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Scotland in 11 Days

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Feb 18th, 2016, 08:09 AM
  #1
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Scotland in 11 Days

Hello, I will be traveling to Scotland May, 2016. I have not booked my flight yet but am planning on being there for about 11 days. I will not be renting a car and plan on using primarily trains but possible buses for traveling. Could you recommend the best deals and how to find them for buses and trains? I am also hoping for assistance with creating an itinerary. I am planning on visiting Edinburgh, Loch Lomond and possibly Loch Ness if time allows, Isle of Skye, and the Highlands. Is Glasgow recommended for this length of a trip? I'm not much for museums and am mostly interested in seeing nature, castles, and visiting a whiskey distillery. I would love to hike Ben Nevis, and have done a lot of backpacking in USA, New Zealand, and Alaska. Are there any other recommended must sees? How should I go about creating an itinerary? I would prefer to book the majority of things ahead. I am on a tight budget but don't want to miss things.
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Feb 18th, 2016, 08:23 AM
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Could you recommend the best deals and how to find them for buses and trains?>

check for trains www.nationalrail.co.uk

and for buses check the National Express site - http://www.nationalexpress.com/home.aspx

For lots of general info on trains check www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com - all have lots of how to get around Scotland by train - try to take the two really awesomely scenic lines - Inverness to Kyle of Lochlash (from where there is a bridge to sky for buses and cars) and Mallaig to Glasgow).
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Feb 18th, 2016, 01:20 PM
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>> I'm not much for museums and am mostly interested in seeing nature, castles, and visiting a whiskey distillery<< (no "e" in Scotch whisky )

For your likes -- I'd give Glasgow a pass. It is a great city but a lot of it is about the museums and Mackintosh. On such a short trip it probably doesn't fit in you wish list.

On problem w/ exploring really rural/scenic parts of Scotland . . there are very rural> hence no rail service and scant buses. You can easily get to say Ft William for Ben Nevis. But weather could be such that a climb isn't advisable.

What I'd consider is a 2 full day (so 3 nights) in Edinburgh and then hook up with a 4, 5 or 6 day Rabbies tour. (Don't worry -- these aren't massive coaches -- just 12-ish passenger vans) https://www.rabbies.com/5_day_tours_..._ed.asp?lng=en
https://www.rabbies.com/2_4_day_tour..._ed.asp?lng=en

These tours will get you pretty far off the beaten path into really rural bits (Skye & the North, Mull & Skye, etc.)

That would give you another 2 to 4 days to explore some other area on your own by train.
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Feb 18th, 2016, 01:45 PM
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I'd hire a car.

Bloody Scots socked all the rural parts of the country away from public transportation just so the rental car business would boom and the daft tourists would have to pay British petrol taxes. What a scam.
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Feb 18th, 2016, 02:49 PM
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Problem was that no-one used the public transport, except perhaps tourists... Locals much prefer their own wheels, inspite of teh petrol taxes.
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Feb 18th, 2016, 03:10 PM
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I am on a tight budget but don't want to miss things.> then eschew bus tours and take trains and buses that will get you to enough neat places, including the famed Highlands- the two train trips I mentioned will go thru them and you can stop off wherever you want to do a little ramble (walking on foot paths) and save tons of bucks on bus tours - do you want to be a tourist or a traveler?

Investigate camping barns, bunkhouses and independent all ages hostels that dot the Scottish countryside-plan for ones on bus routes and get a copy of Let's Go Scotland (or Britain) which has tremendous info on cheap accommodations. Edinburgh has some neat independent hostels much cheaper than any hotel or B&B.
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Feb 18th, 2016, 03:14 PM
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http://independenthostels.co.uk/map-...s-in-scotland/

meant to add this link to my above post.

and

http://www.bunkr.co.uk/find/cat/camping-barn/
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Feb 18th, 2016, 03:59 PM
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Just to clarify, a bus tour ( actually 14/16 passenger shuttle van) such as Rabbies ( janisj's suggestion) will not cost that much more than traveling on your own via train or bus. For example, a 4 day Rabbies tour of Skye and the West Highlands costs £ 200, a 3 day tour of Skye is £120 and a 2 day tour will be £ 80. Now these prices do not include lodging or food costs but the beauty of a Rabbies tour is that they offer a number of lodging options including hostels so a participant has a good selection of prices. As for food costs, that too is entirely up to you and your budget. For a first time visitor, I think a Rabbies tour is an excellent choice for a few days. Traveling on ones own will require more research and planning. If you have the time and inclination to do so that's fine, if not a tour may work better for you.

As for climbing Ben Nevis, it can be weather dependent and not sure how you actually get there if not with a car. They may well have buses that go there, but it's been years since I climbed it and could only access it by car. Likely that things have changed.
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Feb 18th, 2016, 04:16 PM
  #9
ApK
 
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Click on my profile and take a look at my trip reports from May 2014 and May 2015 for ideas of what I did in Scotland on those trips.

I didn't do as much in the highlands as I would have liked - but Inverness was really nice (to me). The Rabbies/Timberbush tours are a pretty good way to spend a day seeing some of the more popular sites, and many of them include distilleries. I have only done day-trips with tour groups, but I wouldn't hesitate to do a multi-day trip with them if it got me to places I'd otherwise miss.
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Feb 22nd, 2016, 09:54 AM
  #10
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I have done one bus tour, Kerry, Ireland. I prefer to do the trips using public transportation as I feel that it allows for a more personalized experience than the tours. I have decided to skip Ben Nevis, due to time constraints. Is it advised to have train and bus tickets booked ahead of time? Also, Are there any specific routes/plans that you could suggest to help me to see all of these things in 11 days? Thank you!
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Feb 22nd, 2016, 10:28 AM
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Is it advised to have train and bus tickets booked ahead of time?>

Not usually in Scotland I think - go to www.nationalrail.co.uk for train schedules and fares- if there are discounted tickets available it will be on there and keep in mind discounted tickets are often train-specific, non-changeable nonrefundable and sold in limited numbers so must be booked way early often to get them and there may be off-peak requirements.

I agree with your philosophy of rather being a traveler than a tourist carted around with a prescripted itinerary that may or may not suit you - "OK everyone back on the bus" when you may have wanted to linger longer, etc" Plus travel though travail at times is also a valuable learning experience IME- tour are great for folks who do not want to do any planning and have everything smooth, etc but wherever the tour bus goes you can get to by public transportation I should think. (I fully understand why some folks prefer group tours and that is fine to be a tourist - better than not go at all.
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Feb 22nd, 2016, 01:17 PM
  #12
 
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Almost no one on Fodors 'prefers' tours. But for what you want to see do -- public transport is not that easy/efficient. In general, the Highlands/nature/castles/whisky distilleries aren't on many/any bus routes nor rail lines. The tours that Rabbies offers are not massive coaches like you may have taken. But if you just don't want a tour (and don't want to rent a car) you will definitely have to be selective where you can visit.
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Feb 22nd, 2016, 02:43 PM
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Well janis has said it all and I agree - see if you can get where you want to go by bus if not train:

http://www.travelinescotland.com/welcome.do
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Feb 22nd, 2016, 03:09 PM
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You really have a limited amount of time to explore the Highlands which is one reason to consider a tour with Rabbies. You'll be able to get to more places than you could if on your own especially without a car.

I would probably avoid buses. It takes considerable research in finding the appropriate bus schedules, and the buses in the Highlands seldom, if ever, cater to tourists. Slow going at best.

Pal's information regarding advance ticket vs. day of departure tickets is not really reliable. For example. If you were to buy a ticket on the West Highland Route ( Glasgow to Mallaig ) the walk up price is 22.70 GBP, if bought in advance it would only cost 5 GBP. There are only three trains a day so not a lot of options on travel times. The first train leaves Glasgow at about 8:30, the next about 11:30 and there is a later train but can't remember when it departs. It'll take about 5 hours to get from Glasgow to Mallaig. Of course, if leaving from Edinburgh you'll need to add another hour+ to that time.

There are numerous places to stop along this route ( Upper Tydum, Bridge of Orchy, Rannoch, Corrour etc. ) All these places have some excellent walks. The stop at Corrour has a hostel and that's all, but I know nothing about it. Have a look at the national rail website and plug in Glasgow to Mallaig then check the stops for a list of places where you could spend a day or two. I've only mentioned a few of the possibilities.

Try this website for walking suggestions. www.walkhighlands.com

It'll take considerable research to organize an itinerary for walking the Highlands. I still think a tour with Rabbies and, perhaps, then finding a place along the West Highland Route ( train ) to stay a couple of days would be your best bet.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 01:07 AM
  #15
 
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If you want to plan by public transport use this

http://www.traveline.info/
I've not used this APP but it is linked to the above and is Scotland specific
http://www.travelinescotland.com/welcome.do

Low population density took out the public transport, low population density is also why people like to visit the amazing geography. Sheep drove out the people. etc
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 11:55 AM
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historytraveler - thanks for clarifying what I meant - I thought advisable meant just to get a seat more than a discount but did not sound that way - I said to check nationalrail.co.uk to see if there were discounts available - so thanks for correcting my wording.

One neat place to break the trip on the gorgeous West Highlands Railway (Harry Potter films used some famous viaduct and other parts of it in I think) - the desolate Rannoch Moor is a favorite with me - I did not get off the train due because I was short on time but saw several hikers do it to trudge thru the desolate moors:

https://www.google.com/search?q=rann...w=1920&bih=955

In season there are also vintage steam locomotives hauling special trains that may be even more exciting than the normal trains.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 12:18 PM
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histgorytraveler- maybe I was also wrong about being able to get on trains without problem usually at least because there are no reservations required and if for some reason they deemed standard class (2nd in the UK) was sold oudt the worst would be to travel in 1st class where there should always be room - that is if there is first class on that train.

So historytraveler who obviously knows a lot more about this currently than I do can tell us his/her opinion of just showing up and getting on or trying to book a seat a day or so earlier.I've ridden that train a few times but not recently and when I did it was barely half full - one reason I presume there is but three trains day thru this sparsely populated realm.

But with those 5 pound tickets available to early worm bookers that is the way to go - then if you want to change trains at the last moment it will only cost you 5 quid (plus having to buy full fare if wishing to change train times or dates).
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 02:38 PM
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For most of the year tickets for the West Highland Railway would not require pre-booking. It can get busy during the height of the tourist season. There is no first class available on this route. There will be a savings if buying advance tickets but no guarantee how much that savings will be. The 5 GBP is a great price, but I've never seen tickets that cheap. Depends primarily on the time of year one is traveling.

I have stayed at the Moor of Rannoch Hotel at Rannoch Station several times. It's one of my favorite places, and I have done several great walks from there, but the hotel is not in the budget category.

There are three hostels at Roy Bridge ( along the West Highland Railway ) the Grey Corrie Lodge, Aite Cruinnichidh and the Station Lodge. Not all are actually in the village.The Grey Corrie may be your beat option of the three if you don't have a car.

I believe the train also makes stops at Arrochar and Tarbet both in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs area. There is a hostel at Arrochar as well was a couple of reasonably priced B& B's. Personally I prefer Arrochar over Tarbet.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 02:53 PM
  #19
ApK
 
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The buses I used (in the Borders area) were all "pay the driver when you get on." I don't think I could pre-pay for those tickets.
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Feb 23rd, 2016, 02:58 PM
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ApK, that's the case with almost all buses.
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