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Scotland, Ireland Travel Itinerary August 2014

Hi Travelers,
My husband and I are planning a 14 day (flexible.. could stretch to 3 weeks)trip to Scotland (my heritage) and Ireland (his heritage). We want to include the Royal Tatoo in our plans, but other than that would really appreciate some expert advice on 'must sees' and a suggested itinerary. We have not been to England, but thought we'd save that for another trip... is this good thinking? We love travelling by train and are nervous about driving in Ireland. We hear Scotland is easier to drive. Our friends recommended RS tours... but we don't see a combined Ireland/ Scotland tour... is there a reason why we should know about? Thanks for any help.
Mary

Posted by
31303 posts

Mary,

Using RS tours would be an excellent idea, however they don't offer a combined Scotland/Ireland tour and they also wouldn't fit your maximum 21 day time frame. With good planning, it would be possible to have a short "sampler" trip to both countries on your own.

As you're planing to include the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in your plans, that will limit the Scotland portion of your trip to the month of August. You could (for example) visit Scotland for ~10 days in late August and then move to Ireland in early September for an equal length of time. I'd suggest using a budget flight from Scotland to Ireland.

With the Edinburgh Tattoo, it's a good idea to book WELL in advance. If you'd prefer a slightly "easier" entrance and have a generous budget, you could buy one of the premium packages, which includes expedited entry and in some cases the opportunity to meet some of the performers. Be sure to dress warmly and pack along some light rain gear (just in case). There's another recent Thread here on the HelpLine regarding the best seating location, which you might find helpful.

If you're comfortable driving on the "correct side of the road", you could certainly rent a car in either country. However that may not be necessary, depending on your touring plans. There are one and two day tours to Loch Ness and other locations offered in Edinburgh, so you could also take one of those.

Which parts of Ireland are you interested in visiting? I'm assuming that Dublin is one location you want to see. Check your local Library to see if they have copies of the Ireland and/or Scotland RS Guidebooks, as there's an enormous amount of information there that will help to fine tune your travel plans.

Happy travels!

Posted by
278 posts

We spent 8 days in Scotland last summer after 9 days in England. We stayed 2 days/ 3 nights in Edinburgh, about 1 1/2 days driving in the Highlands (I wish we could have added a few more!), and then 3 full days in Orkney.

Recommendations for the Highlands:

Our B&B on Loch Ness was the Pottery House near Dores Beach, and it was our favorite stay of the entire trip! Great location, terrific hosts, free and easily accessed wifi and a computer in the hall for those without tablets, huge bathroom, robes in the closet, which also had a mini fridge with filtered water and a jug of milk inside, and the best breakfast with a choice of hot dish beyond the standard fry-up (I had French Toast; yum!), all only a few miles south of Inverness.

Drive about an hour north of Inverness to Dunrobin Castle, a wonderful manor house with nicely laid out gardens that are compact enough to see everything in a few hours, leaving enough time for a fantastic falconry exhibit that I highly recommend seeing.

Orkney is a must see for anyone who loves bird watching, beautiful ocean views, and the best archaeological sites in the UK, from Neolithic houses, tombs, and standing stone circles dating to 3000 BC, Pictish and Viking sites, through ruined Rennaisance "palaces" built by cruel and rebellious earls, and even a WWII POW camp chapel that is a work of art. Our B&B there was our second favorite stay, The Mill of Eyrland, which is a converted 1830s mill! Great rooms, yummy cookies in the room, excellent breakfasts, and Morag was a wonderful hostess.

Posted by
278 posts

As for driving, this was my first trip abroad, and I had little problem with the roads. My main issue was that Avis gave me an unwanted upgrade from the small sedan I requested to a car the size of a minivan, which was the only automatic they had in York, and Edinvurgh didn't have anything smaller available. So, I had to cope with a bigger car than I have ever driven on roads narrower than I was used to, which was the only problem I had. Driving on the left side was not difficult at all, and I had no accidents and other than my mom yelling at me to keep the car away from the edge (big car, narrow road!). Oh, and our drive to Loch Etive on the ultimate "road to nowhere" was beautiful, but being a single track road, when we encountered the rare person going the other way, we just had to pull over for them.

A great resource for visiting Scotland is Undiscoveredscotland.com, which is where I found out about Loch Etive and Dunrobin Castle.

Posted by
11 posts

I too am traveling to Scotland in August 2014 (for the first time). I'll have to be sure to check this thread out to see what suggestions people give you! We will be in Scotland from the 14th-30th. We are seeing the Tattoo on the 16th and have already purchased tickets. So if you know when you are going to be in Scotland you might want to get those tickets purchased quickly, I hear they go quickly.

We are renting a car for a portion of the trip. I want the freedom to do anything and be anywhere without having to worry about what time I need to be on a train. I have a few friends that suggested driving over public transit.

Happy planning!

Posted by
3419 posts

Much of Scotland is very easy to 'do' by train! We love UK rail system. Ireland, on the other hand, has limited rail service, and you'll be better off driving or doing a pre-planned tour there.

Our favorite area of Scotland is around Aviemore and Inverness. Inverness makes a great base for lots of day trips (excellent tour companies do them and one of the best Tourist Info offices I've ever seen). You can do cruises on the firth, up the River Ness to Lock Ness to see Urquhart Castle ruins and the village of Drumnadrochit (with all the monster stuff, but also some great pubs ad shops, take a trip to see Ellen Donnan Castle and Isle of Skye, some even include Ft. Augustus and The Great Glen or Glen Coe. There's even a very long day trip to Orkney (well worth it). Aviemore is in the Cairngorm National Park at the foot of Mt. Cairngorm. Great small village with a funicular up the mountain (or hikes), a local microbrewery that gives tours (and samples), a restored steam train that does round trips along the Spey River to see the countryside (and sheep), a heather center, a reindeer preserve, and easy access to trains or buses to get to some marvelous distilleries and places like Blair Athol (location of Blair Castle). Edinburgh does book up very quickly for August- so make plans early for that part of your trip.

For Ireland, consider renting a place for a week and doing day trips. The Kerry and Dingle areas are very popular and there are lots of cottages/houses/apartments for rent. You could see lots of things with short drives.