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Scotish travel Oct10 to 20 2013

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Hi Folks, I know this is short notice but I just found this forum and we are heading to UK on the 7th of Oct. We will be staying with my Son and Family an hour north of London for a few days and then on to Scotland.
We would like to see Edinburgh (castle, underground vaults, walking tour) but as big cities go that would be it. We will be driving and that city may be a bit of a challenge but I'm game.
From there head west to Argyle perhaps. I say west because coming from the mountains of North Carolina it looks like the mountains and the sea are prominent there. We are seat of the pants tourists with our only real objective being to meet the people and the small villages and the local history . Soak up as much of the culture as possible in 8 days or so.
We will be staying at B&B's and Working farm B&B's when possible. If anyone knows of any fine ones it would be appreciated.
My wifes family are Campbell's and we hear that that area is where most Campbell's hailed from. Castles, especially rather torn down ones with a tragic history are interesting to us.
If the time allows, the Mull of Kintyre ( Big Paul fan), Innverness and the Isle of sky are on the list, although that would be quite ambitious I suspect.

Like I said, time is short and we are not good with itinerarys (two days out is tops for us) so the best we could hope for would be recommendations on small unique towns and villages,castles, festivals, short walks, short horse rides, scenic views, history, pubs and eats and B&B's.
We are looking forward to a great visit of Scotland and absorb some of it's culture and history. Thanks in advance for tolerating the rambling.

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    You say you're not good with itineraries but a bit of planning will avoid a lot of stress and disappointment. Right now, you've given us a "shopping list" of places in all 4 corners of Scotland, which are simply incompatible with the short duration of your trip - it would take weeks to properly cover that amount of ground. 10 days might seem like a long time, but you'll lose 2 days straightaway for your car journeys to/from Scotland (unless you are flying home out of a Scottish airport).

    Driving in Edinburgh can be very tricky for the uninitiated, especially in recent years due to major construction work in the West End, however this is set to be completed soon. Most people would agree however that Edinburgh is worth at last 2 or 3 days - there is a vast amount to see and do, and the city has a wonderful atmosphere that makes it hard to leave.

    So that leaves you with just 5 or 6 days to see something (but certainly not all) of the rest of Scotland. You'll have to make some trade-offs here, as you are not going to manage Skye, Mull of Kintyre, Inverness etc etc in this time. There are plenty of threads on here to give you some example 5-6 day itineraries.

    If you wife is a Campbell and you like tragic history, you may or may not want to visit Glencoe - the site of the notorious massacre by members of Clan Campbell against their MacDonald hosts.

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    Thanks Gordon, I know I rambled and was too ambitious. I guess our main objective is to come from London to Edinburgh and then due west. The west coast seems from the looks of it scenery and history wise to be of most interest to us.
    We put 800 miles of driving in Wales two years ago, stayed at farm B&B's, visited small villages and shops, some worn down castles, read a lot of the history, traveled a goat path for several miles to find an 800 year old church that hadn't had a visitor in several weeks and generally pressed the flesh with the locals. Had an amazing time and didn't do anything spectacular. That, in a nutshell, sums up our trips.
    Thanks for the info about Glencoe, I will get right on investigating that.

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    If I were you, I would take the train (maybe even the sleeper) from London to Edinburgh; spend two days/nights there. (I must say, I'm a bit confused by how much time you have, but I think 8 days to do what you want AND get back to London.

    Pick up a car. You can do that in the town centre, but again, the traffic is havoc there, just now. I'd take a taxi to the airport, which has the advantage of being on the right side of town, and collect your car there. I'm assuming you're flying out of London, and I'd take a one way hire with a drop off at the airport in Inverness.

    So, 8 days to do Edinburgh to Inverness in Campbell country.

    Bypass Stirling, go through Callender, up to Crianlarich and down to Inverary. Do Inverary Castle and Jail. Read "Kidnapped" (or, at least see the movie) before you go. The Campbells are not much loved in history. You need to understand why; the castle is magnificent and the town is pretty.

    Go up to Oban. If you have time, go down to Lochgilphead and up through Kilmartin Glen. Take in the Crinan Canal.

    Go to Glencoe (keep thinking "Kidnapped") Do the visitor centre at the very least.

    Go through Fort William and west to Mallaig. Take the boat to Skye. Come back off the island on the bridge, and drive up the Great Glen to Inverness. Fly back to London

    I'm not attaching timescales here although I am in my head. You COULD do that in 5 days, although you'd be mad to. So have a look at a map, and see what you think. You could even squeeze in the Mull of Kintyre if you feel the need.

    Years ago I did a tour on here for folks who wanted to visit Campbell Castles- there are dozens. I have it at home somewhere. I'll post it later if I remember

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    Sheila, that's a good itinerary - I'm not sure they have much time to fit in the Inverness leg, though as you point out a flight back from there to London will save a LOT of time.

    Inveraray (NB correct spelling) Castle would definitely be worth seeing when heading west for anyone with Campbell connections. Apparently they also fimed an episode of Downton Abbey there (though I never watch it myself, I understand it's very popular) Fortunately the castle is still open until the end of October.
    http://www.inveraray-castle.com/home.html
    The town of Inveraray itself and surrounding area are also very picturesque.

    The original Loch Fyne oyster bar at Cairndow is not to be missed either if you love Scottish seafood.
    http://www.lochfyne.com/restaurant-oyster-bar/

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    If you do follow Sheila's plan, be sure to stop at the visitor center for Kilmartin Glen, it is very good and helps explain the many ancient ruins in the area; then go and visit some of the stone circles.

    The visitor center at Glen Coe is the start of some walks, including a short, easy woodland walk with lovely views of the mountains. There is also a ranger there to answer questions about the area. The one there when we went last month was extremely informative both about the nature and the history of the area. We spent a very interesting half hour or more talking to him. If he is there, you will recognize him by his pony tail.

    The boat from Mallaig to Skye requires a reservation for your car. You are sailing from Mallaig to Armadale.

    The trip report from my recent trip is at:

    http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/lochs-lox-locks-and-rocks-nikkis-trip-to-scotland.cfm

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    Oh, one other thought to save time getting to Scotland from you son's place an hour north of London - where exactly? You might find it cheaper (and certainly faster) to fly EasyJet from Luton to EDI. Right now there are direct flights from £33 per person showing on the 10th October. I personally never recommend night trains as, having done it once, I got no sleep and ended up in a daze for the next 24 hours. In your case, you'd have to backtrack down to London Euston to pick it up, which doesn't make much sense.

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    Thanks so much everyone, some great advice there.

    We will be renting a car at Heathrow, so the plane thing is out, besides I hate flying, it takes your fine Scotch on the plane to get me there.
    We will be coming from Woburn Sands, an hour north of London and do some looking on our way to Edinburgh. Capt' Cooks hometown south of Newcastle interests me. We would stay at a B&B south of Edinburgh and arrive there the next day. After that it would be due west and I love your suggestion of Glencoe Gordon and a great idea of the nature walk there Nikki.
    The Oban area as Sheila suggested has always been on our list.
    If we stay in the Fort William/Oban/ Glencoe/ Invergarry area do you think the ferry to Isle of sky and loop would be too ambitious for 5 days? We have 8 total but subtracting 3 for travel to Edinburgh and the city.

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    No. You could do the whole loop in a long day's driving. It's up to you when and for how long you stop

    This was my Campbell (and Urquhart) castle route. Not suggesting you follow it, but lots of Campbell castles on it.

    Day 1 Head west to Dumbarton (Dumbarton Castle- a Campbell Castle) then go on to the south of Loch Lomond and follow the road north as far as Arrochar, where you need to turn left. Cros the pass of the Rest and be Thankful and you will come down to the top of Loch Fyne and Inverary. In Inverary visit the Jail, (read “Kidnapped”) the castle which belongs to the Duke of Argyll Chief of the clan Campbell and is a great visit and the tall ship docked at the harbour. I think you may have ad enough by this stage, so go straight up the length of Loch Awe ( Half way along you pass the island on which stands Innis Chonnel castle- a Campbell castle—and at the top, you will see Kilchurn castle- a Campbell castle-, which is one of those Calendar favourites) and turn left and down to Connel Bridge. Oban is to the south of you and Barcaldine to the north.

    If you want to make this a longer day, head south west from Inveraray towards Lochgilphead and if you want, go right round to Ardrishaig and see the Vital Spark. (Read Neil Gun’s “Tales of Para Handy”) When you come back to Lochgilphead, and visit Crinan with its canal. (actually the last time we were there, the Vital Spark was in the basin at Crinan) Have lunch either at the stunningly located Crinan Hotel or go down Loch Craignish (Craignish Castle- a Campbell castle) and have lunch at the Tayvallich Inn. Head up towards Oban through Kilmartin Glen which is famous for an array of Neolithic constructions- stone circles, standing stones and henge monuments amongst others. It’s well interpreted and well worth a visit. At the south end is Dunadd, the seat of the Kings of Dalriada. Again, it’s worth climbing to the top. Keep going north to Oban. (you can take a short side turn to Carnasserie- a Campbell Castle)The main attraction is the location and its nature as a travel hub. It is a lovely little town right on the coast dominated by a folly on the hill overlooking a lovely and very busy harbour. Lots of the Western Isles ferries sail from here. There are some good tourist shops and you can visit the Oban distillery. Take in Dunstaffnage Castle- a Campbell castle- which is a good place to see the sweep of the bay with Oban climbing up the hillsides and McCaig’s folly at the top.

    Day 2. Drive north. As you pass the road to Port Appin, if you take a short detour, you will see in the water Castle Sween- a Campbell castle. Then go past the bottom of Glencoe (then take a right turn up into Glencoe. This is where the Campbells slaughtered the MacDonalds after Culloden. There's a long story but I won't bore you with it. There's a great song about it though. It's a tremendous place with overbearing hills. It's not called the Glen of Weeping for nothing.) to Fort William (a bit of a railhead town but it does sit below the majesty of Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest mountain). then west, passing Glenfinnan, through Morar and Arisaig to Mallaig and get the ferry to Skye. Turn right and follow the road up from Armadale. The Isle Oronsay hotel is a wonderful place to stay; but it is not cheap. If you think it’s too much off to one side, you can stay just about anywhere on Skye in the middle. I’ve tried and like the Rosedale in Portree, the Sligachan, the climbers’ hotel and Greshornish House. Skye is lovely and romantic and is where Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped to after Culloden, dressed up as a maid to Flora MacDonald and about which the song was written (actually he went from South Uist to Skye, not from the mainland, but why
    spoil a good story.)

    Conscious of the fact that you have only a few days left, you need to decide if, rather than do the whole island, you might just go up as far as Portree, and then come back. As you come south you are approaching the Cuillins which are the most stunning mountains in Scotland. Stop and enjoy. Take half a day and walk up an easy one- Blaven or Bruaich na Friath.. Or you can visit Dunvegan Castle, Portree, Broadford, Uig, the Quiraing, Staffin, the Clan Donald centre and many more. Scenery terrific. An available castle is Kinloch Castle owned and run by Lady Clare MacDonald who is also a gourmet chef. Back on the main road to the mainland, you come over the last hill and see the most godawful bridge over the sea to Skye from Kyle of Lochalsh

    Day 3. Just north of Kyle you will see signs to Plockton on the right. Take the detour. It's on every calendar of Scottish beauty spots you have ever seen. Drive down to Lochcarron and Achnasheen along the south side of the Loch. You will shortly pass one of the best signposts in the world. It says "Strome Ferry- (no ferry)". By pursuing this route you miss out Loch Ness, which in my opinion is no loss. With a short detour to the south you can cut it back in again. On this route, before you get to Inverness, you cross the Kessock Bridge over the Moray Firth. Before that, it might be worth a side trip to Craig castle- an Urquhart castle on the Cromarty Firth. You should stop at the tourist information office just before the river. It has a live closed circuit TV linkup to a Red Kite's nest; and you may see Dolphins in the river from the car park If you decide to do one of the dolphin boat trips please pick one of the boats which is "approved" ie doesn't hassle and hound the dolphins all day. Inverness is at one end of the Caledonian canal, which you need to see. It has nice pubs and hotels, but is essentially a sweet little town with little to keep you in it. It's what is nearby that matters. At this point, I would normally just take you south towards Perth, but, since you want to see castle Urquhart, you need to follow the signs down to Fort William and go as far as Castle Urquhart. Then turn round and come back to Inverness. Take a left and head towards Aberdeen on the A 96, just before you leave Inverness proper go back as far as Culloden-6 miles. You then want a side trip to Cawdor, which, apart from being famous from Macbeth, is (would you believe it?) a Campbell castle. Then cross over to Grantown, and stay about here.

    Day 4 Come back onto the A9 then south towards Aviemore then Newtonmore and Kingussie. I can never remember which comes first, but at one there is a superb 17th century barracks built by the English to keep the Scots down after Culloden. (There is another Urquhart castle at Craigston, near Turriff, and you could come east instead of west at this point) Worth a trip. It's immediately adjacent to Insch Marshes which is another bird reserve- lots of brilliant ducks and waders. Somewhere here come off onto the old main road- less traffic and more scenic Next up you will come to Dalwhinnie- great whisky, great distillery. I don't know if it does tours but it's worth stopping if it does. Go south again on the A9. You will pass a place called House of Bruar which markets itself as "the Harrods of the North" It's a real fancy shop and I hate to say it but I love it. Worth stopping. A couple of miles further on is Blair Atholl, another planned village and a superb castle for a visit. the Duke of Atholl is the only person is the UK licenced by the Queen to have a private army. Go south again and stop at Killiecrankie and see the famous soldier's leap. If you don't know the story, learn the song. Then drive back down to Pitlochry which is a tourist dive, so don't stay long; although it is a good place to get your tweeds and tartans and woolens and things. You could take a side trip her along to Kenmore at the east end of Loch Tay, and see Taymouth Castle- a Campbell castle. Then drive on to Dunkeld, a lovely town on the Tay, with a beautiful historic square, a cathedral and some wonderful views. There's a pub in the village (the name of which I can't remember but it's the second one on the street on the right immediately over the bridge- you can't miss it) which is owned by Dougie Mclean one of Scotland's greatest contemporary singer songwriters. It can be a fine place to spend an evening.

    Day 5 Keeping south you come to Perth -a very nice little city; capital of Scotland before Edinburgh and imbued with history. There are two large parks on the edge of the city centre, the North and South Inches.(Inch is from the Gaelic innis- a meadow)The story goes that a particular Earl of Perth wanting to be buried in the City Church, St John's, told the town magistrates " If you give me six feet, I'll give you two inches". Take time to climb Kinnoull Hill which proudly overlooks the town and the Tay and is surmounted by a folly castle built by another Earl of Perth, who had done the Grand Tour and thought that the Tay valley was just like the Rhine except it didn't have castles on its hilltops- so he faked a couple. Just after you come to Perth you cross over the "Wicks of Baiglie" and can see right down the Tay valley to Dundee. Myth says that Julius Caesar made it this far, and seeing the broad fertile valley stopped and said "Ecce Tiberus!" (Look, the Tiber!). Before you get to the Forth, past Kinross, you reach to Loch Leven, where Mary Queen of Scots was locked up in the castle on the island (v. romantic..the story of the escape- she then fled to her cousin in England for succour. She locked her up for 20 years then beheaded her.(perfidious Albion!) There is a very pretty bird reserve at Vane farm on the south side on the loch. At this point you want to back track a few miles and follow the road from Milnathort to the Yetts of Muckhart and on to Dollar to pck up, in Dollar Glen, Castle Campbell itself. Then keep on to the A9 again and south back into Glasgow.

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    If I were you I would focus on a particular area and try to make the best of that.
    As you know, doing everything on your wish list is practically impossible.
    You could focus on Argyll, Stirling, Perth region for relatively easy transport back down south or go for the fairly long drive from Edinburgh to Skye and stay in that area.
    As has been said before, please don´t be fooled by distances on the map when driving in Scotland, what looks like a couple of miles can take hours.
    No disrespect intended but Fort William and Inverness are not really worth going out of your way for.
    I´d go north from Edinburgh via Perth, Invergarry and Kyle to Skye.
    Back down could be via Mallaig, Fort William, Glencoe and Loch Lomond.
    Either that or focus on Stirling, Oban, Glencoe and maybe even Kintyre.

    Please don´t take this the wrong way but as you only have limited time there will be plenty you will not be able to see and do.
    Trick is to make the best of the time you have.

    As far as driving in Edinburgh goes you don´t need to worry too much about it as you will only be driving into and out of the city.
    When you are there you will not need a car as all things you are interested in are easy walking distance within the city centre.

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    This is the wife that is also traveling to Scotland :-) All I can say is wow! You are all very generous with your time and suggestions. Thank you! The jog north to Iverness is so that I can see the old Guisachan Estate of Lord Tweedmouth. We have golden retrievers so it's kind of like mecca for us (well, me). We wouldn't need to go any further than the estate although I would grudgingly let it go off the list if I must.

    Question - the MacBeth link to Cawdor, is that Shakespears MacBeth or the real MacBeth?

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    >>Question - the MacBeth link to Cawdor, is that Shakespears MacBeth or the real MacBeth?<<

    Answer - it's what Shakespeare had in mind, but there's no real historical link. Cawdor castle was built several hundred years after MacBeth's time:-

    http://www.cawdorcastle.com/macbeth.cfm

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    That really is a great itinerary Sheila. Strange that you mention Kilchurn castle, We had just discovered it hours before your reply. This is exactly what we want; an old castle in the middle of nowhere, with beautiful scenery all around and not touristy. The mountain area of Isle of Skye looks very scenic also.
    Your loop seems so appealing that we may save Edinburgh for the final leg. The long haul will be the first day of our trip from London, after that the distances all look doable for 7 more days.
    Can you or anyone on this thread recommend any B&B's? Where on your trip did you stay?

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    N.B. - bear in mind that "B&B" is a specific term in Scotland - much narrower than what Americans call a B&B.

    In Scotland a B&B has 1-5 guest rooms, a "Guest House" has 6-10 guest rooms but is otherwise the same sort of lodging.

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    Thanks all. We have checked out the B&B sites Gordon and we also have a "Farm Stay B&B" mag waiting for us at my Sons.
    WE will be following very closely in the footsteps of Sheila's travels, that seems to encompass most of what we want to see. Of course never having been there one never knows. Drinks are on us when we get there. You have all been very helpful.

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