohol. I think I would skip St. Andrews and head over to Stirling then Isle of Skye.
You may want to consider Oban/Mull area or Glencoe.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4219 posts

Sherry, Skye is a very big Island. You have arrived at Kyle of Lochalsh at 2 PM. It's another hour to get to Portree which is the center and would allow yout to see the most. I'm not a big fan of tours as I'd rather drive myself, but in this instance, you might want to look into a tour of Skye from Inverness. Let them bus you up there. As I check, though, most of them are three day tours, which should tell you something. Is your heart set on Skye? Or would you be open to other ideas? You could go to Oban, and take one of the tours of Mull. It's a beautiful Island. And some of the tours take you to Iona and Staffa. I think that your native is to find a private driver for Skye. You could look at Skye tours. They seem to have mixed reviews, but maybe it would work. Tell m more about why you wanted to go to Skye. That too will help. Because if you just want to see the Cuillins it's different than seeing the whole island. Pam

Posted by Sherry
Chicago, IL, USA
36 posts

Thank you for the advice! I suppose I have my heart on seeing Skye because of how much I love nature (which isn't a very good reason since Scotland has so much beautiful scenery) and how strongly recommended it is by some of my peers. I am certainly open to other suggestions/places, as I have not booked anything (but should soon!). Mostly, I think this will be my mom's last/only trip to Scotland as she's getting older, and I want to see as much as I can with her. My mom is very interested in shopping. From reading things online, it seems that Glasgow might be a good place for this. Would this be reason enough to spend a day there? Same with St. Andrews- my mom is an avid golfer and would like to see the Old Course. We are thinking of taking the Rabbie's tour that will also show us some fishing towns nearby. Unfortunately, our base has to be in Edinburgh, as we've booked an apartment there. I'll be presenting at a research conference several days before my mom gets there, and so we'd like to spend as few nights away from our apartment so that we don't "waste" money.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

If you have the time in Edinburgh, a visit to the Queen's decommissioned yacht, Britannia, is very interesting. It's in Leith, Edinburgh's port, and there is a bus that goes straight there from the Old Town. I'd book a time in advance if this interests you, though. Aside from the beautiful boat and peek into recent history, it's nice to have tea on the yacht. We had a relaxing half day there. And, bonus for your mom--it's docked outside a huge mall :P

Posted by Barb
Central Florida
483 posts

Glasgow - I really would not go there just to shop. Edinburgh and Glasgow are about the same size cities and probably have similar shops. Edinburgh makes a fine base for day-trips. You can just stay in Edinburgh and take one-day small group tours outside of city and be back in Edinburgh by 6 pm or so at night. That way, you don't have to repack your stuff. You can also rent a car or take a train to places like Stirling Castle, Pitlochry, Rosslyn Chapel. If your mom just wants to see St. Andrew golf course and not play the course, I would look for a one-day tour from Edinburgh and catch a few other sights along the way. Britannia is located at a pier connected to the back of a shopping mall. You cannot see it from the street, so don't panic. You need to take the escalator up to floor 2 or 3. If you want to save a few bucks, go on Britannia at 2 pm or shortly after. You can get a late afternoon discount, plus it's not crowded then and still gives you adequate time before closing at 5 pm. You can look for discounts in travel brochures at B&B's or travel information places. Locals can help you.
Keep your trip relaxing for yourself and mom and you will get more out of it.

Posted by Cynthia
Gig Harbor, Washington, USA
1262 posts

We have been to Scotland four times - our last trip was 20 days so we had a pretty thorough trip. IMHO, the best bits are Skye, Plockton, Loch/Glen Torridon, and the western end of Loch Ness. If you base in Fort William, you would be within day trip range of all those locations. I would not try touring the highlands without a car - you will spend too much time negotiating public transport. The only intimidating road was the Cattle Road over the mountains to Applecross (picture hanging the back end of the car over a sheer cliff as a van passes!) and there's no need to take that road! We were very happy with Huntingtower Lodge just west of Fort William, directly on the Loch.

Posted by david
837 posts

Sherry, I think that your schedule is pretty good, considering that you really want to see St. Andrews and Isle of Skye. Both are interesting and I would not discourage. I would second the thought of going to Stirling and surrounding castles rather than Glasgow. For the Isle of Skye, I would take the train and then rent a car for a day. One day is ample to drive around the isle and see everything in Rick's self guided tour. I think I'd stay in Portree.