Planning Scotland vacation
July 9, 2013 7:23 AM   Subscribe

This fall we're hoping to visit Scotland for a couple weeks, possibly either the last two weeks of September or last week of September / first week of October. We'd like to rent a car and drive from Glasgow, ideally visiting both Islay and the Isle of Skye. Looking for tips about weather / clothing / other preparations that would be appropriate, as well as tips for an experienced American driver (licensing, insurance, etc.) who's never driven abroad before but wants to drive in Scotland. Also, since I assume we'll need to make ferry reservations to get to Islay, I'd appreciate insider info on that. Specific tips about must-see or must-visit locales and sights in western Scotland would of course also be greatly appreciated.
posted by aught to Travel & Transportation around Scotland (20 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Ah, we did this a couple of years ago and it was the best trip of my life to date.

We were there at that exact time, late September, and found the weather to be about what you'd expect - jeans and boots, light jackets required, very windy most of the time and rained at least a little bit most days. We only had one day of genuinely bad weather that made being outdoors truly unpleasant. If you're going to be doing any hiking I would strongly recommend waterproof boots of some sort; I was not prepared for how wet it would be.

AAA will give you an international drivers license, but you don't actually need one. I would call your insurance company just to make sure you're covered in the UK - with ours we didn't need to do anything extra there, either. I found the whole process of renting a car in Scotland almost disconcertingly simple. One thing I would recommend is doing a bit of research on the road signs before you go - almost all of them are pictoral only, no words, and we had some confusion initially trying to figure out what was what. Be prepared for single-track roads in the rural areas, too, where the roads are only wide enough for one car, with turnouts every so often to accommodate oncoming traffic. Those were quite a shock the first time.

I didn't make any hotel reservations outside of Edinburgh. The Highlands are full of bed and breakfasts at every turn, and we never had any trouble finding comfortable, clean lodging at a reasonable price. In general we went with very little plan other than driving around and seeing the country, and found that sort of attitude worked very well.
posted by something something at 7:35 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Midge repellant is a must. It is a 6 hour plus journey from Glasgee to Skye, I would plan a nice rest stop somewhere scenic on route. Signs that say slow or stop or not suitable for vehicles are generally best obeyed. If one is used to urban driving the roads can be a bit of a surprise. Enjoy.
posted by BenPens at 7:45 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just got back from a week in Scotland (Glasgow/Ayrshire -> Sterling -> Edinburgh -> St Andrews) and drove for the entire time. As something something indicated, you do not need an International Driver's License to rent a car or drive in Scotland, though it would be good to check your insurance policy and/or if your credit card has international auto rental insurance coverage.

Most cars in Europe still use manual transmission, so if your driver knows how to drive stick, that would give you more options for rentals. Driving on the opposite side of the road is a bit of a headtrip, but you should be able to get the hang of it with some care. You might wind up doing a couple of loops around Glasgow airport as you acclimate to navigating rotaries and that's ok ;)
posted by bl1nk at 7:46 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're driving to Skye, don't go over the boring bridge, get the ferry from Glenelg. It's much better way to arrive.
posted by ComfySofa at 7:56 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Scotland is a great place to travel with a very loose itinerary. Some places need a lot of scheduling, but Scotland isn't one of them. You're right on the border of the shoulder season so tourist crowds will be tapering off.

In terms of driving, everything takes about twice as long as you'd expect. If you're estimating how long it'll take to get somewhere, double the time you're thinking.

Also, we loved Oban. If you're driving from Glasgow to Skye, I think Oban is (sort of) on the way. If you're interested in whisky, the a stop at the Oban distillery is a nice way to spend a few hours.
posted by 26.2 at 8:00 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did a driving holiday up there a few years ago. There's a lot of empty space up there with nothing much in it and it takes longer to get anywhere than you'd think. (At least compared to England. Depending on where you're from in the US, maybe not so much.) Weather is a bit variable: you can get stretches of awesome days with clear skies and sun ... and gray days of drizzling rain. Pack for rain and wind. Midge protection would be useful although (a) depending where you are, you may not be bothered by them and (b) you can buy it locally, of course.

Lock Ness, Fort Augustus & Fort William were cheesy but appealing and worth seeing.
posted by outlier at 8:09 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For weather, expect anything, especially expect it to be wet, and expect it to change rapidly throughout the day and with small changes in location.

Nth-ing the warning about midges. Insect repellant can be hard to find, bring some you like with you.

Make time to ride The Jacobite between Fort William and Mallaig - said to be the most scenic rail line in Britain, and I agree.

Fort William itself is kind of a bland tourist trap of a town, but it's in a good location to use as a base and go exploring.

Give yourself a few days in Glasgow, which is a surprisingly interesting and cultured city. Have lunch or tea at one of the Willow Tea Rooms.

Most attractions will close at 5:00 PM sharp. Plan around this. Shops will not be open as late as in the US, and will have limited hours or be closed entirely on Sundays.

Seconding taking the ferry to Skye.

As for driving:
When I moved from the US to the UK, I found staying on the left was fairly easy (YMMV, of course). The hard part was knowing where the edges of the car were - I kept subconsciously drifting left and had to make an effort to stay in the lane. It would be worthwhile to take a few minutes to get familiar with the visual picture; maybe have someone stand at the corners of the car so you can see where they are. Practice getting in and out of parking spaces a couple times.

British roads will be narrower and curvier than you are probably used to. There will be more obstacles to deal with. Cars parked in the road and so on. If the road is wide enough, drivers will turn a two lane road into a three lane road as [parked cars - one lane straddling the white line - another lane at the edge].

Even if you can drive a manual, it might be a good idea to pay extra and get an automatic so you don't have to worry about shifting left-handed on top of everything else.

Here are the official guides to traffic signs and road markings. Double yellow lines mean no parking. Zig-zag lines mean pedestrian crossing safety zone "no parking or standing, we really mean it." Cars must stop for pedestrians waiting at a crossing without traffic lights. If you are on foot, assume oncoming drivers are completely ignorant of this law.

Roundabouts are usually easy - give way to traffic in the roundabout. Actually, I think they're usually brilliant and wish they were more widely adopted in the US. However, beware of a couple special variations. "Turbo roundabouts" are starting to show up in some areas. If you know where you're going, they're great - just get in the proper lane before you enter, follow the line, and it spits you out where you want to go. If in doubt, however, enter in the lane closest to the center of the roundabout - it's easier to stay inside and go around until you figure it out rather than have to cut off traffic to avoid being spit out on an exit you don't want.

The other variant is the mini-roundabout, which shows up everywhere. Officially, the rule is give way to the right. Unofficially, the rule is nobody knows what they're doing at a mini-roundabout so slow down and exercise caution. The priority rule is probably better stated as "give way to the next road counterclockwise around the roundabout. For example


C gives way to B, B gives way to A, and A gives way to C (even though they're mostly straight-on). If three cars arrive at the same time, the British, being polite, will simply sit there waving each other on until they all starve.
posted by penguinicity at 8:24 AM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The weather could be anything from quite warm by Western Scottish standards (if you're really lucky up to 18 degrees C) to down around 10 degrees C. It won't be boiling hot or cold. It stands a very good chance of raining. You don't need special clothing. You need some decent walking boots and a good waterproof jacket.

Driving from Glasgow Airport is reasonably simple - you go straight onto the M8 motorway. This takes you over Glasgow itself before you peel off onto the Erskine Bridge and get things like traffic lights and roundabouts. Older books will tell you this is a toll bridge. It isn't now. Unless you have a burning desire to drive a big car pick a group B or C car from your hire car company - i.e. a medium size hatchback. Basically don't go for the smallest car but you don't need a mile muncher - it's all twists and turns and 50-60mph at most. You'll not have a problem finding fuel stops along the way, but always sensible to fill up when you see cheap fuel. Check with your hire company if you need to bring the car back empty or full of fuel. Often the better deal is bringing back full. There is a petrol station at Glasgow Airport itself. If you want to add £10/day fees onto your car hire opt for super collision damage waiver, which means you pay no excess in the event of damage. If you have or can pay for a 3rd party policy that does this then organise in advance and go out for dinner on the difference in price.

If you're worried about driving then you can read the Highway Code online.

You go to Islay from Kennacraig or Oban with the ferry company Caledonian McBrayne (CalMac) and you can book online. It is about 2.5 hours to either place if you only stop for fuel or whatnot. But I'd leave a little longer because you'll want to stop along the way. A smart way to do it is to take the ferry from Kennacraig to Islay, but if you're going to Skye to do the return leg to Oban.

Sights on they way from Glasgow to Kennacraig:

- You go past Loch Lomond, which you'll see from the car
- You'll go over the Rest and Be Thankful, which is often beautiful and worth a stop for photos when you get to the top.
- You'll go past the original Loch Fyne Oyster bar, home of expensive but very good smoked salmon and seafood to buy or eat there
- Inverary and Inverary Castle
- Tarbert, a cute little fishing village

Protip - if you have some time, just after Kennacraig is a turn off to Skipness - home to a ruined castle by the beach that you can explore for free and one of the best/worst kept secrets in those parts - the Skipness Seafood Cabin, which is open until end September. The best seafood for miles about.

Getting to Oban (you'll do this if you go to Islay from Oban, or if you go to Skye): you can do this two ways: over the moors via Crianlarich or via Inverary. Either way is beautiful. I'd suggest going up one way and back the other. The moors way is very scenic and takes you the length of Loch Lomond. The Inverary way means you get to do the Rest and Be Thankful and see Loch Fyne.

Islay - you can comfortably see it in 3 nights. Be sure to go to a few distilleries. Everyone will tell you their favourites. I liked Bruichladdich for their innovation modern take on things and Ardbeg for the whisky. It's a small island so don't fret too much about which end of the island you stay at.

On the way to Skye - you'll pass through the country where the Harry Potter steam train viaduct was filmed. You can take the train - the Jacobite. The ferry is more fun but the bridge is fine. On Skye, if you want to have the best meal in Scotland, even though the nearby Kinloch Lodge has the Michelin star then book dinner at The Three Chimneys. You'll need to book well ahead to get a table. Skye is stunning. It's all bays and coves. There are coral beaches near Dunvegan Castle that are worth going to. Skye is a big island and it's worth thinking about where you want to be and what you want to do before you book accommodation. Don't base yourself in Portree though - I'd recommend being out in the countryside if you can. You can get a good feel for Skye in three days/two nights but if the weather is good you'll want longer to do walks and see the beaches.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:38 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We did a similar trip three years ago (though in the spring); you can see gingerbeer's question and the excellent answers we got here.

Our rental car was an automatic, so no worries there (if it was a worry). The worst part was getting from the outskirts of Glasgow where the rental office was and onto the freeway. Once we didn't have to remember which side of the road to drive on it was less stressful (though not stress-free).

We took the ferry to Islay from Kennacraig, and I think you'd best make a reservation since you're going to have a car. We made reservations online via the link, and it was very easy.

On Islay, we split our stay between the Samhchair B&B near Port Ellen and the An Cuan B&B in Bowmore. Both were lovely; be aware that the Samhchair b&b is kind of...not near anything. Not that anything on Islay is all the far from anything else, but the b&b is not walking distance to pubs or restaurants. But it's right on the Oa and there's an old cemetery and it's just gorgeous.

Check your dates for bank holidays. Everything - including distillaries - is closed.

Because of an aforementioned bank holiday, we were only able to tour four distilleries - Laphroaig, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich, and Lagavulin. All very nice tours with good tastings after (though Caol Ila disallowed photos on the tour, which is strange after you've taken a couple of tours - it's not as if Caol Ila's stills are of a secret design or anything).

Can't give advice about the fall weather, but in the spring, we were quite comfortable in fleece-and-windbreaker kinds of layers.

Drive around the island and look for standing stones. The birding is fantastic on the island, if that's a thing you're interested in. Driving on Islay is pretty easy - many roads are one lane, with pullouts, so you don't have to remember which side you're supposed to be on; all the other roads, as I recall, are two-lane affairs. One thing to remember is since you're sitting on the "wrong" side of the car, it's harder to judge where the rest of the car is in relation to the center lane, the ditch on the side of the road, etc. Don't be afraid to take your time (within reason, of course!).

I'll come back if I remember more, or feel free to memail me any questions.
posted by rtha at 8:40 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Nth-ing the warning about midges. Insect repellant can be hard to find, bring some you like with you.

If anyone has a preferred UK brand I can pick up when we arrive, I'd be grateful for recommendations. I am skeptical that the US TSA inspectors will let me bring it from home (they usually take aerosol cans out of checeked luggage).
posted by aught at 8:43 AM on July 9, 2013

Best answer: Re midges - they shouldn't be too bad in late September, if at all. It's generally a July/August thing. There is a midge forecast here.

There is a Boots the chemist at Glasgow Airport, but it's airside and from memory you'll probably not find it even though you can get to it.

There is a Boots in Oban. There are easy to find chemists in Inverary, Lochgilpead, Tarbert, Oban, Fort William as well as on Islay and Skye. All will stock midge repellent if you need it.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:01 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Not quite understanding the hate for Fort William. I stayed in Banavie (just outside of FW) for three nights, and it is one of the best places that I've ever been.

Although I do suppose that the town of Fort William is dreary and boring, you're kind of missing the point if you spend any time there, because it's situated perfectly for some incredible sightseeing and hiking (I arrived by train and spent the entire time on foot). If you feel like tackling Britain's tallest peak, Ben Nevis is a fairly easy hike as long as you know what you're doing.

If you're going to Skye, FW might be a bit redundant, although I wouldn't write it off entirely. I didn't even really properly plan my time out there, and it was still incredible.
posted by schmod at 9:08 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One quick tip: If you're planning on going through Glen Coe (and you really should be), make sure you go East -> West.
While the scenery is spectacular in both directions, if you're coming from Skye to Glasgow, you see a lot of the best bits in your rear view mirror.

Also, you don't mention if you have children, but if you do, be aware that kids under 8 might not be allowed on the tour, depending on where it goes in the distillery.
posted by madajb at 9:16 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh! In Glasgow, go to the Necropolis. It is amazing.

We only stayed one night, but the Brunswick was delightful; tiny, minimalist rooms, but a great cafe/bar downstairs that seemed to be staffed and populated by art students, and walking distance to anything you might want to walk to.
posted by rtha at 9:33 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We were on Islay this May and had a great time! We took the ferry over, but had hired a guide/driver/awesome person to show us the sights. You will want to make reservations for the ferry if you have a car. Be prepared for some bumpy roads! If you are doing distillery tours/warehouse tastings having a driver is quite nice.

Many of the places to eat on Islay are smaller places and can fill up if a tour bus stops so it is recommended to make reservations for dinner. Ardbeg had very good lunch offerings so if you are out that way for that or Lagavulin it is well worth the stop. We stayed at the Lambeth Guest House in Bowmore and couldn't have asked for a nicer place. Homemade breakfast every morning and super clean and cozy. Here's a friend's blog about the Islay bit of the trip (I am L).

Islay was windy, and a bit chillier than mainland, but it was May. I would probably still expect the wind though. Some sort of light shell or wind proof jacket wouldn't be a bad idea if you have the room to pack one.
posted by Feantari at 10:38 AM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: >It stands a very good chance of raining

Damn right. A waterproof coat that you can really trust and some decent waterproof hiking boots are an absolute must. The tail end of hurricanes can be very, very wet. Luckily, it's often very impressive in the rain.
posted by cromagnon at 3:49 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just returned from a few weeks driving in Scotland. I absolutely loved my time there, and long to return. Despite being back for almost two weeks now, I wake up every morning disappointed that I am not still in Scotland. Yes I loved it there, that much.

This was the last part of a five-week trip, during which I sailed up the E coast of Scotland, then drove on the right (in Iceland and in the Faroe islands) then concluded with a driving holiday in the North and West of Scotland - on the left. First time ever, driving left.

Preparations: I watched some videos on YouTube, to familiarize myself visually on what driving on the left feels like. I also consulted some online resources to prepare for driving.

I also printed out the Google driving directions from the Glasgow airport to Dunblane, where I would spend my first night, before traveling to Oban to take the ferries to the outer Hebrides. I printed those directions too. Can't be too prepared - and was grateful I had done so.

A note about Loch Lomond - A82 along the loch is a very old road, and it is quite narrow in places. As in, there are WALLS of rocks on either side of it in some parts. This was terrifying on the way out to Oban on my first day of driving the narrow roads on the left, but manageable (but still narrow) as I gained more experience on my return to the airport after my 1,000 mile drive in Scotland.

Some observations:

I had an International Drivers Permit which I purchased from my AAA (in Canada they are about $30), but the rental agency (Alamo) only wanted to see my credit card and my driver's license.

As noted above, the distances in Scotland take longer than they would in Canada or in the US. I drove around Harris, a 50 mile route, and that took me 5 hours (granted, I was taking photographs, but still - narrow, blind-corner, blind-summit one-lane roads with Passing Places). This caused me to reconsider an earlier itinerary of Ullapool - Wick in one day, then Wick - Fort William. Instead, I changed the itinerary from Ullapool to Inverness, and that was enough driving for a day. Went to Fort William the next day and that was plenty entertaining, and a much shorter drive.

Scots drive FAST. Much faster than a North American driving first time on the left. I was keeping to the speed limit, the locals were definitely not. There was an observed abundance of BMWs on the roads, even the cops drive them (M3s and M5s) probably so they too can catch up to the speedsters. So take note.

Scots are remarkably adept at staying inside of their own lanes. Trust this (despite your fears) until you are comfortable driving. The first few days - despite over three decades of driving experience here in Canada - I was feeling like I was a 16-year old driver all over again. I was scooching to the safety of the right. I also learned, the hard way, that there are kerbs everywhere on the Scottish roads, including some highways. I scratched the rims of my rental car on the second day as a result.

Note - the logging lorries (trucks) are just as wide in Scotland as they are in the Pacific Northwest. Only the lanes are narrower. This makes encounters scarier. Yes, logging is a big industry in Scotland - pay heed.

Driving in the Hebrides was lovely. No crowds, people drove slower. Island time, I suppose. And frankly, after the initial adjustment (getting out of the airport parking lot is the hardest part! After that, it's easier) the driving is comfortable.

As for things to do..........

I had a Hop-Scotch pass from Cal-Mac for me and my car. This enabled me to travel from Oban to Ullapool and the two hebridean ferries on one book of tickets. There are other itineraries on their web site as well - take a peek for the places that you wish to visit. This is a very good deal, and makes planning simple.

I stayed in B&Bs, where the breakfasts were more than generous, so much so that I rarely ate lunch, and seldom had substantial dinners as well.

I took a tour on Loch Ness and visited the Urquhart castle. I drove the Coastal Route from Inverness. Drove through Glencoe, a must-see for the high peaks and lush valleys. I greatly enjoyed Glasgow and took a tour before walking on my own afterwards.

The biggest surprise was the beaches in the North of Scotland. White sand, aquamarine and turquoise colour, clear water, no people. Safely solitary beaches.

Speaking of safety, I was surprised to learn that, in the Hebrides, many people do not lock their doors, or their cars. This took some adjustment from my part. Of course, all the B&B rooms had locking doors for guests.

I was pleasantly surprised by the weather - it was warm and sunny throughout my five-week vacation, including during the Scotland visits. The midges had not appeared yet (I was there in May/June).

The best part of the trip to Scotland, hands down, was the people. The Scots are warm, welcoming, wonderful people. I felt welcomed and was given pointers on what to see and what to do and what to sample at every turn. I will forever remember and cherish the smiles, the tea (and scotch) offered to me, and the advice regarding where to point my car and camera.

It is a place I greatly miss already, and long to return to again.
posted by seawallrunner at 4:06 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: seawallrunner: "it was warm and sunny throughout my five-week vacation"

seawallrunner must own a weather machine, because this is virtually unheard-of. I lived on the east coast of Scotland, and it rained more often than not (although the summers do indeed tend to be a bit dryer). However, intense rainstorms were also relatively rare (I don't think I heard thunder once).

You should invest in good rain gear, and bring it with you whenever you travel. This is general life-advice, but it's especially applicable in Scotland.

The A roads are generally somewhat decent, but roads in Scotland are indeed narrow, lined with rock walls, and generally terrifying. Note that the locals know the locations of all of the deadly hairpin turns, while you do not.
posted by schmod at 6:59 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

aught: "Nth-ing the warning about midges. Insect repellant can be hard to find, bring some you like with you.

If anyone has a preferred UK brand I can pick up when we arrive, I'd be grateful for recommendations. I am skeptical that the US TSA inspectors will let me bring it from home (they usually take aerosol cans out of checeked luggage).

If you're anywhere near Edinburgh, go into Tiso's on Rose Street and get a bottle of Avon Skin So Soft - it's a miracle cure for midgies, so much so that Scotland is about the only place you can buy it in shops - as approved by the Royal Marines, who do a lot of training in the Highlands.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:14 AM on July 14, 2013

Response by poster: Just a quick note to thread to thanks all for helping make my vacation a wonderful one. Driving itself was indeed not a big thing in and of itself - I was surprised how easy that aspect was, but the relative narrowness of Scottish roads, even A roads, and the lack of shoulders on most roads, was occasionally nerve-wracking, particularly with huge trucks barrelling down in the opposite lane. We did opt for automatic transmission, despite both of us being lifelong manual drivers in the US, as the left hand shifting seemed like it might complicate things more than we wanted.

I did want to say that I was glad we'd planned things out pretty well, particularly lodging at B&Bs, because there were few with vacancies anywhere we went (except at the very end on Islay, where the places we stayed each had an empty room while we were there). It appears Skye has been in the news a lot lately as a destination and so rooms were hard to come by if you were winging it.

Midges had largely passed as a serious nuisance, fortunately. (It was breezy nearly everywhere we went.)

The Glenelg ferry (as well as the drive to Glenelg and then through Kylerhea on the far side) were great.

Spent most of our time on Skye and Islay and really had a great time. Final route was approximately Edinburgh -> Sterling / Doune castles (latter infinitely better / more authentic even apart from the Monty Python connection) -> Glencoe -> Fort William -> Glenelg -> Portree -> Trotternish peninsula -> Dunvegan / Talisker -> Elgol -> Oban -> Port Charlotte (northern Islay) -> Port Ellen (s. Islay and Oa) -> Edinburgh (via Kilmartin and Loch Fyne)

For future reference by MeFites coming back here, a few things we did that had not been recommended (unless I am spacing out for which I apologize) are:

- brochs a few miles south of Glenelg (take a small detour s before crossing on the little tiny ferry), spooky and cool
- Cooperative grocery stores in Skye and Islay as vital resources for snacks and beverages and non-restaurant packed hike lunches or other non-restaurant meals
- If you want a comfortable seat on a big CalMac ferry during the 2+ hr ride, don't linger about outside by the rail gawking for the first 15 minutes of the crossing, as everyone else will have made a beeline to the seats and saved them
- Quiraing hike on Skye is spectacular and a little hair raising with trails near cliff edges
- Boat ride from Elgol (Skye) to Loch Coruisk hike is amazing; in addition to seeing the secluded, cliff-hemmed loch, we saw seals, sea otters, and porpoises while going over
- Know ahead which B&Bs take credit cards or not to plan your money (many do not)
- Dunvegan Castle gardens (west side of Skye) pretty amazing, even this late in the season
- Oban is a scenic and interesting town, though I bet it's a madhouse in the summer with a lot more tourists. Cuan Mor restaurant a couple blocks s of Oban Distillery recommended
- Best distillery tours on Islay were Kilchoman (newish operation, farm-scale distillery so much smaller scale and therefore interesting to compare if you've seen big commercial operations on tours) and Laphroiag. For the latter we actually got to see their malting floor in operation and taste the tasty crunchy barley ready for the mash (the smoky sweet kernals should be sold as a snack food in its own right!). Ardbeg tour was very good too, and not just because it was my favorite label going into the trip.
- Enquire ahread of time if wanting to tour some distilleries in September becuase many go "silent" for maintenance in Sept and Oct. and don't give tours then (and brochures and web sites will not mention this). Fortunately particularly in Islay there is usually another nearby distillery one can still get a tour on.
- The cheesy seeming "Classic Malts" club through the Diageo web site ( is worth its weight in gold and free pours if you like the operations that are run by Diageo (includes Oban, Talisker, Lagavulin, and Caol Ila of the places we passed by).
- We didn't even take a tour at Caol Ila, Lagavulin, or Bruchladdich but they were generous in letting us taste various expressions. Maybe because we were there a little after tourist season? At Oban I got the feeling they would have poured us drams all night if we had lingered in the visitors centre (in part because of the Classic Malt thing).
- Great seafood in restaurants is ubiquitous and delicious, as are the full Scottish breakfasts at B&B (after a couple of which I was ready to take a nap before my day began)
- Bar menus in hotels that have restaurants are often cheaper than the restaurant proper, but have plenty of delicious options on them cooked in same skilled kitchen
- Prehistoric standing stones and cairns in Kilmartin glen (south of Oban, north of Tarbert) were really cool

Thanks again all for the great tips.
posted by aught at 8:39 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

« Older Seeking durable slipcovers for RV furniture   |   Help me find this movie ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.