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Ireland AND Scotland … or … Ireland OR Scotland?

Ireland AND Scotland … or … Ireland OR Scotland?

Old Jan 7th, 2015, 06:25 AM
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Ireland AND Scotland … or … Ireland OR Scotland?

Looking for some insight to help in planning a September 2015 vacation. We are 2 couples in our early 60’s, fairly fit and active, seasoned travelers who have taken many trips together over the past 25+ years.

We are talking about Scotland and/or Ireland this year, and the question is, one or the other, or both? We will have 15 – 16 full days on the ground. As a frame of reference, we spent 15 days in Germany last year – 5 days in Berlin, 5 in the Rhine Valley, and 5 in the Bavarian Alps. This proportion of 1/3 city and 2/3 countryside and small towns is pretty much how we like to do it. We like a medium but not rushed pace, a lot of walking is fine, but not serious hiking. We plan for one or two “touristic” stops most days … museums, gardens, historical sites, churches, etc … and a generous amount of lengthy lunches, dinners, and relaxation. We love to eat, but wouldn’t consider us to be serious foodies … we look for informal places serving authentic local food at reasonable prices, good beer and wine, and a casual atmosphere.

We always rent a car for the days outside of large cities, and prefer to sleep in small towns rather than out in the boondocks so we can have dinner in town without the necessity to drive back to the hotel every night – did I say we like our beer and wine? Also prefer small family-run hotels and B & B’s over large hotels, definitely no large chains with the possible exception of the last night near an airport. A minimum of 3 nights per stop would be pretty important to us … we used to do shorter stays, and aren’t interested in that anymore.

All four of us have been to England several times in the past, and my wife and I previously spent one week in and around Dublin … no other past experience in Ireland for us, none for our friends, and none for any of us in Scotland. With this little bit of information, I'm looking for recommendations on spending all our time in one or the other, or splitting our time between these two countries?

Thanks
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 08:09 AM
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I wouldn't split the time, and I'd choose Scotland. Of course you're going to get differing opinions, but here's my logic:

Scotland offers a lot more diversity and variety than Ireland (assuming you're referring to the Republic and not necessarily Ulster, although my opinion would still hold.) In Scotland you have many different landscapes and regions with distinct cultural and historic histories, and traveling between them is not only a joy, but a bit more time-consuming than in other parts of Europe, including Ireland.

In September you'll be there after the summer peak and after the (amazing but high-density) Edinburgh festivals; the heather will be purple and the leaves starting to change, and like many northern places there will be an electricity in the air that's palpable. The weather won't be all good, or all bad, and with Scotland you can simply travel a short distance and find yourselves in a quite different climate - wet west, dry east - much of the time.

Given your travel style, I'd look at five or six days in Edinburgh, maybe with a day trip out to some of the small towns along the East Lothian coast, but I'd probably do that last, and use the earlier part of your time to do a big loop through the Highlands, while the days are longer and the weather still fair.

My own tastes for touring Scotland tend to the more northerly parts, where the landscapes can become so stark and remote-feeling that it's hard to believe you're on the same island as some thatchy-roofy village in Devon. Others are drawn to the castles and whisky towns of the northeast, still others to the fishing villages and a certain famous golf course in Fife, yet others to the grit, personality, and electricity of Glasgow. What are your preferences? They're all here, and so's the beer.

This is my fave site for planning off-the-beaten-path trips through Scotland - give it a road test. http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/

There are many, many trip reports here on Fodor's covering Scotland. I'd look through them than come back with more detailed questions or to float trial balloons.
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 08:20 AM
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I 100% agree w/ Gardyloo's post. I'd would only do one country - and me persona;;y it would be Scotland. even w/ 2+ weeks you will need to be VERY selective how much of Scotland you try to cover. It is a big/fascinating/gorgeous country.

Besides the undiscoveredscotland site mentioned -- I'd get a copy of Scotland the Best by Peter Irvine. It isn't a guidebook as such but more like a gazetteer of EVERYTHING in scotland. The best views, best walks, best pubs, best museums, besy fish and chip shops, best waterfalls, best whisky distilleries, best beaches . . . just anything you can think of.

After June, September is my very favorite month in June.

But even if Ireland pulls you, only do Ireland. 2-ish weeks is OK for a good tour of Ireland
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 08:20 AM
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oops -- >> and me personally . . .
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 08:30 AM
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Scotland, the midland belt cities, the highlands or two, a couple of Island communities. This will fill up the time nicely
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 11:24 AM
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Another vote for Scotland.

My favourite guide book is DK Eyewitness Scotland. It has excellent pictures and enough information to whet the appetite and reasonable maps to help you decided where to go. It also covers a lot of the small less touristy sites ignored by the other guide books. Use this to begin to identify where you want to go and major sites.

Once you have the basic plan sorted, then go to the Undiscovered Scotland site mentioned by Gardyloo. It really is excellent and I use it for planning all our trips to Scotland. Start with the map pages and follow the links for the text pages with lots of photos and information.
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 12:38 PM
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And another vote for Scotland. Ireland was beautiful, but Scotland was mind boggling. We loved Isle of Skye the most, but really it was all gorgeous.

The Gardens and Castles were also awesome. In fact, I think by going to a lot of the Castles you get a real sense of the history of Scotland. They are all different.

And do go to Loch Ness (ignore the Nessie signs etc as you approach) I didn't think I wanted to go there, too touristy. My sister in law wanted to go so we did. Haunting, the Castle and the history is fascinating.

I did not particularly like Edinburgh. My husband found the castle interesting (long military history) but we were underwhelmed by Edinburgh, don't know why. We stayed in Pitlochry at this B&B and day tripped from there. Easy to walk to town for dinner. I had heard that Pitlochry was very touristy, We didn't find it so, but of course we weren't there during the day.

https://www.craigatinhouse.co.uk/

Glencoe is a don't miss also.

We spent about the same amount of time there as you have, and it wasn't enough. We'll go back, maybe next year, as this year is already planned
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 03:02 PM
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Thanks very much for all the detailed replies Gardyloo, janisj, bilboburger, ESW and wrenwood. I'll certainly check all the links and suggestions. It sounds like you all have a great idea of what would interest us, but kind of surprised that no one mentioned Glasgow? My sister was there last year and loved it.

So it's 5 - 0 in favor of Scotland ... would love to hear more.
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 03:09 PM
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Well, I would vote for Ireland but then I have been there 7 times and never to Scotland. Ireland seems to be the red-haired stepchild on this forum.
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 03:09 PM
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I can not compare, as I have not been to Ireland, but I have taken two trips to Scotland that have been outstanding, and I would spend two weeks there again in a heartbeat. If you click on my name, you will find the two trip reports, which might give you some ideas. Both trips consisted of a mix sort of like the one you describe between city and country, although both were in August and included a few days at the Edinburgh festivals.
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 03:24 PM
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...but kind of surprised that no one mentioned Glasgow?

Hey, I mentioned it! People's Palace, CR Mackintosh buildings, Burrell Collection, Glasgow cathedral, dinner at the Shish Mahal (OMG), religious warfare on the football pitch... what's not to love?
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 03:40 PM
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Gardyloo mentioned Glasgow and I didn't list any specifics.

Once you checked out undiscoveredscotland, Scotland the Best and some other resources . . . then we can help you w/ specifics.

My guess wrenwood is in the distinct minority not enjoying Edinburgh -- but then I've been there maybe 20+ times - different strokes and all that.

You have limited time - you can't see/do more than a tiny fraction of Scotland. Whether Glasgow, or Edinburgh or Glencoe or Skye or the Borders. or the Castle Trail, or Fife/St Andrews, or the Southwest, or the Outer Hebrides, or the Highlands or the far Northwest . . . or any other regions fit into your itinerary will depend on you first doing a bit id study/eliminating . . .
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 04:08 PM
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Oops, sorry Gardyloo. yes you did mention it, thanks for providing some added information.

jaja - I never felt Ireland received short shrift on Fodor's, but it's certainly getting left in the dust on this thread. We did thoroughly enjoy our week in the Dublin environs, we were visiting our daughter who studied there for a semester.
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 04:28 PM
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I also suggest one place or the other, not both. It would be a toss up between Scotland and Ireland, but for me Ireland has the slight edge.

Ireland 5 stops, 3 nights each. Dublin (no car),pick up rental car and head to Antrim Coast, Donegal, Galway (Connemara), County Clare. fly into Dublin, out of Shannon. Shannon is very easy to maneuver for car return and getting around within airport. There is a Radisson Hotel within steps of the terminal. The Radisson is not spectacular, but clean, safe, and adequate evening meal can be had as well as buffet breakfast.
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 04:38 PM
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Antrim coast: Giants Causeway, Dunluce castle (ruin), whisky tour (not my thing, but lots of people enjoy it Glens of antrim for a relaxing hike.

Donegal--slieve league cliffs, folk village with crafts, Killybegs (good fishing town)

Connemara (maybe stay in Clifden) day trip to Aran Islands from Rosseveal, lovely countryside (peat digging, Connemara ponies), Kylemore Abbey, Connemara National Park (hikes and visitor center) Lake Corrib, Raptor center, Quiet Man country.

County Clare Ailwee Caves, Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Quin, Kilmacduagh (sp?) round tower and ruins, Looop Head lighthouse and views of the Shannon, Scattery Island, If you don't want to stay right at the airport, Ennis would be a good last night stand--good choices of restaurants and B&Bs and about a half hour run down to Shannon on departure day.
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 06:07 PM
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No matter which country you choose, be aware that driving times are significantly slower than in the US. Except for a few major highways, you will be lucky to average 40 mph.
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Old Jan 8th, 2015, 05:57 AM
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'but kind of surprised that no one mentioned Glasgow? My sister was there last year and loved it.'

Click on my id and you will find a TR for Glasgow posted just a couple of weeks ago, with lots of up to date info on where to go, what to see and what to eat and drink.
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Old Jan 8th, 2015, 06:52 AM
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I have been to Scotland and Ireland, a couple of times to each. I love western Ireland the best. Why not try both? Fly into Edinburgh or Glasgow first and spend 7 or 8 days exploring south and central Scotland - amazing landscapes outside the cities, then fly to Shannon and visit the south west - the Dingle peninsula is well worth a drive, Connemara, then head north to Giants Causeway. You could fly back to US from either Shannon or Dublin. There are loads of great B&Bs throughout both countries, some fantastic pubs - best fish & chips EVER at Marina Inn in Dingle. I would say the food is better in Ireland, but people are so very friendly and welcoming in both countries.
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Old Jan 8th, 2015, 08:48 AM
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My votes: Don't split. Do Scotland. To me Glasgow and Inverness would be far less interesting than most other alternatives in Scotland, including Edinburgh.
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Old Jan 8th, 2015, 12:35 PM
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I love both, but I would stick to just one with your time frame. Have fun planning.
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