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Scotland - Need a couple small towns to be based in....

Scotland - Need a couple small towns to be based in....

Old Jan 15th, 2009, 04:32 PM
  #1  
GKS
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Scotland - Need a couple small towns to be based in....

Hello! I'm trying to plan a trip to Scotland in July, and am looking for a couple small towns to be based in, while exploring archeological sites, castles and hopefully doing the whisky trail. We only have a couple weeks, so will only be in the Highlands and Islands. Are there maybe a few places you guys could recommend, where we can have a small town/village feel and lots of character, and still be close to do day trips elsewhere? I really don't want to be in a too touristy area, if possible, but definitely want it to be a uniquely Scottish experience, if that makes sense.
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Old Jan 16th, 2009, 12:03 AM
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before i give an answer to this can you let me know if you are intending to rely on public transport,use local tour services or rent a car to get yourself around.?
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Old Jan 16th, 2009, 12:15 AM
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Hmmm. I'm thinking Strathdon here. None of the wee villages around are very characterful- Alford maybe- but the area in general is lovely and right on the edge of the Castle Trail and the Whisky Trail and the Stone Circle. Book at Bellabeg, or go over the hill a wee bit to Tomintoul or Dufftown.

Nicer villages on Donside, but further from whisky. Maybe Ballater?

On the other side of the country, your problem is the in and out nature of the coast, which makes everything a long way from everything else.

Tarbert Loch Fyne might be good, or Crinan or Tayvallich. I might pitch for Oban, although it's bigger than I think you want.

To be totally honest, I'd just go to Islay the second week. How can you go wrong?
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Old Jan 16th, 2009, 12:36 AM
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I would certainly agree on Islay,even do some nice walking as well as take in lots of distilleries ( I have a square foot of the Laphroiag distillery ,along with several hundred thousand other people).
The Round Church in Bowmore is lovely and the Kildalton cross the oldest standing Celtic cross in the country.its a bit of a walk but well worth it.
you could even take a day trip over to Jura and visit the distillery there.
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Old Jan 16th, 2009, 07:10 AM
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I did a driving tour of Scotland of two weeks a few years ago and found that the town of Pitlochry was just perfect for daytrips in every direction. Lots of Stately homes, castles, and distillerys. Pitlochry if "famous" for having the smallest distillery in Scotland or maybe the world! We stayed at the Moulon Hotel, I believe. At the time I was doing my "Mary, Queen of Scots" tour, trying to visit the sights where she was born, imprisoned, etc. I do remember enjoying the trip to the castle ruin on Loch Levin.

Brings back fond memories--
Margo
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Old Jan 16th, 2009, 07:24 AM
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Pitlochry is a lovely place,I had a short weekend there last June,easy to get to by train from most of Scotland and even easier by car.
here is my review of the weekend (orginally posted on Trip Advisor).
Pitlochry a Wee Whisky Oasis.
We had a very nice short weekend in Pitolchry.
This was a short weekend for 2 middled aged male whisky lovers,a chance to get away from the pressures of work and to enjoy a relaxing time.
Staying in the MacDonald's B&B (see separate review) we had a most enjoyable time.
Took a train from Edinburgh Waverley to Pitlochry, travel time was about 2 hours. Arriving in the middle of the afternoon we checked into our accommodation and then went for a walk in the small town of Pitlochry.It is a very tourist orientated place with lots of shops bars etc.The town is a very attractive place and a winner of Scotlands Towns in Bloom awards.
Friday was spent just wandering and enjoying the fine weather.Friday evening took us to Scotland's Hotel for a very fine meal ( haunch of Venison ) and a few drinks.there are lots of bars to quench your thirst but we found most of them to be quite expensive even compared to big city prices.
Saturday morning rose bright sunny and very warm,after an excellent breakfast in the B&B we took the 2.5 mile walk up to the Edradour distillery,having visited this before a couple of years ago we knew what to expect but things have moved on apace with a new visitors reception,tasting bar and very nice shop.The Tour here is free and very good it is too,the smallest working distillery in Scotland but producing some of the finest whisky around,of course much money was spent in the shop buying whisky that is just not available anywhere else.
From Edradour we walked the mile or so to the small hamlet of Moulin where there is the Moulin Inn which dates back to 1695,it has its own micro- brewery,though we didn't get a tour of this we did have a beer or two in the Inn as well as a very fine meal (Venison again yum yum).well fed and watered we walked back to Pitlochry.
Now I know I mention a lot of walking but you can drive or cycle,we chose to walk as a way of relaxing and enjoying the countryside.
Once back in the Town we left our purchases in our B&B and then headed the 15 minutes or so walk to the Blair Atholl distillery,a fine place this is and the tour is lead by a young Kilt clad local lad,a fine wee tour it was with a fine large dram at the end.This whisky is not widely known as a single malt as only 2%of it is sold as such ,but it is better known as the main malt in the well known blended Bells whisky.They call Blair Atholl the Heart of Bells.
The tour costs £5 but you do get a large dram and a £3 voucher towards a purchase of a bottle of malt.
back to the B&B after all this fun to get changed and go out to watch the opening games of the European Football championship.
watch the first game whilst enjoying a beer then headed to Scotland's hotel for an evening meal ( Fish & chips) which was most enjoyable.
we can highly recommend the food in this establishment and the service was also excellent.
In the bar of the Hotel was a large Screen TV and we enjoyed the second game of the day from the European Championship.
After a few late drinks in a couple of other bars Fishers and Mackays (if I remember correctly) we headed back to the B&B just about exhausted.
Sunday Morning saw another lovely day and after another superb breakfast we checked out (the B&B looked after our bags till we were ready to collect them).
headed out to the Dam and fish ladder and strolled about the place enjoying the great views and lovely weather,walked past the Pitlochry Theatre and over the suspension bridge back into the town.
collected our bags and headed the short distance to the train Station to get the 11.20 train back to Edinburgh,a short but most enjoyable weekend away.

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Old Jan 16th, 2009, 08:19 AM
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Thanks, unclegus, for the flashbacks to our trip to Pitlochry. It was the Moulin Inn that we stayed in (just outside of town). It had been an old mill, I believe. Also the smallest distillery was the Edradour distillery. Loved the free sample!

Margo
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Old Jan 16th, 2009, 09:37 AM
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GKS
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THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!!! I now need to re-read all and look places up. Oh, and yes, we will have a car, which I think is important as I love off-the-beaten-path locations and freedom.

And actually, I'd love to visit the Oban area, is there a little town close to Oban you'd suggest? (You're right, from the little I've seen about Oban it seems bigger than I'd like...)

Now I must look up Pitlochry. Yay!

Are the Orkney and Shetland islands a must-see? For the pre-historic sites I'd love to go, but they are pretty far from all else I think....
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Old Jan 16th, 2009, 10:51 AM
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If you are interested in islands and are near Oban, you might want to visit Mull and Iona. Maybe their buidings aren't prehistoric but are very old. Iona was the first Christian settlement in Britain--maybe 900AD? A village on Mull that you might consider for a couple of nights, instead of Oban, might be Tobermory.

Margo
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Old Jan 16th, 2009, 10:54 AM
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GKS
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Thank you Margo!
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Old Jan 18th, 2009, 11:09 AM
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I think for what you're planning to do Orkney would be an option, but not Shetland. World Heritage site archaeology and two distilleries, some history but gey few castles. Both Stromness and Kirkwall fill small town bill.

I wouldn't recommend Pitlochry, I think. It's a bit of a tourist trap and although you could reach three or four distilleries from there, not first ranks ones. Castle- a few, and that would include Blair.

Tobermory would be good qua small town but it does make reaching the archaeology challenging: maybe Inverary? (or Tarbert, as I suggested before.) Going north there are we villages but basically no towns till you get to Fort William, and I wouldn't wish it on ANYBODY.

Oban does have a small town feel......a bit.
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Old Jan 19th, 2009, 02:04 AM
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Orkney is certainly a wonderful place and one of the friendliest places I have visited in Scotland.the archeological sites are fairly spread out but with a car are all easily reachable,there are tour companies that you could join with if you chose not to drive.There are 2 distilleries on Orkney but only Highland Park is open to the public.
Shelia ,I would be interested to hear your ranking system for whisky distilleries.
Edradour is the second most visited distillery in Scotland,the #1 being the rather industrial but very well organised Glenfiddich in Dufftown.
I still agree with you on visiting Islay,just a lovely place with great people ,stunning landsacpes and lots of great distilleries.
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Old Jan 19th, 2009, 03:16 AM
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If you want something a bit different, and not too far from Oban have a look at www.lochfyneshore.co.uk.
It is a lovely Lochside cottage, close to some really good eateries, a brewery and stunning countryside.
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Old Jan 19th, 2009, 06:34 AM
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I too have a sq foot at Laphroig and access to a cupboard containing yellow wellies and waterproofs. Not sure what we do if we all go on the same day.

I think you have to try the Orkneys, the Park Royal is great but you can visit buildngs older than the Pyramids out there, the roads have signs saying "beware of the otters" and the seals lie around on the beach. What could be nicer
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Old Jan 19th, 2009, 08:25 AM
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Definitely do Orkney if you can, it is wonderful in terms of prehistoric sites. I believe there are tours going out of Inverness by ferry, if you would rather not drive all the way up. I would recommend a tour with a couple days, if you can - there is a lot to see, and lots of travel time involved.

http://www.puffinexpress.co.uk/orkney.htm

We stayed in Grantown-on-Spey in the Highlands, which was a sweet town. The Kinross House B&B was fabulous- the hostess Jane was delightful (and used to work in Orkney, so can tell you tales).

And I think Iona was established in the 600s AD, from what I remember

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Old Jan 19th, 2009, 08:27 AM
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I've last summer's trip report here, if you would like to see...

http://www.greendragonartist.com/BI/...otland2008.htm

I went to Edinburgh, Grantown-on-Spey, Orkney, Isle of Lewis, Isle of Skye, Isle of Mull, and Killin (three weeks worth)
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Old Jan 19th, 2009, 10:49 AM
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GKS:

I'm with Green Dragon on Grantown-0n-Spey...it's not too small and certainly not too large...situated on the river, it has an alluring, comfortable look...we had to go on to Inverness, otherwise would certainly have stayed the night...and i could see using it as a base.

We also like Drumnadrochit near the western shore of Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle ruins...quiet town (even a hokey statue of the "monster" in a pool of water!)..if Borlum Farms still has the beautiful b and b just out of town, it is a delightful "place to base"...in three days we were able to roam into Skye, and up to Ullapool and vicinty.

stu t.
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Old Jan 19th, 2009, 11:59 AM
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Oh, and as the name implies, it's on the Spey River - which is where many of the distilleries are. Those are called the Speyside distilleries Also near town is the Walker Shortbread factory and outlet store (yum).
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Old Jan 19th, 2009, 12:43 PM
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unclegus, I guess my ranking for distilleries is the ones that make good whisky, rather than the ones which do good tours. I WAS, however referring to the distilleries reached FROM Pitlochry rather than those in it- I was thinking about Aberfeldy, Dalwhinnie, Glen Turret et al.

Mind you, I know Edradour gets a good name, but I've never visited it. I have visited Blair Atholl (distillery- not the village), and I wouldn't hurry back.

First rank ((c) S Ritchie):- Balvenie; Macallan; Highland Park; Bowmore: Lagavulin; Bruichladdich
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Old Jan 19th, 2009, 01:18 PM
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GreenDragon--What is 300 years when it comes to "old"? Ha! I was just guessing about the Iona buildings. Still an interesting day out.

I still think that if GKS has only 2 weeks in Scotland that a trip to the Orkney Islands will eat up too much time. And visiting more than 2-3 distilleries will be an overload (literally!!) I can't tell you how many wineries I have visited over the years and I don't need to visit another one!

GKS--Here are a few suggestions off the top of my head that you might include in your travels:

From Pitlochry--Glamis, Dunottar, Blair, Brodie.
From Oban or Tobermory--Duart, Glengorm, Inverary, Stonefield.

And gardens, don't forget a garden or two. My favorite is Cawdor Castle and garden. Also Inverewe garden if you are up that way.

Happy travels--
Margo
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