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Discovering Scotland (1st timer in the UK)

Discovering Scotland (1st timer in the UK)

Aug 19th, 2009, 10:50 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 114
Discovering Scotland (1st timer in the UK)

Hi, I’m going to the UK for the first time for a business trip and I’m planning for a personal side trip to Scotland.

I land at Heathrow in the early morning of Sept 16 (Wed) ; and then fly out to Amsterdam for my 1st set of meetings on Sep 22 (tue) at 1pm. I go back to London after Amsterdam for 2nd set of meetings there.

My interest in Scotland is in experiencing its grand natural surroundings – the hills, lochs, landscapes that I don’t see often in my part of the world. I also hope to do some walking / hiking..but more of the easy ones as I’m not really trained or fit to do some “serious trekking”.

My first inclination based on initial research is to spend Sep 16 to 21 (6 days) in the Northern Highlands, finding a flight from Heathrow to the nearest Scotland airport (Inverness?) and then drive around to explore the Northern Higlands. Alternatively, join a tour group (walking or biking) instead of renting my own car. Then on the 22nd, fly back to London to catch my flight to Amsterdam.

I have some questions I hope you guys can help me with (I’m based in Asia and am not very familiar with the UK):
1) What budget airlines can I use to fly from UK to Scotland ? I assume all of them are safe and reliable. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can immediately take the flight to Scotland upon my arrival in Heathrow on Sept 16 so I don’t have to go out of the airport anymore.

2) Not being able to imagine the driving time within Scotland, am I right in focusing on the Northern Highlands? Or do I have enough time to start in Edinburgh or Glasgow, and explore a bigger area? (I’m didn’t prioritize the cities as I know I’ll be able to do that in the future, especially when I’m traveling with the family. Now on my own, I thought of focusing in the more “natural surroundings”.

How are the driving conditions in Scotland ? Good roads ? Fairly convenient access to petrol ? Safe drivers ?

3) How would you recommend I “allocate” my 6 days in terms of exploring Scotland ?

Eric_Bal is offline  
Aug 19th, 2009, 11:19 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 429
If your main interest is in hiking, I recommend the site www.walkhighlands.co.uk for detailed information and maps of hiking routes at all levels.

Driving conditions are good, but you have to assume that you won't average more than 30 mph in the Highlands because the roads are winding, the sheep, and you will be stopping often to take pictures. So try to concentrate on one area and don't try to see everything.

You also have to assume that there will be a lot of rain and so proper waterproof clothing and boots are mandatory, even if you do only the easy hikes.

There are many flights from Heathrow to the cities in Scotland all day.
mbgg is offline  
Aug 20th, 2009, 12:58 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 2,575
We very much like this area

I'm 70 years old and so I hill-walk rather than climb and I love forest walks.
I say that I walk around a mountain's knees or possibly round the waist of one of the smaller ones ;-)
You will certainly need good boots and waterproof clothing.
I'd also get a good Ordnance Survey map for the area.
It's also a good idea to take a mobile phone. I believe that the mountain rescue people use Vodaphone and if you are going alone, you should tell somebody, e.g. the B and B owner where you are going.
MissPrism is offline  
Aug 20th, 2009, 04:22 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,156
You can fly with Easyjet from Luton to Inverness and from Aberdeen to Amsterdam, if you haven't already booked your flights. You won't get a budget flight out of Heathrow.

You should either focus on the north west, or the Cairngorms and Central Highlands. Not both

Driving conditions are good, but the more rural roads may be very small/ narrow. You need not to fall below 50 miles worth of petrol in your tank to be on the safe side

How good is your climbing (hillwalking)? If good, go to Torridon and the north west; if less good, go to the Central Highlands where the walking is slightly easier and less technical.

Get yourself a copy of this book

sheila is offline  
Aug 20th, 2009, 07:00 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,561
Driving conditions in Scotland are not for the faint of heart. First, from an American standpoint, they drive on the wrong side of the road. Depending upon where you're from in Asia, this may be meaningless. They also drive like Europeans, which is not shocking but surprised me because the first time I drove on the left side of the road was in Australia and the Aussies were by no means aggressive. The Scots aren't too bad about this -- it's not like they're Italian.

Second, there are few expressways in Scotland equivalent to a US Interstate or a European E road, and none north of Perth, which is far south of the area you're discussing. Most of these roads ("M" roads or motorways) are around Edinburgh and (especially) Glasgow. Even on the better highways, the A roads, which can be divided highways with two lanes in each direction or roads with one lane in each direction with a line in the middle separating traffic, you can have a random tractor pop into the road and chug along at 30 kph slowing down traffic for miles. The lesser highways are the B roads and the unnumbered farm roads, which often don't even have a line dividing the two directions of traffic.

And third, Scotland has a bit of a wet climate. Consider that in combination with the narrow roads.
BigRuss is offline  
Aug 20th, 2009, 10:13 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 563
There are so many things that could go wrong with some of your plans that I would not enjoy the trip because of worrying about missing planes. Here is my 2 cents worth. Catch the shuttle flight from Heathrow to Glasgow or Edinburgh and stay overnight. Catch the morning train from Glasgow Central station to Ardrossan and this links with the ferry to the Isle of Arran. You will be able to find accomodation at the ferry terminal of Brodick. Arran has some great hill and mountain walks, e.g climbing Goat Fell, climbing Cir Mhor and doing the saddle walk from Glen Rosa to Glen Sannox followed by the bus home. The island has a regular bus service and you can get anywhere you want without any problem.If it rains - and it likely will - you can take a round the island bus tour and stay dry. The views from the top of Goat Fell(some 1500m high) are spectacular and as good as anywhere in the Highlands. You could spend most of your time here and return by the same route, allow I would try to go to Edinburgh and fly from there to Amsterdam. I have no hesitation in recommending this itinerary for your specific needs. Give it go.
almcd is offline  
Aug 20th, 2009, 02:20 PM
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I honestly don't understand all the hand wringing about missing flights and driving.

Driving in the north is basically very easy. Yes, it is slow -- but there is simply no traffic to speak of. You drive slow because of the narrow roads and such -- but not because of tailbacks or traffic jams.

And you have from the 16th to 21st free for touring.

Arran is a fine idea - but if you want to see the northern Highlands, you'd definitely have enough time.

If it was me, I'd fly from LHR directly to Inverness (won't be a budget airline though). Stay the night there, pick up a rental car and tour around wherever you want. Sheila's two suggestions are good. No need to pre-book accommodations at that time of year though I would pre-book the first night.

Drop the rental car at Aberdeen (Kemwel and other sites allows Inverness collection and Aberdeen drop off) - and fly to Amsterdam.
janisj is offline  
Aug 20th, 2009, 10:00 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 429
I was in that area in May (not exactly the high season) and I was advised not to pre-book, but I decided to reserve anyway. What I observed was that almost every B&B in the towns I drove through had a "No vacancy" sign out. Other tourists who had not booked that I spoke to told me that they spent an hour or two each evening looking for a clean, quiet place to stay within their budget.

So now I am careful about saying things like "no need to pre-book" because it is the OP that will suffer if my advice is wrong, not me.

Nowadays is is very easy to find good places and book in advances: web sites, travel forums and free internet phones.

Look at sites like www.roomfinderscotland.co.uk (there are others) or simply type in the name of the town in Google along with the word "accomodation".
mbgg is offline  
Aug 20th, 2009, 10:42 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 746
I wonder if some of those "No vacancy" places were just not reopened for the year?
Shadow is offline  
Aug 20th, 2009, 10:44 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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mbgg: May is a special case what w/ two UK bank holidays and school half term breaks. Sept doesn't have any of those issues . . . .

And one does not need to find vacancy signs -- each TIC can call ahead and book places for that night or for a day or two out.
janisj is offline  
Aug 21st, 2009, 03:55 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 429
Everything you say may be true (although I recall that my trip was after the mid-term break and not on a bank holiday weekend).

My point is that when giving advice we should clearly spell out the options for the OP and let him make the decision. Someone pointed out here a few months ago that there are very few towns in the Highlands, most B&Bs have only 2 rooms, many are on the main road or don't have ensuite facilities and if there is a wedding in town, there won't be a room available for miles.

So IMHO the proper thing to say to an OP is: it is probably not necessary to book in advance, but if you prefer to do so, I suggest .....
mbgg is offline  
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