Scotland in August? Should I bother?
June 15, 2008 6:23 AM   Subscribe

Scotland in August? Should I bother?

I had been contemplating a solo trip to Scotland in August. However, now that I am actually researching it, it would seem that everybody and their uncle and their ten best friends are going to be there. Should I put off my trip until after August? I'm not a fan of throngs and locals cranky from dealing with said throngs. Will hotel prices drop enough to justify the delay? I have some flexibility as when to go, but may be starting a new job in September, so I am unsure at this point about how much time I have for an extended (two week plus) vacation. No, I can't go in July due to work commitments.

The plan was to hit a few areas of the country (starting and ending with the major cities, with the Northwest and Outer Hebrides in between, perhaps other areas, too) and do some scenic walks/hikes. Perhaps hook up with a group walk on a couple days, but mostly spend the time by myself. I would like to do this on a moderate budget. I was hoping to not have to book every night in advance so I could have some leeway in leaving a town earlier or staying a day longer. Is this advisable?

Thanks to all for your help.
posted by computech_apolloniajames to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
The Edinburgh Festival happens through the 4 weeks of August, so if you don't like throngs, you'd best avoid it. It does mean that the rest of Scotland might be quieter as most tourists will be in Edinburgh. But then all the Edinburgh residents who are renting out their houses for the festival, or just don't want to be there when it's full of hundreds of festival-goers will also be spending time in other parts of Scotland!
posted by Happycat79 at 6:34 AM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and getting accommodation in Edinburgh in August is near-impossible and very expensive.
posted by Happycat79 at 6:35 AM on June 15, 2008

i was in scotland in august in '99 and loved it. i didn't find it to be crowded, except for edinburgh. i was traveling backpacker-style, if that makes a difference. i didn't have any rooms booked in advance, even in edinburgh, although i may have gotten one of the last dorm beds...

the weather was good then. and even with the crowds, the festival is worth checking out.

i absolutely loved scotland.
posted by xz at 6:41 AM on June 15, 2008

The Highlands and islands are fairly expansive and outwith the usual tourist spots you won't notice it being particularly crowded. Edinburgh and Glasgow will be thronging, and even smaller tourist places like Fort William, Stirling, Aviemore and St Andrews etc will be crowded and booked out.

That said, I'd highly recommend Edinburgh during the festival if you can get accomodation. It's just incredibly good fun.
posted by fire&wings at 7:22 AM on June 15, 2008

I was there in August two years ago. I was not able to find a decent and reasonably priced room in Edinburgh because of the Fringe Festival and military tattoo, but I had no trouble finding a room in Glasgow and spent less than an hour riding the train in to Edinburgh to see that city.

That was my only time in Scotland so I have no great point of reference, but I didn't find it to be excessively crowded even with these activities going on. I'd expect that further away places like the highlands and islands would be even less crowded. And I don't recall encountering cranky locals at all — the people were quite warm and friendly.
posted by tomwheeler at 8:48 AM on June 15, 2008

I went to Scotland in September of last year and it was definitely not too crowded. I was also able to get walk-in rooms at both places I stayed at in Edinburgh (Mefi mail me if you want hotel/hostel recommendations). I too hate throngs so that time of year worked out well for me.
posted by vodkaboots at 10:11 AM on June 15, 2008

Of course you should bother!

Check out the "Where should I go in Scotland?" link in related questions below for some good suggestions as to where to go but basically you'll find the big cities and the tourist traps busy especially Edinburgh. The Cairngorm / Glencoe area is also busy at this time of year with hikers and climbers.

But don't be put off. May I recommend staying in Glasgow which is generally busy all year round btw, perhaps briefly checking out the madness of the Edinburgh festival and then escaping to the Hebrides? Check out the Gaelic Rings self-guided tours for more ideas. Beautiful Hebridean islands all accessible by car, bus train and ferry from Glasgow. You'll find yourself far from the madding crowd in no time.

Booking accommodation outwith the cities a few days in advance should be ok. Hotel prices probably won't change much unless you plan to delay until October/November but by that point it's cold and dark and wet, so a lot less appealing. MeMail me if you have any more Q's!
posted by brautigan at 10:43 AM on June 15, 2008

Best answer: Midgies...
posted by A189Nut at 2:51 PM on June 15, 2008

I spent about 3 weeks in the Outer Hebrides last year during August and really enjoyed it. I stayed in hostels a few nights and it definitely wasn't too crowded. I booked in advance but that was only really because the ferry was due to drop me off at a silly hour. For what you seem to be after (some time alone/maybe meeting people occasionally/good hiking/great views/not too expensive), the Outer Hebrides would be great. By far the biggest expense was the hop-on, hop-off ferry ticket for me and my car. If you want to fly onto the islands, there's a regular British Airways flight from Glasgow to Barra that lands on the beach!

Midges weren't a massive problem for me. I've heard it's worse on the mainland, but then I've also heard some people just don't have attractive (to midges!) skin so maybe I was just lucky in that respect.
posted by uk_giffo at 5:31 PM on June 15, 2008

For some land-on-the-beach and visit-the-hebrides inspiration (movie file / slightly cheesy scottish tourist ad)
posted by brautigan at 10:29 PM on June 15, 2008

If you are hesitant enough to ask the question then the answer is "No". You sound worried about crowds and Scotland is at its most crowded in August. If you are the sort of person to label a crowd a "throng" then the Edinburgh festival will fill you with horror and you will hate being turned away from over-priced, full accommodation and events. You are worried about midges in the highlands and August is when they are at their most voracious -even scaring Sigourney Weaver. You will seethe as you make your slow way up the A9 whilst stuck behind an endless convoy of slow moving tourist coaches and caravans. Finally it will rain and be unseasonably cold: far, far worse than being unseasonably warm.
posted by rongorongo at 4:15 AM on July 14, 2008

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