Scotland

Old Feb 16th, 2024, 01:49 PM
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Scotland

Hi, Fodors Forum community. My husband & I are planning a 2 week trip to Scotland this April to May. We will not be renting a car (or hiring a private driver) and instead will be purchasing a Spirit of Scotland pass (train & buses) to get around.

We’re looking for advice (esp from people w/ experience traveling to these places). Our itinerary ideas:

•Edinburgh (5 nights)
•Edinburgh to St Andrews by train & bus (or Uber) for 1 night Old Golf Course tour & more
•St Andrews by train to Aviemore (or Kingussie)
Aviemore (or Kingussie) for 2 nights - hiking, exploring the Cairngorms, distillery
•Aviemore (or Kingussie) by train to Fort William (via Inverness) by train & bus for 1 night - see/do short Ben Nevis hike
•Fort William to Oban & then ferry to Mull
•Mull (2 nights) day tour probably
•Mull ferry to Oban then train to Glasgow
•Glasgow 3 nights
•Day 15 flight from Glasgow to Boston

It seems to be a lot of travel yet we are spending a lot of nights at the beginning & end of the trip when we won’t be on a train or bus.

Thoughts?
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Old Feb 16th, 2024, 03:19 PM
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Welcome to Fodors. We removed the Trip Report flag from your thread and add a tag for the United Kingdom.
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Old Feb 16th, 2024, 03:46 PM
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Yes, welcome to the forums. Just one quick comment: Mull will be very difficult unless you hire a driver/guide for both days. There are only 2 bus routes on the island - Tobermory <> Craignure 4X a day each way; and Craignure <> Ffionhphort 2X a day. I don't think Tobermory <> Calgary Bay runs except during the summer. It is a very large island with very slow roads and a car is really the only way to see it in just 2 days so I definitely pre-book a local driver or taxi.

If one was driving they might choose different stop overs (other than Ft William/Kingussie/Aviemore) but depending on trains and buses you've done about as good as is possible.
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Old Feb 16th, 2024, 04:38 PM
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Mull itinerary

Thank you for your input, janisj. We plan to do a walking or driving tour on the Isle of Mull. Based on what we have listed as itinerary do you think we have allowed enough “down time” to really enjoy & take in the Scottish experience?

What would you recommend instead of Aviemore and/or Fort Williams? Maybe we can explore different areas that are accessible by train.

Last edited by Jofish23; Feb 16th, 2024 at 04:50 PM.
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Old Feb 16th, 2024, 05:21 PM
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OK -- you have competing goals which take some doing to reconcile. One is to use trains and buses - and the other is to allow down time and 'experience' Scotland. When you are constrained by the limited rail and bus schedules it doesn't really allow for much down time nor visiting smaller towns/villages and the most scenic bits. Not that you can't have a great trip - you can.

A couple of questions: 1) Are you not driving because that's the only option (don't have licenses for instance) - or - because you think it would be too difficult - or some other reason? Many parts of the UK are totally doable by transport -- Scotland is generally more difficult. Especially getting to the more remote/scenic parts.

2) " We plan to do a walking or driving tour on the Isle of Mull." -- this is a little confusing. You say you won't be driving or hiring a driver - so what sort of driving tour s this?

Mull is a very large island and while there are local walks and hikes it really isn't a 'walking tour' sort of place. A 'tour' would seem to indicate walking from place to place. The only two villages really are Tobermory and Fionnphort which are 50 miles apart.

This link is actually from a fabulous B&B in Fionnphort but gives you an idea . These are some terrific walks in one small corner of the island -- but you'd really need a car to get to most of the trail heads. Then of course you can take the foot ferry over to Iona for more walks.
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Old Feb 17th, 2024, 06:07 AM
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Mull

janisj, Thanks again for your input & suggestions. We have drivers licenses but don’t want to drive on the other side of the road. While in Mull we’re looking into paying for a small group tour in which we would be picked up by car/mini-van. One tour is geared toward wilderness areas & walking. We likely will stay in Tobermory.
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Old Feb 17th, 2024, 08:18 AM
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My husband and I were in Glasgow and Edinburgh in early October. We had planned to do the train/bus to St Andrews on a Sunday in which you can walk the course but there was torrential rainstorms and so rail service was suspended almost entirely North of Edinburgh and roads were closed as well. That gave us an extra day to spend in Edinburgh which worked well as it gave us an opportunity to get to Holyrood Palace as the days and hours of operation had been reduced as of October 1 for the season. We did a one day tour from Edinburgh that took us to Rosslyn Chapel, Stirling Castle and Dunferline Abbey which worked well. You can get on public transport to both Stirling and to Rosslyn but this was very efficient way to get to three places and we had ample time to explore all three places.
We stayed two nights in Glasgow before moving on to Edinburgh and then to London but would have welcomed another night in Glasgow actually to see and do some more.
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Old Feb 17th, 2024, 08:31 AM
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OK -- Understanding the compromises you are making using public transport, your original itinerary is fine.

Tiny note -- avoid uber in Scotland. In the cities cabs are readily available and there is excellent bus and tram service. And from Leuchars to to St Andrews take either the local but or a taxi.

Both the St Andrews > Aviemore or Kingussie and Kinggussie > Ft William journeys will take more than 3 hours via bus/train, so depending on how much hiking you want to do I might take nights from Edinburgh and/or Glasgow and add them to Kingussie or Ft William or both. If you only plan on short-ish walks/hikes, then the 2-night stops are fine.


(Thousands of Americans, Canadians, and other 'right-side-of-the-roaders successfully do drive in the UK every day)
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Old Feb 17th, 2024, 08:35 AM
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OH -- Madam397 makes a good point -- the weather is ALWAYS a crap shoot. So do have some plan B's ready just in case. If it is raining sideways you won't want to be on Ben Nevis nor hiking in the Cairngorms.
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Old Feb 17th, 2024, 11:15 AM
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Within Edinburgh, make sure you visit Dean Village. It's walking distance from the center and it's a lovely hidden neighborhood, very picturesque!
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 04:29 AM
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Thank you for the additional input, everyone! Thinking now of staying in Glencoe rather than Fort William if we decide not to do a hike at Ben Nevis. Would 2 nights in Glencoe be a good swap for one of the nights in Aviemore (stay 1 night there instead of 2)?
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 06:56 AM
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Glencoe is fabulous. I've never had to rely on buses when staying there, though I do know there is is service. If you had a car I'd 100000% percent recommend staying in Glencoe over Ft William. But to be honest (and I have NEVER said this before), it might be better to stay in Ft William simply because there are more public transport options. You can take the bus from Ft William into Glencoe to hike

Because you will be relying on sometimes very infrequent buses, I probably would stay a minimum of 2 nights everywhere along your itinerary. I'd even try to fit in 2 nights in St Andrews so you could also visit some of the fishing villages and the Isle of May (if the excursion boats are running in Aprili -- I didn't check) and maybe Falkland.
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 07:09 AM
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Thank you, janisj. All good recommendations!
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Old Feb 21st, 2024, 11:14 AM
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As you will rely on public transportation, did you consider Arran? It is often dubbed as Scotland in miniature. Access is easy with frequent Calmac ferries and same for buses around the island.
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Old Feb 21st, 2024, 02:45 PM
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Thank you for the suggestion, rouelan. I did read the Isle of Arran is “Scotland in Miniature.” We will look into it as an option.

Last edited by Jofish23; Feb 21st, 2024 at 02:59 PM.
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