Family Trip to Scotland

Old Dec 22nd, 2019, 07:46 AM
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Family Trip to Scotland

Our family is starting to plan a week long trip in Scotland in late June or perhaps mid-August 2020. The planning will be a group activity when we are together over the holidays. In preparation, I have looked at various threads here and suggested itineraries in Lonely Planet Scotland and various Fodors articles online. There are certainly a lot of great places one could go but wondering what might work best for our group. If everyone comes, there will be 8 adults (2 seniors and the rest in their thirties) and 2 children (5 and 7 years old). My husband is used to driving on the other side of the road and would be fine with renting a car/van.

My key question is whether there are 2 or 3 places that could be "home base" for day time excursions? Thinking this might be easier for the children even if it involves a bit more driving. Any thoughts?

The only destinations I have heard mentioned so far are St. Andrews, Aberdeen (where their Keith ancestors lived), visiting some distilleries and seeing beautiful scenery. Someone might have mentioned Isle of Skye. I think there is minimal interest in spending time in Edinburgh or visiting museums. So perhaps something within reach of St. Andrews, Aberdeen, and Speyside distilleries? And another place that would let us take day trips to other areas in Scotland?

Will add more specifics when I have them.... Thank you!
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Old Dec 22nd, 2019, 08:42 AM
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If you only have a week, I would consider a fairly small geographic area. St. Andrews, Aberdeen, Speyside and a few castles in eastern Scotland could easily fill a 7-day itinerary. You'll definitely want to visit Dunnotar Castle, the historic seat of the Keith Clan, but there are other castles in this part of Scotland that are/were connected to the Keiths. I don't think you have time for both St. Andrews and Isle of Skye unless those were the only two destinations.

I think the idea of using one vehicle for 10 people plus luggage is a bad one. Many of the roads are very narrow. Parking could be difficult.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2019, 08:56 AM
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With a big group and only a week I would definitely keep the destinations to a minimum. The month also can make a difference; as you probably know August is when the Edinburgh festivals take place, so unless you want to indulge in that amazing but somewhat insane scene, it would be best to stay well away from the capital.

Personally I'd look at no more than two bases, and if it was me, and not knowing more about your specific interests or what sorts of accommodation you'd want (hotels, B&Bs, holiday homes etc.) I'd suggest looking at two areas.

1. Argyll, probably with a base near Oban. This would give you day-trip access to wonderfully scenic areas in the western Highlands, such as Glen Coe, all the prehistoric leftovers in Kilmartin Glen, and also access to Mull, Iona and Staffa, which could be visited as (long but doable) day trips or (better) overnight destinations.

2. Royal Deeside in Aberdeenshire. A base like Ballater would give you access to spectacular scenery in the Cairngorm mountains, numerous distilleries, numerous castles, and in August probably some Highland games in the area. https://scotlandwelcomesyou.com/scot...ighland-games/

Use Undiscovered Scotland - https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/index.html - to help in your research, and get back to us when you have more information on timing and specific interests.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2019, 09:02 AM
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Thank you both! Just the kind of input I was hoping to receive. I am making a spreadsheet with various links for my thirty-somethings to explore.... Will get back to you when we know a bit more re timing and specific interests.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2019, 09:12 AM
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Even the children would be interested in the Falkirk Wheel

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Old Dec 22nd, 2019, 11:17 AM
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A 10+ passenger van will be a HUGE headache! Either get at least 2 cars or try mostly public transport. August is a special time with the Festivals and Tattoo in Edinburgh -- BUT finding accommodations for 10 will be really difficult and cost a king's ransom. Plus Edinburgh will be crammed to the gills and getting around with that army of 10 would be a nightmare. Go in June - period.

With only a week and needing to visit Aberdeenshire -- that is all you have time for . . . Edinburgh and Aberdeenshire. I might contact rabbies. They do really excellent small group tours and they could work out a 3 or 4 day private tour of Aberdeenshire/Kieth/the Castle Trail for your group.

https://www.rabbies.com/en/info/priv...-touring-group
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Old Dec 22nd, 2019, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
Go in June - period.... I might contact rabbies. They do really excellent small group tours and they could work out a 3 or 4 day private tour of Aberdeenshire/Kieth/the Castle Trail for your group.
https://www.rabbies.com/en/info/priv...-touring-group
Hi Janis - Thank you for your input. We may spend one day in Edinburgh, but that's it. Still hoping it works to go earlier in the summer but will need to coordinate work schedules.... I explored the rabbies website the other day and agree that a small group tour might be ideal for part of our trip. I also agree that two smaller cars might be ideal. (We may be experienced with navigating in the UK - including driving over Wrynose and Hardknott Passes on multiple trips - but driving large vehicle would be much harder.)
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Old Dec 22nd, 2019, 01:53 PM
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If it were me, I would definitely look into Rabbies organizing a private tour for your group. You can give them your ideas and they will work out the itinerary. They are the experts on all things Scotland...not you. No offense. It would just get rid of any hassles, headaches or indecisions in planning. The drivers are excellent and will provide your group with plenty of great information while driving. In addition they will arrange accommodations according to your needs and budget and suggest best places to dine. I have always found their services very reasonable and highly recommend them.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2019, 02:25 PM
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Darned site !!!!! Grrrr I keep getting a flash player error message that 'they say they are working on' -- sure they are -- and it eats my posts.

Anyway a quick & dirty version of what I just lost. Years ago my Mom and I arranged a 17 day trip to Scotland for out extended family of 14 people. No children so in some ways easier than your group. My Mom, Dad and I were all very used to driving/navigating in rural areas all over Scotland but instead of the three or four cars it would have required we worked out our own itinerary and hired a bus and driver. Trust me -- it was sooooooo much easier. And no more expensive in the long run. We didn't know about Rabbies back then but today in the same situation I would have opted to Rabbis for sure. They have vehicles that fit your size group and can take your requirements and work out a custom plan - you'd have the final say so on the itinerary. They have contacts for accommodations all over so they can handle that too.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2019, 04:04 PM
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Janisj and Historytraveler, I love the suggestion of using an excellent touring company like Rabbies. And we may. But what I didn't say is that this trip is a retirement gift for my husband (and me) from our grown children. Such a lovely gift! They presented the prospect to us last June with a framed map of Scotland, a book on the history of Scotland, a bottle of fine Scotch and golf balls. Our kids were hoping that I would do further research into the family genealogy and help collect resources to help with the planning.

Thanks again for your help!

Last edited by Sapphire; Dec 22nd, 2019 at 04:20 PM.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2019, 05:10 AM
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One impact of going with a tour-type arrangement might be that everybody has to do everything together. If that's okay, great, but the alternative, with multiple vehicles, might be that the group can have somewhat independent days, even if they reunite in the evening at a "base." For example, say you're staying someplace in Aberdeenshire. On one day, part of the group could go off to see some distilleries, while another part could go castle-hopping along the Dee, and maybe even a third part stays put and spends the day reading or whatever.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2019, 06:13 AM
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There are, of course, pros and cons for traveling with a group and traveling separately.
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Old Feb 17th, 2020, 10:05 AM
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More re Family trip to Scotland

Finally coming back to this thread! (My husband and I just returned from a long trip to South Africa.)

After talking it over, it seems that the family might like to stay in one place for a week and take day trips from there. We could split our time between two locations but a self-catering accommodation might make the most sense for a group our size. A central location that makes it feasible to sample the highlands, lochs, and visit one of the islands might be ideal. I think there is more interest in scenery, wildlife, etc. than touring castles. Playing golf one day and visiting a distillery or two have also been mentioned.

We plan to rent two cars and my husband now has lots of experience driving on the other side of the road (after 5 weeks in South Africa and 2 weeks in the UK). It looks like we could stay in the highlands near Fort William, west of Glasgow, or north of Aberdeen. Our group is more interested in the outdoors and beautiful scenery than spending time in cities. There will be 8 adults and two children, ages 5 and 7.

Thanks for your help!
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Old Feb 17th, 2020, 01:05 PM
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Wanting access to an island and also to golf might be a bit challenging. The islands are obviously off the west coast, while the majority of well-known golf courses are in the east of the country, with a few exceptions.

A couple of areas for research come to mind. First is the Lochalsh region, close to the Kyle bridge to Skye. While it's very popular and you might have a hard time finding suitable accommodation at this point, you might have a look at the beautiful village of Plockton and nearby Loch Carron countryside. There are few places in Scotland that are more beautiful. There are a couple of golf courses on the mainland and on Skye, and a couple of distilleries such as the famous Talisker distillery on Skye.

A second area for research would be around Oban, from which access to the Isle of Mull is fairly easy. Again, this is a marvelous area full of diversity, but also again, you're not going to find championship golf - most courses throughout the western Highlands and islands are 9 holes, and not the links type courses for which Scotland is famous. There are distilleries both on the mainland and on Mull.

The third area I'd look at is the Isle of Arran. Arran is big and has a wide range of landscapes. There are golf courses on the island, and also on the mainland, including the famous Ayrshire courses like Troon and Trump's property at Turnberry.

Again, if you're planning to visit this summer, you need to get cracking on a destination, especially if you're looking for a big property to rent. They're few and go fast.
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Old Feb 17th, 2020, 01:09 PM
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I have suggestions for two different properties that would work for you.

One Forest Hills on the shore of Loch Ard near the east side of Loch Lomond. It is a hotel but has HUGE rental condos in the grounds Like 3 bdrm 3 bath balcony sauna -- that sort of thing. It would be a good base for everything from Oban to Loch Lomond, all of the Trossachs, Glencoe, Lochs Earn and Tay, Perthshire, Stirling etc etc

https://www.myhotelbreak.com/macdona...-self-catering

The other Craigendarroch - a Hilton property in Ballater on the Dee with the same sort of units but even posher. This would be a great base for all of the NE Highlands, Whisky Trail, Castle Trail, Aberdeenshire coast, Cairngorms, Culloden, etc etc.

https://www.higvc.co.uk/resorts/scot...och-lodges.php
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Old Feb 17th, 2020, 01:50 PM
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Thank you both for your excellent input! As mentioned earlier, this is a gift from our adult children and it will be a pleasure to spend time with them wherever we are. But I am hoping that we find a location that gives us lots of options, depending on the weather. I can see that I have more research to do!
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Old Feb 17th, 2020, 02:25 PM
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One thing about the two properties I listed - both are very popular so do book up and may not have availability. But to explain a bit more -- neither is in a 'resort area' with condos and crowds like you may envision.. Forest Hills is on a narrow lakeside road 4+ miles from the nearest village - Aberfoyle - which has a population of about 1000 . There are row boats on the lake and gorgeous grounds and a restaurant and cafe and indoor pool (curling rink in the wintertime) -- so the amenities of a hotel but in a remote and very scenic setting.

Craigendarroch is about a mile outside the village of Ballater (about 1500 people) which is the best base for Deeside. Again, not a teeming 'resort' area and no crowds (though the village does have a neat golf course along the river)

So both are in lovely rural areas but have good accommodations for a group your size.

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Old Feb 17th, 2020, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
One thing about the two properties I listed - both are very popular so do book up and may not have availability. But to explain a bit more -- neither is in a 'resort area' with condos and crowds like you may envision.. Forest Hills is on a narrow lakeside road 4+ miles from the nearest village - Aberfoyle - which has a population of about 1000 . There are row boats on the lake and gorgeous grounds and a restaurant and cafe and indoor pool (curling rink in the wintertime) -- so the amenities of a hotel but in a remote and very scenic setting.

Craigendarroch is about a mile outside the village of Ballater (about 1500 people) which is the best base for Deeside. Again, not a teeming 'resort' area and no crowds (though the village does have a neat golf course along the river)

So both are in lovely rural areas but have good accommodations for a group your size.
Thank you, Janis. I am aware of the Craigendarroch resort just because we have a timeshare on the Big Island with Hilton Grand Vacations and are aware of their other resorts. I did look up Forest Hills and it looks lovely.
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Old Feb 17th, 2020, 06:28 PM
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"I am aware of the Craigendarroch resort just because we have a timeshare on the Big Island with Hilton Grand Vacations and are aware of their other resorts".

Maybe you can trade weeks to there? The units really are lovely and very well appointed

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Old Feb 20th, 2020, 04:33 AM
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After presenting several options to the family, we have booked a self-catering home (for 10 people) near Fort William and Spean Bridge. The current plan is to spend six nights there and leave a day early to have two nights in Edinburgh before people have to head home again. Per Gardyloo's suggestion on another thread, we could take the more southerly route from Edinburgh airport to Spean Bridge at the beginning of our trip and make the return trip along the northerly route - possibly taking a detour for lunch in St. Andrews along the way.

Some of the options for day trips that we've discussed are:
- scenic drive around Glencoe and Glen Etive
- Isle of Skye (choose a few stops such as Fairy Pools, Quiraing, Talisker distillery)
- Oban (distillery, four of our group play golf at Glencruitten Golf Club?, etc.)
- Isle of Mull?

We'd welcome suggestions of things to do, places to eat, etc. in this general area.

Thank you for your help!






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