Summer Scotland trip--suggestions, please!

I’m planning a two-week trip to Scotland in the early summer. The general plan is to spend a few days in Edinburgh and the rest of the time driving around the country to the north of the city.

I’ve never been before, so any and all suggestions welcome as to what to see, what to avoid, how to repel midges and so forth.

I’m also going to Scotland this spring (I hope). I’ve been there 3 or 4 times before.

On this trip, I’m planning to take one of the evening Ghost Walk tours that goes underground beneath the old city, but I’ve never tried that before and can’t say yet if it’ll be worthwhile or not. I’m also going up to the Orkeneys and Shetland, can’t say what they’re like.

In Edinburgh, you can’t go wrong with a walk up or down the Royal Mile. In addition to the castle at the top and Holyrood Palace at the bottom, the street has a dozen or more little local museums and other interesting places to visit, plus you can buy really great fudge in a shop down toward the Palace end. If you’re more interested in day-hiking, Arthur’s seat is not far off to the south beyond the Palace.

North of Edinburgh is Stirling Castle, perched high on a rock with fabulous views of the countryside on a clear day. When I was last there, they were renovating the buildings and restoring the ceiling panels from James VI’s time. And Bannockburn is just down the way.

Farther to the north is Cairngorms National Park and from there you can keep going up to Loch Ness. Once, long ago, I rode a bike down from Inverness to Fort Augustus; Drumnadrochit and Urquhart Castle are the places to stop if you want to look for the Monster (there’s one in the visitor center’s pond).

I also remember Skye, Mull, and Iona being lovely (although it rained the whole day I visited the latter)–but the roads on Mull and parts of Skye can be scary if you’re driving, narrow with cars going both directions on the only lane; when you see someone heading toward you, you both slow down and negotiate who’s going to pull over into the nearest lay-by to let the other go by.

Do the city itself obviously
Falkrik Wheel is near…though if you’re American or Canadian almost everything is nearby
Glasgow is great - Kevlin Park and the university are close together
Dumbarton has a very cool castle
Balloch/Luss have great views of Loch Lomond
Stonehaven has a very cool castle a few hours north of Edinburgh
Saint Andrews and its university, catherdral/castle are closer and also great to enjoy
Rosslyn Chapel is neat and apparently improved from when I last saw it (it was being restored at the time)

In the summer you could get a ride on the PS Waverly - seagoing paddle wheel trip.

For midges, I recommend Smidge. That said, I would stick to the east side of the country. Midges can get ferocious Oban-way. The east side of the country is also the sunnier side.

What interests you?

Scotland has so much history that you could easily spend the whole summer here.

A trip up to Inverness is a good idea. You should visit the Culloden battlefield nearby. Do be warned that the telling of the story is rather one-sided. At least it was when I visited.

Castles? Dunnotar Castle near Stonehaven (the one Grey mentions) is a magnificent ruin. Crathes Castle is well worth a visit and has a lovely walled garden. There’s Balmoral and Braemar, of course. (The Deeside road from Aberdeen to Braemar is a lovely drive.) As mentioned above, Stirling Castle is another one worth visiting and there’s the Wallace Monument nearby.

Do you play golf? We have plenty of golf courses. And if you travel north from Aberdeen you can stick your tongue or arse out of the window when you pass Trump’s golf course.

Highland games? Your calendar is here. They start on May 19th.

Food? You’re in for a treat. We have so many good eateries it’s hard to know where to start. Hereabouts, there are the Falls of Feugh near Banchory, Moonfish Cafe (run by a Masterchef winner), the Creel Inn at Catterline, and many, many more.

Whiskey? You’re in the wrong country :D; it’s whisky here. There are almost as many distilleries as golf courses. Speyside is near Inverness.

I could go on and on.

Thanks all, this is helpful.

Alas, it’s the northwestern side we’re most interested in. I’m mostly into spectacular nature with a bit of culture and history mixed in. Will check out Smidge.

I forgot about this. I don’t drink whisky, but I enjoyed the distillery tours. I’ve been through several in Scotland and Ireland, and taken away a good collection of tiny souvenir glasses. And if you do like whisky, they always give you free samples.

Distilleries smell lovely. They are surrounded by this sweet, almost cloying, wheaty scent even before you go inside.

Glencoe valley is VERY beautiful, with many places along the road to stop for a walk.

We’ve done the drive south from Inverness, along Loch Ness and down towards the south a few times. It is breathtaking.

If you’re interested in seeing the Glenfinnan viaduct from Harry Potter, it’s just a hop skip from Fort William, and worth the drive. Spectacular views again.

Can’t really go wrong in Scotland. Good choice.

We drove up to the speyside region for a whisky festival a couple years ago, did a tour of the Glenfarclas distillery. That was a fun experience. Another beautiful area.

BTW if you do a distillery tour and are a driver, don’t drink at all. Scotland has severely low blood alcohol limits.

If you say what your interests are, I can probably give you some advice on relevant places to visit in Edinburgh, and elsewhere, but mainly Edinburgh & the Lothians.

The National Museum of Scotland will be fully open after years of refurbishment - the final galleries re-open in February - and it’s a magnificent building, even without the contents!
Arthur’s Seat was mentioned but if you don’t fancy climbing it, then there’s always Calton Hill, a smaller hill nearby which also has great views and also various historic buildings on top.

July in Edinburgh will be pretty busy but August will be much busier with the Edinburgh Festival & Fringe so I’d avoid August unless you like crowds and street theatre.
If you don’t mind them, it’s fantastic for live entertainment of all sorts, from grand opera to stand-up to multiple productions of Shakespeare (sometimes 3 or 4 companies doing the same play!). Literally hundreds of different shows every day.
Some residents love it, some hate it! Bring lots of money as it can easily get expensive!

Northwestern Scotland is lovely but it’s not a place to do day trips to from Edinburgh.

I’d almost say you should be in Balloch - near Glasgow and able to make runs up to Stirling, Inverary, Kilmartin (lots of prehistoric monuments) and of course Loch Lomand & Trossachs National Park. Ben Lomond isn’t a really difficult hike.

Oh and there’s the Dumpling (Duncryne Hill) is a easy little hike with a great view up the loch.

We’ll most likely to go in June. Prices are a good deal lower then as compared to July and August.

The plan is to start in Edinburgh and then drive northeast, northwest, southeast, and back to Edinburgh. More or less a circuit of the northern part of the country.

Won’t be visiting distilleries so strict drunk driving laws aren’t a problem.:slight_smile:

Thanks for all the advice and suggestions!

One more thing, if you’re interested while in you’re Edinburgh. These are the underground and history tours I’ve been looking at for my own trip in the spring, although I haven’t booked any yet:

Doune Castle, where most castle scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail were filmed. Wonderful audio guide narrated by a couple of Pythons, plus you can borrow coconuts from the gift shop.

Also be prepared for long days, especially as you go farther north. In Inverness in August it was still light enough outside to read at 11 PM.

It’s a bit of a stretch for a day trip from Edinburgh (about a 4 1/2 hour drive), but Inverewe Garden is a horticultural paradise with a backdrop of mountains and two lochs, plus wildlife on the surrounding estate.

Looks gorgeous!

Good move, but with regard to school holidays, note that the May break ends on the 27th and the summer holidays start on July 1st.

So, Edinburgh up to Inverness then across the Great Glen to Fort William and Oban then down to Glasgow and back via Stirling? Or are you going all the way up to John o’Groats and across? The latter is the lovelier adventure, but very weather-dependent and you need to be more prepared.

Right now we’re thinking Edinburgh to Grantown-on-Spey to Lairg to Drumberg, down northwest coast to Isle of Skye to Craignure to Edinburgh. Just a general route, subject to modification. We’re booking some rooms along the general route because they’re going fast.

Not sure why school holidays matter?

Excellent choice of route there! Skye to Craignure is a bit of a hike if you’re planning on doing it in a single day, whether you go the one ferry route or the two ferry route, but certainly picturesque. If you are planning on going over to Skye via the bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh, the short detour to Plockton is well worth it. It’s the prettiest little village, in a magnificent setting. Plus it has palm trees.

Skye to Craignure won’t be a single day–that was just to give a sense of the route. Glad the route sounds good to you!

Our trip will be 13 days in all so I don’t think it will be too much driving.