Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

First Scotland trip: took your advice and pared down. Better?

First Scotland trip: took your advice and pared down. Better?

Old May 12th, 2006, 11:22 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 689
First Scotland trip: took your advice and pared down. Better?

(I'm finally emerging from the work crises, and back to vacation plans This post is a follow-up from my April thread, which was "Planning our first Scotland trip: the perpetual quest…")

Thanks to great input from Fodorites, we took our plans back to the drawing board and tried to focus better! Came up with four ways to do this, and now we need your advice on what makes most sense, given roads/driving times etc.

For a 12-day visit in early September, here's where we want to go, in any order.
Edinburgh, Perth, Ft William for Jacobite steam train, Skye, the west coast to Durness/Cape Wrath, and finish in Edinburgh for train back to London.

From Sheila and Janis' recommendations, we came up with a few different ways to organize this.

Plan A: Overnight train to Inverness, then rent car and drive to Skye (2 nights). To Ullapool area (Inverewe) 2 nights, then Durness area 2 nights. Back south to Ft William (1 night) to pick up steam train next morning -- after steam train (done by 4 pm) drive through Glencoe to Perth, 2 nights. Finish up with 2 nights in Edinburgh.

Plan B: Overnight to Inverness, then rent car and drive through Glencoe to Ft William (1 night). Steam train, and afterwards drive to Skye (2 nights). To Ullapool area (Inverewe) 2 nights, then Durness area 2-3 nights. Back south to Perth, 2 nights. Finish up with 2 nights in Edinburgh.

Plan C: Overnight to Inverness, then rent car and head north to Bettyhill/Tongue area. 2 nights including Cape Wrath visit, weather permitting ;-). Then head south to Poolewe/Inverewe (1-2 nights) and Skye (2 nights). Ft William overnight for steam train day, and after the train, drive to Perth (2 nights) and Edinburgh (2 nights).

Plan D: Day train to Edinburgh, stay 2 nights. Then rent car, drive through Glencoe to Ft. William. 1 night, steam train next day. After the train, drive to Skye (2 nights). Head north up the west coast with 1 night somewhere en route to Durness (2 nights). Drive south to Perth (Sheila, you estimated 4-5 hours, right?) Perth 2 nights, then return car in Edinburgh and train south.

My head is spinning from all the possiblities, but I want to get settled on a plan so we can finalize where to stay, train tickets etc. As I look at this again, seems to me that Plan B or D would work best (D is closest to what we originally thought, but we are nothing if not flexible!)

Okay, fire away: I would love to get your thoughts. Thanks a bunch!
SB_Travlr is offline  
Old May 12th, 2006, 01:01 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 66,424
I had to go back to your earlier thread - couldn't remember the reasons for some of your choices - like Perth and Cape Wrath.

Now that I've got that sorted out --

I'd pick your Plan C. It is the least hectic - and easiest on the driver(s). Each of the other options have really long drives either to or from the far north.

Using the train and sleeping all the way to Inverness gives you a head start and then you are only having to drive from I'ness up to the north instead of all the way from Ft William or elsewhere. And from Durness onward all of your days are very doable.

I'd sure as heck rather drive from Ft William over to Perth than from Durness.

Good job! - especially considering how far apart some of your "musts" are.
janisj is offline  
Old May 13th, 2006, 01:24 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,156
I'd pick Plan B for logic and Plan C because I like it better.

The bit I HATE is taking that flipping train to Mallaig and back and then driving the same route again. My linear personality balks at that.

I think you'll see prettier bits of Scotland and get a better hang of the place before joining the hoi polloi.
sheila is offline  
Old May 13th, 2006, 06:49 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 66,424
The to and fro train bit bugs me too - as it did on the earlier thread. But it is such a "must" for you. (Staying the night in Ft William bothers me too but never mind)

You might consider this instead? On one of the plans where Ft Willaim is before Skye -- Steam train from Ft William to Mallaig, ferry to Skye, local car hire for two days on Skye, ferry/train (not the steam train for this leg) back to Ft William and on from there? Not a huge improverment but it would give you a bit more time on Skye and eliminate having to turn right around after the train R-T and drive back to Skye.

But honestly - I'd just go w/ plan C.
janisj is offline  
Old May 15th, 2006, 02:22 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 689
Thanks so much, janis and sheila. Just want to clarify our ideas about the steam train part -- we are thinking of it as a chance to take a very scenic train trip, not a way to get from A to B. Don't want to drag luggage with us, even though we will be travelling relatively light. Since the train leaves around 10 am, we want to stay close enough to get to it easily. That may be Ft William, or somewhere in the surrounding area -- there seem to be lots of possiblities.

Ft W gets many negative comments -- is it really that bad, even for an overnight? Where would you suggest as an alternative?

We weren't planning to drive the same route as the train (Road to the Isles via Mallaig), would instead go via Lochalsh and over the bridge.

How much time should we allow for driving Ft W to either Perth or Skye? -- I was guessing a couple of hours, but the AA Route Planner site suggests 3.5 hours for the trip to Skye (Portree) and 2.25 hours for trip via Glencoe to Perth. Does that sound about right?

We want to avoid multiple local car rentals -- that seems to cost more per day than a single longer rental, especially if we want to start in Inverness and end in Edinburgh.

Hope that helps clarify why we came up with all those plan variations!
SB_Travlr is offline  
Old May 16th, 2006, 05:04 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 6,282
Exactly how early in September ? The International Festival doesn't finish until the 3rd : so if you're interested in seeing any performances (www.eif.co.uk) come here first; otherwise, wait until later. Although the city won't be quite as mobbed as earlier since the Fringe will have finished (a week earlier), accomodation might still be easier & cheaper after 3rd.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Old May 16th, 2006, 05:29 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 10,168
Alternaive to staying in Fort William: Since you will have a car, you might want to consider the Ballachulish Hotel http://www.ballachulishhotel.com/ at the bridge on the road from Glen Coe to Ft William, especially if you have read Stevenson's "Kidnapped."
Ackislander is offline  
Old May 16th, 2006, 10:57 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 689
Caroline, our original plan had us arrive in Edinburgh on Sept 4 -- I thought the festivals finished the weekend before that. But I guess by the 4th hotels might have some rooms available. If we go with one of the other plans, we'll be there mid-September.

Ackislander, I took a look at the Ballachulish website (takes ages to load!) It looks terrific, but maybe more of a high-end destination place than we want on this vacation. Most places, we'll be staying for max of 2 nights, and out and about during the day. (Unless the weather is unusually foul, LOL!) Any other suggestions in that area?

And has anyone stayed at the Pool House Hotel in Poolewe? It's pretty expensive, especially given the dollar exchange rate these days. But I'd consider one night if it really is all that.
SB_Travlr is offline  
Old May 16th, 2006, 11:34 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,156
I've stayed in the Pool House, but not for some years. I really liked it, but I wouldn't pay the price they ask nowadays.

There's a chaeper place in Poolewe- the Poolewe Hotel- which is ok for cheap and cheerful- and there's another just a few miles further north at Aultbea- the Aultbea hotel.

This B&B at Mellon Udrigle gets a good namebr /> http://www.nafirchlis.co.uk/

Or, if you wanted to stay in a lighthouse, how aboutbr />
http://www.scotland-info.co.uk/rr-house.htm

If you like the look of Ballachulish but not the price of the hotel try the Holly Tree at Kentallen

Fort William to Perth is about 2 1/2 hours; Fort William to Portree over the bridge is slightly, but not much, longer.

Fort William is a horrible town ina glorious location. It has saving graces, but stay outside. Really.


sheila is offline  
Old May 16th, 2006, 01:21 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 689
Thanks Sheila for the great recommendations -- I've just spent a fun afternoon checking them out. Many possibilities, and wow, a lighthouse! How's that for something completely different (with a nod to M. Python.;-)) Once we get our dates set, I'll be checking availability.

Next up would be where to stay in Skye. I know there are some fabulous high-end/price hotels (3 Chimneys, for example), but we prefer something more laid back -- maybe a B&B, or a small family hotel. We'll be on Skye for 2 nights, and prefer a central location for getting around -- but if it can be scenic/on the water, so much the better.
SB_Travlr is offline  
Old May 16th, 2006, 01:42 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,541
We stayed at the Royal Hotel in Portree.

http://www.royal-hotel-skye.com/

Good hotel, excellent location.
amelie is offline  
Old May 16th, 2006, 01:54 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,156
I've stayed in the Rosedale but recently hada dispute with them on behalf of a client, so changed my views.

My absolute favourite place on Skye in the Eilean Iarmain, but it's not cheap.

The Greshornish might be worth a look, and you should consider the Sligachan if you're climbing.
sheila is offline  
Old May 16th, 2006, 02:17 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,603
Like Shelia, I love the Eilean Iarmain, but you may also want to try the Toravaig House Hotel (www.skyehotel.co.uk). Both favorites when staying on Skye.
historytraveler is offline  
Old May 16th, 2006, 02:52 PM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 689
"You should consider the Sligachan if you're climbing": LOL, sheila. I forgot to mention that DH sometimes has dodgy knees, and I'm pretty sure the mere idea of anything like climbing would make him break out in a cold sweat! Bit of walking/light hiking should be okay, though.

Greshornish and Toravaig look like good alternatives to the fab but $$ Eilean Iarmain.. any differences in terms of location? I see Toravaig has daily sailings on their yacht -- that is very appealing, assuming nice weather, of course.
SB_Travlr is offline  
Old May 16th, 2006, 04:27 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,603
Greshornish House is in the northern half of Skye near Edinbane. Torkavaig House isn't far from Eilean Iarmain just off the A851 abot a mile past the Tarskavaig junction.
historytraveler is offline  
Old May 16th, 2006, 04:59 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 66,424
If you want to keep to a budget, you don't have to sell your first born to be able to afford a nice place on Skye.

There are MANY really nice B&Bs for a fraction of what Eilean Iarmain or Toravaig House Hotel charge. Not as posh of course - but great value for money.

You can google any village/hamlet/town on Skye and find several. This site has many to get you started http://www.isleofskye.com/
janisj is offline  
Old May 18th, 2006, 08:13 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 689
Thanks Janis -- lots of food for thought with that Skye website. I'm kind of torn about our budget -- those high-end places look wonderful, and very tempting. But then, staying at a B&B would help with the bad exchange rate! (I just checked, and xe.com is showing the pound costing $1.89 --yikes! )

One thing that would help us decide is the ambiance at places like Eilean Iarmain and Toravaig -- is it formal, jacket-for-dinner kind of place? Or more "welcome to our lovely country house"?
SB_Travlr is offline  
Old May 18th, 2006, 08:30 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 7,159
Have you worked out your alternate itineraries on a mapping program? www.multimap.com is good for Britain. Knowledgeable posters have assured me the drive times on Multimap are accurate in northern Scotland.
Mimar is offline  
Old May 18th, 2006, 08:37 AM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 689
Thanks for the tip, mimar. I had been using the AA site route planner, but I'll check out Multimap also. I have a book of various driving tours in Scotland, and there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between their timeframes and the AA's...
SB_Travlr is offline  
Old May 18th, 2006, 12:39 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 208
I would go with Plan B as you will get familiar with your car before you reach the single track roads in parts of Skye and you will certainly need to know your car before you head for Durness etc. Having recently travelled the far north coast I would point out that the roads from just south of Lairg to the North coast and around Cape Wrath and Durness are single track roads with passing places so allow yourselves plenty of time as it can take an hour to drive 25 - 30 miles. Driving these roads is both tiring for the driver as they are continually either braking or accelerating whilst the passanger tends to spend their time constantly trying to look ahead to warn the driver of oncoming vehicles / problems. The scenery and the desrted sandy beaches can be stunning so allow yourselves time to stop and enjoy them as there are a number of good deserted beaches between Durness and Bettyhill.
Be aware that you cannot drive directly to Cape Wrath as it entails parking the car, taking a very small boat up the coastal inlet and then getting a mini bus to Cape Wrath. There is not a lot to do or see there except look at the cliffs, sea, lighthouse and the sea birds. The bus drops you off this enables it to take previous passengers back to the main road. It can take about 2 hours to return. I did it a few years back with the family and we were eaten alive by the midges. It must have been the longest two hours waiting for the bus to return. As you are tight for time I would miss out on that part of the journey.
For meals in the Bettyhill / Tongue area I would suggest the Bettyhill Hotel or the Craggan Hotel in Melness they provide good food at very good prices. Do not think the hotels are all the great for staying at and I would suggest that you just take a B & B at a house you like the look of in that area. There are plenty to choose from and they are in the main very good and cheaper than the hotel.
Make sure that you have a good midge repellent with you as they can be annoying at that time of the year in sheltered areas.
meks is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

FODOR'S VIDEO