What to Do: Scotland

We’re about two months out from the start of a three week visit to the U.K. and I’m very excited to have started planning all the details. Although this blog is not exclusively about travel, I do love to feature our exploits as often as I can. I learn as much about life (or maybe even more) from venturing into other cultures as I do from running or yoga, so I’m always inspired to share where we’ve been–whether it’s near or far.

This time, instead of solely filling you all in when we get back in the summer, I wanted to try something different. I’d like to create a bit of a forum–one that I hope will not only aid me in planning the rest of our activities while in the U.K., but that will also be available for you all to reference in case you decide to make a similar journey. I cannot even to begin to express how grateful I am to everyone who contributed to What to Do: London . I got so many great ideas there. Admittedly, I think I’m most grateful for the food recommendations. Despite what seemed like ample research, we had a terrible time eating the first time we were there and we’re determined to leave happier this time around! 

After London we are moving on to Scotland, which is what I need your help with now. We’ll be in Edinburgh for the first four days and then Glasgow for three days after that. I think for some that may be where this discussion will start. Friends, acquaintances, and random travelers we have met from the UK all have very strong opinions either for or against spending time in Glasgow. You should see some of the looks we have gotten! They’ve said: Oh God, no don’t go there, why would you go there? At the same time, I’ve had friends who have lived in Glasgow and insist it is a diamond in the rough! It’s made me laugh to hear how different people’s opinions can be about the same place. Since we are big city people who aren’t turned off by a bit of grit, we decided we would give the biggest city in Scotland a go. Our plan is also to take a day trip to one of the Lochs and/or the Highlands (are these the same thing? See, I need your help!). We thought we might do this on one of our Glasgow days if the consensus is that there really is less to see there.

Ready to chime in? I’d love any and all expertise, opinions, and ideas–so please, give me what you’ve got! I’d especially appreciate your help with the following:

Day Trip from Glasgow (or Edinburgh): Admittedly, and perhaps shockingly to most–we are not huge nature people. My hubs is more in tune with it than I am (sorry, concrete jungle gal here!). Overall though, it’s not what we gravitate towards when we travel. That being said, we are going to be in Scotland, and then later, Ireland. We know that the natural beauty of these places is not to be missed! We’d like to spend at least one day in the Highlands and not in the city. With just the little research I have done on Edinburgh so far, it seems like there will be plenty to occupy us for four days. Do you agree that it’s a better use of time to take the day trip from Glasgow? And where should we go? From every TripAdvisor thread I’ve read it sounds like traveling all the way to Loch Ness is not really worth it. Most people say there are more beautiful Lochs that are nearer to both cities. (I don’t even really know what a Loch is so all of this is an education!) Anyway, we would want to take some type of tour as we have no desire to navigate ourselves, I think it would be too stressful. (We are never a fan of tour groups that plan whole trips, but we are fans of tours in general. I like when someone tells me what I’m looking at and then sets me off to wander!) We see that a lot of companies offer a visit to a Loch, a castle, and then one other place. Tell me–is there a tour company you would recommend for this? What tour should we take if we want to see some really beautiful places but not have a day where we’re exhausted from the amount of driving?

What shouldn’t we miss in Edinburgh? Just as valuable, what should we skip? I’ve heard a lot of people say that Edinburgh Castle is alright to miss, especially if you’ve seen other castles. I’d love your vote on that!

How about outside the box things to do in Edinburgh? We love history so from what we’ve seen, the capital has a lot to offer. What might you suggest that may not be on the average tourist’s itinerary?

What should we do in Glasgow? Alright, all you city dwellers, step up to the plate! How should we occupy our time here? Is there anything for us here, especially if we are not into night-life? The only thing I’ve got on our list so far is a tour of Glasgow Central Station. It’s got GREAT reviews and looks right up our alley. What else? This city has got to have some fascinating history as well–where do we find it?

Where should we run in Edinburgh, and in Glasgow? Alright so I am a little bummed. I think we are going to miss most Parkruns. Idiot that I am we are scheduled to be traveling in between cities on most Saturdays. (I’ve gotten very good at planning travel around my stomach, not as much around my runs!) So…if we can’t manage to make it to a Parkrun in either of these cities (real tears falling now), where should we run? We are staying in the West End in Edinburgh and within the Merchant City in Glasgow. Any nearby park suggestions or routes are very welcome and appreciated! In my head I imagine Edinburgh to be FULL of cobblestones (like Prague, running in Prague was kind of the worst!). Am I right, or is it easy enough to find smooth ground and give our old knees a break?

Lastly, and most importantly…Where should we EAT? If you only give me one thing–this is what I want from you! Like I said, my stomach rules all! Also, I just think food and rituals in eating are some of the most important parts of culture. To understand the food is to understand the people. So tell me–where should we eat? I’m looking for everything–from hole in the wall to fancy schmancy and everything in between. A little shop where you had the best sandwich of your life? Do tell. A gas station with the best gelato ever? I beg of you, share your secrets! We’re especially interested in young chefs who are doing new and innovative food, and also the very best of traditional Scottish fare. We were thinking of getting started with this food tour in Edinburgh. Food tours have become one of our favorite things to do when we travel. If anyone’s done this one and has an opinion on it, we’d love to hear from you!

Please tell me what I’ve missed. I’d love any and all suggestions–give them here! Thank you for helping us make this an incredible trip–can’t wait to share it all with you when we return later this summer! x

 

header: nicolas-charlone

24 thoughts on “What to Do: Scotland

  1. I traveled to Scotland last year and did a day trip to the highlands with a company called the Hairy Coo (Hairy cow in a Scottish accent, and the bus is painted like a highland cow too!). Super fun, and packed in many sites including Stirling, some lochs, and a historical castle that season 1 of Outlander shot at. They leave from Edinburgh only, I believe. They also operate on tips.

    I stayed in an Air BnB in Stockbridge while in Edinburgh and it was close enough to the touristy things but not too close. Lots of cool cafes and restaurants and gorgeous old buildings and near a beautiful river that winds through the city. The super touristy places are really busy and I found them too much to set up base in.

    I hope you have an amazing time. It’s one of my favourite places on Earth 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you so much for all of this Kemmy! I just signed up for a day trip with Rabbies, but it looks like we will be hitting similar places that you did, so I am excited that you enjoyed it! It’s so funny you mentioned Outlander. I have been tempted to try watching it again, especially since we are heading to Scotland. There were parts of it that I loved, but after a while it just got so over the top sexually violent and it made it hard to watch for me. I have friends who love it but when they hear that’s my beef with it they aren’t really able to say that that stops as the seasons go on–so, idk, maybe i’ll try again, maybe i won’t!

      We almost stayed in Stockbridge but ended up in an AirBnB in the West End–which from what i am reading is very close to all the tourist stuff but still out of the way enough to experience the neighborhood. I hope that is right! Will def check out Stockbridge as well though–one of our favorite things to do is just explore the neighbs.
      Thanks so much for your tips here, I will let you know how it all goes! 😉

      Like

  2. Hi Cat! This might be a long post – I’ll try and structured/disciplined about it…

    EDINBURGH
    South Queensferry is a great shout made already. Between that restaurant, a few nice cafes and a close up view of the the rather lovely 130-year-old Forth Bridge (a railway bridge) and the two road bridges. They’re impressive!

    Edinburgh Castle: I wouldn’t bother. You can walk up to the top, and get through the gate to wander about a bit without paying and I’d suggest doing that, unless you’re crazy about British/Scottish military history. The best thing about the castle is being able to see it from so many vantage points across the city!

    Down The Royal Mile (from the Castle at the top to Holyrood Palace & Parliament at the bottom) you’ll find St Giles Cathedral, and then Cockburn St – pronounced Co-burn! – where Scarlet Witch & Vision were filmed during Avengers: Infinity War. The whole street’s worth a walk down, I’d say.

    Rosslyn Chapel features in some of that Dan Brown nonsense, so I’m told…!!

    Dean Village is my top tip. Really small picturesque place and you’re still very much in Edinburgh. I’d loop round it from Lynedoch Pl, then head over Dean Bridge and down to Stockbridge; trendy bars amongst some odd places. The former’s close to the Portrait Gallery, and the latter to the Botanic Gardens.

    Food/drink: Hectors for pub food, The Last Word Saloon for great cocktails, The Angel’s Share for both! I also really like The Fountain, which comes with the bonus of being right next to the Union Canal – a walk/cycleway which is also great for running! But while I’m on food, head for Tailend for a fish supper (fish and chips!) with salt ‘n’ sauce – a bit of an Edinburgh thing, and Tailend is the best place in the city for it.

    Running: Arthurs Seat has been endorsed enough (there’s a 3 mile road loop around it, or you can scramble up if you’re really keen!), but the Meadows, Water of Leith and Union Canal paths are all worth exploring. I love them all.

    You might remember I live in Edinburgh, so a running tour could always be arranged depending on when you’re here/how you are for time!

    ELSEWHERE
    It’s a long way to Loch Ness. It’s my part of the world, but you don’t need to go that far.

    Loch Lomond’s a great shout. Oban is also very nice, and comes with a bonus distillery and the chance to hop on a ferry over to the Isle of Mull. Could even be worth sacrificing a night in Glasgow so you’re in Oban early for the crossing – appreciate you’re more of a city girl, though! Tobermory (in Mull) has a distillery of itself, and a very colourful set of houses. Googling Balamory – a kids’ tv show – will show you that!

    Oh God, I’ll stop. For now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t tell you how valuable all this is to me Gary, thank you so much! Was just finishing some tour plans in Edinburgh when you wrote this and was so glad you chimed in about the castle. There were other things that looked more interesting so I was thinking of skipping a full tour and was so glad to have you confirm that that was okay!
      Thank you especially for the food and running recs, these are great! Oh, and if you think of something else- PLEASE always feel free to chime in again. I LOVE it, and your ideas are SO appreciated!

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  3. I live I Perth and I’m not a foodie at all so cant help you too much but 100% go running up Arthur’s seat!! It’s a climb but it’s worth it – I’ve done it many a time just running and as part of the Ironman 70.3. I would also back the comments on Loch Lomond as a place to visit. Even though you are not a nature person (???) you could try a glam pod for the night. Loch Ness IS good and so is Edinburgh castle but the decision is yours. If people closer to you have said not to bother, well, I usually trust my families opinions on things as they know me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Running up Arthur’s seat is officially top of the list, thank you Ella! Also, I think we might do Loch Lomond and Stirling in a day together, thank you for seconding/thirding that suggestion! It’s not that anyone has said I wouldn’t enjoy Loch Ness. More it’s been suggested that somewhere closer might be just as nice and I wouldn’t really be “missing” anything personally. I think for someone more discerning in their tastes for nature, which Loch we visit would matter, but the closer one is probably best for us.
      Thanks so much for your thoughts, I seriously appreciate them! x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ok, so Edinburgh. One place I haven’t had chance to go to yet is ‘The Elephant House’ it’s the cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter if you’re into that?

    My friends got married in ‘The Witchery’ which is an amazing restaurant on the Royal Mile, I’d recommend it just for how it looks inside regardless of how good the food was 😁. Trips there have always centred around food and drink but my friends are very set on places they like, so the other one is ‘The muscle bar’. It’s in the main city, and there are plenty of great places to have a drink or just nosey, the history is awesome there! A good run would be up the royal mile to the castle, great bit of hill training 😉

    The run I did the other weekend was on the Scottish Isle of Arran. It’s closer to Glasgow than Edunbrough but still a few hours and a ferry ride away. The scenery is stunning though, and plenty of running there 😂

    Can’t wait to hear about your trip chick 😁 x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not a Harry Potter fan, but I feel like I should become one, lol. It seems like there are several cool places to visit around the world that have some relation to the books!
      We are definitely going to do some hill training running up to Arthur’s seat, as you and many have suggested. I am excited for that!

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  5. I was in Scotland a couple of years ago, cycling up and down it. I visited Rosslyn Chapel which is not so far from Edinburgh and worth looking up if you haven’t heard of it. Edinburgh itself was, I thought, prettier than Glasgow from what I saw of them; but if you like museums or galleries then I’m sure they are worth researching and comparing further.

    You’ll have to travel up into the Highlands to find the most famous of lochs, Loch Ness, which is indeed quite a trek. Loch Lochy runs just south-west of it and is very beautiful too; I cycled and camped around those. As mentioned, a loch is just a lake really so for the people that just felt like they were driving that far just to see “a lake” then turning round and going back, then that’s perhaps why it wasn’t for them 😉

    I travelled all the way up to Ullapool and caught a ferry over to the Isle of Lewis to visit the megalithic site of Callanish. In fact there are numerous megalithic sites around Scotland so if they interest you then they are worth looking out for on maps.

    I then travelled back down via the Isle of Skye, which is also a popular place and very pretty. Really all the countryside is very beautiful.

    As for food, if you’ve never tried Haggis, and assuming you’re not vegetarian, then this is your chance to try it. I’d recommend ordering a Scottish Breakfast from somewhere, which is Scotland’s version of a ‘Full English’. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

    Beyond all this I think you risk over-planning 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahh!! You’re the best, thanks girl! I was anxiously awaiting your thoughts. Although I really wouldn’t mind receiving a notification from you every day for another random suggestion–so feel free to do either! x

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I went to Scotland for 10 days over New Year’s a few years ago. Drawing from the memory bank:

    Day Trips –
    Oban was a really cute and beautiful coastal town and easily bus-able from Glasgow (just over 2 hrs, I believe!). If you’re Scotch fans, they have a really cute distillery there.
    Fort William would be another recommendation – absolutely stunning views (and where Braveheart was filmed!). This is also home of Ben Nevis (the tallest peak in Scotland. Maybe even the UK?).
    Much closer but one place I didn’t end up stopping was Stirling, however my friend (Edinburgh born and raised) highly recommended it. And I believe there’s a castle to visit.

    Running in Edinburgh –
    I do believe the downtown was mostly cobblestone, yes. BUT, here’s your chance to enjoy some gentle trail! Arthur’s Seat is a super gradual climb that takes you up a little hill with gorgeous views of the city, AND, its accessible by foot right from the downtown.
    Alternative option: The Meadows.

    Hope that helps!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahhh the cobblestones >.< I cycled through Edinburgh on my trip up from Wales to the Isle of Lewis a couple of years ago… those cobbles (and potholes in and around them) were the worst bits of road on my entire holiday!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I SO want to go to where Braveheart was filmed! (And I am sure my hubs will as well, lol) I will definitely look into Fort William.
      You are the second to recommend Stirling so that is officially going on the “for sure” list. I think we can also visit a Loch nearby (forget which one) so that sounds like a nice day. (You’d be so ashamed of my sense for nature–I am just the opposite of you, I just don’t connect with it that well! Give me history, etc, but just nature and i’m like “this is beautiful, so do we just stand here and look at it for a while?”–ugh may this trip will help me!)

      Determined now to run up to King Arthur’s seat–and I’m gonna have my hubs take a pic to show me running on a trail–just for you ;).

      This was great lady, thank you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. charliesbird

    I visited Scotland last year September/October, so check out my holiday reports on my blog.
    We never went to Glasgow, just ran out of time, and we spent a lot of time in the Highlands. We saw Loch Ness, Loch Lomond (through pouring rain!) (A loch is a lake). A once in a lifetime excursion (ours sadly never happened due to inclement weather), is a seaplane trip from Loch Lomond along the West Coast – we are very bleak we missed out. Give them a google and see – Loch Lomond Seaplanes.
    Stirling – about an hour from Edinburgh has an awesome castle – aptly called Stirling Castle that we loved; and Inverary Castle near Loch Lomond is beautiful (they filmed some of Downton Abbey there, if you are a fan).
    Just south of Edinburgh and you are into the Borders area. In a little village called Peebles (about an hour from Edinburgh) is an amazing chocolatier – Ruth Hinks. Her studio is called Cocoa Black, and she does some awesome classes – we did a macaron making course with her – so special. (She actually is a South African and went to school with my husband – small world!)
    A good excursion, which we enjoyed was the Natural Science museum in Edinburgh – and it’s FREE! You must also get some Edinburgh rock – a rock candy stick – yum!
    Eating out in Edinburgh – our favourite meal was at the Scran and Scallie – best fish pie ever, after my mom’s! Fish and chips almost anywhere are delicious! And the Sticky toffee pud is heavenly!
    A walk up Arthur’s seat on a clear day is lovely – you could run it too, I guess, I was post marathon and with a 6 year old, so long runs were not on my agenda.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I will definitely check your blog for those reports, that will be so helpful ,thank you! Googling Loch Lomond seaplanes after i type this (although i hate tiny planes, so that might not be for us!)
      Stirling Castle is included in some of the tours we were looking at–that looked beautiful–glad to know you second that! Also, I am a huge Downton fan (and my hubs is secretly too, lol) so perhaps we will have to check out Inverary as well!
      I very much appreciate your suggestion of the chocolatier–taking a class would be such a unique thing to do and probably a great memory. I am going to google her as well!
      Scran and Scallie–reservations already booked! Thanks lady for all of this–so much! x

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Aaaargh – go to Scotland and I can’t really give much of a hint as I lived in the area you aren’t going to lol.

    For me, the Glasgow/Edinburgh conversation is more that Glasgow is a place to live and work, Edinburgh is a place to visit/for tourists. There isn’t going to be too much sight-seeing in Glasgow, but the restaurants and such like are great (I don’t have any suggestions though).

    Glasgow to the Highlands/loch lomond isn’t too bad, and all along the West coast is fantastic scenery. You can even go and see Nessie at Loch Ness. If you are into it, have a think about hiking/going up the cairngorms.

    For Edinburgh, I’d say the castle should be visited anyway. While yes, you may have seen one castle seen them all, it’s still a big part of the city for tourists. Other things to do may be a walk up Arthur’s seat for the views, there’s apparently some really cool ghost tours and a walk around the Royal Mile will have plenty to see. I don’t know about running in Glasgow, but Edinburgh has Princes street gardens that’s nice, you should be able to run there without a problem. Another thing you could do is have a walk across the Forth Road bridge (more on that in my food comments).

    If you are looking for other trips – St Andrews is near by and a nice day trip, as well as it could be interesting to go and see things in the Perth/Stirling/Falkirk area (Falkirk wheel, Wallace monument, Kelpies).

    In terms of food, part of my family is from Dunfermline (right across the Forth), so eating in Edinburgh isn’t something I’ve done a lot of. One interesting place I’d suggest for the “hole in the wall” type experience would be in South Queensferry, a place called Down the Hatch

    ( https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g4049419-d10106515-Reviews-Down_the_Hatch-South_Queensferry_Edinburgh_Scotland.html )

    It’s basically just a trailer that they turned into a cafeteria, but when I walked across the Forth we had lunch there and it was great – so could be linked to a walk across the bridge if that interests you.

    I’d say that be careful about expecting a lot of food, as portions tend to be much smaller than the US (especially sandwiches). In general – I’d definitely suggest trying real Haggis, find somewhere to have a full Scottish breakfast (black pudding, fruit pudding included if you would like that), try some fresh fish, I’ve never had a deep fried mars bar (and don’t know if they even exist really) but you could try that delicacy (a mars bar is a US milky way, whereas a milky way in the UK is a three musketeers).

    I have to get on with work now, but if you have any other questions feel free to give me a shout. Enjoy your trip, and especially Scotland.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Alright, I don’t even know where South Queensferry is but I am ready to travel there now based on the food pics at Down the Hatch! Looks so delicious–and like such a cute little space. Thank you so much for that suggestion.
      YES- Haggis is definitely on the list! I wasn’t a fan of the full English breakfast, but I am willing to try the full Scottish, lol. (Granted my only experience was in London and the sausage was just not what i was used to and wasn’t a fan of the beans, etc. But I am not deterred, I will try everything at least once! It’s funny you mention the fried mars bars. There is a great English pub in Brooklyn a few blocks away from us where we get amazing fish and chips from and they deep fry EVERYTHING-candy bars included. Pretty sure mars bar is on that list as well! I’ve had the peanut butter cup. I can only eat like half of one, but it is pretty delicious!

      Ha- notice how I went straight to the FOOD! You see where my priorities are! But I really appreciate your other suggestions as well. And thanks for chiming in about the castle, I think we will go. And you are the second to suggest the walk of to King Arthur’s seat–looking forward to that!
      Will def be coming back to your comments are I continue to plan–thanks so much. So good to hear from you! x

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  9. Two Glaswegians here! I think you are right in saying that the day trips are better to be done from Glasgow. Our favourite Loch within reaching distance of the main cities is Loch Lomond, a simple one hour drive from Glasgow. Buses run regularly from the city centre (although I am not too sure what the best company is as we would drive ourselves). There are no castles in this area, however the Lady of the Loch is a boat trip that runs from the south end of the Loch and is highly recommended!

    As for the cities themselves, I always say Edinburgh is the place to see pretty sights and Glasgow is the place to party. Glasgow is much more of a working city, it has more bars and nightclubs than you could possibly use. If you are not into drinking too much it’s possibly best to visit Edinburgh for longer, however there are still plenty of sights in the west end of Glasgow such as the university (famous for its Hogwarts resemblance) and the botanical gardens.

    Food wise in Glasgow, my favourite restaurants are found in Bath street. These are all bar and kitchen places, and do amazing burgers and pizzas! If you fancy some more class then head to the south of the city centre called Trongate, or for some authentic Italian food dine at La Vita on George square.

    Check out our blogs on Glasgow and Loch Lomond in our website if you are wanting any more ideas!

    Also you will need to keep us up to date with your Ireland adventure as we are heading there for two weeks at the end of May!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. GLASWEGIANS! I freakin’ love that–and so glad you are here!
      Thank you so much for all of this–especially your forthrightness about what/how much there is to do in Glasgow. Now i feel good about the decision to use one of those days as our day trip day. We are not partyers at all anymore but still wanted to check Glasgow out so good to know we will probably be there just the right amount of time.
      This is all so helpful (especially the food tips, thank you!). I will definitely be checking out your blog for the Glasgow and Loch Lomond posts as well–that’s perfecto!
      Also–so fun you are headed to Ireland! Where exactly are you headed? We are starting in Belfast and then Galway and Dublin. Very excited. I will be watching your blog for posts about that as well! Cheers! x

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Thanks for stopping by my blog today! I am amazed that your latest post is about an upcoming trip for me, too, so I will for sure be following your posts and comments on the subject of Scotland. My maiden name is Ferguson and I married a Glasgow and birthed two more Glasgows and I CAN’T BELIEVE I’VE NEVER BEEN TO SCOTLAND!!! (Shameful) We are taking the kids there this summer and I haven’t even begun to research. (Yikes!)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hey Nikki! Happy to have stopped by–I was totally enthralled by your description of Tokyo, I loved it!
      How freaking cool that your hubs is from Glasgow–and you are going this summer? I love it! We have to share tips for sure. Stay tuned on here and please let me know if you plan anything cool. I will keep posted to your blog as well! So nice to meet you!

      Like

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