Edinburgh, Stirling, then where???

Old Mar 12th, 2023, 06:00 PM
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Edinburgh, Stirling, then where???

We are 3 couples in our early 60's all in good active shape. Planning on a few days in Edinburgh for the Tattoo and sightseeing, then off to Stirling for 2-3 days of more sightseeing. Intent is to rent a car(s) once we're ready to depart Edinburgh.

Where should we go next? We want to experience the "Highlands" and more rugged areas but do not have time to drive way north. Considering a route from Stirling to Glencoe that takes us through Trossachs NP along the western side of Loch Lomond. Intent would be to make it an all day drive stopping along the way for things that catch our eye. We'd stay a night in Glencoe and maybe a side trip to the Viaduct at Glenfinnan the next day before making our way back to either Glasgow or Edinburgh to catch our flight home to the USA.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Total time on the ground in Scotland would be 8-10 days exclusive of flight days on either end of the trip.

Thank you in advance.
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Old Mar 12th, 2023, 07:03 PM
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OK -- need a bit more 'firming up' re the length of time . . . you say a few days in Edinburgh, 2 or 3 days in Stirling (I wouldn't stay IN Stirling myself -- more on that later) . . . and 8-10 days total. That is a bit loosey goosey so hard to give specific suggestions. I assume you have already booked Tattoo tickets and your Edinburgh hotel. If not I'd be jumping on booking those (and flights) ASAP.

Big difference between 8 and 10 days - especially not knowing how many days you plan for Edinburgh.

But in general -- say 4 nights in Edinburgh, 3 nights somewhere like Callander (or Doune or Aberfoyle or the Lake of Meneith). This would be a base for Stirling Castle, Doune Castle, Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, the Trossachs/lochs/waterfalls/etc, even a bit of Loch Lomond - all without the hassle of driving/parking IN Stirling. 2 nights In Glencoe. These could be massaged one day either way depending on whether you end up 8, 9 or 10 days

However -- I'd really consider doing things in this order: Edinburgh > Glencoe > Callander or nearby > EDI or GLA. Reason being the drive from Callander to EDI (just under an hour) and GLA (just over an hour) are short and easy so would be convenient to the airport.

Note: If you do end up with 10 days -- and IF you fly home out of GLA, maybe stay the last night in Luss or somewhere else along Loch Lomond. Luss is about half an hour from GLA, Arden/Cameron House is even closer
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Old Mar 13th, 2023, 07:12 AM
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I would go back to your thread from two years ago - Scotland in 2022 - questions - Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (fodors.com) - and review some of the posts in that thread. Now obviously things sound different now than they did back then; with a party of six you're going to have some additional logistical challenges - hotel space, car(s) etc., and also presumably having to balance the interests and requests of the other travelers.

Still, the fact remains that if you're visiting Scotland when the Tattoo is going on, that means you're there sometime in August, and THAT means things are going to be very busy (by Scottish standards) pretty much everywhere. In those circumstances, having less-than-definite plans ("a few days," or "one or two nights") is likely to give you some major headaches. Places like Glen Coe, or Luss - pretty much any small town/village in heavily visited areas - are going to have very limited accommodation options, especially if you're looking for three hotel rooms, for example.

Now maybe you're on top of this already, but if not, it should be a priority right now. Winging it in rural Scotland in August with a party of six is not a sound idea.

As for where to go, again, I'd look at the former thread. I confess I'm not as big a fan of the Loch Lomond/Trossachs area as Janis (only by a matter of degree, mind you - it's a marvelous area) but it's certainly doable. My own preference would be Argyll, with a base in Oban, where accommodation options will be more numerous, and including a day's cruise (or more, if you had "a few" days) to Mull, Iona and Staffa, and possibly a return to Glasgow airport for your departure. Here's a wee map showing this plan - https://goo.gl/maps/6bFnXnBtSvCb4TBU9

But the main message is to firm things up asap.
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Old Mar 13th, 2023, 09:23 AM
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I leave Sat for Edinburgh. Highlight for that city is the day trip to Hadrian's Wall. Can't wait.
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Old Mar 13th, 2023, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by jan47ete View Post
I leave Sat for Edinburgh. Highlight for that city is the day trip to Hadrian's Wall. Can't wait.

Have a great trip. Visiting in March is a whole different animal than in August. Hope you plan on bundling up . . .
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Old Mar 13th, 2023, 03:31 PM
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Thank you Janisj.
I like your suggestion of altering my route to be Edinburgh > Glencoe > Callander > EDI. As for the number of days, we are flexible to whatever makes sense. I will research those places you mentioned.
I agree that 8 days is probably too few. I think a minimum of 10 and a max of 12 will be our target.
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Old Mar 13th, 2023, 03:42 PM
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Thank you Gardyloo. You are correct, our situation has changed. We are going with some friends. As for firming things up, I should have been clearer...we are pushing back our trip to 2024. I am just trying to be as proactive as possible. I realize that for an Aug 2024 trip I'd need to be making reservations by the start of Jan 2024.

My process here is to develop a realistic budget / itinerary. The only thing in "stone" is that I want to go to the Tattoo.
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Old Mar 13th, 2023, 03:52 PM
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" . . . I should have been clearer...we are pushing back our trip to 2024."

Phew!! I was worried - I assumed you meant this August and things could be really booked up already. You have months to plan . . .
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Old Mar 13th, 2023, 04:00 PM
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As you drive away from Edinburgh, don't miss the Falkirk Wheel

https://flic.kr/p/7HCpTP
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Old Mar 13th, 2023, 06:43 PM
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As I continue researching...any thoughts are appreciated. My wife does not do well on the water, thus ferry rides are best avoided so for this reason Isle of Mull isn't a real option. Isle of Skye is an option since we can drive to it, but I've read / been told it can be quite "touristy".

We'd be coming from the Glencoe area. Are there any other locations that I should consider for the same sort of scenery/experience without the crowds?
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Old Mar 13th, 2023, 07:50 PM
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Skye isn't at all 'touristy' - the closest things to 'tourist attractions' are Dunvegan Castle (not touristy - a legit castle and still a family home) and Talisker Distillery (not touristy - a legit whisky distillery but they do give tours) . . . BUT I'd definitely think twice about visiting the Isle in August. The roads are narrow, the travel is very (VERY) slow, and there will likely be no available parking at any of the scenic spots. Skye can be a really tough visit because it is so insanely popular - and much more so in August.
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Old Mar 14th, 2023, 04:46 AM
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Thank you once again.
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Old Mar 14th, 2023, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by jfmkem View Post
We'd be coming from the Glencoe area. Are there any other locations that I should consider for the same sort of scenery/experience without the crowds?
Yeah, "touristy" isn't the term I'd use. The thing about Skye is that it's become quite popular in recent years and at peak periods the relatively few "must see" sights can and do become congested. The roads, car parks, hotel space, etc. - were developed when peak demand was much lower, so the current popularity of those destinations adds to the problem.

I do want to comment on Glen Coe along the same lines. The actual experience of the glen, especially when approached from the east on the A82, is close to incomparable. One crosses the Rannoch Moor - a swampy wilderness with its own drama and beauty - and past stunning Buachaille Etive Mr, a rocky pyramid of a mountain at the top of (glorious) Glen Etive, then the road starts to fall into Glen Coe, revealing stunning scenery on both sides of the narrow canyon, the highlight of which (to me, anyway) is/are the Three Sisters of Glen Coe, or Bidean nam Bian, seen clearly from the big bridge at Hogwarts. Glencoe village is at the bottom of this descent.

Crossing the Rannoch Moor



Buachaille Etive Mr



Bidean nam Bian



But then it's over. The A82 turns north and crosses the mouth of Loch Leven and heads north by east along the Great Glen, past Fort William and eventually Loch Ness to Inverness. It's not un-scenic through the Great Glen, but it's nothing like those few miles approaching and through Glen Coe. Little in Scotland is. The upshot, however, is that, like with Skye, everybody knows about it, and being much more convenient to many more travelers than Skye, Glen Coe can also have its problems with congestion. A couple of years ago the authorities had to prohibit stopping (except for emergencies) along a 35-mile stretch of the A82, due to long traffic "tailbacks" caused by motorists stopping for photo ops. Popular Glencoe tourist route hit with 'no stopping' order | STV News That's a pity, and it's likely to be something of a permanent issue during peak periods, like August.

So, solutions. One is to visit Glencoe but to turn left at the bottom of the glen rather than right, following the route I mapped above, minus Mull. This would give you an all-land option for some of the most beautiful and historic country in Argyll. Visit Kilmartin Glen with its remarkable collection of prehistoric leftovers - standing stones, stone circles etc., and picturesque Inveraray with its whitewashed buildings and pompous castle, home to Cousin Shrimpy in Downton Abbey. There are any number of short side trips one could take - distilleries, castles (ruined and otherwise) and lovely countryside drives, full of the dramatic scenery that one comes to expect with the western Highlands, but with fewer people searching for the same things, compared to Skye.

Another is to just head to part of the country where there are damn few people to begin with. This might be best seen with riding the train from Edinburgh to Inverness and getting a car (or cars) there. Thinking about the whole trip, since you're looking at 2024, consider flying out of Inverness on the way home. There are affordable flights from Inverness to Amsterdam, London and Dublin* during the summer months, which might have some "hidden benefits."

*See below.

Anway, from Inverness you could do a loop through the Northwest Highlands, some of the emptiest, most dramatic and grandest country in all of Britain, much of it bypassed by visitors because they're too focused on other places, if you get my meaning. Google or use Undiscovered Scotland to read about the places on this map - https://goo.gl/maps/Tmm4KEwiLNeLbM816

This route includes glorious coastal scenery around Loch Maree, Gairloch and on the north coast at Durness and Loch Eriboll, some picturesque villages like Ullapool, and the remarkable Sutherland landscape that includes an impressive prehistoric broch, or fort, sitting on the side of an un-numbered road with only sheep and dragonflies for company. If interested in Scottish history, in particular the dark times of the Clearances following the Jacobite risings, a side trip to lonely Croick Church, where evicted Highlanders scratched pitiful messages in the church's windows, is an hour well spent.









Anyway, just a couple of ideas for you to ponder over the coming months as you put this trip together.

*A note about flying. You might want to consider flying to and from Scotland via Dublin. One of the best features about Dublin airport is that one "pre-clears" US border controls (immigration, customs) at DUB on the way back to the US, so that your arrival is similar to coming off a domestic flight. This can save hours of hassle and is well worth investigating.
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Old Mar 14th, 2023, 10:43 AM
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Just a comment re Gardyloo's typically excellent advice -- there is a big issue with the NW bits he described/mapped. The 'North Coast 500' marketing scheme (Gardyloo's map includes about 2/3 of the route) was developed to increase tourism in this glorious corner of the country. And its been very (wildly) successful. Especially since covid hit and most Brits opted for 'stay-cations' and discovered it. Many accommodations in the area now require 3 night minimums over any weekends, most of July and all of August.

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Old Mar 14th, 2023, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
Just a comment re Gardyloo's typically excellent advice -- there is a big issue with the NW bits he described/mapped. The 'North Coast 500' marketing scheme (Gardyloo's map includes about 2/3 of the route) was developed to increase tourism in this glorious corner of the country. And its been very (wildly) successful. Especially since covid hit and most Brits opted for 'stay-cations' and discovered it. Many accommodations in the area now require 3 night minimums over any weekends, most of July and all of August.
Yes, the "NC500" has indeed changed the picture for that part of Scotland, so if you were to contemplate that part of the country for your trip, it would be wise to search out accommodations well in advance. In this case, however, it's not a matter of congestion, just the scarcity of beds, reflecting the relatively remote nature of the region.

The view from Tongue


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Old Mar 14th, 2023, 05:11 PM
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Gardyloo and Janisj
Thank you both for your insight.

As I distill down all this info I am treating it as if I was putting a bunch of possibilities into the top of a funnel / filter and seeing what comes out at the other end.

Gardyloo, your suggestion of heading south from Glencoe towards Argyll sounds VERY appealing. It avoids ferries but still gives us history, beautiful vistas, and a bit of "wildness". Thank you. BTW...your pictures are amazing. I am an amateur landscape / wildlife photographer (had one photo of bear cubs in Alaska published online). I look forward to capturing the beauty of Scotland on "film"

I'm sure as I continue to whittle down our plans other questions will arise, and I'll be back to ask them.
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Old Mar 14th, 2023, 06:19 PM
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Driving south from Glencoe along Loch Linnhe into Argyle/Kilmartin is a great option.

If it was me I'd try to stay here in Glencoe for at least 2 nights. https://clachaig.com From there a day trip out to Neptune's Staircase and Glenfinnan is totally doable. IF your wife could manage a 5 minute ferry ride you could drive out to Glenfinnan along the north shore of Loch Eil and return along the south shore and use the Corran Ferry to get back to the east side/Glencoe. If even a 5 minute ferry is a no go, then you'd just have to retrace your route to get back.

Then leaving Glencoe hit Oban/Kilmartin and so on - this is a different route than the original ideas - adding Argyll, if you fly home from GLA I'd do Edinburgh > Callander/Stirling > Glencoe > Oban/Kilmartin > Inveraray > Loch Lomond > GLA.

Or - IF you end up flying home from EDI I'd do the same Edinburgh > Callander/Stirling > Glencoe > Kilmartin > Inveraray > Loch Lomond - then across to Edinburgh via the M8 motorway.

This would be a terrific 10 to 12 day trip - and an even better two weeks . . .
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Old Mar 14th, 2023, 06:31 PM
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Janisj,

These 2 routes are kind of what I was thinking after Gardyloo's suggestion about going south after Glencoe. Thank you.
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Old Mar 14th, 2023, 09:37 PM
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What beautiful photos. TY
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