Travel - Scotland for visitors
My favourite places
Over the last few years I've been making some connections with family history, as my mother's side is Scottish. If you have Scots ancestors, have a look at my hub "Family History" as it might give you some useful info on how to do this - although I'm not an expert I have found it relatively easy so far, and really fascinating.
Try www.Scotlandspeople.gov.uk - you can buy credits and take it as far as you want to, as these are very comprehensive records. I've gone back to about 1580 with my Scots ancestors. I also use ancestry uk, very helpful if you can link to someone else with existing research.
Although I've been so many times now, I haven't seen it all - but then there is a lot to see!
I think it's good to ask the question- what do I want from my holiday? Scotland scores highly in the following areas in my opinion:
- Amazing scenery
- Clean air
- Deserted beaches
- Golf, walking and hiking
- Quiet roads further north
- Very friendly people
Fortunately, it is very quick and easy to escape from Edinburgh airport. Once you cross the Firth of Forth or Fifth from Edinburgh you are in Fife, and there is some beautiful countryside - see pic. The locals are strikingly, charmingly friendly and St.Andrews is great for visitors. There is the golf, a lovely sandy beach with dunes, good shops, great restaurants. It's a town with a lot of history and character and very good for walking. Close by are really nice little fishing villages, like Crail.
Look up the hub on St.Andrews by AC Gaughen for more info and some video and pictures. Glasgow is also great for travel bargains, as Ryanair seem to offer many discounts on Stansted to Prestwick flights. From there there is good golf at Troon, and further north terrific countryside at Loch Lomond and Inveraray.
Inveraray is another favourite place in our family. It's a quiet little town on a sea loch with almost nothing to do - but the scenery is stunning, there is a castle and grounds to explore. We stayed at the Best Western hotel, which inevitably had terrific views over the loch, and seems like a good option. All around this area is fantastic countryside, with hills and lochs and forest.
Travel tips, bargain airfares
There are at least 2 budget airlines you could look at if you are flying from the Bristol or London area - out of season prices can be very low, a fraction of the cost by rail, though obviously less environmentally friendly. Ryanair always has bargains from Stansted to Prestwick (near Glasgow but quite a long drive) and Easyjet is also worth considering. You could find flights for about £50 return - this is only a ballpark figure, because so much depends on the timing. Midweek is often the best bet.
Also be wary of hidden charges on the Ryanair website, and bear in mind the baggage allowance is restricted. Having said that, you can save a lot of money. Ryanair have made themselves deeply unpopular in the UK due to the sneaky nature of their extra charges - but on the other side of the argument there are some genuine bargains, and the Boeing 737s they use are brand new - an important aspect for me.
Dornoch is nice, and up the coast road from there, through some striking scenery, are Golspie (with miles of sandy beaches) and Brora. I like Brora for it's time-warp charm, a beautiful wild and windswept beach, and that rare thing in this part of Scotland, a great little restaurant. It used to be The Quiet Piggy - now It's called Il Padrino - near the station. That's in downtown Brora, the city that never sleeps. Also in the area , the Falls of Shin, where you can watch salmon leaping up the waterfalls and have a nice cup of tea. A lovely stretch of river and countryside.
Oban and the Western Isles
Oban isn't anything special, but it is the gateway to the Isles. You can take a number of boat trips from there around the Western Isles - we did a day trip on the Caledonian McBrain boat, and really enjoyed it - brilliant scenery and a great introduction to the area, coasting around the islands and castles. It is really, really special. Very good value too.
The Queen is spending her summer holiday on a cruise around the Western Isles, and she could go anywhere in the world. The space and the peaceful nature of this area are both very important aspects.
Bagpipes- the Scottish definition of a gentleman is someone who owns a set of bagpipes, but chooses not to play them!
Glencoe, Rannoch Moor
How wild do you want to get? Glencoe and Rannoch Moor are wild, windswept places even in summer but great areas for a drive in very mountainous terrain.
Do not accept hospitality from Campbells under any circumstances - you have been warned! Not even a picnic.
(That was a Glencoe joke, not easy to pull off..)
Next two pics: near Glencoe, then Ullapool.
Scotland - the downside
Although I'm a huge fan of Scotland for holidays, the weather can be a problem. If you're vegetarian like me there is often a lack of options when eating out, and many places in Scotland remind me of the 1950s in terms of cuisine - not a good thing. We've had some awful meals! The sort where you pay the inflated bill through gritted teeth, and it's service with a snarl! On the other hand -
St Andrews is a great place for eating out, with a wide choice of excellent restaurants. Probably because it's a University town.
Finally, watch out for the midges.
Now here's a strange idea. You could use Google Earth to do a recce before you go, and look up some photos of Scotland and some satellite imagery. Personally, I love Google Earth, and even more amazing the OTHER PLANETS section. I notice that the UK's major contribution to Mars research is a crash site!
Here's my must-see list for Scotland:
- Loch Ness
- The Falls of Shin
- Loch Lomond
- Oban and The Western Isles boat trip
- Isle of Skye