To see or not to see in Scotland

Aug 20th, 2000, 10:02 AM
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Fodor's does not like my longer postings these days. Here's what I've done for your next 3 days split in 2 pieces.I'm emailing it too.

Edinburgh (Tues), More as before; nothing to add really; except, seeing as it’s a weekday, you might want to visit the Parliament. Visitors welcome. And you should buy the local fortnightly listings magazine, The List, to check out what else is going on. Before you leave, visit Valvona & Crolla, the best Italian deli in Britain, and pack a picnic for tomorrow

Aberdeen (Wed). Leave Edinburgh, cross the Forth Road Bridge- see the rail bridge on your right half a mile east- one of the wonders of the modern world. Stop at Kinross and go out to Loch Leven castle where Mary Queen of Scots was incarcerated. Go on to Vane Farm on the other side of the loch (bird reserve, cafeteria for lunch) Cross over to the Fife Coast) at about Leven and drive from there along the coast through Lundin Links, Lower Largo( the home of Alexander Selkirk, the model for Robinson Crusoe) Pittenween, Anstruther, and Crail to St Andrews. Lots of lovely harbours, and beaches and golf courses, St Andrews has the West beach where they filmed the opening sequence of "Chariots of Fire"), the Old Course (where Golf was invented), the Golf Museum, the Cathedral ruins, the oldest University in Scotland and the best ice cream shop in the east of Scotland. You also wanted to see Culross and Falkland in Fife. I am exhausted just think about this. Culross is very pretty and I do love Falkland Palace, but in terms of what you are trying to do, I think it’s just not possible. Ditto Scone. I may come back to a lowland Scotland meander on that extra day you have flung back at me.

Cross the Tay Road Bridge (Parallel to the road bridge again you wills e the railway bridge, which is not quite so famous as the one which went before it and which fell into the river under the weight of a train in a storm in the 19th century- you can still see some of the piles sticking out of the water) into Dundee and do Discovery Point where Scott's ship Discovery is. Apart from that and perhaps the Unicorn, Dundee is the armpit of the Universe, so get the hell out as soon as possible. After a quick detour to Glamis (Too many castles- Ed) come up the coast road to Stonehaven and stop at Dunnottar Castle, just south of the town for a run about. This is where the (Scottish) Crown Jewels- known as the Honours of Scotland-you should have seen them in Edinburgh Castle-were hidden. In Aberdeen, things to see and do include Satrosphere, the Maritime Museum, Codona's (a permanent funfair at the beach) cinemas, leisure centre etc etc. Take a walk around old Aberdeen and
the University area in the evening. The city is known as the Granite City because….rumour has it…that we, the inhabitants, are exposed to more radiation than people anywhere else in the world because it has relatively high trace elements in granite. The buildings are very grand in late Victorian neo-gothic style. Have dinner at Silver Darlings, if you like fish, and Simpson’s if you don’t.
Aug 20th, 2000, 10:03 AM
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And again

Speyside (Thu). Next day, go out the A93 to Crathie castle and gardens, then I think I have o advise you do not go as far west as Braemar. Instead cut over past Craigievar castle, supposed to be the model for the Disney cartoon castle emblem, and down into Donside at Alford. Then drive up to Lumsden, and Rhynie, then cross the Cabrach to Dufftown, where you will find Glenfiddich distillery- not the best whisky in the world but probably the best tour. Other local distilleries include Glenlivet (which is better than Strathisla anyway) and Cardhu. But honestly; do one; not 2 or 3. I’ll add more later. Go on to Tomintoul and stop in this pretty village. Buy your whisky in the specialist shop here, rather than in Edinburgh. There is also a very good wood carvers shop here. Go on over the hill and aim for the Heather Brae in Nethy Bridge. It has a nice homely restaurant. Take the steamtrain at Boat of Garten then go into the Forest at Abernethy or Rothiemurchus. Other things to do in the area include the Highland Wildlife Park, and the Landmark Centre. Go down to Kingussie and see the Wade barracks at Ruthven. Posher for dinner is the Cross at Kingussie. It also has rooms but I’ve not stayed and know nothing about them.
Aug 20th, 2000, 11:35 AM
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Sheila, how could you miss out Stirling???
You have the fabulous Wallace Monument with its fantastic views,Bannockburn,Stirling castle,Sherifmuir etc,etc.The area is steeped in history don't miss it out.There are loads of nice B&Bs and some great places to eat. Don't miss the pub at the top of Sherrifmuir, I can't remember what it's called.
Aug 20th, 2000, 12:14 PM
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here are days 7-10

Inverness (Fri). Now, as I may have mentioned before, Inverness is not my favourite town to visit. It’s not got much to recommend itself except its setting. So, leave Nethy Brideg and rive down the Spey to Craigellachie then north to Elgin, and visit the castle. Very good shopping (but expensive) at Johnston’s of Elgin-cashmere a speciality. Thengo on to Brodie and Cawdor castles. Brodie is a lovely little gem an has attached a place called Brodie Counytryfare, which is worth shopping browse round. Cawdor is most famous for its Macbeth connection ("Hail Macbeth…"and all that). The you should stop at Culloden to see the battlefield which is very special. Nearby are the Clava Cairns, a prehistoric site of renown. You will have passed the fort built at Ardersier to keep the revolting Scots down. Spend about 10 minutes in Inverness itself. Acquaint yourself with the prophesies of the Brahan seer and then count the bridges (spooky). The cross the river and stop at the visitor centre on the far bank to orientate yourself. You can sometimes see the Moray firth dolphins from the gardens there. And the Red Kites on the Black Isle have CCTV link to the information centre. Then head off down Loch Ness. Stop at Castle Urquhart, and Drumnadrochit. Buy your Nessie tee-shirt here. If you haven’t seen the movie, make sure you do. At Invermoriston hang a right and go up Glen Moriston to Cluanie, then through Kintail in the shadow of the 5 sisters. Stop at Dornie to see Eilean Donan and then cross the bridge to Skye. My favourite place to stay on Skye is Hotel Eilean Iarmain.on the Sleat peninsula, about 16 miles from the bridge. It has a great restaurant and is also only a few miles from Lady Macdonald’s place (Kinloch Castle) which also does great food.

Skye(Sat,Sun). Skye is mostly about scenery, although it has its share of history too. Great things to do include seeing the Cuillin; taking a boat trip from Elgol to see the seals; wandering round Portree; visiting the Quiraing; visiting the Clan Macdonald Centre; seeing the fairy flag at Dunvegan; go to the Talisker distillery; take in the atmosphere at the Sligachan Hotel; go to the Colbost Folk Museum ( mainly because it’s a black house; go to Flora Macdonald’s grave; hire bikes; go pony trekking; see eagles; climb mountains. Another great place to eat is the Three Chimneys, which you maybe want to do the middle night.
Aug 20th, 2000, 12:47 PM
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And days 11-14

Oban(Mon,Tue,Wed) OK; on Monday morning we rise bright and early and meander down the Sleat peninsula in time to catch the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig. The aim is to drive down to Oban picking up the stuff north of Oban on the way. You pass Morar and Arisaig with their white sands then come east to Lochailort, then Glenfinnan., rather more famous in these parts as the place where Bonnie Brince Charlie raised his standard at the start of the ’45, than the location of a rather fine Victorian Viaduct. Then on to Fort William, which is worth 10 minutes of anyone’s time. Actually, a quick spin up the bottom of Glen Nevis would be well worth while.

Onward, ever onward, follow the road south to Ballachulish then take a side turn up Glencoe. I presume you know the story of the massacre and the Glen of Weeping. Stunning scenery and you can feel the atmosphere the whole time. A vast chunck is owned by the National Trust and there is a visitor centre. You cross the westerly reaches of rannoch Moor before you get to Tyndrum, where you should backtrack towards Oban. (there is a shortcut down Glen Orchy if you prefer. Stop at Dalmally to see Kilchurn Castle and as you go through the Pass of Brander ( having bone dup on "Kidnapped" in advance, you should visit the Hydro Electric plant inside the mountain. Ben Cruachan is one of our finest mountains, by the way. Come on down past Connel and take a trip round by Dunstaffnage (yet another castle) as you come into Oban. Masses of places to stay; most not very great.

Visit McCaig’s Folly and the distillery. Shop a bit. Great places to eat in Oban there are not, but there are a few up to 20 miles out. Eriska House Hotel gets a great name. My favourite is the Pierhouse at Port Appin, which specialises in fish. The Port Appin Hotel is also well recommended.

Next day, catch one of the bus tours to Mull and Iona. You can do it all by boat, but you’ll miss out on Mull. Or you could drive, but I suspect Bowman and MacDougall’s bus tours are the best idea. Mull is nice, but Iona, the cradle of Christianity is very special indeed. Apart from the Abbey, make sure you take in the celtic crosses.
On Wednesday you want to take a trip south. Specifically you want to see all the prehistoric stuff in Kilmartin Glen- Temple Wood and Dunadd. Cross the moor to Crinan and see the canal, then have something to eat or drink in the Crinan Hotel, just for the experience. Take a turn down to Lochgilphead and Ardrishaig. Do you know about Para Handy? If so, you might like to know the Vital Spark is moored at Ardrishaig? From here go back up Loch Fyne to Inverary, apart from the beautiful planned village, take in the castle and the jail. Then go up to Loch Awe and follow the loch round its northwestern edge stopping for dinner at Ardanaseig on the way home.
Aug 20th, 2000, 01:43 PM
Tony Hughes
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Sheila, why are you urging Micki to go to Valvona & C.? Whats so Scottish about a very Italian deli? Let that one go. Would agree about Craigmillar Castle, the whole area is not for tourists.

Micki, the itinerary is WAY too ambitious, I am always amused by these packed days in Scotland that first-timers propose - throw it away and take it easier, don't treat my country as if it were Epcot, a park to be 'done' in a set time.

Sheila, Crichton castle is just off the A68 at Pathhead, Midlothian. Also Rosslyn is a must if you are in any way a believer of Jesus C The Lord. Blackness is near Bo'ness, miss it out, it's nothing special.

Threave & Caerlaverock are superb. Visited both about 2 months ago, well worth the detour down to Dumfriesshire.

Mail me Micki if you require any non-sheila specific Scottish help.
Aug 21st, 2000, 03:11 PM
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So what’s missing for an extra day on the way back to Edinburgh? By my reckoning we have missed out:-

"Stirling, Doune, Campbell, Scone Palaces, Blair, Braemar, Glenturret Dunrobin Castles. Dumbarton. Maybe Hill House Culross and Falkland".

(Thu). Reconcile yourself- Dunrobin is not doable.

Two options include:- Route 1 back from Oban:- east through the Pass of Brander to Dalmally again, then on to Crianlarich and down to Lochearnhead. You might want to take a slight turn off here to go up to Balquhidder and Rob Roy Country. Then along Loch Earn, through Comrie and just west of Crieff you come to Glenturret up a side road. Version 1a takes you south to Doune, where, apart from the castle, there is a brilliant Roman marching camp at a place called Ardoch. From there you go to Stirling and take in the castle, then, if you’re not castled out, you can head towards Edinburgh along the north side of the Forth, taking the short turn off to see Castle Campbell. This one misses out from your original list Scone, Blair, Braemar, Dunrobin Dumbarton, Hill House, Culross and Falkland

Version 1b has you carry on to just east of Crieff where you turn off on the Aberfeldy road and go through the Sma’ Glen, then onto the A9 about Pitlochry. Take a turn north as far as Blair. On the way south again, stop in Dunkeld, then at Scone, then as you pass by Fife take the road east again to Falkland, and pick up Culross on the way into Edinburgh. (If you miss out Glenturret you can come east along Loch Tay instead of Loch Earn and you link up with the A9 about the same place.) This one misses out Stirling, Doune, Campbell, Braemar, Dunrobin Castle and Dumbarton and Hill House.

Route 2 Would have you come south through Inverary, and over the Rest and Be thankful, down to Arrochar and along Loch Lomond. Take the side road to Helensburgh, and see Hill House. Then stop at Dumbarton Castle, pick up the dual carriageway, swing north to Stirling and Castle Campbell and home. (I think you do Glasgow a disservice; this one would allow you a chunk of time to see a city well worth seeing). This misses Doune, Scone Palaces, Blair, Braemar, Glenturret Dunrobin Castles, Culross and Falkland.

Now I suggest you think about this for a few days and the cut out some stuff; because there’s really too much in.

And by the way, Tony, I include Valvona & Crolla because I think it’s a great shop and an Edinburgh institution. What? I should send them for deep fried Mars Bars??
Sep 27th, 2000, 12:32 PM
Island Girl
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Hi Micki,

Just a few tips for your planning. We just returned from 13 days in Scotland, our first trip there. We did not rent a car (except for 2 days), so you will have a little more time and flexibility than we did with trains and busses. Here's our outline:

Sat: all day in Edinburgh: the castle, Holyrood, general exploring, Fringe Festival stuff
Sun: St. Andrew's in the morning: the cathedral and the castle. Stirling in the afternoon. Stirling Castle, Bannockburn (only from the bus, it was pouring rain), and the Wallace monument.
Mon: Hadrian's Wall in England, Jedburgh Abby, St Abb's Head. We found driving times to be much longer than we expected.
Tues: AM was spent in Edinburgh: St. Giles (a must), Calton Hill, the castle again! PM travelled to Oban. We went to the Scottish show at McTavish's Kitchen - don't do it! Wait for Skye, there's a better one there. The food at McTavish's was excellent.

Wed: Boat tour to Iona and Staffa via Mull. Iona is a must, Staffa and Fingal's Cave also a highlight
Thurs: Travel to Inverness, with stops at Fort William to see Ben Nevis (too cloudy), Fort Augustus (the cathedral was closed), and Urquhart Castle - the best castle we saw, other than Edinburgh).
Fri: Culloden, Elgin Cathedral, Clava Cairns, Dallas Dhu Distillery (not a working distillery but a Historic Scotland site. You still get a dram with the tour!)
Sat, Sun, Mon: Orkney Islands. You haven't mentioned these so I won't go into detail. There was barely enough time in our trip to go there, and we didn't do them justice at all. What we did see there was all great.
Tues, Wed, Thurs: Isle of Skye. I can't sing the praises of this fabulous island enough. We have been talking about returning since we got on the train to leave! Our hosts were at Heronfield B&B in Portree and they were the warmest, most welcoming people we met in Scotland. The ceilidh at the town hall is excellent - lots of GOOD local talent and character.
Fri: spent the morning in Glasgow and flew home that afternoon.

From the sounds of things, you plan to visit a lot of historic sites. I would recommend getting a Historic Scotland pass. We got the "friends membership" but there are also "Explorer" passes for shorter periods of time. This pass will cover a lot of the sites you list, including Edinburgh Castle - that's why we went there twice, because it was free! We estimate that we saved double the cost of the pass. Each site will cost between 2-5 pounds per person without it. Check out their site at Also, book your car rental from home. We found cars very difficult to come by, and had to rearrange our schedule to fit with when we could get a rental.

Someone else recommended 4 sites a day, and that sounds about right, especially if you want to get the most out of everything you see. Don't worry, when you leave Scotland, you'll have an even longer list of the things you want to see "next time"!
Oct 1st, 2000, 02:51 PM
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Island Girl,

Thanks for the post. Sounds like you had a great time in Scotland. Whenever I read about various trips people have made there I get so anxious about our trip. It's 7 months and counting. You mentioned how wonderful the Isle of Skye is and I've seen that same response from others on this site. I have allocated 2 days for a visit to Skye based on what I've read here and other places. But noone has mentioned specifically what is so wonderful about the Isle if Skye. Is it the views or what? Just wondering...Also, what was your most memorable and favorite thing about Scotland?
Oct 1st, 2000, 03:45 PM
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Hi Micki and All, Great info and "Island girl" I like your ideas...Tony: Epcot??,,,,I would not be coming all that way to be disparaging or negative!!!,,,,I would love to give it more time, but I can not....I do so want to see Ireland and Scotland,,,am I being to ambitious???? I try gather a general flavor of the country and hopefully return....And Micki,,I too, would love to hear about Skye....we will be going to Scotland & Ireland for 14 days in July,,,,did you get accommodations yet???? Inquiring minds need to know....
Oct 2nd, 2000, 02:55 PM
Island Girl
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I think the most memorable thing about Scotland was a combination of the scenery, which is better than you can imagine, all the time, and also the immense sense of history in that country. Everything is SO old compared to what we have in N. America, and the history was very interesting to us.

As to Skye, we sort of felt as if it was a magical place...lots of scenery and ocean, no cities, just very "Scotland". We are hikers and did an excellent hike in the Quirang that was way more trecherous than anything we've done here in the Canadian Rockies. But even to walk around that area is worthwhile. There's also a nice walk to what is called the Coral Beaches. You follow a road past Dunvegan Castle for about 4 miles, then walk through fields on a path for about 3km.(Sorry about the metric vs. Imperial, we're a mixed up lot here in Canada).

We're not gourmet eaters, so take my restaurant advice with that in mind. We had 2 lovely suppers at the Portree Hotel, a little restaurant called the Square Meal. If I could eat their lamb stew tonight I'd be a happy girl!

Keep posting, this site has great advisors.
Oct 5th, 2000, 10:22 AM
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I spent a week in Scotland last month and have a terrific time. Scotland will not disappoint you for beauty, scenery and history.

I went on a Contiki tour so everything was planned. But since you are driving, you'll have more flexibility than I did.

Edinburgh was fabulous. Clean, tons of things to see, great scenery and easy to get around. I only got one day, I highly suggest you plan on at least two. Get to the Castle early so you can see some stunning morning views from the top. Then walk down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace. It's a nice walk and you can stop in at a shop and pick up a wool sweater for only 19 pounds. Yes, it's a touristy thing to do but I wore mine almost every day since it was cool. They can run up to 40 pounds outside of the city. We stayed at Green's Hotel, which is within easy walking distance of all the sites. Lovely rooms and a nice neighborhood. If you love art, the museums will not disappoint.

Glasgow was not as nice but still lots of shopping opportunities and the cathedral is worth a visit. Our guide was fantastic. One day is all you need. Great night life if you're into that.

Isle of Skye is stunning, everything people have said it is. You might enjoy using Portree as a base as its a very pleasant port city. Make sure you visit the bakery in the square for some of the most delectable goodies (and cheap!) I've ever eaten. If you like smaller places, try Kyleakin, which is a small village right after you get off the bridge over to Skye.

If you're heading for Mull or Iona, use Oban as your base. You can go to McTavish's for a genuine evening of Scottish music and dancing. Iona is well worth a visit to see the church and abbey ruins. People there are very friendly and the ferries run often.

I visited Eilean Donan Castle and highly recommend it. They filmed "Highlander" there and it is a genuine castle in the sense it was fired on by the Spanish. It's also situated in some lovely countryside. Glamis Castle, on the way to Aberdeen, is also nice but not as rugged.

Believe me, you'll wish you could go back when you get home. I do!
Oct 30th, 2000, 08:52 PM
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Hi Micki,

My husband and I just spent close to a month in Scotland for our wedding and honeymoon and LOVED it! We particularly enjoyed the Northern Highlands (North of Ullapool) and absolutely loved the Orkney Islands (we spent 3 days on Mainland Orkney). If you are into seeing what life may have been like 5000 years ago, this is the place. And the people were really friendly, too. We found an AWESOME B & B in Stromness run by Mrs. Pearl Firth and she was the nicest proprietor in our entire trip. It was inexpensive too...

As for other favorites:
Oban - The Gallery Restaurant (near Tesco grocery) - awesome food at reasonable prices.
Durness and Cape Wrath - the beach at Balnakeil and the walk out to Faraid Head (a fairly easy walk and very pretty)
Black Isle Region - The Fairy Glen (near Cromarty?), another easy walk and very pretty.

Do not waste your time doing the touristy Loch Ness route. It was crowded and Urquhart Castle was surrounded by construction scaffolding and fences everywhere as they are building a huge visitor centre there.

We would have loved to have stayed longer. I am already hoping that we can return for an anniversary sometime!

Good Luck!
Oct 30th, 2000, 10:06 PM
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Glad to see you are including Cawdow. My family heritage goes back to Forres, but other people (probably less biased) have recommended it too and it is a great castle--especially interesting as it is the setting for MacBeth. I think the Burrell Museum in Glasgow is one of the very best museums I've ever seen -- incredible collection. If you enjoy museums, you should not miss it. Scotland is great; have a wonderful time.
Oct 31st, 2000, 10:09 AM
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Thanks for all the great info. We are going to Scotland In March and it looks like we can spend 5 days in Edinborough and 1 day in Glasgow. Any other tips please e-mail me, we just got back from italy and going to London in 2 wks after that I am planning the Scotland trip. (no I am not independly wealthy I work for an airline)
Oct 31st, 2000, 04:27 PM
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Since you were planning one of the more interesting Scottish trips, could you run to a full report, d'you think?

Nov 3rd, 2000, 08:23 PM
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Southwest Scotland!

Overlooked by many, in May it should be gorgeous! Gulf stream, the gardens should be in bloom, we were just there in October and they were beautiful. I like Kircudbright best, the town, the gardens the people the cat (check out their town's website.) Dumfries and Galloway are too forgotten by the crowds in lieu of the Highlands, which are clearly nice. But, it is the best, quiet, historic, and lovely land. We went to Scotland and Ireland, liked the Scots best! Have Fun!
Sep 5th, 2001, 06:12 PM
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Topping this for John.

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