I'm hoping to get some help with our travel plans! My partner and I will be in Scotland for two weeks (end of July/beginning of August). We plan to spend about a week in total in Edinburgh to see family members who are living there right now, but we're not sure if we should stay the whole time there (and do day trips out of Edinburgh) or take a train to maybe Inverness and do day trips from there for five days or so? Any help is so appreciated!
Splitting the time between Edinburgh and Inverness sounds like a good plan to me. Inverness makes an EXCELLENT base to see much of the Highlands. The Inverness Tourist Information Office is one of the very best. There are lots of great day trips from there- cruises on the firth, cruises up Loch Ness to see Urquart Castle, Isle of Skye and Eliean Donnan Castle, Great Glen, Glen Coe, Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns, Orkney (long, but worth it), and many, many more.
I have no way of knowing what you have already seen in the UK and what your interests are. If you have never been to the UK before, I think that two weeks in Scotland may be overdoing it. You could easily include northern England and Wales and increase you sightseeing options. If you haven't been to London, you should consider a few days there. You can do reasonable day trips from Edinburgh to the Highlands that would let you see the major sights. Doing a week or more of only daytrips from there would definitely be overdoing it. I would recommend you rent a car or take a commercial multiday tour if you plan to see a week or more of Scotland outside Edinburgh. You can visit some of the islands and see other places. One thing to keep in mind is that as you get outside of Edinburgh and the other large cities Scotland quickly gets very rural. If you want to be out in the quiet countryside, you've found it. If not, you'll get bored pretty quickly. I suggest you look over a couple of guidebooks to see what interests you in Scotland and go from there. RS only gives Scotland (ex-Edinburgh) two days on his 3 week Great Britain trip and I don't disagree with that for the typical tourist.
For planning Scotland trips, I can't recommend Undiscoveredscotland.co.uk enough. I wish all countries had a similarly useful website for places to go! If you're going to be in Scotland for two full weeks, and if you're into archaeology/history, you really should check out Orkney. We spent three days there last summer, and I was utterly entranced with the place. Amazing sites, from 5100 year old houses (Skara Brae) and 4500 year old tombs (Maes Howe, Tomb of the Eagles, and all of the cairns on Rousay island), to 1000 year old Viking ruins and churches (St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall is really impressive, and I loved walking around the Broch of Birsay), to 500 year old ruined castles (I think that the Earl's Palace in Kirkwall was my second-favorite place in all of Britain, after Rievaulx Abbey near York), and even 70 year old WWII sites (the Italian Chapel is a masterpiece of art, especially when you consider it was done by POWs with limited resources). And the shopping!!! I spent waaaaayyyy too much money there, on items from art prints of tapestries to pottery to the silver jewelry that is an Orkney specialty. Edited to add: even if you're not too much into history, think about Orkney. I dragged my mom there with me, and she confessed afterwards that she didn't think she would be that impressed with the older sites, but she ended up being just as interested as I was!
Thank you so much for your insights! I am really interested in history/archaeology, so I'll definitely look into Orkney and think more about Inverness as our base for the Highlands. We want to see as much of Scotland as possible, with a focus on history. We're kind of limited by the fact that we're tied to Edinburgh for the most part, because of the visit with the family members living there right now. I'd love to go into England a bit - or even go back to Wales for a visit - but we really have only about a week outside of Edinburgh to travel anywhere else. Thank you again! Please keep any other suggestions coming! I'm so thankful for your help!
I really enjoyed Southern Scotland much more than "The Highlands". There are a lot more layers of history and archeology there. It doesn't have the forest and the lochs. But has the ruined Abbies and the medieval castles, plus you can follow the ghosts of Mary Queen of Scots and Bobby Burns and the Romans. This might be because I'm from the Pacific Northwest and have seen enough trees, alpine mountains and lakes. I did enjoy Loch Ness. And Sterling Palace.
It sounds as if you really only have one week to see the rest of Scotland outside Edinburgh, so staying in Scotland is a good plan. If you were to add London I would say spend at least four nights there, so with the time allotted I would not advise that. Maybe go to York, only a couple of hours away by train, if you want to include time in England. Be aware that if it's like England though that trains are expensive. Edinburgh is the only place I have been in Scotland (except a day trip to Stirling for the castle). It is a great place to visit. I could see doing day trips to Glasgow and Stirling (the latter if you like castles), but generally I am not a fan of the stay in one place and do day trips model. Transit costs, the time spent in transit, plus the fact that you normally spend more to stay in the place that you are day tripping from than a smaller town. (Unless you are staying for free with friends for free, that might influence the decision). But even so, I would definitely venture out and sleep someplace else as well on a two week trip. It's harder to know where to go in Scotland than say Ireland or England. I would like to do a broader tour myself of Scotland, but it's just not as obvious what the places to visit are. Earlier this year Rick said he was taking his own Scotland tour because he has never been that big of a fan, on the premise that when he has found a place less interesting, that usually changes with greater familiarity. I wonder whether he changed his mind? I think it's an intriguing country because it's just not someplace that most people go and out in the country, you are really away. In the same way that you are in Dartmoor (Devon) England, or much of Ireland. Please keep us posted on what you decide, I would be interested for my own future planning.
I will keep you posted! Thank you so much for your thoughts. I'm pretty excited about spending time there; I've done much of England, Ireland, and Wales, but am unfamiliar with Scotland myself. Many thanks to all of you!
One week in Edinburgh is enough. There is much to do on both sunny and rainy days. You may want to consider the Western Coastline of Scotland. Many Isles. Great for wildlife and beauty. Daily boat trips out to rural islands. Check out Staffa for example and see if it interests you. Oban area is nice. Then, you can head north and see Glencoe or Isle of Skye. Most likely need car to get to Isle of Skye. Public transportation is more limited there. Strongly recommend Stirling Castle for its history (Mary Queen of Scots, Robert the Bruce, William Wallace). Stirling is a one-day visit.