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Too much to do in Scotland, too Little Time. Help!

Too much to do in Scotland, too Little Time. Help!

Old Apr 13th, 2011, 07:47 PM
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Too much to do in Scotland, too Little Time. Help!

My wife, I, and our 11 and 14 year old boys are going to Scotland this Summer. Arrive in Manchester, England afternoon of Tuesday, July 12. Leave airport perhaps 5:00 PM. I'm thinking about Tuesday and Wednesday nights in York, England. Plan on leaving for Scotland Thursday Morning. Planning on spending 7 nights at a self catering somewhere in Perthshire. Other than on way in or out, basically planning on being only between Firth of Forth and Moray Forth, + Edinburgh and the Lothians.

First question. Narrowed accomodations to Old Church (Bluestone) in St. Fillans, on A85, The Old City Hall in Dunkeld on A9, or Dawn Cottage in Pitlochry, also on A9. Is anyone familiar with these places, and does anybody have any recomendations among them? We will check out on Thursday, July 21, and need to arrive back in Manchester, England the night of July 21, to catch our flight back to the states on the morning of Friday, July 22.

Next, Here's a list of things we want to do. I don't know how we fit all of these in. Any suggestions?

1-2 days in Edinburgh. Also Rosslyn Chapel;
Glasgow, although maybe we skip it if necessary;
My older boy and I want to play 9 holes of golf somewhere. We're both terrible, but we cant go to Scotland and not play at least 9 holes;
My older boy and I want to go trapshooting briefly for the same reason as golf above. Better shots than golfers;
In the Northeast, Loch Ness, Loch Ness cruise, Urquhart Castle, Cawdor Castle, Culloden, and perhaps either Cairngorn Mountain Railway or Caledonian Canal, if time;
Dundee (if time), Glamis Castle, St Andrews;
Doune Castle, Loch Lomond, Blair Castle, Gleneagles, Stirling Castle;
Royal Deeside, including the Castle Trail and the Whisky Trail;
Ben Nevis (if time);
In Perthshire, Scone Palace, Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Ossians Hall, Blair Castle, and perhaps some other small Scottish pretty villages.

Really love Waterfalls. I have a 50 bottle or so collection of single malt scotches. Want to go to Scotch Whisky experience in Edinburgh, Famous Grouse, perhaps Glenlivet, as I understand those are all great. My favorites are McCallan and Glendronach, if possible, I'd like to get to those. Did I mention that we'd like to relax also?

HELP? What do I do? Suggestions? By the way, have I left out some really important places?

Thanks

Steve
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Old Apr 13th, 2011, 11:46 PM
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Sorry -- but you have less than 7 full days in your cottage and there is no way you could accomplish everything on your list. If you spend 1.5 days in Edinburgh/Roslin and spend the best part of another day on golf/trapshooting -- that essentially leaves you about 4.5 days to see half of Scotland.

You have 2 days worth near Inverness/Cairgorms (and that would be a rush)

Stirling/Doune/Loch Lomond is another totally full day

St Andrews/Fife/Dundee -- another FULL day

Glamis/Castle Trail/Deeside = 1.5 - 2 days

That still out leaves several of your musts and each of the above days would be at full tilt.

And your relaxation will fit where???

You need to either:
• cut you wish list about in half

- or -

• forget about York and spend those two nights in Edinburgh before moving to your cottage (you can fly or take the train from MAN to Edinburgh and get your rental car when leaving Edinburgh after 2 nights there). And still cut a few things from your wish list.

- or -

• add 4-5 days to the trip.
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 02:14 AM
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yeah, well...

So I overscheduled just a tad. One of the reasons I generally need a vacation when I get back from vacation.

I will consider skipping York, although I don't know if I will skip. Only spending 1 day there. Can't change reservations. Otherwise, how would you prioritize among my wish list?
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 06:13 AM
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I can't prioritize for you since my musts could be different from yours.

But to give you some idea -- when working out your itinerary/drive times figure about 35-40 mph other than when on motorways (and you won't be on motorways much)

as examples:

York > Pitlochry would take 6.5-7 hours. That doesn't include stops for food/rest/Hadrian's Wall -- so basically a full day's drive.

Pitlochry > Glamis > Dunnottar > Crathes > Ballater (Deeside) > Pitlochry would involve 6 or 7 hours driving not counting the several hours of stops/tours.

Pitlochry > Grantown on Spey > Cawdor > Culloden > Loch Ness/Urquhart > Pitlochry = 6.5 - 7 hours in the car plus about 8 hours of 'tour time'. Just not doable.

Pitlochry > St Andrews > Dundee (wouldn't be high on my list BTW) > Scone would be a 4 hour drive plus easily 7 hours to see/visit places.

So -- look at your list, decide which ones are musts, and then we can help you w/ refining some more.
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 07:15 AM
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Janisj:
Thanks. Being from the USA, I'm not completely familiar with the roads there, although I've previusly driven myself on prior trips to both England and Ireland.

I know what the M roads are. I expect to be on A9 and A85. Are those motorways within your definition, or only roads with an M? How fast can I drive on A9 or Adouble digit roads?

I'm giving up shooting, and 2 people playing 9 holes can't take more than 2 or 2.5 hours. Knock that out one morning.

Keep writing with comments. Don't forget my whisky and waterfall requests.

thanks

Steve
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 08:12 AM
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Steve, It doesn't matter what the speed limit is, you simply can't cover the area you want in the time allocated. www.theaa.co.uk route plannner is a good source for determining point to point milage and times. You will need to add to their times for a truly accurate estimate. Newbies for some reason seem to think small country... faster to get around, and it's just not so.

You still need to trim your itinerary. Personally I think York would be a great stop as their are several things that the boys would probably enjoy, but you'll have to make that decision after looking at what you actually can and can't do.

You also include both St. Andrews and Gleneagles. If those are the places you want to play golf, settle on just one. Since golf, whisky and waterfalls are important, you could do your golfing at St. Andrews and then head to castle/whisky country (Deeside/Speyside) east of Aberdeen. All of the activities you mentioned can be also be found in the Perth, Dunkeld, Pitlochry area. Be aware that there are golfing opportunities almost everwhere in Scotland, so probably best to focus on your other activities and you're likely to find a course nearby.

Focus on one area which will include as many of your activities as possible. You will, in any case, have to give up some things or at least some places.
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 09:00 AM
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A9 is occasionally a motorway -- check the map and it'll indicate if the A9 in a given area is a "dual carriageway" or just a main road like a US route here. If the latter, it's likely a single lane in each direction. A dual carriageway is four lanes (2+2) and divided.

Your scotch whisky knowledge is a bit off. The Famous Grouse is not a single malt, its primary offerings are blended Scotch whisky -- both malt (from barley) and grain (from rye, corn, wheat, etc.). TFG offers some blended malts (aka "vatted malt") but there is no Famous Grouse distillery that produces Famous Grouse single malt whisky. You can get Famous Grouse in the US so if you really want one, figure out what's available here (check binnys.com and hitimewine.net -- they have good selections) and get something else over there.

There's no real need to get Macallan in Scotland unless it's a vintage that is not imported to the US. Considering that there are plenty of Macallans available here (12-year, 18, 25, Cask Strength for their sherried standards and the 10, 15, 20 Fine Oak versions, PLUS independent bottler versions), you may want to spend your duty free allotment on something else.

I'd skip the Glenlivet. Scotch should have more flavor than that. You say you have 50 in your stock, so you're not a newbie. Glenlivet is like single malt for dummies, so is Glenfiddich.

Strongly consider some of the Glenmorangie range (best-selling single malt in Scotland); their Cellar 13 variety is esp. good but when I got it, it was only available at airport duty free shops. Aberlour would fit your profile well, so would Longmorn. Highland Park, Talisker, Edradour, Cragganmore should also fit. If you have the taste for it, Caol Ila, Lagavullin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg are the big peaty ones from Islay. I gravitate to the Caol Ila I have that's a Signatory bottling (see below). Also, Springbank and Longrow are hard to find here and often VERY expensive. Both have good ratings on whiskymag.com, so compare prices and you may want to buy there.

Most distilleries sell casks to independent bottlers too -- Old Malt Cask, Cadenhead, Blackadder, Douglas Laing, Signatory, Provenance, Gordon MacPhail, Murray McDavid. The Signatories and Murray Macs tend to be good and cost-effective. The Old Malt Cask offerings also come in 20 cl bottles in Scotland so you can sample a bunch of distilleries' products. Cadenhead has a shop on Canongate on the Royal Mile and may have a cask or two that's tapped and they'll bottle for you on site.

Royal Mile Whiskies (near North Bridge on the High Street side of the Royal Mile) is another store and it's good too -- they'd likely load you up with samples.

Bring air bubble plastic wrap so you can pack what you get in your suitcases. Don't rely on duty free to get the best possible whisky offerings, especially bc you're going out of Manchester and it may not have a World of Whiskies at duty free like Gatwick and Heathrow do.
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 09:18 AM
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"I expect to be on A9 and A85. Are those motorways within your definition, . . . ?"

Not only are they not motorways -- they aren't even 4 lane roads (for the most part). And you won't be on either one for more than parts of your overall drives. The A9 is the major N/S route but it is mostly a 2 lane road w/ a few 4 lane sections. The A85 is a narrow loch and river side main road where you will be lucky to average 35 mpg. Other 'main' roads you'd use include the A82, A93 and the A96 - all are narrow 2 lane roads (not 'narrow' by UK standards but narrow none the less). You will be on a bit of the A90 which is a dual carriageway -- but you'll get off it on small local roads to visit some of the sites.

There are Motorways and divided roads on most of your route up from York -- but that will still be pretty much an all day drive if you stop anywhere.

The driving is great -- real fun -- but it is NOT fast.
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 09:29 AM
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And don't try and push it on the A9, there are a lot of accidents each year from people overtaking where they can't really see.
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 09:30 AM
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Didn't see BigRuss's post. Just to clarify a bit "A9 is occasionally a motorway" The A9 is occasionally a dual carriageway but is not a motorway. Most of it's length is 2 lane but in places it is 4 lane.

The rest of his post (re single malts, blends, distilleries etc) -- I agree w/

Even though you don't mention Glenfiddich (and I don't normally drink it myself being a Macallan fan) - It does have one of the best distillery tours/visitor experiences. It is in Dufftown - and is a great 'two-fer' because the interesting ruins of Balvenie Castle are right next door.
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 09:41 AM
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I cant offer much more than the good help you are receiving on Scotland, although I would agree it is too much. I adore York but would consider dropping this and coming back another time.In this way you can focus on getting up to Scotland and having more time to enjoy the place.
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 09:58 AM
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To follow up on Stevelyon's post -- I also totally ADORE York. My suggestion to drop it was simply due to the logistics. It would be unfortunate to drop York -- but you have to bite the bullet somewhere . .

Scotland is my very favorite place on earth and I am biased toward more time there. But even limiting yourselves to Edinburgh and north - you can't see half the country in 8+ days. It is a big place, there are sooooooo many amazing places to see, and the travel is not fast.

Either drop York and SOME of your Scotland wish list, or include York and drop a LOT of your Scotland wish list. Tough choice.
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 10:31 AM
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Thank You all, and keep em' coming.

I found the road info very helpful.

I would never presume to play golf at St. Andrews. I'm a three handicap golfer. Unfortunately, my three handicaps are my woods, my irons, and my putter. No, really, I shoot in the low 90's. And if it wasn't for that damned back nine, I'd be fine. Hey, I can keep going with these bad jokes all day. Seriously, we'll find some little local 9 hole course in Perthshire somewhere, and be through and ready to leave before noon.

And my Scotch knowledge is not a bit off. "Them's fighting words". I know the Famous Grouse is a blend, and the biggest seller in Scotland. I just thought that since they were close to where I'm staying, and seem to have a nice visitor center, that I might go there.

I already have Macallan in the 10 (fine oak) 12, 15 (fine oak) 18 (several vintages) and 25 year varieties, so I don't need more of those. I just mentioned that I like that and Glendronach, which tends to show my preference for the sherried single malts. I’m also partial, for example, to Balvenie, where I have the 10, 12 (doublewood) 15 (single cask) 21 (port wood finish), and 25 year olds. I also drink non-sherried, although not as much. The ones I don’t like are the ones that have the highest scores from Malt Whisky Advocate and similar ratings, (theoretically the best) which are the overly peaty ones from the Isle of Islay. I have Aberlour to Talisker, and many in between. Okay, finished showing off. I’ve done wine tours in Napa, and want to know which are the prettiest/most convenient/best visitor centers at Scotch Distilleries.

Assuming that I do spend one day in York (which I didn’t get to do during my trip to England because it was too far North), Leave first thing Thursday morning for Scotland, must return to Manchester by Thursday night one week later, Please help me narrow my list of things to do/places to go. Also, No one has commented yet on my choices for accommodations.

Thank you all so much

Steve
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 10:34 AM
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And BigRuss:

Although I have both Glenlivet and Glenfiddich for the unitiated, I don't drink them myself. I do like the Fiddich Solera Reserve, but, again, that's a sherried one.

Steve
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 10:48 AM
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Stand down on the subpoenas, senator. You said single malt and Famous Grouse in the same vicinity.

I used "dual carriageway" and motorway interchangeably. There are not many M roads (motorways) in Scotland and essentially none north of Perth, which isn't far north at all.

For unique whiskies, go for the independent bottlers and the lesser known distilleries. I've a Mortlach from Murray Mc that would be right up your alley. Edradour would work for you too. The shuttered distilleries' last products may be less expensive in Scotland (Brora, Port Ellen, etc), but I don't know.

Two Islays that do NOT have big peat tastes are Bunnahabhin and most of the Bowmores. I tend to go for stuff that's cask strength or stick with something that has a real kick like the Islays, Talisker, and HP. It's whisky, not wine.
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 11:04 AM
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"Also, No one has commented yet on my choices for accommodations."

Your exact accommodations don't really matter that much -- all are in the same general area.

St Fillans is the most remote and would add a lot of extra to-ing and fro-ing and drive time to most days

I prefer Dunkeld to Pitlochry. Pitlochry is larger and has more services -- but it is very touristy. Dunkeld is prettier. Dunkeld is farther south and would add some to drive times going north. Pitlochry is farther north and would add to some of your drive times south and east.

If it was me and all things being equal, I'd choose Dunkeld hands down.

As for the golf at St Andrews. There are several other courses in St Andrews other than the Old Course so being a duffer wouldn't be an issue. But if you don't want to play in St Andrews -- be sure to visit the city on a Sunday. There is no play on the Old Course on Sundays and it becomes a huge city park. You could walk out over the whole course - into Hell Bunker, across the Swilken Burn bridge, etc.

Someone mentioned Gleneagles -- No --very expensive and not for just casual players. There are local courses everywhere including Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Blairgowrie and Crieff so that won't be a problem. No need to pre book most places -in fact sometimes greens fees are paid via an honesty box.
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Old Apr 14th, 2011, 11:14 AM
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Oh and about walking on the Old Course - you can't imagine how huge those double greens are or how deep some of the bunkers -- until you actually see them upp close and personal . . .

And there is the bonus of the west sands - the beach that runs alongside the front nine and is where they filmed the famous scene from Chariots of Fire. After seeing the old Course and beach, you can walk to the other end of town to see the castle and Cathedral.
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