For our Scotland tour answers we dig into our combined knowledge (for two of us) of about half-a-century in the Scottish tourism industry. (Ohmygosh. And we look so young.......) Of course, these are just our subjective views on the best places. But we’ve taken tours all over Scotland and we know what visitors have enjoyed....
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Hi, I have never been to Scotland. Everyone talks about seeing the famous 'Scottish Highlands'. I am planning a five day tour to have some glimpses of Scottish Highlands. Could you please recommend one or two places as such? Thanks! Asad, UK.
Yes, the Highlands of Scotland certainly have a reputation as a scenic area and often turns up as a topic in our Scotland tour answers. In general, the commonest route from, say, Edinburgh into the Scottish Highlands, goes from Edinburgh to Inverness, (you could break the journey at Aviemore to explore the Cairngorm National Park if time.) Inverness - a small city - is sometimes called the ‘Capital of the Highlands’.
Then many visitors go south-west from Inverness down the Great Glen, along by Loch Ness stopping at Urquhart Castle, this loch is famous for its monster legend. Reaching Fort William below Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain (with gondola-type chairlift rides on neighbouring mountain Aonach Mor [Nevis Range] - a great trip if weather is good!), the route then returns to central Scotland via Glencoe (outstandingly scenic) and Crianlarich via Loch Lomond to Glasgow. The advantage of this is that it is pretty straightforward by public transport.
You could allocate an overnight in Edinburgh, then two nights in Inverness, with excursion options there; followed by two nights in Fort William to include a trip on the Fort William to Mallaig railway (the one with the viaduct made famous by appearing in the Harry Potter movies).
If driving, then the Isle of Skye could go on your list of possible detour destinations – it’s certainly spectacular (especially if you drive from Broadford down to Elgol - for one of the best views on the island). The western ferry port of Oban (useful rail connections) is another option for a couple of nights, with day-trip ferry and cruising options to see more islands and the magnificent western seaboard.
If using public transport, then the Freedom of Scotland Travel Pass available from our train operator ScotRail - pic (right) of a ScotRail train on the edge of Rannoch Moor - might be worth considering as part of your Scotland tour answers. It covers travel on trains, ferries and a selection of bus and coach services throughout Scotland.
My husband and I are going to be in England for 10 days and have decided to visit southern Scotland (driving up from London) for 3 days. We are thinking Edinburgh but also really want to see dramatic lochs, castles and hills. I have always wanted to see Scotland and its beauty. Where do you recommend we visit? I was thinking of staying the 3 nights in Edinburgh but if you have better ideas, we would be extremely grateful for a Scotland tour answer. Thanks / Gail, Gibraltar
Well, Gail, if you are driving up the east coast of the UK, you should certainly take a look at Berwick-upon-Tweed, though it’s still in England (!), if time permits. (I'm sure we can mention it in a Scotland tour answers page!) It’s extraordinarily complete Elizabethan fortifications give it a unique ambience, unlike anywhere else on either side of the Border. You can walk right round the town walls. Try The Maltings Kitchen for a delicious lunch and a wonderful view over the roof tops and the River Tweed.
Or heading inland, you can explore the Scottish Borders – the area south of Edinburgh - here you will discover plenty of castles and fine historic houses such as visiting Floors Castle at Kelso or Traquair House near Innerleithen. Peebles and Melrose are pretty towns and St Mary’s Loch is a lovely spot.
If you spend three nights in Edinburgh, you could also take a day trip to the Trossachs. (You’d be there in about an hour – it is north-west of Edinburgh.) That would tick the box marked dramatic lochs and hills. Drive up to Callander and then head into the Trossachs visiting the lovely Loch Katrine - pictured below, distantly on the left - where you can cruise the loch and enjoy the scenery. As part of this day out you could visit Stirling Castle or Doune Castle (used in famous scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)
Or, from Edinburgh, take a driving trip along the East Lothian coastline. OK, it certainly isn’t the Highlands, but Dirleton Castle and Tantallon are certainly dramatic. Plus you can visit a distillery at Glenkinchie near Pencaitland. Gullane and Aberlady are very pretty villages too. North Berwick is a lovely attractive town to explore – with little boutique shops, a beach and nice places to eat (plus it is reachable by direct train if you don’t want to drive that day.) These little places within easy reach of Edinburgh help often help with Scotland tour answers.
If coming up from ‘The South’ – as we call anywhere south of, say, Edinburgh! – then for somewhere totally different, swing off to Scotland’s less well-known south west and spend time in Galloway. Relaxing, uncrowded, it’s a kind of ‘hidden gem’ area! Glen Trool in the Galloway Forest Park looks very like the Trossachs – so there are your rugged hills and lochs. Little towns like Kirkcudbright are also very scenic. But we understand the lure of Scotland’s capital can be hard to resist.
Have a great trip!
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Scotland in Three Days