Tuesday 25 July 2017

Scotland: Six travel tips to keep up your sleeve for a family trip

Holidays in Scotland

The Glenfinnan viaduct, as featured in the movie versions of Harry Potter, by JK Rowling
The Glenfinnan viaduct, as featured in the movie versions of Harry Potter, by JK Rowling
Edinburgh at sunset. Photo: Deposit
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

There’s more to Scotland than the Six Nations, you know. Here are Pól Ó Conghaile's six tips to have up your sleeve...

1. The Boy Who Lived

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published in June 1997, 20 years ago. JK Rowling famously wrote in Edinburgh city cafés including The Elephant House (elephanthouse.biz). She sat in the back room overlooking the castle.

2. Duck-fat chips

Scotland’s food scene is upping a gear, something I can vouch for, having scoffed the twice-fried chips — and more besides — at Ox and Finch (oxandfinch.com) in Glasgow. The sea-trout ceviche and slow-cooked pork belly aren’t bad either... read my feature on a gourmet getaway in Glasgow here.

3. Self-catering in a bus

No, really. The Bus Stop (thebusstop.scot) is a single-decker on a working farm in East Lothian. It’s got a glass roof and barbecue too.

4. Georgian Shadows

2017 is Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, and this event (February  23–March 26) celebrates the 250th anniversary of Edinburgh’s New Town. Six buildings will be creatively lit to tell stories, with a lumière piece on St Andrew Square.

5. Scotland in a glass

It’s whisky, of course. Most distilleries have visitor centres but see visitscotland.com for day and multi-day tours offering tastings and behind-the-scenes access in five distilling regions. A parental escape, perhaps?

6. Dark Skies

Galloway Forest Park was the UK’s first dark-sky park. Its observatory has two telescopes — book ahead for a look (scottishdarkskyobservatory.co.uk).

Festival fever

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On with the old (town), and the new: The only problem Edinburgh poses for the visitor is trying to fit all the attractions into a short visit

Edinburgh marks its 70th anniversary as a Festival City this year. It now hosts 12 major festivals, with The Edinburgh International Festival first established in 1947 to create “a flowering of the human spirit” in the capital. August, when the Fringe takes place, is a glorious time to visit — but prices are at a premium.

For family visits, why not check out Imaginate (May 27–June 4), the international festival of performing arts for children and young people. It opens with its own Family Fringe weekend at the National Museum.

See edinburghfestivalcity.com for more.

Get there

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Scottish Highlands - some spectacular drives. Photo: Desposit

It’s never been easier for Irish holidaymakers to get to Scotland. Aer Lingus Regional (aerlingus.com) has direct flights from Dublin to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen; from Cork to Edinburgh and Glasgow; Shannon to Edinburgh and Donegal to Glasgow. Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies from Dublin to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Need the car? Stena Line (stenaline.ie) sails from Belfast and P&O (poferries.com) from Larne to Cairnryan, 80 miles southwest of Glasgow. You’ll also find seasonal passenger ferries from Ballycastle (kintyreexpress.com).

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