AN EPIC 10 NIGHTS IN SCOTLAND

Scotland has been voted the world’s most beautiful country…

That’s according to research conducted by the world’s biggest travel guides – Lonely Planet and The Rough Guide – putting Scotland ahead of New Zealand, Canada and Norway in the scenery stakes.

So – don’t just take my word for it, Scotland IS jaw droppingly beautiful. Certainly, given the countries I have so far travelled in, admired and loved, I still think that the famed Highland scenery of our West Coast and Islands is second to none.

Scotland of course is also the home of golf and whisky; has amazing history contained within – for example – castles and standing stones and battlefields; has some of the best local produce in the world (our seafood, meat and game in particular are coveted by top chefs ); a vibrant music scene; and Scottish writers and painters continue the ancient tradition of producing world class literature and art.

This small country of 5million + souls offers a brilliant blend of dramatic and heart-wrenchingly gorgeous scenery as well as a host of superb visitor attractions and great eating out experiences.

That said, even with 10 nights, it’s impossible to see it all.

I’ve lived and travelled throughout Scotland for over 60 years and know most of it very well. But I’m hard pressed to choose where I would go with this amount of time. All things considered , for superb scenery and sights on a first trip, this itinerary is a show stopper:


Edinburgh (2 nights) – Glencoe(1 night) – Isle of Skye (3 nights)- Torridon (2 nights) – Aviemore (1 night) – Edinburgh or nearby(last night)

More on this option here:AN EPIC 10 NIGHTS IN SCOTLAND (Map)

Torridon

Flying in to Edinburgh or Glasgow is best for this itinerary. It’s only a 45 min train journey between the two cities with trains running every 15 mins.It’s a shorter drive from Glasgow to Glencoe, by around an hour. Glasgow is also only 45 mins from Loch Lomond and even less from the airport.

From Edinburgh Airport, the Tram is pricey but convenient and runs directly into the city centre (St Andrew’s Square/bus station.)It is not subject to any rush hour traffic delays either. The regular bus service is cheaper and makes for the same final destination as the Tram.

Glasgow Airport – is served by a regular bus service – EVERY 15 MINS APPROX AND CHEAP – which stops at various points in the city centre, culminating at Buchanan St Bus station.

Taxis of course operate from both airports. Use so called ‘Private Hire’ Taxis in Glasgow rather than the city’s famous Black Cabs which cost about twice the price.

Both airports offer car hire on site. But parking in both cities is very expensive (particularly Edinburgh) so unless good value parking is possible through your accommodation, then hire a car once ready to leave a city base.

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Isle of Skye

I’d always recommend hiring a car to get the most out of exploring the Highlands. However, trains and buses do serve the main centres on the itinerary.Skye is not great for public transport however though day tour operators are based on the island.

There are a whole host of other itineraries of course – including add ons to this with more time.For example, the superb North Coast 500 – more on that here: NORTH COAST 500

The stunningly beautiful Isle of Mull:THE ISLE OF MULL : a Skye alternative

Or for whisky fans, the wonderful Isle of Islay:THE WHISKY ISLE OF ISLAY

Orkney perhaps, for its archaeological sites : ORKNEY AND CAITHNESS

The Outer Hebrides ( probably my favourite of all destinations) for beaches which make the Caribbean blush and drop dead gorgeous scenery: THE BEST OF NORTH UIST AND BENBECULA EXPLORING HARRIS AND LEWIS(Part 1) and TOURING THE OUTER HEBRIDES (Berneray, Harris /Lewis and St Kilda)

This leaves out so many other fantastic options – Aberdeenshire with its superb castles; Perthshire’s softer, heather covered hillsides; the beautiful rolling countryside and grand country houses of The Borders, the area steeped in history.In fact every area of Scotland is steeped in the past.The lovely Ayrshire Coast and vibrant, park-filled Glasgow.

When to go

Scotland is an all year round destination. Weather is unpredictable ALL year round with the only guarantee being that snow is highly unlikely to fall at sea level from April onwards.In fact the number of days we get snow at sea level isn’t all that much even in mid-winter! Global warming I expect.

View from Edinburgh Castle

Dec – Feb: our winter months.Short days ( around 8 hrs daylight – still plenty time to sightsee!) but they are noticeably longer from late Jan onwards.Snow is most likely in these months but we don’t get much in a normal year at ground level and when it comes, it rarely lasts more than a few days.With an average winter temperature of 7C, it feels colder in the wind.But there are plenty of sunny days too bringing some great light and colour.In fact, for colour and light, my best photos are usually taken during these months or in autumn.

March – April: Spring, still cold. Colours of the hills tend to be ‘dun- coloured’ after winter.Daffodils bring great splashes of yellow to the roadsides as do clusters of wild primroses.

May/June is early summer and traditionally some of our better months for weather – though recent years seem to give the lie to that! May has primroses, bluebells and rhododendrons coming into bloom.As June progresses, the hills green up and castle gardens come into their best.Midges start to make themselves felt in the right conditions.

July – August is peak summer though rainfall tends to be higher than the previous months.These are our warmest months but it’s rare for the temperature to top more than 25C; on average, day time temperatures are around 18/19C.But the wind can make that feel much colder.The heather is coming out on the hills turning them purple – gorgeous.

Sept – Nov: autumn months of golden and tawny and amber colours, one of the most colourful times of the year with the Highlands looking at their most beautiful.In fact by November, the colour of the mountains is almost unreal – the deer grass turns many hills a deep orange.It looks amazing against the deep blue of the lochs and the sea. Getting colder now, especially from October onwards but still some lovely sunny days.The clocks go back at the end of October bringing shorter hours of daylight though what daylight there is, doesn’t vary that much between southern and northern Scotland.

Every season means different colours and light – to me, there is no bad season in Scotland! All our roads are open, even the narrow, tiny single track roads; a few eating out places in more remote locations reduce their hours.Some castles and country houses close from late Sept/mid October.Then again, off peak prices can be very attractive. The landscape is always open and it wows in every season.

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