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#1 3-8-2018 6:38 AM

London, Canada
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Scotland and Ireland trip - best spots to visit for a first-timer?

My fiancé and I are getting married on September 1st of this year, and we're taking our honeymoon a couple of days later. We are visiting Scotland and Ireland for it. I did contact a travel agent and she kind of put together a sample itinerary over email before even getting any of our input on what we'd like to do, so it's really just a mish-mash of things that may be popular to other people but aren't quite what we're interested in. I'd like to do some research on things I will actually be interested in and then ask her to try and form a vacation for us based around that.

We only have 2 weeks of vacation at our jobs, so that is as long as we can spend there. We are traveling from Canada, so the flight there and the flight back is probably going to eat up a day each, which means we'd only have about 12 days to actually tour about Scotland and Ireland.

My mother is from Glasgow and my father is from Dublin, so I have family that will want to meet up with us in each country. We are allotting 1 day in each country for family-only visiting, which knocks our days for touring down to 10 days.

If you only had 10 days between both countries, what would you consider an absolute must-visit? If it helps with suggestions, neither of us is very keen on touring museums but would prefer to learn history through actually visiting monuments. Castles are high on the list as we don't really have those in Canada, but maybe just a couple of the best ones (maybe even a stay overnight in one?). I am very excited to see some of those famous rolling landscapes and take some photos of green hills and lochs. My fiancé really wants to stop in to the Rosslyn Chapel as he's a Dan Brown fan. I am not opposed to spending a couple of nights in big cities, but we want to make sure we get to see things we wouldn't get to see back home. Any "hidden-gems" that you know about would be great to look into as well.

Thank you for any input!


#2 3-8-2018 7:25 AM

Sarah Elaine
Manchester, England
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Re: Scotland and Ireland trip - best spots to visit for a first-timer?

September is a great month - warm, at least as warm as Scotland ever is, and still light, but the tourists have headed home after August.

Well, the good news is that Edinburgh is not a big city, by any stretch of the imagination.  It's barely a small city by international standards, so it shouldn't be too much of a break in your trip to spend some time there.  And it's stunningly pretty.  The best view of the skyline is probably from Calton Hill, although I tend to tell people to climb the larger Arthurs' Seat, and that's a good way to get your bearings.  The Royal Mile stretches from the castle to Holyrood Palace at the foot of Arthurs' Seat, and that's the heart of the medieval old town.  Both are open to visitors, although very pricy, and that's what most tourists will do.  The Georgian New Town is worth a wander too.  My favourite place is the Botanic Gardens (where I went to hide from my family the day before I got married), but that's slightly off the radar unless you love botanic gardens.  And my three favourite restaurants are the Witchery (probably the most romantic, you will absolutely need to prebook), the Pompadour (which is in the hotel I got married in) and Stac Polly (the most relaxed of the three, and the one my husband and I go back to over and over).  All do great things with Scottish produce - none are cheap, but it is your honeymoon, after all.  Roslyn is a short bus ride from the city.  I am not a Dan Brown fan *at all* but I love the chapel - it's one of the best examples of medieval stone carving in Europe and so you won't be wasting the trip out.  Realistically, I think that takes you to maybe a day and a half in Edinburgh.

Glasgow is the larger, busier city of the two, and glossed over in many tourist itineraries, but I love it.  Glasgow has better nightlife than Edinburgh and although it's far less obviously pretty than Edinburgh has some fascinating architecture.  It might be worth asking your family to do you a tour rather than just meeting at one of their houses - failing that, I'd allow a little time to gawk at the Rennie Macintosh buildings.  The Ubiquitous Chip is a very well known restaurant in the West End/Byers Road area, there are two good art house cinemas around, and Mother India is fantastic if you like curry. 

The rest of my highlights will depend if you have plans to rent a car.  There are some excellent two-three day tours of the Highlands, but I've never taken them myself as we tend to have a car with us.  So if you are not renting a car, one of the best rated is Haggis tours, and i would just do that.  Getting around the Highlands by public transport will eat up a lot of your time.

If you don't have a car and hate the idea of taking a tour, the train up from Glasgow to Mallaig is absolutely gorgeous and I'd recommend taking it.  If you google the line, the Scottish Tourist office has some good advice about things to do along the route.  Loch and Ben Lomond are also accessible by train from Glasgow.  Ben Lomond is one of the most southerly and easiest mountains in Scotland, and it's a nice climb.

If you do have a car, then even in September you can wing things a bit, explore at your own pace and find bed and breakfasts as you go along.  The obvious place to drive up to is Glencoe.  The route passes up through Ranch Moor, which is famously one of Britain's only wildernesses and an astonishing landscape, then Glencoe itself, site of the Glencoe massacre.  From there you could overnight at Fort William, which itself is an uninspiring little service town but it's a logical stopping place, and I did once spend a happy evening there watching two seals eye up my fish and chips from the loch. From Fort William you have the tail end of The Great Glen you could explore, and of course Ben Nevis.  i wouldn't recommend climbing Ben Nevis as it's a 7-8 hour slog and will eat up too much of your time, but it's there.  One option from there is to drive up to either Skye, stopping at the Glenelg broch (4000 year old fortress) near the old ferry, or to push north through the pass of the cattle over the mountains to Applecross (gorgeous little town with the Applecross Inn, which is consistently one of the best pub/restaurants in Scotland).  That option does leave you with a long drive south, which you'd have to consider in your thinking - it would be fine if you wanted to spend a whole day meandering down, stopping at castles and pretty view points on the way, but would eat up your time if you don't enjoy driving.  The easier way would be to cross to Inverness and head south on the A9, stopping wherever took your fancy.  I've plotted that out on google maps and that would be a long road trip - 10.5 hours driving spread over 2-3 days - but it does take you past some absolutely gorgeous places.

A much more relaxed route could be up to Glencoe, across to Pitlochry, little detour into the southern Cairngorms, south via Perth - that halves your driving time. 

I haven't detailed out all the national parks, castles and things on either route because you'll be tripping over them (apart from the brochs which take some seeking out). 

I make that 5-6 days worth, which should allow people to advise you on Ireland for half your trip.  If you decide to spend longer in Ireland, then you can just drop some of the Highland touring - and some of the tourist tours you can book from Glasgow and Edinburgh are available as day trips, although that's always struck me as a bit of a whirlwind.


#3 3-9-2018 1:06 AM

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Re: Scotland and Ireland trip - best spots to visit for a first-timer?

I have written some tips for Ireland here. You can also see a few other blogs about Dublin and Ireland on my profile. J
Hope these help. If you have any questions, let me know.



#4 3-9-2018 8:12 AM

Lewiston, Idaho
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Re: Scotland and Ireland trip - best spots to visit for a first-timer?

Wow congrats first off!! You'll love Ireland I've been there several times and never get bored of going back each time.....there's tons to do depending on what you like to do.....the Guinness factory is pretty cool, you can see the book of Kells , the. Giants causeway, Blarney Stone but don't kiss it just trust me on that one lol, cork is a neat little area. If you want to self guide around rent a car there is just so much to see feel free to message if you want to know more I have some of my travels posted for Ireland once again congrats!


#5 3-9-2018 11:27 AM

London Borough of Ealing, United Kingdom
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Re: Scotland and Ireland trip - best spots to visit for a first-timer?

I echo Sarah's recommendation of Glencoe and Rannoch Moor - very atmospheric scenery. Another idea for Scotland if you're heading up that west coast is to take a ferry from Oban across to Mull. If you do this as part of a tour these usually include a boat trip to see Staffa and Fingal's Cave (fascinating rock formations, but you'll be there a bit late for the puffins unfortunately) and to the Abbey at Iona, which is interesting. Google 'Three Isles tour' to see an example of what's possible.


#6 3-9-2018 6:08 PM

Austin, Texas
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Re: Scotland and Ireland trip - best spots to visit for a first-timer?

Driving a car in the UK takes a bit of getting used to for North Americans. Most rentals have manual transmissions, and (of course) you drive on the opposite side of the road.

A third difference, which I found disconcerting, is that many roads are narrow and are closely bordered by stone walls instead of shoulders.

I typically take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour when first arriving at a new city, to get a feel for the layout of the city and some ideas of places to visit at leisure.

Enjoy your honeymoon!

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