1st trip to Scotland -- HELP!!

Old Mar 22nd, 2014, 04:37 PM
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1st trip to Scotland -- HELP!!

Hello everyone!

I am thinking of taking a trip (my first trip ever)to Scotland. It really is a toss up between Scotland and Italy with the favor leaning towards Scotland. Based on the bit I research I have done so far, I definitely want to stay in Edinburgh with visits to Loch Ness, Inverness, Glasgow, and Castle Urquhart. These locations are all over the country so are they any good tours you can recommend? Any places that are are must see? Any tips, tricks, glimmers from previous experiences are all welcomed and highly desired.

FYII do NOT plan to drive in Scotland so this is a major consideration, as well as the fact that i am planning for an August trip (or Spring Break next year if August turns out to be cost-prohibitive).

Thanks so much in advance for any and all help!
zeigna is offline  
Old Mar 22nd, 2014, 04:54 PM
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There are two good tour companies ( (actually several but these 2 are really good ones) - Rabbies and Timberbush that do 1, 2, 3 day and longer small group tours. They go to several different parts of Scotland from their main base in Edinburgh. They limit the group size to 12-15, and often fewer.

Glasgow is very easy to do on your own as a day trip by train from Edinbuegh.

BTW - Inverness is nothing special and neither is Loch Ness - though Urquhart castle is nice. But the good thing about these small group tours is they will let you see Loch Ness (since most tourist simply "must" but then take you to better/more scenic bits.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 02:01 AM
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i took a tour of scotland 2 years ago... do you like music?? it was http://www.songsofscotland.com/tours.htm and the leader is from edinburgh and does this every year. he will not go to loch ness most likely... but most of the other places you mentioned. we would often sing on the bus... songs about the area, farms, castles that we were seeing. he sang (you can google to hear him) and many of his friends and excellent scottish singers sang in the evenings. it was unforgettable... and a shocking number of people on the tour had done it before.

i will say, however, that it's easy to get around scotland on your own and i thoroughly enjoyed my 2 weeks alone around the tour!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 03:15 AM
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Bus tours are certainly your best bet if you are not driving and those already mentioned are good. August is festival time in Edinburgh and probably the busiest time of year throughout the country so book accommodation well in advance. Urquart Castle is nice but there are nicer. I'd consider using somewhere in Central Scotland (probably not Edinburgh given the time of year) as a base and travelling by train to see Stirling (Castle there one of the best), Edinburgh for day trips and Glasgow. When you are ready to head north, it's just a case of finding the right tour for you. Go via Glencoe if you can!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 04:19 AM
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Thank you all!

janisj & kawh -- Thank you for the names of some specific companies! Great starting point.

kawh -- sounds like you think I can see some of what I want without paying extra for a tour -- is that the case? If so, I am guessing this is especially the case in Edinburgh so maybe leave the tours to those places outside of Edinburgh.

TravelingScotland -- bus tours sound like a splendid idea. Besides August, when are other times you would recommend to visit? How are April and late May in terms of visiting (activities, crowds, etc).
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 05:47 AM
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Hi zeigna,

I've visited Scotland in April (3rd week, 3x) and June (also 3rd week). A lot fewer people on the Royal Mile in April than June, but weather has been great (IMO) for all my trips (fingers crossed for another April trip next month). Temps in April have been around 50F (a lot better than the 30F outside my window .. brrr this winter is hanging on!).

If you have a Facebook account, I find sites to visit and "like" any public page, marking it on an Interest list named for the upcoming trip (the news feed doesn't necessarily include everything you've liked, so an Interest list makes sure you can find posts from your potential site visits).

Some web sites I am watching for things to do:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/thingstodo
http://www.welcometoscotland.com/things-to-do/events/
http://www.goruralscotland.com/
http://www.whatsonscotland.com/
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 05:51 AM
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Oh - I definitely didn't mean you need/want a tour IN Edinburgh!!

Those tour companies are for getting out to the highlands, and/or Skye, and or the fishing villages/St Andrews , and/or the Trossachs, etc.

Places like Stirling, Glasgow, linlithgow, St. Andrews (without the fishing villages) are very easy done independently by train. But to get farther afield or where there is little or no rail service - thoe tour companies are terrific. You most definitely don't need a tour in Edinburgh. Most of what you'll want to see is w/I walking distance of each other . . . Or short bus rides.

The problem w/ August is very Edinburgh-specific. There are several world famous festivals plus the military tattoo all running simultaneously for most of the month. So the city literally doubles in size from late July til late August and accommodations are very expensive. Ma y places will already have been booked up.

While the festival/Tattoo are wonderful - If you can visit earlier in the summer you will save a LOT of money and hassle.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 07:25 AM
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I have a feeling you should just book in to the Castle Rock Hostel for 3 nights on arrival and take it from there.
http://castlerockedinburgh.com/

Between the staff there and fellow travellers you will be able to get all the info you need to decide what to do with the rest of your time.

For example, you might meet someone with a car or looking to share a rental etc.

If you decide to go during the time of the Festival, you will need to book far ahead of time, like now. It may well be that even now you will not be able to get a booking for August. So, I would heed advice to re-consider August and try a bit earlier.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 08:22 AM
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In terms of time we used to say that Scotland was best in May and September, the last few years weather everywhere has gone mental so much harder to say now, just your luck. Summers tend to be wet though so be prepared for anything. April and May would be excellent bets in my opinion, crowds will be vastly lower than August and the real tourist season. This is certainly particularly true of Edinburgh but this is a bit of a special year for Scottish tourism so I expect us to be pretty packed for most of the summer all over the country(Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup, Homecoming Scotland). Have a great trip!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 09:54 AM
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Zenigma...yes...that's what I did...the tour began in Edinburgh so I spent a week exploring before the tour...after the tour I explored Glasgow and stayed along the firth of forth...its all super easy....as above. .use the tour for the highlands and borders etc.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2014, 10:29 AM
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as Janisj and TS says
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