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4 days in the Highlands without a car!

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Hi all,

I know--I should either rent a car or spend more time, but here I am. We finish work in Aberdeen on Sunday night (June 18) and we'll take the Caledonia sleeper to London on Thursday night. We've been to Edinburgh and will return for Glasgow and Skye on another trip, so we've decided to try to get to the Orkney Islands this time. We usually like to stay somewhere for 4-7 days, but sometimes life gets in the way. We like history museums, beautiful natural landscapes, long train rides, moderate hiking . . . Here is the plan:

Monday: train from Aberdeen to Thurso (changing in Inverness), arriving in Thurso at 17:46 (hoping to see lots of gorgeous scenery--a sense of the highlands from the train). The ferry from Scrabness to Stromness leaves at 19:00. Do I need to factor in for the possibility that the train is late? Can I get from Thurso to Scrabness in just over an hour? Are there busses for that trip or do I have to take a cab?

Stay Monday night in Stromness.

Tuesday and Wednesday spend on the Islands, seeing the Scapa Flow visitor center and as much of the countryside as we can with public transportation (maybe check into a tour for the Skara Brae site). We'll leave on the night ferry to Aberdeen from Kirkwall late Wednesday night, so maybe stay Tuesday night somewhere in or near Kirkwall instead of staying both nights in Stromness. Any thoughts about that choice?

We'll get back to Aberdeen Thursday morning at 7am, so we have all day on Thursday to wander through a Scottish town. I'm currently thinking Perth. We like history and beautiful scenery. If I can find a tour of distilleries starting in Aberdeen and ending in Perth, I would jump on it, but haven't found one yet. Inverness sounds interesting, but I don't want to take the very same train ride we took on Monday. The train from Aberdeen to Perth will be through different country.

What do you think? And thanks in advance for any advice!

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