Planning a Trip to Scotland, Part 4

by Keith Savage · 143 comments

Today’s post is part four in a series about planning a trip to Scotland. Make sure you’ve read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 before you dive in here. If you’d like personalized help planning your trip, please take a look at my Scotland trip-planning service.

If you’ve been following this series, you’ve got a good idea of where you want to go in Scotland, when you’re going, and how much time you want to spend. This fourth piece – how much the trip will cost – is often the linchpin in these plans.

I’m just going to lay my cards on the table now: the United Kingdom is not the most cost-effective destination. The Sterling Pound is one of the most valuable currencies in the world, which means your dollars and cents will need some buddies to make up the difference in costs (at the time of writing, $1=£0.62).

But this is no excuse to gnash your teeth, curse the heavens, and scrap your plans. The added cost will be paid back in full with a host of lifelong memories. Unfortunately, memories don’t pay the mortgage, so in the following sections I’ll provide an overview of costs and some practical tips to help reduce them.

Before we move on, there’s one very important money-saving concept you need to understand.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

Most goods sold in the UK have a value added tax rolled into their retail price, which equates to an additional 20% mark up. For foreign visitors, this can make the cost of living seem significantly more expensive. The good news is that foreigners can reclaim VAT on goods they take with them when they leave the UK. If you’ve visited the UK, perhaps you remember the VAT cards they hand out on flights. The bad news is that reclaiming your VAT requires a bit of record-keeping and patience; traits I lacked on previous trips to the UK.

I’m no tax expert, so I recommend that you read through Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs information for the exact procedure to follow. If you’re visiting on business you can reclaim VAT on even more expenses, such as accommodations and travel costs. Scotland is a place to be cost-conscious, and reclaiming VAT is just one way to recoup some serious cash.

Let’s start with the cost of travel…

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Ray S.No Gravatar May 10, 2014 at 7:00 PM

A question I forgot: How much does Scotland roll up the sidewalks on Sundays? We’re likely to be spending Sunday in Dumbarton, and if it’s going to be shuttered, we might try to get there on Saturday or delay in Glasgow till Monday.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 13, 2014 at 2:15 PM

A fair number of businesses close on Sundays, but mainly it’s just reduced hours. Unless there’s something specific you’re worried about I wouldn’t adjust your travel plans. Some places are closed on Mondays instead of Sundays.

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar May 14, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Dumbarton is closed every day, Ray :o)

Ray S.No Gravatar May 10, 2014 at 5:49 PM

I thought it was time for an update:
We bought tickets, 11 days total trip. We’re flying into Glasgow, because it saved hundreds in ticket prices. We’ll do two in Glasgow, and then up to Dumbarton for an afternoon of genealogy for my Campbells, and probably spend the night there. From there, up to Loch Ness (Because if you’re going to Scotland… Right?) And on to Inverness, where she can enjoy some of the Highlands. I figure two nights there, one after Ness and one after a day for ranging and tourism.
Than it’s on to Banff for three days of Genealogy bonanzas, I hope. Finally, we’ll end in Edinburgh.

The trip from Edinburgh to Glasgow Airport looks messy, but we’ll figure it out. It’s either a bus then a train or a train and two buses, it seems, but I’m hopeful there will be helpful signs.

We plan to rent a car and handle this at our own pace. Are there any specific legal obligations regarding that? Special insurance, or will the insurance from the rental agency be enough? I saw Willie above mentioning he’s affiliated with a car rental agency, and if anyone here can vouch for him, I’d be happy to be in touch with him for that part of things. Beyond that, we’re going to probably enjoy bigger name hotels in Glasgow, Inverness, and Edinburgh, and smaller stuff in Dumbarton and Banff.

I have been preparing an index to addresses of genealogical interest in the towns; I hope that I can take picture of the residences of my ancestors. How would this be received in Scotland? Would this be instrustive, eccentric, or fairly commonplace? I’d rather not offend people and have to explain to the cops that I’m just working on my nerdy hobby.

If any of your regular readers can recommend B&Bs or small hotels in the areas mentioned, restaurants that simply should not be missed, and so on, I’d really appreciate that!

Thanks again, I like reading the new stuff whenever I get an email saying there’s new to read.


Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 13, 2014 at 2:32 PM

Hi Ray,

Regarding the taking of pictures of addresses that are presumably yet lived in – think about how people where you live would react to that. Some might consider it an invasion of privacy. Others won’t give a fig. If it were me, I would knock on the door and ask for consent first.

Ray S.No Gravatar May 13, 2014 at 9:08 PM

I figured simple manners would work, but you never know. If the general cultural attitude is that it’s an invasive thing, then asking wouldn’t really help much. I assumed please and thank you worked there too, but it’s good to ask more and make less mistakes.

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar May 13, 2014 at 6:18 PM

Keith is spot on and knocking on the door, should result in interesting conversations when you reveal your ancestors once lived there. I found the house where my grandmother lived and died, in New Zealand, in Dunedin. It was, strangely enough, right across the road from the registrar’s office, where I went seeking the death certificate. Big old clapperboard house. I introduced myself to the lady who lived there (the last thing I wanted her to think was I was taking pictures of her little kid playing in the garden!! I told her my Grandmother and uncle’s family had lived there, not that she died there. Some things people don’t want to hear and she, in a typically New Zealand way, invited me in for a cup of tea. The tea may not happen in Scotland, but you will get your photos and you will probably meet some interested, if somewhat bemused, people :o)

I can rent you a car, Ray. Keith books through me, so I guess that is a good enough recommendation. We are very busy just now, so look at our website and fill in the form, but also drop me an email, too, at thewebsite is

Cheers, Willie

sheilaNo Gravatar May 13, 2014 at 8:33 PM

The tea _does_ happen in Scotland! A few years ago I was working in my garden, when a couple came wandering up the (rather long) drive. The husband was clutching a very old photo in his hand. It was of his gxgrandparents, who had lived on the property in the late 1800s-early 1900s. I invited them in for tea, and we had a lovely afternoon together. I now have a copy of the photo he had in his hand.

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar May 14, 2014 at 10:57 AM

That’s a great story, Sheila. You restore my faith :o) I will be looking out for your driveway on my way down to the Irish ferry, tomorrow :o)

Ray S.No Gravatar May 13, 2014 at 9:11 PM

I will be in contact by week’s end, Willie. Thank you.


NatalieNo Gravatar May 3, 2014 at 2:26 AM

Hi Keith, thanks so much for your blog! We are planning our honeymoon in Scotland for three weeks. We are from the UK but live in Thailand and will be visiting for the month of July.
We would be forever grateful if you did a post about itineries!
Also I heard there are midges in Scotland, are they everywhere? We will have our own car to drive around in which will hopefully help us cut some costs.

Thanks again! Natalie and Dan 🙂

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 4, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Hi Natalie and Dan,

Glad to hear that even folks from the UK find Traveling Savage useful! I’m working on a pretty major change to the site, one that will formalize my advice in such a way that readers will reap greater benefit from the information and I will be able to continue to fund traveling savagely, if you know what I mean 😉

Midges are not everywhere, and they are generally only about for a certain period of time. They’re usually pesky in fens, bogs, and marches between late spring and early summer. Midges get a lot of bad press – I assume they are *quite* annoying when encountered – but I have yet to actually endure their menace in all my trips!

Beverley Bowen-EvansNo Gravatar April 25, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Hello. My name is Beverley Bowen-Evans and I live in Kingston, Jamaica. I have always wanted to take a trip to Scotland and it finally seems as if I can earn enough to make that trip possible. What I would love to have some help with is working out ALL the costs (airfare, accommodation, other expenses) as well as things to do while I’m there. It would be costing for two and my preference is the highlands.
I would love to take this trip next summer between July and August as a special treat since that’s the year I turn 40 and I have a bucket list of 40 things to do next year. This is going to be the highlight of the year.
I would really appreciate any assistance that anyone can give me with regards to planning this trip.


Willie WallaceNo Gravatar April 26, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Good for you Beverley.

The thought of actually making a list of 40 things to do in a year is beyond my comprehension :o) The first thing you have to do is find out more about Scotland. There is a plethora of information on this site and Keith has spent a long time researching for it. People contribute helpful information and even the questions asked can point you along certain routes. Sit down and spend some time going through it properly.

Otherwise, the best site about Scotland is undoubtedly

It has everything and I mean everything you are ever going to want, including helpful photos so you can make up your mind if something is for you.

Right now on a more pointed level, let’s just quickly look at what you said in your enquiry. The busiest time of the year in Scotland, is July and August. Accommodation is at it’s most expensive and most crowded. In August, the Edinburgh Festival has nearly a half million visitors thronging through Edinburgh. If you are coming for the Festival, great, it is wild and 24/7 for the whole month. However, your budget will take a hammering from the costs in Edinburgh, but there are many places within an hour, where you can find far cheaper accommodation and then come in to the city, spend the day and go back at night. Anywhere in Fife, as far North as Perth and all the way over to Glasgow. All within an hour.

However, you are not coming for a festival, I think, but Scotland’s beauty. So, think Highlands, yes, but think islands as well. I know you live on one, but in the same way the islands of the Carribean are all diverse and attractive in different ways, Scotlands ‘s 700 islands are all different and all worth a visit. Many are unpopulated and not open to visits, but over 70 are populated and at least 30 have regular ferry services. There are mountains on some and not on others, miles of empty silver sand beaches, glens, waterfalls, rivers, golf courses (I am contractually obliged to mention golf at least once :o), distilleries, castles, prehistoric remains, ancient villages, Viking forts and on and on and on….

On the islands, the accommodation options are far fewer, but one of the delights, is that visitors are also far fewer. You get a real sense of peace and the emptiness of Scotland on most islands.

So, for all the information, Google Maps for Satellite images, for the route planner, for the best priced car and for the island ferries on the West and for the islands in the North.

That s all the starter info you need and then one last piece of advice. Not only is July and August when all the tourists come, but it is school holidays in the UK, so it is when all the Brit and locals come to explore, too. Best times to come? Outside school vacations, so May, June and September are the best months. Sorry for spelling or grammar mistakes but in a hurry. Hope it helps.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar April 27, 2014 at 3:22 PM

I see I’m behind Willie in replying here (traveling in Scotland!), and as usual he has provided a comprehensive and excellent response. I highly recommend May and September in Scotland. Transportation costs will make up the bulk of your expenses, so if you can find a cheap(ish) flight you will make your trip significantly more affordable. Accommodation is next expensive, but it really depends on your style of travel (Luxury vs. budget).

SamNo Gravatar April 12, 2014 at 10:04 PM

Found this part of the blog on exploring options for a surprise b-day trip for my girlfriend and I plan on reading the rest later. She is part Scot (highland area I believe) and has always wanted to visit. Since I need time to save and plan I was thinking trip at the end of Sept. 2015 ( her bday is on the 27th). I know that is a long way off but do have some questions and this seems like a good place to start.

1) I know Sept. ’15 is a long way off and prices can change but what would be a good goal to save for cost wise for 2.
Take in round trip air from GA., thinking at least 5 days and depending on prices up to 10 days, lodging and
food, plus extra spending money
2) Suggestions on places to see or tours? First time visit and trying to squeeze as much in as possible. I drive a stick
and I’m use to driving construction equipment so shifting with left hand and being on that side of car shouldn’t
be to much of an issue for me or would train be better just to get in the sights?
3) Lodging? I’m sure you go over this in other posts but any current advice?
4) Any other tips, info, and savings you can pass on.
5) And maybe the most overlooked. What is the weather like around that time of year?

Keith SavageNo Gravatar April 14, 2014 at 4:35 PM

Hi Sam. I’m going to give you a lot of links here, as that’s the most economical way to share this information. Since you’re commenting on this post, I assume you’ve read the Planning a Trip to Scotland series. If you haven’t, read it as it will go a long way toward answering your first question. You could easily be looking at $3000 for five days. At 10 days, maybe $4000 for the two of you. These estimates are not budget estimates.

For places to see and things to do, check out my Best Of Scotland and Itinerary Ideas series. They’re loaded with ideas that I have personally done and recommend.


The weather in September has a lot of potential to be favorable, but trying to anticipate Scottish weather is a lost cause. September is one of the better months to visit in my opinion. You will get rain and wind and cold, but also sun and warmth.

TwiggyFlipNo Gravatar April 11, 2014 at 1:20 AM

Hey everyone!

So, I see a lot of people asking this question, but my situation may be a little different then most. I’m from the states and I’m planning a trip in Sep or October to Scotland (Glasgow Area). I have found some really cheap flights under $1000 USD including tax. I have started my Passport Process today.

Now here is where my question comes in. I am not staying at a hotel, I’ll be staying with a friend so I do not need to spend any money on hotel for the 2 weeks I’m gone. Though the person is adamant that I do not need to help with Petrol, I refuse to not help somehow since this person will be driving my entire stay there. I figured rather then me rent a car, learn to drive over there and potentially fail at doing so.. it would be safer for EVERYONE if I just didn’t try and drive haha.

Things we will be doing, more then likely, will be visiting a few of the castles in the area, and since I’m a photographer a lot of country side trips. Ive never really been in to fancy meals ( I can get that in the states ). I just want to get away from the hustle of my everyday life and relax. So Ill be hanging out at the house and experiencing things from the aspects of someone who lives there.

In the end I am just curious how much in USD or Pounds I should bring? Thanks for any advice you have for me!

The only thing that makes me nervous is what the custom officers or immigration officers feel is “enough” money to cover my trip… anyone have an idea what all I would need to show them when I get there?

Keith SavageNo Gravatar April 11, 2014 at 1:30 AM

Nice setup you’ve got going on this trip. For my trips I usually budget £30/day (~$50) on non-travel/non-accommodation expenses (basically food, drink, entertainment). That’s $700 for two weeks, though you will probably spend less (I always do). If you get a flight for under $1000 you could legitimately budget $1500 for the whole trip.

By the way, I’m not familiar with customs or immigration officials weighing in on whether you have enough money for your trip – at least they’ve never asked me – they just want to know what you’re doing in Scotland. Let your parents worry about money 🙂

TwiggyFlipNo Gravatar April 11, 2014 at 1:34 AM

lol, Im traveling solo and im 28 haha… so my parents are pretty much not worried about what I do lol. That was a super fast response! Hope you are having a good time in Scotland! Thanks so much for the information. I was planning on 700 pounds haha.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar April 11, 2014 at 11:08 AM

I’m 33 and I only speak from experience 🙂

TwiggyFlipNo Gravatar May 12, 2014 at 11:29 AM

haha yeah the parent’s aren’t about to leave me hanging I’m sure. So I have finally got my ticket ( had to wait a bit and prices went up lol of course ) so 1055.00 was my ticket price 3 weeks I should have my passport and I have managed £1200 after ticket price for just spending.

My friend says that’s way to much. The reason I’m bring so much with me is, emergencies. I only plan on spending maybe £500 if that. However, I’ve read more and more that there have been recent cases of customs asking people how they plan on supporting themselves while visiting the country. My biggest issue right now is I’m worried because I dont have credit cards and I don’t do banks (I know people will find that hard to believe and stupid but its the truth). I use cash only haha. So if they ask for proof they are just going to see a wad of cash currently. However I am thinking I may get one of those cards that has my name printed on it that I load with money from one of the credit card agencies? I will also have about £300 on me in cash to show just in case they ask me that question. However I am sure they won’t I always plan for the worst case scenario.

Basically this is what I’m having done.

Friend of mine writing a letter and sending it to me via post stating that he has invited me to come stay with him in Glasgow. I will not need a hotel because he is providing me with a place to stay.

I will have £200 in cash on me and another 1000.00 on a card with my name printed on it.

I used to smoke ( bad habit I know ) now I vape. However this time I am not bringing my Electronic Cig with me because I dont want to have to explain the liquid in the tank and what it is exactly. I have to do this every time I go through security here in the states. Its annoying. So I’m leaving them home and just gonna get a couple nicotine patches lol.

I may have to take a bus from Glasgow to another city about 20min away I’m still figuring all that out lol cause my friend may be working the day I get in. Anyway that should cover all my basis. I believe 1200 should be plenty of money for 2 weeks in the eyes of customs. lol.

Ray S.No Gravatar March 27, 2014 at 10:35 PM

Keith, Jim, and Willie,
Thank you all for your advice. The wife and I are considering the recommendations you’ve given, as well as looking through two sites mentioned above, and and seeing what fits out plans. She’s still open to the larger tour systems, like CIE Tours, so we’re thinking of taking part of our week for a Glasgow and Edinburgh tour, then driving or taking a train up towards Banff. I like the idea of driving up there through the national park, as you suggest, Willie, but the coastal route also seems nice, and also seems likely to offer some nice roadside moments. Banff looks like it could be great though, with Banff Castle, Duff House, Delgatie Castle… And Fordyce is apparently a historic preserved village, which sounds incredible. Additionally, apparently, that area’s also the ‘dolphin coast’, with dolphins and whale-watching as well, and an aquarium.

I’ll keep updating in this thread, if you don’t mind, as our plans firm up, in case we miss something or you can add advice to an idea.

This site’s been great.

Ray S.No Gravatar March 25, 2014 at 8:58 PM

My wife and I are hoping to visit Scotland, for the first time, this summer. I read through your travel guide, which was clear and detailed. We are hoping to spend 7-8 days there, plus our travel days. (We’re in NJ.) My interests are sight-seeing and genealogy, hers is sight-seeing and the experience. I read your guide, and I’m thinking that we’d start in Edinburgh, for the opportunity to make use of the research resources your Family History page details, as well as many cultural opportunities and sights in the city.
My big question to you is: My Scottish ancestry comes from two distinct areas: One is tightly from Banffshire, (specifically Banff, Rothiemay, Fordyce, Rathven) and the other is from Bonhill, in Dumbartonshire, then Killin in Perthshire. Which would be better to pursue? My thought is that Banffshire offers more for both of us for our limited time – You describe that region as part of ‘Castle Country’, which sounds like something she’d love to see, and since many of the villages my family hails from are within a few miles of each other, and seem small enough to see in a few hours, I think we’d get more out of it. However, you do talk about Perth more, and that it’s a beautiful area, so I’m asking for guidance.
Further, would you recommend using a tour? (If so, which companies have you heard the best about, or had the best experiences with?)

Thank you for this great site and your answers.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar March 26, 2014 at 9:26 AM

Hi Ray,

First off it’s really neat that you’ve tracked down your Scottish ancestry to such specific areas. You pose a difficult question. Having considered the regions of your origin, both are distinctly worthy places to visit. Killin and Bonhill anchor, to some degree, the northern and southern extremities of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, a place of great and wild beauty (though to be fair it’s not the same Perthshire I generally refer to, which is the more forested region directly south of the Cairngorms). You’d also be near to Glasgow. On the other hand, you’re right that Banffshire fits neatly along and inside castle country, with the magnetic Speyside region just to the west. If you or your wife like whisky, this could be the deciding factor. It’s not a question of which is better – both will provide you with more than enough experiences. Hmm. If you held a gun to my head I’d say go to Banffshire, but that is a very difficult choice.

The choice of using a tour depends on how independent you want to be. I think if you’re planning to stick around Banffshire you could just as easily rent a car (or take a train) directly there with little need for a tour. Perhaps others could recommend specific companies – I’ve never used one!

Jim StuhtNo Gravatar March 26, 2014 at 11:04 AM

Specifically with reference to “tour” companies, it might depend on how much of the itinerary planning you want/enjoy doing on your own. Whenever we travel to Scotland (usually every other year) I spend a lot of time in the off year doing reading and researching the areas we want to visit. I enjoy the working out of the itinerary – locating the spots central to an area where we can spend 2/3/4 nights and then doing day trips to explore the points of interest nearby. Then when I’ve decided on an fairly detailed itinerary, I contact our agent in Scotland, Hart Holidays of Glasgow, to do the busy work of making & confirming the reservations for lodging, ferries, car rental, etc. For us this works fine – I get to do the stuff I enjoy and Margaret from Hart does the fiddly bits. For me self-driving the Highlands and Islands is the only way to go, but YMMV.

Guided tours are available from many sources, but – as I really enjoy the driving – we haven’t dealt with any of those. Grab a copy of “Scotland” magazine, there are tons of tour companies listed there.

I’m sure that Willie W. will respond as well with more info. As a “native”, he will have great suggestions.

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar March 26, 2014 at 8:10 PM

Thanks for roping me in, Jim :o)

There are no tours companies doing tours of the areas you want, or at least not with time to spare to do all the geneaology things you plan. Having yuor own tour guide is extremely expensive and as you are going to such a specific area, you will do fine on your own. Scotland is a small country and you can get around quite quickly, if you don’t want trundle along and enjoy the view. Banff to Blairgowrie in Perthshire over two ranges of mountains, via Grantown on Spey and Braemar, takes less than four hours but it is full of outstanding scenery. The whole coast line around Banff is lovely and it really is a nice area much under-visited by most visitors to Scotland, who head for the, admittedly stunning, West coast. It is the kind of place somebody like Jim S. who comes regularly, would probably aim for on his third or fourth trip and really enjoy. Not as spectacular as other areas, but very nice and you have the Family thing to make the perfect reason for going.

Rent a car is definitely the best idea. We have rental offices in Edinburgh, Stirling, Aberdeen and Elgin if you want to rent a car.

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar March 23, 2014 at 3:41 PM

Jim is right, Lisa, is the premier site on everything in Scotland and they also have suggested itineraries, which while not needing tobe slavishly followed are especially good for letting you see how much can be done in whatever number of days.

I recommended a few web sites last time, but I am emphasising the site this time because it is your absolutely best bet for safe, comfortable accommodation all over Scotland, with great cooking facilities and the chance to meet excellent people and also the chance to save a lot of money for accommodation. Not every places has private rooms, but most do and most have en-suite shower/toilets, too.

You said on your last post you had about US$7250 and I think If you read my post properly it was clear you could manage three weeks very, very easily with that much money. With GBP7700, you can stay in nice hotels, too.

Let me give you a comparison – business class flights to Australia and New Zealand with two nights stopover in a harbour-side hotel in Hong King going and two nights stopover in a riverside hotel in Bangkok coming back, with the main stops being Sidney and Auckland (Extra for hotels there, of course), but a free option for Dubai both ways – going from Glasgow, with limos to/from the airport everywhere except Hong Kong, costs GBP….. wait for it….. GBP7700, as part of a five week “Trip of a lifetime” for two people. If we can do that, then you can do Scotland with the same amount. Admittedly we will spend GBP3000 more on accommodation and car rentals, but that still makes your money look like it will do the trick for you to a very good standard. Good Luck, Willie

lisaNo Gravatar March 23, 2014 at 1:45 PM

Thank you, Jim! I will check out that website. Always good to have more sources of information! I am jealous – you are going this year? We will be going next year. But honestly I will need another year to finish the planning! Once you are back, lease post and let everyone know how it was! Do you have an itinerary yet? Can’t wait to hear about your adventures!

Jim StuhtNo Gravatar March 23, 2014 at 2:01 PM


As a Single-Malt Whisky lover I’ve always wanted to attend the Feis Ile (Islay Festival of Whisky & Music) and this year that wish comes true! Our entire first week will be on Islay visiting the various distilleries and soaking up the scenery and music along with the malt. After that we head north to spend a few days on Lewis/Harris and the same on Skye (allowing a few driving days to take in the sites along the way). Then we swing east to Inverness for a couple of days and down to Stirling & Edinburgh hitting some stops for sites we missed in our previous trips. Finally, since we are connecting in Dublin, we’ll spend a few days walking the streets and hitting various pubs & touristy spots.

If you are interested, I can email you the URL for my Tumblr blog which I hope to use to keep folks up to date on our travels. Also this year I bought a POV camera to stick on the windshield so we can record video of some of the more interesting drives through the Highlands and Islands — hopefully that will work out and I’ll be able to make the more interesting clips available on-line after we return.

lisaNo Gravatar March 23, 2014 at 4:19 PM

I would love the link to your blog! Thanks Jim!
Willie – I have checked out the links you gave last time and they were great. I LOVE the place at John O’Groats. Having the extra money that my parents have contributed will make the trip longer and with more options available to us. Again – thanks everyone for the great info!

Jim StuhtNo Gravatar March 23, 2014 at 7:40 PM


My Tumblr blog can be accessed at:

So far I’ve been putting up a bunch of pix from our previous trips and odds ‘n ends relating to what we hope to see. Once we actually hit Glasgow, I’ll try to highlight the sights with pix as we hit them. (Probably will only do the updates in the evenings when we have access to WiFi since roaming charges are outrageous!)

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar March 23, 2014 at 5:55 PM

Hi Jim,

Don’t forget what I said about meeting for a dram at the Bruichladdich Open Day on the Sunday at the Feis. Find Duncan, Sue or Mary and they should be able to spot me. I am pleased to accept whisky from strangers :o)

Jim StuhtNo Gravatar March 23, 2014 at 6:56 PM

Oh I will definitely do my best to connect at Bruichladdich – love to share a dram with friends both old and new! I’m chomping at the bit for the distilleries to post their schedules for this years’ Feis so I can sign up for the tours and such.

Jim StuhtNo Gravatar March 23, 2014 at 12:25 PM


Probably one of the best sites to hit for checking out the main sites and getting a feel for their locations is:

It covers all the main sites around the country and lots of lesser known spots as well. I keep a tab for it open in my browser always because it’s just a fun site to dig around in. I’m sure other folks here will have other recommendations for websites to visit for info.

We’ll be traveling about the same time – last week of May til the third week of June. I’m hoping for some great weather, but with Scotland it’s always iffy. One thing I did here was that they are expecting a bumper crop of midges this summer due to a mild winter (?) Be sure to take midge-repellant and bite cream!

Jim S

lisaNo Gravatar March 23, 2014 at 10:47 AM

After several years of saving and a very kind donation from my Dad and Mom, my budget for a trip to Scotland (after tickets) will be about 7500 pounds. We would like to be able to stay for a month, if possible. I don’t need fancy accomodations, but comfortable and charming would be nice – Maybe some combination of a few B& B’s and self catering cottages so we can be at one place for a while and just do day trips…I want it to feel like we are “living” there! There will be 3 travelers – myself and my 2 daughters, who will be age 12 and 15 at time of the trip. Thankfully my Dad insisted on teaching me and my brother how to drive on a stick, so that won’t be a problem. My father in law assures me that after a day or two driving on the “wrong” side of the road won’t feel strange anymore. Willie responded to my last post, bless his heart, so at least I know where to get my car from!
I am a castles, beaches, history, nature kind of girl. I can skip the bars, distilleries, and big(ish?!) cities. I lean to the crumbling castles although I would like to see a couple of restored ones. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending!) my interests lead me from way South (Hadrian’s Wall and the Border Abbeys) to Orkney Islands, from Aberdeen to the Highlands to the Outer Hebrides, Skye, and Mull. I know I can’t fit it all in! What do I cut when I will probably never make it back?! We are hoping to make the trip leaving the last Wednesday of May (2015) and staying through June if we have enough money.
EDINBURGH – Edinburgh Castle, Catacombs, Rosslyn Chapel
SOUTH – Border Abbeys, Hadrian’s Wall
ABERDEEN – Dunnottar Castle
INVERNESS – Culloden, Clava Cairns, Loch Ness, Urqhuart Castle
BLACK ISLE/EASTER ROSS – Pictish Trail, Fortrose Cathedral, Groam House Museum, Nigg Church, Fearn Abbey, Dolphin Tour, Fairy Glenn, Climb Ben Wyvis
NORTHERN – Orkney Islands, Skara Brae,
OUTER HEBRIDES – Brochs, Callanish Standing Stones, etc
SKYE – Eilean Donan, Coral Beach, Dunvegan Castle, Trumpan Church, Craft Trail (Yarn Shop?)
In a perfect world I would also like to see MULL and PERTHSHIRE…In my defense, my list was much shorter until I started reading Keith’s blog, but now it has umm… expanded a bit!

Help! How long could I comfortably manage on 7500 pounds and what can I realistically see/do? What order? Where would we want to spend enough time to use a self catering cottage, and where would be overnighters at B&B’s?

Would you ever consider adding little maps with just a simple dot to represent the location of the places you are writing about? I bought a map of Scotland, of course, but don’t know where some of the places are on it!

Thanks so much for your wonderful website and also for any advice you can offer


Keith SavageNo Gravatar March 23, 2014 at 8:11 PM

Hi Lisa,

Both Jim and Willie have given you sound advice thus far. I think you could easily see all of that in the month you’ve allotted. As for expenses, the biggest one will be flying three people over. I’ve found the best way to feel like I’m living in Scotland is book self-catering places in regular towns – places where I can shop at the market, make dinner at home, and go out for a drink in the evening. You could lump Black Isle and Inverness area into a nice self-catering stay. Skye, Edinburgh, and Orkney would ideal options as well. I truly loved staying at Orkney Crofts.

I think Perthshire is a must-visit place and you can find some time within your month to spend a few days there on your way north.

I have indeed looked into plotting my articles onto a map of Scotland to make browsing much easier for visitors, but the cost of the development was far outside my price range. It remains on my dream list.

VickiNo Gravatar March 10, 2014 at 11:23 PM

First, I want to say thank you for creating such an incredible site and resource. I just discovered your site today and have already been thru most of the pages and read the 4-part series on planning a trip to Scotland. You might say my bucket list is short and sweet: visit Scotland. Fortunately, that will happen this summer, unfortunately it will only be for 8-9 days by the looks of things. But I’ll take it, as I have dreamt of this for 35 years.

That said, as I am winnowing down my list of places to visit. Yes, reality has finally set in as I work on the itinerary. Up until this point, Edinburgh and the Border Abbeys have made the cut, but the rest of the hit list is heavy on the west and the Highlands. I think I saw that you will be visiting the border Abbeys this April. Will you be writing about them when you return? I hope so, as I am trying to figure out if the 3 abbeys can be done, AND ENJOYED, in a single day.

I look forward to reading more of your writing and again thank you for what has turned out to be an incredible resource!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar March 11, 2014 at 9:22 AM

Hi Vicki,

It’s really great to hear you’ll be able to actualize your dream. Scotland will not disappoint. I will be in the Borders next month, taking in the abbeys and all the area has to offer. However, I visited the area eight years ago and actually visited Melrose, Jedburgh, and Dryburgh abbeys all in a single day. Melrose and Dryburgh are very close together and easy to do (assuming you have your own vehicle). Dryburgh is further south but certainly within striking distance. We did miss Kelso abbey that day and I think it would have been a stretch to cram in four, but where there’s a will there’s a way. Just be sure to check opening hours. Our day of three abbeys was great and we enjoyed each one.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your trip!

JenNo Gravatar March 11, 2014 at 3:45 PM

I second Keith’s comment. I visited Melrose, Dryburgh and Jedburgh Abbeys all in one day. It was done quite easily and we enjoyed all of them. We started out from Edinburgh and used our GPS to get us to each one. My favorite was Dryburgh – mainly for the setting, I think. Have fun!

rachelNo Gravatar March 7, 2014 at 5:42 PM

I would love some itineraries! I’ve never even been on a plane and I’m traveling to Scotland with my husband this May 2014. I’m feeling overwhelmed as to which places to stop and see. They’re all so beautiful, and what to do when we get there. Your blog is very helpful. Thanks so much for posting.

MeganNo Gravatar February 9, 2014 at 6:15 AM

This site has already been SO helpful! A fifth part would be even more amazing but you’ve provided great resources for everything. I found the best airfare at Student Universe from departing from the United States. I feel this is a one-stop site. This site has everything you need for visiting Scotland. Thank you so much for being so experienced and putting this site together.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 9, 2014 at 9:36 PM

Hi Megan,

Glad to help!

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar January 26, 2014 at 4:29 PM

hi Lisa,

Scotland is extremely safe for female travellers! Scotsmen are very respectful!

You can stop saving. You easily have enough money. The sterling equivalent at today’s rate is about GBP4400.

Let’s imagine you are staying three weeks.

The one overhead for the full period is the car. I can rent you a compact 4-door car, such as a Vauxhall Astra or Kia Ceed, for GBP510 for three weeks. This has room for you three and room for your luggage and will be economical in fuel usage, but it is small enough for you to feel comfortable on Scottish roads.

I suggest you spend one week in a cottage (to save some money) and the other two travelling. Alternatively, most cottages out of season are available for as few as three days. You could pick several in different parts of the country and use them as a series of bases. Cheaper than hotels.

Let’s look at other accommodation. There are various sites to look for cottages across Scotland. Prices range across a broad spectrum. This one below might be a little remote, but it is a nice looking, clean and comfortable-looking place for just GBP330 for a week at almost any time of year.

If you base yourself somewhere a little North of Inverness, you can do day trips to almost the whole of the North and North West. Strathpeffer is a nice little town and well situated, about 30 minutes North West of Inverness.

That leaves you much more time for island-hopping, to see the real Scotland. Some of the distances don’t seem much, but can take a lot of slow driving. The longest day out, from Strathpeffer, to take in the very North West of Scotland up to Durness and a scenic route through Ullaool and back via Lairg would show you some of the most beautiful parts of the remotest areas of Scotland and would be a driving day of about 6 hours. Everything else is nearer and shorter. A drive directly North could take in Dunrobin Castle (superb falconry display) and Carn Liath and it is only an hour each way. Same for the pretty fishing village of Ullapool on the West coast.

So, a week’s cottage would cost you about GBP400 out of the main Summer weeks.

So to recap, a week’s accommodation and a car for the whole trip and you have spent GBP900.

Assume you spend GBP100 a night on accommodation for the other two weeks (you don’t have to spend that much, but if you do, that will be nice accommodation). That’s GBP1400 spent and you are now up to GBP2300. All your accommodation and the car paid for and you have GBP2100 left over (remember, this is out of the money you have ALREADY saved). That’s GBP100 a day for three weeks, for your food, entrances and fuel. If you ate out in a restaurant every night, you still couldn’t spend that much. A good restaurant for the three of you, for a two course meal, in most of Scotland, should not cost you more than GBP60 and you do not have to eat out every night, especially when you have cottage.

There are youth hostels all over Scotland and some of them are superb. Most offer family rooms and they have kitchens to cook your own food, or some offer restaurant meals on a very low budget (GBP10 for a 2 course meal). Let’s take the Oban hostel. Oban is a lovely West coast ferry terminal and fishing village and this hostel looks out over pretty Oban Bay. A three bedded room with en-suite private bathroom, costs GBP61 a night (remember we allowed GBP100 a night). Staying in a hostel is staying in a safe environment. They are all over the country in some excellent positions. Most have private rooms. You will meet people from all over the world when you share the kitchen and the dining and lounge rooms and meet lots of Scots too. Your girls will love it because there will be so many young people for them to meet and you will enjoy meeting the parents.

I could go on. The bottom line is, you can stay all over Scotland, eat well and especially so when you cook your own meals. You have loads of money to pay for entry to attractions and for fuel and you have all of that RIGHT NOW!!! See you soon!

Last tip. Stay away in the height of the Summer. Accommodation prices soar and vacancies plummet. That main season is from about the start of July to Mid August. Cheers, Willie

lisaNo Gravatar January 27, 2014 at 5:40 PM

Thank you both so much for replying! We are more excited now than ever! I think we will aim for the first 3 weeks or so of June (maybe all of June if I have enough saved by then for an extra week!) as soon as the kids are out of school. Plus my bday is in June – what better way to spend it?! My inlaws have lived a couple of times for several years each time in Scotland and the pictures they have shown us make me think it is quite possibly the prettiest place on Earth! When we go, I will email you for car rental/GPS info! What a grand adventure for a mom and her daughters! Thank you again!

lisaNo Gravatar January 26, 2014 at 11:10 AM

Hi, I am so glad that I found your series- even though it is several years past the writing of it! I am currently saving $ for a trip for 3-4 people to Scotland, my husband does not like traveling and is not sure he wants to go, so it may just be me and my 2 daughters! Is Scotland a safe place for 3 females to travel? In a perfect world I want to save enough to spend 3-4 weeks there. We currently have $7250 in our “vacation fund”. My children are now only 13 and 10, and I am planning (hoping?) this trip will take place when they are 16 and 13, so I still have plenty of time to save $. What is a realistic $ goal? Our interests are more in line with staying away from big cities and seeing the smaller more out of the way areas with a few typical destinations thrown in – Culloden, Loch Ness, Clava Cairns, Callanish Stones, Isle of Skye… Would it be best to try to rent a place somewhere near Inverness as a home base then do mostly day trips with a few overnighters for the farther locations, or plan on spending a few nights in B&B’s as we drive around the country? And, yes, I do know how to drive a stick (thanks Dad!) although I am sure driving on the “wrong” side of the road will take some getting used to! I really appreciate any thoughts you have on how to make this a really wonderful experience – it will be our first time out of the country and because of the cost of “BIG” trips, it may be a long time till another!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 27, 2014 at 1:14 PM

The good news, Lisa, is that the vast majority of these posts are still relevant even three years later. Looks like Willie has beaten me to the response, and his insight is spot on. Scotland is very safe, especially in the eyes of Americans like me who deal with a much higher level of everyday crime here at home. As Willie mentioned, the money you’ve already saved with suffice for your trip with a bit of planning. The only reason you would need to save more is if you intend to stay in very posh accommodations with multiple rooms. That can add up quickly. All in all I’d say you’re just about ready to go.

JenniferNo Gravatar January 27, 2014 at 9:16 PM

I have been to Scotland twice with my sister. There was never a time that we did not feel safe. We spent time in Edinburgh, Isle of Skye and lots of other places. Our first trip we travelled around and stayed in various B&B’s. The second trip we stayed in one place and did day trips. There are pluses and minuses to each. Scotland is amazing , I am sure you will love it.

KatieNo Gravatar December 18, 2013 at 9:18 PM

Scotland – 17 days in Sept 2013…. Awesome…Stupendous…WOW… I felt like I came home.

We (brother, sister, brother-in-law and I) shared a tiny car… climb in, breathe in and slam the doors… the trunk – not – now I understand the word “boot” – tiny, fits like a glove, just enough room for your foot. 🙂 Old town Edinburgh for two nights before picking up the rental car at the airport (don’t waste money getting a car to drive around Edinburgh, plenty of public transportation) then heading to Sterling, Fort William for the Jacobite Steam Train (awesome blue sky day) then up to Grantown-on-Spey as a base for 5 nights to explore the highlands; over to Banchory, down along the coast to Anstruther and back to Edinburgh. Crathes Castle is a must and the gardens are Awesome even by the end of September. And the whiskey…. needs no comment. We stuck to “B” Roads whenever possible and took tons of photographs. The food is Delicious and the people are wonderful. Trip of a lifetime we hope to repeat… finances… we figured about $3,ooo per person – flight included ($1238) from Phoenix, AZ. We stayed in an apartment, a B & B, a self catering cottage and a hostel/hut. Hut was a bit primitive for 5o+ year olds but we had fun. Self catering cottage and apartment (Edinburgh) were the best arrangements as far cutting expenses for food/drink/lodging.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 18, 2013 at 11:05 PM

Hi Katie,

It’s funny you should say that you “felt like you came home.” My dad said the same thing after he visited Scotland for the first time in his 60s. Sounds like you did your trip right, and clearly you did because you’re already planning a return trip! That’s the mark of a wonderful vacation. Banchory and the entire Royal Deeside area is very pleasant and doesn’t get much love.

I agree, Crathes is an amazing castle. I gave it an honorable mention in my best castles of Scotland post, but that was an incredible difficult list to winnow down.

KatieNo Gravatar December 19, 2013 at 8:09 PM

I liked Crathes Castle for the following reason…. I’ve been to Ireland 3 times (Love Ireland too) and seen a number of ruins, and the vacation before our trip to Scotland was in the Lake District of England; Tons of ruins, but hard to imagine how they were inside because most of their floors were either gone or “reconstructed.” So, it was truly amazing to see a castle so complete, with all the floors intact and still in use… it made the more sense – construction, use, etc., after seeing Crathes… and oh the gardens are sooooooo awesome. I told the Gardener I wanted to dig in the dirt… after living in Southern Arizona for 24 years I truly enjoyed seeing such rich, moist earth. (Compare with using a jackhammer to dig a hole to plant a tree!). We’re aiming for 2016!

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar December 8, 2013 at 7:49 AM

Orkney is special and you did well to get away from the “big three” of sites. The Bishop’s Palace and Italian Chapel are very good sites. I have stayed in Birsay before, but it is perpetually Sunday afternoon and at least Kirkwall is marginally livelier. I love the Italian Chapel and the story behind it.

Iona is a good day visit, but an even better overnight stop. I am not religious, but it is a spiritual place in all meanings of the word, especially so after the day trippers are on the last ferry.hey started opening to vistors on Sundays

We once did 35 distilleries in a day (a Wintery Sunday before they started opening to visitors on Sundays). it was growing dark as we reached the last one. Just photo ops and on Speyside, because nowhere else has that concentration of distilleries. Islay comes a close second with 8 and only 3200 people.

Re the Old Man of Hoy, for visitors to Orkney, the best place to see it is from the Northlink ferry from/to Scrabster which passes close to the island of Hoy about half way through the voyage from/to Stromness. Otherwise, take a short ferry crossing to Hoy and then walk to the top of the cliffs. Check return ferry times and don’t miss the last one!!

The Scottish Tourist Board (Visit Scotland in their latest guise) don’t get that much right, but they describe Islay as the Queen of the Isles and I would say they’re spot on! It is the best, friendliest. most enjoyable, prettiest island of all, to my mind.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 9, 2013 at 4:57 PM

I have to say, though, that the “big three” are the big three for a reason. Truly astounding.

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar December 10, 2013 at 5:23 AM

Quite right Keith. They are not a World Heritage site by mistake.

The ongoing dig at the Ness of Brodgar is going to place the Ring of Brodgar and Stenness Stones smack in the middle of Europe’s most important and outstanding prehistoric site. Everywhere they scan, they find new structures and they will be digging for many years, but it is already shown to be possibly the oldest religious site in Europe. Altars, labyrinths….

Jim StuhtNo Gravatar December 10, 2013 at 8:45 AM

Guess we’re gonna have to plan a return to Orkney sometime in the future! When we were there in 2012, the dig site near Stenness had been shut down due to lack of funding. The local guides at Maeshowe tho were really excited about what they were finding and couldn’t say enough about the future of the dig.

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar December 11, 2013 at 8:02 PM

The dig takes place every year in the Summer for about six weeks and then it is covered over, which is tragic with such an important site. When it is in action, they have a viewing gallery set up to the side up some stairs so you can see what they are doing and they give talks every hour or so about what is happening and what they find. In October, I was up and drove in (definitely not supposed to,but there was another car there and it was two Orkney Council Archeologists and they showed us lots of the drawings that had been done and the things they were finding and it was absolutely mind-boggling. None of those plans and drawings had been published yet and there are nine feet thick walls and labyrinths and altars and all sorts of amazing things. It really needs a bit of lottery funding, but the dig is being done by a university and they are only able to do it in the Summer and the Orkney Arch people have sooooooo many sites to investigate that they cannot afford to do. You should see some of the stuff they know about in Shetland, which they have not done yet because of funding lacks. At least one new “Skara Brae” (I have seen the building corners sticking out of the dunes). If you come into a lot of money, you could fund some earth-shaking works up there!

Jim StuhtNo Gravatar December 7, 2013 at 10:52 AM


Thanks for the heads-up on Dublin Pubs! We’re staying @ the Arlington-Temple Bar because it is sort of central to the area we want to walk and will definitely try to hit some of your recommendations.

On our last trip in 2012 we ferried across to Orkney Mainland because Clan Gunn originated in Norway with a long layover in Orkney. Skara Brae was wonderful as was the Brough of Birsay and Broch of Gurness. While impressive, the Ring of Brodgar was so large that it was less awe-inspiring to me than the Stones of Stenness nearby. And other than getting a back-ache from the entry shuffle, Maeshowe was very cool. One other site that was truly gorgeous was the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm – amazing artistry inside a couple of Nissen huts! One site we almost missed was the Bishops Palace in Birsay (must have missed the entry on Undiscovered Scotland site). It is a lovely ruin and makes for a nice addition to the trip to the Viking ruins on the Brough (just be sure to note the timing of the tides ’cause it’s not a stretch you’d want to swim!)

Also might want to mention to folks that it looks like the Old Man of Hoy may not be around much longer unless they do some preventive work on the base – it’s eroding evermore quickly year by year. (This is from some sources that should know and they sounded worried.) If you want to see it – do it relatively soon!

We also hit Mull (had the most miserable weather – I think dreich is the proper term for it – which is nice but nowhere near as awesome as Skye terrain-wise. The day-trip to Iona is also a must for visitors, whether you are of a religious bent or not, as the ruins of the Nunnery and St. Ronans as well as the Abbey are truly magnificent sites. (Didn’t make it to Staffa/Fingal’s Cave – maybe another time!)

We also made a quick stop on Islay – hit all 8 distilleries in one day (mostly just photo ops except for my favorite – Laphroig) as well as the Kildalton Cross, Finlaggan, Wollen Mill (Gordon was the epitome of knowledgeable tour guide), and Round Church. We were strapped for time by the ferry schedules so had to do the kamikazi run. That’s also why we’re headed back for the Feis next year – to really enjoy the island!

I could go on and on (and usually do!) when it comes to talking about the scenery, sights/sites, and people of Scotland but better quit before the Savage bans me!

Jim S

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar December 7, 2013 at 8:22 AM

Hi Jim,

You really have got the idea about touring in Scotland. You will love Lewis and Harris and if you like Clava Cairns, then Calanish stone circles would be right for you. Don’t just visit the main circle. There are others signposted nearby. I am also a huge fan of that Northern Caithness and Sutherland area, the Real Scotland, along with the islands.

I will be at the FeisIle for a whole week, myself. If you go to Bruichladdich Open Day (the biggest of the whole week) and you see a man with silver/white hair and beard and huge hands, that is General Manager, Duncan McGillivray, a much more noticeable man than me. Ask him to point out Willie Wallace and it would be a pleasure to share a dram with you. If you don’t see Duncan, Ask Mary the shop manager, if she can point me out. There will be eight of us there. Otherwise, Susan, Duncan’s wife, will be handing out the drams on the dram counter (we are Scots, we call a spade a shovel) and with the height advantage in that corner, she may spot me easier. Email me and let me know where you are staying. Also email me if you want the cheapest possible rental car!!

Last thing, when in Dublin, the tendency is to head to Temple Bar. Resist it. The best pubs are on the other side of Dame Street, away from the river. Grogans on South William Street. Just listen to the conversations and you are back in Joyce’s Dublin. NO TV in here. Likewise, The Long Hall up Aungier Street from Dame Street. Great pub! Irish people in these, not tourists and I used to regularly frequent them on a Friday night as my office was in William Street. Another good one for various types of music and a great pint, is The International on the corner of Wicklow Street, just 80 metres round the corner from the tourist info office (head left from the office door). Three or four doors along from there is Cornucopia, the second best veggie restaurant in the world! It is early afternoon and I suddenly fancy a Guinness :o) A more upmarket pint can be had in the Library Bar of the Central Hotel upstairs on Exchequer Street . Table service and also a fave joint of ours for post-office pints. Of course, it was a smoky old place in those days, but much nicer now!

Jim StuhtNo Gravatar December 6, 2013 at 5:53 PM

Getting psyched for our 3rd trip to Scotland next summer (we visited in 2010 & 2012). This time around we’ll have a full 4 weeks to tour (starting with 9 days on Islay for the Feis Ile – I’m a Single-Malt lover!)

After getting our fill of distillery tours/tastings/great food/fantastic music, we will be heading north with quick stops in Ft. William and Uig before ferrying to Lewis/Harris for a few days sightseeing. Returning we will have a few days on Skye (definitely want to see Loch Coruisk & the Cuillin) to visit spots we missed in 2012. From there we drive the Great Glen to Inverness for some visits to nearby sites (really enjoyed Clava Cairns in 2010 & may revisit) and finish off by heading south to spend time in Edinburgh (our 3rd visit and I’m sure we’ll still have tons of sites for future visits). Since we’re connecting in Dublin, we decided to lay over for a few days of pub crawling in the city before returning to Wisconsin.

On our 2 previous trips we spent lots of time in Caithness & Sutherland (my wife is Clan Gunn from the Latheron area) and can’t recommend enough that folks take some time to drive the region if possible. We love the Tongue Hotel up north and though desolate, the Moine (between Tongue & Durness) has a stark beauty that gives me chills when driving through it. And once you turn south at Durness and head toward Ullapool and beyond to Dornie you will be in awe at the wondrous scenery you encounter at every turn. It has to be some of the most lovely terrain on this earth! (And a stop at Inverewe Gardens is a must – you can’t believe the diversity of flora that thrives in that area because of the Gulf Stream.)

Sorry for being so long-winded, but I tend to be a fanatic when talking about what I consider an “adopted” homeland – I’d move there in a minute (love Islay) if I could swing it!

Jim S

Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 9, 2013 at 4:55 PM

Hi Jim,

Four weeks is a massive trip and one that will allow you to see much of Scotland, if you so desire. Then again, sounds like you know the land well. I would love to go to Feis Ile as – clearly – I’m a single malt lover as well, but I just haven’t gotten around to planning that yet. Your trip sounds excellent. I need to stop in at the Clava Cairns one of these days. You’re a Wisconsinite? Which town? I’m in Madison.

Really appreciate the detail you’ve provided for the north/northwest – that’s an area I’ve got selected for a future trip.


Willie WallaceNo Gravatar December 10, 2013 at 5:43 AM

Hi Keith,

You are absolutely missing a trick if you haven’t been to Clava Cairns. Only about a mile from Culloden, but often when you visit, you are all alone, while Culloden’s car park is stuffed with coaches. It is a shame that mainstream tours don’t go there, but it would not be possible to take coaches down the little roads and it would completely ruin the superb atmosphere. Make it a “Must-Do” on your next trip. I take my tours there, but I also go when I am on my own. Special!

Cheers, Willie

Jim StuhtNo Gravatar December 10, 2013 at 9:41 AM


For some pix of the Clava Cairns site you can check out my Flickr site at:

There are a bunch of photos of the site that I took in 2010 – I’m the typical hack when it comes to shooting photos, but at least they will give you some idea of the site.

Jim S

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar October 23, 2013 at 5:17 PM

Take out a family membership and an adult couple membership in Historic Scotland. With 345 sites, including everything from prehistoric stone circles to massive and fabulous castles, the kids AND the adults will LOVE what you get from it. The family membership will include both kids. Strictly speaking, not the same family, but HS are very understanding of things like that. I have even had staff suggest I give my membership card to one of my clients so they can go free, when we visited a site I was not touring. Still, I wouldn’t mention they are not both the kids of one set of parents. Actually, I just looked more closer and it calls the membership “two adults plus two children”, so they do not care about them being related. That costs GBP89 and the two adults costs GBP84. They also organise events throughout the year in various places, many of which would appeal to kids. Four adults and two children going to Edinburgh Castle for a day out would pay GBP83 for entrance. That is just one destination and almost as much as a full membership for two adults and two children!!

You should rent your car from me and save money and get lots of useful info in the process, plus help choosing the right size of car, plus all drivers free, plus….. Keith rents from me :o)

LinaNo Gravatar October 22, 2013 at 12:29 PM

This site is fabulous! Scotland has been a #1 destination on my list for a very long time. And we are finally going for my 40th with close family friends also turning 40 next year. This site is keeping my thoughts organized as we begin to plan. We are bringing children, one child per couple ages 6 and 9. I read an earlier post stating that most pubs are child friendly however, I am more concerned with keeping them interested in our 2 week stay. Bored children can break a trip. We are thinking of going in October, possibly end of October ( also keeping the kids in mind, spending Halloween there and taking them out would be absolutely fabulous and fun for them! ) I am wondering if you have any ideas on places that kids would really enjoy or be interested in, that we could add on to our itinerary.. keeping in mind also that it will be the off season? Any help would be great!! :o) BTW We’ll be renting a vehicle.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 22, 2013 at 8:25 PM

Hi Lina,

Fair warning: I have no children and have done little in the way of child-focused activities over in Scotland. That said, I think Scotland is a lot like being anywhere in that what your kids like at home can be found here.

Perhaps this link will prove helpful:

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar October 3, 2013 at 5:14 PM

I posted a little while ago about taking people up from Ullapool to the North West and along the North Coast to catch a ferry to Orkney. I just did it in reverse last week, the third time this year and it is stunning.

A few days on Orkney – do the Highland Park Distillery tour – one of the more interesting distillery tours. See as much archaeology as poss and then head back to the mainland, round the North coastline via Durness and down to Ullapool and catch the ferry to the Isles of Lewis and Harris. Beautiful scenery, astoundingly lovely beaches and great archaeology again. You can either head over to Skye from Harris, or you can island hop down through North and South Uist (and Benbecula) to Barra and then back to Oban on the mainland, Add in Edinburgh and you have seen the most beautiful parts of Scotland, the best archaeology and you will not regret any of it. Cars are the only way to do it. No trains anywhere on that route, once you sail for Orkney and until you get back from Skye or Barra. for the car from me – Keith lets me post that here because he rents from me and I am the nicest AND the cheapest :o) for LOADS of stuff on all the island. Don’t miss Skara Brae, St. Clements Church, Calanish Stones, Maes Howe and leave a few days for lovely Edinburgh. Willie

SamanthaNo Gravatar October 3, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Thank you for building this site, it is great!! We are just starting to plan our trip to Scotland for next fall and it has been most helpful. I’ve read through all your main posts on costs, time, etc. as well as doing some other research and here’s where I’ve landed. I was curious to get your thoughts:

We will have roughly 2 weeks (give or take a few days) and will be flying in from the US. We dislike crowds and “touristy” activities for the most part… making key exceptions to see things one really shouldn’t pass up. We love being out in nature, don’t mind “roughing it” for a while a little but appreciate a good shower and good food at least semi-regularly. We particularly enjoy seeing native animals when travelling and trying local beer if available (finding a local brewery is always a plus). We are avid rock climbers but working it into the trip is not a must.

We are looking at September, I would like to go at the beginning of the month for better weather odds, but am wondering if it would be better to go later in the month to avoid crowds?

We will likely try to fly into Edinburgh, and skip Glasgow altogether. We can spend a day or two there, see the castle, Botanic Gardens, explore local pubs, perhaps check out some indoor climbing places (I hear they have a couple impressive ones)

From there we’re thinking we’d head north. We really enjoy travelling by train if the route is scenic, but I’m wondering if a car would be better in Scotland to be able to visit places off the beaten path. We definitely want to see local wildlife and explore the more wild side of Scotland, so I’m thinking after Edinburgh we head up towards Orkney and then stay there for a few days. Then we’d likely spend most of the final week exploring the Western Highlands, possibly including Skye.

What do you think? Is a car a must? Are we skipping anything we really shouldn’t if we limit ourselves to Edinburgh, Orkney and Western Highlands? Is our location wish-list too spread out to manage in 2 weeks? We’d likely want to do a distillery tour somewhere along the way although we aren’t big whisky drinkers, and although we don’t mind covering a little distance we don’t want to be in a different place each night.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 3, 2013 at 5:28 PM

Honestly, if you aren’t planning to do touristy things or be in touristy places, you have trouble finding crowds at almost any time during the year. Early September will be great.

All in all, your plan sounds pretty stellar and I can tell you’ve done your homework. Orkney is generally the spot I recommend people to see if they can swing the time investment. The Western Highlands are also well worth your time and possess some of the most beautiful scenery (and I imagine best chances to climb). As for whisky, you could easily visit Glenkinchie near Edinburgh, a place like Edradour in Pitlochry, or Highland Park in Orkney. All of those distilleries are sure-fire excellent visits. The Speyside region is also phenomenal *and* gorgeous and suffers no shortage of distilleries.

Transportation-wise, I think you can swing much of the trip using solely trains and be happy with the result. The one exception is Orkney. You’ll probably want to rent a car there as there are no trains there and I imagine you’ll want to see more than Kirkwall or Stromness. Public buses could suffice, but I wouldn’t say it gives you the best experience of the island. Trains are a very attractive option, but I love having a car in Scotland. It is pure freedom with the chance of serendipity turned up to the max.

I think you can easily do this trip in two weeks – it is NOT too spread out.

Great choices!

SammanthaNo Gravatar August 28, 2013 at 10:17 PM

I am currently planning my 10-day adventure to Scotland. For some reason the money issue was the last thing I checked and I completely forgot Scotland doesn’t use the Euro like Ireland. Ouch! Did that conversion hurt! Your writing has helped me a lot in planning my trip for May. I am looking forward to seeing this beautiful country 🙂

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 28, 2013 at 10:26 PM

Glad I could be of service, Sammantha. Yes, the Dollar to Pound conversion really sucks. B&Bs and pub specials are your friends. Have a great trip!

DeyaNo Gravatar July 16, 2013 at 7:43 PM

I am planning my trip to Scotland and had a few questions. I will be staying in a b&b in Edinburgh and plan to take two separate tours out of the city. The 2 day tour returns at 8:30 on Sunday night. Will I feel safe taking the bus back to my b&b at that time of night, since I am going on this Scotland trip by myself? Would a taxi be the best route? My tour ends close to Edinburgh Castle. It wouldn’t have bothered me in my 20’s & maybe 30’s, but now in my 40’s a little more hesitate on things. Also is there a better place/bank to exchange money or using the ATM the better choice? I would like your thoughts. Thank you…..

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 16, 2013 at 8:22 PM

Hi Deya,

Only you can know what will make you feel safe in that scenario. Edinburgh is generally a very safe place but crimes do happen, of course. I would feel safe taking the bus but I’m also a man in my early 30s. Do what feels best for you.

Use ATMs. It’s the best option. There are international transaction fees, but most banks keep them very small and the convenience of ATMs outweighs the fees.

SheilaNo Gravatar July 16, 2013 at 8:48 PM

Yes, ATMs are definitely the way to go! UK banks don’t levy a charge on ATM transactions using US cards, though your home bank may do so.
It’s worth searching out a bank which doesn’t charge extra for foreign transactions.

JenniferNo Gravatar July 16, 2013 at 9:12 PM

I was in Edinburgh in May. I took the bus late at night from Leith to Princes St and did not ever feel unsafe. Granted I was with my sister, but I am in my 40s. There were not alot of people on the bus and even less on the street. And when I say late, I mean it was elevenish. Do whatever makes you feel safe, you have nothing to prove to anyone.

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar June 24, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Big Step, Terri. Scotland is hugely different from NC, so you might want to consider all of you visiting before just GOING!

I do not now what your husband will spend and what he likes to buy so cannot help you with daily amounts, but the best bet is to arrange with his bank for a bank card he can use in ATM’s to take cash out whenever he needs it, plus to have at least one credit card to use for meals, etc. It is very important his bank know he is going there and will be using his cards there, or they will very likely block them for “unusual usage”. He needs to inform them in writing that he is going to the UK and that Scotland is currently part of the UK and have confirmation in writing that he will be able to use his cards and also he needs to ensure some idiot in his bank doesn’t impose a limit on how much he can withdraw. It happens ALL the time with US banks. They need to confirm they will not impose an arbitrary limit on how much he can withdraw abroad. Really, otherwise, he will be stuck with no money and on the phone for (expensive) hours!

As to going to live there, he needs to discuss this with the company he is going to work for, as they will have many legal requirements to meet, as will you all.I canot help there, sorry.

Good Luck, Willie

TerriNo Gravatar June 22, 2013 at 11:25 PM

Willie- just new to the site and see that is just about traveling to scotland… I was wondering my husband has recently been invited to stay at a home just about twenty minutes from Edinburgh and to see about a possible move there for our family from Asheville,NC and was wondering exactly how much money would he need to take to stay for a month and in the event he does receive a job offer is a move to Edinburgh a difficult thing to accomplish ( it would be me , my husband , 16 year old daughter and a peekapoo.

SheilaNo Gravatar June 22, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Willie – yes, we feel very lucky! I fell in love with Melness the first time I visited my Grandfather’s house. We were very lucky to find a house just along the road from it.

SheilaNo Gravatar June 18, 2013 at 5:42 PM

I do agree with you, Willie, about the North Coast! The view from my living room window, across the Kyle of Tongue to Ben Loyal, is breathtaking – I never tire of it.

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar June 20, 2013 at 4:16 PM

Lucky you Sheila. It is one of my favourite areas, Winter or Summer. With light blue Winter skies and snow on the hills and not a car or person in view, it is stunning. I will be passing your window next Tuesday, though I doubt you will notice :o) Willie

AshleyNo Gravatar June 17, 2013 at 4:39 PM

Ah Willie thank you so much! I was hoping you would answer but wasn’t sure since I saw you hadent posted in a bit! I appreciate your input and posting so quick, since I will probably do my final arrangements this week! One last one any suggestions on highland areas other than Inverness? And thanks for the info on the other islands I am going to take your advise and spread my wings! Yes Loch Ness was a thought but I really want to explore a couple other lochs instead! Again thank you!

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar June 18, 2013 at 3:53 PM

I had a small group of Finnish people travelling with me this last week, Ashley and I took them right round the North West of Scotland, from Ullapool via Durness to Thurso for the ferry to Orkney. When I told then it was the least populated area in Europe, they insisted that Northern Finland, with only 200,000 Laplanders must be more remote and empty. However, we worked out by size and area that there are far fewer people in this area than in Lapland. It is remote, but it is stunningly beautiful and the Finns agreed it was really okay (strong and very high praise from a Finn :o) There are fresh water lochs and sea lochs everywhere. Explore this area and you will not regret it. Like much of Scotland seems this year, there were more Germans than locals. Is anybody at home in Germany, I have to ask…

You ask about lochs. Loch Awe is a favourite of mine. Long and very thin and very pretty. There is a road along both sides and I have only been all the way along the South side (quite a few times), but when I have time from tours, might explore the North shore this off-season. North of there, the minor road up Glen Orchy heading for Rannoch Moor and Glencoe, hugs the river and is lovely. When there has been a bit of rain, the river is awesome. Stop by the Bailley bridge above the rapids and you will not regret it. Like all the roads in this posting, you will not meet many other vehicles. Even in Summer.

AshleyNo Gravatar June 16, 2013 at 11:03 AM

Loved all you posts. Right now making my final adjustments for my travel plans in July and August my thought on itinerary for 10 days is Edinburgh, Inverness (area), and then Skye. I’m pretty sure I’m renting a car just wondering what your take on this itinerary is.
Thanks so much!

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar June 16, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Haven’ t posted on the site recently, as very busy, but couldn’t refuse yours, Ashley :o). Edinburgh is a fabulous city. Don’t miss it. Inverness area is fine and the isle of Skye is beautiful.

However, I am sure you are thinking “Loch Ness and the Capital of the Highlands”. Loch Ness is lovely, but there are over 3,000 lovely lochs in Scotland and Loch Ness is the only one which has a million visitors a year. Great for the rest of us going elsewhere, but if you don’t want to be lined up in a constant stream of tour coaches, seek out another loch or two :o)

Inverness IS the capital of the highlands, but only because it is the administrative centre and the only town of any size (about 24,ooo people). It is actually at sea level and beside the sea, so not very highlandy, really :o)

Skye is beautiful but same argument as Loch ness. Because the tourist board pours all it’s efforts into promoting Loch Ness and Skye, everybody goes there, so there are those streams of tour coaches and that leaves the other 700 islands for me, so thanks very much :o) Take in Skye, by all means, but why not do it on the way to the stunning island of Harris (best beaches in the world, though slightly chilly sea) and neighbour Lewis which has amazing prehistoric sites. I don’t know if Keith lets me put my car rental site on, but it is cheaper than anybody else, so if not, he can take it off :o)

Have a lovely time in Scotland and spread your wings. Ferries from Don’t just take the bridge to Skye, the ferry crossing is outstandingly beautiful. Probably the best in Scotland and one of the most scenic in the world!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 17, 2013 at 4:52 PM

Yes, of course, link to your site. It’s in my site sidebar!

I’m back from vacation now, and I agree with everything Willie says here. BUT – if you catch Skye on a good weather day it’s one of the most stunning places, and there are plenty of areas that the tour buses breeze past. If you’ve got the time and inclination to explore, you won’t be disappointed.

AshleyNo Gravatar June 17, 2013 at 5:03 PM

Thanks so much!

SarahNo Gravatar July 17, 2013 at 11:43 AM


I just recently returned from Scotland and did an itinerary similar to yours. We didn’t have many problems with the tour buses on this route. We had terrible weather on Skye, so didn’t get to see some of what the island has to offer (at times we had very poor visibility), however if you have time I do recommend checking out Point Neist on Skye – it takes longer to get to than one might expect by looking at the map, but I found the views well worth the effort, especially if you hike down to the lighthouse. We took the bridge to Skye on the way in and intended to take the small ferry out, but ended up taking the main ferry out due to the weather/visibility issues.

Also, if you find yourself near the Eradour Distillery (and are interested in visiting distilleries), I recommend taking the path through the Black Spout Woods, past the waterfall to get there instead of driving up to it.

Although we had pretty bad weather most of our trip we had a wonderful time! Hope you do too!!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 17, 2013 at 12:02 PM

In reply to Sarah, yes, I had bad weather on my last trip to Skye, too. But even one day of good visibility is worth it. Neist Point is grand! As written about here:

Edradour distillery is one of the best – can’t believe I haven’t written about it yet. Been there twice and they have a stunning selection of whiskies for sale and tasting.

SarahNo Gravatar June 10, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Thank you for the information Sheila!!

SarahNo Gravatar June 9, 2013 at 6:12 PM


Great website and blog. My husband and I are traveling to Scotland in 2 weeks and cannot wait!!! We will be there for 10 days. We haven’t done much trip planning yet as the opportunity just came up and we were able to make it work! That being said, as I type this we have only reserved rooms for our time in Edinburgh (3 nights). We traveled to Ireland about 7 years ago with no reservations and never had an issue getting a room at a B&B, however that was in September. We haven’t quite pinned down our itinerary yet, but are thinking Edinburgh for the first 2 nights after which we will rent a car and head onto to the Speyside region for a night or two, then Isle of Skye for 2 nights, and then down near Trossarchs/Loch Lomand or possibly Oban for 2 nights before heading back to Edinburgh for our last night.

My biggest questions are whether we will have an issue if we just wing it and use the tourist center as we leave one destination to find a room at the next destination (B&B/guesthouse) – or will the time of year make this a problem. We aren’t very particular regarding accomodations – just need a place to lay our head really. In fact we are tossing around the idea of renting a Campervan for the time we are not in the city. Any insight you can provide to the room availability would be greatly appreciated. Additionally, do you think the above itenerary is doable?

Thanks so much for any input!!


Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 10, 2013 at 2:54 AM

Hi Sarah,

You always run the risk of finding a place fully booked when you wing it in the summer, but since you and your husband aren’t picky about your accommodations I would guess that you would be able to find some place in the area. The tourist offices – and even some B&B proprietors – will help you find a place to stay. Note that the toughest place to find accommodation in your itinerary will be Speyside.

Your itinerary will certainly work with a car, and you’ll have some really nice drives, too.

Enjoy your trip – hope the weather’s good!

SarahNo Gravatar June 10, 2013 at 2:46 PM

Thanks for replying while you are enjoying your own vacation! It’s good to know we should have options if we wing it!

SheilaNo Gravatar June 10, 2013 at 7:08 AM

Since you’ll have a car, and aren’t picky, you should be able to find _something_. I’d suggest checking with the local tourist board in the morning – they do a BABA (book a bed ahead) service. You pay a small booking fee, and they will generally be able to find you something. Once you have the next nights booking, you can enjoy the rest of the day without worrying about having to sleep in the car…
It’s also worth asking your current hosts about B&Bs at your next destination – often they will have contacts, and can arrange a booking for you.

TomNo Gravatar June 2, 2013 at 4:25 PM

Thank you so much for all of this info Keith. My wife and I have wanted to go to Scotland to visit our ancestral homelands for sometime. This is all great advice. After reading through all four parts it doesn’t seem like such a big task anymore

Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 2, 2013 at 4:58 PM

Hi Tom, glad to hear you’ve found this series helpful! I’m always happy to hear of more people heading over to Scotland to enjoy its magic and wonder!

MorganNo Gravatar April 30, 2013 at 6:55 PM

Wonderful blog! Very helpful! Planning a trip hopefully for summer 2015. Have never traveled on my own before as I’m usually stuck here (Vancouver) for school, and am hoping to go for around a month. (Ambitious, I know!!) This gives me a great start though! Also, and itinerary would be lovely!!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar April 30, 2013 at 8:12 PM

Hi Morgan, happy to help. Have a look around the site!

DanielleNo Gravatar March 28, 2013 at 12:44 AM

I’m assuming that means $3,000-4,000 per person? My fiance and I would like to visit Scotland for our honeymoon next year.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar March 28, 2013 at 8:01 AM

Hi Danielle,

Yes, the figure I provided was meant for a single person. However, you actually save money if you travel with another person (especially a significant other) because you can split the cost of a car rental and accommodation. For a couple, I would say it’s closer to $5,000-$6,000.

MelissaNo Gravatar March 25, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Hi Keith,

Your blog is very informative, thank you! I’m currently looking into the best options for a solo traveler and I was wondering if you have any tips. I’m thinking i’ll be spending that week in Edinburgh, as this will be my first time traveling abroad. I’d love to spend more time there, but I don’t believe that will be possible.

Any tips are welcome!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar March 27, 2013 at 11:53 AM

Hi Melissa,

I think it depends on how much interaction with others you’re looking for. If you wish to meet new people, then staying in a hostel can be a good idea. If you’ve got your own agenda and simply want nice places to stay, I recommend B&Bs.

Check out the Edinburgh tag on the sidebar to read my articles about the city.


DaveNo Gravatar March 5, 2013 at 9:38 PM

Hi Keith,

Ran across your blog a couple weeks ago and I’m really enjoying. I’m going to be saving $$ from bonuses & taxes for a few years to save up for a trip for my wife and I. The fruition of a dream a long time in the making. My question though is about your rough sum you posted on this last page, of about $3,000 – $4,000. Obviously this doesn’t include air travel (especially as it’s so volatile), but did this price include car rental/gas? I haven’t priced t this out yet, but I thought that might increase it a good deal.

Thanks again, I’m enjoying the blogs!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar March 5, 2013 at 10:20 PM

Hard to believe this post is over two years old already. I should have provided a clearer break down of prices on the last page, but the total I provided DID include airfare AND car rental. Certainly airfare costs are hard to provide with any degree of certainty, and they have gone up since this was written (somehow). Check out car rental prices over at Celtic Legend (link on the homepage sidebar). I’ve always used them for my rentals and been happy. Length of rental and automatic vs. stick will be the determinants of that cost.

Good luck planning!

THERESANo Gravatar January 26, 2013 at 8:36 AM

Hi there,

we are thinking of having a holiday in Scotland in May 2013 and will make use of one of the travel companies that provide the bookings for B&B’s, passes for national museums and discount on car rental. We live in the UAE and the exchange rate is very high from dirham to pound. I researched lots of companies and found this the easiest way with the least hassle. We like self drive and dislike organised tours.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 26, 2013 at 11:23 AM

Interesting perspective, Theresa. Thanks for sharing.

GraceNo Gravatar December 29, 2012 at 12:50 PM

I’ll be staying for 3 months and be flying from Dallas Texas I’m not sure where to yet we haven’t decided on a town with an airport yet

Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 30, 2012 at 8:37 AM

Your options will be either Glasgow or Edinburgh. Glasgow would be a little cheaper and slightly closer to Edinburgh.

GraceNo Gravatar December 24, 2012 at 3:02 AM

Now see I was curious because I’m bad at math but my boyfriend lives in Scotland ( he was born there ) an i will be visiting he every summer until he gets his own flat and his job settled of coarse I will be sleeping and staying at his house(he shares with his brother) so that cost is gone and eating costs I don’t have much of a worry about I do want to bring extra money I will be flyin coach and I will be paying for my visa but I’m unsure of the estimated costs so I can save my money it probably won’t be as much as most people but still. And I will be staying in Dumfries.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 26, 2012 at 9:05 AM

Hi Grace,

With lodging and much of your eating costs covered, transportation will be your only major expense. I don’t know where you will be flying from, but a round-trip flight from the USA usually runs between $800-$1100. Transportation costs will go up if you’re flying from Australasia and if you plan to do plenty of traveling within Scotland. Dumfries shouldn’t hit you too hard in the pocketbook, either, as it’s in the lowlands and not part of Scotland’s metropolises.

SkyeNo Gravatar November 2, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Hey, so I am going to be planning a one month trip to Scotland when I graduate sept of 2014, and just wanted to know if there was a step by step you could lay out for me. I’ve never planned a trip before, nor have I ever been outside of Canada, and I’ll be going it alone. I want to explore my heritage, as well as see my namesake isle 🙂 thanks so much, this blog is FANTASTIC!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 5, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Hi Skye,

The best place to start is by reading this series of articles. Identify the types of activities you want to do and the areas of Scotland you’d like to see. Start determining how many days in each place you’d like to spend. Then look at transportation logistics to string them together. You’ll start refining the original plan. Consider the cost of vehicles, accommodations, and flights. This will further refine your ideal itinerary.

I may have more thorough consultation options for Scotland trip planning in the future…

Sheila ViemeisterNo Gravatar October 17, 2012 at 9:16 AM
Sheila ViemeisterNo Gravatar October 17, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Leslie – there’s a lot of paperwork involved, if as a non-resident you wish to be married in Scotland! You’ll need Entry Clearance, and a Certificate of No Impediment, as well as the usual documents required of locals. It’s do-able, but you’ll need to start well in advance. This site should help

LeslieNo Gravatar October 4, 2012 at 12:58 PM

My fiance and I were trying to figure out how to pull off a wedding and honeymoon for about $5,000-$6,000…we decided we want to spend more on the honeymoon and go somewhere we really want to go, but weddings aren’t cheap either, and from looking at your page, looks like I estimate 4-5k will be going to the trip itself since I’d like to make this a week trip for two. I looked up flights for as far in advance as I could (Aug 2013), even though this will probably not happen until 2014 (plenty time to save), the cost for round trip was a lovely $1,500 per person…eek! I’ve pondered the idea of having a little short/sweet wedding in Scotland to save money but still make it more special than the JP. I was brought to your site when I did a search for costs to go to Scotland, a place we both have heritage in and it’s beautiful…or so I hear. Would you happen to know anything about doing something like that there, if not, maybe you have some tips as far as an itinerary goes that would be good for us… I’d like to stay low-cost, but I don’t want to miss anything…when in Rome…or Scotland in this case!

Thank you very much!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 17, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Hi Leslie,

A wedding in Scotland would be incredible! Fortunately, my lack of knowledge on that topic has been supplemented by Sheila’s excellent comments below.

As for a budget-conscious itinerary, I can offer some parameters that you might find helpful. Edinburgh and Glasgow will be the most expensive places in Scotland (and that’s saying something because pretty much everywhere in Scotland feels expensive when you’re spending dollars), so I recommend limiting your time in those cities. Maybe 2 nights. I almost always recommend renting a car in Scotland because the freedom it gives you to explore the natural landscape is superb. However, given your details, I’d skip the car and use trains – also beautiful – to get around the country.

Some of my favorite places include the Speyside region, towns like Aberlour and Forres, Perthshire towns like Pitlochry and Dunkeld, and given a one-week trip, a jaunt into the west to Oban or Fort William (I’d choose Oban). You definitely want to get north of the central belt, and Speyside, the Cairngorms, and the western highlands are really solid choices.

Hope that helps!

Sheila ViemeisterNo Gravatar October 17, 2012 at 12:39 PM

My son and his wife were married in a little church in the far north – St Andrew’s in Tongue. It’s a lovely little, very old church, with a gorgeous setting. There are a number of self-catering places available in the area, as well as 3 hotels, all with excellent restaurants. You could do a number of day-trips using Tongue and Melness as your base.

JenniferNo Gravatar August 22, 2012 at 9:37 PM

Keith, Thanks for these great posts. Could have used them for my first trip in 2010. Will definitely be using the info for my second trip next year.

One big thing we learned – do not rent a car in the center of Edinburgh. Even though you pay a little more, get it at the airport as it is much easier to navigate those roads than the city streets. (I thought we were going to die and I was hte one driving).

Not knowing if/when we would get back, we packed a lot into a week. We did Edinburgh (2 nights) to Glen Coe to Skye (2 nights) to Inverness to Perth area. Lots of packing and unpacking. Next trip, we plan to find a base and take daytrips out from there.

Thanks, Jen

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 22, 2012 at 10:14 PM

Good point about picking up the car. I generally grab mine at the Edinburgh airport as you mention.

It’s pretty typical to pack in a lot on the first visit to Scotland. After all, you aren’t sure if you’ll be back (or if you’ll even like it). My trips have long since been built around bases that I stay at for 3-5 nights each. Best of luck planning!

CindyNo Gravatar April 20, 2014 at 9:19 PM

Glad to hear that advice. I usually do that, too, and was hoping it was a good choice for Edinburgh.

Jim McLeaNo Gravatar July 15, 2012 at 12:49 PM


This article has been very enlightening to say the least. We are planning a trip to Scotland, most likely the St. Andrews area next year, sometime around May for 7-10 days. Two couples including my wife, daughter in law and stepson. Myself and stepson want to play golf at Old St. Andrews and one other course while the girls shop or spa. We would also like to visit some castles, distilleries and other historic sites. We will most likely rent a vehicle but would love to hear your recommendations on places to stay and things to do. Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated.


Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 22, 2012 at 10:41 PM

Hi Jim. The best course of action I can recommend is that you click through the articles here on Traveling Savage. Use the tags in the sidebar to winnow down your search, or use the search box.

RobinNo Gravatar May 20, 2012 at 5:25 PM


The series of articles you have collaborated for people wanting to plan a trip to Scotland were outstanding. However, my husband and I are in the beginning stages of making our plans for our trip in 2013. We will be traveling with our 9 year old daughter. As this is our family’s first trip to Scotland, are there any travel hints you have for us. We are planning on getting an apartment as a base for at least 3-4 days in Edinburgh. However as we are currently planning a 10 day stay, we will be exploring the Highlands area in hopes of making it to Fort Williams.

Do the local pubs have restaurant accommodations that allow children in the evening? This is helpful advice as my husband will be wanting to partake in a distillery tour also.

Thank you

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 21, 2012 at 8:52 AM

Hi Robin. Traveling with a child in Scotland won’t be an appreciable hindrance. Pubs in Scotland are much more laid back about clientele, so your child should be welcome everywhere (if she tries to order a dram, however, then look out :)). Distilleries won’t be a problem either.

ChrisNo Gravatar May 14, 2012 at 6:19 PM

I’d definitely be interested in heaing about possible itineraries if it’s still possible. I know you wrote this last year but it was good info. As a matter of fact I wish I would have seen this a few months ago. It would have saved me some time searching the internet since much of what I found you confirmed in your blog.

We’re aiming for the 1st or 2nd week of September this year, for 7-10 days. Our original plan was actually the caribean but since neither of us our really beach people, we love historical places and my mother was born in Glasgow, we changed our choice of location. It’s a late 20th anniversary trip. The more I read the more I think we’ll plan Edinburgh as our base, going out and back from their.

I’d consider this trip as our first trip to Scotland, although I did spend 7 weeks one summer in Scotland, but I was 14 yrs old at the time and traveled with my grandparents who still had family in Scotland at the time. Now it’s my husband and me traveling. My husband’s never bet out of the US so he has no interest in renting a car at least not this first trip. Driving on the wrong side of the road sounds stressful to him and I’d be ok driving but that would be even more stressful for him :). Train and bus will be our mode of transportation. Our first thought was to take a ‘tour’ and then we realized how much of a time crunch some of them seemed, plus you’re on someone else’s time table.

For an itinerary, I’m trying to map day trips out from Edinburgh before we actually leave, to have a plan. I thought it would help planning costs as well. It will help decide which membership or pass would be most beneficial. Same can be said for the train pass. Any help in this area would be great. Thanks.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 15, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Hi Chris. I’ll be the first person to recommend renting a car, but it is more stressful if you’re staying in Edinburgh’s city center and need to drive much in the city. I think you can easily get as far north as Dunkeld, Pitlochry even, on a day trip. I would say all of Fife, the Borders, most of Dumfries & Galloway, Glasgow, Stirling, and some of Argyll is possible too. Loch Lomond & the Trossachs national park would make a nice stop. Rosslyn Chapel and St. Andrews, too.

ChrisNo Gravatar May 15, 2012 at 5:24 PM

Thanks I appreciate the advice.

MaggieNo Gravatar January 25, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Hi I was wondering if you could give me an approx idea of how much spending money we will need for a 2 week vacation in Edinburgh, we will be living with my Sister so do not require any accomodations but plan on doing as much sightseeing & shopping as we can fit in, we are originally from Edinburgh but have been living in Canada for the last 32 years so have absolutely no idea of the price of things anymore, it would be ever so helpful if you could just give us an approx amount & we can go from there.
Thanks kindly……..

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar January 26, 2012 at 6:49 AM

hi Maggie.

A daily bus ticket for unlimited use on all busses is about GBP3.20, which is great value. Keith has left information elsewhere about the cost of meals eaten out. I suggest you give your sister GBP10 a day towards meals (per person) Two weeks is a long time. Check on line to see how much clothes cost.

I am not a shopper, but I would have thought there were an awful lot of places much cheaper for shopping than Edinburgh. if you plan to visit historical sites, it is really worthwhile becoming a member of

Edinburgh castle costs about GBP14, which is probably the highest entrance fee in Scotland bu that is about 1/3rd of your membership recovered in one go. Two peole joining together pay less.

I hope that helps,


Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 26, 2012 at 9:39 AM

I’ll repost here what I emailed to Maggie:

Excluding transportation and accommodation, I spent close to $1,000 USD over three weeks in Edinburgh with more than 70% of that going to food and drink. Granted, I didn’t do much shopping (I don’t collect too many souvenirs), some of my activities were covered, and I was there on business not pleasure (though it was pleasurable). I should think that $1,000 USD (~£635) for a two-week vacation would be a good benchmark. If you’re trying to keep costs down and be frugal, then this figure could drop by a couple hundred dollars.

GrayNo Gravatar March 4, 2011 at 8:43 PM

Excellent information, Keith. To me, this is the meat and potatoes: How much does everything cost? I’m afraid your airfare for your next trip may be a lot higher, unless you’ve bought it already. I’ve seen prices to Europe jump by about $400 in the last couple of weeks for trips I’m scoping out. It’s horrifying.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar March 6, 2011 at 4:11 PM

I actually managed to book a flight for less than $800 in April/May, so that’s lucky. From here on out I expect flights to be even more absurd.

GrayNo Gravatar March 6, 2011 at 4:32 PM

Oh you were either very lucky or smart to book early. I’d be very happy to see a price like that from Vermont.

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar March 3, 2011 at 8:36 AM

A good half of the country has no train service at all and it is usually the remote and most beautiful places, so a car is absolutely vital to see the most. However, you do not need a car when you are in Edinburgh and Glasgow – in fact any city,though if you are only staying a day or two, wiser to hold onto the car. Short rentals cost more, proportionally. Higher rates usually for up to five or six days then a lower seven day rate.

If you are staying for a few days in one place, consider renting a flat (apartment), or cottage. This is usually only cost-effective if there are two or more of you renting, but then on it really starts to be VERY cost-efffective. This church conversion for four people, in Edinburgh, starts at GBP15 a head, per night, in quiet periods and is only GBP43 a night per person at the highest point – in the Festival and at Hogmanay. You will pay more than that at most B&B’s.

If you are spending time on an island, then it really makes sense to rent a cottage as a base. We regularly rent a two bedroomed cottage on Islay for GBP60 a night – sleeps four, but I rent it on my own, sometimes, because for the price of a local hotel room, I can cook, and live in a five room apartment.

A bottle of wine shared round a table in your flat? GBP5. A bottle of wine bought by the glass in a pub? GBP16. Having an apartment is another way of saving money – not just on accommodation, but on meals too. A loaf of bread, some bacon, eggs, butter, cheese and tomatoes and you have breakfast and supper for most of the week.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar March 3, 2011 at 10:54 AM

These are excellent points and great tips, Willie. Thanks for sharing them here!

Willie WallaceNo Gravatar March 23, 2014 at 1:49 PM

I posted an example apartment in Edinburgh in march 2011 and just realised the link appeared doubled up making it gobbledygook, so here it is again

Wandering Trader's TravelsNo Gravatar March 3, 2011 at 3:34 AM

On “Planning A Trip To Scotland, Part 4” — Very detailed discussion on how to save money you got here. With your comprehensive discussion on how to save money with regards to flight costs, accommodations, food and drinks, as well as entrance fees with Scotland’s tourist spots, you hit all the essentials. Great write!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar March 3, 2011 at 4:19 AM

Thanks Marcello. Have you been to Scotland? Coming back anytime soon?

Neil LaubenthalNo Gravatar March 1, 2011 at 10:12 PM

Itineraries would be wonderful . . .can’t ever have too much research material.

MattNo Gravatar February 28, 2011 at 4:45 PM

That exchange rate will hurt, yet it’s heaps better than it was a couple years back. When I first moved to Edinburgh it cost $2.20 to get one quid! It was painful to say the least.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 28, 2011 at 7:37 PM

That’s ungodly expensive! Let’s hope it never goes back there.

islandmommaNo Gravatar February 28, 2011 at 3:55 PM

Even though I’m British, because I live in the Canary Islands I can reclaim VAT on anything I buy over there too, but a word of warning, in addition to the paperwork being complicated you need to make sure that the shop from which you’re buying subscribes to the scheme. I’m sure it’s in the booklet, and most big stores + most places which cater to tourists do, but sometimes I’ve bought from smaller stores which can’t supply me the customs reclaim form, so it’s worth checking before you set your heart on a purchase!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 28, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Ooh, good tip. Thanks for pointing that out!

CharuNo Gravatar February 28, 2011 at 12:26 PM

I had the pleasure of living in Edinburgh for a week while I was working as a banker. And I stayed at the Balmoral –it was one of those surreal, gilded experiences. Would never think of visiting currently though, with the dollar being as weak as it is. I will choose to live vicariously through your itinerary!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 28, 2011 at 1:26 PM

The Balmoral is top of the line as far as hotels are concerned – must have been amazing. The dollar isn’t doing so well, but it’s much better than it was last time I was over: Summer 2009 it was $1.8 to £1.

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