Visiting Scotland - what should I see

My sister and I are going to be taking a trip in the spring. We’re going to London for a couple of days (where we’ve both been already), then going to Scotland for about a week, then back to London for a couple of days, and then home. Any advice from Dopers on what to see and do in Scotland?

Inverness and LOCH NESS!!!

I actually did that a few years ago (Scotland for a week, then London for 2 days). We stayed in Edinburgh. Other than the various stuff to do in there, I can remember going up to St. Andrew’s (especially recommended for golf fans G), and also visiting the Wallace Monument (you know, William Wallace of “Braveheart”?)

We did other stuff, but unfortunately I can’t really remember any that well.

I do recommend seeing any castles you can visit; in my opinion they’re always great.

Enjoy your trip! I hope you like Scotland just as much as I did.

There’s a good “Whisky Trail” tour of Scotch distilleries.
They give free samples of Glenfiddich, etc.
Very potent aroma in the aging barns, almost makes you pass out!

There’s a goofy fun little museum at Loch Ness for Nessy sightings.

Urquel castle is a ruin, but fun to inspect.

There’s good things to see along Hadrian’s Wall, but only sections of it remain standing with anything to see.

Have fun.

It’s sure neat to say you’ve been to Loch Ness (I have), but there’s really nothing to do there.

Spend more time in Edinburgh, and St. Andrews as well. I wish I had.

On second thought…then again, you can get on ScotRail and take the train to Inverness no muss no fuss, if you have a day to spend. Then there are lots of tour busses, and even a boat or two. I recommend the City bus, which is cheap, and drops you off at Castle Urqhart and returns that way in 2 or 3 hours. So by all means, please visit the Loch if you really want to.

Thanks for the suggestions so far. I think I’ll just say I went to Loch Ness and not really go. :slight_smile:

Hrm. I only did 3 days in Scotland, so lemme think.

I’d spend some time in Edinburgh walking around the Royal Mile. I loved both Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse. The other thing we did, and I’d recommend this - if you don’t have a car or something, take a bus trip out into the country…it’s WONDERFUL. We did a trip around Loch Lomond, and saw Stirling Castle. Half of it was ruins too, but it was fun to walk around. :slight_smile:

Hadrian’s Wall is in England.

Try to see Skara Brae on the Orkneys if you can make it that far north.

Don’t miss Glasgow! Edinburgh’s great, but take the 40 minute train ride south-west to the home of Billy Connoly: few tourists do, and frankly, it’s the soul of lowland Scotland: the people are incredibly friendly (and generally characters) and there’s lots of culture to see: Charles Rennie Macintoshes’ wonderful School of Art building, his magnificent red sandstone Scotland Street School (take the Underground to get there!), which is now the Museum of Education, with historic classrooms: if you’re really lucky, a school field trip will be there, doing a half-day in an historic period classroom.

The Tenement House (145 Buccleuch St) is great: a slice of 1890s life (and tenement does not mean “slum!”); Rogano’s is an original 1920s lavish art deco restaurant (pricey but lunch there is a once-in-a-lifetime experience); the Burrell Collection (in Pollock Park) is one of the best museums in Europe for fine and applied art; visit the Superloo in Central Station; see the magnificent 12th Century Cathedral (and don’t miss the family tomb of the Blackadders!); stroll through the art collection at the Kelvingrove Museum, grab a cab from Central Station to the “Barras” on a Sunday morning for the characters in the street market; have a bridie for lunch, and don’t forget to go to an ice cream shop and order a “double nougat!”

Oops, forgot to mention…have an “IRN-BRU” with your bridie. It’s made with girders!

To the south of Edinburgh is a really tall hill called Arthur’s Seat. If you climb to the top, you will enjoy a very pretty view of Edinburgh.

Snooooopy, you bet me to suggesting Arthur’s Seat, so let me second that. It’s an excellent hike (this from a non-hiker), great view, and close to the Royal Mile so if you go early in the morning, you can walk back and get “the world’s best fudge” as well as some kickass fish & chips. There’s also a great children’s bookstore on the Royal Mile, and a Museum of Childhood that’s the best of its kind I’ve seen anywhere.

I live in Scotland and have done a lot of the touristy (and not so touristy) things. My favourite thing to do above anything else in Scotland is to drive along the North and West coasts of the Highlands. I’ve done this several times and it’s absolutely spectacular. My husband originally comes from Golspie (about 50mi North of Inverness), so we usually start there and head north/northwest till we get to Scrabster. Then we drive west along the coast until we get to Durness, and then head south for Lochinver, before heading back to Golspie. Nearly all the road is one-lane highway with passing places here and there, but in the spring the traffic shouldn’t be bad at all. In fact, you’ll probably be able to count all the cars you pass on one hand. I can’t emphasise enough just how breath-taking and varied the scenery is. Our route takes about 6 hours, with occasional stops for photos, Smoo Caves, and lunch. (I highly recommend a restaurant in Lochinver which serves a wide variety of lovely little pies; IIRC the restaurant’s name is “The Riverside Bistro”. The town is tiny and it’s right along the main road; you can’t miss it.) If you don’t mind a lot of driving, you could accomplish this journey in one day even starting from, say, Glasgow. However, if you are starting from further south I’d recommend finding an interesting little B&B or hotel along your planned route to break up the journey. Make sure you find one in advance; some are closed for the season and you pass through precious few towns along the main roads. Anyway, this is well worth doing if you have the time, and I recommend it above all else!!

Scrabster is a port town and you can catch the P&O ferry to Orkney from there (Orkney is a set of small islands north of mainland Scotland). Orkney is very beautiful and has a bunch of prehistoric ruins, some of which predate Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt. You can take your car on the ferry and drive around the main island and get back to the mainland again all in one day (we did this last August), or you can stay in a hotel overnight. If you choose to do it in one day, be aware that you’ll probably only be able to fit in about 3-4 sites and lunch, so it might be wise to agree on what you want to see in advance. A word of warning, though – if you’re prone to seasickness the ferry ride on the way over can be rough. I’m not particularly prone to seasickness but I was pretty miserable on the way over. I recommend the bathrooms near the back of the ferry, they’re much quieter. :slight_smile: I recovered very quickly once I got on land. The ride back isn’t nearly so bad, something having to do with the way the ship hits the waves or something.

If you like castles and/or whisky, you should come to the Grampian region (where I live), which has both a “Castle Trail” and a “Whisky Trail” which you can follow along the highways (they’re signposted). These will take you to a wide variety of castles/distilleries. My mother came here hating whisky and left practically addicted to it. (Me, I don’t like it at all. :))

The best castle in the Grampian area IMHO is without question Dunnottar, about a forty minute drive south of Aberdeen. It’s a a large ruined castle which sits on its own cliff-like peninsula which juts out into the North Sea. I’ve been there several times and am always amazed. Here’s a link for it:

If you prefer furnished castles, my favourite in the Grampian area is Craigievar. It looks as though it’s straight out of a fairytale, and it’s one of the few in the area which has a tour, which we found informative and enjoyable.

Glamis and Cawdor are the must-see castles in our area (Cawdor being slightly further afield, about two hour’s drive west/northwest from Aberdeen), due to their (fictional) association with Shakespeare’s MacBeth. These are very much worth seeing – Glamis’ exterior is very impressive and Cawdor has lovely gardens and forest walks – but aren’t my favourites. However, the names are more likely to impress your friends back home. :slight_smile:

Arguably the most famous and photographed castle in Scotland is the beautiful and isolated Eilan Donan. This is the one featured at the beginning of the movie Highlander (and is incidentally also my husband’s clan’s castle). It is on the west coast near Skye, just past the town Kyle of Lochalsh. I’ve visited Eilan Donan once so far (it is, needless to say, a “must do” in my husband’s book). It can be fit in along with a fly-by visit of Loch Ness or Skye. Here’s a link for some more info, but the pictures on this site do not do it justice: Oh, one more thing. If you go here and take some pictures, be sure to take a couple without either one of you standing in front of it. My husband and I made the mistake of including ourselves in all our pictures of it, and there isn’t one where we don’t have a goofy expression. And it was a picture-perfect-not-a-cloud-in-the-sky kind of day, too! Grr!!

If you have deep pockets, there are some castles in the area which are hotels or have hotel rooms. I believe one of them is Kildrummy, but I know there are a few others. I’d love to do this one day!

Although I’ve lived here for over two years now, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to tour Glasgow and Edinburgh, although I’ve driven through both on my way to somewhere else! I’m sure there are endless things to do there, but I can’t offer you any recommendations. I do know that my husband much prefers Glasgow to Edinburgh, and he lived in or near Glasgow for much of his adult life. I wouldn’t really recommend the city of Aberdeen (where we currently live) either, it’s cold and dreary and everything – buildings, street, and sky – is grey. (Most of the buildings are made of grey granite.) However, as I mentioned, lots of good things in this region. As you may have guessed, I’m not much of a city tourist anyway; I tend to prefer the castles, scenery, and other attractions outside the cities. Although you can find more than enough stuff to fill your time in the cities, if you visit Scotland without visiting the Highlands (i.e. Inverness and north) you are missing the best part!

Thanks so much for all the suggestions, especially to Nimue. We will definitely be doing some castle-visits.

This gives a lot of links to sites that may be interesting or useful.

Me heart’s in the heelands . . .

I’m with Nimue (emotionally, not physically). See the highlands—incredible scenery, like nothing I’ve seen elsewhere. If you’re used to the brand-spanking new craggy mountains of the U.S., you must seen the ancient, rolling, mist-covered hills of the Scottish highlands.

Have just realised that no one has mentioned the dreaded midges (little biting insects) yet. O beware of the midges!

I can’t offer any more recommendations re: site seeing, but for pure culinary enjoyment - Eat lots and lots of haggis.

Agreed, they’re horrible. But they’re only out around July/August/early September. Porcupine won’t be affected by them in the spring, but watch out for unseasonal snow storms!

All Scottish food is based on a dare. :smiley: