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Gina_07 Feb 21st, 2014 07:14 PM

England/Scotland Itinerary
Thanks to all for your suggestions on a previous topic. I still have a few more questions and, unfortunately, I have to start a new topic because the previous one is closed by the moderators.

Bilboburgler, thanks for asking. We will definitely make a stop in York on the way from Scotland to London because many of you recommend York, and we will stay overnight or for two nights. I am still trying to figure out the Scotland.

I have a preliminary itinerary for four days. That's after spending two days in Edinburgh. We decided use those to see some of the West Highlands. Please let me know if it's reasonable. I know I have packed too much because I am not sure what to leave out. Please let me know what to cut/change.

We hire a car in Edinburgh and drive to Inverness, stopping in Stirling and Aviemore, perhaps in Callander and Killin, too, if we have time. Overnight in Inverness or in a little town nearby (preferable) but don't know which one yet. Any suggestions? We do not plan to explore Inverness.

In the morning, we drive to the Urquhart Castle, see the castle, take a boat trip on the lake, and continue to the Isle of Skye. I know that we could spend a week or two around the lake, kayaking and doing other things but that would be too slow for me. We don't want a Loch Ness vacation. Two nights on Skye.

On day four, leave Isle of Skye in the morning and drive to the Loch Lomond area via Fort William. Overnight in Balloch. On day five drive to Glasgow to just return the car and take a train to York.

Is this doable at all? We could just head to the isle of Skye or Mull via the Loch Lomond area, which would be simpler but my family insists on seeing Loch Ness. We don't care about driving around the whole lake. Some views and stops are good enough. Is there a simpler way to see the lake without going all the way to Inverness?

Shall we do the Isle of Mull instead of Skye?

PQ has suggested some really nice train rides but it will be impossible to change from car to train and back. We hope to see some specific spots on the way to the Isle of Skye. One is Loch Duich, which seems possible, the other one is the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The problem with the second one is that a part of the trip is by a ferry. What do we do with the car then? Do these ferries take cars or they are small? If yes, do we book tickets in advance?

Thanks a lot in advance.

janisj Feb 21st, 2014 08:29 PM

>>We hire a car in Edinburgh and drive to Inverness, stopping in Stirling and Aviemore, perhaps in Callander and Killin, too, if we have time. Overnight in Inverness<<

Totally impossible. Stirling Castle alone takes about 2.5 hours. Killin is a short detour off the road from Callander to Glencoe. Totally the wrong direction for Aviemore unless you take a very slow route across.

I know many just <i>must</i> see Loch Ness/Urquhart and if you had more time - sure. But w/ such a short time I'd stick to Stirling/Callander/the Trossachs stay one night - then drive via Killin/Glen Coe to either Skye or Mull (pros and cons to each one - both are fantabulous). Stay 2 nights on whichever island (most would choose Skye - but Mull has the extras of Iona and Staffa, and would be shorter drives to/from). Then return south to Loch Lomond/Glasgow.

Re the car - I'd pick it up at EDI and not IN Edinburgh. Driving in the city is a true pain. But taking a taxi or the airport bus to EDI and getting the car there is flat easy.

Gina_07 Feb 21st, 2014 08:43 PM

Thanks, Janice. It shows how hard it is to plan just based on google maps and distance estimates. On the map, Aviemore is just an easy stop on the way, and the estimated time to Inverness does not change significantly. Of course, it gives no idea about how long you could spend at each stop. That's why I am asking.

We do not have to do Killin at all. Is it a must do? It was just a town on the way we thought we could stop in briefly. Let's drop it.

Suppose we just take a train in the morning straight to Inverness and start everything from there, skipping Stirling, Killin, and Aviemore. Would that make more sense? Or we take the car from EDI, do Stirling, and head straight to Inverness. Still impossible? I am guessing that it will be a boring ride between Stirling and Inverness.

janisj Feb 21st, 2014 09:03 PM

IMO Killin is a much better 'site' than Aviemore. It is amazing. And so is Glencoe -- both are head and shoulders over Aviemore. In fact - If i was driving from Edinburgh to Inverness I'd stop in Dunkeld, at Blair Atholl, . . . but drive straight through Aviemore w/o even stopping.

If you had 6 or 7 days - sure - I'd do it all. And there is a lots to see around Inverness. But Inverness itself is no great shakes and Loch Ness is quite far down the 'scenic loch' list.

W/ so few days I personally would not travel as far as Inverness. The main reasons to go there would be Culloden and maybe Cawdor Castle plus Urquhart. Urquhart is a lovely ruin - but you will see lots just as good or better -- Kilchurn for instance.

The scenery in the Trossachs, Glencoe and Mull/Skye is lovelier and more majestic than anything around Inverness.

Gina_07 Feb 21st, 2014 09:29 PM

Thanks. Honestly, Inverness is not at the top of the list. We could do it on a second trip, take more time and move to the North. Many say what you are saying about Loch Ness but it happens to be the most famous.

I will explore Glencoe. As an alternative, does Edinburgh-Stirling-Fort Augustus for the first day make sense? The children will see the southern parts of Loch Ness and we will be done. If not, I guess, I have to convince them to give up Loch Ness this time.

Dickie_Gr Feb 22nd, 2014 12:11 AM

Mull means a ferry which is over £100 with car (if budget is an issue) it also has some of the the least developed road network in Scotland, much of it is single track, in poor condition and open grazing for sheep. For once Janisj will be right you will struggle to make 30mph, it takes nearly a half a day just to get round the island.

It is a wonderful place to spend a week due to it having such a developed wildlife environment, it is now regarded as one of the best wildlife destinations in Europe. It's easy to pick up a tour to Lunga to see the huge puffin population before the end of July, Eagles are everywhere on Mull and there is a large basking shark population in the waters around Mull.

Iona is over exposed to tour parties but like all tour party destinations it is absolutely beautiful.

I don't think you do Mull justice by passing through on tour.

One area which is similar but more accessible is the mainland coast between Oban and Skye.

Dickie_Gr Feb 22nd, 2014 12:22 AM

I agree with opting for the west as opposed to the east coast. Much of your time will be spent driving over 4 days, just some great routes on the west coast.

Have you confirmed accommodation?

dulciusexasperis Feb 22nd, 2014 06:44 AM

"Is it a must do?"

Well, 'must do' is something only you can decide, others can't answer that for you.

I'd say, if you go through Killin then hiring a canoe for a half day to paddle down the river to the loch and have a picnic lunch on one of the tiny islands in the mouth of the river is a must do.

Or if going via Blair Atholl, a hike down the river side to Pitlochry or up Glen Tilt for a day is a must do.

But then, you won't have enough time for anything like that will you.

bilboburgler Feb 22nd, 2014 06:47 AM

not much time and you are choosing longish day travel, it always amazes me when we drive up to the north how much there is of it.

I prefer the East coast but the advice above is very good

Gina_07 Feb 22nd, 2014 07:17 AM


We have not made any accommodation arrangements yet because we haven't confirmed the itinerary. We would prefer B&Bs or cute small hotels with character for the countryside.

I guess, we will leave Mull for another time to do justice. Do you know if we can take the car on a ferry on our way back from Skye? We would like to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct and there is a part of the trip that requires a ferry.

Dulci, obviously, we will not have time for those things. They sound nice but I don't have regrets. There are other things we are going to see and do, and an entire lifetime is not enough to take every hike and cruise in Scotland, so it's a tradeoff. We could also just skip Killin.

Bilboburgler, when you say longish, are you referring to my initial plan for Inverness via Aviemore, the one suggested by Janice, or the one that ends in Fort Augustus?

janisj Feb 22nd, 2014 07:44 AM

To do Skye - take the bridge one way and the ferry back. That way you'll see different bits - like Eilean Donan (just view from the outside - amazing photo op. no need to go inside) just before the bridge, and glenfinan and Neptune's staircase on the road to Mallaig. yes - it is a car ferry.

I was only suggesting Mull if you spent two nights there. That is enough time to see a fair amount. The logistics on Skye are easier - though there are a lot of single tracks on both islands.

The Trossachs, glencoe, Skye, and back along Loch Lomond will be very nice - a bit rushed but not crazy.

No time for canoeing - or hikes, except maybe something short on Skye.

Gina_07 Feb 22nd, 2014 07:55 AM


I was checking photos of Glencoe. OMG! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I had never paid attention to it. I know that you mentioned Mull as an alternative. It's a tough choice between Mull and Skye but we are set on Skye already.

janisj Feb 22nd, 2014 07:59 AM

Skye is wonderful -- don't sweat it :)

Dickie_Gr Feb 22nd, 2014 08:02 AM


You notice that the UK road maps usually change scale for Scotland? A page in Scotland is worth two in England.

See we already have an established exchange rate!


I prefer Mull to Skye that is simply due to the wildlife and a personal choice, Skye has more impressive landscapes (possibly).

With time you have you could easily do either in isolation and Janis' suggestion of bridge in ferry out of Skye is good. I think what we are all trying to say is that Mull and Skye in your timescales would be a non starter.

RoamEurope Feb 22nd, 2014 08:42 AM

As I recall, you had two kids and wanted some outdoor time. Since you are headed to Glencoe, which is a great choice IMO, you might check out the Clachaig Inn. Scenes from Harry Potter shot next door if that is of interest; beer and basic lodging in the middle of nowhere if that is of interest. Also, the hike to Steall Falls is in that general area and is terrific.

To echo one comment above that should not be lost: get the car at the airport in Edinburgh!

dulciusexasperis Feb 22nd, 2014 04:31 PM

Day 1:
Wake up call for 7am.
Dressed, breakfast, pit stop, check-out 8am.
Taxi/bus to Edinburgh airport to pick up rental car 9am.
Arrive Stirling 10am. Find a place to park; walk up to castle; quick tour of castle, some photos.
Leave Stirling 11.20am drive A84 through Callandar (no stop)A85, A82 towards Glencoe. Pass Aberfoyle, pass Crainlarich (no stops).
Stop at 'layby' south end of Glencoe; admire the view; take a photo; buy a spring of heather; move on to Glencoe tourist centre. Arrive 1.35 pm. Visit the tourist centre and depart 2.05 pm.
Continue on A82 towards Ft. William and Fort Augustus. Arrive Ft. William 2.35pm. Find parking, walk on main street, eat late lunch. Depart 3.30pm. (Alternatively, eat in Glencoe if anywhere looks suitable. End result arrival in Fort Augustus remains the same)
Arrive Fort Augustus 4.05 pm. Search for hotel and check-in.
Walk around Fort Augustus, see the boats and note the 6oo or so inhabitants and look for where you might eat dinner.
Return to hotel 5pm.
You could spend an hour in Callander perhaps just add that hour on to the total time. Or maybe longer in Ft. William, seems a shame to just drive by and not even notice you just passed Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. You certainly won't have time to try hiking up it at all.

The end result remains the same. A quick hour or so in Stirling to see the castle; a drive by of Glencoe with no time to hike; a quick stop in Callandar or Ft. William perhaps; no time for a slight detour to Killin; arrival in a village with nothing to see/do in the village itself actually. But hey, you'll be in position for the drive to Skye the next morning. So what the heck if you only actually spent perhaps 3-4 hours actually seeing/doing anything all day.

Day 2:
Up 7am, check out by 8am and on the road to Skye, A82, A87. Now we're talking.
Drive non-stop to Portree, Skye arrive 10.30am. Or stop in Kyle of Lochalsh, Kyleakin, stop along the way to admire the scenery, take some photos and arrive at 12.30pm. instead.
Lunch in Portree, find hotel to check-in if you can yet.
Now what?
What the heck, drive A855 north to the 'Old Man of Storr'. Finally, something for the kids to do. Hike Storr and then drive back to hotel. 5-6pm. Day's done, find a place for dinner.
Total time spent seeing/doing things other than driving, maybe 3-4 hours again.

Up and out by 8am again. Head for Dunvegan Castle (A850). Not that far but slow road. Arrive 9am. Oops, not open yet. OK, back up, sleep in till 8am. Arrive at castle for 10am. opening.
Lunch at pub in village. Ready to hit the road again doing the loop back around to Portree. But wait, you'll be back too early.
OK, so down to the little pier near the castle and get the local fisherman to take you out in his little boat to see the seals on the rock and get pictures of the castle from the water side. There, that's better.
See the picture of Hugh Macleod on the Dunvegan website here:
I met him on that pier when he was 11 years old. Home for a holiday from school in England. Grown some since then.
Return to Portree for 5pm maybe. Day's done.
A better day with most of the time actually spent seeing and doing things not just looking out the car window. Maybe 5-6 hours actually spent seeing/doing things.

Day 4:
Leave Skye headed for Loch Lomond. Drive Portree to Armadale to catch the ferry to Mallaig. Will you catch the 8.50am or will it have to be the 10.15am? Careful, nothing to do in Armadale while you wait.
Back through Ft. William(no need to stop again)A830 and A82 again, to Loch Lomond. Maybe lunch in Tarbot. Maybe a cruise on the Loch for a couple of hours. Sounds exciting. You already did a ferry today though.
Carry on down the Loch to Luss, the Loch Lomond must see village. Quick 3/4 of an hour to see it all and on to Balloch arrival 5pm. to find your hotel for the night.
Probably got in 4 hours or so if you count ferry time, seeing/doing things.

Times up, back to Glasgow to drop car at Glasgow Airport (not a big drop off charge between airports). Take bus/taxi into Glasgow, hop on train to York. No time to visit Glasgow obviously.

So in 4 days, you get to spend perhaps 18 hours actually seeing/doing anything and about the same amount of time just driving. How does that sound to you. Good division of time? Will the kids be happy spending half the time in the car?

janisj Feb 22nd, 2014 05:18 PM

Dul is wrong - if you drive through Callander you won't drive through Aberfoyle. I quit reading then - hopefully the rest is more accurate.

Dickie_Gr Feb 22nd, 2014 09:47 PM

"Arrive Ft. William 2.35pm"

This site is just getting silly now. Is that surely not 2.37pm?


janisj Feb 22nd, 2014 10:31 PM

I think he is pulling Gina's leg -- which ain't all that helpful. Odd sense of humor that . . .

But I'm pretty sure Gina recognizes which posts are meant to help and which aren't.

Gina_07 Feb 23rd, 2014 04:42 AM

Of course. Luckily, I am able to filter useful information and very thankful to those who provide it. And it isn't even that difficult. Just skipping certain posters.

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