Highlands or St. Andrews or both?

I am travelling to the UK in the beginning of September. I will have 3 1/2 days based out of Edinburgh, already booked. I want to have enough time to explore the city. I wanted to do a day trip to St. Andrews or the Highlands. Suggestions? Or do you think it is feasible to do both?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7972 posts

You're going to have to do a bit better than 'Highands' to get much real help. The historical/cultural definition? The area north of the Boundary Fault? Everything as far north as the John O'Groats / Cape Wrath line? What the average tourist calls the Highlands (whatever that is)? Except for probably the latter, it's a pretty big area and it's all diverse in a million ways. Cough up a few place names or specific interests and you'll get accurate help. Otherwise it's going to be 'what we did once in a hurry two years ago and really looooooved it'. You're already getting places tossed out that don't fit some definitions of the term.

Posted by Kristen
Chicago
270 posts

I guess I mean the tourist version of the Highlands. There are a number of day trip tours From Edinburgh through the West Highlands. I was considering doing one of those or going to St. Andrews on my own. I like to golf but probably wouldn't golf.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3300 posts

Are you looking to spend a day enjoying the scenery and stopping once or twice for two hours max and then back into the bus or van for another 3-4 hours. I know everyone seems to love Rabbie's Tours, but for me there is just too much bus time. Maybe one of the other tours have more stops, but this one sure seems like all you do is drive past scenery. If you want to get a flavor of the Highlands, then here's a couple of suggestions. Do you want to just take walk in the Highlands and see a small village? Take the train to Birnam/Dunkeld. Walk over the Thomas Telford bridge to Dunkeld, go to the TI and pick up the walks maps that they offer. Check out the Cathedral and then pick one of the walks. You can have lunch at the Taybank first if you'd like or get a picnic. Do you want to tour a castle in a Highland setting? Take the train to Blair Atholl and visit Blair Castle. It's a gorgeous train ride and you can easily make a day of the visit to Castle. Or, if you want to see a small town and visit a distillery and a nice garden take the train to Pitlochry. You can tour the Blair Athol Distillery and then walk over to the Explorer's Garden for a nice visit. Or do them in reverse. Nice restaurants for lunch everywhere. Pam

Posted by Kathleen
Camano Island, WA, usa
331 posts

It really depends on your interests and what activities you like. There is much to see which everway you go. If you golf St. Andrews; although you won't be likely to find any tee times open. Or Nature, hiking, Lochs and Castles then go to the Southern Highlands...the heather should be evident then. You need at least 2 full days to hit the must sees in Edinburgh. There are also a lot of places nearer Edinburgh like Stirling and Linlithgow. Glasgow is supposed to be the new trendy place for music and the arts. The Necropolis near St. Mungo is super cool.

Posted by Kristen
Chicago
270 posts

Thanks Pam!! I was not excited about doing a bus tour but didn't know where to start if I wanted to do it by myself. I appreciate your help!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7972 posts

You're still working with terms with varying definitions and no pinpoints. I'll make a wild guess and assume it means a line roughly from Aberdeen to Glasgow and everything northwest of it. That's a big chunk of the country. In a day in and out of Edinburgh, that's going to be about as far as Inveraray, maybe to Oban and back. There's probably something that goes to Loch Ness, down the Great Glen, and maybe hits Stirling on the way back. All would be worthwhile, but that's a lot of bus time. I doubt that I could drive drive the last one in a mean eight hours. I wouldn't recommend renting a car for a marathon if this would be your first left-hand experience, since, if you misjudge, you'd be trucking back into Edinburgh in the dark and the roads get a bit sporty once you get east of Turnhouse. As far as Aberdeen goes, unless you have something else in mind, it's not an especially great city and doesn't have much of general interest except the university and the golf course. Watch what others say for some ideas. I don't much care for Edinburgh, but there's enough to keep you busy for a week after you've seen all the regular tourist stuff. If you have quirky interest, even Falkirk is worth an outing for a few grins.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7972 posts

Good Ole Pam! I was sitting here trying to wean you off two bad ideas and she comes up with some dillies. Pitlochry would be my choice for the variety and a really good smaller town. In addition to what she pointed out: Right as you get off the train, if you walk away from town for a hundred yards and cross the dam, you can watch salmon hopping up the fish ladder if the time of year is right If you walk to Moulin just up the hill and hook a left, there's a good standing stone on your right MacKays probably has the best grub, even haggis if you go for that sort of thing. The Auld Smiddy is a close second. The Old Mill Inn has an okay menu and an adequate ale choice. The Indian place sucks. There's posters scattered around town with six or eight good walks that range from an hour to all day. I'm not a shopper, but there's a bunch of stores that could be interesting - - more than usual for that size of town.

Posted by Robin Z
Troy, Oh, USA
1634 posts

I have to disagree with Kathleen, if you were interested in golfing (which it doesn't sound like you are) you could go sign in at the starter box and they will put you with another group of two or three, my husband has done that several times. You would enjoy seeing St. Andrews, it's pretty. You can take the train from Edinburgh to Leuchars, then take a taxi the five miles to St. Andrews. In St. Andrews you can see Blackfriars Chapel, Chapel of St Mary on the Rock, St. Andrews Castle, St. Andrews Cathedral and take a walk in the cemetery.

Posted by david
washington
837 posts

Kristin, I don't think you have enough time to see much of the highlands, no matter what your definition. St Andrews is charming. However, if you are going to see the Old Course, you probably won't recognize it from television. It is essentially a cow pasture with holes filled with sand. The Royal and Ancient is a two story farm house sitting all by its lonesome in this cow pasture. The "town center" which looks at least semi urban on television, is a small batch of two to three story row houses with retail on the ground floor. If you are a big fan, as I am, it is nice to see, but if one thinks that Stonehenge is underwhelming, the Old Course easily trumps. Beyond that, the town is very charming and the University has beautiful grounds and buildings. The cathedral ruins are just that, ruins, but impressive nonetheless. All in all, a nice day trip, but I would recommend Stirling and other castles in the area as an alternative.

Posted by Kristen
Chicago
270 posts

Thanks everyone for your feedback! You have given me a lot of great ideas!