Help with Scotland itinerary, please

Feb 2nd, 2005, 01:48 PM
  #1  
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Help with Scotland itinerary, please

Hi fellow Fodorites,

I am hoping you can help me plan a late summer/early fall trip to Scotland. This trip is to be DH's 40th birthday gift - a golfing trip to Scotland that I am putting together. We're arriving at Edinburgh on Thursday August 25th, flying back home on September 10th from Glasgow. I am in the very early planning stages for this trip and so far only reserved a B&B in Edinburgh and bought tickets for the Tattoo. My difficulty in planning this particular trip is that it is centered around his ability to play golf on certain courses - so that kind of dictates where we end up staying and for how long. I'd like to get feedback if the proposed breakdown can work distance-wise, if it makes sense at all and if anyone can make suggestions on scenic drives/attractions in the area. I am not a golfer so I propose to amuse myself while hubby plays by just hanging out in whatever town we'd lay our hats for the night, taking guided/bus tours, or just shopping, strolling, reading. It worked well for us in Ireland. So here's what I've got so far:

Days 1-3 Edinburgh. We've been to Edinburgh before a couple of times, loved it and never get tired of it. We caught the end of the Edinburgh International Festival once but didn't have time to enjoy it. This time we're planning to see the Tattoo and some fringe perfomances in the evening, with some golf possibly in the morning for DH (Gullane?)

Days 4-6: St Andrews. DH has been there and played both courses before, I had a short day trip. So we are planning to stay for 3 nights, he might get to play if he gets picked in the balloting (he was lucky before as a single golfer. Otherwise he'll play a different Fife course.), I'l enjoy the opportunity to explore the town more than I was able before. Any side-trips from St. Andrews? We've been to Dumfernline (sp) before but not anywhere else in the area.

Days 7-8 Aberdeen or whereabouts. Any suggestions on whether it's best to stay in the city or outside are welcome. I understand thare are castle and whisky trails, so I hope I'd be able to get on a tour bus while DH is playing. Other interesting sightseeing routes in the area?

Day 9 - Braemar - we'd like to see the Braemar Gathering. I understand it will be crowded but having never seen anything similar and it's unlikely our timing would work quite so well again for that sort of thing, I'd like to give it a shot. Any suggestions on good small hotels or B&Bs are very welcome.

Days 10-11 Dornoch or Nairn. DH hasn't made up his mind yet which golf course he prefers, but I think we'll end up in Dornoch.

Days 12-13 are currently not planned.

Days 14-16 Glasgow. We've never been in Glasgow before - is 3 days/4 nights too much, too little or just enough?
Day 17 Fly home.

So any suggestions on how to make the most of this itinerary are greatly encouraged and much appreciated. What's the best route to arrive in Glasgow from the North, can we manage to see/drive through Western Highlands? Should we add nights to some of the locales above? I'd love to be able to see Stirling castle (possible on the way to Glasgow?) and (I know it's a stretch) Skye and Glenfinnan Viaduct... Scotland is so beautiful and packs so much for its size that I don't think another 10 trips will cover it all. But this is what I've got to work with so I am hoping someone can help me make sense of this string of golf courses masquerading as a sightseeing tour
kasperdoggie is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2005, 06:11 PM
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Your general itinerary is very doable.

Just a few random comments/suggestions.

I notice you arreive in St Andrews on the August Bank Holiday Weekend. Jut to let you know things will probably be crowded and getting on the old course will probably be harder than usual

One of the nearby courses he might want to play is Crail - it juts out on the very point of Fife ness and is a lovely course.

Things to see near St Andrews - lots but the basics would include the fishing villages of Crail/Anstruther/Pittenweem, Falkland Palace (really a Must if you have interest in Scotish history), Kellie Castle, nad maybe a boat trip out to the Isle of May. This is a bird sanctuary about 6 or 7 miles off the coast. Boats leave from Anstruther harbor and you get a couple of hours on the island to explore and see 4 different ruined lighthouses, a deserted village and many varieties of sea birds. (I LOVE Puffins

Up towards Aberdeen/Braemar. I enjoy Aberdeen (if Sheila sees your thread - she is from that neck of the woods.) but if it were me I would stay somewhere along the Dee as a base - from there you could see Crathes, Craigevar, Fraser and/or other castles, plus it would also be a decent base for visiting Braemar. Be sure to visit Dunnottar Castle and maybe Stonehaven enroute. You might want to sty one night in Aberdeen -- or you could even do a day trip into the city from your base along the Dee.

Everyone I have ever taken there think Dornoch is an absolute DO NOT MISS. It is a special course.

Glasgow has a lot to recommend it but I would cut it back to 2 days. That would give you more "wiggle room" to add other stops in the highlands and/or Skye.

Stirling Castle is a great place - you COULD do it as a day trip by train from Edinburgh - but you really don't have that much time in the city so I would do it enroute the day before you settle in Glasgow. Stirling is less than 30 miles from greater Glasgow.
janis is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 04:10 AM
  #3  
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Hi Janis,

Thank you very much for the suggestions/ideas you gave me! Especially the sightseeing around St Andrews and Aberdeen areas. Scotland is like a candy box for me right now - I want to do/see/taste everything, but there is only so much time and the logistics of golf keep getting in the way

I have been combing old posts by you and Sheila with comments on itineraries to see what could be applied to our trip and it definetely helps with planning, but having a direct reply to my query is the best!

Julia.
kasperdoggie is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 01:19 PM
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My tuppence-worth.

No comments on Edinburgh. Enjoy.

On St Andrews, the word is that the course at St Andrews Bay is excellent. Elie gets a good name too.

In Fe=ife, coming from Edinburgh, Dunfermilne is on your left. Robert the Bruce, the hero king who won Bannockburn, is buried here in Dunfermilne Abbey (although his heart is buried at Melrose in the borders); go back onto the main road and you will shortly come to Loch Leven, where Mary Queen of Scots was locked up in the castle on the island (v. romantic..the story of the escape- she then fled to her cousin in England for succour. She locked her up for 20 years then beheaded her.) You can take boat trips from Kinross.
Vane Farm Bird Reserve is on the other side of the Loch.
Then go due east to the coast. There are lots of other nice places, like Ceres, Falkland Palace, the East Neuk villages, Pittenweem, St Monans and Leven - a stretch of picture-postcard little fishing villages, with Anstruther, Crail, etc, leading toward St Andrews. For hiking, there's the Fife Coastal path that runs along the entire coast.
In Anstruther visit the fishing museum, then have the best fish in the world for your lunch. After that drive along the coast to Largo, home of the 'original' Robinson Crusoe. When Daniel Defoe wrote about Robinson Crusoe, he was writing about a real person. His name was Alexander Selkirk and he came from Largo in Fife. Defoe was an English spy up in Scotland in the 1700's and nicked the story. That area of Fife is well worth a visit

In St Andrews, take a trip underneath the castle in St. Andrews, Fife. It can be a bit of a squeeze so if you are claustrophobic then probably best to pass on this one. John Knox used to live in this castle - also get chance to see the bottle dungeon - St. Andrews has its ancient university, its cathedral (we do have a lot of them, don't we?) It has one of the best beaches in the world- the West Sands, which is where they filmed the opening sequence of Chariots of Fire- shame about the weather- and one of the best ice cream shops in the world (Jannetta's) apart from being a lovely little town.


Restaurants in the area which are very good would include the Ostler's Close in Cupar, the Cellar in Anstruther, the Cellar in St Monan's and the Peat Inn at Peat Inn.

Where you stay in or around Aberdeen depends on what the purpose is. I assume the golf reason is Royal Aberdeen? If so, you might want to think about the Udny Arms at newburgh half way up the coast to that gem of Links courses, Cruden Bay- he might manage them both.

I'm not aware of any organised trips on the Castle Trail- the Whisky Trail is really a bit further north. Mind you, I don't know of any trips along it either. But you can get te leaflets for both from the tourist office (or your friendly neighbourhood nor'easter-moi!) and do it your self. In fact, the more I read this bit, the more I think the Udny's your answer, and then take the Saturday morning driving up Deeside to Braemar- take in Royal Deeside, Banchory, or Ballater golf courses, Drum Crathie, Craigievar and Braemar castle and Lochnagar distillery on the way- and pitch up in Braemar in time for Lizzie Windsor's picnic. If you have not already booked accommodation, do it NOW- it may already be too late. Of the two hotels in the village, the Invercauld is marginally posher than the Fife Arms, but the Fife is, to my mind, friendlier. Callater Lodge is a good guest house.

Nairn is the classier of the golf courses, but Royal Dornoch is special

I'm tempted to suggest that you spend te Sunday getting to Dornoch, play golf in the morning on Monday, then head west and south, to Fort William, west to Glenfinnan, just becuase you can, and then as far south as you feel like driving. Then south all the way to Machrihanish at the bottom of the Mull of Kintyre to pick up what must be one of the most unusual golf courses in the world.

That would take care of your missing days.

Personally, I like Glasgow. It has great art, great architecture and great shopping; and would be a perfect,if urban, place to relax before the return flight. It also is within easy striking distance of Turnberry, Troon and Largs golf courses.

I think that about takes care of everything
sheila is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 06:11 PM
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Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am off to get a good detailed map as I am already salivating at the idea of putting all these suggestions together into an itinerary.

A question on Braemar - does it make sense to stay overnight before the gathering or can we just drive in (i.e., how bad can the traffic get approaching the town) the day of? Does one show up early in the day or in the afternoon or does it not matter?

I am also hoping to squeeze in a quick trip to Haddington near Edinburgh for sentimental reasons (We got married at Lennoxlove, so the marriage license was issued by town of Haddington. But we never could find the time to actually explore this town, so perhaps this time we'll get to see it).

Once again, thank you very much to both Sheila and Janis, for replying to my questions and for all the Scotland help you have given on these boards in the past! I am furiously archiving old posts for future reference...
kasperdoggie is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 06:47 PM
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I tend to beat this drum overmuch, but if you're considering going as far north as Dornoch, I think you should go the rest of the way on one of your unplanned days - up to the north coast and the far northwest of the country. From Dornoch follow the A838 all the way to Kinlochbervie and Durness (don't miss Smoo Cave), then look for a very small road leaving Loch Eriboll toward Ben Hope and Altnaharra - you'll pass a wonderful Pictish broch and travel through some grand desolate country. Overnight at Bonar Bridge if that's as far as you can get, otherwise keep heading south as Sheila says. Glenfinnan would be my choice for the next night, making Glasgow relatively easy the next day.

I too think Glasgow deserves a healthy allotment of time, depending on your interests.
Gardyloo is online now  
Feb 5th, 2005, 06:56 PM
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Just to add to what others have said, in St Andrews, the castle is well worth a visit, and I would try to get a tour from the University admissions office. This would cover much of the town's important hisory and fill you in on lots of interesting traditions. A day along the Fife coastal route would also be worthwhile, and Anstruther's claim to fame is its excellent chip shop--getting fish and chips there is a must!
Personally, I'm not a fan of Glasgow and would not spend more than 2 nights there, tops. Other places in Scotland are much nicer and safer. Definitely be careful where you stay in Glasgow, as I have stayed in a hotel in the main shopping area, and still had problems.
Enjoy your trip!
ashields is offline  
Feb 6th, 2005, 03:18 AM
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The Braemar question is a difficult one. The traffic will be heavy and most people aim to be there for lunchtime or thereby. For a relaxed day I'd go for an overnigt in the village (did I say to book NOW!?!) but it's not a disaster to drive in on the day, so long as you don't leave yourself short of time and are reconciled to slow traffic. Going from Aberdeen, I'd either go up through Strthdon and over Gairn Sheil, joinging the A93 at Crathie; or I'd go up the south side side of the Dee again as far as Crathie. Those roads won't be as quiet as they are on other days of teh year, but they'll be hugely better than the main road.
sheila is offline  
Feb 6th, 2005, 05:11 AM
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Thanks! Booking in Braemar NOW is already too late, as it turns out So I am thinking of staying in a nearby town (someone suggested Blairgowrie), and it's good to know that the roads while bad are not insurmountable.

Sheila, thank you for suggesting the route via backroads - avoiding the main road that day sounds like a very good idea.
kasperdoggie is offline  
Feb 6th, 2005, 07:49 AM
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Blairgowrie is not exactly next door, you know.

Mind you, your husband could get in a round at Rosemount
sheila is offline  
Feb 6th, 2005, 08:52 AM
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I personally wouldn't stay down at Blairgowrie for Braemar. All along the Dee will be busy at that time - but if I could find a place it would be in Ballater or some other Dee-side village.
janis is offline  
Feb 19th, 2005, 01:13 PM
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We too will be attending the Braemar Games. I got our tickets in the mail last week. I tried finding local B&B accommodation back in December and it was already booked. We decided to stay 3 nights in Tomintoul so we could do the whisky and castle tours from a reasonably central (I hope!) place.

The AA route planner says it takes about an hour to reach Braemar from Tomintoul. Does this sound correct to you all?

Thank you.

Rachel54 is offline  
Feb 19th, 2005, 02:28 PM
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I'd say it is about 40 miles if you cut across on the single track road (don't remember the name) from the A939 over to Crathie, maybe 3 or 4 miles farther if you stay on the A939 to just about Ballater. You could possibly do this drive in an hour - But I wouldn't think it would be likely during the Braemar Games. Anyone coming to Braemar from Inverness, Speyside, Elgin, Nairn, etc would have to take this same road. Now, it won't be like a jammed motorway - but there will be a lot of traffic for that narrow road.

And then you will join up w/ the main Deeside road (the A93) into Braemar which will also be busy.

I would count on a good deal longer than 1 hour - you might luck out but plan for more . . . . . .
janis is offline  
Feb 19th, 2005, 02:36 PM
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Oh - hit post too quickly -

Tomintoul is in a wonderfully scenic area - but it is a long drive from the Castles of eastern Aberdeenshire. If by "castle tours" you mean the Crathes/Craigevar/Fraser/Drum/Fyvie/etc area of the "Castle Trail" you will have drives of 50 miles or more one way.

However, you will pretty well located for the distilleries near Grantown-on-Spey and Dufftown
janis is offline  
Feb 19th, 2005, 03:03 PM
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Thank you for the heads up on traffic, Janis. We'll plan accordingly.

I knew that by staying in Tomintoul we'd be doing a lot of driving, but I'd rather do that than pack and unpack.

Rachel54 is offline  
Feb 20th, 2005, 01:09 AM
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And the castle trail DOES go up as far Corgarff, taking in Corgarff castle (somewhere about 8 miles from Tomintoul), and you can be on Deeside half an hour after that to see Braemar or Balmoral, or down Donside at Kildrummy.
sheila is offline  

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