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Base in highlands Scotland?

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Oct 30th, 2013, 03:39 AM
  #1
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Base in highlands Scotland?

We are driving from Windermere to Scotland and looking for a central base to tour around the Fort William and Inverness area. I have found accommodation just south of fort Augustus or an option just below Inverness. We want to do the train trip from Fort William to malliag one day? Would it be too far to trip around he Fort William area from Inverness? Or should we stay in two places so as to see more south of Lochness and more around Inverness. We don't know the travelling conditions and would only want to drive around an hour and a half in any direction from our base . Any advice?
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Oct 30th, 2013, 07:56 AM
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Or should we stay in two places so as to see more south of Lochness and more around Inverness.

Without any details as to what you want to see, I'd take the two-temporary-abode option. There's enough north (Dubrobin Castle, Glenmorangie Distillery) and east (Clava Cairns, Culloden, Cawdor Castle) of Inverness that staying "between" Ft William and Inverness would be inconvenient.
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Oct 30th, 2013, 09:02 AM
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Sort of hard to give you advice since we don't know how many days you plan for the area. . . . Two nights, 4 nights, a week, 10 days, ???

But in general, one well located base is better IMO than packing and moving unneccessarily
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Oct 30th, 2013, 02:00 PM
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Sorry for the lack of detail! We have 12 days in Scotland but were planning on dropping the car in Edinburgh after 8 days in the countryside and spending 4 nights in Edinburgh before we fly to Ireland.We are are 4 friends from Australia on a 10 week holiday from Morocco to Spain, Cornwall, Lake District, Scotland and Ireland. My preference is to not move around too much but as this is our first time in scotland and our travelling companions like road trips and seeing the sights and are not into hiking I am trying to get an itinerary to suit all of us. Last year my husband and I had 12week in Europe and just spent it in Italy and France and stayed a week in each spot and did day trips. This time, with our friends things look a bit different but we have to compromise!

So, a suggestions for 8 nights in the countryside, coming from Windemere and ending in Edinburgh? Scenery, castles, light hiking, day trip on the train from Fort a William is on our friends wish list, and as I am just starting to read about scotland I don't know exactly what we want to see. Of course I have heard about
Lochness, the glens, the dramatic scenery, the narrow deserted roads but really, I don't know what to expect. we don't have a lot of time, and my husband and I will be back so a bit of a taster will help us plan the next trip.
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Oct 30th, 2013, 02:39 PM
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OK - with 8 days, something like this would work.

2 nights in the dumfries/Ayrshire area, 4 nights in/near Ft Augustus ( a base for the Jacobite train, glencoe, a day trip to Skye, and around Inverness), and two nights in/ near Callander (base for Stirling, doune, Inchmahome and Loch Lomond), return car at EDI and take a taxi into Edinburgh.

This is only one option but gets you a LOT of territory without anyone as dive day drives.
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Oct 30th, 2013, 03:36 PM
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Forgot to say that we will be there in mid June. Friends who have been to Scotland recommended staying in Pitlochry on the way from Inverness to Edinburgh. They thought that the area around there was beautiful. What about 2 nights just north of Glasgow, the 3 nights and 3 nights, somewhere on a route to Edinburghi via the highlands? I really have no idea where to start. Looking at the guide books is just confusing me more as everywhere is somewhere you need to go according to them!
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Oct 30th, 2013, 03:42 PM
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Sorry, missed your reply before I wrote the above. I will get the book out and look at all your suggestions. Would you suggest the day trip to Skye via the bridge or the ferry? If we didn't do the train to Malliag and took the car we could go onto Skye that way? Have read that Fort william is not the place to stay? The cottage I looked at near Fort Augustus was on a canal. Thanks again for the itinerary. It is a place to start.
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Oct 31st, 2013, 04:53 AM
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A day trip to Skye is best via the bridge one way and the ferry the other- to get a look at everything.

I personally would not stay in pitlochry .... Nothing wrong with it but I think you'll find more of interest centered around Stirling and Callander.

One thi g about getting advice from folks who have only been once or twice . . . They know what they really liked but may not know what they missed. They can give good suggestions, but maybe won't know other options.
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Oct 31st, 2013, 06:25 AM
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Thanks for replying again. I have looked at the area around Stirling and it looks like a good place to spend a few days. With regard to your suggestions of Dumfries, as we are coming from the Lake District would the area be similar? it isn't very far from Windemere and we thought we would like to get a bit further into Scotland on our first day after leaving Windemere. I much prefer basing in one place for at least 3 days whereas my friends seem to want to drive a few hours, stopping and looking around and then staying somewhere for 2 nights then ever onward. I don't mind backtracking and to and from a central location. Is this doable inthe highlands or would the driving conditions make this not enjoyable? Looking at Fort Augustus it looks like there would be good day trips right around and Inverness not too far to go up and back.

Would it work to go to Callandar first from the Lake District and spend 4 days there and then four days near Fort Augustus and the drive to Edinburgh? Would it be doable to drive straight to Fort Augustus from Windemere? Or perhaps just one night somewhere on the way to Fort Augustus and then Callander for 3 nights before Edinburgh?

I agree with you that advice from someone who has seen more of a country over time is more balanced. I could certainly give good advice about Victoria in Australia, and even some of QLD and WA. But the conditions for driving in Australia are quite different to Scotland I am sure! We did a road trip from Perth to Exmouth in a full day and one stop over then a half day - over 1000km, but not much to see along the way in terms of different scenery and it was the end destination that was the focus, from which we did.a week of day trips, some back to spots we loved. So, I have settled on the Fort Augustus area and Callandar and would like some advice on what direction to do the travel. May still consider Dumfries and will put this on the table for the others to give an opinion on but I suspect they will want to get further on. What can you tell me about Dumfries? I think that my mother's heritage is around that SW area- the Frasers. Anyway, thanks again for your help. I will keep working on the accommodation and checking my itinerary out with the friends. I think one of them mentioned the whisky trail but it's not on my wish list.
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Oct 31st, 2013, 10:55 AM
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Sounds like two very different travelling styles which will be near impossible to reconcile. Makes me wonder if travelling together is a good idea at all.

I'd skip Dumfries, not because there aren't things of interest in the area but because it is not in most people's top ten of places of interest in Scotland for their first visit.

Re, knowing more about a country, what I find is that the more you know the more difficult it is to think like a first timer and what they would see as top destinations.

You can't see Scotland in a few days and there is no 'best'. It is about your expectations and interests. In this case it is further complicated by the expectations and interests of another couple.

I'd suggest this. Pick a base as you say you would like to do and then let your friends decide on day trips. YOU don't have to do all the planning, let them do their own planning. On some days trips you may join them if they are of interest to you and on other days you may not. Some separate time is a good thing anyway.

To do that a central (to the Highlands) location like Ft. Augustus might be fine and you can get there from Windermere in a day.

But I'd also want a location that is on the rail lines and/or bus route as that will allow either couple to choose to do something different if they wish. One couple using the car and the other the train/bus. Ft. Augustus isn't on the rail line unfortunately. BUT it's 50 minutes to Ft. William by bus and an hour to Inverness by bus. So that could work.

Some day trips (Skye) together and some separately by bus.
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Oct 31st, 2013, 11:11 AM
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One other thing. Don't try to 'plan' a day by day itinerary ahead of time. This is Scotland we are talking about and that means rain. So you need to remain flexible and willing to change your plan for the day.

Or, buy a cheap umbrella (golf size) on arrival, they're sold in just about every tourist shop. Who knows, maybe just the sheer fact you bought one will keep the rain away for a week.

Go to Ft. William on a rainy day and try their 'world famous' deep fried Mars bars. I kid you not.
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Oct 31st, 2013, 01:33 PM
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Many thanks for this input. Yes, it is a challenge but so far we have compromised okay and I have some times of being in one spot for four days to a week. The trip was their idea and we sort of invited ourselves and then I was given the planning because I did a 12 week trip for my husband and I last year. We are not planning a day by day itinerary in advance and our friends will do a lot of that once we have the home base. I have read on an old thread that many recommend staying in glencoe. What is the appeal of this area? If we are going to so the Jacobite steam train one day and then take the bridge to skye and ferry back another then we would be driving back along the same route we took on the train. Not that this would be an issue because we could stop at places we couldn't on the train but with limited time and wanting to see some different places this might not be best use of time? It is the scenery, history, small villages, Scottish pubs, castles etc I want to focus on, and just being in a place. Does that make sense?

The place I am thinking as a base is actually a little out of Fort Augustus, on the canal. If you can suggest another location good for a base in the general area let me know. Is this general area a good location for first visit?
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Oct 31st, 2013, 01:59 PM
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Can't help with the specifics, but see if our trip report if of use. We opted for 3 nights in Callander, 3 in Skye and 2 around Loch Ness:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...rip-report.cfm

We had visited Edinburgh previously so it wasn't a part of this trip.
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Oct 31st, 2013, 03:34 PM
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Thanks Indy-dad, it is helpful and the photos are fantastic. We are still really just planning and as soon as I think locations to stop are settled I change my mind! Our travelling companions are not much for walking, but we love a good hike. this might be the times we split up and they drop us for a hike and go off driving. Despite the challenges of working out an itinerary with two different preferences for approach the benefits of sharing car costs and self catering along the way is a good thing on a long trip. it's also good to have other company for dinner, a game of cards in the evening etc. Our friends would relish your trip with all the stop offs and the range of things you did. I have bookmarked your blog for future reference. I did a blog for our Italy and France trip - Michelle and Ron's travel journal. Great way to document a trip. Would you Skye is worth the drive and staying over when we only have 8 nights? I had not thought of going to Skye initially but it looks fabulous. I will hit the travel guides now and come back here with more questions.
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Nov 1st, 2013, 08:34 AM
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Just like visiting any country micron, you can't see everything in 8 days. Scotland may be small but there is a lot packed in to that small package.

So you only have enough time to see a small part of it and which part is a decision only you can make.

As I wrote, the more you know about a place the more difficult it is to pick out specific parts or leave out specific parts as suggestions.

Unlike janisj, I like Pitlochry for example as there is a lot of great hiking you can do in tha area. You could do a day hike up Glen Tilt for example while your friends could visit Blair Castle and the House of Bruar. One couple or both could take in a first class play at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre. Fern Cottage Restaurant in Pitlochry is a great little place for a meal.

My point is, there are things to see and do everywhere but you have to make some decisions as to which areas appeal to you most, no one can decide that for you.

If someone asked you and your friends to list the first 5 things that come to your mind when thinking of Scotland, what would they be? Take that list and then look to fulfill it.

If it were:
Edinburgh
Highlands and heather
Hairy cows
Loch Ness and the Loch Ness Monster
Brigadoon

That might get you certain suggestions.

If it included:
Walking over hills of heather
Loch Lomond
Harry Potter train
Bagpipes

That might get you different suggestions.

There is no 'central' point from which you can expect to reach everywhere. You could spend 8 days north of Inverness or 8 days north of Perth or 8 days in the East Neuk fishing villages, or...........
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Nov 1st, 2013, 08:38 AM
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One thing you might want to consider wherever you go is taking in a Highland Games. There are plenty and you should be able to find one nearby, wherever you decide to stay.

http://www.shga.co.uk/events.php
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Nov 1st, 2013, 09:06 AM
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I am told the technically correct term is 'hairy coo'.
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Nov 1st, 2013, 03:43 PM
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>>I like Pitlochry for example as there is a lot of great hiking you can do in tha area.<< . . . Which can be said about almost every part of Scotland. I would not personally choose Pitlochry simply because there are some nice hikes. There are (literally) hundreds of other places w/ decent walks/hikes. Pitlochry is absolutely fine - especially if one is attending the theatre. It is a touristy little town. But there are better, nicer, prettier and more interesting options.

I only suggested the SW and Ayrshire because it is on your route. Culzean Castle, Robert Burns connections, Threave Castle etc are all fantastic. And you could stop and explore a bit of Hadrian's Wall enroute.

But you could also just as easily work your way farther north and stay maybe along Loch Lomond, or around Inveraray instead.
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Nov 2nd, 2013, 12:25 AM
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micron -- you have 8 days outside of Edinburgh which is what we had for our Callander/Skye/Loch Ness trip. It's certainly doable if that's what you choose. Our Callander to Portree day was a long drive but we knew that going in and planned a leisurely pace to include the Killin, Glencoe and Glenfinnan stops and it worked out very well. (We booked the last ferry over).

We've made 3 trips to Scotland so that hardly qualifies as extensive. The trip linked above ticked all the boxes for us though. We enjoyed the history of the Callander/Stirling and Culloden areas while soaking in the beauty of the Trossachs and the west/northwest highlands. That's not to say you can't do that in other places, but we were very happy with that choice. (It had more of a wow factor than our second trip to Fife & Royal Deeside for instance).

It's hard to go wrong. Good luck.
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Nov 2nd, 2013, 08:46 AM
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RM67, the technically correct term is actually 'heeland coo'. The term 'hairy coo' is what the non-technical call them.
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