ISLE OF SKYE!!!!! i've seen some beautiful photographs from there. will be going in august
ISLE OF SKYE!!!!! i've seen some beautiful photographs from there. will be going in august
When I was younger, my brother lived in a town called Oban on the west coast of Scotland. And if I remember correctly the scenery on the drive there was great and I think we went by loch Lomand. You can get a bus or train or hire a car to get there and you can get a ferry from there to the Isle of Mull which has fantastic scenery and wildlife and from there to Iona (a very famous place in celtic history). Theres also a number of other different islands you can visit from there. There are plenty of great walks around the area. Google 'Oban' and you'll find the official tourist site for a bit more info. I was a teenager when we went there but I have very vivid memories of the stunning scenery we came across on our whole trip.
If you've never been outside the US before then you may want to see London but be aware that it could be very expensive so you'll probably want to keep it short.
If I was planning the trip for you, I would fly to either Glasgow, or Prestwick, both should be cheap enough with a budget airline.
Travel, up the west coast to Fort William, pop over to Skye, head over to Inverness, and then down the spine of Scotland to Perth, through Fife to Edinburgh.
Bus and Rail travel can be cheap, if booked in advance, avoid traveling on the weekend if you can, prices go up a lot on the trains. Hiring a car may be cheaper than using public transport, plus a lot of the good bits of Scotland arent on the main routes.
Hostels in Scotland arent cheap, but shouldnt be fully booked this time of year.
I miss my homeland
(A comment on hostels - especially for USA residents)
I know society is getting ever more distrustful of strangers and fear is being whipped up all the time - so the very idea of staying in hostels is going to seem worrying. Don't worry. Honestly.
In the UK - and Scotland in particular, hostels are a unique concept. They are better thought of as self-catering hotels (insert an "s" in the middle of hotel and you get hostel )
(A clarification: The word hostel is over-used and is unfortunately often associated with communal facilities for homeless people and hence images of societies problems, abuse, poverty etc. These are not the same places as tourist hostels, backpacker hostels or youth hostels.
In the cities it is worth trying to get a private room in hostels - more for a quiet night than any safety consideration.
Many hostels do have twin rooms (they cost more but still save you money because of that self catering kitchen!)
The "official" Hostelling International places (SYHA in Scotland) operate single sex rooms and you are going to get a key to your room almost everywhere (if there is no key, you do not need it!). You will find luggage lockers to, for peace of mind. This is their bread and butter, they ensure safety, which in cities means security and door locks. In the countryside, life is still normal - thankfully!
In what are called "independent" hostels, ie not affiliated to the HI network, there is greater variety of hostels, from quirky to student to palacial. In these it is common to share a room (if not in a private) with the opposite sex. This means, ladies, that you get introduced to smelly feet and farts
If you want to stay in hostels when they are less busy - to perhaps get a room to yourself, then this is a great year to visit - because of the exchange rate. Also, avoid Edinburgh in August if you want peace and quiet. April / May and Sept / Oct are good months to avoid crowds generally, and midges in the west coast.
How do I know all this? I have been a hostel and hotel manager and consultant to the tourism industry, a chef and tour guide, and a regular customer too.
There are hostels I'd not want to stay in, just as there are "budget hotels" I'd avoid like the plague. To know the difference between good and bad is why we are here, offering real local advice and experience. And asking, because at the end of the day, it can be worrying and we are all being scared enough.
The truth is, hostels in the UK are wonderful places to stay. They are the product of countryside access sport and travel from the 1930's onwards, and are a well kept secret. The tourism industry wants your money! You are going to be encouraged to spend it ... and there is nothing like fear to make you pay more!
We stayed in the Youth Hostels(http://www.syha.org.uk/SYHA/web/site/home/home.asp) throughout scotland when we travelled around there. You get a discount being a member, but can still stay if not a member. There were people of all ages staying in them and some really awesome places that are in the middle of the countryside.
We stayed in Oban on the west coast, Uig on Isle of Sky (fantastic island and wonderful scenery), Stirling, Lock Ness (right on the shore of Loch Ness and close enough to Inverness for looking in town), Edinburgh (def a cheap and very well refurnished big building in a close walk to centre of town)
They all had kitchens (some very good facilitles in some) so were able to make good use of them and cut down on costs.
Hope that helps a little in terms of ideas on accommodation
where in the USA are you?
I live just outside Glasgow so always advise travelling up the west coast. Megabus and CityLink are the main bus companies. As for rail travel use First ScotRail. Or hire a car i dunno about prices of car hire though. The bus and train is cheaper if booked in advance so check the websites.
Edinburgh is pretty and good for tourists, Glasgow has more shops and restaurants. For cheap acommodation in the city - Euro Hostel is ok or for a little more luxury try a Premier Travel Inn.
Any other questions just ask
I'm sorry, I don't agree that Hostels and Budget Hotels are the same thing.
There are some good hostels though. My favourite hostel in Europe is Glebe Barn on the Isle of Eigg, which is a lovely and inexpensive place to visit, particularly as a side trip if you are going to Skye via Mallaig - I'll second Skye as a top recommendation. Do book in advance if you want one of their excellent rooms (as opposed to a dorm bed). In fact, if you're going in high season it's better to book in advance anyway.
Don't be put off London by cynical northerners - it's one of the world's great cities and a lot of the most interesting things to do are free, the big museums, for example, or the walk along the south bank of the Thames from Tower Bridge to the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. Just don't linger too long or the accomodation costs will eat up your money.
If you're going from London to Scotland, Megabus is extremely cheap, however it will mean spending 11 hours sitting on an extremely uncomfortable bus. Maybe think about breaking up the journey somewhere - you could use the bargain Megatrain service to go as far as Sheffield, for example, and spend a couple of nights in the Peak District before heading up to Scotland. If you want to get a train all the way from London to Scotland (the best bet if you want to do it in a day - takes about 4 hours), be sure to book your tickets well in advance. Tickets are issued from roughly 3 months before the date of travel and the cheapest tickets sell out quickly.
Feel free to message me if you would like advice about anything specific.
Going to London sounds nice, but will add about $700-900 to your trip minimum--both because of the distance from Scotland, and because airfares to London are high-high-high during the summer months.
Look, your biggest cost will be to get to Scotland and back in the first place (well, unless you take a mountain tour guide trip--which I understand is pretty expensive in Scotland--starts at about $1600 per person after you are already in Scotland). Anyway, I've been searching for you and the cheapest way I can find to get to Scotland is as follows:
Plan to drive from Tuscaloosa, AL to Atlanta, GA and see if you can find a hotel that offers a "park and fly" rate--where you can leave your car at the hotel for free for either one or two weeks. Hotels like Travelodge, Holiday Inn, Clarion, and Embassy Suites may offer such a deal.
Search for a flight using a site like tripmama or kayak and book from Atlanta, GA to Manchester, UK (leaving like June 18th and returning July 1st). Prices run in the $756 to $850 range RT per person. Then take the Megabus (only about a 4-5 hour trip from Manchester up to Glasgow) to start your Scotland portion of the trip.
P.S. Regular flights RT to London from Atlanta are a minimum of $1,000 RT per person--and for flights from Tuscaloosa or Birmingham, Alabama just add another $200-300 per person to this amount.
One other thing I should mention is that if your daughter's school lets out in May, then the cost will be about $150 less per person if you can leave sometime prior to May 15-20th. My cost estimates are based upon the high school finishing in early to mid-June (like they do here in California).
Hey! So you got plenty ideas at the moment. Sounds like you gotta split your trip into 2 parts - 1 down south in london and 1 up here in scotland, so i would look at prices to see the cheapest option between london 1st or scotland 1st. I'm probably a bit of a cynical Northener when it comes to London. Although I do appreciate that it's a good city, it's just far too expensive and busy, and takes forever to do anything - for example, the train transfer to stansted airport (a half hr trip) costs £20!! Course, I'm Scottish tho, and you know our reputation But if you got a budget then you are restricted.
How long have you got and how much is your budget?
Personally, I think you have plenty to keep you occupied in Scotland, especially if the main reason for your trip is hiking. The itinerary suggested by a few so far - to head west, north, then south again to Edinburgh - is fairly sound. We head North farly regularly and generally climb around Skye, the Kyle of Lochalsh and Fort William area. There is a vibrant scene durin the summer with outdoor enthusiasts and you'll have fun in these places around May/early June. Also. the midges don't come out properly until mid June so hopefully you'll avoid them too!
As far as island hopping goes, try Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) This is the main ferry operator in Scotland and gives access to all the western isles. The northerly of these isles offer whale/dolphin watching excursions and sea kayaking, alongside many more activities.
Accomodation-wise, my advice is stick to the hostels. Never had a bad experience (apart from the occasional snorer, but we're all human) and it's the best way to mix with other people in the same boat.
Hope this helps you a bit. any questions, just drop me a line, I got loads more info on it.