Scotland Itinerary - Am I crazy?

Jun 19th, 2006, 05:05 AM
Join Date: Aug 2004
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Day 5 -
I think I messed up the dates (it's been a long time and I only went quickly through my trip report)

Next morning we went to visit the Culloden Battlefield, 8km away from Inverness. We went to the Visitorís Centre and then saw the battlefield.

The clans tombs are plain, a series of stones having written on them the name of each clan that fought that battle.
At one side of the field is the Leanagh Cottage, the only house that survived the battle. Inside were brought the wounded in the fight.

We continued our journey to Clava Cairns, a few kilometers away. Signs on the road helped us reach them quickly.

It was around 10 am and we were the only ones there. We didnít spend much time among those tombs and left. After around 20 minutes we reached the 14th century Cawdor Castle, in a forest.

We had a superb view there. The castle came up suddenly in front of us in a clearance. We visited the castle and liked it.

Beautiful furniture, tapestries, objects of art, weaponry. We then walked through the three beautiful gardens, where we had no choice but to take many photos.

We liked this castle, which seemed to us like a jewel hidden in a forest.

It was then time for us to go back to Loch Ness for the cruise on the lake and the search for Nessie. We reached the meeting place, but he was not there.

Probably because we were late he couldnít wait for us. We took the cruise hoping that maybe we could find him.

The cruise took us till the ruins of Urquhart Castle. The lake waters were still, dark grey colour. The landscape around us was beautiful.

We didnít find Nessie and we were left with the memory of the cruise on Loch Ness.
From there we went south, towards Edinburgh. We stopped only once when the view was much too beautiful and then hurried to Blair Atholl to visit the castle.

We arrived at around 5pm, exactly a few minutes before the last entry for the visit.

Blair Castle is more than 700 years old and is the residence of the Duke of Atholl. We visited all the 32 rooms and liked what we saw: a great variety of furniture, paintings, weapons, porcelains, period costumes, laces and embroideries, coats of arms, etc.

When we entered we were impressed by the huge hall with a grand staircase and a magnificent weapons collection, that includes shields and rifles used during the Battle of Culloden.

On the castle grounds there is a park where deer grazed freely at the edge of a forest. We walked around for a while and left for Stirling.

We stopped in Perth for our evening meal, then other stops for our photo sessions and at around 8pm we were in Stirling, where we easily found a place to stay for the night.
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 05:24 AM
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Day 6

In the morning we went to visit the William Wallace Monument, perched at the top of a hill nearby. This is the hill where William Wallace hid his army while on the other side the English were crossing two by two a narrow bridge over the river Firth, heading towards a great defeat.

The monument is huge and is 67 meters high. We climbed up to the top on a narrow spiral stair, 246 steps.

From the top the views were superb with the town of Stirling, the mountains in the distance and the river Firth meandering in front of us, coming from far away in the mountains, passing further towards the North Sea.

From here we went to visit Stirling Castle, on another hill in town. This is one of the best castles in Scotland.

We climbed on the ramparts and we had magnificent views till far away. At the bottom there were the gardens and beyond the walls we could see the mountains and the city of Stirling.

We visited the old King House, the Great Hall, the palace and the Military Museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Stirling Castle impressed us with its looks and grandeur, a castle where the menacing aspect of a fortress combine well with an architecture worthy of any royal palace.

When we left the castle we stopped by the statue of Robert the Bruce for the required photo.

From there we left for Edinburgh. The road already became a highway and again we were with our eyes on the signs in order to make sure we donít follow a lane leading to Glasgow.

When we entered Edinburgh the lanes multiplied and led towards everywhere. We didnít want to go to deep into town and head straight to the station to hand over the car.

There was no sign showing the railway station. We meandered the streets of Edinburgh for about an hour and we even reached the other side of town, but finally we were at the station.

We were so happy and relieved that we got rid of the terror of driving through a crowded city, where we didnít know the streets, the places, and where the traffic is on the left lane.

We left our luggage at the station and went to the Tourist Office to ask for directions to the Royal Museum of Scotland.
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 05:42 AM
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Once on the streets, we were charmed by the beauty of this city. Anywhere we looked, there was something to catch our eye.

Right from the exit from the station we saw the magnificent Scott Monument. This was the first photo that we took in Edinburgh.

Then on the left we saw the beautiful architecture of the medieval city. All the way to the museum we took pictures right and left.

Inside the museum we were impressed by the huge Main Hall. We liked the extraordinary collection of ethnography, jewels, scientific instruments, Japanese and Chinese collections, fosils, mammals, fish, birds, insects.

From there we went to visit the National Gallery of Scotland. We were amazed by the collection of paintings and sculptures we saw there. A real feast for the eye and soul.

In the evening we went walking aimlessly through the city, feeling tireless in front of the beauty of Edinburgh.
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 05:56 AM
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gabrieltraian: "Or should I better post this as a separate trip report?...."

Sorry, but you really should have posted your trip report as its own thread. Then you could have posted a link to it from dbaker's thread.

Instead, you took over someone else's thread asking for help to post a long trip report.

Sorry - just MHO . . . . . .
janisj is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 06:06 AM
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gabrieltraian, your trip is very interesting and an enjoyable read. I will be able to use information for future trips to Scotland. With any luck, the OP will find it useful as well. However, being imbedded in a thread about a proposed itinerary your report will not get the attention it deserves.

noe847 is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 06:07 AM
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We had our breakfast early morning and went to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia.
We decided to walk all that long way, in order to see more of the city.

It took us about 50 minutes to reach the Terminal in Leith Harbour. We enjoyed the visit to this floating royal palace, with many luxury rooms and decorations, furniture and objects of art.

After the visit we took a bus and went to the National Gallery of Modern Art. The bus took us only to the neighbourhood, but the driver explained to us which way to go. We still had to walk about 10-15 minutes to the museum, but we found it.

We liked the collections that we saw here, including works by Matisse, Picasso, Magritte, Miro, Mondrian and even Andy Warhol.

From here we went to Edinburgh Castle. We climbed the steep hill to the castle. There were long queues for the tickets, but we were lucky as we had our British Heritage Pass that allowed us quick swift entry.

We thoroughly enjoyed the visit to this castle, with numerous rooms and halls, museums and exhibits that caught our attention. We saw the Crown Jewels, amazingly beautiful.

From the castle we went out straight into the Royal Mile, in the old town of Edinburgh. We walked all the way down to the Holyrood Palace. We turned our heads everywhere and admired the architecture.

It was crowded, everywhere was full, shops, restaurants and pubs full to the brim with customers. Here and there a street artist dressed in a period costume or as a court jester played their instruments.

We stopped in a pub on the Royal Mile for lunch. We had to experience this.

At the end of the Royal Mile is the Holyroodhouse palace. A jewel of a fountain in the middle of the courtyard at the entrance provided us another photo opportunity.

We visited the palace and enjoyed it fully. Beautiful decorations, furniture, frescoes, paintings and tapestries. Right near the palace are the ruins of the palace monastery. The ceiling collapsed in 1768.

Even in ruins and without a ceiling, we felt overwhelmed by the atmosphere created by its architecture and the empty space between the walls.

We had a strange feeling walking between the hundreds of years old tombstones, among which were those of King Jacob V and Magdalene de Valois.

Watching the architecture and the wall decorations, we expected to hear at any minute the echo of a prayer told by a priest, or the song of a choir hidden somewhere. We could only hear the echo of the ruins.

From the palace we went on the Royal Mile for a while then took to the right over the bridge towards the new city. We went towards the Scott Monument, walked for a while through the central area of the city and then headed to Henryís Cellar.

That evening was the beginning of the International Jazz and Blues Festival and we had tickets for one of the concerts. The venue was the basement of a pub in town and the band was John Rae Collective, whose leader is a drummer in the National Scottish Orchestra.

We had a very good time there, bought their CD and late that evening we returned to our B&B, just on a side street from the Royal Mile, called the Blackfriars.
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 06:11 AM
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janis and dbaker,

you are right.

I had my fears al along, that's why I even asked myself this thing.

However, I thought that being related to the thread's question might help.

Also, it is clipped from my original report, and I kept only parts that could be useful here.

I feel bad for this blunder, of course.

Shall I blame it on the fact that I am not that experienced on this kind of posting, even though I posted quite a few times?

No, I'll just take it as a lesson. I wish it came earlier.
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 08:39 AM
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In spite of usurping another's post(unintentional, over and done with) you really should repost your trip report as it's very good and I'm sure will be helpful to others who'll then get a chance to read it.
historytraveler is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 12:19 PM
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Thank you for such a great report. I will definately use it

And, yes, you ought to post it on it's own right because it contains so much good information.
dbaker is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 12:50 PM
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historytraveler and dbaker,

You lifted a stone off my chest.
Thank you!

I was so well intentioned and I felt so bad after I realized the blunder I had made.

Reading dbaker's posts I realized that I am about the same kind of traveller and I could really help here.

I thought that even though not hitting quite all the same spots, my report could be a good gauge for their upcoming trip, in terms of distance covered in a day, attractions visited in a limited time, etc.

Mea culpa, of course, I realize now what I've done.

You are so gracious anyway.

I'll post this trip report in a different thread as well.
gabrieltraian is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 01:31 PM
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dbaker, it is a different kind of stress than Iíve seen driving in the US. We now live Ė and endure traffic - in Atlanta, where the driving is notoriously congested, if not quite up to So. Cal. standards. I drive a LOT, and have driven in many US metro areas with the nasty traffic (including business trips to LA , where I found the drivers to be unexpectedly courteous.) Iíve also taken several extensive US driving trips, including two across the continent. The drivingís different in Scotland, although you can certainly find traffic jams on some of the urban highways.

Thereís a specific kind of pressure when you are trying to get to your nightís lodging and you are on very slow roads which, while paved, are often twisty and you literally donít know whatís around the next bend Ė be it a fantastic view or a lorry bearing down on you Ė and the lodging often involves someone waiting to give you a key. On the single track roads, very often you have to back up to the wide spot where the two cars can pass. Itís pretty easy to mis-estimate actual driving progress, especially if you are photo enthusiasts, as gabrieltraian has shown so many times in her trip report. The AA driving site is no doubt treating the time as a point A to point B thing, but thatís often not how touring ends up. Now we have a UK cell phone, so we can easily call ahead to our next lodging if running late, but back in 1999 had to depend on those red telephone boxes. Luckily they were fortuitously placed in some fairly out of the way places.

Anyway, thatís all just to give you an idea of what to expect. I kind of like Sheilaís suggestion that you could stay further north (above Aberdeen) the day before your long drive and give yourself some ease. That would entail cutting Huntly, though. At any rate, Iíd watch the early stops that Thursday.

Please let us know how the northwest coast is. I am looking forward to exploring that area along with some of the islands, but have to wait for a few years until we have a block of free time on our Scotland trips (our recent visits to Scotland are in connection with our girlsí bagpipe band activities, so we donít have much free touring time.) We have an extra 6 days at the end of this yearís Glasgow trip, but for a number of reasons we are planning to head down to London.
noe847 is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 03:35 PM
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One thing to remember - AAroadwatch (and other mileage/times websites) assume you are used to driving on the left and are just going from point A to point B. The times almost never work out for tourists.

You often need to add anywhere from 20% to 50% just for being unfamiliar w/ the roads and RHD cars. Then there are the stops for highland cattle or sheep in the middle of the roads. Or getting stuck behind farm vehicles/tractors. Or weekend traffic along Loch Ness (often bumper to bumper)

janisj is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 07:24 PM
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Thank you very much for the input. I have been on the net all day trying to find lodging in Aberdeen or Inverurie and now I remember why I booked a place in Ballater - I've put in about 30 requests and have received about 20 "all full" or "we don't book 1 day" replies. I suppose if worse case, I can maybe book at a cheap hotel near the airport. I did the math and staying there will cut almost an hour of drive time off my "long day". Does anyone know of a nice place in Aberdeen (or the immediate area) that maybe isn't listed on undiscoveredscotland or similar websites?
dbaker is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 07:28 PM
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The "bumper to bumper" traffic near Loch Ness has me worried. Since we are not particularly interested in the moster visitor center or the castle near there - and will be in the area on SATURDAY - would it be worth our while to double back to Inverness area and take the road that is to the east of Loch Ness vs the other road (the tourist road)? I thought I read that the east shore road is much more beautiful, but slower...but factoring in traffic may make it the same time without the headaches.
dbaker is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 07:56 PM
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I have been to Scotland twice (as recently as two years ago) and just love it. You will not be sorry.

you do, however, have a very, very ambitious itinerary! Especially with driving on the other side of the car on the other side of the road. You need to keep your wits about you! Dirleton Castle and N. Berwick are wonderful - - very much worth seeing. Edinburgh Castle is a must see, but Stirling Castle is even better. The best of the bunch, I think. If you are in the highlands, try not to miss the village of Kingussie. It's very special. Just lovely. Skip Loch Ness !! blecchh! and the town of Inverness is big and bustling and not my idea of a good time. Also, Aviemore-on-Spey is another fantastic Highlands village. It also has a fabulous cheese/wine/meat deli - - the Spey Larder, right on the main street. A great place to grab your picnic food. I agree that the ferry ride from Mallaig to the Isle of Skye is wonderful, as is Eileen's castle

the beaches on the way to Mallaig, along the west coast, are GREAT. and if you love seashells, the shell collecting on a couple of them was crazy - - like someone had dumped buckets full of shells there just for us!

Edinburgh is a wonderful city - - you can also go to the coffee shop where the first Harry Potter book was penned in the back room. It's a really nice little place (in the back - - the front part is not so interesting) The National Museum and the Art Gallery are great - - there was a Monet exhibit last time we were there, and it's worth checking to see what is there. the magnificent painting by Edwin Church of Niagara Falls hangs there, and I couldn't stop staring at it (my home town!)

the Scottish people are friendly, the country is clean and the food is great (we mostly had pub food) - - much better than England.

enjoy!! I would love to move to Scotland - - when I win the mega millions!
NancyD9393 is offline  
Jun 19th, 2006, 08:49 PM
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Boy, gabrielt, I am sure glad I found your trip report on this thread! I have been to Scotland 3 times and have visited some of the places you mentioned.

The last two times I home exchanged in Edinburgh and just outside Edinburgh in August (for the festivals). I did do a bit of driving around but have not yet been to Skye.

The original poster's itinerary is way too ambitious. Itineraries like that always end up in the trash upon arrival. You just cannot do everything!
FauxSteMarie is offline  
Jun 20th, 2006, 05:47 AM
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I was able to book in Stonehaven rather than Ballater. This is going to save me a few hours of driving along the smaller roads and the bed & breakfast I got looks just great. Thanks for the advice to not go all the way to Ballater just to spend the night
dbaker is offline  
Jun 21st, 2006, 02:26 PM
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Thank you Nancy for the confirmation that the Loch Ness touristy area is not for us. I switched our lodging from Lewiston to Foyers (on the East side of the Loch) so we are going to see forest and a waterfall instead of the "Nessie" stuff and tour busses. More our speed. Thanks again.
dbaker is offline  
Jun 21st, 2006, 05:51 PM
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The east side is nicer -

You do realize almost the entire road is single track? A lovely drive but not fast . . . .
janisj is offline  
Jun 21st, 2006, 07:08 PM
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Yes, I know it's single track. Either way, we have to go that direction. We're opting for slow, single track and great scenery vs. faster with "stopped, bumper to bumper" tourbuses on the other side. Probably the same time either way. All the time we were going to spend at the Loch Ness stuff and the castle are going to be spent leisurely driving, walking to the waterfall, and stopping for pictures instead. We are quite happy to make the trade. I hope it works out for us.

Other changes we made based on replies and advice:

Sat - We will skip the show in the evening if we are tired

Sun - We will skip Carnpapple if we want to spend time at other sights or are tired

Mon - We will skip Holyrood Palace if we get tired or want to spend more time elsewhere, but want to see the Abbey if possible regardless

Tues - No changes

Wed - Staying in Stonehaven cuts an hour off our drive today and an hour off our drive on Thursday, so we will be spending more time at Donnotar Castle. Plus Stonehaven looks like a nice little town for the evening.

Thurs - We will completely skip Fort George unless we have 2-3 hours to devote to it. All depends on how long we spend at the other sights earlier in the day.

Fri - Staying in Foyers and skipping Urquart and the monster hype, opting for a waterfall and forest instead. Lots of driving, but no castles today - just beaches and forests. A long, slow drive, but beautiful and we will stop a lot for pics.

Sat - Skipping Dunstaffange Castle entirely cuts an hour off our drive time, so we can spend more time at the other sights.

I truly appreciate your input. It is going to work out nicely that the last thing we are planning to see each day is not one of our "must see" places, so although we are still going to plan to see them, we will have more flexibility and won't be disappointed if we have to bypass those places after all because the drive is longer than calculated or we choose to stay longer somewhere else. I really do appreciate the advise. Thanks again!
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