One week in Scotland - itinerary help!

Feb 18th, 2008, 06:48 PM
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One week in Scotland - itinerary help!

Hi everyone,

My husband and I will be spending one week in Scotland in August. We will be travelling from Dublin where we are attending a wedding, so we will thankfully have no jetlag issues, and we will have 6 days to visit Scotland for the first time.

Can you experts help us plan our itinerary?

We will rent a car and drive from place to place. We want to see Edinburgh (2 nights?), then see the highlands, the isle of Skye (if time permits) and some of the lakes, along with castles, of course.

We bought several travel books and have been researching this site, but we can't figure out how to allocate our time keeping driving times into consideration. Basically we have 4 nights beyond Edinburgh.

I would love to stay somewhere fancy one night - i.e. a castle or lovely manor. We stayed at Ashford Castle in Ireland and it was one of our favorite stays. We are OK spending up to $400 for this special occassion splurge (obviously more if it includes dinner, which some places often do), and would welcome any suggestions for other more affordable accomodations as well.

Thank you so much in advance!
hawaiimoon05 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2008, 07:34 PM
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Just thought I should add - we are less interested in cities and more so in little towns and picturesque country areas. We also have no problem with staying one night in a place and picking up and moving the next morning.

Our Ireland trip last year was quite a whirlwind... and we loved it. We want to see as much as possible - so no worries about running out of energy by trying to do too much!
hawaiimoon05 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2008, 07:38 PM
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W/ just a week in August (and this may seem like blasphemy since I LOVE the city) I would consider skipping Edinburgh.

A week is only long enough to see a tiny bit of Scotland as it is, and Edinburgh in August is a special case. Because of all the festivals and Military Tattoo all run concurrently through August - the city quite literally doubles in size. Every hotel room is booked up months ahead at increased rates, every restaurant is full - and all the Tattoo tickets were sold out before now.

If you were going to Scotland FOR the festivals/Tattoo it would be different. But since you mainly are going as an add-on to your Ireland trip and are interested in the countryside - I'd stick to west/central Scotland and save Edinburgh for another trip.

You could visit Argyll w/ Oban and Kilmartin, then Skye, then Glencoe and the Trossachs (just west and north of Stirling) and that would fill a week.
janisj is online now  
Feb 18th, 2008, 08:11 PM
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Thank you so much - and while I agree completely, my husband has his heart set on Edinburgh.

I know it sounds like we are rushing through with 2 nights in the city, it is really important to him and so I'm afraid I can't budge on that part of our itinerary! It is a shame that we won't get to see 'true' Edinburgh, however.

That having been said, our tentative thoughts are as follows (and please keep in mind - we really don't mind spending the whole day driving as I'm sure we will do based on this plan):

Aug 11, 12: Edinburgh
Aug 13: Drive through Sterling and Oban, spend night.
Aug 14: Drive through Glencoe to Skye, spend night.
Aug 15: Skye in the morning, drive up Loch Ness through Inverness and spend night in that area.
Aug 16: Tour whisky trail and castles, end in Aberdeen. Spend night in/near Aberdeen before flying out from there the next morning.

Thank you!
hawaiimoon05 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2008, 08:21 PM
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Actually it would be the reverse - in order to catch our return flight to NYC from Dublin we would need to do it this way (not sure if that matters):

Aug 11 - fly to Aberdeen, spend the night near there.
Aug 12: Drive the castle/whisky trail, spend night near Inverness.
Aug 13: Drive past Loch Ness to Skye, spend night in Skye.
Aug 14: Drive from Skye past Glencoe, spend night in Oban.
Aug 15: Drive to Edinburgh, spend night.
Aug 16: Day and night in Edinburgh.
Aug 17: fly home.
hawaiimoon05 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2008, 08:34 PM
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Sorry - but that itinerary is driving -- JUST driving w/ no time to see much of anything.

You have basically set aside 4 days to see a very large part of a very large country.

"Drive the castle trail" is only worth doing if you have time to stop and visit some of the castles. You cannot even see most of the castles from a road - so plan on around 90 minutes per castle visit.

You are spending half a day getting to Skye only to turn around the next day and leave the island. You won't have time to see much ON Skye. There is no fast driving to or on the island.

And your 2nd itinerary has you in Edinburgh on a Fri/Sat night smack dab in the middle of the month. I would book a hotel ASAP - like last week. Many places will have a 3 night minimum over the weekends.
janisj is online now  
Feb 18th, 2008, 08:43 PM
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Gotcha - OK, that's why I'm posting here. Need to find out if it is a rushed itinerary or an impossible one, which it seems it is! We will obviously need to rethink this. Thanks for your input - I do appreciate it.
hawaiimoon05 is offline  
Feb 19th, 2008, 02:56 AM
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Hi Hawaii,

Have you booked your hotel for Edinburgh yet? If not, I suggest doing that as soon as possible or you'll run into problems. I think that you might want to skip Skye on this trip (although it's my favourite place we've been in Scotland, you really need a few days just in Skye otherwise you'll go crazy with the driving).

Festival time in Edinburgh has been wonderful for us - but we love crowds. You'll have a blast just wandering down the Royal Mile watching the street performers.

We've been living in Edinburgh for two years now and our favourite road trips have been St. Andrews (cute town with a great ruined castle and abbey), Stirling Castle, Castle Campbell (a small castle overlooking a lovely valley with hiking around it). These were day trips although we later went back to spend a night in St Andrews.

We've learned to double the estimate given for driving time which also leaves time for photo stops whenever you want. Rushing around the backroads of Scotland would only be dangerous. Our favourite website to use is for castles.

Have a great trip!
pittpurple is offline  
Feb 19th, 2008, 05:10 AM
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Thank you so much, Pitt - a quick look on expedia shows that there are still hotels available, but we will definitely book soon due to the festival situation.

My thought was that Skye had to go as well, which is a tough decision to make because I have heard such wonderful things. We can't do it all though, so it seems like without that stop we can probably cover the rest of what we would like to see?
hawaiimoon05 is offline  
Feb 19th, 2008, 05:22 AM
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I agree, it doesn't sound like you have enough time for Skye for this trip. Gives you a reason to go back!

amelie is offline  
Feb 19th, 2008, 09:36 AM
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To respond to part of your original question, you might want to look at Dalhousie (rumored to have a resident ghost) or Melville castles, both just on the outskirts of Edinburgh. We enjoyed dinner at the former, in the dungeon, the last time we stayed there.

I'm a huge fan of the Trossachs area, and although we enjoyed being in the north (around Inverness), would like to suggest to you that there are many Highlands distilleries south of Aberdeen, including the very best for charm, Edradour. You almost need to save the far north and Speyside distilleries for a separate trip.

If I was recommending a 6-day tour for you, I'd say head west from Edinburgh to Stirling, then to Oban (my husband's favorite whisky), then back east towards Edinburgh, where you might stay in either of the castle hotels above before flying home. You can stay anywhere you please enroute, lots to see and do, depending on your interests. Plenty of distilleries in between, too, both directions! Be sure to tour Blair and Stirling castles, drive around Loch Lomond, drive along the east coast and have fresh fish and chips in a seaside village. Should give you a great view of the Midlothians/Trossachs, some good tasting, and a nice vacation without TOO much rushing.
FlaAnn is offline  
Feb 19th, 2008, 01:05 PM
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If you go out by Oban, Dunstaffnage Castle is close to there and it's one of our favourites - if you visit, make sure to take a walk along the shore, every step has the most amazing Scottish views. There's a lovely castle, a rocky beach, fishing boats and grasslands all there and you'll get some amazing shots. Oban itself is really cute - make sure to stop by the pier. And if you go up to the Folly in Oban you'll get a lovely view over the town.

It's a shame to skip Skye, but I really think you'll regret spending all that time in the car. You'll have to come back here sometime!
pittpurple is offline  
Feb 20th, 2008, 12:31 AM
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To base something on your original proposal, I'd suggest that you fly into Aberdeen- Ryanair- dirt cheap. Use somewhere north of Aberdeen as a base for some of the Castle trail; then stay a second night and see the east end of the whisky trail- remember one distillery is much like another. You might want to book yourself on the Balvenie tour so you can see a floor malting.

It will take 2 hours the next day (without stopping) to drive to Skye via Loch Ness- so say you're there by early afternoon. Spend the afternoon; and the next day on Skye. Leave about tea time the second day, and make a late run to your Edinburgh hotel.

That then gives you your two days in and around Edinburgh.
sheila is offline  
Feb 20th, 2008, 01:26 PM
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Thank you all so much for your suggestions. We are looking into all of our options. Your responses have been so helpful!!
hawaiimoon05 is offline  
Feb 20th, 2008, 02:12 PM
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hawaiimoon05, I know exactly how you feel, as we desperately wanted to squeeze in a few days in Scotland on our whirlwind 18-day tour of the UK last summer. Some people advised us against going all the way to Scotland on this trip (we also visited Cornwall, Wales, and passed through the Lake District), but I simply could not go to the UK without visiting Scotland.

We had 4 full days / 5 nights in Scotland and decided to focus on two areas: Glen Coe (3 nights) and Edinburgh (2 nights). We had to (painfully) skip Skye because it just didn't make sense in terms of the distances, but Glen Coe was absolutely incredible, and we managed to do a gorgeous coastal drive while we were based in Glen Coe. (We got the drive info from Undiscovered Scotland, which someone already mentioned.) We spent our first day driving from the Lake District to Glen Coe via the Trossachs (nice drive, stopped many times for photos), 2 full days in Glen Coe, one day driving from Glen Coe to Edinburgh via Stirling, and one full day in Edinburgh (which was worth it to us - I had always wanted to visit since I almost decided to spend a semester there in college). We were pleased with the pacing, even though we didn't have a lot of time in Edinburgh.

Given what you want to see and do, I would focus on the Oban / Glen Coe side and Edinburgh and skip Skye - save it for the next trip!
hausfrau is offline  
Mar 11th, 2008, 02:12 AM
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I am late to join this conversation, but it looks like you are getting lots of advice and probably still very confused.

I was in the same situation last year but found a great website secret-scotland. I told them what I wanted and they planned an itinerary for me with a choice of recommended B&Bs along the route that we were driving. It had all the information about distances and times so it was easy to work out what we could or could not do.

I think like the others that Skye is too much to do on this trip. Maybe stay in Stirling for 2 nights and take train to Edinburgh!? It is not far and saves trouble with parking car.

JeanNoel is offline  
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