Scotland: When to go? What to see?

I have always yearned to visit the ancestral homeland. I have decided to make it happen before another two years pass.

Question is when to go? What to see?

I and my traveling companion are both recovering alcoholics, so distillery tours, and pub crawls are off the table.

We are both nerdy techy types. Movie shoot locations, spectacular engineering, museums all good.

Hiking and other outdoorsy stuff also good.

I know I want to see and ride the <>Falkirk Wheel</URL>

I’d go in August for the Edinburgh Tattoo. My dad and I got a couple of hours in Edinburgh the week before when they were setting up for it (10 or so years ago) and it looked spectacular. I want to go back for the real thing.

Dunnottar ( has been used as an exterior for movie shoots, most recently in the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet. It’s also one of the inspirations for Merida’s family castle in Brave.

I’d imagine now that Outlander has aired, Inverness is on a lot of people’s lists!

I’ll just briefly comment. The final castle scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail was at Castle Stalker on Loch Linnhe in Port Appin, in Western Scotland. It’s a pretty cool location, not touristy at all. Just a castle on the lake. I worked at nearby Airds Hotel for a couple months (if you have the money, spend a night there. The food is outstanding top-of-the-line local cuisine, but pricey.) and nobody ever mentioned the fact. I only figured it out after watching the movie a year later and thinking…hey…that’s familiar.

It’s not necessarily a destination, but it really is one of the cooler castles I’ve seen and it’s got the nerd cred and movie shoot location qualities you’re looking for.

As for the outdoorsy stuff, not terribly far from there is Fort William (about 45 minutes away), home of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest point at 4,409 feet above sea level. While that may sound unimpressive, it’s actually a pretty cool hike and even in late May, the conditions were downright wintery (a practical white-out of snow) up there.

I love Scotland, and hope to return to it one day soon.

Keep in mind that it’s a “private” castle, or at least it was when the movie was made. In fact, that’s one of the reasons it was used - the organization that controls the “public” castles in Scotland refused permission (at pretty much the last minute, IIRC) for any of them to be used in the film, so they had to use privately-owned castles.

Yes. that’s correct. It’s still a pretty cool sight, a castle in the loch. :slight_smile:

From which bit of Scotland does your family hail? If it’s the north-west, you’re best off coming early to minimise the midges.

I recommend taking a ride on the West Highland Railway and making a visit to Oban, one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. The scenery is spectacular and really does invoke the Scotland of legend. You should also try to visit the Isle of Mull and the Isle of Skye.

Are you thinking about hiring a car? I’d seriously advise it if you aren’t.

Engineering? You are wanting to visit the Falkirk Wheel, so just close by are the Kelpies who guard the entrance to the Forth and Clyde canal which crosses the Central Belt

Neptune’s Staircase on the Caledonian Canal that crosses the country from the North Sea to the Atlantic coast, following a geologic fault of ancient age.

The Forth Bridge is a wonderful example of Victorian engineering - go over on the train from Edinburgh if you can. There’s the very long Forth Road Bridge right next to it, and right next to that is the construction going on of the third Forth bridge.

I had the pleasure of taking a week’s vacation in Scotland in both 1990 and 1991. I had my wife and kids with me.

We stayed at the British submarine base near Rhu and Helensburgh.

We visited the US submarine base at Sandbank, but it closed down years ago.

Glasgow. Saw an actual police box / TARDIS there.

Loch Lomond. Nice.

Lock Ness. Sure it’s a tourist trap and Nessie is BS, but it still was worth visiting.

Stirling Castle at Sterling was worth the trip.

Same goes for Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh.

Castle Stalker is a lovely place to explore a castle without being swarmed by hordes of tourists. And they also lend you coconuts at the gift shop, or they did when we visited.

Fly into London or York, and take the train to Edinburgh. Make sure you arrive at night. Get off the train at Waverly Station, step out onto the street, and feast your eyes. On one side, the brooding majesty of Edinburgh Castle and the medieval sprawl of the Royal Mile. To the other, the elegant 18th century glories of Calton Hill and the Princes’ Street. In front, the Salisbury Crags.

Seriously, at night and by train is the most breathtaking way to come in to Auld Reekie.

I spent about a week in Inverness and found a No-Nessie loch tour that was fun and fascinating. I take it back, there was about five minutes of very sensible debunking.

Scotland is about a third the size of Texas, and you can’t see it all in a year. Wonderful!

The Falkirk Kelpies the Baron mentioned are amazing, and you can walk down to them alongside the canal from the Falkirk Wheel. Hopefully they’ll have completed their visitor centre by the time you’re here.
The Forth Bridge is also well worth seeing; you can, if you like, take a boat trip from almost under the south side of it out to a ruined abbey on one of the islands and the boat goes right under it for a spectacular view from underneath. Depending how long it is until your holiday, they might have completed a viewing platform on top of one of the main towers! I have a feeling this project is running late, though.

In Edinburgh there’s the National Museum of Scotland, which is a building well worth seeing in it’s own right, let alone for the collections within, and there’s the Nelson Monument in the middle of the city, which still has a working timeball, but there’s also a Museum of Flight 20 miles east of the city, and Glasgow has a transport museum (among many others). Depends if that’s the right sort of nerdy/techy stuff for you! The tower at the Glasgow Science Centre might be fun to go up (if it’s open). And they have some great modern architecture nearby, like the Armadillo.

If you want to visit the Borders, a new way (instead of hire car or bus) to get to Galashiels/Melrose will be via the soon-to-be-opened Waverley railway line from Edinburgh. It was closed back in the 1960s but will be re-opened next September. The terminus at Melrose is within fairly easy walking distance of Sir Walter Scott’s house at Abbotsford.

Hairy coos!

Wow I’ll be just down the way from Faslane in early December. My family lives out on the Rosneath Peninsula.

While I usually end up visiting Scotland in the winter I would second an August visit as mentioned above. Definitely try to attend the Tattoo, but be sure to obtain your tickets as far in advance as possible. The Glasgow Necropolis is also an interesting tour and I cant recommend the transport museum in Glasgow highly enough. A trip on the Waverly is also a great experience.

Just make sure your knees are good if you go to Dunnottar Castle; there’s a rather harrowing stairway down to sea level, and then some more going back up into the castle itself.

The Edinburgh Castle is a must-see too.

I’ve been to Scotland several times, and the islands were what really stuck with me. Mull, Iona, and Staffa on one trip, the Orkney and Shetland islands on the other. Edinburgh is absolutely worth seeing, too.

Movie location: Duart Castle, featured in Entrapment.

Cool engineering AND movie location: Glenfinnan Viaduct, featured in the Harry Potter films.

Dunottar Castle is only a few miles from me. And Stonehaven is the birthplace of the deep-fried Mars Bar.

We read there were bad midges in the highlands during the summer, so we went in late May, and it was beautiful.

Late May is a great time to visit - long slow sunsets much later than you expect if you live in any part of the US that isn’t Alaska - and some of the higher hills might still have snow on the very top. It’s a good look. The midge thing can be truly awful, but if you steer clear of slow moving water or marshy land at dusk you’ll be fine. A bit of breeze keeps them away too, so any place near the sea is usually OK. Unfortunately, one of the most visited Lochs, and certainly one of the prettiest, is Loch Lomond. Midge Hell can be found there, on the bonny banks. :smiley: