Scotland

We are planning (early stages, we need to get a move on) a trip to Ireland, Scotland and maybe England for the coming summer. I DO want to go to the castle in Scotland (Doune) where they filmed Monty Python's Holy Grail. Knowing nothing about any of this we are first time travelers can someone give me an idea of where to stay to get there? And other historic castles or things driving distance we should see? Thanks! p.s. any feedback on how best to spend 5-7 days in Ireland before would be appreciated. And if you have suggestions (besides London) for any time we have to fit in England would be appreciated.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

Castle Doune is a great. I visited it a few years ago. It's a just a bit northwest of Stirling. In Scotland, I would recommend a couple of days in Edinburghit's the current capital and has tons of history and culture as well. Then visit Stirling Castle on your way to Doune. From Doune, I would recommend that you see a bit of the Highlands. What I recommend depends on how you're traveling. I would suggest that you check out the website Undiscovered Scotland. It will tell help you with your research. PAm

Posted by Jennifer
Beaverton, Oregon, USA
8 posts

Thanks, Pam!
That is helpful. Sounds like car rental is the way to go from the little reading I have done so far. Will check out the site you recommend and plan from there. Thanks, also, for the additional recommendations. Highlands were on our "must do if we go" list. :)

Posted by Matt
Kent, WA, USA
107 posts

Not sure how much time you're planning for Scotland, or how far you're "driving distance" is, but I did a trip a few years ago and Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven Scotland was one of my favorites. Dunnottar Castle Stonehaven I stopped in Stonehaven for a night while riding the train from Inverness to Edinburgh. If you're going to Doune, then you should definitely also see Stirling Castle; and Edinburgh Castle is great. Not sure what your other interests are, or if its only castles, but the Isle of Skye was one of my favorite parts of Scotland, beautiful scenery, lots of nice walks, some whiskey distilleries and some old castle ruins. Duntulum Castle is on the very tip of Skye, its mostly just ruins but some fantastic views Duntulum Castle Eileen Donan is another well-known classic Scottish Castle, just on the Scottish mainland near Isle of Skye. York, England was another favorite for me on my trip, not so much a castle, but the restored city walls are very interesting, and the cathedral is great! But it might be too far south for you.
But Durham, England was another place I stopped on the way from Edinburgh to York, and it has a very nice cathedral and castle Durham, UK I did a 30 day loop through England Ireland and Scotland, entirely on trains and buses, and of my top 20 things I wanted to see, I think there were only 3 or 4 that I couldn't get to (and none were in my top 5); so I wouldn't say a rental car is mandatory, but there is a trade-off, less hassle, less cost, versus less freedom and flexibility; and if one of your "must-see's" isn't accessible via public transportation.

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1560 posts

Suggest you fly into Shannon, rent car there, head west and then south around to Kinsale and up to Dublin for a few days. Don't need car in Dublin. Fly from there to Edinburgh or Glasgow and after a few days there, rent a car and tour Scotland. Then you can take train to London for a few days, rent car after London and tour the South and fly home from London or fly from Ireland to London and then towards Scotland and fly home from Scotland. That was you are not back tracking.

Posted by Jennifer
Beaverton, Oregon, USA
8 posts

Great information. Logistics and staging are important and feedback in that frame is very helpful. No, castles are not the main focus. Doune is a Monty Python thing (a family focus/hilarity, so I can't go and not go there!) and wanted to take in other sites nearby. I appreciate knowing other places to see/visit in Scotland -- scenery is always an interest.

Posted by Jennifer
Beaverton, Oregon, USA
8 posts

Gail and Matt,
Thank you! If you think of anything else helpful, I am all ears. I am thinking we will have to be choosy in our sites in each place. We will probably have just over two weeks.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

Hey Jennifer what else interests you about Scotland? Whisky? Scenery? History? Music? Walking (hiking)? Gardens? I really enjoy driving in Scotland. You can see some beautiful scenery and once you're off the A9 or other main roads there really isn't much traffic. And to be honest, even their most blighted traffic areas barely measure up to US traffic blights such as NYC, DC, Chicago or Southern Cal. There just aren't as many people or as many cars. But there are very few M Roads in Scotland; and none outside the Central Belt. Use via Michilin to estimate times. Do add at least 25% to their times as they do not assume stopping for pictures. ; ) Pam

Posted by Glenn
Grand Falls-Windsor, NL, Canada
307 posts

I spent three days in Edinburgh just a couple of weeks ago, staying at The Parliament House hotel, which is a 5 minute walk from the train station, 10 minutes to the Royal Mile. We also took a day trip to the West Highlands, including Doune Castle ( LOVE Monty Python!!!), through Rabbies Tours.

Posted by david
washington
837 posts

Jennifer, I would definitely recommend renting a car for Scotland/England. You can reserve an automatic if you wish. Easy pickup at Edinburgh airport. I would fly into Edinburgh and spend a couple of days. Pick up car and drive. St. Andrews is nice and close to Edinburgh. Unfortunately, it is in the opposite direction from Stirling. I would definitely recommend using Pitlochry as a highlands base and the Craigatin House and Courtyard as the place to stay. Absolutely stunning B & B and Martin can give you great guidance on how to get where you want to go. Drive to Aviemore, but don't stay there unless you have been to and fallen in love with Willits or Ft. Bragg, CA. From Aviemore, drive west to Glencoe and back to Pitlochry. Great scenery and a wonderful falls that Martin can guide you to. Then, I would recommend Inverness. There is quite a bit to see there. Isle of Skye is nice, but unless you have about 3 weeks in Scotland/England, I would skip it. Actually, the most scenic place in the north of Britain that I have seen is the Lake District. There is a drive around Keswick that is very much like the Scotish highlands. I was going to recommend driving there from Scotland and then training to London. Problem is that there doesn't appear to be a train from Keswick. Just rechecked and there are trains from Windermere to London which take about 3.25 hours. It looks a bit pricy, so, if you have the time, you might want to consider driving to York which, according to Rick's map, takes about 2.5 hours, spend a couple of nights in York and then drive or train to London. Train from York is considerably cheaper.

Posted by Laura
Fredericksburg, TX, USA
56 posts

After seeing Doune castle we stayed at the Bridge of Lochay Hotel in Killin on our way to the Highlands. Killin is a nice small town with a famous waterfall which is more like some big rapids. The hotel has a good restaurant, reasonably priced comfortable rooms, and is on the River Tay, not on the touristy side of town. We stayed here two nights and did some hiking and fishing in the area. Also I recommend to get the Scotland heritage pass, good for many of the castles including Edinburgh, Stirling, Doune, Urquhardt. You will easily get your money's worth.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

Here is the link to Historic Scotland who manages many of the castles. They don't have all the castles though, so don't assume that the all the ones you want to visit are covered. There is the National Trust for Scotland and some are privately held. And, I'll second Killin as a nice town to stop off in. Another one, is Dunkeld. It has a great pub where there is often live music. The Taybank. Pam

Posted by Jennifer
Beaverton, Oregon, USA
8 posts

Thank you all for this information. We're cashing in frequent flier miles and that is a puzzle all it's own as far as where it is best to fly into/easiest with the airline we have miles with. More work on that tomorrow. Information on the castles in Scotland and the renting to drive England/Scotland is really helpful. Trying to figure out the most efficient way to see it all. Guessing we will fly into London and see a few sights on the way to Scotland. Then spend the other week in Ireland and fly out from there. That's my thought right now. Lots to consider. We'll have about two weeks. Keep the ideas coming, please! :-)

Posted by Jennifer
Beaverton, Oregon, USA
8 posts

So any must see things in Ireland? I hope for a week there (if it works) and a week between Scotland and England (probably London area, though I am fascinated to see the coasts and countryside, just not sure of the time factor). We are first timers and I find myself overwhelmed by all the things to see/do and our limited time. It's all so geographically close, but I am wondering if I should scale back the places we want to go? Ireland is non-negotiable though. Thoughts on scaling back? Thought on "totally doable?" or "wouldn't do it that way" from those experience travelers among you. Thoughts on the "must see/must do" for the two week trip in addition to the great information I have cataloged from the responses thus far (sightseeing is more the focus, in answer to a previous post. That and taking in the culture, meeting folks just getting a feel, learning and seeing all the wonderful things there are to see is the trip's focus.

Posted by Jennifer
Beaverton, Oregon, USA
8 posts

FYI, our trip was fantastic and I keep wishing we were still there. We hit London and York in England. Then on to Edinburgh and then Inverness. Then across to Derry/Londonderry, Belfast, Dublin and Kinsale. Still so much more to see and do. Oh, and we made it to Castle Doune. Thanks to all for your ideas, aid, suggestions. Can't wait to go back.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

So glad you made it Doune! Did you get some coconuts? :) Pam

Posted by sherrell
sarasota, fl, usa
43 posts

I just got back from a 18 day tour of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. I put alot of thought into our first and maybe only trip. There were places I really wanted to see, but ended up crossing off some things. Decided on a tour(that gives you more time,security ease of travel), what countries do you really want to see(what places are most important)how long, budget. Ireland was my favorite, with the Dingle area the most beautiful. England, I liked York and the Lake area.
Hope this helps.

Posted by Jennifer
Beaverton, Oregon, USA
8 posts

OK, Pam you will never believe this, but I was actually followed by what was identified to me as (drum roll, please) a Swallow! No word if African or European though I'd guess the later. LOL. And we got the coconut shells from the gift shop and "banged 'em together" in homage to the film. The other tourists thought we were nuts (they weren't from the States) but were amused.