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Driving in Northeast Scotland - Please Help!

Driving in Northeast Scotland - Please Help!

Old Apr 18th, 2006, 07:39 PM
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Driving in Northeast Scotland - Please Help!

Hello all, I'm relatively new to Fodors, so I'm hoping some of you veterans can help me. My wife and I are taking a 20th wedding anniversary trip in June to Scotland/England/Ireland. I probably did my planning in the wrong order, I booked all my hotels, and have only recently been paying attention to driving times from place to place (mainly using www.aaroadwatch.ie as a guide).

I'm in a slight panic now because several of the drives in Northeast Scotland seem terrible now. For instance:
1. We are flying from London to Inverness, arriving Inverness mid day. Then we are driving north to East Mey (near Thurso??). I was thinking 2 hours driving, but aaroadwatch says close to 4 hours.
2. The very next afternoon, we have to drive back from East Mey, past Inverness, ending up in Dunkeld (which is close to Pitlochry I think), where my ancestors are from. I was thinking 3 hours max, but aaroadwatch says close to 6 hours.

Is driving really that slow? I'm afriad our desire to see the North of Scotland got in the way of my better judgement. Sorry to ramble on so much, thank you for any advice you can give us!
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Old Apr 18th, 2006, 08:35 PM
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I'm afraid the driving times sound about right. It's not unusual for first time travelers to Scotland to assume the driving times are equal to those in the States for similar distances. In fact it is much slower.

You will have considerable daylight at this time of year, but it's still a long drive in both instances.
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Old Apr 18th, 2006, 08:49 PM
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I answered yor question but didn't offer any advice. I have to ask why East Mey? I'll take a guess and assume it's because of the late Queen Mother's former home at Castle Mey.

There are many places considerably closer to Inverness that you could visit instead, and (IMO) Thurso and Castle Mey are not really worth the drive, especally for such a short stay.
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Old Apr 18th, 2006, 08:57 PM
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Are your deposits refundable? If so I would seriously consider a change of plans.

Those two days back to back are absolute killers. I would think for a first timer the drive times will be even longer than the AA suggests. And there is sooooo much gloriuos country in between the you will only feel frustrated at seeing everything from the passing car.

I'd definitely consider dropping the far north - or stay two days up there and postpone Dunkeld by a day or two.

I sure hope you have more resonable plans for Ireland. Parts of the SW of Ireland are even slower going than the north of Scotland . . . . .
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Old Apr 18th, 2006, 08:59 PM
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Thanks for answering. The only reason we originally planned to go so far north was my pigheadedness (if I was going to Scotland for the first time in my life, then I was going as far north on the mainland of Great Britain as possible!)

Poor logic I know, but thats the reason. We just happened to find a B&B in East Mey that appealed to us, so thats why we are in East Mey.
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Old Apr 18th, 2006, 09:02 PM
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I just doubled-checked roadwatch and they gave the Inverness to Thurso route about 3 hours 30 minutes and Thurso to Pitlochry about 5 hours. Of course these were the most direct routes. You'll need to allow time for comfort stops, meals etc.
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Old Apr 18th, 2006, 09:06 PM
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I undersand your desire to go the the farthest most point in G.B., but I think you'll find some of the best scenery and more visitor sites further south.
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Old Apr 18th, 2006, 09:09 PM
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Those are just the straight drive times -- not any way to see/enjoy Scotland.
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Old Apr 18th, 2006, 09:11 PM
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Actually - there is some wonderful scenery in the far north. But w/ basically less than 1/2 a day up there you won't see much (any) of it.
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Old Apr 18th, 2006, 09:25 PM
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Thanks so much for both of your input. Since you're both being so blunt about the driving we are facing, I'm going to post our tentative itinerary up here in a few minutes, please feel free to poke holes in it! I guess I can still change around things if I need to.
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Old Apr 18th, 2006, 09:42 PM
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OK, here's a first cut. I thought I was being smart by spacing out the longer drives, but now I'm not so sure...Oh, also we are staying in hotels a lot (only B&Bs about 1/4 the time, cause I'm using Hilton hotel points I've built up).

Day 1 - Fly NYC to London
Day 2 and 3 - London
Day 4 - as mentioned, fly London to Inverness, drive to East Mey
Day 5 - late afternoon, drive down to Dunkeld
Day 6 - Pitlochry (family stuff)
Day 7 - Edinburgh - ST Andrews
Day 8 - Edinburgh - Stirling
Day 9 - Edinburgh - just relaxed sightseeing
Day 10 - Long drive, Edinburgh to York, see Durham on the way
Day 11 - York
Day 12 - Drive to Liverpool, Fly to Shannon, slow drive to Dingle
Day 13 - Dingle
Day 14 - Cliffs of Moher, Burren
Day 15 - Mayo
Day 16 - Mayo/Sligo
Day 17 - Sligo, long drive Sligo to Dublin
Day 18 - Dublin
Day 19 - Dublin, afternoon flight to Liverpool, Liverpool (night)
Day 20 - Liverpool, long drive Liverpool to Stonehenge
Day 21 - Portsmouth, maybe drive to Dover, drive to Heathrow at night and return car
Day 22,23,24 - London
Day 25 - Fly London to NYC

Someone is joining us from Day 12 on who is a music freak, and Liverpool is a must for him (cause of the Beatles). Well, are we out of our minds with all this? I can't tell you how much we appreciate your input (we live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, so if we can ever return the favor with NYC info, let us know!)




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Old Apr 18th, 2006, 09:58 PM
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I'm about ready to crash for the night so won't post a full response. But just a few comments - and remember - it is just tough love

(you aren't the first to underestimate times/distances)

We have pretty much explained the days 4 and 5 problems. Even w/ the looooong days in June you won't have time to see anything up around Mey. If you leave late afternoon for Dunkeld you won't get in until well after 10 p.m.

Three nights in Edinburgh - yet only spending one actual day there. You are building in more long drive days where they aren't needed. For instance you could visit Stirling on your way from Pitlochry to Edinburgh. Why travel into Edinburgh (and have to park the car there) when you really want to see Stirling and St Andrews. If it were me, I'd stay one night near Stirling and visit the castle. then the next day drive over to St Andrews. From there you can either stay a night in Fife or travel in to Edinburgh that evening.

Liverpool to Stonehenge in one day? That would be motorway all the way and you would not see anything enroute.

then you want to go to Portsmouth, across the entire country to Dover and then up to LHR. That itinerary won't give you any time in Dover. And if you ARE going to Dover - why drop the car at LHR? LGW would be MUCH easier.
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Old Apr 18th, 2006, 10:07 PM
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I'm hitting the sack also, thanks. Just so you know I am not completely illogical, a major, major reason for us staying where we are: I travel a lot on business, and I've built up zillions of Hitlon points over the years, so we are fortunate that we are not paying for any hotels. Out of 24 nights, we are paying for only 6 B&Bs, the rest of the nights are free in some pretty nice Hiltons (in Edinburgh, York, London, Dublin). So I knew I was going to have to bite the bullet on some day trips (in order to get the free hotel nights). Take care, and have a great night, thanks again!
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Old Apr 19th, 2006, 04:36 AM
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You think half killing yourself & possibly others in order to spend "Hilton points" isn't totally illogical?

Insane & dangerous are words I'd use to describe your plans

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Old Apr 19th, 2006, 05:37 AM
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I regularly visit Thurso but quite honestly I wouldn't make a special trip if I didn't have a family member there.
You will spend a lot of time travelling through the Flow country.
Now, it is of great ecological importance but is is a huge peat bog.
You will find much more spectacular scenery elsewhere in Scotland.
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Old Apr 19th, 2006, 07:06 AM
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To MissPrism (and earlier comments from Janisj and HistoryTraveler): Thank you for your insight and obviously well intentioned remarks, I will certainly consider your good advice

However, to Alanrow: Even if my planning is off, I don't think Insane and Dangerous applies to spending a few extra hours driving in a car. There are a lot of other things going on in the world today that I would consider worthy of those words. You need to lighten up a bit, and frankly I'm not really interested in spiteful remarks like yours
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Old Apr 19th, 2006, 08:45 AM
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Actually - AlanRow (who can certainly defend himself) isn'tt too far off base. A few of your days are not only looooooog - they could be dangerous w/ that much driving in unfamilair countryside.

Now about "So I knew I was going to have to bite the bullet on some day trips (in order to get the free hotel nights)"

I totally understand. However some of the places you chose for your non-Hilton nights don't make much sense. For instance there are thousands of really nice B&Bs all over Scotland. So picking one about as far as possible from where you are staying the next night in Dunkeld (which I assume is at the Hilton there) is to put it mildly - silly.

There are really lovely B&Bs in prettier surroundings much, MUCH closer than Mey. Since you are flying into I'ness, consider something near there for that first night. (not IN Inverness by the way)

Flying into I'ness wouldn't have been my choice for a Scottish visit primarily centered around Dunkeld/Edinburgh. But that is done - so take advantage of it. Stay on the Black Isle, or near Culloden, or best of all - near Glencoe. At least you would be driving in the "general" direction of Dunkeld.

Also - Liverpool to Stonehenge will take you over some VERY congested motorways. I'd go about half that far - see a bit of the Welsh borders, or maybe the Cotswolds/Gloucester, or maybe Worcseter. Then the next dat down to Salisbury/Stonehenge. because Liverpool tp Stonehenge to Portsmouth to possibly Dover to LHR in TWO days is just this side of crazy.
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