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TRIP REPORT-12 Nights In Stunning Scotland For Family Of 4

Overview; We are a family of 4, two adults and two girls ages 11 and 14. This was my girls first trip to Europe. We spent a total of one month. We spent 10 nights in Norway, 12 nights in Scotland and 7 nights in Ireland in July and August, 2018.
This is my Scotland trip report, it was our first visit there. I planned everything and did all the driving, which was mostly easy. I had reserved a manual, but Hertz gave us an automatic at no extra charge. It had built in Sat Nav, which was great!

Itinerary; 3 nights Edinburgh, 3 nights Inverness, 2 nights Portree, 3 nights Oban, 1 night Edinburgh

Weather; Beautiful! Mostly sunny. We had two days with rain, but they were travel days getting from one location to another. A bit windy in places after we went to the highlands, but not entirely unexpected.

Food; In my perfect planning world, I envisioned us taking advantage of the breakfasts offered at all the places we stayed. Eat a large breakfast, a small snack or nothing for lunch, then an early dinner. Works for me! This was to help keep costs down. What really happened? My kids are not big breakfast eaters and my husband is a three squares a day guy. So, we did eat lunch out on occasion, but tried to eat cheaply. Sometimes, lunch was just snacks. Dinner out is usually a must for us, so since we skimped on lunch (but not always), we ate dinner early.

Day 1; We left Bergen, Norway in the am on KLM with a stop in Amsterdam. My youngest daughters backpack gave up the ghost and so we purchased her a new one. At the Edinburgh airport, we tried to use the ATM’s for local currency, but the machines would not take our debit cards. We eventually got local currency near our B&B. We took the Airlink bus from the airport to our B&B, Castleview. We got off at Waverly station and it was a long walk with luggage to our B&B. We found out later there was a stop that was closer and we used that when we left Edinburgh.
Our B&B was located on Castle street and was about 4 or 5 blocks to the Royal Mile. It was somewhat disappointing in that we were in a small family room on the 5th floor. This meant 8 flights of stairs to go up and down. Also, hot air rises. Yes, the room was warm, but it did have a fan (no AC) and with the old windows that only open a bit. It was barely sleepable for me and frankly, the beds were awful. We also had a problem with our shower head, which they did manage to fix for us. However, we thought the location was good. Close to the Royal Mile, but not too close. We did wish it had a lounge/sitting area for guests. There wasn’t one. We like having one to get some space from the kids and enjoy our adult happy hour. A balcony can also suffice, but it didn’t have one of those either. We would not stay here again, although, upon checking out, the manager did take 10% off for our troubles.
After our check-in, we headed to the Royal Mile. Wow, so many people! The street performers were fun. We walked around and then had dinner at The Royal Mile Tavern. I had to try the Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. I had read they were good here. It did not disappoint. My oldest ordered it too and loved it. Wow! (My kids are not adventurous eaters. Oldest is getting better!) Loved our meal here!

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Day 2; After breakfast (no buffet here, menu ordering), we headed to Edinburgh Castle for our timed entry at 9:30am. We had purchased advance tickets online before the trip.
We headed straight for the crown jewels. Thank you RS forum members! No line, we walked right in and had them all to ourselves. By the time we came out, the line was unbelieveable! We then went back to the entrance and took the free guided tour. We had a great tour guide to tell us the history of the castle. Then we looked around on our own. We spent about 2 hours here. Then we made our way, slowly, to the other end of the Royal Mile and decided to see Hollyrood Palace. We did not have advance tickets, but the line was short. We were very glad we did this, my kids loved having the included audio guides (anything electronic) and to see and hear things at their own pace. I wish they always included the audio guides, but at some attractions, they charge you.
That evening, we got the kids some fast food and left them at the hotel playing on their electronics, while my husband and I enjoyed our foodie dinner at Aizle. This was a ways out of town, so we took a taxi. A 6 course tasting menu. Not a fancy place, but the food was awesome. I was in foodie heaven. Stuffed, we took a taxi back to our B&B.

Day 3; We had a somewhat leisurely morning, then headed off to the Museum of Scotland. Such a beautiful museum! The best part is, it’s free! We stayed here till we were pooped out and we didn’t even see half of it. Then we went to find the statue of Bobby at Greyfriars Cemetery. We had watched the Disney movie before we left on the trip. After the museum, lunch and cemetery, we rested back at our B&B. Then we headed out to walk through Dean’s village. This was a disappointment! It didn’t look like the lovely pictures I had seen prior and it was just the part on the bridge, there was nothing else to see here. So we continued walking and came upon Dean’s cemetery. This was cool! We spent some time here wandering and checking out the headstones.
I do have a thing for cemeteries. I don’t know why. Dinner was at Scran & Scallie’s, where I had my first meat pie. So, so good.

Day 4; Travel day. Checked out of our B&B and headed to Stirling Castle. I know many other’s will disagree with me here, but we did not enjoy this castle nearly as much as Edinburgh Castle. I know it has more history, but visually it’s just not as appealing. We didn’t stay too long. Then we drove to Pitlochry and took a tour of the Edradour distillery. This is Scotland’s oldest and smallest whisky distillery. We enjoyed our tour and the wee dram at the end. The tour was 1 hour. The kids waited in the car for us, as my youngest was not old enough to take the tour.. Finally, about 7pm, we arrived at our B&B, Moyness House in Inverness. We really liked this place. The host was great and even shared a few wee dram’s with us. It had a nice sitting area for our happy hour. We had the Neil Gunn room. The only downside, is the girls had to share a bed. It did not go well…….sigh. We walked into town (about 10 min walk) and found a restaurant to have dinner.

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Day 5: Off to Cullodin Battlefield and Clava Cairns. We paid for the guided tour and used the provided audio guides. While you could not describe this as fun, it is a worthwhile thing to do. A very important event in Scottish history. My husband and I love history. The kids not so much. After our day, we fed the kids with some fast food and left them at the B&B and headed off for an adults only dinner at Rocpool. This was outstanding, my husband’s favorite place we ate at in Scotland.
Day 6; Today we took a 1 hour drive to Glospie to visit Dunrobin Castle and see their falconry demonstration. We loved the falconry demonstration. Absolutely fascinating birds. Lovely gardens as well. On the way back to Inverness, we made a spontaneous stop at a forest trail and took a 1 hour loop hike.

Day 7; Travel day. We checked out of our B&B and said good-bye to our host, John. We were headed to Portree, on the Isle of Skye. An approx. 3 hour drive that took us about 7 with all the stops. We made a detour to Plockton for lunch. We arrived in Portree and checked into The Bosville Hotel. This hotel is very well located and we were pleased to have a pub and restaurant attached to the hotel. We loved our family room as well, as the kids area was a bit separated from ours. This town is very busy, but we like having the services offered by a busier town. Parking is a bit of an issue. We would definitely stay here again. Eggy bread was a breakfast highlight. We had fish & chips for dinner at The Chippy and enjoyed drinks and conversation in the pub. We dropped off laundry at one of the B&B’s nearby.
Day 8; Today we drove the Trotternish peninsula. We did the hike up Old Man of Storr. We drove through the Quiraing area and it is absolutely stunning. We made our way to Uig and had lunch at the Uig hotel. Then we decided to head to the Museum of Island Life (a hard way of life indeed) and enjoyed that. All the while, I am seriously on the lookout for a hairy coo. I had to have a picture of one! Not a one was spotted and I was beginning to think they were as mythical as the unicorn. The evening we had dinner at The Granary.

Day 9; Travel day. The Isle of Skye did not disappoint! We loved it. My only disappointment was not getting a shot of a hairy coo. And then, as we were leaving we saw some. Right next to the road and we were not the only ones who stopped to get a photo. I was so happy!
We checked out of the Bosville and headed to Armadale. I had reserved the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig to save on driving time. We continued to drive to Oban and didn’t make any stops as this was a very rainy day. We checked into the Aspen Lodge B&B, where we had two rooms for the first time in Scotland. I had not been successful at finding a room in Oban that could accommodate 4 in a room. This B&B is a few miles out of town, but in a lovely country location. Loved our rooms here and the views.
We headed into town to find some grub. Really like the vibe of Oban.

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Day 10; Today was our 3 Island tour to Mull, Iona and Staffa and what a glorious day we had! An absolute highlight of our time in Scotland. Highly, highly recommend.
We took a ferry to Mull. On Mull we took a bus with great commentary about the island. As an aside, I would love to go back and spend some time on this island.
Then another ferry to Iona to view and tour (yheah, audio guides) the Christian abbey founded by St. Columba. A very important place even today for devout Christian’s. Time to wander around on our own and have a bite to eat. Then we took a ferry to Staffa, where we got up close and personal with Puffins! Even though we have these birds in Alaska, this was the closest I had ever been to them. We sat on the cliff’s edge and the curious little buggers came right up to us. My kids loved this.
We had just enough time (we walked quickly) to head to the other part of the island to view Fingal’s Cave with the hexagon lava tubes. The inspiration for Mendelsshon’s Hebrides overture. Of course, the weather was perfect and this definitely helped us enjoy this day. That evening we had dinner at Piazza.

Day 11; Today we had a relaxed morning and then we headed out to see about some lawn bowling. My youngest bowls in a league and she really wanted to do this. The first time we got there, no one was there, but when we called, they said they would be around later. So we wandered around Oban and late in the afternoon we headed over to the Oban Lawn Bowling club (founded in 1869) again. There was a tournament going on, so we sat and watched. Then one of the men offered us to bowl as well, so we did. We had fun and realized it is not as easy as they made it look. After we had worked up an appetite (ha) we had dinner at Eeusk on the pier.

Day12: We left Oban and headed to Glasgow, where we were dropping my husband off at the airport. It was time for him to head back to work, so we can pay for this vacation!
The girls and I continued on to Edinburgh, where we overnighted at an airport hotel, Premier Inn. We stopped along the way at the Falkirk Wheel. We returned the rental car and had dinner at the hotel.

Day 13; Departed in the am to Shannon, Ireland.

Final thoughts; We loved Scotland. So beautiful and the history is also fascinating. It helped that my DH and I had watched a 10 part BBC series on the history of Scotland. It makes the place more enjoyable when you know the history. We are also fans of Dougie McClean (Scottish singer), and enjoyed listening to his music in the car as we toured around. I felt that the pace of the trip was just about right for us. We are not busy, busy rush about people. We do like some downtime. We are early to bed and early to rise. We also are not budget travelers. We like nice places to stay and good food to eat (although we tried to economize somewhat on this).

Total Cost for a family of 4 in Scotland for 12 nights (NOT including airfare) but including rental car, all transportation, food and ice cream, laundry, alcohol, gas, and all accomodations and activities.
$6,332.00

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1722 posts

Sounds like a great trip! We were also a big fan of Mull, especially the north end of the island.

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1918 posts

Great report, thanks for sharing! Probably a dumb question...but do you drive on the opposite side of the road like in England and Ireland? You make doing Scotland seem very doable independently.

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1756 posts

@Judy B-I was so worried about the driving before we went. Yes, driving is on the left like England and Ireland. Not a big deal, you just make your new mantra, Stay left, stay left. The hardest part was getting out of the city and the roundabouts.......but if you miss your roundabout turn, you just go around again. And thank goodness, the busier roundabouts had lights to regulate the traffic. I do think anyone can do it. Sat nav is a life saver though!

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We just returned from a week long trip in Scotland. The weather was so perfect this year for a tour of Scotland! We did many of the same things as your trip but its funny we preferred Stirling over Edinburgh castle. Just too many people at Edinburgh for us. Scotland is definitely a place to do independently. Loved the Isle of Skye - Amazing place especially enjoyable in the sunshine! I was also looking for the Highland coo - I eventually saw them up against a fence and saw many people taking pictures. It was probably the same ones!!! We did not have time to visit the other Isles from Oban as you did. Maybe next time for us. We enjoying watching the Harry Potter train - for my daughter at Glenfinnan. I really enjoyed the peace and tranquility of Scotland as well a the food and friendly people. We had wonderful B&B's but did have a couple of not so good hotel/lodges that actually were more expensive. just a wonderful place to visit. I enjoyed your trip report.

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4346 posts

I'm bemused by this obsession with the Highland cow, is there something I'm missing?

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@JC-well I would say its the Scottish that are obsessed with their Highland coo. The photos, pictures are everywhere! Like the leprechaun in Ireland! I just think they are cute and have not seen them before in any other place, and they are just iconic of the highlands.

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936 posts

Loved the report! I'm glad your girls are old enough that you and hubby got some evening time to yourselves.

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679 posts

Sounds like a perfectly planned trip. So congratulations. Glad you got away for a few "foodie" dinners. The kids were probably in heaven also.

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980 posts

What a great trip and itinerary! My ex is from Scotland and we always planned to take the kids but never had a chance to. One day, I would like to go with the kids who are adults now and see as much as you saw. And yes, we want to see the Highland coos!

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903 posts

You are not the only one who has a cemetery. I do too! Glad to know there is someone else out there like me! So glad you loved Culloden, Skye, Oban, Staffa, Iona and Mull. My husband and I loved all of those places too. Sounds like a great trip and great exposure to travel for your kids.

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815 posts

Makes me want to go back to Scotland. We were there in April!

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2116 posts

I share your obsession with highland cows. Our first trip to Scotland we looked everywhere for them, and finally saw some on Skye as well. They are the cutest!

Our new obsession is puffins, which we have searched for in vain for many years, including on Staffa. The funny thing is that while we were in Scotland, our son and daughter-in-law were in Maine, and they saw puffins there. We always seem to be in puffin locations at the wrong time of year. Someday...