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Some tips about touring in Scotland

Judith Frye

TUG Review Crew: Veteran
TUG Member
Jul 7, 2005
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I got so much help from this TUG board in planning my recent Scotland trip that I wanted to share some notes. We did not stay in any timeshare properties – I had to spend two weeks in Aberdeen, working with the university there – but my husband and I visited some other cities, and toured around, for a total of almost 3 weeks.

a. Aberdeen – if you ever need a “self-catering apartment” in Aberdeen, there are three branches of “Skene House” in different locations around town. We stayed in Skene House Rosemount, in a two-bedroom apartment with a huge living room and huge kitchen. It was unique in that it was on the top floor of a private home next door to the main building (with a separate entrance of course). The other apartments (which we did not see) are mostly one-bedrooms.
b. Edinburgh – There are a number of “self-catering apartments” in Edinburgh. Based on TripAdvisor reviews, we picked the Royal Garden Apartments. Excellent location; full kitchen but also coffee/muffins/fruit offered in the lobby in the morning (and wine in the afternoon); large rooms and well-equipped kitchen.
c. Inverness – For the one night we were there, we chose Strathness House, a bed and breakfast located right on the river. Our window had a view of Inverness Castle.

Sightseeing: The best days of our trip were the touring we did with a guide, Craig Flynn, whom we learned about from a posting on this Forum. (Thanks, Chrisky, whoever you are!) Craig’s website is www.mini-tours.com. It was a bit of a splurge to hire him and his van just for the two of us, but worth every penny, to get his expertise and his driving. (I’ve driven on the left before, but did not want to worry about navigating/finding Scottish sites on a map, during this trip.) Our first excursion with him was from Aberdeen to Inverness (staying overnight there), and back the next day via a different route. We saw castles, whiskey distilleries, the state-of-the-art visitor’s center at the Culloden battlefield site (and an ancient Cairn site nearby), heather in full bloom, etc. On a separate one-day trip, we saw more castles, and some charming coastal towns south of Aberdeen (eg, Arbroath Abbey and its visitor’s center and building ruins). These plans were custom-tailored to our time and interests; Craig kept up a flow of information ranging from history and culture, to amusing anecdotes, about Scotland. He is not based in Aberdeen but came to get us there; he will travel around the country (and even to Ireland) to do tours. There are various positive reviews of his services on a TripAdvisor forum and on some cruise port excursion discussion sites.

In Aberdeen, my husband saw nearly every tourist site in his 2 weeks there; it’s a town focused on the oil business, not sightseeing. In Edinburgh, we spent most of our time on events that were part of the famous Fringe Festival.

Throughout our trip, we took full advantage of the British Heritage Pass. http://www.britishheritagepass.com It’s only available to people who live outside the UK. I almost missed the chance to get it by waiting until just before we left to order it, but fortunately they allowed me to receive it “in care of” my contact at our Aberdeen hotel. (You can pick it up in one location in London and one in Edinburgh.) We used the passes to get into nearly all the tourist sites we visited throughout the country; entry into Edinburgh Castle alone was 12 pounds sterling, so that plus all the other castle fees made the investment worthwhile.

One note about the Edinburgh Military Tattoo: tickets go on sale in November of the one year for August of the following year, but don’t give up if you try later and are told it’s sold out. We kept trying and eventually some tickets became available (returned by brokers, or something like that). There is not much space (legroom) between seats. I called instead of ordering online, and the woman helped me get not just aisle seats, but seats that were in the last row, at the top of the stairway, so we had all the legroom we wanted and no one right in front of us blocking our view.

A few notes about buying train tickets from one city to another: First, it’s currently impossible to buy them from the US. (I even emailed the site when I was blocked from ordering without a UK postal code, and they replied that they were working on it but for now, it couldn’t be done.) Second, it’s unbelievable how much cheaper it is when you buy tickets ahead of time. For example, one way from Aberdeen to Edinburgh was just 10 pounds per person when bought a couple of weeks ahead of time, while a roundtrip ticket Aberdeen-Glasgow bought (for business) at the last minute was 66 pounds. So if you’re going by train, buy tickets as early as you can, in the country.

Hope this might be useful to some of you planning a trip to Scotland! Judith


TUG Member
Jun 6, 2005
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New England
Thanks Judith. I have some friends planning a trip to Scotland and they don't want to drive so I have emailed your info on the tour guide. I'm sure it will be helpful.


TUG Member
Nov 13, 2007
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Hi Judith, glad you enjoyed your trip. Although when we visited Scotland we drove, Craig has received some excellent comments, so I'm happy it worked out for you. We had also used the British Heritage Pass, and we just picked it up in Glasgow when we arrived. But it is certainly an excellent money saver.


TUG Lifetime Member
Jun 6, 2005
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Thanks for posting your tips! We are going next summer for two weeks. I should really get back to planning soon. :D