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Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

by janetmt Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 8:03 PM

Hi all,
My husband and two kids (ages 12 and 4) are thinking of heading to Scotland this coming June for three weeks. A couple of years ago we went to Ireland and found a wonderful booking place from a member here called Shamrock Cottages. We are looking for self-catering places in Scotland. Does anyone have any suggestions for companies that specialize in self-catering places? Or, does anyone have any suggestions for where we might find good accomodations?

As well, we were thinking of flying into London first to spend a couple of days with family before heading to Scotland. Would people suggest that we drive or take a train?

And, does anyone have any suggestions for what kind of intinerary might work for say 2.5 weeks? I would really like to see the highlands and spend a couple of days in Edinburgh and Glasgow but beyond that haven't been able to narrow things down further as of yet so am looking for those must sees that we will want to fit in.

Finally, do we really have to worry about the midges that much? I've read everything from "it's not that big of a deal" to more alarming things. I wish we could go before June but this is not really possible.

With much thanks,
Janet

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12 Answers
  • IreneMcKay's Profile Photo

    Re: Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

    by IreneMcKay Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    I would definitely include Stirling, Oban and an island on your itinery. Arran is a fantastic island, so is Mull and Mull can be combined with Iona, too.

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  • Agraichen's Profile Photo

    Re: Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

    by Agraichen Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 8:45 PM

    My personal/family preferences are a couple more days in London then taking a leisurly train to Edinburgh with a couple day stop in at least York. I've driven the route and I've done the train. Both have advantages/disadvantages. Car gives you the option of just stopping and seeing something of interest while the train passes by to the next destination.

    My wife loves York. Very walkable and very friendly people we found. Edinburgh is probably my favorite although my ancestors are from Glasgow.

    The car will give you a bit more flexibility to touring outside the cities but with only 2.5 weeks the cities will provide plenty to see and do.

    I've not stayed in any "self catering" locations but the B&B in York was so inexpensive that I really didn't care.

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  • angiebabe's Profile Photo

    Re: Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

    by angiebabe Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    My mother and I drove around for our first visit from NZ and Australia and had a wonderful time - and since moved to the UK so I could continue driving around the lovely villages and towns that make the country such an interesting place to visit - Ive had a few trips where Ive caught a train up or a plane up and then got a rental car but most of the time just got a car from London and made the most of being able to choose places along the way to see - such as a night in the Cotswolds or a visit to Durham, a visit to Lincoln and York - really its so up to what you like
    - the Lonely Planet guidebook for Europe or Britain is brilliant for getting ideas and having an idea of how to choose an itinerary...and was also what we used a lot for finding accommodation as we went along. All of the Tourist offices around Scotland also provide info on B&Bs in the area which increased our choice for finding interesting places or price comparisons and locations. Theres a really interesting range of places to stay in Scotland - even out at bothy in the country. A number of times because we had a car and got off the beaten track we found lovely youth hostels that were quiet and not inundated with other people because of needing a car to get to them (we were a bit more offpeak rather than high season that is June is but its also part of the advantage of having a car I found was it was easier to leave booking accommodation until we knew where we were going to end up or where wanted to stay for the night) The DK eyewitness guide book is also excellent for maps and info of historic sites and buildings etc, recommended routes and walking tours of historic town centres.

    but we did love Scotland and seeing our roots - and have had the joy of being able to go back and drive around more of the place - its great to make the most of your time and drive between places - there are a number of interesting historic places and wonderful castles off the beathen track so though its a must to spend time in Glasgow (we went to Tenement house there which we wowed about as it was just like we live or have lived back home in NZ) and Edinburgh having a car gives you the opportunities to get to other lovely places such as STirling or Linlithgow palace - getting to Loch Leven csstle i found was an excellent thing to do and visiting Culloden and Balguhidder to see Rob Roys gravestone if thats the sort of thing that interests you and your family - drive up around the Isle of Skye - up through Glencoe - 2 and half weeks is quite a bit of time with a car to see quite a bit even at a leisurely pace.

    A good road map such as the Michelin with scenic routes highlighted will also help with planning routes. but definitely as already suggested recommend taking a trip over to Mull and Iona and even Staffa - the puffins will be out in June.
    and a copy of the annual book of IHA hostels for the world or for Europe is very very handy. many places are very clean and tidy with excellent kitchen facilities - some even have ensuites at no extra price. This will help cut down costs in a big way too esp with having a car to get to supermarkets along the way for picnic type lunches, snacks, drinks etc..we loved supermarkets such as Sainsburys - which i still do living in London - and it reallly helped with our budget when we were travelling around at the mercy of quite expensive Australian exchange rates.

    Ive been up there for quite a bit of time also around June and July through August and dont recall having problems with midges - but insect repellent or fly spray too is always handy.

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  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

    by leics Online Now Feb 5, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    Re midges:

    How much of a hassle they are depends where you are and what the weather is like....and how much they like you!

    This page has detailed info:

    undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/u...

    You can check the midge forecast before you come (site starts forecasting on May 20th):

    http://www.midgeforecast.co.uk/

    All flying biting things like me a lot, regardless of what repellent I use. Calm, warmish days in the Scots countryside have given me some very itchy bumps....

    As for where to go, if you want to focus just on Scotland you have time to include Orkney. Absolutely wonderful, not very midge-y (there's almost always a breeze, if not a wind) and stuffed full of history and wildlife. You could leave the car in Inverness and take the coach + ferry + coach to Kirkwall (fantastic journey in itself). Info here:

    jogferry.co.uk/Express-Bus.a...

    Alternatively (you'd need to check with the hire car operator if taking a car on the ferry is ok, and booking the ferry in advance would be sensible) there are regular car ferries:

    http://www.pentlandferries.co.uk/

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  • iaint's Profile Photo

    Re: Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

    by iaint Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 12:06 AM

    Here are 2 possibilities for self catering

    www.cottages4you.co.uk/scotland

    www.visitscotland.com

    Midges - never troubled me, so no expert. I'd guess it's a problem if you're camping or wanting to eat outside in the evening. East coast is hardly affected.

    I agree about Orkney for seeing something a bit different. You could also take in a west coast island. Arran is easily accessed on a day/overnight trip. Train & ferry from Glasgow.

    June is the best time. Lots of daylight - maybe only 3 hours of darkness in the north - and best chances of dry weather (tempting fate, I know) .

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  • Re: Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

    by Borisborough Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 12:21 AM

    With there being four of you, a self-drive car might work out cheaper than rail fares (unless you can get a family deal). A small car (seating four with room in the boot for luggage - 3-door) can be hired for less than GBP20 per day if you have it for a couple of weeks or more. Driving along the motorways in Britain is not too difficult and you are also able to stop off on the way - Cambridge, Lincoln, York, Durham, Edinburgh. You'll also have the car to explore the Scottish countryside too. [Chevrolet Matiz - 8 June to 25 June pick up and return to Heathrow - GBP14 per day. - try rentalcars.com/en/country/gb...]

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  • hawkhead's Profile Photo

    Re: Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

    by hawkhead Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 12:49 AM

    I agree re June being a good month to go, so is May - usually!! The only thing, or one of the things to bear in mind is that from the middle of June the Scottish schools will be on holiday, so sites and accommodation will be busier.

    If you have a car and intend going to Edinburgh (btw a car in Edinburgh is totally redundant and a darned nuisance, so try and start any rental once you are ready to leave)....... then you will be able to access the Border Country (Kelso, Melrose, Drybrough, Hawick, Roxburgh et al) and I thoroughly recommend this largely tourist-forgotten part of Scotland steep in history. Also the Mull of Galloway on the other side. You could easily spend your 2. weeks in Scotland and hardly scratch the surface.

    Definitely Stirling, which has a much better castle than Edinburgh and much better of children. You might be interested in visiting the Falkirk Wheel and there are excursions on the canal over/through/up it. Falkirk Palace, Culross, Linlithgow Palace, Robert Burns Centre, Isle of Arran (Scotland in miniature), Eilean Donan Castle..... a few random suggestions. However, we don't really know what interests you. Self-catering really suggests staying in one place for a while e.g. a week and using this as a hub.

    Of course, you could be on the go for the entire 2.5 weeks but you would be merely ticking items off a list and wouldn't experience anything and would probably be stirring up a revolt from the younger members!! Far better to stick to one or perhaps two areas and visit within a reasonable distance from there.

    Midges, probably a bit early and midges like some people and not others - love me, hate my mother!! Depends on how wet it has been. When there is any wind at all, no midges.

    If you are going to be in London, then I would just take the train up to Edinburgh or Glasgow. You don't really have that long, unless you are content to have a driving holiday. I'd leave York and Durham et al for another time.

    have a look at the National Trust for Scotland and the Historic Scotland site. NTS also does accommodation but I expect they will already be booked.

    Itinerary? Possibly fly into Glasgow, head up West Coast , to Skye, across to Inverness and back to Glasgow (to drop car) via Stirling and Edinburgh - that's if you want to be on the go the entire time.

    Or else, use either Glasgow or environs or Edinburgh or environs as a hub. Re the latter, I would find somewhere in the Border Country to use as a hub and just do a day trip to Edinburgh by train. Probably the same for Glasgow - somewhere in Ayrshire e.g. Largs, which would give you access to the Clyde Coast, also Arran plus trains to Glasgow.

    Could go on endlessly, so many variations and permutations.

    Loads of self-catering places on the internet; to name but a few:

    www.cottages4u.co.uk
    www.scottish-cottages.co.uk
    www.self-catering-scotland.co.uk
    www.cottages-and-castles.co.uk
    www.hoseasons.co.uk/Scotland

    You might also look into staying in one of the Hydros - Peebles, Crieff, Dunblane, Strathpeffer, plus I think there is one down in the Mull of Galloway. These places often have excellent deals and have loads of things to do for children of all ages. They are set in stunning scenery. They 'cater' to children in that they serve early meals for children etc. and are flexible re rooms configurations and some times have a big room for the parents with a smaller adjoining room for children.

    Sure I have confused you more!

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  • angiebabe's Profile Photo

    Re: Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

    by angiebabe Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 12:57 AM

    Robby Burns' Ayr was wonderful too - Hawick castle and the drive to it was fantastic - went twice - Jedburgh has the death mask of Mary Stuart - very interesting town and area

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  • tango_jd's Profile Photo

    Re: Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

    by tango_jd Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 3:13 AM

    My only thought is that it is a big country and the roads are not always as direct as you might think.
    With a travel itinerary building, I am a bit worried that self-catering places may not be easy to find for days at a time as many like to book whole weeks. If you opt for one of these, then you may spend a lot of time in the car rather than in a chosen destination.
    You may find small b&bs are a better option?

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  • Flying.Scotsman's Profile Photo

    Re: Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

    by Flying.Scotsman Online Now Feb 6, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    In addition to previous recommendations, there is also MacKay's Agency in Edinburgh. According to their website, they have a high rating on Trip Advisor, but you can check this yourself. We used them 30 years ago and had a wonderful, but basic holiday. They sem to have gone upmarket since then, but then so has the whole tourist industry. One thing mentioned to you were school holidays. The earliest school holidays I know of are in Glasgow from the 26th of June. Aberdeenshire doesn't finish until July 5th and some private schools follow the English school holidays which start in mid July. Booking ahead will solve this problem, but school holidays shouldn't be an issue for you.

    I notice on your home page that hiking, swimming and photography are among your interests. Unless you are brave like the Spanish couple we met swimming in Loch Lomond last summer (them, not us!), then you will probably give this activity a miss. However, Scotland is a hiking photographer's dream. In 2 1/2 weeksyou can see a lot,but remember that although Scotland is small by Canadian standards, the country is just about as varied. There are rugged mountains in the west and northern highlands, tiny fishing villages in Fife, cliffs crowded with seabirds in the far Northeast, and castles everywhere. And there are 2 large-ish cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, with amazing architecture, history, art galleries, museums, and lots of restaurants and pubs.

    You will have to decide your final itinerary, and you have had some excellent sugestions already. If you want to see a lot outside of the main cities, then a car would be a definite advantage. Our favourite part of Scotland is the Kingdom of Fife, especially the area called the East Neuk. From Culross, an unspoiled early 17th century village, through Charlestown, Limekilns, and historic Dunfermline in the west, through to St Andrews, the home of golf, via Lower Largo with its connections to Robinson Crusoe, Pittenweem and Crail with their lovely harbours, this is an amazing coastline. See my Fife page on: "The Kingdom of Fife" - Fife by Flying.Scotsman

    If you are driving, remember that outside of the Central Belt, especially to the north, roads can be very slow -some are single track (one lane wide with 2 way traffic!) Yes it is tricky (read up on the rules before you go) but manageable -BUT SLOW! So don't plan a day's activities assuming you will average 50 to 60 mph. This is very ambitious on all roads except motorways and major A roads like the A9.

    Hope this information helps. Oh and midges, are worst in the highlands and Argyll, but can be a nuisance on still evenings anywhere and June can be a bad month for them. Buy midge repellent and enjoy your holiday. You'll be used to mosquitoes in Ontario, so you shouldn't find our midgies too bad. Enjoy your visit. Bruce

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  • hawkhead's Profile Photo

    Re: Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

    by hawkhead Online Now Feb 7, 2013 at 12:15 AM

    And midges are no way worse than black flies!

    I, too, second the comments about driving outside built-up areas, especially but not solely, the further north you go. Ten miles could easily take an hour despite what the actual distance says and how it looks on the map. The main roads north to the Highlands can become very busy.

    You might consider a stop in the Glen Coe area, also. However, until you have settled on at least an outline of an itinerary, there is no point suggesting places and things to do.

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  • janetmt's Profile Photo

    Re: Family of 4 looking for some guidance re: trip to Scotland in June

    by janetmt Online Now Feb 7, 2013 at 6:10 AM

    Thanks to everyone so far! These suggestions are wonderful. From the sounds of it, driving in Scotland will be much like driving in Ireland then? Everything took a long time there. We may decide to fly right into Glasgow or Edinburgh and skip London since we've already been there and you have all made me so excited to see as much of Scotland as we can.
    With heartfelt thanks,
    Janet

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