Advice needed for 2nd Scotland trip

Old Jan 27th, 2018, 06:52 AM
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Advice needed for 2nd Scotland trip

Last summer my husband and I visited Scotland for the first time and we've decided we'd like to return to see more this summer.

As of right now, we have tickets booked R/T to London in mid June, arriving on a Monday morning and leaving 13 days later on a Sunday morning. We'll need to be in London the night before our early morning departure. We'll also be visiting my father in law in Winchester south of London for a night or two, either at the beginning or end of the trip.
Given all that, I think we have 10 or 11 nights to dedicate to Scotland.

I received a ton of invaluable advice here (Scotland-Looking for itinerary advice for 9 day trip) and I'm hoping to get some guidance of where to go this time. Last year's trip was Edinburgh-Callander-Glenfinnan-Mull/Fionnphart-Oban-Glasgow.

This year I think we'd like to focus on the East Coast, perhaps the Speyside/whisky trail area, and maybe some of the North Coast. We loved our time on Mull (plus Iona and Staffa) so visiting another island would be nice. We love castles, great food, beautiful scenery and want to do some day hikes on this trip. We're wiling to rent a car and we also love to take the train. We still have our "Two Together" discount rail card valid from last year so using that would be a bonus. We're open to catch a connecting flight on arrival at LHR in order to start the trip up near Inverness, or fly (or train) back to London from there.

So, thoughts on a route?

Thanks in advance for any advice.
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Old Jan 27th, 2018, 09:40 AM
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Just a quick note: Not any islands off the east coast you could stay on (except for Lindesfarne down south) -- but a half day trip out to the Isle of May from Anstruther would be good.

You could fly up to Inverness, or take the sleeper train - and with your two together pass it would be a bargain. You could start w/ your London/Winchester bits, then Inverness area/Speyside, then the Castle trail somewhere along Deeside, then Fife in one of the fishing villages, and fly to LHR from EDI. That would be a wonderful 10 or 11 days.

More later . . .
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Old Jan 27th, 2018, 11:56 AM
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Certainly Deeside and Speyside would cover the castle and whisky elements; if you wanted to include some of the north coast, then I could see a 10-day or so "figure 8" itinerary out of Inverness, something like this: https://goo.gl/maps/hSMCTX4YRC42 (Note the map is just representational, not a detailed itinerary.)

Start with a loop through the Aberdeenshire (and neighboring areas) countryside for castles and whisky, then loop back to Inverness and continue north into Sutherland, up to the north coast near Loch Eriboll and Durness. You'd then head down the west coast to Ullapool and ultimately back to Inverness. If you take the London - Inverness sleeper in one or both directions, you'll save one or two days' drives.

I've included two very evocative places on the northern loop, Croick Church and a prehistoric broch or fort, Dun Dornaigil (or Dun Dornadilla) sitting on the side of one of the loneliest and loveliest roads in the Highlands. Croick Church was the site of one of the most heartbreaking chapters in the Highland Clearances, and the broch tells the story of just how ancient this land is. Then there's Durness with Smoo Cave, and the wild northwest coast, impressively lonely and lovely on its own. The northern part is a superb 3- or 4-day loop, leaving you most of a week for the southern loop.

Croick church windows with scratched messages from dispossessed Highlanders -



Dun Dornaigil

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Old Jan 27th, 2018, 12:53 PM
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I really liked the idea of taking the sleeper train, either TO Inverness or back, until I discovered that after Feb 25th 2018, the Two Together discount only applies to seats on the Caledonian, not the Sleeper cars! It would be about 200 pounds instead of 140. Ugh. Still, might be worth it one way to combine the cost of hotel night and transport.

Janisj and Gardyloo, thank you for the replies, you've both given me a lot to consider, as always. I'm going to check out both suggestions in detail and come back with questions.
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Old Jan 27th, 2018, 02:24 PM
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In 2007 we spent about 10 days traveling around Scotland. Here are the pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca...437796997/show that start from Glasgow (but excluding that city) and finish in Edinburgh. I also wrote a trip report; click on my name to find it.
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Old Jan 28th, 2018, 04:09 PM
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As of right now, we are looking at doing the Winchester part of the trip at the end, right before going home.
To complicate things further, there are no nonstop flights from Heathrow to Inverness that work for our arrival time into LHR (10:10 am on a Monday). I'd rather not take the train because then we'd have to wait in London for the evening train departure.
So, we can catch an 11:50 am flight on BA to Aberdeen that gets us there at 1:30 PM. Is that a reasonable starting point?

It looks like we can pick up a rental car in Aberdeen and drop it in Inverness so that shouldn't be a problem if we want to design the itinerary that way.

Flying back to London from Inverness doesn't look great either in terms of an early Friday morning departure, so we could still take the sleeper train (even without the discount, see my comment above) which would get us into London early Friday morning. We could then go to Winchester and be there before Lunch. If we take the train back from EDI, that will likely get us into Winchester later than we'd prefer.
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Old Jan 28th, 2018, 04:24 PM
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That would work - Winchester trains leave from Waterloo so you'd have to get from Euston to Waterloo which will be a slog on a Friday morning. Either a VERY crowded tube or a slow cab ride.

But where are you now considering visiting in Scotland? Doing Gardyloo's sort of figure 8 to the north -- or Speyside/Castle Trail/Fife? If the second you could easily fly from EDI to LHR or LGW.
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Old Jan 28th, 2018, 08:55 PM
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Still unsure of the route and considering all options.

If we fly back from EDI, we'll have to go back there (which we weren't planning to do this trip), then we'll have to get from LHR or LGW to Waterloo station and then to Winchester so I think an early train arrival is a good option for us, even with rush hour congestion.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but I'd like to not move hotels every day on this trip so as much as I'd like to do the figure 8 route, I'm not sure that path is conducive to allowing us a slower pace. Gardyloo, what do you think? The other issue with that route is that the northern loop part has a lack of accommodation and much of what I've already looked at has been booked.
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Old Jan 28th, 2018, 10:16 PM
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>>If we fly back from EDI, we'll have to go back there<<

I only suggested EDI IF you are going to the east coast/Fife. It is an easy drive from the East Neuk to EDI. If you are sticking to the far north then EDI wouldn't fit.

>>then we'll have to get from LHR or LGW to Waterloo station and then to Winchester<<

No need to go in to London -- there is a National Express coach from LHR to Winchester that takes 1hr 35min. Much easier that schlepping across London.

While Gardyloo's 'figure 8' is terrific - I love that part of the country - a lot of it is very remote. Culloden, Speyside, Deeside, Angus, Fife and dropping the car at EDI would give you great scenery, wonderful castles, fishing villages, and be easier logistically. \
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Old Jan 29th, 2018, 02:24 AM
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We did a lovely trip to Scotland in 2009 which included lots of whiskey and visits to Mull and Skye.
Here is the URL:

A 2 week trip to Scotland

Maybe it can help you in your planning...
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Old Jan 29th, 2018, 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Kristina View Post
Still unsure of the route and considering all options.

If we fly back from EDI, we'll have to go back there (which we weren't planning to do this trip), then we'll have to get from LHR or LGW to Waterloo station and then to Winchester so I think an early train arrival is a good option for us, even with rush hour congestion.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but I'd like to not move hotels every day on this trip so as much as I'd like to do the figure 8 route, I'm not sure that path is conducive to allowing us a slower pace. Gardyloo, what do you think? The other issue with that route is that the northern loop part has a lack of accommodation and much of what I've already looked at has been booked.
If accommodation is tight and if you don't want to break camp every day, then the northern loop I suggested might not be the best for you. My own (probably unusual) disposition is that I tend to apply American standards of what constitutes "too long" a day and have been known to take "day trips" that most people would regard as insanely fast-paced, so bear that in mind.

Here's a day trip covering the two sites I pictured above that I did in mid-June a couple of years ago - https://goo.gl/maps/ULkp8NJv9zR2 . While usually Google maps is a little to very optimistic on drive times, in this case it was pretty accurate in "wheels-turning" time; actually I would have done the loop a bit quicker except that there was terrible traffic due to roadworks on the Kessock Bridge approaches north of Inverness. But once I turned off onto the Struie Hill Road (B9176) it was clear sailing the whole way - nary another car in Strathcarron up to Croick, nor on the road from Altnaharra all the way past the broch to the north coast.

Instead of turning west toward Durness when I got to the A838 on the north coast, I went east to Tongue and then south from there. Here's the view leaving Tongue -



So I took the whole day to do that drive, but it was far from grueling, and I had plenty of time to walk around the churchyard, walk around the broch, have a couple of meals (Lairg, Tongue) and was still back in the rather sterile (but frankly, very comfortable) embrace of the Holiday Inn in Inverness in plenty of time for a pint, a nosh, and a relaxing evening fiddling with my photos. Remember that mid-June (when you're going if memory serves) it doesn't get dark until very late at night - Inverness is the same latitude as much of southeast Alaska, so daylight is a non-issue.

So maybe a focus on the northeast of the country - Speyside, Deeside, Angus, Fife... is the way to go for you, but you could also do a night (or a couple) based in Inverness and do a couple of day trips - maybe one to the north coast like I did, or even out to Wester Ross - Torridon and Plockton for example - https://goo.gl/maps/vVRAQ5KbDpr . (THAT one would give you some of the most impressive Highland scenery going, including Eilean Donan castle and cliche-gorgeous Plockton, home of Hamish Macbeth, the TV cop.) Now I'm not saying that this is a preferred method of seeing these parts of Scotland - it's the antithesis of "slow travel," but those would be tremendously rewarding days, then you could take it easy sampling castles and drams the rest of the trip.

Forgive me if this reveals my lack of understanding, but if you need to get to Winchester after Scotland, couldn't you fly to Heathrow from, say, Aberdeen, and drive in an hour or 90 minutes to Winchester, avoiding London train stations and traffic?
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Old Jan 29th, 2018, 07:24 AM
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>>couldn't you fly to Heathrow from, say, Aberdeen, and drive in an hour or 90 minutes to Winchester, avoiding London train stations and traffic?<<

. . . or if you don't want/need a car when visiting your F-i-L, the National Express coach.
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Old Jan 29th, 2018, 09:12 AM
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First, thanks Steve and Michael for the links to your trips.

janis, I didn't know about the National Express coaches (my FIL did not mention this as an option). Doing that from LHR is about 2 hours. From Gatwick it's almost 4 hours because you have to go to LHR first. But the real issue is that the flight options are poor (too late in the day for us) from INV and not much better from Aberdeen (not a cost savings or even much of a time savings). I really don't want to go back to EDI. But thank you for the suggestion. It's nice to have the option and might work for our trip back to the airport if my FIL can't take us.

Gardyloo, thanks for suggestions and oddly enough, I was just looking at hotels in Tongue this morning! I was playing around with Google maps and came up with this route: https://goo.gl/maps/rwWvasJLEWw
I am thinking something like this:
3 nights Aberdeen and surrounding area, maybe the first night in Aberdeen and the next two elsewhere
2 nights in the Speyside area (or 3 if we only do 2 in Aberdeen?)
2 nights in Ullapool
2 nights in Tongue or somewhere around there
1 night around Dornoch
Day in Inverness area before dropping can and taking overnight train from Inverness to London

Thoughts on this itinerary? Any suggestions or tweaks? Are the 2 nights each in Ullapool and Tongue too much?
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Old Jan 29th, 2018, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Kristina View Post
First, thanks Steve and Michael for the links to your trips.

janis, I didn't know about the National Express coaches (my FIL did not mention this as an option). Doing that from LHR is about 2 hours. From Gatwick it's almost 4 hours because you have to go to LHR first. But the real issue is that the flight options are poor (too late in the day for us) from INV and not much better from Aberdeen (not a cost savings or even much of a time savings). I really don't want to go back to EDI. But thank you for the suggestion. It's nice to have the option and might work for our trip back to the airport if my FIL can't take us.

Gardyloo, thanks for suggestions and oddly enough, I was just looking at hotels in Tongue this morning! I was playing around with Google maps and came up with this route: https://goo.gl/maps/rwWvasJLEWw
I am thinking something like this:
3 nights Aberdeen and surrounding area, maybe the first night in Aberdeen and the next two elsewhere
2 nights in the Speyside area (or 3 if we only do 2 in Aberdeen?)
2 nights in Ullapool
2 nights in Tongue or somewhere around there
1 night around Dornoch
Day in Inverness area before dropping can and taking overnight train from Inverness to London

Thoughts on this itinerary? Any suggestions or tweaks? Are the 2 nights each in Ullapool and Tongue too much?
Certainly sounds okay to me. I had to chuckle at "two nights in Tongue or somewhere around there" - there ain't much.

Dornoch is under the radar for many visitors except those golfing (damn near as old as St. Andrews) or staying at Skibo Castle (Andrew Carneige's place, now an uber-exclusive private club.) It's a very historic place, and has the distinct advantage of being 15 minutes from the Glenmorangie distillery outside Tain. Holy ground, that.
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Old Jan 29th, 2018, 01:25 PM
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Good to know about Dornoch, my husband will be interested in the golf connection. And the Glenmorangie distillery is quite a draw too.
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Old Jan 29th, 2018, 01:33 PM
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Of every golfer I've taken to Scotland - those who played Royal Dornoch (which is probably 9 or 10 out of maybe 16 total) without exception it was their favorite course - over the Old Course, Carnoustie, Troon, Prestwick, whichever. Generally they've loved St Andrews for the 'experience' and Dornoch for the golf.
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Old Jan 29th, 2018, 03:07 PM
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Notwithstanding Outlander, Dornoch is also the site of the last recorded case of an accused witch being burned alive as punishment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Horne
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Old Jan 29th, 2018, 03:52 PM
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Gardyloo, you beat me to the witch story. There is also the Dornoch Castle Hotel which is a nice place to stay.
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Old Jan 29th, 2018, 05:07 PM
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The Cathedral is lovely. I've stayed at the Dornoch Castle hotel a couple of times -- at least a few years ago there was a big difference between the castle rooms and the garden rooms.
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Old Jan 29th, 2018, 05:15 PM
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I've been looking at Dornoch Castle hotel and I'm very tempted by the castle rooms. I've also been looking at Kincraig castle hotel, not that far from there.

janisj- when your friends played golf there, do you know if they played the Championship Course or the Struie Course? There's a BIG difference in cost.

Cool story about the witch!
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