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Onto the next trip - recommended 'must sees' in the UK and Ireland?

Onto the next trip - recommended 'must sees' in the UK and Ireland?

Old Mar 26th, 2024, 02:11 PM
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Don't assume Ireland and or Scotland will be colder - or warmer - or wetter than London. It could be warm/dry or wet/cold anywhere - sometimes all on the same day. Just don't even factor weather into your decision making.

Also June / July is not peak season. (well, late July is). There are Bank Holidays in May and most British schools let out for the summer break around the 25th of July. Between those few families are traveling. June/early July is definitely the lull between the tourist storms. June is just about my favorite time to visit because of the loooooooog days and relatively few crowds. (My actual very most-est favorite times are mid-May avoiding the beginning and end of the month and around Christmas)
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj
Don't assume Ireland and or Scotland will be colder - or warmer - or wetter than London. It could be warm/dry or wet/cold anywhere - sometimes all on the same day. Just don't even factor weather into your decision making.

Also June / July is not peak season. (well, late July is). There are Bank Holidays in May and most British schools let out for the summer break around the 25th of July. Between those few families are traveling. June/early July is definitely the lull between the tourist storms. June is just about my favorite time to visit because of the loooooooog days and relatively few crowds. (My actual very most-est favorite times are mid-May avoiding the beginning and end of the month and around Christmas)
Flights out of Australia peak in prices in June/July (everyone escaping our winter to go to the Northern Hemisphere). We'll be back by mid-July but good to know that if we reverse the order of things, it shouldn't make the crowds in London any more or less unbearable (I have no doubt it will be busier than when I visited in November of 2019!).
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 02:40 PM
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Just quick re crowds . . . London is London -- it is always crowded/busy (well maybe mid January / Feb not so much) one month or another really makes no difference in any way. April - May - July - October all same-o same-o. Where crowds become an issue is in the rural bits (like on Skye and places like the Lake District and Cotswolds) where the infrastructure can't cope with the influx. That's why avoiding the holidays and visiting in June / early July is good.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj
Just quick re crowds . . . London is London -- it is always crowded/busy (well maybe mid January / Feb not so much) one month or another really makes no difference in any way. April - May - July - October all same-o same-o. Where crowds become an issue is in the rural bits (like on Skye and places like the Lake District and Cotswolds) where the infrastructure can't cope with the influx. That's why avoiding the holidays and visiting in June / early July is good.
Thank you - I didn't actually think of it that way re the more rural places at all! Makes total sense.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 03:44 PM
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I would strongly encourage seeing Dunottar Castle when you're in the Scottish highlands. Absolutely breathtaking.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffhullinger3220
I would strongly encourage seeing Dunottar Castle when you're in the Scottish highlands. Absolutely breathtaking.
Thank you for the suggestion - it does look stunning! Just having a look on the map, it looks rather proximate to Aberdeen - is there anything else in the area you'd suggest seeing if basing in Aberdeen?
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by victoriainwanderland
Thank you for the suggestion - it does look stunning! Just having a look on the map, it looks rather proximate to Aberdeen - is there anything else in the area you'd suggest seeing if basing in Aberdeen?
We actually stayed in Aberdeen for a couple of days. Wouldn't repeat, probably; Aberdeen is a pretty gray, gritty place. But there are a few enjoyable things to see, topped in my personal opinion by the Union Terrace Gardens near the center of town. It's gorgeous at dusk.

If you end up traveling to the vicinity of Balmoral Castle, there's a wonderful (though pricey) country inn called the Fife Arms in the village of Ballater. Rooms there are outlandishly expensive, but lunch there is a genuine treat; even the chicken breast salad is especially delicious. And they have a magnificent array of single malt Scotch whisky that non-drivers can select from. Nearby is a beautiful little hydraulic in one of the mountain streams that shouldn't be missed by anyone traveling nearby, located in the Glen Tanar nature reserve.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 04:11 PM
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OK -- now you are getting in the weeds Dunnottar is stunning (remember the hundreds/thousands of 'musts' I mentioned in my first post). It is one of my favorite castles in the country. And yes - there are MANY sites in the area -- Stonehaven, Crathes Castle, Glamis, all of the 'Castle Trail', Balmoral, reasonably close to St Andrews/Falkland/Fishing villages, and much more. But it is in Aberdeenshire all the way over on the complete opposite side of the country from Skye.

If you opted to include the east coast then you are talking 3+ weeks just in Scotland.


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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 04:17 PM
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I was posting the same time as jeffhullinger 2nd post -- you are a long way from deciding details like this. I've stayed at the Fife Arms twice (as well as several other places on Deeside/Ballater) but didn't consider recommending it since so far only Skye is in the conversation -- there is MUCH MUCH more to Scotland than Skye.

You got some reading up to do Have you checked out Undiscovered Scotland?
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj
You got some reading up to do Have you checked out Undiscovered Scotland?
I have not! Will look into it now - thanks!
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 05:40 PM
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Not sure I feel it is fair to offer up a favorite place when I have seen so little of England and Ireland (which somehow never touched me the way it does others) and not Scotland at all, but Bath is a place I really, really like. Beautiful architecture (buildings, bridges and Abby), extremely interesting history (especially for the connection to Colonial America), the ancient and amazing Roman Baths, very, very interesting links to social mores of English society in the past and a lovely city for walking, including a river.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 06:25 PM
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Yep - hundreds/thousands of 'musts'. 😉

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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 07:55 PM
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Regarding the crowds on Skye, we were there last June, and the crowds did not interfere with our enjoyment of Skye at all. We honestly didn't think the crowds were that bad. Skye is a large island so people are dispersed across the island. I followed a driving itinerary from a blog I read (the link is included in my TR that I posted upthread). Our first day we drove along the Trotternish Peninsula. We got gas in Portree, and there was a long line at the gas station. And there were lots of cars headed to our first stop, The Old Man of Storr. But the cars thinned out as we headed further north along the Peninsula. We never had problems getting parking spaces at the car parks.

The next day we visited the Trumpan Church on the Waternish Peninsula. We saw very few cars along the road but we did see our first and only hairy coos. There were only 2 cars at the carpark. And the scenery along the way is so pretty, very pastoral, and very peaceful. Dunvegan Castle wasn't crowded. The only place where we had a problem with parking was at Claigan Coral Beach because the carpark is very small.

On our third day, we visited the Fairy Pools (along with a few other places). The Fairy Pools have a large carpark which was quite full. But when we did our hike we were not elbow to elbow with people because the trail is very long. So people are spread out along the trail. If you have a chance to read my TR, you will see in my many photos what I am describing.

It's up to you, of course, whether or not you visit Skye. Will you be disappointed and have regrets if you don't visit Skye? When I was planning my trip, I received invaluable advice and help from everyone on this forum. Quite a few people did not recommend visiting Skye because of the crowds. But I knew I would regret not seeing Skye if I didn't include it. And I am so happy we did include Skye. The scenery is stunning and so unique, and it is one of our favorite places. The other outstanding area is Glen Coe. And of course there is more to Scotland than Skye but unfortunately, unless we have months, we have to omit some wonderful places. It's always a hard decision to make.

It is true the accommodations get filled quite quickly. I made our hotel/B&B reservations in November 2022 for our June 2023 trip. Even then a few places had very little availability.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 09:44 PM
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For the lovely knowledgeable folk who have been able to help out with Scotland - what are your thoughts on Inverness and the East Coast and which you'd pick of the two?

Having regard to time, we can probably see Inverness and the surrounding areas ORuse Inverness as a stepping stone (i.e. if coming from Skye) and simply stay overnight before continuing on to the East Coast.

In terms of how we'd work in Inverness and/or the East Coast, these are some loose options I'm thinking of right now:
A. fly into Inverness, drive to Skye (2-3 nights), drive to Edinburgh (stopping overnight at Fort William/Glencoe), Edinburgh (4-5 nights), drive up East Coast and fly out of Aberdeen
B. fly into Edinburgh, Edinburgh (4-5 nights), drive to Skye (stopping overnight at Fort William/Glencoe), Skye (2-3 nights), Inverness (either as its own stop for a few days or an overnighter en-route to the East Coast).

As an Outlander fan (guilty!) Inverness has always sounded lovely but I've been told that as pleasant as it can be, there is much more to see elsewhere. Curious to hear thoughts on this generally, appreciating that the coast will be different from the highlands
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 10:25 PM
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Very quick -- It's late here . . . Inverness itself is not a destination in any way. It would be a lovely city to live in -- all mod cons and all . . . But it is mainly the commercial hub of the Highlands/north of Scotland. There is quite a bit to see in the general region but the city itself -- nah. (And Loch Ness isn't that much either -- except for Urquhart Castle)
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Old Mar 27th, 2024, 03:29 AM
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Both Inverness and the East Coast have their own special atmosphere, so it's not an easy choice.
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Old Mar 27th, 2024, 04:57 AM
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Per janisj's advice, we did not stay in Inverness. Instead, we stayed in the lovely seaside village of Nairn, about 20 minutes from Inverness. We spent 3 nights in Nairn and visited Elgin Cathedral, Glen Moray Distillery, Cawdor Castle, and Culloden Battlefield. From Nairn, we drove to Skye, and along the way we visited Urquhart Castle and Eilean Donan Castle.

I would spend a minimum of 3 nights on Skye. (We had 4 nights.) It's a large island filled with beauty and I think you would feel frustrated with only 2 nights. Also, although we were very lucky with beautiful sunny weather, I think you should have an extra day in case your first day there is very rainy. The extra day gives you a better chance of having some nice weather.

Last edited by KarenWoo; Mar 27th, 2024 at 04:59 AM.
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Old Mar 27th, 2024, 07:38 AM
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My recommendation earlier for Oban and Mull was based on what I thought would be a shorter overall time frame than the expanded one you indicated in post no. 18. With 3-4 weeks, including all the areas mentioned would be (to me, at least) very uncomfortable and rushed, so my suggestion for Argyll was that it's compact enough that you could experience a pretty wide range of activities and landscapes without having to drive for hours and hours just to get places. I also mentioned Mull over Skye because you indicated you'd like to take the train for longer trips; for Skye that's not really possible while access to Oban, plus local car hire, makes visiting Mull, Iona and Staffa easy, as well as major sights like Glen Coe. But if you're willing to shift to a car-based tour, then Skye is fine; just recognize that it's a long way from other places and a big island that's slow to get around.

Now, to the Inverness vs. the east coast question, like everyone else I'd say that Inverness' main benefit is relatively easy (not necessarily quick, but easy) access to the north and northwest of Scotland, which includes some of the most remote (and to me, beautiful) country in the whole of the British Isles. The town itself is pleasant but far from scenic; many people come in order to see Loch Ness, which many find to be disappointing, and of course to visit the Culloden battlefield. Inverness can be a decent jumping-off point for Skye (if one is using the Kyle bridge) or for those heading south and east into the whisky country.

But if you're interested in the east coast and want to enter the area by train (or by direct flights from London) then IMO Aberdeen is a much more useful starting point. While the Aberdeenshire and Perthshire Highlands don't possess the same dramatic mountain/sea/loch landscapes of the west coast, they more than compensate with magnificent forests, castles, picturesque villages, and empty roads, not to mention umpteen whisky destinations, opportunities to enjoy Highland games throughout the summer, and easy access to and from coastal area replete with fishing villages, castle ruins, historic sites and much more.

Google or use Undiscovered Scotland to look up "Royal Deeside," for example - the Dee and Don Valleys with all their castles and marvelous forests. Research the Angus glens like Glen Clova or Glen Lyon in Perthshire, my vote (and that of many others') for the most beautiful glen in Scotland. Look at Braemar, Craigievar and Balmoral castles, the Fortingall Hotel and Fortingall Yew tree. Someone's already mentioned Dunnottar Castle but also look up Arbroath Smokies, Forfar bridies and Glamis Castle. On and on.

You could travel to/from the northeast via Fife, with stops in St. Andrews, the "East Neuk" fishing villages like Crail, Anstruther and Pittenweem, or drop-dead gorgeous Falkland, the village that was used as Inverness in Outlander. Sample map - https://maps.app.goo.gl/eNCtf6AyeiEDkbWdA

A few videos to elaborate -

Craigievar Castle


Drumtochty Highland Games, Aberdeenshire


Pack ("Roman" - not) bridge in Glen Lyon, a couple of miles from Fortingall


Falkland and Falkland Palace


Just a few examples of alternative tours of Scotland to the popular tourist routes.
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Old Mar 27th, 2024, 09:21 AM
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I can't hear the name Aberdeen without thinking of this song (which has a slight geography lesson in it):


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Old Mar 27th, 2024, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by KarenWoo
I would spend a minimum of 3 nights on Skye. (We had 4 nights.) It's a large island filled with beauty and I think you would feel frustrated with only 2 nights. Also, although we were very lucky with beautiful sunny weather, I think you should have an extra day in case your first day there is very rainy. The extra day gives you a better chance of having some nice weather.
Did you go hiking while there? Assuming my mother will join us, we'd only be doing the really easy / flat walks.

From some of the itineraries that I've looked at thus far, I think we'd be looking at the following split across 3 days:
1. Elgol fishing village, Sligachan Old Bridge, Fairy Pools, Talisker
2. Neist Point lighthouse, Dunvegan Castle, Portree Village
3. Fairy Glen, Uig, Duntulum Castle, Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
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