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How much advance planning does a trip to Scotland require?

This discussion was created from comments split from: Hi I am planning a trip to shetland next year and island hop..


  • Hi! Scotland is my dream Vacation, we are planning a long trip starting in Edinburgh and traveling by train, walking and car to see as much as possible. We want to really experience all of Scotland and wonder about the best way to do this. We will be buying one way plane tickets from the US and would like to know about booking accommodations. We would like to stay a week or so in several places to see the sights of each area. We will see Skye and the northern Highlands for sure, Edinburgh and lots more... When do we need to start making reservations? Can we make them as we go or will we need to be booking far in advance? I hope this makes sense, thanks very much! Diana Carson, Oregon
  • VisitScotlandKimVisitScotlandKim Member, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    Hi @DianaC97351, it is great to hear that you have started planning your dream trip! 

    My advice would be to book in advance for places that you definitely want to stay in to avoid being disappointed when you arrive, however if you are willing to be flexible, you should be able to find accommodation as you go along. You mentioned going to Skye and Edinburgh, which are both extremely busy places in summer, so depending when you are planning to visit, I would definitely say book accommodation there in advance (as soon as you can!).

    You can take a look at the suggested itineraries that we have put together to give you some inspiration and help you to plan your route.

    Does anyone else have any tips or advice from past experience of travelling without making reservations in advance?
  • Thank you Kim, an additional question regarding car rentals, is this something to be done in advance also? We are tentatively planing the beginning of May for arrival in Scotland, is this a good time weather wise? Sincerely, Diana Carson
  • VisitScotlandKimVisitScotlandKim Member, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    @DianaC97351 I would advise booking car rental in advance so that you can be sure your chosen car will be ready for you when you arrive, and you can get straight to the serious business of enjoying your trip :smile:

    As I'm sure you've heard, our weather is quite unpredictable, but generally May should be a good month - Spring will be in full swing and you will hopefully enjoy some dry, bright weather. There is more information about Scotland's climate here
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    Hey @DianaC97351

    Make sure you advance book a car if travelling by ferry as a car passenger to the isles. I lost count of how many people I saw scrambling this summer because they did not have their car booked on. Book your ferry tickets on the CalMac website about a month in advance.

    As @VisitScotlandKim alluded to, Skye is especially busy the whole summer with relatively fewer B&Bs and hotels. Apart from that, calling a week ahead of arrival should be fine.

    You might find yourself trying to book accommodation at short notice due to unforeseen circumstances. In those cases try the impressively clean network of Scottish Youth Hostels or Airbnb for a short stay.

    Hope your dream vacation in Scotland surpasses all your expectations :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, DunoonSpeyside)

  • Thank you very much for your help, it is greatly appreciated! DianaC
  • Any advise regarding car hires for longer visits? We will be staying about a month and want to hire a car for the whole trip. Probably won't return it where we got it as we are making a circle around Scotland, starting in Glasgow... Thanks!
  • VisitScotlandJulieVisitScotlandJulie Member, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    Hello @DianaC97351

    If you are leaving from Glasgow, you will have plenty of choices for car rental. Have a look at our advice page on driving around Scotland where you can find links and listings to popular car rental firms. With regards to planning ahead on the ferries, the CalMac website has some great advice in the FAQ section.

    Enjoy your trip and also the planning.

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