Scotland Travel Aug-Oct

My wife and I are planning our (FIRST) dream retirement trip to Scotland for mid Aug to mid Oct. Due to our itineary we will need to rent a car for a extended period. What is recommended: Rent before arrival or after you arrive? Also, our M/C covers the first 30 days of insurance but not afterwards. Any reoommedations for liability coverage there?? Any recommendations of models of cars? It will just be the two of us. Also, while I would like to reserve lodgings ahead of time, she would prefer to travel without alot of commitments and says she has been told once you stay at one BnB, for instance, the Scots are good about helping you find lodging. Any thoughts on that?? We are spending a week in Edinburgh and then traveling north to Inverness and thus to the Orkneys -- and then over easterns Scotland (Skye) and then south to Campbeltown area, onward to Glasgow and thus back to Edinburgh. Any recommendations greatly appreciated! Bruce

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

I've only rented short term10 daysso I can't help with the rental. Why don't you post that specific question on the transportation forum and see if you get some good advice. You may get some here. It sounds like a wonderful trip. In regards to booking in advance, you need to have a rough itinerary and you need to check to see what's happening in the towns where you expect to stay. There can be these festivals that will pack a town. So, I really appreciate the drive to wander, but If it were me, I would have an anchor spot. To begin with, definitely book Edinburgh in advance. If you are going there during the festival, the city fills quickly and most hotels/ B&Bs etc do look for multiple night stays especially over any weekend. And, the Festival is fantastic. Do realize that everything costs more in Edinburgh in August. :) Secondly, its unlikely that you'll get any better B&B recommendation in Inverness for a B&B on Orkney than your would searching online and asking on forums. There are so many online resources these days. BTW I just realized. Is this trip for this year? Then you need to book Edinburgh this week. :( I'll post with some additional resources in a separate post.

Posted by Kathy
Chicagoland
113 posts

If you can drive stick shift, do so. We booked our automatic transmission car ahead of time as a small car, but when we picked it up in York, it was a small SUV instead, since that was the only automatic they had. I tried to exchange it in Edinburgh, but they only had the same model I was already in! Too big for my liking, especially on the narrow roads of the Highlands and Orkney. As for booking ahead of time, since we were there in July, I booked all of our nights months beforehand. I only messed up for our last night near Heathrow (do NOT stay at the Comfort Hotel there!), but did fine the rest of the trip. Use TripAdvisor for ratings; that's how I found our best spots. Recommendations for Scotland: Inverness: Pottery House, which is just south of town across the street from Loch Ness with a view of the loch,. Best place on our entire trip! Custom built as a b&b, so the rooms are terrific, the bathrooms are amazing, they have robes and minifridges in the closet with water and a jug of milk inside, free wifi and a guest computer in the hallway, and the breakfasts are fantastic (I had French toastyummmm). Orkney: the Mill of Eyrland, 5 minutes east of Stromness and just south of the Stones of Stenness. A converted mill from the mid-1800s, and run wonderfully by Morag. We spent 4 nights here, and loved it. Great breakfasts, comfy beds, and it's an old mill!!

Posted by Bruce
Bellingham, Washington, USA
15 posts

Reply Posts to Kathy and Pamela thank you kindly for your posts and reocmmendations! Our trip is this Fall 2013. Booked Edinburgh four months ago we'll be there a week and have tickets to the Scottish Tattoo event. Appreciate suggestion to post to Transportation forum for car query. Automatic vs stick shift was a excellent thought had not thought about that. Due to physical issues, neither of us can drive a stick right now. Expect to rent car from Edinburgh Train Station. For departure have booked night before at Edinburgh Airport Marriott 2 miles from airport. Tonight, thanks to your suggestion we, will look into the Mill of Eyrland on Orkney for our 2-3 days tour. Looking forward to other posts!
thanks Bruce

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

Here's a great website for Orkney: Orkneyjar. This is one of my favorite sites. Sigurd Towrie started it in the late 90's and it's got wonderful info on the history of the Orkney's. As far as the Orkney's go, you can of course see the sites on the mainland in a day or so, but there is more to Orkney. The other isles are fascinating. On the Mainland: Maes Howe, Ring of Brogdar, Stones of Stenness, Skara Brae, the Earl's Palace, Birsay, the Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Stromness.
We stayed in Stromness with family on my first visit and in Kirkwall the second time. There are more restaurant choices in Kirkwall and some of hotels on the harbor have live music. Also, there is the Highland Park Distillery which is a wonderful Whisky and many of the jewelry designers are on the Mainland. I have both Ortak and Sheila Fleet jewelry. We stayed in a B&B (sorry didn't keep the name) and walked into town easily. I would do that on my next stay. Stromness is a smaller town that is dominated by the Ferry. I have lovely woodcuts of the harbor at the turn of the century before last. :) South Ronaldsay is more rural. St. Margaret's Hope is where the John o'Groats Ferry lands and is tiny village. There's a tapestry weaver just of town that does beautiful work. In the way south of the island is the Eagles Tomb which is interesting visit and the walk along the cliffs to get to the tomb is good as well. Hoy is a very different island. There are walks to the Old Man, but I enjoyed seeing Longhope where the Vikings dragged their long ships over to Scappa Flow and the Martello Towers.

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

We also took the ferry over to Shappinsay to see Castle Balfour and really enjoyed it even though it's very Victorian. The walled garden was quite nice. Of course, on your way to South Ronaldsay are Churchill Barriers and the Italian Chapel which is worth a stop. Have you found Undiscovered Scotland? I have also found that the tourist office is very helpful. There are people who speak with scorn of VisitScotland, but they have helped me many, many times. You can look for town specific offices and email them directly. Most recently I've not stayed in Inverness, but have been based on the Black Isle at Fortrose. The Anderson is a wonderful small hotel with a good restaurant, a whisky bar and a pub. Last time I was there they had knitting nights. ;) I've stayed a couple of times and have friends that have stayed multiple times. On Skye I stayed at The Skye Picture House. It has changed hands since I was there for my photo workshop, but it's a great location if you want to be away from Portree. If you're going all the way to Campbeltown then check out Kilmartin's Glen on your way south. I stayed at Stonefield Castle near Tarbert and enjoyed the luxury. Pam

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

BTW I've always driven stick in the UK. Pick up your car when you are ready to leave Edinburgh. You won't need ti before then. The roads can be small and the A9 has lots of traffic, but there are some wonderful drive, particularly if you get off the A9. Head to Aberfeldy and drive over the mountain Loch Rannoch. But before you do, drive out Glen Lyon. It's beautiful. There'a a nice little gallery part way out. Speaking of gallery's there is wonderful one right above Balmoral. If you are looking for reading material, for Orkney, try to find a George Mackay Brown novel. For history of Scotland, look for Nigel Tranter. For contemproary Scotland, Ian Rankin. There is a Waterstones on Prince's Street with a good selection of Scottish books. And, if you like whisky and driving look for Iain Banks, Raw Spirit. Pam

Posted by Marlene
Crystal Lake, IL, USA
1 posts

My husband and I, together with three friends, spent a couple of weeks in May in the Central Highlands of Scotland. We rented a cottage in Killin, Scotland through Home at First. HAF rents cottages and takes care of car rental and air fare throughout the UK and Ireland. From Killin we drove more than 800 miles in our two weeks. Scotland is beautiful and returning each night to a village and a home beats a hotel by far.

Posted by Cynthia
Gig Harbor, Washington, USA
1202 posts

Since you have such a long time for your trip (lucky you!), you might want to include these areas which aren't on the usual tourist circuit: Kilmartin Glen, full of fascinating neolithic sites, not too far from Kilchurn Castle which is also worth a stop......another area, Lewis. Take the ferry from Uig on Skye, drive the loop road around Harris and then head up to Lewis (they are actually the same island). We went to Lewis to see Callanish but we were surprised at how beautiful the rest of the island is. It's full of tiny lochans - seems like the island is more water than land. You can return to the mainland by taking the ferry from Stornoway (very good restaurant there, Digby Chicks) to Ullapool. Try to avoid Lewis on Sundays - many businesses there still close on Sundays. From Ullapool, you can head south into Wester Ross. Loch Torridon and Glen Torridon are beautiful....Then head back to the more popular tourist areas.

Posted by j.c.
Cary, NC, United States
842 posts

I rented a car in Inverness the year before last for two weeks. I booked ahead online and definitely recommend that. My VISA coverage was accepted but I had to bring written confirmation of the coverage from VISA. (I would not have known that had I not booked ahead.) I'd definitely arrange liability coverage. Stuff happens. Given the duration of your visit, you might look at a 60-day lease, rather than a 60-day rental. Might be cheaper. I'd also check to be sure the credit card coverage doesn't have a time limit less than 60 days. Unless you have experience driving a standard transmission UK car in the UK, I'd ask for an automatic. That's one less thing to distract you. If you're carrying 60 days worth of luggage, then you'll need a car it will all fit in, too. Maybe an estate (station) wagon with the rear seats folded down. The car I picked up in Inverness was a BMW estate wagon. With the seats down, a fair amount of luggage would fit. (Fine for the roads, too. Typical BMW handling.) The luggage issue might merit calling the place where you're going to pick up the car to, first, discuss your luggage needs, and, two, to make sure the car you pick is actually there on the day you need it. I'd booked a VW Golf, but they switched me to the BMW. Might have been the other way around. Bookings: Definitely book ahead for Edinburgh and Inverness and the Orkneys. For overnight stays while on the road, I prefer booking a day ahead. So, sometime on Monday, say, I'll find and book for Tuesday night. Scotland, especially the Highlands, is sparsely populated so you could often be looking for a room in a small-ish town along with other tourists. You'll be near Oban when you're driving south from Skye. I'd recommend taking the all-day ferry/bus tour from Oban across Mull to Iona. A day well spent.

Posted by Bruce
Bellingham, Washington, USA
15 posts

To all of you who have been so gracious and helpful with your traveler's advice, we certainly appreciate it very, very much. Your collaborative advise has been outstanding in helping us plan ahead for this adventure! As a ; we have reservations made throughout our two month Scotland visit. Again, this is our retirement vacation of a life time - thus the lengthy visit. There are several periods however, where we will be making reservations "on the spot" the majority of the trip, we're now covered. Thanks for all of your suggestions!!! We have experienced Rick Steve's travel advise through a consult at their headquarters in Edmonds Washington a month ago. Well worth the $$$ !! We are definitely "traveling light" so a small automatic car will fit our needs. Credit Card Car Rental. What we have found when considering credit card(s) and using their CDW insurance coverage for renting a car in Scotland, M/C and American Express have a 30 day limit for insurance coverage with rentals. We will need more than 30 days. we will plan on using one credit card for the first rental and ananother credit card for the second rental. Depending upon where we end up renting from we may find it simply better to just pay the insurance through the rental car agency. Ideally if we could rent a car in Edinburgh (although I'm told the chances of obtaining a automatic are not good) and then turn it in at Glasgow; rent a second car in Glasgow and continue our journey with the option to turn that one in back in Edinburgh would be great and help tremendously in the logistics of travel. While that might work in the U.S. not sure about Scotland. Has anyone done that before? Great idea to contact M/C and AMX card companies and request written confirmation of coverage! Again, thank U all!
Bruce

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

You may have misunderstood something I wrote in your other thread. AmExp will provide insurance for either forty or fourty-two consecutive days. Turnhouse is the Edinburg airport. They will have automatics. Europcar was so full of them a few weeks back that they asked me if I'd mind taking one at the rate of the standard I'd reserved. Edinburgh Waverly (train station) is a smaller operation and might not have one.

Posted by Bruce
Bellingham, Washington, USA
15 posts

Thanks Ed
Indeed, I may have misunderstood about AMX. Just thought I read somewhere recently where they had backed off that 40-42 days internatinally. Will check AMX tomorrow. BTW do you recommend going through Eurocar or simply trying the rental car agency direct, like Enterprise? I've had good luck with them here in the states. Also, any luck with renting from one place (Edinburgh Airport) and turning car in like in Glasgow? Lots of questions i know - but this is the last issue remaining to resolve for our trip. Bruce

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

If AmExp has changed that's a gut shot for me. I rent in one place and drop in another all the time, as long as it's in the same country. I find my cars through kayak.com. For the UK, I'll take whoever is cheapest with a couple of exceptions. There's two consolidators that pop up. Holiday is crap and will never get my business again. Autoeurope is being punished for two years since this is what I do to them once they screw me three times in a row - - everybody else seems to like them.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

AmEx's website says: Enjoy the Ride – Coverage applies to the first 30 consecutive days of most car rentals and there is no deductible. Worldwide Coverage² is not available for vehicles rented in Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica and New Zealand nor Small Business Cardmembers except for Business Platinum® Card. However, over on the side there's a little blurb about upgrading to 'Premium' coverage and on that page under 'Protection' it says: Coverage is worldwide, except for vehicles rented in Australia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, and New Zealand*. Coverage is for up to 42 consecutive days (up to 30 consecutive days for Washington State Cardmembers). https://www.americanexpress.com/us/content/card-benefits/car-rental-insurance.html?vgnextchannel=3c830da9846dd010VgnVCM10000084b3ad94RCRD&name=carrentallossdamageinsurance_allccsg_shareddetails&type=intbenefitdetail https://www295.americanexpress.com/premium/car-rental-insurance-coverage/home.do?intlink=premiumprotecthub_browsepromos_pcrpmonitoring&intlink=us-CCSG-NAC-CarRental-LearnMore

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

This may be a dumb question, but couldn't a person rent a vehicle for 30 days and return it? Have one or two down days (we all need a vacation from our vacation). Then do a second rental contract on a different vehicle for 30 more days and be covered? Or any viable breakdown of days that fits with one's schedule?

Posted by Bruce
Bellingham, Washington, USA
15 posts

Hi Rose No, I don't think that is a dumb question with all the variables (potential financial hazards) involved I don't believe there is a dumb question when trying to cycle through this car rental in Europe. I appreciate everyone's input thus far. This is not a ordinarly trip due to length. Still trying to keep it the "dream vacation of a lifetime"! I believe renting twice; once for a car from Edinburgh to Glasgow (30 days) and then a second car (20 days) Glasgow back to Edinburgh is the trick to accomplish. Whether trying to work with AutoEurope or directly through indivdual car rental agencies Now to see if AMX and M/C credit cards will agree by providing the CDW coverage and rental company the Liability coverage which I'm told is included in the rental price. Searching rental agencies now for automatic cars for that time period. Wish me luck! We're down to 7 weeks prior to departure.
Bruce

Posted by Bruce
Bellingham, Washington, USA
15 posts

Thanks to all of you experienced travelers who have posted suggestions and experiences to my Scotland travel query. I took the plunge this afternoon and made my rentals based on your combined experiences, our personal itineary needs, and my best gut feeling. I'm going to post the results of this afternoons rental under the Transportation message board. I will also post how all of this worked out when we return!
Bruce

Posted by Jean
Stillwater, NY
61 posts

I always use Gemut.com for my European auto rentals. They always et me a great price and provide excellent customer service. Believe they are based in Oregon.