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Need suggestions on how to tour highlands

awfranckoawfrancko Member ✭✭
I live in Ohio, but I'm obsessed with Scotland. I toured the cites and a few top sites with globus in 2014. My best friend may or may not travel with me (it depends on how much it will cost). I however am willing to spend $4000, plus airfare, to cover as much as my bucket list as possible. I need suggestions of 8-12 day tours between June 1- July 31 or October 28-November 31. I've mapped out the major areas mostly in the western highlands, Edinburgh, and the Herbadies (see screen shot). I've been looking at Brendan vacations, CIE, and even getting help from a AAA travel agent, but these tours wont allow me to see anything new. I looked into 2 different private tours, but they were $10,000 a person. How do I get to see as much as possible, in my budget, staying in a b&b or 3 star accommodations. I don't really need a guide, I just need a safe way to get around.

Comments

  • MoFMoF Member ✭✭
    First things first, June1-July 31 is the beginning to the middle of the high season, accommodations are already filling up.  So if you are wanting to travel in that period act now, don't wait and be prepared to pay a premium.  Reservations are essential for many of the tourist hot spots during the high season.

    However Late Oct through the end of Nov is low season so for example a lot of the B&B's close up for the winter in the highlands and Skye.  I ended up shifting to visiting Islay in early Dec due to there being more things to do that were open on the weekend during that time of year.  The trip was wonderful and peaceful, but I wasn't able to do all I wanted to.  Even still it was amazing.  I am going back in Sept, it was that good.

    I'd still lean towards low season, and hiring your own car.  But there are public transit experts who regularly come to these forums as well who could give you a different angle.






  • awfranckoawfrancko Member ✭✭
    It would be nice to travel during the low season. I will only have 9 vacation days by June 1. I just need to find a private car at a good price.
  • MoFMoF Member ✭✭
    edited January 11
    By car hire, I mean car rental, since I'm planning a trip back I've been using the non-American term. 

    For what I can guess you mean by a private car , IE: a driver with a private car to drive you about, some of the places you want to visit may have a cab that offers a daily rate.  I know some of the islands have those as an option with their taxis.  (on Islay its offered, and on Orkney there is even a set daily rate for them)  I don't know much about it much more specifically than that, I would just contact the local tourist office for the areas you'd want to visit.

  • awfranckoawfrancko Member ✭✭
    I re-made my literary in a word document and if I can find a safe way to get a chauffeur I could spend around $1800 for customized lodging and airfare. Take a look and see what you could suggest. I need a driver since I'm American and I don't think I can handle driving in Scotland.
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    @awfrancko do you have any time constraints? I can easily help you plan all the places on your list by a combination of public transport and local taxis and that trip would be 12 days long (though an ideal time would be 3 weeks). That way, I can guarantee you hitting your budget (which may be hard getting 1 chaffeur for 12 days) while giving some freedom that cannot possibly be afforded by tours.

    For context, I have seen all the spots on your map by public transport alone. You can self plan the whole trip by using Google Maps and Traveline Scotland. I also provide my favourite 1 week itinerary here which I've done 3 times.
    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)

  • awfranckoawfrancko Member ✭✭
    By June 1 I will have earned 9 vacation days. I only earn 1.55 hours a week of vacation time, I think by late October I could take a 12 day vacation (I wish I could take a month long vacation). I'm estimating around 2k for lodging, tickets, and airfare for 2 people (based on my interary.) I can spend up to $4000, but I don't think my friend is willing to spend more than $2000. I also the sites on google maps and a list on Microsoft word
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    "I don't think my friend is willing to spend more than $2000"

    This is a tight budget for a 12 day Scotland trip from the US but barely doable. Here are some tips for achieving it.
    • You have to forego checked in luggage and fly using Wow Air ($300 return fares from the US are common)
    • You'll have to live in bunk bed hostels (tonnes in Scotland, need prebooking on Skye and possibly others, SYHA membership pays itself in 5 nights)
    • Spend £30 to get a Two-together railcard to save money on railfare. You'll easily make this back and more. Don't think a 12 day driver can possibly work in the $2K budget.
    Are there specific questions you want answered? Do try planning the whole thing yourself to see what $ number comes out for a self-managed public transport trip. My 1 month camping trip across the country costed about $1300 where I carried my own tent as a reference point and there was no airfare involved (hence I know $2000 for 12 days is doable in hostels).
    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)

  • awfranckoawfrancko Member ✭✭
    My options are
    1. 9 day trip with my friend with total cost under $6000/ chauffeur driven
    2. small group tour like rabbies (just me $4000)
    3. 7 nights at a nice hotel pherhaps near loch lomond, loch awe, or isle of skye and look into day tours on viator.com o
    4. train tour such as vacationsbyrail.com
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    I could help you plan your own #4 super easily. Please don't pay anyone > $100 to essentially buy train tickets (I mean you could but it really can be done in a weekend of planning). #3 is a good plan as well but instead of all 7 nights in 1 place, I'd suggest breaking it up into 3 nights and 4 nights (say between Loch Lomond and Skye as an example).
    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)

  • awfranckoawfrancko Member ✭✭
    I like the idea of breaking it up to  I'd suggest breaking it up into 3 nights and 4 nights. What would my transportation options be for getting to each hotel.
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    edited January 16
    Depends on the hotel. For example, in this map above, Stirling, Dundee, Pitlochry, Edinburgh and Balloch (South Loch Lomond) are served by ScotRail train (and maybe a local taxi). Glencoe can be reached from Glasgow Buchanan street bus stop by Scottish Citylink direct bus. St. Andrews is a train from Edinburgh to Leuchars and then a bus to town (there's also a direct bus / taxi from Edinburgh but takes an hour longer). Hope this helps you, feel free to ask specific questions like this. Try the search features on both the websites linked.
    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)

  • awfranckoawfrancko Member ✭✭
    something to think about for lodging... I got some advice on my intermarry which was a bit too ambitious. Still might not be doable in 9 days
  • awfranckoawfrancko Member ✭✭
    Seems like I could spend at least 2 days around Isle of Skye. So much to see and not enough vacation time
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    You should spend 2 days on Skye (1 night minimum). There is enough things to see indeed.
    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)

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