Visiting Scotland

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Ideas on where to stay in Scotland and Ireland?

 Nov 2014

We're planning a family trip to Scotland and Ireland next summer and need lodging recommendations. We'll have our 6 and 9 year old daughters with us, and are planning on staying a couple nights in Edinburgh and Dublin, with the rest of the time spent exploring the countryside. We aren't looking for extravagant lodging, just something cozy with character (i.e., not generic chain hotels,..etc). Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks!

We did the same trip a few years ago with our then 9 month old. I would recommend getting an apartment in Edinburgh and Dublin. We stayed with a company called Stay Edinburgh, rented a one bedroom in the middle of the old town. We had a great time. They have different sizes apartments so you can get a bigger one as well. If you are going during the fringe festival in August, get a place as soon as possible, it really books up quickly.

In Dublin we rented a small apartment from a private person, he only had the one and it would be too small for you, but I would recommend trying to find one. You can cook yourself and try getting one with a washer/ dryer. It was great to be able to wash your clothes midway through.

I used tripadvisor to find the places, air b&b is another option. Once we traveled around we found accommodations once we got to the new place. Lastly I would not recommend renting a car unless you are used to driving on the left side. Too stressful, and busses and trains are great over there. loved it

Travel to North England/Scotland with kids

Feb 2009 

We are planning a trip to Britain at the end of March/early April and I'm looking for suggestions on where to go with a 2 and 4 year old. We will be in London for about 4 days, then we would like to leave the city for Scotland or northern England for about 5 days. I think we'd like to go somewhere with accessible outdoor activities for kids (easy walk to beach, easy hikes, bikeriding, other fun things I'm not thinking of). In addition, it would be nice to be close to a town where we could buy groceries, or go out to eat on ocassion. Ideally, we would like to rent a house, as we'll be traveling with another couple with a small child. I'd appreciate any recommendations, particularly if you've made such a trip with kids. amg

They would like Edinburgh Castle, I think. York is also very cool and has some very user friendly museums/attractions on their archaeological sites. I would look for Bed and Breakfasts who welcome children. (They are not the expensive sort of operations we call b and b's here, for the most part. Also, the National Trust rents out very cool houses with historical significance, like an old lighthouse, old farm house, manor, etc. KL

I would recommend the Lake District. The scenery there is beautiful and it is an area with lots of holiday accommodation and outdoor activities. The weather at that time of year is somewhat unpredictable so you should expect anything from snow to sunshine. Here are a couple of websites that I found: Tiffany

We took my then-18month old to England and Scotland a few years ago, with my dad. I would recommend staying in apartments. We had 2 BR apartments, and it was much better than hotels. You can put the kids to bed and still have a ''family room'' to hang out in, which you don't with a hotel room. You can cook some meals, and at least have breakfast foods ready for the kids. And the cost was generally less than a hotel. Edinburgh was a great place to visit. We stayed in an apt called Knights Residence. It was modern and clean and the staff was very friendly. They had a DVD library, and it was located just south of the Castle. Easy walk to the Castle and the main street; the immediate surroundings had an adult bookstore and a shady-looking pub, but we didn't feel uncomfortable and other shops/groceries/pubs were a short walk away. I would definitely recommend it.

York is also a great place to visit. The old town and walls are mostly intact, and you get a great sense of a midieval town. Unfortunately, the shops are pretty touristy and lots of big chain stores (e.g. Gap) around. But it is still worth visiting. we stayed in a B&B outside the walls, maybe a quarter mile walk, so it was not inconvenient. I wouldn't bother stopping in Newcastle. Or at least there was not specific reason we saw to stop there. One thing we were surprised at in England was that they don't allow kids in the pubs. They do in some pubs where they serve food and have special family rooms. Given that we think of the UK has having ''liberal attitudes'' toward drinking, I was a bit surprised. They do have the concept of ''sunday roast'', and most pubs have this on the menu for an early sunday supper. Bryan in Oakland

I am sorry I did not respond earlier. I would take the kids up north to Loch Ness. There are great small towns to stay in or you could opt for the bigger city of Inverness. Stirling is soaked in William Wallace historic sites. Also, down South of Oban (which is a great town) there are magical spots which have prehistoric burial cairns, standing stones, medieval knight tombstones, etc... We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast in Kilmartin where many of these sites are located. It is called Dunchraigaig House. Lovely place! Have a wonderful time! jmb

I was raised in the North of England and my eldest child spent every summer with his grandparents there. We also took our little one back when he was a few months old, and were really impressed by the rest stop facilities for families along both the A1 and M1. Family bathrooms seem to be the norm too.

Yes, everyone goes to York and Edinborough and for good reason, both places are awesome. Other areas to look into are the city of Durham, the Dales (think James Herriot country), Alnwick castle (a film location for Harry Potter), and the Holy Island of Lindsifarne (it becomes an island when the tide goes out). Beamish museum is a must see and it is close to Newcastle upon Tyne where you can see the Angel of the North and walk across the millenium pedestrian bridge. If you have the time, there is a mini cruise that leaves from Tyneside to Amsterdam. You travel there and back at night and get one day in Amsterdam and it is inexpensive.

There is a great World War II museum near York called Eden camp where you experience life during the war. Don't forget Harrogate where you can drink tea at Betty's and Knaresborough where you find Mother Shipton's cave. Oh, Whitby is a great place for kids, arcade games, dracula, a beach and Captain Cook. Have you thought about Hadrian's wall and the Lake District (one of the most beautiful places in the world)? I could go on. The North of England is magical and most people are friendly and love to talk to Americans.

I am not sure about the pub comment, maybe it is particular pubs. I have always taken my children into pubs to eat where the food is usually reasonable and yummy. They even have pubs with play areas! Happy travels. Andi

Family of 5 visiting London & Scotland

March 2007

We are traveling to London and Scotland in late July/early August and are looking for suggestions on where to stay in central London and Scotland as a family. We would love to know what other families have enjoyed doing with teenagers. We have two 15 year olds and one 12 year old. Thanks for any help you could offer. Dana

My wife and I took my son (then 13 months old) and father to the UK last spring. We all had a great time, and I'd be happy to give you more information if you like. We flew straight from Heathrow to Edinburgh, stayed a week in Edinburgh, stopped in York and Newcastle, and then a week in London before returning home. We did not rent a car.

In Edinburgh, I'd highly recommend the Knight's Residence to stay. It is located just south of the Castle in a quiet neighborhood, and is either newly built or recently renovated set of apartments. We had a 2 bedroom with kitchen, washer/dryer, and dishwasher, and very comfortable rooms for reasonable rates. The staff were very friendly, and there is a library of movies to borrow. Rosalyn chapel was an easy bus ride away, if anyone has read Da Vinci code. St Andrews is a bit further by bus. Sterling Castle sounds nice; we didn't go, but should be an easy train ride.

York is a well-preserved medieval walled town, but it is very touristy. Still, it is worth a stop. We stayed at a B about a half mile outside of the walls and walked in to town. If you stay at any smaller towns, there is a tradition of Sunday roasts for lunch. Most pubs will advertise them, either turkey, lamb or Roast beef with all the trimmings. Nice local custom to try, and most pubs outside of city centers have a family area.

(See also Visiting England for additional responses to this question.)

A restful week in Scotland with a 2.5-year-old?

Sept 2006

I am planning ahead for our first-ever family vacation abroad - we would like to spend 1-2 weeks in Scotland next year in the late summer or fall, and I would love advice and recommendations on where to stay. We're looking to rent a cheapish apartment/small house somewhere off the beaten path. Ideally, it would be a place we'd enjoy loafing in, from which we could walk into some sort of town center, and from which we could quickly reach (by car, bike, or foot) a few nice daytrip destinations. We are lazy, nesting sort of people, and enjoy burrowing into a place more than dashing off to a thousand landmarks, and we enjoy walking more than driving. Dreaming of My Holiday

I spent last September (all of it) in the village of Broadford on the Isle of Skye, and then 2 weeks this last February in Plockton, a small village about 20 minutes NE of Skye. I also spent a few days in Inverness (Feb), one night in Aberdeen (Sept), and a few days in Glasgow (Sept). All of the time was in the company of a Scottish friend, so my experience was a bit different than if I'd been a complete tourist, but still, I got a very keen sense of the place.

First, let me say that the Western Highlands are, in my experience and in the opinion of many Scots, the friendliest and most easy-going part of Scotland. It's also a very beautiful and quiet area.

On the East coast the people were much less friendly, almost suspicious (Highlanders say it's the North Sea!). Glasgow was very friendly with good energy, but it's not off the beaten path.

Skye is a wonderful place, quiet and laid-back, with many tiny hamlets and neat places to explore both on the isle and nearby. People bike (''cycle'') and hike a lot on Skye. I really liked Broadford, but it's strung out along the road without a town center so isn't really what you want. The biggest town on Skye, Portree (pop all of 2491!) does have a town center, is very charming, and might be just what you're looking for.

Plockton was also wonderful- small, very picturesque, and off the beaten track. We stayed in a lovely ''self-catering'' cottage there for 250 GBP for a week (off-season), which is a good deal (expect *everything* in Scotland to cost about twice as much as here!). and such cottages abound in Scotland.

Other places in the general area that my friends told me were nice were Ullapool to the NE of Skye, and Oban to the south.

Let me mention pubs. I loved pub culture, it's nothing at all like going to bars here, they are neighborhood gathering places. Many are family friendly, many have traditional music (informal by local people), and smoking is now banned from all indoor public places in the UK. If you are open and friendly, people will chat with you and happily pass the time of day. In choosing a location, I'd inquire if there are family-friendly pubs nearby since they're the perfect way to get the feel of the country and its people.

A great resource on Scotland is Undiscovered Scotland If you go to the Index, you can find info on specific towns and areas including links to accomodations.

Both September and February were nice times to visit since they were off-season and uncrowded. September was drizzly about half the time (I loved it after dry CA summer!), but in February, by fluke, there was only beautiful weather, not a drop of rain.

One more tip. I rented a car and took a couple of driving lessons (the road conventions are different, it's not just a matter of staying on the left side of the road), and- I took my nephew's advice and bought a CD of traditional Scottish music for the car to remind me where I was! cfl

Family trip to Scotland w/kids 9 and 7

Feb 2006

We'd like to take a trip to Scotland this summer. Does anyone have any suggestions for excellent places to go/stay/things to do with two kids 9/7? We like to hike, explore, do arts/history- related stuff. We'll be driving ourselves around. Thanks! time to travel!

I would highly recommend the steam train ride from Fort William to Mallaig. It's a GORGEOUS ride, and the train is really fun... My husband and I did this years ago, and we talk frequently about how our son would love it! An

We went to Scotland four years ago with our daughters when they were the same age. We had a great time during our two weeks, and both our girls loved our vacation.

Edinburgh is generally walkable and has lots of art/history options, all listed in guidebooks. Our kids especially liked the Edinburgh castle. There is also a good national art museum and a modern art museum that my wife and I liked.

We took a wonderful trip up to Inverness in the Highlands and visited a couple of castles along the way, including Urqhart Castle at Loch Ness, which our kids also enjoyed.

Driving is a good way to go, as there is lots of beautiful scenery and you will have more flexibility to go off the beaten path.

Scotland has a very good website for tourists-- Feel free to e-mail me if you have more questions. pc

Traveling to Scotland with teenagers

Jan 1999

Just a couple of ideas to ease traveling. If you have not yet booked your flights, I HIGHLY recommend that you fly SFO to LONDON (or EDINBURGH if they go direct) on Virgin Atlantic air. There is a tremendous difference in these coach flights...and you will get to sit and read a book instead of trying to occupy your children the entire time. Every kid gets a backpack with goodies, every passenger gets a bag of supplies to ease the flight. Every seat has its own little tv screen and up to 20 movies to choose from. My family flew Virgin last summer and they had many new releases, a couple of Disney/kid movies (Hercules, The Borrowers) and they were running their summer blockbusters (Independence Day, Grease) series. In addition, they have computer games (7 types of solitaire, Super Mario Bros., etc.) and I think 6 tv channels. I would take the 4 seats down the middle, pull up the armrests and spread out as a family. Put the 15 year old across the aisle from you so that they are separated from younger siblings. The Virgin staff were also terrific. 9.5 hours into the flight they baked cookies, came and invited my 4 year old daughter to be a stewardess and help them and took off with her to distribute cookies...their energy level was wonderful and she was thrilled.

Three other points, pack super lightly...two pairs of shoes tops - 1 on your feet and 1 nicer set for going out to dinner. Get your older kids their own packs (LLBean has great ones in zillions of colors, monogrammed) and make sure that they can easily lift them. Hang on to their passports yourself. Plan to throw everything into the laundry on a weekly basis. Even if you have a great sweater that you want to wear, if it only goes with one thing in the pack than it is not pulling its weight; everything should go with everything else. Yes, you become somewhat monochromatic but who cares. Too much luggage will ruin your trip. Years of experience in this part!

My 6 year old and his dad read up on various castles, certains knights, and general gruesome history before we went to England. I learned about because Jack looked forward to each castle/monument/pile of stone, etc. because he understood what had happened there, or at least could imagine the pageantry and battles. Also, go into a formal castle/museum in the morning...and then hike to a stone ring or some ruin in the afternoon so that you are not always being formal and can let off energy...Anyhow, your 15 year old might approach some aspect of Scotland this that he looks forward to seeing for himself something, like a natural part of the land or how the railways run(great Railroad system in the UK) or a particular Scottish game (rugby or something) or maybe he is musical and would like to investigate different Scottish instruments...just ideas. He could look up Scotland on the web and find something that intrigues him to investigate.

Oh, and plan to picnic as much as possible. It is fun, and you get to relax if you are eating in a park and your 18 month old wants to throw food, scream, giggle, or run away!

If you are staying in B, get up for breakfast...they are huge and will start your day off nicely. Then you can picnic and have a pub dinner later. We found that the pub food was fine (great for kids) and lots of it. However, we were usually seated in a separate room because of the kids (unlike Ireland where they don't mind kids directly in the pub). I am not sure how Scotland pubs are regarding kids eating dinner.

Lastly, remember how far north you are. It will not get truly dark until around 11pm in July in might throw your little one off but is great for everyone else because you can wander around until late. Have fun! Kathleen

Hi There! We went to Britain, including Scotland for our Honeymoon, about 9 years ago. Unless you are really comfortable with driving a car on the wrong side of the road (and don't mind the exhorbitant cost of gas there!) you probably want to go by train. Train coverage was great when we were there, but there has been some talk of privatizing the trains, and if that's happened, there might be less coverage in the more rural areas. If you want to see rural Scotland, you will probably have to rent a car. There are BritRail packages that include both. Forget Buses: they are incredibly uncomfortable compared to the trains, and tend to wind all over to your destination, leaving less time to see the sights you're aiming for.

As for the sights to see: we mostly shopped, which would be BORING to your teens. But you wouldn't want to miss Edinborough Castle, of course. And there's probably Bagpipes to be heard there if you're into that. I seem to recall some sort of Military show with bagpipes at the Castle.

I wish you the best of luck traveling with the 18-month old. That's the part that frightens me! I've traveled with my daughter at 6 mos, 11 mos, 18 mos, 20 mos, and 23 mos. At 6 and 11 mos she slept most of the way. At 18 and 20 mos, she was AWFUL--kicking, hitting, and otherwise letting me know she didn't want to be cooped up. And too young to keep entertained with the in-seat type of stuff for very long. At 23 mos it was better--I timed the flights to be at night when she would normally be asleep, and while she *didn't* sleep most of the time, her energy was down. Additionally, she could be entertained with stickers, drawing and me reading her books, which didn't work on the previous two flights. Something I haven't tried yet: I've seen some really cute soft-sculpture dollhouse things in some catalogs--the dolls and the furniture all fit which catalog it was in, but you might try looking at HearthSong on 4th street in Berkeley.

For the 15-year-old: I might suggest a GameBoy or some such. Other options are some of those travel games. On one flight my 12-year-old was entertained for almost two hours by one of those minature Triazzle puzzles. You can get them at good game stores (we got ours at Star Magic in Noe Valley, SF, but they're probably available at Games of Berkeley, too). Good luck! Dawn

Sterling, which is about half an hour's drive west of Edinborough, has a great castle. Just south of Sterling is the battlefield where the Battle of Bannockburn was fought in the 1000's. It has an interpretive center.

St. Andrews, with its famous golf course, isn't that far away. We weren't able to visit it because the British Open was going on, but it was recommended by relatives.

The drive northwest of Sterling is beautiful--you get into the countryside and forests.

I'm sure there are lots of interesting things in Edinborough and Glasgow. We were mostly visiting relatives so didn't get to see a lot of tourist things (or read guide books) but both cities have a lot of history. The University of Glasgow has a well-known art museum. Until we visited it, we had never heard of Charles Rennie Macintosh, who was one of the principals of the European Arts and Crafts movement and has a style much like that of David Lance Goines.

We didn't try the trains but driving is easy and convenient. We flew into Edinborough and rented a car. The airport is outside the city so we never had any traffic to deal with. Driving all over Britain is safer and more comfortable than it is here. Our biggest problem was running into signs for detours all over the place. Just as here, you never know what the detour is for or where it will take you. I recommend a good road atlas such as the Great Britain AZ Road Atlas, which shows roads in 3 dimensions. Fran