An Insider’s Guide To Scotland

Scotland: A Definitive Guide by Me, Matthew.

My friend is planning a trip to Scotland for a few days so I made a plan with idea’s of where to stay, what to do, what to try and what to see whilst there. I always find guided by locals who have actually been there, lived it, tried it and experienced it are the best. Hopefully i will inspire you to visit some of these places and in turn you will share your memories of the place. happy reading!

Day One: Glasgow to Loch Lomond

Arriving into Glasgow International Airport, you are 5 minutes from the centre of Glasgow, and the Centre of Scotland. Above are pictures of George Square, the centre of Glasgow where the airport bus drops you off also outside Queen Street Train Station and close to Central Train Station and Buchanan Bus Station for onwards connections, the other picture is Glasgow Uni where my sister studies! This post was written for friends travelling at christmas time, so being the 1st of January when my friends visited, this is a public holiday so most shops and restaurant’s will be closed during the day and there will be limited public transport running – very few bus or train routes will be running on that day.

To travel into Glasgow City Centre, the cheapest option is to take a number 500 bus which departs from the airport terminal building and is clearly sign posted, attached is a timetable of that particular bus should you need it. It cost’s £4.50 for an adult single ticket into the centre of Glasgow, or £6.50 return if you where to come back to the airport the same day to collect a hire care after exploring Glasgow for example. Change can be given by the driver if you buy tickets on board the bus, however this is an exception for Scotland, most places across the country don’t give you change on a bus, so be sure to have some change in case you decide upon taking a bus during your stay. Alternatively you can take a taxi into town and that should cost not more than £15-£30 maximum from a private hire company, here are some numbers for private taxi company’s i would recommend.

Network Private Hire: 0141 557 1110

Hampden Cab’s: 0141 332 5050

Bishopbriggs Taxi Service: 0141 772 7070

If you decide to hire a car, which i would recommend as it’s the easiest and most convenient way to travel around the country, disregard above mentioned information! Considering most of Glasgow would be closed on the day, unless you where to travel into the city for a connection by bus or train to another destination (Loch Lomond for example), I would recommend saving the city for another trip when it would actually be open to enjoy.

Below is an excellent website for car hire, which starts at £94 for a 5 day trip, ( quote based from the 1st January to 5th January). I’ve already set the search settings so modify to your own times, requirements etc.

http://www.rentalcars.com/SearchResults.do

From Glasgow it is a 50 minute drive to Loch Lomond. En route to Loch Lomond is Auchentoshan Whisky Distillery where you can take a 50 minute guided tour for £5 per person, I have emailed them to ask if they are opened on the 1st january for tours. here’s there website: http://www.auchentoshan.com/the-distillery/tours.aspx

There’s lots of nice views along the way to enjoy and Loch Lomond is a beautiful place to start your visit of Scotland and see what it really looks like.

           

Above are two typical views of Loch Lomond during the winter, here is a list of a few hotel’s and youth hostel’s I would recommend staying in, make sure like all other places you visit during your stay that you book as soon as possible to guarantee a room being available for you when you arrive:

Expensive: Cameron House Loch Lomond (£205 per night for two, including breakfast)

http://www.devere-hotels.co.uk/hotel-lodges/locations/cameron-house.html

Medium Priced: The Winnock Hotel (£138 for a double room including breakfast)

http://www.avvio.com/hotels/The_Winnock_Hotel/bookings/client.php#ipulsestart

Cheap: Rowantreebank Bed and Breakfast (£25 per person including breakfast)

http://www.rowantreebank.co.uk/index.htm

There are many Whiskey Distilleries nearby, boat trips on the Loch (in Scotland all the ‘lakes’ are called Lochs, there is only one lake and that is named after the Menteith family to forever insult they’re name as they betrayed William Wallace to the English!) and also lots of lovely walks around the Loch, you would not be short of things to do in the area.

Day Two: Loch Lomond to Iona via Oban

                            

From Loch Lomond, it is just over two hours drive to Oban which is a small seaside village known as the gateway to the islands as most ferries and explorers begin they’re expedition here. Ferries are scheduled to run during your stay, to travel with a car and two adults leaving on 2nd returning on 3rd it costs £63, or £14 if you are without a car and by bus. here’s a link with times of boats and a breakdown of the price:

http://www.calmacbookings.co.uk/booking/asp/MX_web100.asp?MX_srh=r&MX_island=MUL&MX_sailing=OBACRA&date_cal1=2%2F1%2F2012&date_cal2=3%2F1%2F2012&MX_route=&MX_direction=&date_cal3=&MX_vehicle=0&MX_vehiclelength=&MX_caravanTrailer=&MX_trailerLength=&MX_adults=2&MX_children=0&MX_concessions=0&MX_formid=fa6a37a755c945e0a34604a9d251&MX_ctt=&MX_lastmkcode=&MX_from=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.calmac.co.uk%2Ftimetables%2Fcalmac-winter-timetables.htm&MX_targetsailing=&MX_targetdirection=&eos=03%2F29%2F2012

You arrive in Craignure, the small port of the Island of Mull where you disembark after a 45 minute journey on the boat. from here you can turn right to Tobermoray the main village on the island or you can turn left and head across the island through the mountainous scenery to the small port of Fionnphort where you take a short 5 minute ferry to Iona that costs £2.80 for an adult return. You are not allowed to take cars onto Iona as it is such a special place, only the locals that work and live there are allowed so there is a safe car park you can keep your car in for free, my family does it almost every summer if we can. below is a schedule of departure times you might want to take a note of for the ferry:

http://www.mull-bed-and-breakfast.co.uk/pages/ferry-iona-winter.php

Iona is one of the most beautiful and special places I have ever been to in my life, no word of exaggeration here! It is a very peaceful place, the home of Christianity in Europe (it was started here by St Columbus years ago & there is a nice church to visit), and a great place to get to if it’s peace and quite you want to have and share the beautiful surroundings with a loved one. There are a few hotel’s, B&B’s and a youth hostel to stay at. I would thoroughly recommend the Youth Hostel ‘Iona Hostel’, it is a 4 star hostel, has won lots of awards for being eco friendly, is only £18 per night for an adult and is right next to the beach. Here is its website:

http://www.ionahostel.co.uk/

And a list of all accomodation in Iona with contact details, prices and website’s:

http://www.isle-of-iona.com/accommodation.htm

Day Three: Iona to Ballachulish or Fort William via Glen Coe

                               

From Iona, take the boat back to Fionnphort to collect your car or bus (which must be booked if you are traveling that way), and drive back across mull to get the Cal Mac boat back to Oban.

Oban to Ballachulish is a 50 minute drive, however you might want to stop off along the route to enjoy the sight’s of Glen Coe or the wonders that the west coast and the highlands have to offer.

Ballachulish is also a small village, tucked at the base of hills – it is a good base to make a day trip to Fort William for example.

Another option I would suggest would be staying in Fort William itself, right next to Loch Ness (home of the Loch Ness Monster and the highest mountain in britain, Ben Nevis).

Here are hotels for Ballachulish:

http://www.virtualtourist.com/hotels/Europe/United_Kingdom/Scotland/Highland/Ballachulish-317528/Hotels_and_Accommodations-Ballachulish-TG-C-1.html

And for Fort William should you want to stay there:

http://visit-fortwilliam.co.uk/hotels-in-fort-william-scotland-fort-william-Bed-and-Breakfast

Fort William is the picture on the left and the right is the infamous loch ness monster!

                          

Day Four: Ballachulish or Fort William to Edinburgh

                          

After a peaceful night’s rest in either Ballachulish or Fort William onwards to Edinburgh your journey takes you, this being the longest leg of the journey crossing lots of beautiful spots and major places of interest to stop off at including Stirling for the castle, Wallace Monument or Bannockburn tourist centre. From Ballachulish the trip by car is 2 hours 40mins and from Fort William 3 hours.

Remember that if you are traveling by car it is likely to be snowing or at least cold winter weather, so give yourself plenty of extra time for traveling, my times i have given you are exact but with snow or ice, giving yourself up to an extra hour is probably a good idea. When ever i travel with my family during winter we always take warm blankets, lots of layers of clothes to keep warm and a flask of soup and or coffee for trips in the car to keep us warm if we have to stop, a spade to dig car tyre’s out of snow may come in handy!

Edinburgh is the capitol of Scotland and very beautiful. it is pretty touristic because it’s the capitol so be prepared to compete with the chinese tourists for the best place to take a picture in front of the famed Castle!

Definitely have a look at the shops on Princes Street, do a tour of the castle, and sample some of the local cousine. Edinburgh is a very cultural place so grab a copy of ‘The List’ or go to they’re website for the latest of what’s on for dance, music, art etc in Edinburgh and indeed across Scotland:

http://www.list.co.uk/

There are many places to stay in edinburgh again ranging in prices, the website i have given at the bottom of this document for scottish youth hostel’s will have a lot of good cheap one’s but also have a look at the website below for affordable accommodation in Edinburgh.

http://www.expedia.co.uk/Edinburgh-Hotels.d6069845.Travel-Guide-Hotels

Day Five: Edinburgh to Glasgow

The end of your trip is here and it’s time to head back to the airport, to travel by car take the M8 Motorway which is clearly signposted to Glasgow and you will be there in 1 hour, give yourself extra time for traffic and bad weather. It’s very straight forward to get to the Airport from the motorway, simply follow the signs on the motorway that takes you through the city and its not far from the centre. If you are travelling by bus or train there are easy connections from Edinburgh to Glasgow that should have resumed normal service by now.

There is not a direct bus or train from Edinburgh to Glasgow airport, so taking the ‘Glasgow Flyer’ bus from Buchanan Bus Station which leaves every 10 minutes to the airport, is the way to get back to your flight home.

Map Of Your Trip

same map to view online: http://g.co/maps/ygbzp

…..

Must Do’s

Try Tennent’s Beer, Tunnocks Tea Cakes, Shortbread, Irn Bru, Haggis, Fish and Chips from a local chip shop (better than restaurants usually!), as many whiskey’s as possible – there are so many and will be a lot cheaper in Scotland than here in Switzerland so take advantage of that!

Sea food is very traditional for Scottish food, Smoked salmon, trout, scampi and Herring are all very popular dishes, however be sure to order cod or haddock if you are having ‘fish and chips’ it’s the best! have a traditional scottish breakfast, ask for square sausages instead of lorne sausages they are amazing.

Try and catch some traditional scottish music if you can during your stay, very beautiful – from slow romantic waltzes to uptempo jig’s to dance to, it has it all to make you laugh, smile and cry!

Scottish people are always very warm and welcoming to outsiders/tourists,

Do’s & Dont’s

http://www.cornelsen.de/fch/1.c.1658063.de

Handy Website’s

Be sure to look at http://www.visitscotland.com/ for ideas of day trips and things to do whilst in Scotland.

Transport Advice & Timetables

For trains: http://www.scotrail.co.uk/ or http://www.nationalexpresseastanglia.com/

For busses: http://www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/glasgow/ OR http://www.nationalexpress.com/coach/index.cfm OR http://uk.megabus.com/default.aspx

For Ferries: http://www.calmac.co.uk/

For cheap and good accommodation: http://www.syha.org.uk/home.aspx

Every single whisky distillery in Scotland: http://www.scotchwhisky.net/distilleries/

………………….

Have a pleasant trip what ever you decide upon visiting & i look forward to hearing your stories and seeing your pictures from the trip! all the best, Matthew 🙂

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One thought on “An Insider’s Guide To Scotland

  1. Glen Moyer says:

    Matthew – I see this is two years old but as I’m going to Scotland in April – arriving Glasgow – and staying three weeks – still you’ve given me some great ideas and provided some great informational links. thank you!

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