Scotland in 8 days

Oct 6th, 2015, 05:45 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 8
Scotland in 8 days

Hi, my best friend and I will be traveling to Scotland around this time next year. We would like to avoid renting a car as neither of us are very confident in our ability to drive on the other side of the road, so we are curious about getting to some certain places that maybe aren't on the regular tourist routes; Midhope Castle and Blackness Castle outside Edinburg, Dunnottar Castle, Urquart Castle, Smoo Cave, getting around the Isle of Skye, getting to the Isle of Lewis to see the standing stones at Callanish, and getting to Culloden Moore - just to name a few places we're interested in.

Just looking for a little guidance on getting to these places without a car.

thanks !
scotlandbound2016 is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 06:03 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,482
I think you'll have trouble getting to all the places you mention without driving. One possibility is a small bus tour, such as the one I did recently, which did go to Lewis and the standing stones:
elberko is online now  
Oct 6th, 2015, 06:11 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 8
Thanks for the reply. we're trying to avoid large groups and bus tours as well as driving, which I know is going to make traveling difficult. but I've been looking at the ScotRail travel maps and it looks like that can get us close to most places and then a bus the rest of the way. we're not opposed to hoofing it either, we're literally bring backpacks and planning to move around the whole time we're there.
scotlandbound2016 is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 06:25 AM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 2,708
Rabbie's appear to run smaller groups of around 12 ish people, so there aren't enormous crowds of people everywhere. As elberko says, yoyu'll find it difficult to see the places you want to see without a car, as the trains are limited in their coverage and buses are infrequent in the Highlands. You will finmd it more difficult on Skye and Lewis.

Take your courage in both hands and either rent a car or take a Rabbie's tour. Driving isn't too difficult as long are you are prepared for narrow roads and a slower pace of travel.
Rubicund is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 06:33 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 8
Thanks. we'll have to look into the Rabbie's tours. Not sure which way we want to go. I know 100% my friend is not driving over there, which would leave it to me. not sure if i'll be able to relax.
scotlandbound2016 is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 07:11 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 16,750
Maybe uber?
sylvia3 is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 07:21 AM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 2,708
You'd need a lot of money to hire a cab and visit the Highlands and Islands. I'm not sure if uber operates in the area in any case.
Rubicund is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 07:39 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 6,114
Driving is very quiet outside of major cities so I really would not be put off hiring a car - it will give you so much more freedom. Buses in rural areas may not be that frequent and you could lose a huge amount of time waiting around to tie up ferry/bus/train connections, especially as you are not going to be there in peak season.
RM67 is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 08:26 AM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 1,619
Dunnottar Castle is walkable from Stonehaven - if you consider a mile or two walkable (I do). It's a lovely town I visited in 2010 and really want to re-visit, not least because I didn't get to the Castle (trip report, )

All my independent trips have been public transportation only, except the one with my sister last year and she drove while I navigated. Even after that experience, I still don't think I'd try to drive on a trip by myself. I will grant that we had a blast with discovering a lot of unexplored territory for probably most tourists - used the setting on the GPS to avoid highways - we sure saw countryside!

I've taken several trips with Rabbies and can recommend them.

8 days really isn't long for any trip. With a year to save, can you lengthen your trip? My first trip in '08 was arrive Saturday, leave the next Saturday. I rushed around like crazy, sure did "do" Scotland in those few days. You can browse my trip reports for details of each of 5 trips to Scotland and I can't wait to return to see more.

From Edinburgh, you could train to Stonehaven, then train again after a visit in that area up to Inverness to get to Culloden, which I believe is doable by local bus.

Many, if not most, sites visited by tourists have web sites these days, and you'll find the helpful info for visiting, including how to drive/bus/walk - whatever that site can handle for access.
scotlib is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 08:27 AM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 1,619
Make that public transportation only, and including a few mini-bus tours (not public trans, technically, but used for avoiding the driving
scotlib is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 08:28 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 66,083
Some of the places you list are doable w/o a car -- assuming you are fit and walk. Donnottar is not far from Stonehaven, local tours from Inverness visit Urquhart, Blackness is reachable by bus from Linlithgow and is walking distance to Midhope, etc etc,

Reality check . . . However you don't have NEARLY enough time to see the things you want by public transport/bus -- and don't have enough time no matter the mode of transport. No coach tour would cover the Outer Hebrides, Skye, . . . and Aberdeenshire on the opposite side of the country. Even renting a car you couldn't cover that much territory in 8 days.

W/ just 8 days you have enough time for 2-3 in Edinburgh plus a 4 or 5 day Rabbies tour (nothing at all like a large coach tour).

Or - they do offer on 7 day and two 8 day tours
janisj is online now  
Oct 6th, 2015, 08:29 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 66,083
was posting the same time as scotlib . . .
janisj is online now  
Oct 6th, 2015, 08:37 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 8
thanks for all the advice. I realize my list is lofty and I will most likely have to pick and choose which sites we get to see.
scotlandbound2016 is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 09:08 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 66,083
All of your wish list are 'worthwhile'. The problem is the Scotland is quite large and the travel is slow. Whether by car or bus - in rural areas you will average about 35 mph. So it really isn't that you have too many places on your list - it is they are all over the place and on far opposite sides of the country.

So a shorter list is fine - but what you really need is a list of places closer together geographically.

For instance you could do Skye and the Outer Hebrides (using ferries and local buses). Including a couple of days in Edinburgh and the train over and back - you could squeeze in Skye and Lewis/Harris in 8 days. The bus service on the Islands isn't terribly efficient but will get you to/near most of the main sites.

Or you could do Edinburgh/Blackness/Midhope and Fife and up the coast to Stonehaven/Dunnottar and back in 7 or 8 days.

Or Edinburgh, Inverness/Culloden/Urquhart and a couple of days on Skye.

Any of these would be doable in 8 days.
janisj is online now  
Oct 6th, 2015, 09:45 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,561
Get a car.

Seriously. Do it.

Driving on the wrong side is relatively natural once you're ensconced behind the wheel and have to follow traffic. Just rent when you're leaving Edinburgh and return the car when you get back to Edinburgh (or wherever you're flying back from).
BigRuss is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 11:04 AM
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 1,332
I would advise you not to drive on the wrong side - you'll get yourself killed.

Drive on the correct side.
sofarsogood is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 11:26 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,556
Not everyone adapts easily to driving on the left. If you have serious issues with it...don't. Most people don't have a problem, but the roads don't need anymore nervous or timid drivers.

I've done several Rabbies and think they're an excellent alternative for those who don't care to drive.

BTW, I have driven in Scotland.
historytraveler is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 11:40 AM
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 42
We went to Scotland in August this year. I had driven in Ireland a few years ago on the "wrong side" of the road and was not looking forward to doing it again.

We spent the first two nights in Edinburgh then picked up the car at the airport. This avoided driving in the city. The freeway was a couple minutes drive from the airport. Once on the freeway the driving was easy. We drove toward Inverness. Off the freeway there was little traffic. When we went to Skye we hired a driver for the two days. The roads on Skye were narrow one lane roads with a turnout to let people coming in the other direction pass.

While you may be able to travel by bus and train be prepared for long waits and rainy weather. While overall the weather was fine on Skye there was a fair amount of rain and I felt sorry for all the hikers and bicyclists
Traveller51 is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 12:38 PM
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 761
Smoo Cave will be out of the question. The summer only bus service from Inverness to Durness stops running at the end of September. There is a twice monthly Saturday bus service from Thurso which runs throughout the year. Unfortunately it departs late afternoon and comes back two weeks later....

With just eight days you may also find there isn't time to do Lewis and Callanish, unless you fly from Inverness airport and catch a bus from Stornaway.

The other places are doable using public transport. Plan carefully as some bus services aren't that frequent...

Blackness Castle can be reached using the Edinburgh to Linlithgow bus.

Dunnoter Castle is easily walkable from Stonehaven Station.

Castle Urquhart can be reached using the Fort William bus from Inverness city centre.

There is also a local bus service to Culloden from Inverness city centre. A short walk from Culloden are Clava Cairns. They aren't standing stones like Callanish but are one of the most atmospheric sites in Scotland, especially early morning ot later afternoon.
ESW is offline  
Oct 6th, 2015, 03:08 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
Rabbies tours janis is on about gets rave reviews here from many Scottish experts - there are others - take the one most suited to what you want to do but if Rabbies does it you can't go wrong - apparently - I am not a tour person at all but I do cherish positive reviews from proven-to-be knowledgeable Fodorites.
PalenQ is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:28 PM.