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A trip to Scotland - Any suggestions?

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A trip to Scotland - Any suggestions?

Postby Zulumika » Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:14 pm

So it's booked. I'm going to Scotland. From Canada, it's not that far away... My wife and I will be flying Zoom Airlines from Ottawa to Glasgow on Sept 16 2006 and, for the first time of my life, it's gonna be first class!! Oh yeah! We come back Oct. 7 2006, so 3 weeks is not much but I'll have to make the most of it.

I tell you this because we haven't planed much yet. We want to rent a car but, we're still looking for cities, castles, pubs, shops, musems and of course distilleries... What to do, what to see? We even thought to rent a small house and stay there for the second week to relax and unplugg. We would like to get a room in a castle for 1 or 2 night as our wedding anniversary. Any ideas?

I'd like to experience Scotland like it is and not through typical tourist attractions. Bed and breakfast? Hotels? Take the car through city X of walk? Go south or north? Or both?

Any suggestions (any at all, a place, a road, a web link, a phone number) is greatly appreciated.

Cheers.
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Postby Jan » Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:55 pm

Hi Zulumika

Sounds good - quite envious :D My first Scotland trip will have to wait a couple of years....

So, no firsthand advice, but you can find a few links to previous threads on scotland traveling advice in the faq

Also check out Mr. THs very good travel diary in the the chat forum: MF2MoG

Have a nice trip

Cheers
Jan
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Postby DramMeister » Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:57 pm

You could try reading Iain Banks Raw Spirits for ideas
It's a whisky travelogue - quite entertaining - also has extension descriptions of the best roads in the highlands to drive along.
I personally enjoy the Eastern Highlands more than the West, so where better to stay than Speyside?
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Apr 04, 2006 10:57 pm

DramMeister, all the best scenery is in the west!

Zulumika, I suggest you start by spending several hours browsing through the Undiscovered Scotland site (http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk). Now let's narrow it down:

Do you want to visit distilleries? How many? Do you have a favorite?

You want to see castles? Atmospheric ruins, or stately homes?

How interested in history are you? Archeology? There are some amazing sites--stone circles, chambered cairns, etc.

I'm afraid I've given Glasgow short shrift in all my visits, as I find Edinburgh far more attractive, but I'm sure someone here will argue with me. (For your sake, I hope they do.) But I think it worthwhile to start with a couple days in Edinburgh. It's a little tricky, but see if you can get there from the airport in Glasgow without a car. Visit the castle and the Royal Mile, and at least take a run through the museum for an overview of the country's history.

Then head north. There are a lot of attractions in the south, in the Borders and in Dumfries & Galloway, but I think the Highlands are what most people want to see.

You can see a lot in three weeks. The trick is to find a balance between moving and settling. Three nights in any one place gives you two full days to explore it. If you're going to spend a week in one spot, you'll want to be sure that it's a good spot.

B&B's are the way to go in my mind. They offer a good way to meet local people and fellow travelers, although you shouldn't be surprised to find many of them being run by English incomers!

I always push Orkney, because I think it is an awesome place. But if you go there, you will want three full days at the very least.

I don't know about staying in a castle...I can't afford that stuff! But look in the back pages of Scotland Magazine (WM's sister publication) for listings of upscale accommodation.

Here's a twenty-day sample itinerary:

1. Edinburgh
2. Edinburgh
3. Craigellachie (Speyside)
4. Craigellachie
5. Craigellachie
6. Inverness
7. Inverness
8. Plockton
9. Plockton
10. Skye
11. Skye
12. Skye
13. Fort William
14. Glencoe
15. Islay
16. Islay
17. Islay
18. Inveraray
19. Glasgow
20. Glasgow

That's just off the top of my head. Do some research, come back with more questions. You'll have a great trip!
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Postby toshie » Wed Apr 05, 2006 8:41 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:I'm afraid I've given Glasgow short shrift in all my visits, as I find Edinburgh far more attractive, but I'm sure someone here will argue with me. (For your sake, I hope they do.)

And here he comes, right on cue :lol: Glasgow is a beautiful Victorian city with plenty to see and do. It's consistently voted the best shopping experience outside London so that would give Mrs Z a break from distilleries, castles, ancient ruins. It's got the Pot Still - the best whisky pub in the world - again (Whisky Mag), the revamped and totally wonderful Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, Mackintosh's Scotland Street School, the Willow Tea Rooms. It has two distilleries on its doorstep, Auchentoshan and Glengoyne and is 20 or so miles from Loch Lomond where the scenery begins. And it's got something Edinburgh only ever aspires to - perhaps the friendliest people in the world(except those, of course, armed with glass whisky tumblers) :( (No payment was received from Greater Glasgow Tourist Board during the making of this post)
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Postby SpiritofShetland » Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:48 pm

I'd advise you to try to time your Speyside-visit to match with the Speyside Whisky Festival in Dufftown (22nd Sept to 25th Sept).
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Postby DramMeister » Thu Apr 06, 2006 9:04 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:DramMeister, all the best scenery is in the west!



I can't disagree with that. It just seemed to me a long way between everywhere. Maybe because I'm not used to that in England. We found people friendlier and the pubs better on that side. And less midges!
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Apr 07, 2006 12:30 am

I guess the distances don't seem so great to North Americans! I've never been south of York--Cumbria, Northumbria, Durham, the Dales--but I know what you mean.
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Postby ScotchBlog » Sat Apr 08, 2006 4:49 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:I guess the distances don't seem so great to North Americans!


True. When it takes only 4-5 hours to drive across the country from Kennacraig to Craigellachie (by way of Oban). And it takes me 2 hours to drive "up the road to Washington DC" the distances don't seem very far.
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Postby kljostad » Thu Apr 13, 2006 12:17 pm

I'we been two Scottland twice, and both times we went to Glasgow. The reason we we preferred Glasgow over Edinburgh, is that we don't like tourist traps.

Glasgow is not what you think of as a tourist place. It is in many ways like London. Great shopping, great pubs and friendly people. What I really enjoyed in Glasgow, was the arcitecture. You will find a lot of Victorian huses, but also some very fancy modern arcitecture.

I had four great experiences in Glasgow:
1) The Pot Still. I was convinced that I had dies and gone to heaven. By far the best whiskey-pub I have been in. I was almost sad to find out I was still alive...

2) Charles Rennie MacIntosh. This great man has been the arcitect behnind a lot of the impressive buildings you can find in Glasgow. These places is tourist attracions in themselves. He has also designed the Willow Tea Room, a perfect place to have your tea. Do yourself a favor and visit the MacIntosh museum. It is great!

3) The Spice Garden. One of the best Indian restaurants I have visited. It looks like it has been decorated by a gay gipsy, but the food is great.

4) Stand up. There is a stand-up venue in Glasgow. If you like the challenge of understanding glasweegian, and like a laugh, this is something to consider.
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Postby The Dazzler » Thu Apr 13, 2006 1:26 pm

Hi Zulumika,

If you are looking for a castle to stay in you could check out Culzean castle. It is in Ayrshire south of Glasgow and will cost a fair bit of cash however I am sure it would be an experience like no other. Culzean must be one of the best casltes in the UK. You should be able to find out more info on a National trust for Scotland website.

Thereafter however you should head for the Highlands via Edinburgh. If its distilleries you are after head for Speyside, where you will find one with each turning you take, (or thereabouts).

If you are loking for scenery then heading for the North West and the far North tip of Scotland, you will be blown away.

If in the Speyside region you could stay at the Craigellachie hotel home of one of Scotlands best stocked whisky bars or in the same village the Highlander Inn, (a less expensive option).

In the west visit the Drumchork Lodge hotel in Aultbea, (just south of Ullapool), here you will find Scotlands smallest distillery, ( no not Edradour)!!

From Ullapool you can ferry to Stornaway and then on to Harris to find some os Scotlands best beaches.

Across the top of Scotland you can find some of the most rugged landscapes and most unusual beaches on the way to John O groats, from where you could travel to Orkney, a mystical world, and the Highland Park distillery.

Head home via Inverness then the Perthshire route back to Glasgow and back to the airport at Glasgow. Plenty of distilleries and historical sites on the way.

Slainte!!
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Apr 13, 2006 1:50 pm

kljostad wrote:I'we been two Scottland twice, and both times we went to Glasgow. The reason we we preferred Glasgow over Edinburgh, is that we don't like tourist traps.


I think that's rather cutting off your nose to spite your face.
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Postby Lawrence » Thu Apr 13, 2006 6:04 pm

I agree, there is a huge amount of things to see in Edinburgh including many museums and art galleries AND TWO venues of the SMWS! A number of the museums and art galleries are either free to the public or have a minimal charge. And the castle! It's a two day visit in itself.
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Postby Virginia Gentleman » Thu Apr 13, 2006 7:32 pm

Maybe you could start in Edinburgh at the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre.

http://www.whisky-heritage.co.uk/index.html
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Apr 13, 2006 11:35 pm

I can sympathize with the desire to avoid tourist traps, but there's a big difference between that and tourist-friendly or tourist-interesting. (I've never set foot in Deacon Brodie's, for example.) If you want to avoid tourists altogether, just stay off the Royal Mile. But you'll miss a lot.
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Postby karlejnar » Fri Apr 14, 2006 8:41 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:(I've never set foot in Deacon Brodie's, for example.) If you want to avoid tourists altogether, just stay off the Royal Mile. But you'll miss a lot.

I'm curious about Deacon Brodie's - do you avoid it because of the tourists, or another reason? We have been in there a couple of times, and although it's crowded, they serve nice pub food. (Actually the restaurant is upstairs, but we cannot go there, since my wife is in wheelchair)

Agreed on the Royal Mile - we always take a stroll up and down. It's a part of the city, and although crowded with tourists, it has some good shopping places if you take your time and seek them out.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Apr 14, 2006 3:12 pm

Karlejnar, if you've been in Deacon Brodie's, you know more about it than I do, and I will defer. Might even check it out for a bite sometime. But as the most visible pub on the Mile, it just feels like a tourist trap to me. Also, I much prefer to frequent pubs that serve cask ale, and the one time I stuck my nose in there, I didn't see any handpumps. Do tell me if I missed them!

I spend as much of my pub time as possible in Edinburgh in the Bow Bar. They do not serve food, alas, so often I grab a quick pub meal in the Black Bull in the Grassmarket or the Standing Order in George Street. Not exactly gourmet fare, and I probably ought to check out some of the many fine restaurants in town; but I'm always so keen to get into the Bow!

It's unfortunate that accessibility is an issue, but in an old area like the Mile, it's unavoidable. That's something we bipedal locomotors don't even give a thought to most of the time. I had a good friend with MS--no longer with us, rest his soul--and even here, with all our ADA laws, it was a problem sometimes.
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Postby Xavier » Fri Apr 14, 2006 3:47 pm

Hi,

I've been to Scotland a couple of times now, and there are three places that I really will never forget and made quite an impression on me : Dunnotar Castle in Stonehaven (near Aberdeen), the northern route along the shores from Thurso to Ullapool (quite an extrordinary scenery) and of course Glen Coe.

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Postby Lawrence » Fri Apr 14, 2006 5:48 pm

I had dinner and a few drams at Deacon Brodies, yes it was a bit touristy but it was a nice place with good food, it's worth the visit if you hungry on the Mile.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Apr 14, 2006 6:04 pm

Xavier wrote:Hi,

I've been to Scotland a couple of times now, and there are three places that I really will never forget and made quite an impression on me : Dunnotar Castle in Stonehaven (near Aberdeen), the northern route along the shores from Thurso to Ullapool (quite an extrordinary scenery) and of course Glen Coe.

Xavier


Three good ones indeed! Love the north and northwest coasts--impossible mountains in the distance, stunning little pocket beaches, not to mention Smoo Cave. Now if only someone would open a distillery in, say, Tongue. I'd buy a bottle of Tongue, wouldn't you? Think of the possible ad campaigns--"Slip him the Tongue", etc.
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Postby ewan84 » Mon Apr 17, 2006 11:32 am

In my opinion its all down to what whisky you like. I would start by heading down the west coast and doing Campbeltown. With the newly opened Glengyle Distillery (which will produce a malt called Kilkerran when it finally releases in 2014!) and Springbank which now produces three distinct malts (Springbank, Longrow and the new Hazelburn) along with the semi-operational Glen Scotia, there is a lot of Whisky for such a small place - especially if you consider that at one point there were over 30 distilleries in operation in the town. Accommodation wise, I would recommend the Ardshiel Hotel ( http://ardshiel.co.uk/ ) as it has a tremendous bar with over 280 malts.

Perhaps I'm a bit biased towards Campbeltown being an ex-native, but it really is worth checking out...

From there its only a short trip to Islay (a half hour drive followed by a short ferry trip). Spend a few days there and check out the distilleries and take in the Islay atmosphere. The people are fantastic and the scenery divine.

From there, take the ferry back over and go north to Oban then to Fort William. From here it is easy to launch yourself into the Highlands and Speyside. I personally would head towards Inverness from Fort William before making tracks for Aberdeen and then St Andrews and Edinburgh.

With careful planning this should be easy for three weeks, although it would be a rather whisky intensive tour. If you prefer something a bit more relaxed then instead of heading over to the east coast I would stay in the West (far better scenery and friendlier people) and spend some time on Skye. I could get lost there for months its that beautiful.

Virginia Gentleman wrote:Maybe you could start in Edinburgh at the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre.

http://www.whisky-heritage.co.uk/index.html


No, no, no, and no again. Awful tour and the guides know nothing. Purely a tourist thing and not for real whisky lovers. When I went I asked why they didn't list Campbeltown as a region and the guide actually lied to me. I was told that they went by Michael Jackson's definition of regions and he did not consider it to be so. Didn't get much response when I countered with the fact that he does...

Rather than go to that god awful place go to the Scotch Malt Whisky Tasting Society in Edinburgh. This place is for the real whisky lover. Check out more info here:
http://www.smws.co.uk/
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Apr 17, 2006 2:53 pm

Second on the Ardshiel Hotel. I've only been to Campbeltown once; it's a pretty quiet town, or seemed so to me. Is Springbank taking visitors now?
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Apr 17, 2006 8:12 pm

The presentation from Springbank at the Munich Whisky Festival in February suggested that visitors were now welcome at Springbank.

In fact, they even brought along some samples from their "Living Cask" which is a cask they top up with whatever is available and ONLY OFFER TO VISITORS in their VISITOR CENTRE!

They said it was on average a 9 year old at the moment and if you take my advice, it isn't worth going for on its own.
But the full visit / tour may be worth the trip!

Oh, if you can't find the distillery, the advice was "drive down the narrow lane opposite the chinese takeaway".

WH
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Springbank Tours

Postby ewan84 » Mon Apr 17, 2006 10:45 pm

Yeah they are. You have a choice of just Springbank or Springbank and Glengyle (Kilkerran). I've not done the Glengyle tour yet as I'm home very rarely - most of my time I spend in Edinburgh enjoying the student life.
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Postby Lawrence » Tue Apr 18, 2006 3:56 am

Thye've been doing tours for years, I went in 2000 and the year before.
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