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Scotland itinerary advice

Old Jul 25th, 2017, 01:38 PM
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Scotland itinerary advice

Hi all. First post on the Fodors forums but have been doing a bunch of reading the past couple of days. I am planning our first trip to Europe and decided on a trip to Scotland April 15-25 which coincides with the kids school break (and cheap airfare). It will be my wife and I and my son who is 10 and daughter 7. We will be flying from Boston to Edinburgh all day on the 15th and will arrive 1110 pm Edinburgh time 610 pm Boston time. I am hoping this may allow for the least amount of jet lag �� and by the time we check in to our hotel in Edinburgh it'll be the kids normal time back at home.

Anyhow.... I am planning to spend the 15-19th in Edinburgh then looking to pick up a car for the remainder of the trip and head to the Inverness area for what I am thinking the 19th-21st and then Skye or rather Raasay since I can't find any lodging in Skye for the 21-24 and then Back to Edinburgh on the 24th to fly out the 25th. My goals for the trip are to see some amazing scenic views, let the kids explore some castles/ruins and explore Loch Ness,or a different Loch if there is another that comes highly recommended, and explore some of the quaint villages that we may pass by or stay in. I was wondering if the order I have planned is a good one or if I should rearrange where we go when....I am also completely open to entirely different itineraries if anyone has ideas that may be better....I appreciate any help that any one offers and thank you in advance!
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Old Jul 25th, 2017, 01:49 PM
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Just a few quick notes as I have to go out. I can't imagine not finding a place on Skye for April, 2018. The Isle does get booked up quickly, but I suspect you may just be too early. Many places will not show vacancy until after the first of the year.

Loch Ness is not my favorite loch but if kids are intent on the Nessie myth it will be just okay. I would head to Loch Tay and visit the Crannog Centre at Kenmore. This is a great experience for both adults and kids with some hands on activities. Crannogs,BTW, are an important part of Scottish history and more real than a monster. Not sure about " quaint " villages but there some very pleasant, interesting villages and towns in Scotland.
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Old Jul 25th, 2017, 01:59 PM
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>> explore Loch Ness,or a different Loch if there is another that comes highly recommended> let the kids explore some castles/ruins>explore some of the quaint villages
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Old Jul 25th, 2017, 02:00 PM
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was posting the same time and didn't see historytraveler's post -- great minds!!!
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Old Jul 25th, 2017, 02:41 PM
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I greatly appreciate the replies...I've read quite a few posts from you now Janisj you've been such a big help already. I'll skip skye this time then and concentrate on the other areas and lochs that you mentioned.
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Old Jul 25th, 2017, 08:57 PM
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Since you'll have a car, you might want to pay a visit to the Falkirk Wheel, a true engineering marvel not far from Edinburgh. It's hard to describe, but it's a unique boat lift that takes the place of 11 locks that used to operate between canals, and it's quite fascinating. I got to see it in operation when I was in Scotland a few weeks ago. Your kids would probably really enjoy it. You can even take a boat ride that goes on the wheel, the rides last 50 minutes, and there are a number of them throughout the day. I would have loved to take a boat ride if we'd had the opportunity. Here's the Scottish Canals web site that will give you more information: https://www.scottishcanals.co.uk/falkirk-wheel/

I toured the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh, and really enjoyed that, it was very interesting. There were small stuffed toy corgis placed throughout the ship in almost every cabin and room, your kids might like to see how many they can spot.

I really liked exploring Stirling Castle, it's a beautiful castle and palace, with some lovely gardens and commanding views of the surrounding mountains.
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Old Jul 26th, 2017, 04:50 AM
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A couple of thoughts...

First, I want to agree (as usual) with Janis and maybe even state it a little more strongly. Mid- to late April is a very iffy time with regard to weather. Remember much of Scotland is at the same latitude as Southeast Alaska, and the weather coming off the Atlantic can be very blustery and wet at that time of year. Generally speaking, the farther west and north you go, the higher the chances become of weather being a restricting factor on activities.

This is unfortunate for people wanting to visit the western and northwestern Highlands as well as the Inner Hebrides like Skye and Mull. Not only does it take quite some time to reach these places, but it's not uncommon to get there and not be able to see the tops of the mountains, or see the scenery through rain covered windows or between passes of wiper blades, if you get my meaning.

So I'd be looking at ways to improve the odds of decent weather. You won't be able to eliminate the risk altogether, of course, but here's what I'd suggest.

Stay on the east side of the country. Here's a map showing an imaginary route - https://goo.gl/maps/KCKLhM5791H2

This can be done in either direction, but here are the highlights. Start by visiting the "East Neuk" of Fife, a string of incredibly picturesque fishing villages facing the Firth of Forth and the North Sea. Continue north stopping at St. Andrews (an attractive and historic town beyond just the golf course) then cross the Tay and through Dundee. Outside Forfar is Glamis Castle, famed from Macbeth and the home of the late Queen Mother.

Continue north into the fantastic castle country of Aberdeenshire. I've listed Craigievar as a destination, but there are quite a few castles throughout the Dee Valley and other valleys penetrating the mountains. This is also whisky country if that's of interest.

Travel through the hills and down toward Loch Tay and Glen Lyon. I've shown the village of Fortingall on the map; this is a pretty (and tiny) village featuring a grouping of thatched buildings (uncommon in Scotland) as well as a Yew Tree famed for being the oldest living thing in Britain, possibly Europe. (Fortingall is also reputed to be the birthplace of Pontius Pilate during the brief Roman occupation of the area.)

Glen Lyon is drop-dead gorgeous, then travel along Loch Tay to Killin, then down to Callendar and back to Edinburgh via Stirling and Falkirk, with stop to see Stirling Castle, Bannockburn, the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies (huge horse head statues.)

Look at Undiscovered Scotland - http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/ - to research these places.

This route would offer lots of great scenery, history and variety, and it *might* offer better weather than areas farther to the west and north.
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Old Jul 26th, 2017, 05:33 AM
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wow Grady...thank you for the map and all the thought and effort in your post. I truly appreciate the help. I guess I didn't quite realize how much further north the UK is. I thought it was about even with the upper part of Maine where I live until I just checked out a map. Granted I know the Atlantic current makes it much more pleasurable than Alaska would be, thankfully.

I am curious Grady with the loop you proposed should I be spending a night around each of the those areas or spending a couple of nights based out of an area and explore out from there each day?

If I end up staying more towards the east side of Scotland is it worth venturing a little further up the east side of the loop to Dunnottar castle?

I also want to check that I am not crazy for renting a car and venturing on my own? I know how to drive a stick though using my left hand and driving on the opposite side of the road will take a little getting used to and I am hoping once out of Edinburgh there shouldn't be a ton of complicated traffic patterns to deal with?

Thanks again for all the help.
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Old Jul 26th, 2017, 06:00 AM
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I am late running to my fitness class so will come back in a couple of hours -- but an east coast/central itinerary would be great. Gardyloo's idea includes the Trossachs area I recommended plus Deeside. The only alteration I'd maybe fit in is heading farther east to Stonehaven, then Dunnottar, then back inland down to Glamis before hitting Fife.

And I have some advice re the driving -- yes -- even shifting left handed (eek! - no, really it isn't hard) But I have to run . . . later
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Old Jul 26th, 2017, 06:08 AM
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His screen name is "Gardyloo", not Grady. Comes from "gardez l'eau" which the Scots (among others) Anglicized to gardyloo. It means "beware of the water" and it's what the Scots (and likely others) called out to passersby on Edinburgh streets at 10 pm or so each night before Edinburgh (and perhaps other towns) had indoor plumbing. That's b/c 10 pm is when people emptied their chamber pots onto the streets below. Edinburgh's nickname was Auld Reekie - because the city stank.

As for your trip - look into a Scottish Heritage Pass. It cost 54 GBP to enter Edinburgh Castle for our family (demographically similar to yours) and 62 for a 3-days-in-five pass (use it three days out of five). We went to Stirling Castle using the pass and did not pay anymore. The rack rate for 2 adults and two kids at Stirling is 48 quid. That means we saved 40 GBP or $52 and the likelihood is you'll save more because the pound is near historic lows against the dollar. You can buy the pass when you visit Edinburgh Castle (which you will).
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Old Jul 26th, 2017, 06:38 AM
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Thanks for the tip regarding the Scottish Heritage Pass BigRuss. I will definitely be looking into that to save some money.

And my apologizes to Gardyloo seeing your name as grady. ��.

Dunnottar definitely seems like a place I'd like to visit and think the kids would love running around that area too. Going to start exploring the Undiscovered Scotland map of those areas.
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Old Jul 26th, 2017, 06:56 AM
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I probably should have included Dunnottar Castle, but I keep thinking about any excuse to visit Forfar so I could load up (and I mean load up) on Forfar bridies (with onions) - delectable meat pies over which I am powerless.

But the coastal route is also a good idea for food lovers. Historic Arbroath is on the way, famed for smoked fish (Arbroath Smokies) which are equally addictive and also not especially good for one's blood chemistry. But hey, when in Rome, or Angus...
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Old Jul 26th, 2017, 10:22 AM
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Back . . .

Re driving -- easy peasy in rural areas -- and not at all necessary in the cities.

Now, re driving a stick 'on the wrong side of the gear shift'. I am 100%/totally right handed -- no ambidextrous talents at all. But I have no problem shifting w/ my left hand. (Good thing since that saves a fortune not having to rent an automatic)

You aren't power shifting or trying to pull someone off the line in a street race. Just simple shifting up and down through the gears. Might you miss a gear now or then -- probably, but not often. And I sometimes find myself tooling along in 4th when I should be in 5th or 6th - but no biggie. 4th is plenty high enough since you won't be on any motorways except right after leaving EDI. And on many of the roads on our suggested itinerary -- you mostly be in 2nd in the villages and 3rd (maybe 4th when you get really comfortable) on the open roads. The only issue is locating #@%^& reverse! Every make does it differently - so be SURE to play w/ reverse before you leave the rental agency

(the airport is the easiest place to pick up your rental car so take the tram or a taxi out to the airport to collect yours)
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Old Jul 26th, 2017, 11:07 AM
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haha thanks for the driving pep talk Janis. I will stick with the rental and pick it up the morning we head out of Edinburgh.

I am curious is it recommended to start the trip spending 3 nights in Edinburgh or is it better to end in Edinburgh? And also curious if anyone has any thoughts/feelings regarding the Apex Waterloo hotel? Thanks again.
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Old Jul 26th, 2017, 11:22 AM
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You do not want to drive right off a transatlantic flight so I would put Edinburgh at the front end car-less. Then at the end of the trip, if you are doing the east coast / Trossachs, which would work either clockwise or anti clockwise, It is an easy drive from either the Callander area or Fife to EDI.

That Apex (there are others as well) is in a decent location just down the road from Waverly station and Princes Street . . . do plan on EVERYTHING being up hill from there

There are also two Apex properties in Grassmarket in Old Town just off the Royal Mile.
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Old Jul 26th, 2017, 01:21 PM
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I forgot to mention that the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is well worth a visit, and admission is free. They have a wide collection of exhibits ranging from history, astronomy, natural history, world cultures, technology, fashion and design, and more. According to their web site, they have some exhibits especially designed for kids. You could easily spend two or three (or more) hours there, and the location is very close to the Royal Mile.

It's just down the street from the famous statue of Greyfriar's Bobby (the skye terrier who, by legend, kept watch by by his master's grave for 14 years). Disney made a live action movie about the dog back in 1961, I remember seeing it when I was a child. You might want to hunt down a copy and let your children watch it before you go on your trip, they're the right ages to enjoy it. I think you may be able to get it through Amazon if your local library doesn't have it.

Another Disney movie that takes place in Scotland that your kids might enjoy is The Three Lives of Thomasina - I remember loving that one when I was young! Watching these might help them get excited about the trip.
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Old Jul 26th, 2017, 02:14 PM
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Thanks for the movie recommendations Sara. The kids are of course big Disney movie fans and like a lot of the old ones too so I will definitely check those two out!
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