Help Me Plan An August Trip to Scotland and Wales
June 30, 2013 4:53 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine has expressed an interest in spending 10 days in Scotland and Wales toward the end of August. However, she has no idea what she wants to see in either! I lived briefly in London and have traveled around England, but have never been to Wales and haven't been to Scotland beyond a long weekend in Edinburgh and Glasgow. What should we do? What can't we miss? What's the best way to organize the trip?

I'd really like to hit both, mainly because she'd really like to do Wales and I'd really like to be in Edinburgh to see at least some of the fringe festival and the military tattoo (if it's possible to get tickets at this late date?). I'd also love to spend some time in the Scottish highlands, seeing some of what I heard is beautiful scenery. I really know almost nothing about Wales, and not much about Scotland. I'll get some guidebooks and dig into this, but some tips going into my planning would be greatly appreciated. My instinct is that the best plan would be to rent a car in each location and then somehow fly/train between the two, but is that right? She'll be coming from New York City and I'll likely be near London, is the best way to get to Wales to fly into London and drive? Are there better places to fly into for her where I could meet her? Is five days in each place the best way to split it up? We like seeing ruins, good museums, some light day-hiking, scenery, food, tours (distilleries, wineries, olive oil factories, breweries), unique sights, music, etc. Pretty much everything and a variety of indoor/outdoor activities is ideal. Thanks in advance!
posted by traveltheworld to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed going to Aviemore. We stayed in a B&B, but the local lodge was fantastic for dinner. The other hotel had a caleigh dance.

We also took a tour at Cardhu and up the funicular railway. Stopped at a pub on the way back and it was very welcoming. Everyone was simply fantastic and we couldn't have asked for a better time or more friendlier people all around.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:03 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

St. Fagan's National History Museum (formerly? the Museum of Welsh Life) is a spectacular introduction to Wales. It's one of those open air museums with lots of buildings from different eras of the region's history. You can spend a good part of a day there.
posted by dayintoday at 5:10 PM on June 30, 2013

The hike up Pen y Fan in the Brecons is about 2-3 hours. Well worth it if you are okay with a bit of walking. The town of Brecon is a few miles north of the mountains and has some nice B+Bs.

The mountain road between Rhayader and Aberystwyth is a very scenic drive, going through the Elan Valley, with lots of dams, ruins of old coal houses and sheep. And more sheep. The Devil's Bridge lies off the tail-end of this road, just outside Aberystwyth, and is a good spot for a cuppa.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:14 PM on June 30, 2013

Snowdonia National Park in Wales is beautiful. I stayed a couple nights in Betws-y-Coed and did some hiking there. I took an open-top bus tour for one Euro that was well worth it, with beautiful views. I don't remember the name of the bed-and-breakfast where I stayed, but there were several in the small town. The Lonely Planet travel guide has a nice little write up about the town.
posted by shortyJBot at 5:48 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love Llangollen in north Wales, and there are some wonderful small hikes -- one up to a castle ruin and another farther out to an abbey. There's a lovely towpath to wander, the town is really cool and walkable, and nearby is Plas Newydd, the home of the Ladies of Llangollen. In July it's the home of the Eistedfodd music festival. I was just in Wales last month and I was SO sad that I didn't have time to go back to Llangollen. (There's also a fun little old fashioned railway.)

If you make it up to Scotland, you should try Stirling. I had a ton of fun in Glasgow, but one of the reasons I did was because I'm a huge fan of the arts and crafts movement, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, so there were more than a few things to do around that. I think Glasgow always gets a bad rap, but I just love it and the people there.
posted by emcat8 at 6:40 PM on June 30, 2013

I just got back yesterday from 2 weeks in Scotland. My favorite ruined castle of the trip was Dunnottar castle, outside of Stonehaven. It's on the coast north of Edinburgh, closer to Aberdeen. There's a lot left of the stone structures, and the setting on the cliffs overlooking the sea is stunning.

In Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland was wonderful. We had it on our itinerary as a plan B in case of major rain, but ended up spending a full day there and would have loved more time. One side is an amazing collection about Scottish history, and the other side has everything from dinosaur skeletons to giant steam engines to Egyptian mummies to lighthouse lenses. If you go, definitely go up to the rooftop terrace for some great views of the city. The Surgeon's Hall Museum in Edinburgh was also really fascinating, if you have any interest in the history of modern medicine.

We found lots of great hikes in the free Walk in Scotland guide, which was available printed in all the tourist information centers in the major cities, but is also in digital format here. Those info centers were a great help to us, as they have lots of free brochures put out by the Scottish tourism board, as well as super helpful people to answer questions. We wasted some time at the beginning of our trip trying to sort out bus and train schedules by ourselves. Then we discovered that we could walk into one of these places and say, "We want to visit X attraction this afternoon, how do we get there?" and they would pull out a map and highlight how to get there and tell us the hours and how much it would cost. The center in Edinburgh is right next to Waverly train station on Princes street. They also had centers in every other city we visited, from major cities like Inverness and Aberdeen to tiny spots like Stonehaven.

The highlands really are gorgeous. I think you could pretty much go anywhere in the area and see beautiful scenery, but that walking guide also has some specific tips if you want to hike. Even the train ride from Glasgow to Mallaig was great for seeing amazing landscapes, hills and lochs, including that train bridge from the Harry Potter movies.

Have a great trip!
posted by vytae at 6:55 PM on June 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've heard a lot of good things about Portmerion in Wales - it's a preserved village where The Prisoner was shot.
posted by mippy at 4:14 AM on July 1, 2013

We spent a week in Scotland at the end of our Paris/UK vacation in May. Our route, roughly, was Dumfries, Glasgow, Doune, Inverness, Skye, Fort William, Stirling, Edinburgh.

We live in a very rural area so Glasgow seemed very crowded and hectic. I'm not in a hurry to go back but if you like urban, I'm sure it's great.

One of my absolutely must-sees was Doune Castle where a fair bit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed and it was one of my favorite stops on our entire trip! Terry Jones recorded the audioguide and it was a fun mix of history and filming info.

Inverness was touristy but I liked it - big enough to feel like there was stuff going on but not overwhelmingly urban.

Fort William was a nice town with a pretty central town square and has the small but packed West Highland Museum if you are interested in Jacobite history.

We stayed in Edinburgh for the last three days of our month-long vacation. It was fun and I would like to go back there when I'm less exhausted. Oh, and if you are looking for shopping at all, Armstrong Vintage must have some a-maz-ing buyers.

If you are interested in touring any whiskey distilleries, get your spot on a tour reserved ahead of time. Some require it and some say "you can if you want". Glenmorangie was the latter and when we drove up to take a tour, we were were told that a cruise ship group was coming in and had taken up all the remaining tours for the rest of the day - bummer. That's when we drove to Skye. We lucked out with the weather and it was beautiful and I wish we'd had more time to explore it.

It's a beautiful country and I want to go back. We liked just driving around the A and B roads and just seeing the countryside. I still can't get over how many freaking sheep there were - amazing! But then, I'm easily entertained. I'm a big fan of The Proclaimers and it was a treat for me to see names of places they sing about - Hey, look! Kilmarnock! Oh, and there! Leith! OMG! Skye! My husband was nice enough to just smile and nod.

I don't know for sure but getting tickets to the Fringe and Tattoo events might be doable but accommodation this close is probably going to be challenging.
posted by Beti at 10:58 AM on July 2, 2013

« Older I am Jarritos soda, destroyer of worlds   |   Help me live well while my father slowly dies... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.