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Solo trip to Scotland July 2018

I've been wanting to return to Scotland for years now (been to Edinburgh a few years back), and now I really intend to plan it out so I can go! I'll be travelling alone and that's the reason that I'm not too keen on hiring a car. I've never driven on the left before and if you don't have someone with you as a second pair of eyes I think it's difficult.
So, I'd like to take public transport. I've already seen that it's doable if I plan ahead. I think 8 days is going to be my maximum stay.

What I was thinking was:
-Flying up to Glasgow and start from there. Since I've seen Edinburgh before, that's not a priority right now.

What I really want to see is: Stirling, Inverness (Culloden, the cairns), Fort William, Glencoe and if possible Skye.
Would that be something I can do in eight days?
I thought that a sort of roundtrip would be okay, since I can start up from Glasgow to Stirling (I would try to do that in the first day, so I can stay over at Stirling), spend time in Stirling and leave for Inverness. Then possibly on to Skye, Fort William and downwards again towards Glasgow. I have no idea if it's too harsh of a schedule to pull off and if I even would get everywhere. I've looked up that I can get to the larger destination I want to visit and since I don't need to drive I can rest on train/bus?

Also, as a female solo traveller, are hostels to recommend? Or Airbnb? I've usually stayed in hotels but I don't think I have the budget for those.

Still starting this search out and so many questions, any help is more than welcome :).

Comments

  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    Hey @Adsagsona, your itinerary is most certainly doable as I have done a flavour of it 3 times in the last 4 years by public transport alone (one such trip ended just 2 weeks back). Here is an example itinerary for 1-week that I've documented with train / bus times. TravelineScotland & Google Maps are my go-to planning tools (but they aren't correct 100%, just most of the time).

    There's a couple of critical points. You need to pre-book tours you want to take well before hand. A must-do for me (even though I've done it 3 times) is doing an Isle of Skye daytrip (Skye Scenic tours is my operator of choice). Most of the top things to see on Skye are almost impossible to reach by public transport and this daytrip leaves you satisfied IMO.

    Another critical point is to pre-book stay especially for places like Skye (which gets full in the summer). I'd recommend perusing the SYHA and the SiH websites to see what works best for you (not too far from public transport, etc). AirBnbs will be cheaper than hotels for sure but also look at VisitScotland's accommodation website and Roomfinder Scotland.

    Lastly, be prepared for wind and rain. Cannot stress this enough for anyone visiting Scotland. :smile: As you are a solo-traveller, you can choose to be flexible if you see the forecast turning sour (I had once gone to Orkney because the Outer Hebrides weather was bad).

    I'll be happy to assist you in any form to plan your trip, if needed. I can also link you to all sorts of public transport timetables that I have used to plan my own trips.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • AdsagsonaAdsagsona Member ✭✭
    Thank you so much for the information! I read your itinerary post before and there's certainly things in there I want to do. I read about the day tour you did to the Orkney Islands and now that's in my head to do lol. 
    They Sky tour also seems very nice as I didn't know how to get around the island to be honest.
    I am prepared for the climate. I'm from Belgium so we know a thing or two about wind and rain :smiley:.
    I'm going through some of the things tonight and see if I can stuff everything in 8 days, otherwise it'll probably turn out to ten. I might leave out something for a later date if I get to visit the Orkneys instead :). I'll keep you posted!
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    Cool, if you have some excess money, I would suggest taking a flight to say Orkney. But as you're looking for hostels, I would not quite recommend that.

    For some more info, here is the 1-week itinerary that I just did

    Sat afternoon : Glasgow - Oban by train
    Sunday : 3 isles daytrip from Oban run by West Coast Tours
    Monday morning: Oban - Ballachulish by bus (Glencoe daytrip in the afternoon)
    Tuesday morning: Ballachulish - Portree by bus (chilled out the rest of the day)
    Wednesday: Skye day tour with Skye Scenic tours
    Thursday morning: Portree - Eilean Donan castle. Get back to Kyle of Lochalsh by afternoon. Take afternoon train to Inverness.
    Friday: Loch Ness trip by bus and Cairngorms trip to Carrbridge and Aviemore by train.
    Saturday afternoon: Train to Edinburgh

    Quite a busy week but we saw so much! 10 days is ample time for exploration if the weather is nice (which for us was unbelievably good)
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • AdsagsonaAdsagsona Member ✭✭
    This is what I have now after doing a bit of more research on the transport schedule.
    For now I looked at flights to Edinburgh since it's easier for me to fly to there.

    Day 1: Fly to Edinburgh, then take bus to Stirling
    Day 2: Stirling, then onto Inverness
    Day 3: Orkney Islands Tour
    Day 4: Culloden, Cairns and then to Portree
    Day 5: Skye Day tour
    Day 6: Portree - Fort William (maybe to Glencoe and back)
    Day 7: Fort William - Glasgow
    Day 8: Glasgow - Edinburgh - home

    Now that I write it I'm thinking that leaving from Glasgow is easier lol.

    Excess money I sadly enough do not have :). Is Eilean Donan castle interesting? Would I be able to go there and then on to Fort William? Not trying to go to Glencoe then.
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    I think Stirling castle is a great castle to visit. Eilean Donan is very pretty to look at and shoot (my pic below) but it doesn't have too much to see inside. If you prefer nature over castles, I'd pick seeing Glencoe (lost valley or 3 sisters) over Eilean Donan castle (you can see it if you sit on the right side window of the bus, so yes you can get off on the way to Fort William).

    Note that the Glencoe Visitor centre is not the stop you need to get off at, ask to be dropped off at the 3 sisters or the lost valley (whichever you'd prefer). The visitor centre view is ok at best compared to the other 2.



    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • AdsagsonaAdsagsona Member ✭✭
    I'm a bit confused in how to get from and to Portree. The journeyplanner gives me buses (I guess with the bridge they can drive straight into Portree?) but there's also a train available, no?
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    @Adsagsona No direct train route I am afraid (Skye has no trains), the train route is the Glasgow - Mallaig (train) - Armadale (ferry) - Portree (2 buses, sometimes direct). It takes longer but is actually worth it. It is easy to do on the way back to Glasgow from Portree on a weekday. 9:05 AM bus 52 direct to Armadale from Portree, should get the 10:30 AM ferry to Mallaig and then a long leisurely lunch before catching the 4 PM train to Glasgow.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • AdsagsonaAdsagsona Member ✭✭
    edited December 2017
    Ok, so a few months on I have a more set planning for this trip. I think I'll manage everything although I might be more tired going home than leaving haha :smile:

    Day 1: Fly to Glasgow - take train to Stirling
    Day 2: Take train to Inverness
    Day 3: Day trip Orkney Islands
    Day 4: Culloden + Clava Cairns - bus to Portree
    Day 5: Isle of Skye day tour
    Day 6: Portree - Fortwilliam by bus
    Day 7: Take train Fortwilliam to Glasgow
    Day 8: Fly home

    Stirling: I'd love to see the Wallace monument and Stirling castle, I've also read about the abbey (can't remember the name right now). If you don't actually go into the visitor centre at Bannockburn, is it still interesting? Or give it a pass to just wander around Stirling?

    Inverness: I'll probably have some time left to wander Inverness on day 2, some tips on what to visit? (probably outside visiting hours so... just sights :smile: )
    Also, I know I can take a bus to Culloden visitor's centre, but is there another for the cairns, or is that on foot? 

    Day 6 I'm doubting what to do. Either stay longer in Portree and then take the bus to Fort William, or take the bus in the morning and hop on the train to Mallaig... or take the bus to Glencoe. Too many choices!

    Day 7 Fort William to Glasgow is quite the trip, but I'll have an afternoon in Glasgow. Some thing I really need to see there? Like top of the line for a first time visitor?

    And a general question: is it wise to book the day trip tickets beforehand? Because I'm guessing it could be busy in July but what if the weather isn't great?

    Thanks for any input! :smiley:
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    @Adsagsona book your Skye day trip now and hope for the best weather. A similar recommendation for a daytrip to Glencoe, only go if it is not raining, keep an option open. Also, pack food / any seasickness tablets for the Orkney daytrip as you'll need both.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • AdsagsonaAdsagsona Member ✭✭
    Horizons said:
    @Adsagsona book your Skye day trip now and hope for the best weather. A similar recommendation for a daytrip to Glencoe, only go if it is not raining, keep an option open. Also, pack food / any seasickness tablets for the Orkney daytrip as you'll need both.
    Ok, so leaving a maybe for Glencoe and booking the day trips. Also good tip on the seasickness tablets, I didn't think of those. Thank you!
  • Adsagsona said:

    Inverness: I'll probably have some time left to wander Inverness on day 2, some tips on what to visit? (probably outside visiting hours so... just sights :smile: )
    Also, I know I can take a bus to Culloden visitor's centre, but is there another for the cairns, or is that on foot? 


    Hi @Adsagsona

    Amazing to hear about your detailed plans for visiting Scotland!

    Regarding Inverness sights, I would enjoy the walks by the River Ness, it affords views of Inverness Castle and the city centre as well, very pretty location. Up at Inverness Castle you have an elevated vantage point of parts of the city. I always enjoy looking northwards towards Ben Wyvis, a munro on the Black Isle, north of Inverness. By the castle you can see the statue of Flora Macdonald facing outwards looking in the direction of the Isle of Skye. You could also enjoy the Town House of Inverness, which has recently been refurbished! 

    I always enjoy being in the City of Inverness so I hope you enjoy your visit there too and to Scotland as a whole! :)
  • AdsagsonaAdsagsona Member ✭✭
    Adsagsona said:

    Inverness: I'll probably have some time left to wander Inverness on day 2, some tips on what to visit? (probably outside visiting hours so... just sights :smile: )
    Also, I know I can take a bus to Culloden visitor's centre, but is there another for the cairns, or is that on foot? 


    Hi @Adsagsona

    Amazing to hear about your detailed plans for visiting Scotland!

    Regarding Inverness sights, I would enjoy the walks by the River Ness, it affords views of Inverness Castle and the city centre as well, very pretty location. Up at Inverness Castle you have an elevated vantage point of parts of the city. I always enjoy looking northwards towards Ben Wyvis, a munro on the Black Isle, north of Inverness. By the castle you can see the statue of Flora Macdonald facing outwards looking in the direction of the Isle of Skye. You could also enjoy the Town House of Inverness, which has recently been refurbished! 

    I always enjoy being in the City of Inverness so I hope you enjoy your visit there too and to Scotland as a whole! :)
    Thank you so much for the help and information! I've always wanted to see more of Scotland but I never got around to it and decided that this time I'm not going to make excuses and just do it :smile:
    The river I was certainly go and see, but I didn't know about the sights from the Castle, so thank you!
  • ParsmanParsman Member ✭✭✭
    Sorry to butt in, it looks like you were heading to Skye and Portree from Inverness and there is a train service from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh and then catch local buses to Portree, if you want to make the trip that way.
  • AdsagsonaAdsagsona Member ✭✭
    Parsman said:
    Sorry to butt in, it looks like you were heading to Skye and Portree from Inverness and there is a train service from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh and then catch local buses to Portree, if you want to make the trip that way.
    Hi, you're not butting in, thank you for the info :smile:
    I know there is a train going as well, but then I'll need to leave Inverness very early and I want to visit Culloden that day. I should (if the timetables don't change) have a bus going right up to Portree leaving at around 5pm in Inverness. Reason for the bus :smiley:

  • AdsagsonaAdsagsona Member ✭✭
    The journey is slowly taking more shape as I go... plane tickets are ordered, hostels and B&B's are booked, even a day trip of the Isle of Skye is already booked :smiley:

    Day 1: Glasgow - Stirling 
    Day 2: Stirling - Inverness
    Day 3: Culloden - Clava Cairns - Cawdor Castle
    Day 4: Inverness - Portree
    Day 5: Isle of Skye day tour
    Day 6: Portree - Fort William
    Day 7: Fort William - Glasgow
    Day 8: Home

    I'd like to go from Stirling to Linlithgow that first day since it's only half an hour by train - is it worth it? Looks like an amazing castle. I have till the afternoon the next day for the William Wallace monument and Stirling Castle, I think that's doable? I'd love to go to the monument on foot... but I can maybe do that in the evening as  I don't need to go inside and take the bus the next day...

    Does anyone have an idea of public transport from Inverness to Culloden and Cawdor castle? Maybe a connection between Culloden and Cawdor, or do I have to head back to Inverness? Culloden and Clava Cairns seems to be doable on foot?

    I'm thinking of doing the train ride from Inverness to Kyle of Lochasle (sp?) and take a local bus to Portree. Anything to do in Portree town? I've only got public transport so a bit limited.

    The Orkneys I'm going to be planning for maybe next year, I'd like to do the 'other' side of Scotland then :smile:

    Any idea for something to do in Fort William? I'll arrive there shortly before noon, so I'd like to do a few closeby things.

    Any help is appreciated! :wink:
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    The main thing I want to call out is that you should go from Glasgow to Linlithgow in the AM and then to Stirling (to reduce overall travel time). There is a bus 3 to Culloden from the Inverness city centre (timetable), do check the frequency. You absolutely must take the train to Kyle :smile: I will give you recommendations for Portree and Fort William later when I'm off work.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • AdsagsonaAdsagsona Member ✭✭
    Horizons said:
    The main thing I want to call out is that you should go from Glasgow to Linlithgow in the AM and then to Stirling (to reduce overall travel time). There is a bus 3 to Culloden from the Inverness city centre (timetable), do check the frequency. You absolutely must take the train to Kyle :smile: I will give you recommendations for Portree and Fort William later when I'm off work.
    That was my first idea! To go to Linlithgow first, but.... I'll have my luggage still with me and nowhere to put it.
    Thank you for the bus :smile: I'm kinda hoping to get to Cawdor castle too.
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    Ah, ok that makes sense. Buy an off-peak day return train ticket from Stirling to Linlithgow then for the cheapest fare and avoid the time people return from work if it's a weekday (any time is fine on the weekend). Linlithgow palace and its adjoining loch are beautiful indeed, I think you have enough time to check off Stirling attractions as well as Linlithgow.

    Portree is a wee town, what I tend to do on my 1st night is to book a dinner at Sea Breezes beforehand and enjoy some of Scotland's finest seafood with wine on a splurge meal. The location is next to the harbour and that area is just so picturesque with its colourful buildings and fishing boats. Last summer, the Isle of Skye pipe band was also playing in the town's main square (inspite of the chilly weather) so we easily spent 30 minutes listening to their performance. The fish and chips store near the harbour is also very good if the splurge meal seems out of budget. If I have a spare day in Portree, I either take the bus to Sligachan to do a walk or a wildlife boat trip from the harbour (the latter is good only if you have binoculars / a telephoto lens IMO).

    For Fort William, in the evening you must take a train trip to Glenfinnan (if it is drizzling and cloudy, super views over Loch Shiel) or Morar (if it is dry, famed for its sandy beaches). This is the famed Hogwarts Express line shown in the Harry Potter movies and the passenger train fares are a steal. The 4:19 PM train will drop you at Morar at 5:35 PM, chill on the beach for 20 mins and come back on the 6:22 PM train departing Morar. After checking in, I recommend taking a taxi followed by gondola up Ben Nevis if it is a good weather day. There is also a distillery in town.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • AdsagsonaAdsagsona Member ✭✭
    Thank you for all the information!!! Glenfinnan or Morar seems like a wonderful idea, I'll certainly keep that in mind :smiley:

  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    My pleasure! :smile:
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • AdsagsonaAdsagsona Member ✭✭
    2.5 months left and I'm so counting down haha.
    The long distance trains/buses are all booked and my day trip on Skye is too.

    My itinerary for now:
    Day 1: Travel from Glasgow to Stirling, then a return trip Linlithgow
    Day 2: See the Wallace monument and Stirling castle, sightseeing - trip to Inverness
    Day 3: See Beauly Priory, Culloden and Clava Cairns 
    Day 4: trip to Portree - if possible see isle of skye museum and/or Dunthulm Castle
    Day 5: day trip isle of Skye
    Day 6: trip to Fort William - sightseeing (possible trip to Glenfinnan or Morar)
    Day 7: trip to Glasgow - sightseeing 
    Day 8: trip home

    Do you have any tips for Glasgow? I want to see the necropolis, possible the indoor gardens I've seen. Anything you think I should see? I have a hostel close to the subway so I can use that to get around. I only have an afternoon though.

    Suggestions welcome :)
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