Advice/Questions on Scotland Itinerary

Dec 1st, 2019, 02:38 PM
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Advice/Questions on Scotland Itinerary

Our family will be spending 2 weeks in Scotland in early June of 2020. We have 2 adults and 2 teens--17 and 15. (the 17 year old is considered an adult for hotel and entry fee purposes) We are all in good shape and are uber history nerds. Not interested in shopping and, with the kids, we will be eating at basic places for meals. I have 2 main questions: what to do with an extra day in my itinerary (add a day on to Edinburgh or Inverness) and what to do on our last day which is driving from Oban to Edinburgh. We will be staying in airbnb places except for one night in Stirling/Perth and the last night when we will stay at a hotel near the airport. I have the airport hotel booked. Should we stay in Stirling/Perth on our way from Edinburgh to Inverness? Which would give us more options for hotel rooms? We will have to get 2 rooms.

Sunday, Day 1: Land at 9:30 am, get through customs, hopefully drop off luggage, get lunch and then for the afternoon--1:30 tour of Mary King's Close and the rest of the afternoon at Camera Obscura. Early dinner and bed. (the goal is to do enough to keep us awake but not anything that takes too many brain cells)
Day 2: Morning--Edinburgh Castle (we could easily spend 4 hours here and lunch at the cafe), In the afternoon--St. Giles Cathedral and the Writers Museum
Day 3: Morning-Holyrood House and John Knox House. Afternoon--National Museum of Scotland
Day 4: Morning-early afternoon:Gladstones Land and National Gallery, Portrait Gallery

Day 5: Could be an extra day in Edinburgh. We could see the Brittania or pick up our car early and see some sites in the burbs??? We don't want to go to St. Andrews

Day 6; (Friday): Drive to Stirling Castle and see Bannockburn Heritage Center as well. Overnight in Stirling or Perth?? Need a hotel here.

Day 7: Stirling/Perth to Inverness. Stop at Blair Castle. (Based on Google Maps+add on more time because, it looks like it will be 1.5 hours from Stirling to Blair Castle, then 2 hours from Blair Castle to Inverness???) This is not a long drive for us. We are used to driving 4-6 hours in a day for weekend road trips. Check in to our lodgings, walk around Inverness, dinner.

Day 8: Fort George in the morning, Cawdor Castle in the afternoon. Recommendations for a place to eat lunch??
Day 9: Dallas Dhu Distillery, Banromach Distillery, (lunch where?) Culloden Moor and and Clava Cairns in the afternoon/evening.
(could move Day 5 to here, an extra day. Maybe to do some sort of nature tour--see whales/seals at sea?? biking on trails??)

Day 10: (Tuesday) Drive to Loch Ness Exhibit (the children are demanding this), Drive to Glencoe Visitors Center, ask for some hiking ideas, hike, drive to Oban (2 nights in Oban)

Day 11: Ferry/bus tour of Mull, Iona, and Fingals Cave/Puffins. This is the only tour, per se, we will be doing at this point. I have seen that people recommend to stay on Mull and spend more time there, but that isn't what we are looking to do on this visit.

Day 12: (Thursday) Drive Oban to Edinburgh airport. Clearly, there is the chance to see more of Loch Lomond. I'm just not sure which route to take exactly. Any ideas appreciated here.
Fly Home Friday

Thanks so much!!!
StantonHyde is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 04:28 PM
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How fixed is this plan, and do you have any hotels booked already?

Everybody has likes and dislikes for tours of Scotland; and of course this is YOUR trip, so any recommendations need to be weighed against your own tastes and interests. Here are some of my views, worth every penny you've paid for them. If I'm all wet in these comments, well, it's not the first time.

To be honest, I'm not in love with your plans for Edinburgh. They're very Old-Town-focused, and while that's fine, it might be coming at a price that's a little high in terms of missing a lot of the city and surrounding country. I can appreciate wanting to experience the in-depth history of the old city, with the likes of Mary King's Close, etc., but the Old Town is a fraction of the whole of Edinburgh, and the parts you're missing (or at least haven't mentioned) are worth their time, too.

Maybe do this - use Google or Undiscovered Scotland - - to look up some of these places within the city or adjacent: the Grassmarket, Holyrood Park, Duddingston, Cramond, Dean Village, Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh University Old College, Swanston, South Queensferry... as well as the New Town - to get a sense of what's available once you've left the Royal Mile and confines.

My hunch - and this is just me, remember - is that you could compress the first three days in Edinburgh to two and not feel rushed. Part of the joy of the Old Town is just wandering around on your own, poking into old closes or wynds, some of which will be grubby, some of which might be surprisingly beautiful and/or historic, even some that have been "enhanced" in the years since they were built, such as White Horse Close or Ramsay Garden.

If I'm right, that would give you time to get out in the fresh air - maybe out to the water in Cramond or Queensferry, or for a short walk around the thatched roof village of Swanston, where RL Stevenson lived for a time, or along the Water of Leith from marvelous and hidden Dean Village down to the Botanical Gardens.

With a car and an extra day, you could drive to Stirling via Fife, maybe with a visit to one or two of the picturesque fishing villages in the "East Neuk" - Crail, St. Monans, et al - and/or a visit to the old royal burgh of Falkland, with its fabulous gardens and royal palace. Map - . Or with the extra day, take the car over the border into England and visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, awesome Bamburgh Castle, and return via the heather-covered Lammermuir Hills. Again, look up these places. Map - and road scene in the Lammermuirs -

I confess I sort of feel the same about the Inverness-based part of the trip, too. If it were me, I'd spend less time around Inverness (which is not a bad place, but nowhere near being in the top tier of scenic towns) and allocate more time to the west coast. For example, on the way to Glen Coe, you could detour slightly to drive down Glen Etive, one of the most glorious places in Scotland, perhaps via historic and scenic Glenfinnan on the Road to the Isles (Jacboite monument, "Harry Potter" rail viaduct, etc.) and after your day on Mull etc. spend a night after visiting Kilmartin with its many prehistoric relics - standing stones, etc. - and perhaps with a stay in lovely Inveraray on Loch Fyne. Visit Inveraray Castle, the rather grandiose home of the Campbells, or eat some of the best shellfish or kippers you'll find. Map -

But again, to reemphasize, this is your holiday and these ideas are only suggestions based on MY preferences, which may diverge sharply from yours. Others will certainly chime in.
Gardyloo is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 06:48 PM
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Gardyloo--thanks so much!! The flights are booked but lodging is not. I will check out your ideas for an extra day in Edinburgh. We are old town and history focused in Edinburgh--the history nerd rears its head. Could we visit Kilmartin on our way from Oban to Edinburgh on our last day? That is a place that is on my list--it sounds fascinating. Google maps says it takes like 4 hours to go from Oban to Edinburgh. But we could certainly add in 4-5 hours of touring/tooling around on that day. I am resisting adding in the extra day at the end because it would be another one night in a hotel sort of idea which I am trying to avoid. Thanks for all of the links and ideas!
StantonHyde is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 07:51 PM
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I am looking at Alnwick Castle and Gardens for our extra day in Edinburgh. It would be fun to see the location for the exterior shots of Hogwarts and we could drive along the coast to get there.
StantonHyde is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 07:09 AM
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First, Google maps' estimates tend to be very optimistic, to put it mildly. My rule of thumb is to add 20% to 30% to their times, and I count myself lucky if it's only that. This is especially the case in big city areas where traffic can be an issue, and in rural areas where narrow (or sometimes single-track) roads hold down speeds pretty significantly. Of course they're also "wheels turning" times that don't include stops for fuel, food, mother nature, sightseeing, etc.

Second, you're traveling in June, and don't forget Inverness is roughly the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska. The sun will be up until almost 10 PM, and twilight (or "gloaming") will last longer than that, so there's no reason to play beat the clock on the road.

I understand the focus on history; nothing wrong with that. I suspect that once you're there you'll appreciate that you're surrounded by historic sites throughout the country, not just within the confines of the Royal Mile. No big deal.

As for Alnwick as a destination for a day trip, sure, it's doable, but bear in mind my caveat about Google drive time estimates. If you made the Alnwick trip the last Edinburgh/first "countryside" day, it wouldn't take anything away from heading up to Stirling (or wherever) the following day. If you want to take a coastal route to get there (or get back) then by all means do so; on both the Scottish and English side of the border, the North Sea coast is full of picturesque villages, historic sites, castles... IMO it's one of the premier destinations in the whole of Britain for this sort of scenery. Here's a map showing a coastal drive down as far as Alnwick, with an inland return culminating at Stirling. I would plan to get to Alnwick in the afternoon, visit the castle, then spend the night nearby and with an early departure you could be in Stirling by lunchtime the following day.

Places along the way (not all my pictures)

Tantallon Castle

St Abbs harbour (Note St Abbs was used as "New Asgard" in the last Avengers movie.)

Holy Island (accessible only at low tide via causeway. Google this if you're history buffs.)

Bamburgh Castle (village side)

(Beach side)

Last edited by Gardyloo; Dec 2nd, 2019 at 07:16 AM.
Gardyloo is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 02:17 PM
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Gardyloo--yes, I did add on time to the Google estimates--except for the drive to Alnwick and the drive from Oban to Edinburgh--I need to figure those. We are in Utah and it amazes me what google maps says can be driven in xyz amount of time within my own state While we will have plenty of time for driving--yay for extra day light, we are pretty much a go,go,go from 9am-5pm family. So if we are done by 5-6pm, that will be good and then we can drive from there. We would probably drive down to Alnwick and back to Edinburgh for the night, vs. staying the night elsewhere. It is just too much of an undertaking to unpack/pack with our family. Things (electronics) will get lost, gnashing of teeth will commence......and mom's sanity will go downhill.

The pictures are beautiful--thanks for the inspiration.
StantonHyde is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 02:26 PM
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Go see the Falkirk Wheel.

Michael is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 03:44 PM
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We have never seen Holyrood castle as a royal has been there so they close. First the Queen and last time Anne. We took the short bus ride to see Rosslyn Chapel. It was a charming town but the chapel and museum were fabulous. Stay at Edinburgh castle till one to see the canyons fired.
Macross is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 05:31 PM
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I don't know how much of your original plan remains on the table, but I have to say that Blair Castle was perhaps the least interesting castle we have visited in Scotland. Yes, there's a piper who performs hourly. Yes, there are rooms and rooms and rooms of artifacts. But, unlike tours of other castles, the history of the place never seemed to come alive. It was just "stuff." The day we visited (second week of June), the gardens were too wet from recent rains to be inviting for a wander, although I read they were enjoyable. IMO, Scone, Falkland or Glamis would each be a worthwhile detour on the way to Inverness.
Jean is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2019, 08:49 AM
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Macross--fortunately, we are going in early June so as to hopefully avoid the Royals being at Holyrood--but I guess there are never guarantees. Rosslyn Chapel is also something I am considering.
Jean--thanks for your perspective on Blair Castle. I will check out the other places as well.
StantonHyde is offline  
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