“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”– Andre Gide.
We spent 4 days in Scotland during the month of July in 2019. One day each in Edinburgh (pronounced by most Scottish people as “Edinbra”) and Glasgow and 2 days in Scottish Highlands. It was a complete road trip along with my Brother-in-Law and his family. If you really want to explore the beauty of Scotland, my personal recommendation would be to try a road trip. Renting a Car will be the best option.
Scotland might be a small country, but there are tonnes of places here that will astonish you.
There are beautiful landscapes, no matter which part you are in.
Scotland is full of experiences that can make your trip an unforgettable one, and if you’ve been dreaming about visiting Scotland for a long time, I’m sure that you will have a long bucket list to see and do.
Scotland is one of the most scenic and beautiful countries in the world. Obviously one of the most beautiful countries that I had visited in my life.
I would like to share my Scotland Experience with you. I believe this would help you to finalise your itinerary. Considering the number of places that we have been to, I believe 4-6 days would be a good option.
Edinburgh Castle / Miles Road:
The city of Edinburgh is one of the top places to visit in Scotland and Edinburgh Castle is a must see.
Perched high on an old volcano overlooking the city of Edinburgh is Edinburgh Castle. One of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions, the castle is home to the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny. You can get a pretty great view of the city without paying for entrance. Now it’s the country’s most popular tourist attraction, drawing around 1.5 million people a year.
Encircled by 7 hills, both the city’s old and new towns are UNESCO World Heritage sites, with the famous Royal Mile framed by Edinburgh Castle and the splendid Holyrood Palace. Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter.
This gorgeous city is built atop not one but two extinct volcanos.
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is the heart of Scotland’s historic capital.
We had explored Edinburgh in Red line of the Hop-on-Hop-off.
Hop On Hop Off has 3 routes in Edinburgh:
Red line (covers the castle, Miles Road, Dynamic Earth and so on)
Considering the price and the places that are covered, I believe Bright tours would be a better option compared to Hop on Hop off Red line. (Adult – 10£, Child – 6 £)
More details here: https://www.firstgroup.com/bright-bus-tours
There are so many options for food. We personally had tried ‘Nandos’ and it was quite nice.
In Edinburg, we stayed in Lochend Serviced Apartments.
1) Three Bridges:
From here, you could see the spectacular view of the 3 bridges (distinct types) quite near to each other:
The Forth rail Bridge (1890)
The forth Road Bridge (1964)
Queensferry Crossing (2017)
The Forth Bridge is a cantilever railway bridge across the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland, 9 miles west of Edinburgh City Centre. It is considered as a symbol of Scotland and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was designed by the English engineers Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker
Due to its distinctive red colours and huge proportions, it is one of Scotland’s most recognisable landmarks.
More Details here : https://www.thethreebridges.com/
2) Loch Lomond:
Loch Lomond is Scotland’s largest lake and is surrounded by greenery. If you want to have more fun, then hire a seaplane and cruise over the loch or hire a jet ski and take it to the lake.
There are lot of paid parking and paid toilets available in this place.
During our visit, we felt like the number of visitors were a lot more compared to the boats that were available for service. Due to the same reason, we decided to skip the Loch Lomond boat trip.
If you really want to stay somewhere Loch Lomond, I would personally suggest Duck Bay Hotel.
We had a short tea break there, the surroundings and environment are simply superb.
More details here: https://duckbay.co.uk/
3) Fort William (Small Town):
Enroute to Ben Nevis range is Fort William.
It is not so much exciting as a town, but rather for its surroundings.
This is where the famous West Highland Way ends and where the highest mountain range of the UK begins: The Ben Nevis Range.
It takes only 15 minutes to drive from Fort William to the car park of the Nevis Range.
4) Ben Nevis Range:
Towering 1,344m over neighbouring Fort William, the soaring peak of Ben Nevis is not only Scotland’s highest point, but the highest mountain in the UK.
There is a cable car (Mountain Gondola) available to reach the Top most point of the Range. However, the last stretch is closed through out the year (except winter time).
The Mountain Gondola has become an amazing visitor attraction, allowing visitors to enjoy the scenic ride and absorb the stunning views and clear mountain air
More details here: https://www.nevisrange.co.uk/
We stayed in a 2bhk luxury caravan (Caolasnacon Caravan & Camping Park) that night and it was an amazing experience.
1) Commando Memorial:
The Commando Memorial is a monument in Lochaber, Scotland, dedicated to the men of the original British Commando Forces (World War II)
2) Bridge of Oich:
The Bridge of Oich is a taper principle suspension bridge, designed by James Dredge, across the River Oich near Aberchalder in Highland, Scotland.
The bridge opened in 1854 and was used to take the main road traffic over the river until 1932.
Aberchalder Swing Bridge is also in the same spot.
3) Fort Augustus:
Fort Augustus is a settlement in the parish of Boleskine and Abertarff, at the south-west end of Loch Ness, Scottish Highlands. Its economy is heavily reliant on tourism.
4) Caledonian Canal:
The Caledonian Canal connects the Scottish east coast at Inverness with the west coast at Corpach near Fort William in Scotland. The canal was constructed in the early nineteenth century by Scottish engineer Thomas Telford.
Please check with the officials and understand the timings when the Locks will be opened. Before the lock opening, the swing bridges will also be opened. This is indeed an amazing view and should not be missed.
There are lot of parking available near the Canal and lot of restaurants as well.
We found a small ‘fish and chips’ shop (Canalside Take Away) to be the most economical.
5) Loch Ness (Popularly known for Loch Ness Monster):
It is a large deep Fresh water loch in Scottish Highlands.
Scotland’s most well-known lake, or loch, is an impressive 23 miles long. On its shores, you’ll see picturesque villages, mountains and the ruins of Urquhart Castle. Look closely and you could be rewarded with a sight of the Loch Ness Monster!
This is the second largest Loch after Loch Lomond. There is a cruise option in this Loch. If you have missed a boating in Loch Lomond, you can very well try this as an alternative option.
More details here: https://www.jacobite.co.uk/
The depth of this Loch is around 200 plus metre. Loch Ness is known as the home of the Loch Ness Monster (also known as “Nessie”), a cryptid, reputedly a large unknown animal.
The existence of such a monster sea animal is still a debatable topic, as of today.
Whatever may be the debates, everything here (from Souvenirs to Cruise trip) is been sold in the name of this Lochness Monster.
6) Isle of Skye:
The Isle of Skye, or the isle of mist, is everything you’ve ever imagined it to be.
It’s rugged scenery and brooding mountain ranges are commonly featured in films and television series.
Despite being popularly famous for its natural beauty, the Isle of Skye would never leave you disappointed. From the scenic mountains to the water that surrounds you, there’s nowhere to look that isn’t gorgeous. Truly awesome place and a must-see place in your Scotland Itinerary.
It may seem like a long drive to get there, but by adding in scenic pitstops along the way, you can turn the journey into a sightseeing adventure.
Skye Bridge is the gateway to the Isle of Skye. Continue A87 through Kyle of Lochalsh and cross the Skye Bridge (there is no toll to cross the bridge).
In case if you would like to have some Indian Cuisine, there is a Restaurant named ‘Taste of India’ after a short distance from the Skye bridge.
We stayed in a 2bhk luxury caravan (Caolasnacon Caravan & Camping Park) that night and it was an amazing experience.
While these aren’t wild, many visitors to Scotland will want to see a highland cow during their trip. As they are usually kept in fields, they can be spotted most often between April and October.
The Falkirk Wheel is well worth a visit.
My personal suggestion will be to just see the Falkirk Wheel in action and avoid the boat trip.
You can take a boat ride which will take you to the Upper Canal using Falkirk Wheel. This includes a ticket. But if you are running short of time, you could easily skip.
There are lot of parking available in this region and there is a parking charge involved.
More details here: https://www.scottishcanals.co.uk/falkirk-wheel/
The Kelpies tower of the Forth and Clyde canal near Falkirk and are the largest equine sculptures in the world. They stand over 30 meters high and weigh in at over 600 tonnes.
The Kelpies pay tribute to the working horses of Central Scotland who used to pull barges along the canals. They are truly magnificent sculptures.
This is one of Scotland’s most photographed man made attractions. Its worth to spend some time here.
Guided tours are available where you also get the opportunity to experience the statues from the inside. There is a visitor centre (open daily between 10 am and 5 pm) which has a gift shop and a restaurant. Paid parking is also available.
River side museum, Glasgow:
On our way back to Birmingham, we passed through Glasgow. It’s not a clean city compared to its other counterparts in Scotland.
There is a car Museum (River side museum), which is free of cost.
Riverside Museum is Glasgow’s award-winning transport museum. With over 3,000 objects on display there’s everything from skateboards to locomotives, paintings to prams and cars to a Stormtrooper.
Kids would love this place.
More details here: https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/venues/riverside-museum
Other Ways to explore Scotland:
Scenic train ride (Jacobite – Hogwarts Express (For Harry Potter Fans))
Scotland is not only beautiful from the roads. Some of the best views can only be seen from aboard a ferry or a train! Iconic train lines, like the West Highland Line which runs through the isolated landscape of Rannoch Moor and crosses the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct between Fort William and Mallaig.
You can book your tickets here: https://westcoastrailways.co.uk/jacobite/jacobite-steam-train-details.cfm
In case if you don’t want to drive, you can try public transport or tour operators like Rabbies.
More details about Rabbies tours : https://www.rabbies.com/en/scotland-tours/from-inverness
When to visit Scotland:
Scotland is a destination that is worth visiting all year long, but the summer months, from June until August, attract the most visitors, marking peak season. July and August are on average the warmest months of the year, which coincides with the peak season for tourism and summer holidays.
Scotland is renowned for being a wet country and the rains can sometimes spoil your trip especially when you are exploring the Highlands of Scotland.
As the weather is changeable, you could encounter all four seasons in one day, regardless of which month you come to Scotland. Therefore, while considering what to wear, we recommend always having a few layers with you, especially wind and rain proof layers!
Some other Tips:
1) No drinks while driving:
There are strict alcohol limits for drivers, but it’s impossible to say exactly how many drinks this equals – it’s different for each person. Any alcohol in your body can adversely affect how you drive.
The current limits are:
22 mcg of alcohol in 100 ml of breath (the ‘breath limit’)
50 mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood (the ‘blood limit’)
67 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of urine (the ‘urine limit’)
2) Across Scotland, there are challenges with the network connectivity.
So, it will be a good option to keep a map handy with you and don’t completely depend on google maps in your phone.
3) Careful with Midges:
To some people, midges can be a night mare or a serious nuisance.Midges didn’t leave us either..
Mosquito/Midges Head net can save you here. Some options below: https://outdooradventurestore.ie/product/midge-mosquito-head-net?gclid=CjwKCAjwwvfrBRBIEiwA2nFiPTEUL_MtR1Sqtd4XGcFSgnrKhcN5TR9Qio1KmzBL6uAz2yhxbztU5BoC2p0QAvD_BwE
There might be many other names still missing from the above list.
If you really have more time, I would suggest you explore further places.
I have mentioned some places below:
Edinburg Ghost tours
Mull of Galloway
Fairy pools, Skye
Cairngorms National Park
The Ring of Brodgar
Distillery (like The Edradour – Kids below 12 are not permitted)
Smoo Cave of Scotland
Isle of Lochalsh