Initial planning for Scotland

Old Jul 26th, 2008, 12:48 PM
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Initial planning for Scotland

I'm in the very early stages of planning a trip to Scotland for next year with my parents, and doing lots of research, but am stumped on one or two things already.

The overall shape of the trip as planned is: fly from Southampton to Edinburgh and stay there for four nights/three full days, incorporating daytrip for mother and prob father to Glasgow to see Charles Rennie Mackintosh stuff there. Then we want a few days in Skye and a week in the Highlands (possibly divided between two locations). We would hire a car after the time in Edinburgh, with the idea of dropping it off at Inverness and flying back from there.

The first question is really when best to go, with the prime objective of avoiding the dreaded midges, but hopefully also having a reasonable chance of acceptable weather and sights being open. Is September the best? Would October be too late? June? May I think is out due to parents planning to go to the Scillies then; September could also clash with a tentative plan they have with friends.

We don't want to drive for more than c.150 miles/4 hours plus breaks per day, so it looks as though we would need to break the journey overnight somewhere between Edinburgh and Skye. Nowhere springs out on the direct route as being interesting in its own right; does anyone have any bright ideas as to a good place to stay approximately halfway between Edinburgh and Skye? Actually, short stopping off points would be useful too.

Then three nights on Skye, probably in Portree. Then a longish day's drive east, and either a week in a self-catering cottage somewhere, or a few nights in two Highland locations. If the latter, I'd be thinking somewhere in the upper Highlands, and somewhere more in the Inverness/Nairn/Moray area. I'm looking at various tourist websites for possibilities (and have read a lot of posts here too), but any opinions would be welcome. I like history and father would like to see dolphins (Moray Firth?).
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Old Jul 26th, 2008, 01:00 PM
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My choices would be June #1 and Sept #2. The main reason for June is the incredibly long days. The crowds and increased rents for self-catering places don't start until mid/late July so June is still really low-ish shoulder season.

I haven't found midges much of a problem except in July/Aug and even then it is real spotty. They need just the right conditions. But IF you do hit the right conditions they are NASTY little buggers

There are all kinds of terrific stopping points between Edinburgh and Skye. The obvious one is the Glencoe/Ballachulish area. But it really depends on what you want to see enroute. If you want to explore the Trossachs, you could stop over in Callander, or Killin or anywhere through there. That would leave a longer drive over to Skye but still very doable.
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Old Jul 26th, 2008, 01:12 PM
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Thanks, I'll investigate those possibilities. (It's my mother who's so anxious about the midges, I think she's been on the wrong end of them before. I'm fortunate to be the kind of person who Things generally don't bite much.)
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Old Jul 26th, 2008, 02:07 PM
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You might be interessted in my trip report:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=35058184

I think that Glasgow requires more than a day trip.
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Old Jul 27th, 2008, 04:29 AM
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I've been to Scotland in June twice, once with amazing weather, and once with horrible weather. I've never had any problems with midges before. I've also been in Dec/Jan and I also loved it then.

I think only you can decide what is the best time for you. I've heard good things about Sept. but you can never really tell, it's unpredictable. The long hours in June are a real plus, plus the kids aren't on holiday yet from school.

We are going to go in August next, and I'm scared of the crowds, but we'll see.
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Old Jul 27th, 2008, 04:47 AM
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Nonconformist - The scenery alone is "interesting in its own right," so I don't think you'll have any problems along that line. Staying in one of the smaller towns along the way is always a bonus, too, as far as I'm concerned. Gets you away from the hustle and bustle of somewhere such as Edinburgh and gives you a breather!

We were there in May before and will be leaving next week for another visit. I'm armed with my Skin-so-Soft, so I hope it's true that the midges don't like it!

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Old Jul 27th, 2008, 05:43 AM
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Midges really don't like Skin-so-soft, nor do mozzies, and apparently tse-tse flies aren't too fond of it either. I can absolutely recommend it. My son took it with him to Sweden, along with Deet. The sss worked better than the Deet there apparently.

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Old Jul 27th, 2008, 07:23 AM
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Thanks for all the advice.

I'm now thinking it will work to do 1. Edinburgh
2. Glencoe/Fort William approximate area
3. Skye
4. Somewhere in area of Nairn/Elgin/possibly Grantown on Spey
We'll stay three or four nights in each, which breaks up the driving enough and allows a reasonable stay in each place with no one-nighters needed.
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Old Jul 28th, 2008, 04:09 AM
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There are never any guarantees of good weather but IMO June and August have the best chance. However, I'd advise against Edinburgh in August unless you want to do the festivals. IME midges are possible June (or even May) to September - but as another poster said, it all depends on the conditions. I've not yet got round to trying SSS myself.

"We don't want to drive for more than c.150 miles/4 hours plus breaks per day" - congratulations on having an unusually realistic view of driving here !!
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Old Dec 28th, 2008, 11:34 AM
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Following this up after a gap:

We now definitely want to cut down the destinations, and have one week in a cottage somewhere near Inverness, and four nights each on Skye and in Edinburgh, in that order. The main question now is where to spend that first week. I was thinking of Nairn, but my dear mother is concerned it might be too touristy. I'm not sure if this is likely to be the case, or where else might be better in this general area (nearish Inverness). We do want somewhere there are plenty of eating out options, preferably without needing to take the car all the time. Nairn would also be good as I could occasionally go off on my own by bus leaving the car to my parents. Does anyone have experience staying in Nairn/any ideas of reasonable alternatives? Thanks for any input.
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Old Dec 28th, 2008, 12:11 PM
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In all of the places you mention June is likely to be drier than September (eg monthly average rainfall for Portree on Skye: June 102mm, Sept 162mm).

Don't discount May which is generally drier than June in the Highlands.
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Old Dec 28th, 2008, 12:21 PM
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I should have said, we've pretty much settled on June datewise.
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Old Dec 28th, 2008, 12:27 PM
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Your division of time is really good.

"We do want somewhere there are plenty of eating out options, preferably without needing to take the car all the time. "

But this criteria does essentially limit you to staying in a decent sized town -- not in a tiny village nor in a rural cottage. Finding "plenty" of dining options w/i walking distance anywhere outside of Nairn or Inverness or a couple of other places would be pretty much impossible. Many villages do have a pub or two or a cafe - but other options - not so much. So Nairn would be a good option. It really isn't too "touristy".

Another places to look would be Beauly - a small town w/ a few places to eat. Or maybe Muir of Ord.
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Old Dec 28th, 2008, 12:38 PM
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Thank you, Janis.

*I* think Nairn would be fine - my mother just tends to panic about these things. I've just printyed out a load of stuff from various websites for her, which will hopefully help. If not, I'll have a look at the pther places you menntion.
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Old Dec 29th, 2008, 07:36 AM
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We took the Globus "Bonnie Scotland" Tour GG1005 from October 5-12, 2008 and the majority of the hotels used by this company were awful.

Specifically, the Novotel Glasgow Centre presented us with a room containing only one bath towel and two plastic glasses, one of which was cracked open down the side. The part of town in which this hotel is located has only one area of even remote tourist interest – a dingy, dimly-lit pedestrian mall with chewing gum stuck all over the surface interlock.

The Dunollie in Broadford, Isle of Skye, is a dirty, dilapidated misery of a hotel. Our room #225 had a filthy brown stain in the toilet bowl, only one bedside lamp that worked and a musty smell in the bathroom. The dining room serving staff were surly, ill-mannered and rigid about opening times. It is completely unacceptable for a male staff member to scream, “only soup or salad, not both!” to tour members at the buffet, especially since the food itself at the Dunollie was a tasteless mass of boiled bits of undistinguishable matter. Finally, in contravention of fire safety regulations, the front door was locked overnight and could not be opened from either the inside or outside. Visit other islands or, schedule a visit to Skye during daylight hours with overnight accommodation at a better hotel on the mainland.

In the Globus tour booklet, the map indicated an overnight stay in Kingussie while we actually stayed in the Columba in Inverness. Why the change? No response from the company. Again, the Columba hotel stank of mould and mildew. The hall floors are unstable and the boards under the carpets flex down with the slightest weight. Our room #154 did not have a luggage rack and staff at first said they did not have any racks then finally found only one luggage rack for two people with two pieces of luggage. Right beside the shabby Columba stands the much better Palace Hotel and just across the bridge is the new Ramada Hotel. Why was our tour group stuck in this crappy Columba hotel? No response from Globus.

The Ramada Mount Royal in Edinburgh is not equipped to handle tour groups. It has only two small elevators which are completely unavailable when large groups are arriving or departing. Not everyone can walk up six flights of stairs. Our room #663 is a room for one person into which the hotel assigns two persons. Other participants on our tour had the same complaint. There is no place for luggage except on the desk and over the arms of a chair. There is no dresser. And, to make matters worse, one of the mattresses had two coiled springs sticking out of the cover. Also, once again, the bathroom shower curtain reeked of a musty, mildew smell. When are these bathrooms ever cleaned and sanitized? Globus could have chosen to use the Thistle a short distance away or the Radisson SAS Old Town for this tour. As for the ‘Scottish Evening’ optional excursion held at the Thistle, it was a total rip-off. The performers were mediocre, the food was bland and we were packed into a line of tables like students at a school lunchroom. No way was this worth £49 each. The Irish tourist show at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin was much better.

We have taken over ten Globus and Cosmos tours and Bonnie Scotland GG1005 had the worst lodgings of any previous tour. The accommodations were an ongoing disappointment – well below the standard we had come to expect with Globus. We were shunted into seedy hotels for which Globus paid low rates while still charging tour members for higher rate hotels.

Even with the recent (and probably continuing) reduction in tourist travel and the Globus action of cancelling tours (this tour was the third date change for one man on this trip) plus cramming more groups onto one bus, their cost-cutting measures in choosing low class, low standards hotels while maintaining overall tour price levels is a false economy and a self-defeating method of trying to cut operating costs. Most consumers should look elsewhere for value travel that includes quality hotels.

And whoever on the Globus staff selected these hotels should be fired for gross incompetence. They demonstrated a complete lack of understanding about what constitutes acceptable accommodations to modern tour travellers. Globus tours are not inexpensive holidays and we paid a considerable amount of money to enjoy comfortable, restful accommodation at the end of each day. Only the Dundee Hilton and the Glasgow Radisson SAS provided this.

Most of the hotels on the Globus "Bonnie Scotland" Tour were dreadful when much better accommodation options were readily available nearby. Choose carefully.

We opted to travel in October because we find this time of year less busy at hotels, restaurants, museums and historical sites. The weather was crisp, cool, rained at night but cleared up in the morning. However, if you do want to see purple heather in the highlands and the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh, then travel in August.
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Old Dec 29th, 2008, 08:58 AM
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Do reconsider Grantown-on-Spey - there were about a half dozen places to eat within walking distance of our B&B, we just chose two of the closest ones (one was a block away, and served great pies and ales)

Here is my trip report from last June, which started in Edinburgh and also hit Grantown and Skye:

http://www.greendragonartist.com/BI/...otland2008.htm

Please let me know if it helps!
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Old Dec 29th, 2008, 01:47 PM
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Dylan: Not quite sure what your post has to do w/ the OP's trip/questions.

He is not planning a tour w/ Globus or any other company, and is not visiting any of the places you stayed.
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Old Dec 29th, 2008, 02:56 PM
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Dylann appears to be unhappy with Globus and is posting his complaints all over this forum.He states that he has taken 10 Globus tours so I can't help wondering if the company is so terrible why he keeps touring with them. He appears to be a real complainer and obviously has an ax to grind. I notced his post about the Avalon Tranquility full of complaints about everything. DH and I were on the Tranquility last summer for a 16 day cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam and it was a fantastic vacation.
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Old Dec 29th, 2008, 03:38 PM
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Letsgo 39....Wrong! Dylann is very unhappy with herself; I guess her life just never worked out for her. Have you ever heard so much whining over trivial nothings? Part of the joy of traveling is the ....unexpected. I feel dylann really would be at home in Disney World!!!!!
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Old Dec 30th, 2008, 01:02 AM
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I think the lesson of Dylann's post is not to do as s/he does and travel with a tour group, but do as most of us here do and travel independently, choosing our own hotels. Although it does seem overly picky to describe a hotel as 'awful' on the basis of the room initially having only 1 towel & 2 plastic glasses.
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