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10-day Scotland itinerary...What would you do?

10-day Scotland itinerary...What would you do?

Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 10:27 AM
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10-day Scotland itinerary...What would you do?

I've read the DK book, I've searched through various posts here, and I've talked to a few people. Now I'm ready to start thinking seriously about my Scotland plans for summer 2004.

Here's the question:
What is the best 10-day/night sampling of Scotland that you would recommend to a first-timer?

Shorter version:
What are the MUST-SEE places for the discerning traveler?

Helpful info:
* Two 40-year-olds and our 10-year-old daughter.
* Driving preferred.
* We like natural beauty, charming villages, historic sites and the like. Not big on nightlife.
* Must see Stirling and Edinburgh (family roots there)
* Probably flying into/out of Edinburgh. Glasgow is possible too.
* About 3 nights each in 3 places is best suited to our style.
* B&B accommodations are fine w/ us.

Anyone? I'm all ears.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 11:25 AM
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4 days, 3 nights in Edinburgh- includes day trip to Stirling. Do not get a car for this bit. Use the train to commute.

Leave Edinburgh towards Perth, and cross the Forth Road Bridge; you pass the rail bridge, one of the modern wonders of the world on your right, and you don't even have to slow down.

Just over the river (the Forth) Dunfermilne is on your left. Robert the Bruce, the hero king who won Bannockbrn is buried here in Dunfermilne Abbey (although his heart is buried at Melrose in the borders); go back onto the main road and you will shortly come 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. There is a very pretty bird reserve at Vane Farm on the south side on the loch.

Just before 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!)

Perth is 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.

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.

If you then take a wee detour west to Aberfeldy and Loch Tay you will pass Breadalbane Castle, former home of the Marquis of Breadalbane, and now a golf course! and come to the lovely 18th century planned village of Kenmore. the Loch is stunning. And if you're up to the walk, go along the north side to Ben Lawers and drive up to the National Trust visitor centre. Time it right and then walk up to the top. Don't do this if it's raining unless you're nuts!

Then drive back down to Pitlochry. Pitlochry 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...if you've got any money left after Edinburgh.

Go north again and stop at Killiecrankie and see the famous soldier's leap. If you don't know the story, learn the song.

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.

From Blair Atholl, go north 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.

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. Come off the main road somewhere north of here and carry on on the old main road- less traffic and more scenic.

You come to Newtonmore and Kingussie I can never remember which comes first, but at the first one there is a superb 17th century barracks built by the English to keep the Scots down after Culloden. Worth a trip. It's immediately adjacent to Insch Marches which is another bird reserve- lots of brilliant ducks and waders ( did I mention I was into birds?) Carry on up the Spey until just before Aviemore and turn right as though you were going to Grantown on Spey. You come first to Rothiemurchus which has all sorts of visitor facilities, then to Abernethy estate, which is also owned by the bird people (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds- like the Audobon) At their Loch Garten reserve you can see Osprey which are wonderful fish eating raptors which live in Africa in winter and come to visit us in summer. They always come back to the same nest so the RSPB have a live TV camera showing everything that is going on. In June you should have young in the nest. In any case, Rothiemurchus and Abernethy are remnant Caledonian pine forest- our oldest trees; and I guarantee you, that, unless you are made of stone, a walk off the track will make your skin tingle. You have the sensation of being where generations have been before. If you go up into the hills here quite a long walk- 4-5 hours, but worth every minute) you may well see Golden Eagle. By going back to Aviemore and going to the ski slopes at Cairngorm, you can take the chairlift well up the mountain; but we'll all hate you for doing it the easy way. If you carry on towards and past Grantown you are into the whisky country of Speyside. Glenfiddich distillery at Dufftown may not make the best malt in the world (there's no such thing as a bad one) but it probably does the best tour.

Back to the A9 along the Spey and you drive on to Inverness capital of the Highlands. (Aviemore is like Pitlochry but modern- avoid it like the plague) you have the Cairngorms Mountains on your right and the Monadliath Mountains on your left. It's just grand.

Just before you get to Inverness turn right and go back as far as Culloden-6 miles.(as an alternative to this you could carry on east from Dufftown and arrive at Elgin and come up the A96, stopping at some of the Moray fishing villages on the way. Culloden will appear on your left before you get to Inverness.

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.

Leaving Inverness, you cross the Kessock Bridge over the Moray Firth. You should stop at the tourist information office just over 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.

Go to Skye. Keep going on the A9 until just before Dingwall and then turn left towards Garve. You cross open moorland all the way across Scotland from the east side to the west. It's very grand (but nothing to what you are coming to!)

Drive down to Achnasheen then Lochcarron and at Lochcarron take the south side of the Loch. You will shortly pass one of the best signposts in the world. It says "Strome Ferry- (no ferry)" You may not notice it however because if you are watching the scenery you will think you have died and gone to heaven. You haven't. That is still to come.

(Can I just put in as a caveat that it may be raining- it usually is on the west coast of Scotland. If it is you should reconcile yourself to seeing nothing further till you leave the country.)

A few miles past the Strome Ferry turning 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.

Back on the main road you come over the last hill and see the Isle of Skye ahead of you. You came to the village of Kyleakin, where they have built the most godawful bridge over the sea to Skye. 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.)

As you come south from Portree, the capital of the island, 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.

Stop for a meal somewhere, then turn right and follow the road down to Armadale. The Isle Oronsay hotel is a wonderful place to stay; but it is not cheap. (the Sligachan- the climbers' hotel is).

From Armadale take the ferry to Mallaig and by following the road across to Fort William you pass Glenfinnan .

Fort William is a bit of a railhead town but does sit below the majesty of Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest mountain.

From Fort William drive down to Ballachulish then take the diversion through Glencoe. This is where the evil 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.

Coming out of Glencoe you have a choice which I suggest is time oriented. You could have gone straight down the coast to Oban instead of turning off at Ballachulish. Now I would suggest that you go back to Dalmally and on to Oban.

Oban 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. If you've left enough time, take the day trip on the ferry to Iona, the cradle of Christianity. St Columba came from Ireland to educate us heathens, and set up his staging post here. There is a lovely mediaeval Abbey and beautiful beaches and to get there you sail up the Sound of Mull and past Staffa (Fingal's cave- Mendolssohn's Hebridean Overture and all that), so you get to see the outside edges of Mull and the Ardnamurchan peninsula too.

If you don't have time to do that it is still worth going to Oban anyway.

If you go the direct route from Fort William missing out Glencoe you should visit the Pierhouse at Port Appin, if not to stay (double rooms are about £70 b&b) then for some of the best seafood with one of the best views in the world.

South from Oban, you drive down to Lochgilphead then up Loch Fyne to Inverary ( nother planned village from the 18th century) Visit the jail and you are in "Kidnapped" country.

The castle belongs to the Duke of Argyll Chief of the clan Campbell (boo; hiss!) and is a great visit.

Then stay on the main A83 crossing the road known as "the Rest and be Thankful" (and when you see it, you'll know why) and come down to Tarbet on Loch Lomond, Scotland's largest loch. Personally I think it's overrated, and only has the following it has because it's so close to Glasgow, but there are those who swear by it... it's OK

The road will bring you out at Dumbarton and then you are 20 miles along a motorway to Glasgow, your destination. There are one or two things to see in Glasgow too- the Burrell gallery, the Willow tea rooms, the School of Art; the Necropolis; George Square; great shopping; the Clyde, the Clyde, the wonderful Clyde, the name o' it thrills me and fills me wi' pride...; the People's Palace... but I'm an east coast girl and I don't hold with this west coast stuff ( at least, not south of Arrochar).

I have just realised that by leading you that route to Skye I missed out Loch Ness (which I would willingly do, but you _are_ American (I guess)..Instead of going north to Dingwall, as an alternative, you can go down the north side of the Loch. Stop at Castle Urquart, see the piper; hope you see the Monster, then turn right at Invermoriston and follow the road to Dornie. It's still worth going a few minutes to the north to Plockton, and pick up the previously advised route.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 11:36 AM
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Superb post from sheila ([email protected]) I was going to suggest some travel plans but she has said it all!!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 11:42 AM
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Wow, Sheila. I'm not worthy! That was the single most helpful post I've ever received on ANY discussion board, ever.

Many, many thanks. I can't wait to buy a detailed map and plot this route!
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 11:48 AM
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As you may have spotted, that was one I prepared earlier.

I have been answering (and sometimes asking) questions here for nearly 4 years and little can be asked that hasn't been before. Every so often someone wants something unique, and I'm thrilled to do that too.

Feel free to come back for amendments or something entirely different
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 12:37 PM
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mr_go: Sheila's response is superb. Would that I had had such an itnerary before my first trip to Scotland. I have done most of what she suggests, but had to piece it together over several trips. No matter. It is still a wonderful trip and because of Sheila's response, you will be able to do it efficiently.
May I very humbly make one suggestion? When in the area of Elgin/Culloden, make a stop at Pluscarden Abbey. It was founded by King Alexander II of Scotland in 1230 and maintains much of it's original structure. It is very close by (six miles to Elgin)and a wonderous place. You won't be sorry.
At this point, you are very close to the top of the "WhiskyTrail" and even if you are not into single malts, several of the distilleries are in this area. I especially enjoyed Dallas Dhu because of the beautiful architecture, the excellent tour and the history of the place. Again, it is close by.
Have a great trip.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 03:27 PM
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Thanks, joegri. I'm sure that I might just be in the vicinity of that whiskey trail during the trip. For, ahem, historical research purposes. Yes. Drinking in the local culture, as it were. Quite so.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 03:30 PM
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Wow Sheila you are a ROCK STAR!
I was just going to add that if you head toward Dunfermline and north of there-definately go to Falkland Palace...we LOVED it, and we visited MANY places. The palace is so historical, the grounds AMAZING, and the town is lovely.
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 10:33 PM
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WhisKY (not whisKEY!!)
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Old Dec 2nd, 2003, 10:37 PM
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A couple of points for you to amend your notes with, Sheila - Dalwhinnie Distillery does do tours (though when my late father worked there many years ago, that would have surprised him a great deal, I think!) and you come off the A9 south of Dalwhinnie to get there. Thereafter, Newtonmore comes first, then Kingussie, where Ruthven barracks are.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2003, 12:39 AM
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Wow, Sheila! =D>
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Old Dec 3rd, 2003, 07:57 AM
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I am hanging my head in shame over misspelling whisky. I make my living as a writer, but clearly NOT as a speller!

Thanks again to all for the valuable input.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2003, 08:05 AM
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Pfjewww, Sheila!!!
That's a complete guide!
It is so taking that I 'heard' the text with a scottish accent in my head!
A masterpiece!
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Old Dec 3rd, 2003, 08:17 PM
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Brilliant route, Sheila.

One thing to add to the southern end of the west Highland part of her itinerary is the village of Kilmartin on the A816 a bit north of Lochgilphead. Stand in the church yard and look down on the valley floor where there are littered numerous prehistoric tombs, stone circles, and other evidence that this country has been inhabited since thumbs were invented. Depending on the atmospherics of the day, it can be spooky, eerie, or just plain gorgeous, but inevitably thought-provoking. The little Kilmartin Hotel across the street is quite cozy provided the bikers haven't arrived en masse on their booze cruise.

Have a look at a great website, Undiscovered Scotland, at http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk - a fine guide to off-the-beaten-path resources.
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Old Dec 3rd, 2003, 11:57 PM
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Sheila's post brought back fond memories of our trip last summer. I must say, highlights for me were the Isle of Iona, Tobermory, and Edinborough at festival. Scotland is marvelous, and barging through the Caledonian Canal in the Lord of the Glens was a singular pleasure.
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 01:08 PM
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sheila, it's people like you who make this hunt for information about traveling in Scotland SO much easier - i can so benefit from your suggestions---would you suggest anything different if i were to say we are not as interested in big cities but love seascape, ruins, ancient things, castles and such???
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Old Jan 7th, 2004, 02:19 PM
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I'd keep you up the east coast instead of the middle and highlight different things to look at en route. I'd take you south through Kilmartin, for example
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Old Jan 8th, 2004, 06:52 AM
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thanks, we are not familiar with the country at all - even though i loved all of Ireland i was so mad when we hit the coast after 4-5 days traveling inside the country- i would have wanted to concentrate on the coastal areas a little more but still take the trips to the historical places, castles, etc. You have helped so much!
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Old Jan 8th, 2004, 08:39 AM
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There?s more to Scotland than the Highlands. In the Scottish Borders, during June and July, many communities celebrate their heritage with ?Common Ridings,? which involve parades, pageants, and large mounted processions in which hundreds of riders, led by elected young men like the ?Braw Lad? or ?Standard Bearer,? ?ride the marches? or the ancient borders of the town and then gallop back into town to the thunderous applause of thousands. These aren?t tourist events and they?re a little hard to find out about (and you should book a room way early), but if you want to really know a place, go to one of its festivals. We planned two of our trips to Scotland around the Selkirk Common Riding, and we feel like citizens.
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Old Jan 13th, 2004, 02:34 PM
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OK, I am nowhere NEAR Sheila's league - but we did a loop around Scotland in Sept 2002 - and I can say this:
We spent two days on Skye, and EASILY wanted another 1 or 2 days.
If you like really old stuff, the Kilmartin Valley sites take about a half a day and we really had a good time. I still have a spreadsheet of B&Bs and restaurants and such, let me know and I can email it to you direct.
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