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Scotland Travel Tips

4.0 stars

Insider advice for your Scotland vacation


Wayne
Ruins of Urquhart Castle 3 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
You can get to Urquhart Castle by bus. You can walk there. Or you can set sail and cruise along Loch Ness and reach the picturesque ruins like me and the Highland clansmen used to do hundreds of years ago.

Set upon uneven and irregular outcroppings of rocks, what remains of Urquhart Castle stands overlooking Loch Ness like a page in a history book. History books however are skeptical about the origins of the ruins, though evidence shows that it stood at least as long ago as 800 years. What the books can pinpoint is that Urquhart has been a site of siege, battle, fire, and plunder for hundreds of years. English Vs. Scots, Scots Vs. English, Scots Vs. Scots...

It was a much more peaceful day when I crept around the halls and stairways of Urquhart Castle in the spring of 2006. While breathtaking views can be found in, around, and from a distance, Urquhart quickly loses appeal once you've been up and down the towers and throughout the ruins, because that is what this castle has literally been reduced to. Certainly a great deal of history and wonder surrounds it, but it's kind of like visiting the birthplace of someone famous...the place can be immensely interesting yet surprisingly boring once you get there (ie Bob Dylan's hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota).

The castle itself can be explored in a matter of minutes and there really isn't that much else, once you hear all the history, to do while you are there. The trebuchet, a catapult of sorts, was cool, evoking images of battles and sieges, though a demonstration of it's ability and effectiveness would have been cooler. A must for sight-seers and historical nuts, but for those looking for more interactive and exploratory adventures, there are many many more castles and sights in Scotland to seek out.


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spaluc
a short hike 5 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
My friend and I took a short hike, starting out from the city and walking along the highway until we found a good place to climb a hill. We started climbing a gradually-inclining hill, and it was a long way to the top, climbing over some barbed-wire fences through very tall grass. But when we reached the top there was very soft , plush grass; and we laid down in it and rolled around for awhile. It was so easy to relax because of the gorgeous view and the warm weather. There were no insects or people, just the green beauty that surrounded us. After taking pictures and some video, we strolled back down, and we both agreed it was the first time on our trip that we could allow ourselves to really relax and enjoy the experience to the fullest. Visiting a city is great, but there is so much to figure out, so many rules to follow, so many things you have to pay for. At Loch Ness, we could just walk around and enjoy breathing in the fresh sea air.


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spaluc
The view of Loch Ness 4 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Nessie did not singlehandedly make Loch Ness the world-famous attraction it is. In fact, the most valuable tourist draw which Loch Ness owns is the view. It is the most beautiful sight in Scotland. You see the tall rolling hills, all sectioned off in by hedgerows and straight fences, the quaint Scottish town and the roaming sheep all present quite an astonishing view. It is the kind of beauty the Romantic poets worshipped--the civilized natural beauty that charactizes the English landscape. The bright blue waters of the loch fall right into place, surrounded by the plush green pastures.


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penmaiden
Isle of Coll 4 stars
This remote, windswept island is one of the lesser known islands in the Hebrides, and because of this, it's well worth a visit. There are no garish, ugly hotels, or tacky tourist shops. There's no cinema, no Pizza Hut, and no main road. Instead, you have the priviledge of true Hebridean countryside - barren, bleak and beautiful, with the sea barely out of sight at any juncture and several beaches of beautiful golden sand. For the camper, cyclist, bird watcher and surfer, Coll is a paradise. The surf isn't as good as on Tiree, but I caught some excellent swells at Ballyhaugh beach when I was last there, as well as camping in the dunes. The locals are, for the main part, friendly, and there's a strong sense of community. But this is a working island, where tourism is a welcome accompaniment to the everyday business of living, so bear in mind the places you tramp may well be a farmer's field with livestock in it. Breachachadh Castle is privately owned, and the owners DO NOT take kindly to visitors, so content yourself with looking at it from a distance. Instead, take a boat tour and go in search of basking sharks, porpoises and dolphins - or dangle a line off the stern and haul in a load of mackerel, which you can then cook right on the beach (if you're careful).
Although Coll is remote, there is a good pub in The Coll Hotel, which also does comfortable accommodation - and The First Port of Coll is a great little café in the only town - Arinagour - where you'd be a fool not to order the pancakes.
You can reach Coll by Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, leaving from Oban. The ferry goes on to Tiree if you want to make an island hop. Be warned - taking a car is extortionately expensive, so don't do it! Walking and cycling is the best mode of transport anyway.


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Emmylou
The Isle Of Arran - Scotland In Miniature 4 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Arran is a beautiful, lush island just off the West coast of Scotland. It is my favourite childhood holiday destination - my parents took me and my brother over to the main town of Brodick every year since I can remember. It’s extremely easy to reach (Caledonian MacBrayne run 5 or 6 sailings a day from Ardrossan Harbour, depending on the season) and the 50 minute ferry ride is quite pleasant. If you can brave the chilling North Sea winds it’s worth going up onto the deck to see if you can spot dolphins or seals.

The island has something for everyone, from beach-combing or hill-walking to enjoying an Arran ale or whiskey in a cosy pub! My favourite beaches at Blackwaterfoot and Pirnmill can be found on the East side. Kildonan in the South is also beautiful. A few years ago while walking that stretch of beach I counted over 200 seals on the rocks close by! Brodick Castle and the Arran Distillery are not to be missed. If you’re into walks then you should definitely check out King’s Cave and the Standing Stones at Machrie Moor. For the more adventurous, climbing Arran’s mountain, Goat Fell makes a great day out.

I always camp when I visit the island these days. There’s something magical about a glowing campfire under the stars on Arran. Glenrosa, near Brodick is my campsite of choice. It’s pretty basic, the only facilities being a toilet block, but that adds to its charm. Being so far away from civilization just enhances the experience and it’s great to be able to get on with it without being bothered by stuffy owners. Visitors often opt for the more luxurious Lamlash campsite so usually you can pitch your tent wherever you please! Most importantly, the view of Goat Fell up the glen is breathtaking.

The only negative thing about Arran is the atrocious public transport. Buses run around the island to and from the Brodick ferries but in between times it can be extremely difficult to get around. It is quite expensive to bring your car on the ferry (£44.50 for a 5 day return) but I would definitely recommend paying the extra to ensure you get the most out of your visit.


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vikingsfreak
Dalhousie Castle 3 stars
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
The Dalhousie Castle is an upscale, expensive hotel. My wife and I were expecting an old, block castle, which this isn't. The inside of this hotel is very finished off. Nothing exceptional. The reservation included a meal. The meal itself was very bad. The wait staff themselves were far worse. The room was very nice. We had a nice view and a big bathroom. We tried to call for room service and got no answer on the other end. With the exception of an on ground falconry, there wasn't anything special about this place. I would recommend finding a different place to stay.


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Elizaoprisor
The Colton Hill 4 stars
If you love sights and you are keen on seeing panorama images with towns, villages or nature elements, the Colton Hill is the perfect place for you to go. Besides the fact that it’s a volcanic peak, fact that sustains the possibility of an immediate eruption, the peak makes you see the best image of the whole Scotland. The view is magnificent; at least I liked it a lot. The road to the peak is quite easy; you can go there by car or you can even rent a bicycle from the control center. It’s something quite worthy.

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Elizaoprisor
The Surgeon’s Hall 4 stars
Known as a state building, The Surgeon’s Hall in Scotland is a kind of a museum, but not one that you could see every day. This museum is in fact a collection of human anatomical and pathological specimens from the 18th and 19th century. It is a very interesting thing, especially because you can see, in parallel, the healthy organs and the sick ones. The collection also contains human remains, fact that makes it even more interesting and challenging. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photos, but many postcards with explicit pictures are expecting you at the exit.

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Elizaoprisor
The Ancient Roman Ruins 5 stars
When I visited Scotland a lot of things impressed me a lot. One of these are the Ancient Roman Ruins, the place where the apostles walked a long time ago. The place is full of history and the image of the ruins would impress anybody interested in such things. There were a lot of people visiting the ruins, which extend on a length of about a kilometer. Everybody was taking photos and was watching amazed the place that some time ago had been a great roman fortress. It is a special image that I will never be able to forget.

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penmaiden
Archaeolink Prehistory Park 4 stars
Up in rural Aberdeenshire lies this little gem of a place, perfect for entertaining both children and adults. There are both indoor and outdoor exhibits, showing ancient life in Scotland from the Mesolithic to the Roman. Outdoors, in a large field, are reconstructed huts from the Ice to the Iron Age, as well as a Roman marching camp. Unlike other museums, which employ a strict 'look but don't touch' attitude, the Archaeolink encourages a much more hands on approach. You can actually go into the huts, sit and warm your hands beside fires, and - on an events day - join in the action. I went to the re-enactment of a pagan ceremony, involving the burning of a Wicker Man, which was beautifully done, with a great deal of enthusiasm. If you're in Aberdeenshire - or even nearby - I'd recommend it for a visit.
Admission:
Adults £5.50
Children £3.55


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manasi
Visiting Scotland 4 stars
When I went to Scotland, I stayed at a village called Kilconquar, about three hours away from Edinburgh by bus. This was because the trip was planned at the last minute, and we couldn't get any bookings in Edinburgh proper.

Kilconquar turned out to be this exquisite series of villas and quaint cottages with stables and little walking trails with equally sleepy little seaside hamlets on either side. In fact, on the way from Kilconquar to Edinburgh is Lower Largo, Fife, where lie the origins of Alexander Selkirk, based on whose life Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe. In fact, there are little references, such as boards with directions to the Juan Fernandez islands, in this village.

Waking up in Scotland is delightful, because when you look out of the window, you saw horses peacefully trotting about or sheep. But Scotland is much, much colder than England, and each day is practically a battle against the cold.

The Edinburgh castle is a real beauty. The architecture is simply superb - not perfect like London's architecture, but a little rough around the edges. It looks like a genuine castle as well, complete with towers and little turrets and stone passages. When you look at it from the outside, all you can do is gasp, and wish a little, at the same time, that you were a part of the lineage. Scotland's Crown jewels were on display.

The sheer loveliness of the Edinburgh castle is the sort of thing that is likely to stay with you forever. You simply cannot ever forget your first view of such a place - it sort of defines all your memories of the place itself.

We hired a car and drove down to the Glen Livet factory to experience one of Scotland's famous whisky trails. I now know how the single malt whisky is made - and how it is different from blended whisky. At the end of the tour, our guide gave us all a glass of whisky to enjoy in the light of our newly-gained knowledge

We then drove on to Inverness to hunt for the monster, hoping she would make an appearance for us. But the Loch Ness monster unfortunately did not turn up. The Loch itself is very pretty and worth a look.

Scotland is the real beauty of the United Kingdom. It's quaint and picturesque, one of my favourite places.


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Ruthiehooch
Brough of Birsay - Orkney 4 stars
The Brough of Birsay is not to be confused with the village of Birsay in the west of Mainland Orkney. The Brough is a tidal island with extensive Pictish and Norse archaeology. Make sure you get the tide times before visiting or you won't make it across the causeway!

Once across, there's a good little Historic Scotland visitors' centre which explains the ruins. Essentially, it was a Pictish village that was taken over by Vikings. The floor of the Earl's house shows the Norse drainage system and what may be a sauna - very sophisticated! The church is the best preserved building and provides evidence of Christianity among the Norse.

The Picts are represented by copies of their distinctive carved standing stones - the originals are in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. It's an interesting site and makes a good outing on a nice day: when we were there it was really hot and sunny and perfect for a picnic!


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Ruthiehooch
Maes Howe - Orkney 5 stars
Maes Howe is an amazing chambered tomb near Stenness in Orkney. What makes it really special is the the fact that although it is a neolithic tomb (dated about 3000 BC), Viking raiders broke into it and left runes carved all over the inside. So Maes Howe is a journey into two very different time periods.

You enter the tomb, a grassy mound, down a narrow tunnel, which opens out into the chamber. Fascinatingly, the tomb was carved so that on the shortest day, the setting sun shines directly down the passage and hits the back wall. Amazing to think of a people who had the ability to calculate this and to build so precisely.

The runes are as well preserved as the tomb itself, and include boasts, names and stories. One comemorates a beautiful Viking woman! Again, a great insight into how the Vikings were not so very different from us.

A real treat to get an atmospheric insight into the past.


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Ruthiehooch
Sandwood Bay 5 stars
Sandwood Bay is a beautiful beach right up in the north west corner of Scotland, near the evocatively named Cape Wrath. It's likely to remain beautiful, too, since there is no road in so only adventurous hikers can make it there.

To appreciate the wide, bronze-coloured sand, the dunes, stream and sea stack, you'll need to walk the four miles from Blairmore, where you can leave your car. Surfers, note that Sandwood picks up any swell going so if you can hike four miles of undulating moor while carrying your board it will be worth it!

You can camp in the dunes, but don't expect any facilities: you'll need to carry in all food, though the stream water is drinkable. Avoid Sandwood during the summer months, when midges can be unbearable. It's quite an experience to spend a night there, especially if you get it all to yourself. Just make sure you take all your rubbish home and leave it just as special for the next person.


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Ruthiehooch
The Vintner’s Rooms Restaurant and Bar 4 stars
The Vintner’s Rooms is the place for a real blowout – come hungry and be prepared to pay for excellent, full-on French fare. Tucked away beneath the Scottish malt Whiskey Society in Leith, it provides a good selection of meat and fish, and can also cater for veggies if warned in advance. It would be a shame to miss the flamboyant côte de boeuf, though! Desserts are more than an afterthought and the service is pleasantly eccentric. Just make sure you don’t eat so much that you can’t fit into the cramped ladies loos.

The Vintner’s Rooms Restaurant and Bar
The Vaults
87 Giles Street
Leith
Edinburgh
EH6 6BZ

Telephone: 0131 554 6767


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penmaiden
The Three Chimneys, Isle of Skye 5 stars
If it's luxury you're after, look no further than this spectacular five star restaurant with rooms. The House Over-By holds six luxury suites, and although the price is exorbitant (£120 per person bed and breakfast) I found it worth every penny. Granted, this was probably because we used it as a treat at the end of the coldest, wettest camping trip ever, but the rooms are truly beautiful, the beds vast, the bathrooms ample - and we were greeted with coffee and juicy fruit cake. As for the restaurant, seafood is the speciality, but there were rave reviews for both the steak and the venison from my party. At £50 for 3 courses, this is no place for the shallow of pocket, but if you fancy cutting loose for a while and wallowing in obscene luxury, this is the place for you.

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CosmoSteve
Scotland 5 stars
Scotland is a really nice place to go on holiday. There are so many things to do and places to go including Loch Ness and The Caledonian Railway (Berchin). The capital city of Scotland is Edinburgh. It is much smaller compared to England, France and many other countries, even though it not the smallest country in Europe.

If you plan to visit Scotland from Wales, Ireland or England by train, you’re better off staying overnight because the journey times really long. There are plenty of hotels to stay in, so you don’t need to worry. There are also numerous restaurants to meet different tastes.

I always love to hear bagpipes playing whenever I visit Scotland.


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CosmoSteve
Strathspey Steam Railway 5 stars
In Avimore in Scotland there is a beautiful railway called the Strathspey Steam Railway. It runs 10 miles from Avimore to Broomhill. It has an interesting variety of steam and diesel locomotives many of which work on the Scottish railways and others that worked on the Midland railways.

The railway has timetabled services every month of the year at the weekends. During the summer season from June to September, services are scheduled every day. Sometimes, the railway has to borrow locomotives from other railways because there is sometimes a lack of motive power.

The railway has a connection with National Rail at Avimore.


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sonoflaw
Dunvegan Castle 3 stars
The Castle MacCleod on the Isle of Skye, officially known as Dunvegan Castle, was one of the first places I wanted to see when I landed in Scotland, and though it was one of the last places I actually visited, it was also one of my least favorite in the country. While not as disappointing as St. Andrews, Dunvegan Castle had the added problem of being one of Scotland’s largest tourist attractions, and being located on one of the least trodden places in the country. The Isle of Skye is beautiful and covered almost entirely by farmland, but Dunvegan sits like a sleeping Jolly Green Giant on the North West corner of the island. Surrounded by parking lots and cafes, entering the castle already feels a little but awkward after traveling through such natural countryside to reach it. The castle itself offers walk-through tours for prices I had not experienced since my trip to Japan, and the castle itself is more like a museum than a piece of history itself. Many of the rooms are closed off and those that are visible are completely cut off by display tape. It is understandable that this is what the castle has become after the popularity of the Scottish clan skyrocketed from certain films, television shows, and video games. After an all-too-brief journey through the castle, the tour ends in front of something I had not seen yet in a Scottish castle: A museum gift shop. With everything MacCleod on sale and an easily accessible nearby snack bar, I suddenly felt like I was in the middle of Disney Land. I understand that merchandising is important for independent business, but Dunvegan is an old castle with a lot of history, and sadly, most of the more interesting tid-bits of history that should have been on display were not even at the museum, having been shipped out or covered up over the years by money makers. In the end, I understand that Dunvegan is an important part of a castle hoppers journey, but I seriously wish I had spent less time at this attraction, and more time exploring the rest of the Isle of Skye.

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sonoflaw
Valley of Glencoe 5 stars
The valley of Glencoe is like something out of a fantasy novel. With lush, green endless hills and towering trees that move downward into a vast, seemingly infinite valley, my only immediate concern with my hike into this beautiful unknown was how I was going to only spend one day here. When I first visited Glencoe, I had been staying at a nearby castle that was only a ten minute drive from the entrance to the valley hiking trail. When I say entrance, by the way, I am referring to a downward path off the side of the road that I was only able to find by borrowing a map from locals and scouting out the best place to begin my downward walk. An important thing to remember about hiking into a valley is that it is the same as hiking up a mountain, except that one goes downhill first and uphill second. Preparing a backpack with water, purification tablets, sun screen and bug spray (it was in the middle of the summer), I began hiking beside the river that wound its way to the base of this historic Scottish site where the British once lead a historic ambush. I had to be careful as I walked downward, as throughout the day randomly timed rain showers would beat down the soil beside the riverbed, making the trip both slippery and sticky at times. For part of the journey 11 mile journey (5 miles down, five back up, and one back to the car), I was ankle deep in mud, pulling out my feet (sometimes shoeless) with every step. At the bottom of the hill I managed to twist my ankle, and considering there is no place to rest for the night down there, it was walk in pain or freeze that night, so I continued upwards, beside waterfall laden green hills and rocky paths that eventually led back to the highway and the end of the hike. Coming back to the hotel, my ankle was still in one piece, and I was covered in mud, but I had never experienced a climb quite like this one. I recommend Glencoe only to very confident hikers, but for explorers, this place is truly magnificent.

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