Scotland - First Visit Itinerary Help

Old Jan 5th, 2006, 11:14 AM
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Scotland - First Visit Itinerary Help

Hello,

My wife and I are planning to make a first visit to Scotland in late June through early July, for about three weeks. The central part of our trip will be to hike the Great Glen Way. We are currently just roughing out the itinerary and have come up with this:

Edinburgh - 4 nights
Fort William - 3 nights
Great Glen Way - 6 nights
Inverness - 3 nights
Edinburgh - 2 more nights

We would use trains or coaches to transfer between Edinburgh-Fort William and Inverness-Edinburgh, and local transportation for any excursions we made.

Any thoughts on the above would be appreciated.

Also, any recommendations on good books we could read prior to our trip to learn about Scottish history, etc?

Thanks.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 11:38 AM
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The Great Glen Way should be a great walk!

Other than it is the starting point of the Great Glen Way, it is not clear why you would spend three nights in Fort William.

Also, 6 nights for Edinburgh seems excessive, unless you are doing day trips to places like Stirling or into the Borders. I would use at least two of those days to explore Glasgow.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 11:52 AM
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ron,

Thanks for the reply. I should have mentioned that one of the days in Fort William would be spent hiking up Ben Nevis or one of the other nearby mountains, if conditions permit.

As for Edinburgh it looks like there is a ton of stuff to see nearby, for example on the page:

http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/...nburgh-all.htm

I'll take a look at Glasgow as well. As mentoned this is rough draft at this point. But we do like to minimize the amount of time we actually spend in transit.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 12:25 PM
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My only comment would be that if you have two to three weeks, I would make time to see more of the west coast and highlands, especially the Isle of Skye (which you might need a car, not sure about Trains and public transport once you get there.) We travelled around Scotland and that area was by far our favorite-- we spent 3 nights and could have easily spend more!
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 01:32 PM
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I hope you have a great trip. FWIW, I think you can easily spend 6 days in edinburgh without getting bored.

Fort William is NOT great. Why not move further west for a night or two and stay in Morar or Mallaig, and take a trip to Skye for the day?

Inverness is the same. Good setting off point but not much to recommend it otherwise.

Books? Where to start? Do you prefer to get your history from history books or fiction?
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 01:56 PM
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Thanks much for the replies. Two strikes against Fort William and two in favor of Skye. OK, time to rethink things. This is exactly the type of help I was looking for!

At present this is all on paper, nothing is booked, but I hope to have our flights settled by this weekend and accomodation within the next couple of months.

Shiela, as for books my wife I prefer well written history, but a *good* historical novel is OK. Two history books that I found on amazon with good reviews are "Robert the Bruce: King of Scots" by Ronald McNair Scott, and "Scotland: The Story of a Nation" by Magnus Magnusson, but I know nothing about either of them except what I have read there.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 02:12 PM
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Tom Devine's book is very good. Given you're from over the pond, you should probably read Jim Hunter's Dance to America, and Fitzroy Maclean will give you a good overview.

If you were going to do Ben nevis, why don't you take your three days in Skye and do some of the Black Cuillins, instead?
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 04:35 PM
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Sheila, I'll look into your book recommendations. Thanks much.

I just did some web surfing for Skye and the Cullins. Yes, looks very nice! Thanks for the suggestion. We very well may take you up on it!
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 06:53 PM
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I read "Scotland: The Story of a Nation" by Magnus Magnusson. It's pretty dry, but if you want a fairly comprehensive history of Scotland up to the 18th century, then that's what you'll get.

One note: if you do read the Magnusson book, have a map or atlas handy. There are so many places referred to that I was unfamiliar with. It helped me get more familiar with Scottish geography.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 07:02 PM
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The best way to see Scotland to me was doing a Globus bus tour. We stayed right in the heart of Edinburgh by the Castle- my favorite city. Very Gothic.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 06:11 AM
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Thanks suziecoyle, Some friends of ours did one of those trips and really enjoyed it. However, that type of travel doesn't work for my wife and me. We are weird and can easily spend four hours hanging out and enjoying something that most people think is worth only 15 minutes!
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 07:10 AM
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Edinburgh and area are absolutely delightful, and there's a million things to do in the time period you're looking at.

I assume you have a guidebook... which one?
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 07:20 AM
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I agree that there is plenty to do in Edinburgh, which is a breathtaking city. Also, Stirling (with its gorgeous castle) is a short easy train ride from Edinburgh. Inverness is not terribly interesting (rather modern), but as the "gateway to the Highlands" is a good jumping off place for jaunts (like a cruise on River Ness). I found the Isle of Mull more beautiful and less touristy than Skye and the port city of Oban (where you get the ferry to Mull) is charming. The journey west to either Skye or Mull is stunning. Happy travels!
 
Old Jan 6th, 2006, 01:46 PM
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Thanks for the replies everyone. This forum is great!

Anna, we actually do NOT have a guidebook yet, but are planning to go to the library and/or bookstore this weekend. So far all our research has been online.

Due to the responses here, we are now reconsidering our initial ideas altogether and will definitely spend time in Skye (or Mull!). We are going to try to book our flights by tomorrow, so we will know exactly how much time we have and can settle down to the fun part of planning the trip.

By the way, Sheila, one of the books I have had in my collection for a while is W.H. Murray's classic "Mountaineering in Scotland". I will finally take it off the shelf and read it!
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Old Jan 8th, 2006, 05:05 PM
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Hi Nelson
Some of this has been said before, but here goes.
Fort William - why? The oocation is good but the town itself is no tourist attraction. Yes, there are some fabulous mountains in the area, but unless you have an obsession with Ben Nevis there are lots of better ones for you to climb (by better I mean they have a better than 10% chance of being clear on top). If you have your heart set on Nevis, get there as early in the morning as you can.
Inverness - again, a good location, and the town is more attractive than Fort William, but unless you're using it as a base for day trips you won't need three nights. If you cut short your time in both towns you will have time to get out to the north west coast - Kyle of Lochalsh (Skye Bridge), Ullapool, Gairloch, a day spent anywhere around any of these places is worth two weeks in Fort William.
As for books, wow! W H Murray's "Mountaineering in Scotland" you rightly described as a classic. Did you know he wrote the first draft in a POW camp and it was confiscated by the Gestapo?
For general Scottish history I enjoyed Nigel Tranter's "Story of Scotland". He also wrote dozens of novels based on the lives of well known an dless well known characters from our history. The Canadian born wirter John Prebble has written several books about Glencoe, Culloden and other turning points. He also wrote a general history called "The Lion in the North". The area around the Great Glen has close associations with the wanderings of Chgarles Edward Stewart after Culloden - "The Prince in the Heather" by Eric Linklater is a good read if you have a reasonable map to refer to. For natural history, Seton Gordon is unbeatable - his books are a bit dated now but he was way, way ahead of his time. Any of Tom Weir's books will give a brief introduction to most parts of Scotland. Happy reading!
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Old Jan 9th, 2006, 08:55 AM
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Craigelleachie, thanks much for the reply. largely because of the replies that we have received on this thread we are completely re-evaluating out trip, and the idea of the Great Glen Way, which sort of got the whole thing started, may be scrapped to spend most of that time up in Skye and environs! Per Sheila's suggestion I started investigating the Cullins and have come up with some easy / moderate climbs there, one that my wife may be able to do. Also, learning about things like the Five Sisters of Kintail, which seem like a great walk. No, my heart was not at all set on Ben Nevis, it was just "because it was there".

If we take the train from Edinburgh then one option is passing through Inverness on the way to Kyle of Lochalsh. So we may spend a couple of nights in Inverness (my wife really wants to see the place), but everything is in the air at the moment. That's OK, this part is fun. I got a couple of guidebooks out of the library yesterday, Fodors and Let's GO is what they had (Anna - would you recommend a different one?). So we'll start reading those and others as well as on-line research, and come up with decisions over the next month or so. However, I did book our flights - arrive Edinburgh June 25, depart July 15.

Thanks also for the book recommendations.

I did know about Murray writing that in the prison camp having read his "Evidence of Things Not Seen" a couple of years ago. He mentions his wartime captivity. In fact I probably picked up "Mountaineering in Scotland" because I enjoyed his other book so much, not because of any plans to visit Scotland at the time! I will definitely make note of and look for your other books. Appreciate the natural history book also. We have a side interest in bird watching (twitching?) and natural history, like to read up on that as well.

- Nelson
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Old Jan 9th, 2006, 12:40 PM
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Don't know whether you've seen this site or whether it will help, but it has a lot of walks at all levels:
http://walking.visitscotland.com/

Also, since you specifically mentioned an interest in history, I'd recommend that you visit the Museum of Sotland while in Edinburgh. And from there, you can walk through the corridor into the Royal Museum and check out the stuffed birdies and other creatures.
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Old Jan 9th, 2006, 02:41 PM
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Nelson, given your much more open guidelines, some other thoughts.

there are a bunch on long distance and middle distance walks in scotland, the most famous, being the West Highland Way which ahs its own web site. You can walk all the way from Glasgow to Fort William, pretty much off the beaten track.

Cameron Mcneish ( a well known Scottish outdoors writer) has published two books- Wilderness Walks, and the imaginatively titled More Wilderness Walks. Most of them are one day hikes, but some are up to three days.

What you need to know about the west coast mountains is that they are vertical. You start at sea level and you go straight up. In the middle- the Cairngorms and the Monadhliath- the slopes are more gentle but you have the disadvantage of what is known around here as "the long walk in". You might want to have a look at Ralph Storer's "100 Best Routes on Scottish Mounatins".

McNeish, incidentally, pulishes a monthly mag, called TGO (The Great Outdoors), which has a web site, and the other monthly about walking is Trail.

As to birds and conservation, I'm your man (as it were). What would you like to know? Where would you like to go? What would you like to see?

Twitching is not the same as birdwatching, and only non-birders think it is
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Old Jan 9th, 2006, 04:31 PM
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KT, that is a great walking website. Somehow it had slipped under my radar at this point, so thanks much for pointing it out.

Sheila, I have seen the West Highland Way walk and website, and in fact that one had an option originally. We then settled on Great Glen Way because my wife really wants to see Inverness, (neither she nor I are quite sure why!). Now that we have looked at Skye and that region more closely, and it has become more interesting, and we can still spend a day in Inverness as a layover during the train journey.

However, all cards are still on the table, including a long-distance walk. A nice place to be!

Thanks for your desription of the different ranges. I am a good scrambler, even a wee bit of a mountaineer, though my wife is not. But it looks like there is more than enough in the region to please us both.

Regarding your birding / conservation question, that is where we are not twitchers, in the sense of the quest. We just always carry our binoculars and basic field guide with us on travels, and see whatever we happen to see. It will all be new.
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Old Jan 10th, 2006, 06:57 PM
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One website you might want to check out is Undiscovered Scotland. Their walking section is linked below:

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/walking.html

I think the webmasters are into hiking, and they have a site with great photos.
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