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Stuck! How to best spend last 4 days in Scotland

Stuck! How to best spend last 4 days in Scotland

Old Mar 25th, 2019, 03:14 PM
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Stuck! How to best spend last 4 days in Scotland

Will be on one month trip but having only 8 nights in Scotland. Will have done time in London, a week in Cornwall, 5 nights York area. Then comes the Scotland portion followed by a few more nights in London with family stay.

Have booked 4 nights in Edinburgh (see highlights then Rabbies to St.Andrews and one other in Stirling area), then have "saved" 3 nights hoping to go to Isle of Mull (bus and ferries) then final night in Edinburgh before back to London. Considering the possibility of a "fogged in" Mull, is there a better choice to explore? The Borders appeal, so do the Highlands. So little time...This is all with public transportation. I am considering booking the nights in Mull (not easy to find lodging, I know) with the plan to cancel and do a back-up plan if weather really a problem. I know there are some "don't miss" castles and abbeys, and amazing scenery to see, so please advise!
Help, please!

Last edited by makinghay; Mar 25th, 2019 at 03:18 PM. Reason: None. Just not sure how to "send" for forum help!
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Old Mar 25th, 2019, 03:31 PM
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You could go/do almost anything really. But Mull by public transport from/to Edinburgh really doesn't make a lot of sense. That is from someone who LOVES Mull (more than Skye even). But pretty much a full day to get there, a full day to get back leaving you very little time on the island.

So I might suggest either another Rabbies tour (to anywhere that fits in your time frame), or do the Borders -- taking the train down and then using local buses to get around. https://www.scotrail.co.uk/scotland-...orders-railway
https://www.scotborders.gov.uk/info/...4/bus_services
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Old Mar 25th, 2019, 06:19 PM
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Yes, Mull by public transportation especially bus is not easy and is time consuming. Check out Rabbies again. I know they do tours of Mull usually including other areas. I would never suggest bus to Mull. There is a train from Gladgow that goes to Oban,
. From Oban Cal MAC ferries go to Craignure, Mull. You can get a ticket from Cal Mac that includes ferry trip then when arriving at Craignure board one of the buses going to Fiionphort and Iona. It’s not an all day trip but takes up most of the day. The bus driver will provide good commentary on the highlights of Mull. All on one ticket. Not the best way to see Mull but if depending on public transport, it works well. You could probably do this with an overnight at Fionnephort or better yet Iona. Don’t worry about the weather. There is no way to predict it and it can change considerably in a matter of hours even minutes. Some of the scenery is really best seen in a bit of fog, rain,mist etc.

The Borders are great too. I’ve just never done them by public transportation.
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Old Mar 26th, 2019, 11:28 AM
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Thank you both. It seemed so doable, on paper! I had found the Cal-Mac ferries as possibilities and the West Coast Motors services to connect ferries to villages, etc. I am convinced now that it would be best to choose a more reasonable plan.

Janis, I have notes from you to someone, praising Inchmahome Priority from Callander, beginning with a bus from Stirling. Then we would be "only" about 10 miles from The Trossachs, which seem pretty important. Is this something we should consider? TheTrossachs beauty constantly comes up but I think visiting there would require more time than we have. What would including these places do to our trip? Would the Borders trip be more fruitful, given the timeframe and the fact that we depart from Edinburgh? ( I hope to find a return train location closer a Borders town rather than going back to Edinburgh to return to London. Perhaps I'll find a way to stay in the Borders for a night or two and return from there.).

I have decided we can remove one day in London to give us another in Scotland. Now to figure out the rest, and get our rail trip back to London before it gets too expensive. Much more reading to do. I have over planned this trip to the point that I have no plans in place! Day tours will help enormously, so I will recheck all those notes now. I feel very confused and weary, so feel free to guide me as best you can. I can't wait to be DONE with this planning!
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Old Mar 26th, 2019, 12:02 PM
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I'm only in for a few minutes so can't post a full response but just a couple of quick comments:

>>I hope to find a return train location closer a Borders town rather than going back to Edinburgh to return to London. Perhaps I'll find a way to stay in the Borders for a night or two and return from there<<.

Going back to Edinburgh is by far the easiest/best option. Otherwise it would require taking rural buses a very long way to some station on the east coast to catch a train south.

>>Janis, I have notes from you to someone, praising Inchmahome Priority from Callander, beginning with a bus from Stirling. Then we would be "only" about 10 miles from The Trossachs, which seem pretty important. Is this something we should consider? TheTrossachs beauty constantly comes up but I think visiting there would require more time than we have. What would including these places do to our trip?<<

Callander and Inchmahome are IN the Trossachs -- but this is not an area easily visited without a car. Stirling - yes - easy by train. But there is no rail service to anywhere else and the local buses aren't very good/efficient for tourists.
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Old Mar 26th, 2019, 01:22 PM
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I hope to find a return train location closer a Borders town rather than going back to Edinburgh to return to London. Perhaps I'll find a way to stay in the Borders for a night or two and return from there.>

Well I did a day trip from Berwick-on-Tweed to all three of the 'best' or most famous Borders Abbeys - and the bus ride was only 1 h 25 mins - and Berwick is quite a way south of Edinburgh (50 mins by train) and is on the mainline Scotland-York-London. The bus takes only 1 h 25 min to Berwick from Melrose - can't see how going back to Edinburgh would be quicker getting to Berwick (on same main rail line as Edinburgh-London) as Melrose to Edinburgh takes over 2 hours - the train from a nearby town may take a bit less but for sure from Melrose taking a bus to Berwick and getting on train there would be far quicker than returning to Edinburgh it seems. Book train tickets early at National Rail Enquiries - Official source for UK train times and timetables for discounted fares which also exist in first-class which if much much nicer on long-distance British trains than Standard Class. For lots on trains check www.seat61.com; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com.

If looking for a non-touristed city to stay in Berwick-on-Tweed is great - I stayed in the Station Hotel! It's a unique fortified town and a bustling regional town.

Last edited by PalenQ; Mar 26th, 2019 at 01:28 PM.
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Old Mar 26th, 2019, 02:26 PM
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Re Mull: You could take the train to Oban and base there, doing day trips to Mull and/or Iona and/or Staffa. You'd have a relatively easier time finding accommodation in Oban than on Mull, and the Oban-based tours of the islands are plentiful and not very expensive. https://westcoasttours.co.uk/

You might also consider flying to London rather than the train. It can be cheaper (e.g. 45 one way from GLA to Gatwick, around 70 to London City, thus saving the need for lengthy airport-to-city travel) and obviously faster. This might save an extra day, or part of one.
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Old Mar 26th, 2019, 03:02 PM
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There is also an overnight train Glasgow/Edinburgh to London - Caledonian Sleeper trains with very comfy beds in private compartments with breakfast served in bed! Save money on hotel to off-set part or all of train fare.
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Old Mar 26th, 2019, 03:46 PM
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The bus to Berwick-on-Tweed takes 1:36 and runs every 2 hours in the middle of the day. The train to Edinburgh takes 47 mins. The train leg from Edinburgh to Berwrick takes 50 mins so almost exactly the same duration.

>> followed by a few more nights in London with family stay.<<.

Where in the London area. That could make a big difference whether taking a train south or flying makes more sense. For instance if they live in south London or out Canary Wharf direction or west of the Circle Line - flying would probably be better
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Old Mar 27th, 2019, 03:20 PM
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Trains to Edinburgh don't serve the Melrose area where the 3 most famous Borders Abbeys are - the train goes from Galashiels - which by bus from Melrose is well over 2 hours with 2 changes. So yes if in Galashiels area about the same, but from where most tourists will be the bus to Berwick is far faster. So it depends on where OP will be- saying it's only 47 minutes by train to Edinburgh is just worthless and misleading.
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Old Mar 27th, 2019, 05:03 PM
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If you want to see the Abbeys and the Scottish Borders, taking an one day tour from Edinburgh with Timberbush Tours is a great and very affordable option.

https://www.timberbush-tours.co.uk/o...ie-distillery/

You will see:
  • Rosslyn Chapel
  • Glenkinchie Distillery
  • The Scottish Borders
  • Melrose
  • Scott's View

We also took another equally fabulous tour with Timberbush:

Loch Lomond, The Trossachs & Stirling Castle

https://www.timberbush-tours.co.uk/o...irling-castle/

Highly recommend taking both.

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Old Mar 27th, 2019, 05:14 PM
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Timberbush is another good company that has been around nearly as long as Rabbies. I'd be happy with either. Rabbies does have more tours to choose from.
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Old Mar 27th, 2019, 05:33 PM
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I really think a tour with Rabbies or Timberbush is a better option than trying to manage train and bus schedules. Saves time too. You will see more with a tour company than doing it by public transportation.
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Old Mar 27th, 2019, 08:40 PM
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>>You will see more with a tour company than doing it by public transportation.<<

Big ditto there. Buses in rural areas are not at all efficient or practical even. Doable - yes, but really limiting. Waiting for a bus that only runs every 2 hours does mess up a touring day.
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Old Mar 28th, 2019, 08:44 AM
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I managed to easily see Melrose, Dryburgh and the other famous abbey in that area all by bus from Berwick in one day. And was glad to ride local buses and not glitzy tour buses. Be a traveler or a tourist - pros and cons to both.
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Old Mar 28th, 2019, 08:59 AM
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There is nothing glitzy about tour buses. The guides are excellent and very funny, the buses are so comfortable and nice. We had plenty of free time to enjoy at Melrose Abbey and Rosslyn Chapel. The Glenkinchie Distillery tour was fantastic.

Loch Lomond Cruise was great as well and at Stirling Castle we had 2.5 hours to spend as we wish.
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Old Mar 28th, 2019, 11:05 AM
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Forgot to add that we were even allowed 45 minutes to hike near Rosslyn Chapel and it was fantastic. Great photo ops!
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Old Mar 28th, 2019, 12:01 PM
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I'm so pleased that you have all hashed this out while I've been searching myself silly. I have been searching Rabbies and Timberbush for ages and keep making notes. Glad most of you agree that it is the best answer for us. We are seniors now and less inclined to stress over bus or train schedules, or driving as we make our own way, though it has been our mode for many years.

I am going to schedule the Rabbies Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, Borders tour for now, since that is an area I have wanted to do. (I've been hesitating because it is so redundant, since we will be "passing thru" as we come from York to Edinburgh. But with our luggage, stopping along the way would be difficult, for sure.) It is a new tour so no reviews, but I know Rabbies reputation. We have taken these small bus tours in France and find them thoroughly enjoyable with the extremely knowledgeable and fun tour drivers. The other tour will be the Loch Lomond one that goes into Trossachs, which I don't want to miss. Still weighing Rabbies vs Timberbush on that one. Do any of you have experience with both, or an opinion? I'm sure we will be happy with either one. They do have a 3 day cancellation policy, but better a bird in the hand....

Now to find lodging in Glasgow for 2 or 3 nights, and a Rosslyn Castle tour from Rabbies or Timberbush. This should do it. Then on to London. Train is best for us. Our son lives near the Venice area in London, so using the tube works best. We have the Two Together pass that saves a lot and gives us a chance to rest up on a train before we get back to our London ventures.

I have no burning questions for you now, but feel free to continue to advise if you have more hints! If we don't communicate again, I want to thank you all for your very helpful suggestions. This forum is invaluable for people like me. I think giving up Mull was a good move all things considered. Our son agreed with you.

When I have a chance, I still plan to give a short trip report on our Italy village trip that you helped with last Fall. We went with almost no reservations and all went well. I'm not very efficient as I seem to have too many things going at once, as always. It's called retirement!

Cheers! Makinghay
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Old Mar 28th, 2019, 12:32 PM
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So sorry, we only had a chance to try the Timberbush Tours I mentioned above, so I cannot really help you with the Rabbies vs. Timberbush comparison. Rabbies have smaller buses available but Timberbush only has big coaches.

Enjoy your time in York! It is so lovely... I did not want to leave... was hard to say goodbye to my beloved York Minster... but Scotland was waiting for us😊
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Old Mar 28th, 2019, 01:10 PM
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>> . . . but Timberbush only has big coaches. <<

Actually Timberbush does have some smaller vehicles. But I usually recommend Rabbies because their entire fleet is small vans/mini buses.

>> . . . a Rosslyn Castle Chapel tour from Rabbies or Timberbush.<<

No need for a tour really. There is an easy bus service from central Edinburgh.
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