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Scotland: Introduction

David Cross (DavidX) from England

Since Edinburgh can lie on the way to most places and may well make a convenient stop, it is covered in this introduction. The same applies to Glasgow, which I do not really know. I think there is now plenty to see there and I have included a website for it. Glasgow and Edinburgh are not far apart and it is possible to get from one to the other in under an hour.

ST Google Map - Southern Scotland: Detailed Google Map by DavidX for Southern and Central Scotland

ST Google Map - Northern Scotland: Detailed Google Map by DavidX for Northern Scotland and the Islands

Personal Suggestions for Touring Scotland

If you are short of time, I think you should see Edinburgh if at all possible. This would combine well with another area of southern Scotland, but perhaps is best with the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park area, if you want a country break as well (see the Central Scotland page).

If you have a bit more time but do not want to go way north, I advise seeing Glencoe and the surrounding area and either basing yourself there (Central Scotland) or in the Ardgour/Ardnamurchan area (Northern Scotland).

If you like mountain scenery combined with coast, the best has to be Skye with the emphasis on the Cuillins (Islands of Scotland). A close second, or something which could fairly easily be combined with it, is the area of Torridonian Sandstone; either the high peaks of the Torridon area itself or the smaller, more isolated and scenically equally splendid peaks north of Ullapool (Northern Scotland).

If the emphasis is on boat trips, I reckon Mallaig is a splendid base with trips up Loch Nevis on the mainland, to Coruisk in the Skye Cuillins, to Kyle of Lochalsh past Loch Hourn, and another around the islands of Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna as well as the car ferry to Armadale on Skye. Last time I was there I took a ferry to Barra but I am not sure whether that is now possible. Read the Northern Scotland and Northern Islands of Scotland pages for more information and recommended routes driving north.

Oban also lends itself to numerous island trips which are very good and it is nearer than Mallaig (Central Scotland and Islands of Scotland) The far north-west of Scotland with Durness as a base is excellent for coastal scenery.

Transportation

If you have private transport, Calmac Island Hoppers are a real bargain. These are of various prices for different combinations of ferries for car and passengers and they work out far cheaper than the total of the separate trips covered.

If you are dependant on public transport, do not despair; some of the train lines in Scotland compare well with any in Europe. The main line to Inverness is striking enough and I believe the line north from there is well worth seeing, although I do not know it myself.

There are three train lines which I do know and I heartily recommend any or all of them.

  • Train from Glasgow to Oban
  • Train from Glasgow to Fort William and on to Mallaig
  • Train from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh

In the highlands post buses provide some very useful links but they are small and some planning is particularly important in the main season.

It is worth seeking information from the Tourist Board, ScotRail or Calmac about tickets which allow unlimited travel over a period by train and most ferries and a cheap fare on some buses.

Edinburgh

This is one of Europe's great cities and anyone who has not been should try to include it, in one direction or the other, if they are heading further north. Be sure to include the Royal Mile in your visit. The zoo and the botanical gardens are both highly esteemed and there are a number of National Trust for Scotland places to see. The city is also esteemed as a shopping area. You will find many good guidebooks and websites for Edinburgh.

If you find the idea of the Edinburgh Festival draws you (it will cost you a bit but you may well think it worth the money,) either book somewhere to stay early or stay somewhere outside of the city, within travelling distance.

Culross

The small town of Culross, near to the Firth of Forth (on its north side) is mostly owned by the National Trust for Scotland. It would be easy to miss but to my mind, other than Edinburgh itself, it is the one must-see in Scotland on the way north. I have only discovered it recently myself, but I shall certainly not miss a chance to go again. Take a good pair of binoculars if you want to identify the wading birds during your lunch break. Do go with a bit of time allowed to really browse through the buildings.

Personal Bias

As far as I know there is none. I loved Scotland long before any of my family lived there, but I am English.

Google Maps

ST Google Map - Southern Scotland: Detailed Google Map by DavidX for Southern and Central Scotland

ST Google Map - Northern Scotland: Detailed Google Map by DavidX for Northern Scotland and the Islands

Resources

Websites for all of Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

www.visitscotland.com: Scottish Tourist Board

www.geo.ed.ac.uk/home/Scotland/touristinfo.html: Scottish Tourism Gateway

www.scotland-info.co.uk: The Internet Guide to Scotland

www.nts.org.uk: National Trust for Scotland

www.seeglasgow.com: See Glasgow

www.syha.org.uk: Scottish Youth Hostels

www.firstgroup.com/scotrail/: ScotRail - railway system in Scotland, part of the First system

www.calmac.co.uk: Calmac, Caledonian MacBrayne Hebridean & Clyde Ferries

www.calmac.co.uk/hopscotch-rover.html: Calmac Island Hoppers (Hopscotch Tickets), discounts for cars or passengers using Island ferries


David Cross was born in Plymouth but is now a "happily naturalized" Yorkshireman. He has grand-children in Wales and Scotland. David is a moderator on the World Travel Experience forums - groups.yahoo.com/group/worldtravelexp/. See David's Slow Travel Member page.

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