Scotland – May 2012

In early May we set off for our week long trip to Scotland. We also tagged on a one night stay in London on the way home to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in 7 years! We used American Airlines miles to make this trip a reality. While we couldn’t exclusively use hotel points to cover our hotel stays since we were staying primarily in Bed and Breakfasts, we did use them for a few nights in Edinburgh and London to stay at properties we might not have been able to otherwise afford. In short, we had a fantastic trip. We did encounter a few difficulties traveling with two small kids (one just under 3 and one 10 months) but we’re glad we did it!

We used our American Airlines return ticket from our February St. John trip where we “stopped over” in Boston before continuing on to London. Doing this added only 2,500 miles to each of our tickets. A pretty good value, if you ask me! We used 4 one way off peak saver awards for our return which cost us 20,000 miles and about $175 per ticket. This is pretty pricey for us, but unavoidable when visiting the UK as their departure taxes are so high. We will be using our return tickets to again “stopover” in Boston and then continue on to Kauai early next year for no additional miles. We can’t wait for that trip!

For our hotels on points, we stayed 1 night in the Holiday Inn Express – Royal Mile which was a great location. Unfortunately, only being in Edinburgh one night, we weren’t able to get our bearings and ended up taking a bus to get back from the Edinburgh castle when it was only a 10 minute walk away! But other than that, the hotel was great and we loved Edinburgh (despite the rain!). We used 25,000 Priority Club points which we got for signing up for the Priority Club Chase credit card. The rate for this hotel at the time was about $225 so we felt that was a good use of points. While in London, we splurged and stayed at the Intercontinental Park Lane. We spent 40,000 Priority Club points (again, from the credit card sign up) to stay there and we’re quite pleased with every aspect of the stay. The rate for the hotel at that time was about $500 so again, a great redemption.

The rest of our accommodation was at Bed and Breakfasts. Places we loved were the Knockderry House Hotel (fantastic hotel and staff), the Premier Inn – Dundee East (great location and price), and the Applecross Inn (well run, small B&B, great location). The B&Bs/hotels we did not like were the Nevis Bank Inn in Fort William (the staff was less than accommodating), the Trafford Bank Guest House (the innkeeper appeared to be in shock that we would travel with our children), and the Mackinnon Country House Hotel (the innkeeper was great and our room was lovely but my sister’s room was a disappointment as they were moved “out back” due to a flooding problem in the room they were supposed to be in). All in all, everything worked out fine, but we were a bit taken aback in general by the unwelcoming nature of some towards our traveling family. It did seem that that is not commonplace in the UK.

The only real hiccup we had was with our rental car. We rented with Avis as we were more comfortable going with a company we use regularly. Upon arrival in Glasgow, my husband and brother-in-law went to the rental car counter while my sister and I gathered our belongings off the luggage carousel. Through the glass partition, I could see something wasn’t quite right so I went over to see how things were going. They both told me that the agent was requiring them to sign a 3 page legal document, declining the extra insurance or we would be required to purchase the 200UK Pound (~$300) supplementary insurance in order to rent the car. We had our Chase Sapphire car insurance coverage policy with us, but he still insisted. None of us are lawyers and we were not comfortable signing this legal document. In all of our other rental car experiences, we sign a paragraph declining the insurance. Not here. Sign the 3 page document or no rental car for you! In short, we did not sign the document, paid the 200 Pounds, and I filed a complaint as soon as we returned. After being bounced around to several departments, the only outcome we got was a $75 Avis certificate and an apology. They also said that they would bring this up with their management. It’s doubtful anything will come of this, but I feel I did what I could to change the policy. And a $75 certificate for spending $300 on unnecessary insurance wasn’t quite the reparations I had hoped for. But, you live, you learn. We’ll certainly do better research on company’s policies in other countries in the future.

Our itinerary is below. We did quite a bit of driving, but we felt like we got to see a good portion of Scotland and really did find it vastly different than Ireland which was unexpected and welcomed (we LOVED Ireland, it was just nice to see a different landscape). And again another trip we wouldn’t have been able to take without the assistance of free airline miles and hotel points!

 

Saturday – Arrived Glasgow, drove to Helensburgh for the night, stayed Knockderry House Hotel ( Awesome, highly recommend)

Sunday – Drove to Stirling to visit the Stirling Castle (loved it and Stirling). Then drove/explored Loch Lomond (Luss was nice, but rainy) and the Trossachs National Park, continued onto Fort William, stayed Nevis Bank Inn (decent accommodations, but staff were less than welcoming)

Monday – Explored Fort William (Aonach Mor gondola/hike/walk on top), drove to Mallaig (1hr.), ferry to armadale (30 minutes), explored Isle of Skye, ended Kyleakin. Went to Plockton for dinner and far preferred Plockton to Kyleakin. Would stay at the Plockton Inn next time. Stayed MacKinnon Country House Hotel (great innkeeper, just had a problem with one of the rooms being inhabitable and solution wasn’t great).

Tuesday –  Drove Kyleakin to Applecross, stopped at Eilean Donan Castle (gorgeous), amazing scenary, driving was hairy at times but exhilarating. Stayed Applecross Inn (fantastic Inn, highly recommend).

Wednesday – Drove to Inverness via coastal route, incredible countryside and landscape, stayed Trafford Bank Guest House (accommodations were nice but innkeeper was not, give it a miss). Drove via detour to Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle.

Thursday – Drove Inverness to St. Andrews, explored Dundee/St. Andrews, stayed Premier Inn Dundee East (great location and accommodation for the price)

Friday – Drove to Edinburgh, explored Edinburgh,  hop on hop off bus, stay Holiday Inn Express – Royal Mile (great location)

Saturday – Departed for London (Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Tower of London), stayed at the Intercontinental Park Lane (awesome, a splurge for us but fantastic location and accommodations)

Sunday – Explored Hyde Park in the morning, flight departed London at 3pm.

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