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Trip Report Scotland: Trossachs, Skye and Loch Ness -- an indy_dad trip report

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I had really high expectations for our Scotland road trip and it actually lived up to them (the fantastic weather didn’t hurt). Thanks to Scotland regulars janisj, sheila and others for helping me pull it together. I ended up utilizing quite a few resources to shape this trip into what I wanted.

As usual, I’ve posted photos and commentary on my blog:
http://ukfrey.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/scotland-highlands.html

I’ve pared my 500+ photos down to “only” 200 or so (and my kids are in half of them) – it’s still quite a long entry. You can just flick through the pictures if all my explanations bore you. :)

For the trip report type info, see below.

Timing: 9 days / 8 nights during the first of June coinciding with the English half term school break and the long Queen’s Jubilee bank holiday weekend.

Itinerary
Day 1: Drive from Derby to Callander with stops at Falkirk Wheel, Doune Castle
Day 2: Stirling Castle, National Wallace Monument, Bannockburn Battlefield and Visitor’s Centre
Day 3: Trossachs (Ben A’An walk, Inchmahome Priory, Bracklinn Falls (Callander) walk)
Day 4: Drive from Callander to Portree via Killin (Dochart Falls), Glencoe, Glenfinnan & Mallaig/Armadale ferry
Day 5: Trotternish Peninsula, Skye (multiple walks and sights)
Day 6: Skye (Talisker, Dunvegan Castle, Neist Point)
Day 7: Portree to Loch Ness. Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness Exhibition, Glen Affric.
Day 8: Culloden Battlefield, Fort George, Clava Cairns.
Day 9: long drive from Drumnadrochit to Derby via Perth

Lodging
3 nights at Annfield Guesthouse in Callander. Wonderful. Great hosts. Great food. Nice house and our preferred size (7 rooms). We liked having multiple dinner options within walking distance. £68prpn (required 2 rooms). Made us a pack lunch on 2 days and surely didn’t make any money on it (£5 pp).

3 nights at the Skye Holiday Apartments (self-catering), Portree. Just off the main drag. Walking distance to grocery and restaurants. Very basic and functional; nothing fancy. 2BR/1BA with lounge and kitchen. Washer/dryer (handy for middle of trip). £105/nt. Portree was a good location for what we were trying to see. I also prefer being in town for multiple restaurant options within staggering distance.

2 nights at the Glen Rowan, Drumnadrochit. Highly rated. Felt more like staying in their home (with associated rules) so a little cozy for our preference. Friendly enough. Decent but not as good as the Annfield. Similar price of £70prpn (also required 2 rooms).

Restaurants -- see blog. I’d go back to all except for Lade Inn and possibly Loch Ness Inn. My favorites were Cobbs on Loch Ness and Sea Breezes in Portree. Did not try Three Chimneys.

Walks
Excellent site in general: http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/

We did:
Ben A’An near Loch Katrine
Old Man of Storr (Skye)
Quiraing (Skye)
Glen Affric (20-30 minutes from Drumnadrochit)
Plus some shorter ones in Glencoe and Callander

All were reasonably well marked and did not require maps, compass, etc. Glad we had proper hiking shoes/boots.

Driving
I’m used to the left so that’s not an issue. I also had my own car and GPS/sat nav. It’s best if you aren’t in a hurry but it really wasn’t that bad. It was motorways up to Glasgow/Stirling and 2 lanes most everywhere except on Skye. The main haul from Armadale to Portree was 2 lane and most of the peninsula loops were single track. That said, even the “main” single track roads were easy enough with frequent and easy to see passing places. The only real tedious parts were on the spurs (to Quiraing) and outer parts (to Neist Point). Overall, I found it easier than say Ireland, North Wales and England for that matter.

We logged 1400 miles over the 9 days with the bulk of it coming over the 3 main travel days.

Planning tips
I was struggling until I purchased a large paper map (Ordinance Survey Tour map in my case) and started pinning/writing where things actually where. That helped with the grouping and later prioritization. I was focused on scenery and history with decent food options. This was a non-city trip this time.

I purchased the Michelin Green Guide but that style doesn’t suit me. I backed up to an Eyewitness Travel top 10 to get some ideas and then bounced them off the forum here. I also used my already purchased Rick Steves GB and newly purchased Scotland the Best to fine tune.

We love Scotland and were glad we finally got to see some of the scenic bits. I’ll start thinking of where in Scotland we should visit next. There’s a good chance that it will overtake some of the more exotic continental options that I’d been planning for next year.

Hope that helps others with their plans.

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