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Driving Scotland 4 to 5 days

Old Mar 12th, 2012, 06:38 PM
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Driving Scotland 4 to 5 days

We're planning a trip to the UK in June, and I'm stuck on Scotland. I know I want to do too much in too little time, so I need help! We will arrive in Glasgow on in the afternoon of June 19, where we will rent a car and begin the Scotland leg of the trip. I have 6 nights, flying home from Edinburgh on the morning of the 7th day. Here's what I want to see:
1. Jacobite train (kids can ride with my husband while I make the drive from Ft. William to Mallaig with my dad?)
2. Isle of Skye (know I can't see it all...)
3. Loch Ness
4. Eilean Donan Castle
5. Stirling Castle
6. Full day of Edinburgh at least

I'm not certain about roadways, etc., but just looking at a map I was thinking this:
Night 1: Arrive in Glasgow, rent car
Night 2: Leave early A.M. for Fort William, half of party catch Jacobite train. Everyone ferry over to Portree for the night.
Night 3: Tour Isle of Skye. Remain in Portree for the night.
Night 4: Visit Loch Ness and Eilean Donan Castle. Spend night somewhere nearby?
Night 5: Visit Stirling Castle and Head to Edinburgh for the night.
Night 6: Full day of Edinburgh, flying out tomorrow morning.

We're looking for the stunning landscape with a little bit of history thrown in. I've seen a tour with what looked like the ideal itinerary (minus Stirling) http://www.highlandexplorertours.com/Skye but we plan to do the driving ourselves. It also looks like maybe they just pass by some of the places that we would like to stop and really check out.
Can it be done?
tracitoad is offline  
Old Mar 12th, 2012, 07:15 PM
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We did that train ride a few years ago and the kids LOVED it, but I am not sure about driving from Glasgow that morning - we were already in Argyll when we drove there for the day and we had to allot a couple of hours to get there. Will you already be in the UK when you arrive in Glasgow? Since you are not planning to try to see the city, maybe you should try to get closer to Fort William that first day.

You will take the ferry to Armadale, then drive to Portree. The days will be long then, and there's a scenic detour you might consider on the way, depending on when you get there and how tired you are. You'll have to look at a map (I think it has been described elsewhere on this site so you might search for the Skye threads as well) but it is a tiny road that goes off the main road between Armadale and Broadford.

Unless you are really attached to the idea of seeing Loch Ness I would suggest staying two nights on Skye and then returning to Stirling/Edinburgh from there. That is actually what we did when we left. It makes for a long-ish day but if you get a good start it's doable. Eilean Donan castle is a hop, skip and a jump from Broadford and seeing it could easily be done in part of a day. If you want more than one castle there is Dunvegan castle right on Skye.

You will have a great time - just don't underestimate how long it takes to get from place to place.
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Old Mar 12th, 2012, 09:41 PM
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If you're in the area, I would suggest a stop at Scone Palace, the site of the original boot (moot) hill.

It was once where all Scottish Kings were crowned.

Pretty place that can be viewed in a few hours, depending on your schedule.
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Old Mar 13th, 2012, 11:55 AM
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I might suggest renting the car upon arrival and immediately driving north a bit to get a head start. With so little time you do not need to see Glasgow. How far north depends on where you are coming from and your jet-lag tolerance. Oban maybe.

You will drive past Eilean Donan on your way from Skye to Loch Ness.

Loch Ness will be one of the least interesting things you have ever seen, but there is a very good hotel - Glengarry Castle - a few miles south.
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Old Mar 13th, 2012, 01:36 PM
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Thank y'all! I keep hearing that Loch Ness is not worth seeing unless you just want to be able to say that you've seen it. Is this itinerary much better if we just skip it?
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Old Mar 13th, 2012, 02:19 PM
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I'd certainly skip Loch Ness in favor of spending more time on Skye.

I would NOT attempt to drive from Glasgow to Oban immediately after arriving from an overseas flight. Loch Lomond is as far as I would suggest anyone travel on day of arrival. Luss might do for an overnight.
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Old Mar 13th, 2012, 02:25 PM
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Posted too soon. Balloch would be another option for a place to spend your first night.
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Old Mar 13th, 2012, 05:18 PM
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We'll be flying from Dublin to Glasgow early that morning. What about driving to Fort William for the night? Then the next day we could drive to Skye for 2 nights. Spend one day touring Skye and then leave for a two day (1 night) trip to Edinburgh. That will leave me one full day to tour Edinburgh before we leave. I guess the big question is what is more important--having 2 days in Edinburgh or 1 in Skye? Is Skye as amazing as I read, or could we find equally beautiful scenery without going so far out of the way?
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Old Mar 13th, 2012, 05:51 PM
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Tracitoad, I will make no claim to objectivity. On our first trip to Scotland we made it as far as Mallaig and I spent our whole time there gazing over at the islands you can see from the ferry dock, wishing we were headed that way. Our second trip was spent almost completely on Skye for two weeks, and we were not disappointed. I guess the answer depends on you - if you want stunning scenery, it's worth it to see Skye. Edinburgh is a lovely and charming city, and compact enough that in one day you can see several highlights. Since you are arriving from Dublin, it's completely reasonable to drive to Fort William (although the Scotland experts on this board often recommend staying near rather than in Fort William). Then, if you take the train to Mallaig and the ferry to Skye, you will have a day and a half there, which to me seems worth the time.

One of the things that's neat about Skye is that you see such a variety of scenery in a relatively small space - of course you could say that of Scotland in general.

You really can't go wrong either way, though!
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Old Mar 13th, 2012, 06:32 PM
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New question: If we fly in to Glasgow in the morning, is it possible to drive to Fort William via Oban and Glen Coe in a day? Google maps calls it 3 hours...
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Old Mar 13th, 2012, 11:16 PM
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Forget Ft William. It is nothing to write home about. Since you won't be suffering from jetlag you can drive from GLA to Mallaig and catch the ferry to Skye that day.

GLA to Mallaig is a bit over 130 miles and less than 4 hours. So you can have it all - 2+ days on Skye and 2 days in Edinburgh
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Old Mar 18th, 2012, 01:01 PM
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That doesn't work given the desire to do the Jacobite. Assuming you're already acclimatised and over your jetlag, there's no reason not to drive straight to Fort William. It's about 2 1/2 hours if you know what you're doing. Take your time. You have plenty of light.

If, OTOH, you arrive in Dublin that am and are catching a connection, I totally agree with history traveller. Don't go past Tarbet, and start again in the morning.

You wouldn't normally do Oban AND Glencoe on the same journey unless you want to back track a bit. I too, dislike Ft William as a stopping place and would probably suggest (if you're staying the night before the Jacobite) that you stay in Glen Coe village or Port Appin and drive up in the morning.

The rest of the trip is fine. With kids, I'd leave Loch Ness in and go to the Experience and Castle Urquhart. Kids love it.

Even so, that's a short day so maybe go on down the A9 before you stop for the night. The Highland Wildlife Park is worth a visit for the kids, too.
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