General Question

Akua's avatar

Anyone been to Scotland and/or Ireland?

Asked by Akua (4628 points ) August 28th, 2011

I have decided that in the spring of 2012 I want to vacation for 10 days in Scotland/Ireland. I have always wanted to see it as it has significant history and is truly a beautiful place. Has anyone here been to these places either for vacation or lived there? What cities are best to see historically? Is it best to go with a group tour or should I just go solo and find my way about? Are the people friendly there? How much US currency should I bring to spend on gifts? What is the weather/temperature like that time of year? Any and all answers would be a great help. Give Thanks for your time.

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26 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

I had a wonderful visit to Scotland some years back. I went with a tour group on an itinerary that was based in Edinburgh, with day trips to Glasgow, Culross, Fife, Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond, and several other destinations. It was a great balance of typical tourist sites vs. out-of-the-way glimpses and of structured time vs. free time.

About half the people in the group had just come from ten days in Ireland as part of a more extended tour than I took. They were full of enthusiasm about the experience.

I’d recommend the tour outfit, but ownership changed hands a few years ago, and now all they do is Asian tours.

If I were going to go alone, I would study Rick Steves’ book first and do a lot of homework. I wouldn’t be afraid to go alone, but I do think I would waste a lot of time figuring out how to get from here to there—one of the great ways that a tour solves problems.

If I had a lot of time—several weeks or a month—I would plan it out myself, rent a car, and take it in leisurely fashion, expecting to work from a basic itinerary and then improvise and follow my impulses along the way.

Akua's avatar

Thats a great idea @Jeruba! You make some very good points about balance. The trip I want to take is a 10 day tour of Ireland and Scotland. It starts in Edinburgh, Scotland and ends in Shannon, Ireland. I have never been to Europe so I want this to be a great vacation for us. I will talk to a travel agency about the tour because I want to have a good amount of time to just explore on my own as well as go out with the group. I’ll do a lot more reading up on it and ask around before I make final arrangments. Thank you for you help friend!

CaptainHarley's avatar

I’m jealous! I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland. Scotland too for that matter. Been all over SE Asia, Central Europe, and a few other places, but never got to Scotland or Ireland. Sigh! : (

jonsblond's avatar

I’ve never been to Scotland, but my husband and I know the head chef at The Wheelhouse in Falkirk. He’s always posting lovely pictures of items from his menu on Facebook. The food looks delicious. Falkirk also looks like a nice town to visit. (If you happened to visit, send me a pm. I’ll give you his name and tell you mine and my husband’s so you can tell our friend we sent you.) =)

Jeruba's avatar

A half-day bus tour around a city can give you a good feel for the place. Stops at a few key points along the way give you a taste of the city from the ground and not from a moving vehicle. Then you can scope out places you know you’d like to come back to, match a few landmarks to points on a map, and ask your guide questions (“Can we walk to ~~ from our hotel? Will we need reservations at ~~? How long ahead should I call a taxicab?” etc.).

I went to lunch at Jenner’s (renowned department store) with a fellow tour member who wanted to go shopping. I have no interest in shopping. It’s art museums and castles and cathedrals for me. So I had figured out how I could walk from there through the park at Princes Street (just below Jenner’s) and over to the Scottish National Gallery on The Mound, in the heart of Edinburgh, and from there to the Royal Mile leading down from Edinburgh Castle, with a hundred points of interest along the way. It was a great exploratory walk, linking up points I had already seen from the bus, so I had a sense of distances and could recognize map points.

This is what I’ve done in every major city I’ve visited abroad. Since I like to do these things alone, for the most part, I value the confidence it gives me—and the freedom.

lemming's avatar

I’m from Ireland. Weather this time of the year is quite rainy and not very warm, though we do have warm spells when we are lucky. Bring a rain coat. Don’t know how much you would need to spend on gifts, though Ireland is quite expensive compared to the rest of Europe. We are known to be very friendly. I would recommend that you go to Galway in the west (or Cork in the south I hear is very similar) because it is just a nice, friendly, very ‘Irish’ city. If you stay in Dublin, you might as well be in any European city.

Hope I’ve helped!

Leanne1986's avatar

I have never been to Ireland but Scotland is one of my favourite countries in the world. I find the west coast, in particular, breathtaking! When I retire, I plan to live out the rest of my days in Drumnadrochit which is a little town on Loch Ness.

Akua's avatar

@jonsblond sounds like a plan. I’d love to see Falkirk as it’s always mentioned in movies set in Scotland/Ireland. I’m a big “Braveheart” fan and I have wanted to go to Ireland and scotland ever since. I will defiantely be taking my laptop along so I can contact everyone and I do want to see your friends restuarant. @CaptainHarley you have really traveled! I would love to see SE Asia. But don’t you need to get a lot of vaccines to go there? That place is like Africa with the Malaria!

Akua's avatar

Yes @Jeruba I’m that way too. I enjoy lurking and exploring on my own. I’m pretty resourceful when it comes to getting around, so as long as I have an emergency contact number, like a taxi or hotel I’m not too worried about getting lost.At the same time I want a little tour action because I know I’ll have plenty of questions about landmarks and the history but I don’t want to get so bogged down that they are ready to leave before I am ready or vice versa.

Akua's avatar

Thank you @lemming! You have been helpful and I do want to see as much of real Irish living as possible. I detest going to a new place and being trapped in tourist hell where the only time you see regular folk is when you drive past them on a tour bus. I’m not the type to enjoy travel from a hotel room, I want to feel like I’m a part of it.
I hadn’t realized that it was so expensive to shop there but I don’t plan to spend a lot of money there. Probably just a couple of T-shirts for my daughter and some folk art to bring home. Did you grow up there? What’s the weather like in April there? Still rainy? Are there any areas that are ethnically diverse? Thanks for all your help, I hope I’m not being a pain in the ass but I like to ask a lot of questions.

Akua's avatar

@Leanne1986 are you Scottish? Have you been to Scotland? Your retirement sounds great. I want to retire somewhere warm preferably but that depends on how much I like my travels to Europe. I’m very flexible, lol. Years ago my moms friend and co-worker moved to New Zealand with her family because she said she didn’t want to grow old in this country, that this country isn’t for the elderly. She was right and ever since she moved I have been curious to see the place she left America for. Thats my next vacation.

lemming's avatar

In April it is still rainy, it is rainy all year round, it would be 15 degrees or less. Ireland has become quite multicultural in recent years.

flutherother's avatar

@Akua Scotland is beautiful and has lots of history. The most historic city is Edinburgh which you should make sure you visit. I like travelling solo but if you have limited time then a tour might suit you better. The city bus tours are a good idea. Late Spring, or May is a nice time to visit, with long hours of daylight and warm sunshine. It can be cold so be prepared and be prepared for rain.

You might like to travel by train, and you can visit all of Scotland’s cities this way. I would start from Glasgow and travel north to Mallaig where you can take the ferry over to the island of Skye coming back over to the mainland to Kyle of Lochalsh where another train will take you to Inverness and then on to Aberdeen and back to Edinburgh. You will see some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland on this journey.

You can then take a train to Stranraer and catch the ferry to Ireland.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Jeruba, I think I would enjoy travelling with you!

Jeruba's avatar

Thank you, @dappled_leaves. Wouldn’t it be fun to put together a tour of jellies, each with native expertise in a different area, so wherever we went we’d have a savvy guide and a bunch of excited explorers?

lemming's avatar

Oh, and if you like great scenery you should head to Kerry, there are some great walking trails there through the mountains. Kerry is in the south-east.

ml3269's avatar

Scotland is wonderful… go to the Highlands… or Aberdeen… to the Shetlands… Edinburgh… and try the Single Malts! For cheap inner-european-flights visit ryanair.com or easyjet.com

ml3269's avatar

… and if you do not want to drive a car there, book the inter-city-busses like megabus.com

Akua's avatar

Wow @flutherother you seem to have spent a great deal of time in Scotland. I’m just now learning from you the Scotland has trains, lol. I’m going to write down everything you said so I can discuss it with the travel coordinator. Thank you so much for your help. Bless.

Akua's avatar

Great links @ml3269 ! Thanks!

flutherother's avatar

@Akua I was born in Scotland and have lived here for most of my life. If there is anything you want to know I will try to help.

Akua's avatar

Are you in Scotland right now? Lucky you. Oh yea, I’m getting really into this research @flutherother, lol. Yesterday I watched a bunch of documentaries on Scotland and Ireland that taught me the history, Pubs and literature of these places as well as Trinity College. Everyone kept saying how nice the people are. I swear though the pubs
seem more lively and fun then the ones here!
I’ll definately have lots of questions for you. So are Ireland and Scotland are Islands? They use UK currency? What is the value ratio of their money to our USA dollars? When you say Scotland is very diverse, what do you mean as everyone’s idea of diversity is different. It rains a lot and it’s so cold there most of the time. Do people there spend a lot of time outdoors? What does everyone do in that cold? What types of vegetation grows there (fruit & veggies)? It must smell really good there and the air must be so clean with all that moisture and green land. Okay I’ll give you time to answer ok? I bet you thought I wasn’t going to take you up on your offer to help? LOLOL. Thanks sweetie!

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Land: Scotland, Wales and England make up one island. When combined, it is called Great Britain. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland make up another. Northern Ireland, when combined with the countries in Great Britain, becomes the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland is not affiliated with the UK. See map

Currency: This is a brilliant question, as there are differences. The Republic of Ireland uses Euro. Northern Ireland uses Pound Sterling. Source It sounds as if it is easy to exchange the two should you be visiting both areas. Scotland also uses the Pound Sterling, but like Northern Ireland, uses their own country’s printed currency. There is a good possibility that you may have trouble using Irish currency in Scotland and vice versa.

As for currency conversions, just do a quick search for one on the internet. When it comes to budgeting, the more lax the trip plans are, the harder it becomes. Personally, when I travel around multiple countries with different currencies, I worry less about the exchange rate and more on keeping keeping enough money on hand to cover costs before moving on to the next one.

Weather: As anywhere, this is a matter of opinion. Yes, the cold and rain are common in this part of Europe. My advice is to invest in a good trench coat that has a removable warm lining, as well a hood, as it can get a bit breezy.

Packing Pack clothes that can be layered and washed in a machine or sink. Pack as lightly as possible. Can you get by with two pairs of comfortable shoes? That’s probably all you need, as one may need a day to dry out if they get wet. Consider any item that requires electricity. Do you really need to take it? If so, an adapter will be needed. Limit the toiletry items to the basics. Either pack travel sized items or plan to pick a few up while there.

flutherother's avatar

The pubs in Scotland and Ireland are usually pretty lively and are a good way of meeting the locals as well as getting a cheapish pub meal and maybe some live music in the evening.

The weather can be very pleasant in spring, but it is changeable. When the wind is northerly it comes straight from the Arctic and can be bitterly cold and can bring snow as late as April and even later on high ground. People get out and about in spring; the winters are a different matter.

There has been a lot of immigration particularly into Glasgow where the population is now quite mixed with many people tracing their ancestry back to Pakistan, India, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

Scotland is quite famous for its fruit, raspberries and strawberries grow particularly well here as do potatoes, carrots, cabbage and turnip. The lower land is usually divided up into fields for cattle or sheep or for growing wheat and barley. In the distance you can often see the hills for which Scotland is famous.

The west coast of Scotland is a dramatic land of mountains and lochs (lakes) but here the weather is even more changeable with a high rainfall and winds from the Atlantic. There are few towns of any size here apart from Oban and Fort William. Oban is an attractive town with a nice esplanade with views of the islands most of which are served by ferries. Oban can be reached by train.

I would travel light; bring a jumper for the cold and a waterproof anorak with a hood for the rain. This can be folded up and packed away in your rucksack when not needed.

JLeslie's avatar

The nicest people in the world are in Scotland. I have never met people so friendly and outgoing than in the pubs in Scotland. It’s been a very very long time since I was there, and I only spent a couple days, but the people made such an impression on me. So, I suggest being sure to do something where you can socialize a bit, and talk to the locals. I was in Edinburgh, and the Castle there was very nice.

MellisaTurner's avatar

Everything in Britain is hilariously expensive. I guess it depends on how luxurious you want your trip to be. Staying in bed & breakfasts shouldn’t be too expensive as long as you stay away from downtown areas. You’ll also have to consider food expenses, tours, attractions, and shopping. Do you want to buy clothes while you’re there? Eat in restaurants? Visit museums, castles, parks, and other such attractions?

I used to live in Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s lovely but very costly. The exchange rate from Canadian dollars to pounds is about 57 cents. That means for every 1 dollar, you get 50 cents worth in pounds. On top of that, the prices are much higher.

I don’t want to give you an estimate on how much it would cost because I’m not sure whether you want to “rough it” or stay in hotels etc. I’d hate for you to run out of money! Just remember to bring more than you feel is necessary, just in case. ;)

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