Hi All, My husband and I have two full days and a night to do a blitz of the Scottish Highlands or Lake District, ending up in Edinburgh. We're drawn to these areas for the natural beauty. We're young and active, and tend to see things quicker than RS usually plans for. We'll be leaving from the Borders region where my husband does business. With our route, I'm realizing the Scottish Highlands will be a longer route based on RS's recommended drive (Oban-->Glencoe-->Inverness-->Edinburgh). This is our only drive of the trip (the remainder --Edinburgh, York, London, is via train/no car) Which region do you prefer and why?
Heidi, I love the Highlands and Scotland. Do you want to to spend a day walking? I've got lots of suggestions for you depending on your skill. Where are you located? We need to know that to factor into suggestions. Two full days is really not that much time. If you want to got for a nice hike though there are tons of options. Here's a great site to explore or check on recommendations. If I had one day and could magically transport myself there, I would spend it walking in Glen Affric. This is a beautiful Glen and you can do a very nice day's walk around the loch. A closer walk would be near Dunkeld. This is just north of Perth. The town has an old cathedral (long, long ago it was the seat of the church in Scotland), a lovely old bridge over the River Tay, a great pub, The Taybank, and lots of walks. The TI has maps. Or you could go to Aviemore and do walks. If you really wanted to drive a long way, I would drive all the way to Ullapool. then I'd go for lovely walk in the hills above Ullapool. Then enjoy an evening at the Ceilidh Place before heading back the next day. Oh and go to the knitware shop! It's up for sale so if you're looking for a business opportunity.... But I have plenty of other suggestions if you need them. Pam
I'm certain that this will be a minority opinion, but I would choose the Lake District. We visited both in May 2011. Scotland was completely brown; Lake District green. To me, the clincher is that the drive out of Keswick through a mountain pass has all the beauty of the best of the Scottish highlands. However, I would not stay in Keswick. Ambleside, Grasmere, Windemere area much nicer for a stay.
We were in Scotland in April and it snowed at higher elevations; Don't go to the UK if you don't expect rain...although I found it not any worse than the Puget Sound/Vancouver BC area for weather; except maybe a little colder...wear layers of fleece and a tech waterproof layer...wear comfortable water resistant shoes.
I liked the Lake District better in May, both because it was green and because the Highlands, while nice, aren't really that high - more akin to the Mountains around Walla Walla than the Cascades of Western Washington. In May, it's nicely into Spring in the Lake District and only somewhat crowded. In the Highlands, the grass is brown, the sky is gray, it's cold with some snow still on the tops of the hills, the only blooms I recall were the Goarse (I think that's what the shrubs are called). Of course weather can change any time and you have to be ready for anything, anywhere in the UK. It can be sunny in the morning but pouring by noon.
We've been to both in May--- I would pick the Lake District which we enjoyed very much. Also, loved Edinburgh.
There's a flaw with the basic premise. Oban, Glencoe, Inverness, Edinburgh isn't the best of the Highlands, and only is about two-thirds actually in the Highlands. It's a run up the Great Glen followed by a mad dash to Edinburgh. You'll get some good views across Loch Lochy; but, running along Loch Ness, the view is blocked by roadside trees almost the whole way. It's also the most touristy area you could pick. If you really want the best of the desolate Highlands, you need to get north of an east-west line that runs about through Ullapool. Save the Highlands for when you have time to study up on it from sources who've seen more of the country. If you do what you propose, you'll probably shrug your shoulders and never bother to go back. A couple of days is pretty goood for the Lake District.
Great, thanks for all the input. I'm leaning towards going into the Lake District but also want your advice on a shorter route to see the Highlands. Has anyone driven to Oban, then on to Glencoe and into the valley to explore, and back on the 82 into Edinburgh. How is seeing just the Glencoe valley as a "taste" of the Highlands while getting our scotch fix at the Oban distillery? Also, if you were to stay in the Lake District, what town would you stay in for a night, and any specific B&B recommendation? Is the Keswick/Northern region really the best? We're looking for a taste of this region, with a great moderate hike or two with hopes that we'll return.
Look at my post above for suggestions on where to stay in the Lake District. For the Highlands, go from Edinburgh to Pitlochry and stay at the Craigatin House and Courtyard. Martin can map you a couple of day trips to see quite a good sample of the highlands.
Heidi, We have spent many summers in the Lake District and I recommend Keswick as a base. It's not quite as touristy as the southern towns of Windermere, Ambleside or Grasmere, and you can quickly and easily get out of town to hike the beautiful fells...it will be amazing in May!
I visited the Lake District in September and it was lovely. It rained, of course, but it was lovely trip. Pam
You asked about a taste of the Highlands. My family of four (sons ages 8 and 11 back then) spent a few days in Inveraray, which bills itself as the Gateway to the Highlands. It's an hour and a half drive from Glasgow (which we trained to from London). The drive took us longer because my husband stopped at every scenic pullout along Loch Lomond. You migh enjoy walking to Dunadd or row-boating on Loch Awe. http://www.inveraray-argyll.com/ It's an easy half-day drive from there to Edinburgh. We detoured past Stirling, if I recall correctly, so didn't arrive until late afternoon.
We have been in the Lakes into the 3rd week of September before and it's colder and a little rainier but the fells begin turning a beautiful purplish color because the heather begins to bloom...it's lovely!