Looking for reccs on traveling to Ireland and Scotland

After taking a DNA test and finding out I’m mostly Scottish and Irish, I decided to take my daughter with me on a trip to see our ‘homeland’ - she’ll be finishing her Junior year at college, and I plan to take her immediately after school ends, typically mid May, unless that’s not a good time to go, then perhaps consider her Spring Break, though that seems to be too limiting in terms of duration.

I’m here asking several questions, so any insight you can provide would be appreciated, as I’m planning a year in advance.

  1. Airlines: I save up a ton of miles (buying inventory on cards) so I will most definitely be flying business class. I will do the pro move of transferring from my card points into a program to use, as I did with our flights to Maldives via Emirates. What airlines should I be looking for in terms of great business class experiences/seats? Virgin Atlantic? One of the big domestic airlines? Most of the best airlines are not centered around Europe, of course, though I know Emirates, Qatar, etc do fly to London. Is it best to fly biz class to London, round trip (nonstop), then do other smaller/regional airlines for the rest? (flight would be out of LAX)

  2. Connections: what is the best way to see both countries, and which country should I aim for as a connection? I guess that depends on what airline I end up with, on where their ‘base’ is, but it seems London is probably the easiest for most of the quality airlines. Should I hit Ireland or Scotland first and why?

  3. Rental car or tours: surprisingly to me, my daughter seems to favor less planning, more spontaneous exploration, but I feel like there is so much to see in a trip like this I wouldn’t want to waste time driving around, rather to book some tours. Neither is a terribly large country, so driving might be good in terms of freedom, but a pain in the ass in terms of parking…

That’s it for now, plan to make this an ongoing discussion if anyone has insight for me. I tried to find info on FlyerTalk but came up short of anything recent.

EDIT - FINAL INTINERARY: (as of 5/9/24

  1. (June 4) Dublin (arrive 4pm or so local time), Dinner at local pub with music
  2. (June 5) Dublin - day trip to Wicklow Mountain area (booked Railtours Ireland), Dinner at Forbes Street (at Anantara)
  3. (June 6) Dublin (pick up car at Hertz) > Doolin (3-3.5hr) - dinner @ Russells
  4. (June 7) Doolin: Cliffs of Moher walking trail in morning then drive up The Burren along the coast & back (Dinner at Anthony’s)
  5. (June 8) Doolin > Adare (3 hr) - check into Dunraven, high tea @ Adare Manor 3pm, dinner at Dunraven
  6. (June 9) Dunraven > 2.5hr to Dublin > Flight to Glasgow on Aer Lingus (pick up car at Arnold Clark) > 2hr to drive to Glencoe (dinner at Loch Leven)
  7. (June 10) Glencoe hiking in the AM (or see note below) - Leave later in the day for Skye, (dinner at The Stein Inn,)
  8. (June 11) You’re already in Skye. Have a chill light-driving day exploring the West coast spots like Dunvegan Castle near your hotel and the Neist Point lighthouse. Dinner @Dulse and Brose
  9. (June 12) Skye East coast hiking day (Fairy Glen > Quiraing > Brothers Point, Kilt Rock/Melt Falls > Old Man of Storr) - dinner at Scorrybreac
  10. (June 13) Skye to Edinburgh. Direct (5 ½ hours). (dinner at local pub)
  11. (June 14) Edinburgh (dinner at Timberyard)
  12. (June 15) Edinburgh breakfast, leave

I have not been to Ireland, but did a fairly extensive driving tour of Scotland in 2001 with my wife. It’s beautiful scenery, castles are pretty amazing, had some good food. It really depends on what you’re after? History? Culture? Scenery? How much do you want to be out in the country, vs in the city? You want do hike? Or drink whisky?

A little planning, and a little free flowing last minute isn’t a bad thing. You can pick up new stuff to do while there almost better than planning ahead from here.

May is a good time, that’s when we were there. You’ll get the complete range of weather, but that’s true up there almost year round.

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Definitely scenery, culture, and both city and country. Obviously in Scotland Edinburgh is amazing, but so it the countryside - we want to ‘see’/experience both countries, if possible - as much of the unique landscapes as we can but also the bustling cities here and there as well.

I’ve never done an organized tour, anywhere. I always plan and drive myself. Prefer the flexibility of being able to stay longer, shorter, skip something, or follow some new path I just learned about from a local. You do need to be comfortable driving on the left, but that’s a lot easier in the countryside. And there are a lot of single track roads anyway. Just make sure to pull to the left to let someone get by, or be prepared for dirty looks lol.


Being found to be mostly human must have been a relief :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

For transport, it very much depends on where you want to go. If majoring on Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow and Edinburgh, then a car might be a hindrance as much as it is useful. Head out into the ‘what-whats’ though and a car will be essential and open up so much more.

Tours invariably are someone else’s agenda / timings / interests. Good if you’re a bit lazy, not especially interested, but pre-trip prep can be a joy in itself, finding stuff that you want/would like/wouldn’t mind doing. Such prep can make make spontaneous exploration work brilliantly, as it’s not merely a jump into the dark, but rather deciding between options for that leg/day where you’re a little better informed about what may appeal for each option. Even more rewarding will be researching those family roots, perhaps finding a village where there may be distant relatives. It’s a great way to make conversation and that can occasionally end up with connections being made.

There’s always the option to mix it up, e.g. a firm booking for a few days in Dublin on arrival, to shake off jetlag, get used to the timezone, road signs, etc. but then when you leave, it’s with a hire car, a map and 2-3 options as your 1st stop, staying there overnight if you like the look of it, or moving on.

p.s. when in Edinburgh, go to Raeburn wine merchants. They’re not central (21/23 Comely Bank Road, Edinburgh, EH4 1DS), but they have a remarkable eye for really good under the radar wines, that often later become sought after (and that’s almost certain to still be true if Zubhair is still involved). Treat the website listing as ‘indicative’, as it’s generally been out of date. Instead give yourself a good amount of time in the shop. Indeed, checking the website, I think they’ve given up on listing stock online. EDIT: No prices, but this appear to be a moderately recent version of their wines https://www.raeburnfinewines.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Raeburn-Wines-Web-Tariff-Nov-2022-screen-version.pdf.

I lived in Newcastle for a bit and have traveled pretty extensively in Scotland. Edinburgh Fringe Festival is in August and is something to see. Also the Royal Botanical Gardens knocked my socks off. My other favorite place was the Isle of Skye–and especially Old Man of Storr. I liked Cairngorms National Park more then Ben Nevis and Fort William. I didn’t love Inverness. If I would go again I’d try to stay mostly in the isles and mountains and less seeing the cities.

Sometime soon I’m going to go to Cork and lay down in Turrell’s Liss Ard Sky Garden.


the ‘shake the jetlag off’ is something worth considering, and likely best in one of the big cities - does anyone have a suggestion for starting off in Dublin or Edinburgh?

I would fly BA first from lax to London if you have evough pts; it’s a 777 so very nice first class product.

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I’m probably an outlier, but I have not been all that impressed by Edinburgh. Personally I would not plan to be there for more than a couple days. Have not been to Dublin, but from everything I’ve seen, I think I would enjoy spending more time there. But what’s really unique about these two countries, imo, is the countryside, mountains, sea, pubs, etc. that’s where I would spend more time. I’m the same about England. I’d much rather be driving around the Cotswolds, or spending time in Oxford, than London. Depends on what you enjoy.

I’ll have to look to see how many points BA requires for that flight - business class has been great if the airline has a good business class program

Edit, seems like 170k-200k per flight/person - that would be around 800k points, which I should have, just not sure I want to use all that. Business class (on BA) isn’t much less, however


I don’t plan to be in either of the big cities for long - but I do want to see them


Often I’d make that decision based on how the flight options pan out - often that can make the decision for you e.g. one that avoids a stupid o’clock start or an inconvenient arrival time.

I’d say there’s not much between them in terms of busy-ness. Both are proper cities with the people, but also the attractions. I know Dublin better from commuting there weekly for a good few months, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Edinburgh.

Are Lingus has a non-stop to Dublin. That only helps so much since you’ll probably want to return from Scotland. I think Aer Lingus is a United codeshare and has non stop flights to the US from Edinburgh (NY, Chicago, no LA).

Yeah, Aer Lingus business class (and they have no first class) is known to be one of few worse than our domestic airlines, lol - looks like many other airlines’ coach!

I don’t have to fly direct to Ireland, or Scotland, if the flight experience (very important on long flights) is better to hit up a major city like London

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We had business class in 2018, not as good as BA, but not as bad as most domestic business class. That may not be typical of Aer Lingus international flights.

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It’s up to you but that’s a very nice first class product.

Seems like Aer Lingus the easiest in terms of it being direct to Dublin, if that is my ideal initial destination. No nonstop flights LAX to Edinburgh (I mistakenly thought ‘direct’ meant ‘nonstop’ in my search)

So unless I fly direct to Dublin I will need a bigger airline, land in their hub (London, Paris, etc)

Direct meaning non-stop?

Direct means no change of planes, but not necessarily non-stop.

correct - amended my post above - only one nonstop flight to either country - Aer Lingus