If visiting a country with a diverse landscape of rolling hills, rugged coastline, mountains, forests, and numerous freshwater lochs (lakes) is your dream, you must plan a trip to Scotland on points and miles. Recently, myself and three of my daughters fulfilled one daughter’s dream of visiting Scotland (Unfortunately, Alex couldn’t leave her busy boys and couldn’t come).
We came away with wonderful memories and a new language (we’ve incorporated the words “wee,” “lassie,” and “auld” into our vocabulary! The Scottish people were completely lovely and kind, and we were there in very “un-Scotland” weather – most of it was sunny, warm, and blue skies which made the beautiful scenery even more gorgeous!
We used American Express Membership Rewards and transferred them to Virgin Atlantic at a time when there was a transfer bonus. This made our business class seats only 58.5K in points from Newark (EWR) to Edinburgh, Scotland. Taking advantage of transfer bonuses can REALLY help your points go further. We took a United positioning flight from Denver to Newark, giving ourselves a 5-hour buffer.
Although our Denver flight had delays, we had time to go to the Virgin Clubhouse at EWR for a quick snack. Sometimes, you might want to do that positioning flight the night before and then stay in an airport hotel on points (of course) if you don’t want to gamble missing that reward flight.
Although we booked through the Virgin Atlantic site, our airline was Air France. I have flown them before, and they have excellent service.
Our connecting flight was in Paris. And we had a 14-hour layover. We got there bright and early at 6:30 am, so we went to the Air France lounge for a few hours of rest and then headed out to see some sites. It wasn’t the most beautiful of Paris days, but we enjoyed seeing the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe and just meandering the city streets.
We arrived late at night at Edinburgh airport and took a taxi to Kimpton Charlotte Square for our one-night stay. I booked two rooms with free night certificates. The points would have been 34K/night, and a free night certificate covers a room up to 40K. The remainder of our stay in Edinburgh was in an Airbnb, and if I could have canceled it, I would have booked the Kimpton Charlotte Square for the whole time. It was just that cute!
Have I told you how much I LOVE Kimpton Hotels? This stay recommitted my desire to stay at more Kimpton hotels – it was just gorgeous, somewhat quirky, and had the best service. We received a delicious buffet breakfast for two people because of my hotel status with IHG. I 100% recommend this hotel to anyone who stays in Edinburgh.
We headed to Inverness on our first day after a quick stop in Pitlochry for lunch at the Old Mill Restaurant. Our plan was to tour Edinburgh when we returned for our flight home. Luckily for us, my daughter Lindsey lives in London and was used to driving on the left side of the road, so she was the driver of our rental car.
Inverness is about 3 hours north of Edinburgh. It is a smaller, cute town, and we stayed at the AC Marriott Inverness for one night. It is the newest and largest hotel in Inverness and is located along the banks of the River Ness.
I missed the charm of the Kimpton, but it has modern, sleek lines and is a nice hotel. I used 42K Marriott points to book the Family Room, which had two rooms, one with a king bed and one with a sofa bed, so that it accommodated the four of us.
This came with a $10 credit for two breakfasts because I have Platinum Elite status. We walked around Inverness and had an underwhelming dinner at Prime Steakhouse. Jess said Mustard Seed was good, and we wished we had picked it instead.
We took a boat trip across Loch Ness and looked for Nessie – it also included time at Urquhart Castle ruins. We then stopped at Eilean Donan Castle as we drove to the Isle of Skye. Both castles were gorgeous, but I wouldn’t pay the additional cost to enter the Eilean Donan Castle. The exterior is gorgeous, and you can take pictures there. However, you aren’t allowed to take interior pictures, and we jokingly decided that is because then people would see how odd the interior is and wouldn’t pay to go in!😜
We stayed at the Cuillin Hills Hotel on the Isle of Skye – breathtaking views! This hotel costs about $280/night for two people. You could book it with a Capital One Venture card and then erase your purchase with a credit. It included a bountiful breakfast, and sitting on the front lawn and looking at the views over Portree Bay was priceless.
We were so sad we could only find a reservation for one night as this hotel and the city of Portree was so quaint. I could have stayed there for days with a good book, enjoying the scenery and the town.
My daughters did an early morning hike to the Old Man of Storr and thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, they reminded me several times of what I missed by sleeping in! 😜 We wandered through Portree when they got back, and, as I said, I could have spent more time in that cute town.
We then did a hike to the Quiraing and saw the Fairy Glen before it was time to take the ferry to head to Fort William. The ferry took about an hour and was a nice rest for our driver!
We knew we couldn’t use points and miles in Fort William, so we decided to go to a luxurious B&B, the Ardruh House. The house itself was magnificent, the atmosphere was calming, and the stay got more and more delightful as we embraced relaxation (including massages). This place was definitely our splurge stay. I love that using points and miles for most of our travel lets me splurge sometimes. Again, I could have used Capital One Venture Miles to reduce my costs here.
We took the Jacobite Steam Train to Mallaig. This is about a 6-hour trip in total, including lunch in Mallaig. As the train goes over the Glenfinnan Aqueduct, you see a ton of people taking pictures of the “Hogwart’s Train” – upgrade to first class if your budget allows for a true Harry Potter experience.
After two nights at Ardruh House, we continued our trip to Scotland on points and miles by driving to Edinburgh, about 3 hours away, with stops for lunch and a couple of castles. Glencoe was a great lunch stop at The Gathering where we all ordered and ate too much.
We stopped at Doune Castle because one of my daughters is a huge Outlander fan, and that castle is used for much of the filming.
We also went to Stirling Castle, but it was closed when we got there. It was magnificent from the outside, and the cemetery was well “to die for.” Seriously, the coolest cemetery ever, and I told my daughters that it would be where I would wish to be buried.
Would you believe that we had gorgeous weather in Scotland? Sunny, blue skies, and temperatures in the 60’s? We did, until our return to Edinburgh, where, for good or bad, we finally experienced the wet, dreary, and cold that can be Scotland.
While here, we wanted to stay in one place together instead of splitting up into hotel rooms, so we rented an Airbnb. I did sneak off to an IHG voco hotel to have a bed all to myself and to do “research” on a new hotel brand. I love that I can use that excuse!😜
On our first day in Edinburgh, we did a free tour of the city by Sandeman’s. The guide, Alisdair, was outstanding in bringing the history of Edinburgh to life. These free tours are always worth the generous tip we give them. We visited outside Edinburgh Castle, Diagon Alley as seen in the Harry Potter movies, the Royal Mile street, and many alleys and hidden pathways.
We then had a proper Sunday roast at the Hawksmoor, finishing it with my favorite, sticky toffee pudding. I tried to eat all the sticky toffee pudding I could find while on this trip!
The next day we did a self-guided Harry Potter tour we found on Trip Advisor. It was only $7.99 and easy to follow, and quite good. It was so good and cheap that I plan to look for more of them in other cities.
We ate lunch at Oink on Diagon Alley, as it is known for its pulled pork sandwiches, and it did not disappoint. Haggis is a Scottish dish made of sheep or calf intestines mixed with oatmeal, seasonings, and suet and boiled in a bag made from the animal – I avoided it like the plague! At Oink, they offered to put it on the sandwiches, so my daughters tried it and had it put on their sandwiches. I stuck with apples on mine but, daringly, took a bite of theirs, and it wasn’t too awful – kind of like a stuffing.
We then wandered around Edinburgh for a while, looking for more treats. We loved the millionaire bars we found, tablets, and all the yummy pastries the cute bakeries had all over Scotland.
Our trip to Scotland on points and miles was a resounding success made better by spectacular weather, tons of laughs, mom/daughter memories, gorgeous scenery, and…being able to save so much money thanks to points on miles!
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