Two weeks in Scotland - Need Help

Old Apr 11th, 2024, 04:15 PM
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Two weeks in Scotland - Need Help

Long story short is that I booked a trip to 2 week trip to Scotland and then a lot of life got in the way leaving me completely unprepared and trying to decide if I cancel or go and make the best of it. We're now 10 days out from a trip that has a general plan, but my typical travel planning of months and months of reading travel guides and forums hasn't happened. This will be our first time visiting the country

Just looking for some suggestions and recommendations of areas we should stay. I do have a few places to stay booked, but haven't been able to figure out if the locations are good yet and what I should do. Feeling quite overwhelmed

We will have a rental car for the entire trip
Definitely love hiking and nature and this is the top wish for our trip.
Prefer accommodations with a refrigerator due to special diet and medication
Will definitely want to visit a couple castles and distilleries
Love all things Scottish

3 Nights Edinburgh
1 Night St. Andrews
1 Night Aberdeen
2 Nights Inverness
2 Nights Portree
1 Night near Invergarry
2 Nights Oban
3 Nights Glasgow

Greatly appreciate any advice on planning a last minute trip and must see/do things. I'm going to continue looking through the forum all night trying to decide if I can pull this off
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Old Apr 11th, 2024, 05:39 PM
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Welcome to Fodors --

"We will have a rental car for the entire trip"

Hopefully you didn't mean this literally -- You definitely do not need or want a car for the time you are in Edinburgh or in Glasgow.

As for the rest of your itinerary -- you are spending a lot of time driving, checking in, checking out and driving some more. You will see plenty of nature but will have little to no time to hike almost anywhere. Which places have you already booked and which if any of those care cancelable/changeable?

Some of the practicalities and issues:

3 Nights Edinburgh = 2 full days and if you are flying in long haul maybe jet lagged, so not very much time for Edinburgh


1 Night St. Andrews = leaves you just half a day for St Andrews and all of Fife (fishing villages, St Andrews, the Isle of May, etc.)

1 Night Aberdeen = Is there a reason you picked Aberdeen? In any case this will give you half a day for Aberdeen and any/all of Deeside and the Castle Trail

2 Nights Inverness = 1 full day for everything near Inverness - Culloden, Clava Cairns, Ft George, whatever

2 Nights Portree = One full day on Skye. It is a very large island and the travel is quite slow so you will see a little bit of Skye

1 Night near Invergarry = 1/2 a day. Are you booked in to Glenrgarry Castle Hotel? If not ,I might choose Glencoe instead

2 Nights Oban

3 Nights Glasgow

In 'real life' to hit all the places on your itinerary with enough time for hiking/exploring would require 20+ nights, not 15.

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Old Apr 11th, 2024, 07:39 PM
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I'd bypass Aberdeen, personally. And I don't know that two nights on Skye are necessary. I'd add another night or two in St Andrews. But then I'm a golfer.
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Old Apr 11th, 2024, 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffhullinger3220
I'd bypass Aberdeen, personally. And I don't know that two nights on Skye are necessary. I'd add another night or two in St Andrews. But then I'm a golfer.

Please clarify what do you mean by 2 nights on Skye being unnecessary?? Are you suggesting they skip Skye altogether -- or -- that one night is enough?? If one wants/needs to visit Skye, then one night is definitely inadequate (so is two nights IMO)
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Old Apr 11th, 2024, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj
Please clarify what do you mean by 2 nights on Skye being unnecessary?? Are you suggesting they skip Skye altogether -- or -- that one night is enough?? If one wants/needs to visit Skye, then one night is definitely inadequate (so is two nights IMO)
Skye is a beautiful place, certainly, but the single day we spent touring it was sufficient for both my wife and me. But it was important that we see it. So I guess even zero nights there can be adequate for some people.

There's no single answer that addresses every traveler's interests. If I've given the impression that my preferences should apply to everyone, my apologies. Certainly didn't intend to suggest that. Anyone who wants to spend a whole month on Skye shouldn't be criticized for doing so. But for my wife and me, other sites and sights in the Highlands were more stimulating. And we'll return this summer to see more of them.
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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 05:41 AM
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I’d add more to Skye since hiking and the great outdoors/superb landscapes are of interest…2 full days , to me, is a minimum for the island which is pretty big and the finest sights are fairly spread out.I’d steal that time from Aberdeen unless there are particular castles there that have drawn your interest .It’s a fair old detour otherwise to Aberdeen/the hinterland.

There are distilleries in all the areas you plan to be so though you may have to book in advance.

Also…2 nights in Inverness….for Culloden/Clava Cairns/Cawdor Castle...? Don’t go for the city itself which is not worth time.

Oban is ideal if you plan a trip over to Mull but I’d then base on Mull itself for 2 nights.

I’d also cut a night in Glasgow unless you see it as a base for, for example, a day trip to Culzean Castle which is a beauty and easily accessed by car from the city.


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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 07:01 AM
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One thing this thread has demonstrated conclusively is that people have very different priorities and interests when traveling. The notion that Inverness is a waste of time, or that one "needs" several days to enjoy Skye are very different from my travel interests, yet obviously they coincide perfectly with others. If we're lucky we choose life partners whose interests match ours; lucky me!
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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 07:44 AM
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jeff-- From some of your other posts it seems you love Inverness and feel Skye is meh. DogsAreFun specifically mentioned hikes and nature are their main interests, so perhaps (just perhaps ) your interests and theirs don't mesh??

"But it was important that we see it. So I guess even zero nights there can be adequate for some people." Maybe I'm wrong,but that does seem a bit 'box checking'. In one day you could have only seen a small fraction of the the main beauty spots on Skye.

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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj
jeff-- From some of your other posts it seems you love Inverness and feel Skye is meh. DogsAreFun specifically mentioned hikes and nature are their main interests, so perhaps (just perhaps ) your interests and theirs don't mesh??

"But it was important that we see it. So I guess even zero nights there can be adequate for some people." Maybe I'm wrong,but that does seem a bit 'box checking'. In one day you could have only seen a small fraction of the the main beauty spots on Skye.
You appear to disapprove of my remarks, so I'll just leave the thread to you and those you agree with. I'll just close with a remark that I think Skye is a gorgeous place and we genuinely enjoyed our visit.
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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 08:19 AM
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The "Skye vs. Mull" and similar debates can become a bit tiresome; both are superb destinations worthy of as much time as one can make available. That's the trouble with Scotland - an embarrassment of riches, but for those on a time budget (or a money budget) the inevitable dilemma arises - what to see, what to skip, what to substitute...?

A trip coming up in ten days' time (now nine) meaning, the third week in April, is not going to be the same as one coming up in July or August. I don't like to harp on weather as a determining factor for holiday plans, but for someone who says, ...definitely love hiking and nature and this is the top wish for our trip, ignoring this question can result in disappointment or the need to reschedule or replan things on the fly, as it were. This is particularly problematic when an itinerary is so packed with destinations that one missed stop can have a domino effect on everything left on the list, if you get my meaning.

We don't know where the OP is coming from or whether jetlag might be an issue; all we know is that they want/need accommodations with an in-room fridge, which is already going to limit their options pretty significantly. Have they driven on the left before? Is this their first trip to Britain? With only one post, the OP's posting options are reduced compared to long-timers', so we'll have to make assumptions.

So my recommendations, worth no more or less than anyone else's, go like this.

1. Less is more. Trim the list of destinations and spend more time in a few rather than a short time in many.

2. Be realistic on hiking and nature. The west of Scotland and the Inner Hebrides can be very pleasant in the spring, but things can become misty and rainy and windy and downright miserable on very short notice. At higher elevations and in moorland, spring comes late, and walking about can be a muddy and wet experience.

3. Plan indoor and outdoor activities. I would argue that one might benefit by choosing destinations that offer some of each so if the weather turns foul there are still enjoyable places to go and things to see, even if it's through some car windows.

So where would I go and for how long? Obviously I have my preferences like all the other posters, so disagreement is likely and welcomed.

I'd do a three-"base" itinerary: Edinburgh, Deeside and Oban/Argyll. No Inverness, no Skye, 20 minutes in St. Andrews passing through if that. Here's why:

Edinburgh is one of Europe's great cities, and visiting in late April means you'll have it without being surrounded by thousands and thousands of other visitors. Queues to get into places will be minimal or nil, if the weather's okay you can enjoy the Dean Path, the Botanics, walk around Holyrood Park to Duddingston to see the birds on the loch and have a pint and a good meal at the Sheep Heid, head to Sandy Bell's for beer with your music... lots of things. If you want to take a day trip, head east to North Berwick or Dunbar, pleasant fishing communities, or to the East Neuk of Fife, or to St. Andrews, maybe with a stop to see the Falkland Palace gardens in (duh) Falkland, a gorgeous wee village that stood in for Inverness in Outlander.

The Dee Valley, inland (west) from Aberdeen is castle country, and because it's east of the Cairngorms it tends to be a little drier and more springlike before the west catches up. With a base in the likes of Ballater or Braemar you can see numerous castles, visit numerous distilleries, and still be in the middle of some terrific Highland scenery.

Argyll is home to Mull, Iona, Staffa and numerous other islands in the Inner Hebrides. But it's also home to some terrific destinations on the mainland, accessible by car quite easily from a base in Oban (where you're more likely to find accommodations that meet your criteria than in smaller places.) Mull is obviously a prime destination, but if you want a unique nature/hiking destination (weather permitting) visits to historic Iona and spectacular Staffa will fill the bill. Staffa, home to Fingal's Cave, will also be welcoming its flocks of puffins this month, not to mention seals, dolphins and otters in the waters surrounding the islands.

Back on the mainland, one can do an easy loop drive in a day that includes Kilmartin with its dozens of prehistoric sites, lovely Inveraray with its pompous castle, home of Clan Campbell, the scenic ruins of Kilchurn Castle overlooking Loch Awe, Glens Etive and Coe, and maybe a stop to look at Castle Stalker, aka the Castle of Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh! in a Monty Python movie. https://maps.app.goo.gl/4DVMjbFhoajCVZZaA

So anyway, that's how I'd allocate two weeks in April in Scotland. Of course, others will disagree, but that's the nature of this business. We're a' Jock Tamson's bairns, after all.



Last edited by Gardyloo; Apr 12th, 2024 at 08:22 AM.
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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 09:31 AM
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Thank you all so much for the amazing responses…feeling very overwhelmed, but I’m hopeful we can still figure out a great trip.

With regards to a possible stay in Ballater…would this be a good location to also hike and explore Cairngorms National Park? It’s been hard to figure out the best way to see the park (where to drive, where to hike, etc.

I’m having a hard time figuring out how you visit Mull, Iona, Staffa…arranging for transportation between islands, where to stay, etc. What’s doable for 3-4 days there?

thanks
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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 10:12 AM
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"I'd do a three-"base" itinerary: Edinburgh, Deeside and Oban/Argyll. No Inverness, no Skye, 20 minutes in St. Andrews passing through if that. Here's why:"

Couldn't agree more. This would be a great holiday -- my initial post was basically using the framework of what you posted -- but as Gardyloo says 'less is more (sometimes a LOT more )

Ballater is a great location for many things -- I've stayed there several times three of which were for a whole week each and never ran out of things to do. Everything From Speyside (lots of distilleries) to all the castles of the 'Castle Trail' (that is how Deeside promotes itself), to the Cairngorms, to Aberdeen if you wanted a city fix are all easily accessed from Ballater

"
I’m having a hard time figuring out how you visit Mull, Iona, Staffa…arranging for transportation between islands, where to stay, etc. What’s doable for 3-4 days there?"

There is a frequent car ferry from Oban to Mull (there are other ferries to the island but they are more remote). Staying in either Tobermory or Fionnphort would work. Tobermory the only actual 'town' on the island with several B&Bs, hotels, restaurants etc., while Fionnphort is more of a hamlet but some B&Bs, a pub, restaurant and the foot ferry to Iona so everything one needs.
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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 10:15 AM
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Meant to add - boat trips out to Staffa leave from both Tobermory and Fionnphort. Though they definitely are weather dependent.
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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj
Meant to add - boat trips out to Staffa leave from both Tobermory and Fionnphort. Though they definitely are weather dependent.
​​​

Music by Felix Mendelssohn
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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 10:40 AM
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They sure had a glorious day for filming! The first time I went out to Staffa I was a bit leery (scared spitless truth be told) about walking around from the jetty and into the cave . . . but it was very easy.
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Old Apr 13th, 2024, 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by DogsAreFun
With regards to a possible stay in Ballater…would this be a good location to also hike and explore Cairngorms National Park? It’s been hard to figure out the best way to see the park (where to drive, where to hike, etc.
You need to understand that UK national parks are not the same sort of parklands as those in North America. National park status in the UK (and BTW Scotland had none until the 1980s due to resistance from landowners) has more to do with protecting the natural environment and appearance by restricting development, establishing design standards, and channeling recreational development into zones where the environment and infrastructure can handle it. Put Yosemite and Yellowstone out of your mind. But yes, Ballater is as good a place from which to explore the region as any, better than most.

Originally Posted by DogsAreFun
I’m having a hard time figuring out how you visit Mull, Iona, Staffa…arranging for transportation between islands, where to stay, etc. What’s doable for 3-4 days there?
See Janis' post above; alternatively if you want a no-drive day, you can take a "three isles" tour from Oban, which includes (part of) Mull, Iona and Staffa.

Three Isles Tour - Mull, Iona & Staffa - West Coast Tours

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Old Apr 13th, 2024, 07:33 AM
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Gardyloo's point re National Parks is worth repeating. UK NPs don't have entrance gates, nor fees, and you really won't notice much difference when you enter one. There are the villages and towns that existed long before the park was created, and commercial bldgs/petrol stations, and lots and lots of scenery -- just like most every other corner of the country. It is just that there is more control and safeguards. There is plenty of council/govt control elsewhere - there is just more levels of control in NPs.

Don't think of it as a 'destination' like Yosemite or Bryce Canyon but just more lovely scenery like you'll see elsewhere.


And if you don't want to stay ON Mull, the day tours from Oban are fine when one has time constraints.
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Old Apr 13th, 2024, 08:20 AM
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Ballater is a nice base for that side of Cairngorm and it's a definite possibility (I'm just back from another short family trip there this week.)Ballater in particular also gives you good, easy access to some lovely castles - Craigievar and Crathes are two of my favourites. Ballater (and Braemar) are very attractive villages close to some lovely country and walks.

But given where else you plan to go and your timescales, you could also consider the Aviemore side.
Aviemore doesn't have the charm of the two villages mentioned already though it is buzzy enough, but to me, for a first, quick visit, it offers you better and more spectacular walks and scenery (easy walks too, great path network.)

On route to Aviemore, up the A9, you have white turreted Blair Castle as a possible visit and, not too far from Culloden, Cawdor Castle.Lovely places though they don't , to me, quite have the appeal of Craigievar and Crathes. But they are still very impressive inside and out.











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Old Apr 13th, 2024, 08:27 AM
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Unfortunately Craigievar (one of my favorites in the entire country) is still closed -- has been for ages and all the website says is reopening 'late spring' which is probably optimistic IME. OP is traveling this month.
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Old Apr 14th, 2024, 10:23 AM
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That’s disappointing news janisj.Beautiful place and stunning inside.
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