In our Scotland travel answers, we hope you find reassurance that, because Scotland is a small country with great diversity in landscape in comparatively short distances, you can see quite a lot in a limited time.
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On the other hand, you still need to have reasonable expectations of your Scotland travel. While the road network, for example, is good, the whole country is not yet covered in four-lane highways (dual carriageways), so your Scotland travel plans have to take account of local conditions. The Scotland travel question below we found especially interesting, as it shows how it isn't always easy to assess distances in Scotland - especially in the short days of winter.
Hi Gilbert, My wife and I are planning a one week vacation to Scotland in February, would this be a good time to go weather-wise? cultural-wise (festivals etc.)? We plan on going to Edinburgh for a couple of days. Taste some whiskey, see the Edinburgh castle, go on a tour or two, but mainly just soak up the town's culture. Then we were planning on driving to Isle of Skye for the latter part of the trip. How long would this take? Are there sites to see along the way worth mentioning? I would like to see Glencoe as well on the way; is this near Isle of Skye? Anything would help, and any research material recommendations would help too. Also, I am a geologist here in the states, and would like to do some 'geolgizing/hikes' in the Isle of Skye area. Could you recommend an outfitter, or personal guide that could take us on some hikes and show us around? Thanks! –Ollie / United States
Thanks for your email. Here are some Scotland travel answers. You ask about February in Scotland. Weather predictions in this oceanic edge-of-Europe climate that we experience/endure here are notorious for going awry. But I'd say, bluntly, that February is far from a good month. OK, the days are lengthening a bit, but you'd still be running out of daylight on Skye around 5pm in mid-month. I suppose that leaves a whole evening to curl up with a good malt whisky - but an excursion to the west and north of Scotland at that time of the year also means there might be snow cover on ground above, say, 2500 ft or lower, blanketing the geology a little as well!
Here is some more detailed information on Scottish Highlands weather (though I admit it doesn't cover winter!)
This is not the same as saying - do not come, the weather will be bad, you understand. But the risk of weather getting in the way of your travel plans is definitely a possibility in winter in Scotland. (To be honest, giving weather advice can be the hardest part of offering our readers some Scotland travel answers.) The other side of the coin is that you may get a high pressure system that keeps everything calm with lovely crisp clear days in the west and north. As for who can guide you when you are there, there are plenty of qualified mountain guides resident on Skye – suggest you start with ‘Skye guides’ as a search term. The Scottish Tourist Guides Association will also be a source, though some of them tend to be a bit less roughie-toughie and outdoorsy!
Timing for Edinburgh to Skye drive: as you are a geologist, I'd say go through Glen Coe (pictured above) on the way, and as you'll stop quite a lot, basically allow all day! I mean leave Edinburgh around 9am and expect to be in your accommodation by, say 5pm. It's at least 200 miles.
Edinburgh has plenty to see throughout the year by way of its heritage and its museums etc, plus performances by arts and music organisations (eg Scottish Opera). I also happened to notice that there are two international rugby matches in town during February 2013 - on the 9th and the 24th, which will put a little pressure on the accommodation, though hardly as much as at peak times during August.
Finally, as you base yourself in Edinburgh, as part of the information we are happy to share in our Scotland travel answers, I'd also say you might want to visit Siccar Point, east along the coast, just into the Scottish Borders, where James Hutton first found his proof for the age of the Earth and realised the great 'abyss of time' the rocks represented. (I don't think I need say more about him to a geologist!) Easy to reach if you rent a car, OK by bus if you don't mind hiking a bit. There is also a whisky distillery (Glenkinchie), within easy reach of the city. Hope all this helps.
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Scotland in Three Days