Help with Scotland Highlands Itinerary

Old Sep 11th, 2017, 03:52 AM
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Help with Scotland Highlands Itinerary

I'm trying to plan an 8 night trip to Scotland which is the first half of a trip to Europe. (The second half will be to fly to Hungary for a week there.). My wife and I, along with some friends, will be arriving in Edinburgh from the US on June 11. We plan to fly to Budapest on June 19. I'm looking for suggestions about how to wind our way through a pretty large country. Some considerations:

a) We expect to spend 2 nights in Edinburgh.
b) We are renting a minibus since there will be 6 of us plus luggage.
c) Some hotel hopping is ok. The second half of our trip will be in one location, so we can recover then.
d) we are middle aged, relatively fit, and don't mind walking
e) Interests in our group vary: we have a geologist coming and I like scenic beauty. Countryside small towns and getting to get a real feel for the people is important. One or two whisky distilleries are sufficient. Castle and History are another interest but we are less interested in big museums or touristy locations.
f) Looked at Lonely Planets and Rick Steves' suggested and came up with this:

June 11 [Day 1]: Arrive in Edinburgh (sleep in Edinburgh)

June 12 [Day 2]: Edinburgh (Pick up Van) Siccar Point, Literary Pub Tour (sleep in Edinburgh)

June 13 [Day 3]: Travel to Oban, see via Trosachs and lunch in Inveraray (sleep in Oban) Oban Distillery Tour.

June 14 [Day 4]: All-day island-hopping tour from Oban with visits to Mull, Iona and Staffa. (sleep in Oban) (Suggested by Rick Steve's book)

June 15 [Day 5]: Scenic drive north via Glencoe and Fort William, then east to Mallaig, and Ferry to Skye. Drive on to Portree. (Sleep in Portree)

June 16 [Day 6]: Explore Isle of Skye including Dunvegan Castle and tour Trotternish Peninsula incl. Cuithraing (sleep in Portree)

June 17 [Day 7]: Travel to Inverness, stopping at Eilean Donan Castle then on to Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle (sleep in Inverness)

June 18 [Day 8]: Drive back to Edinburgh via Culloden Battlefield, Clava Cairns, Pitlochry and visit Sterling Castle (sleep in Edinburgh or Sterling) (Drop off Van)

Any helpful suggestions from natives or seasoned travelers would be greatly appreciated!
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 05:45 AM
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You will have essentially no time in Edinburgh. You arrive likely jet lagged and do a full day trip out of town the next day. (When you go out to Siccar Pt be sure to also visit Tantallon Castle and St Abb's head)

June 13 is difficult - getting to Inveraray by lunch time leaves no time at all for stopping/seeing anything in the Trossachs. Just the straight drive will take 3.5 hours w/o any stops or even photo ops.

>>June 14 [Day 4]: All-day island-hopping tour from Oban with visits to Mull, Iona and Staffa. (sleep in Oban) (Suggested by Rick Steve's book)>June 15 [Day 5]: Scenic drive north via Glencoe and Fort William, then east to Mallaig, and Ferry to Skye. Drive on to Portree. (Sleep in Portree)VERY long driving day - 6 hour drive plus at least an hour in Glencoe and 45 mins to 1 hour at Glenfinnan

>>June 17 [Day 7]: Travel to Inverness, stopping at Eilean Donan Castle then on to Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle (sleep in Inverness)
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 05:47 AM
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Why would you pick up the van on a day you're not going to use it? That's daft. Edinburgh is difficult to navigate generally, more so with a sizable vehicle. I'm guessing this is for the geologist. Perhaps he should foot the bill for that day while the rest of you go to Edinburgh Castle and actually see some of Edinburgh, which is a fine city to visit and to which you are giving short shrift.

That's a long way to go and a short time to spend at Skye. Your day 5 will likely suck.

Your day 8 won't happen. Culloden and Clava Cairns will take some time. Then trying to hit Stirling (note spelling, neither the city nor the eponymous castle are made of silver) on the same day means a lengthy drive that will leave you little or no time for the Castle and its surrounds (which is a sprawl and less compact than Edinburgh Castle).
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 05:53 AM
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We were posting at the same time . . . >>Why would you pick up the van on a day you're not going to use it?
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 05:55 AM
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Not much to add to the comments made by janisj and BigRuss. Basically your itinerary is too rushed. Talisker distillery on Skye would be a much better visit han Oban's.
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 06:05 AM
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>>Talisker distillery on Skye would be a much better visit than Oban's.
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 06:22 AM
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Maybe the distillery sugggestion was made by Rick Steves who probably has never visited either.
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 08:00 AM
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Mull and Skye in a week makes no sense.

Make your choice and concentrate on one. Skye has more impressive mountains, Mull has incredible sea life and land based wild life. Sink into the island and you will see Otters, Dolphins, Whales, Sea Eagles, Golden Eagles, Harriers, Pine Martens and the amazingly huge Basking sharks.

Iona is simply magical.

Drive round the highlands at the rate you are suggesting and you will see very little.

In Inveraray, Loch Fine Fish company was the first of a large chain. It's owner sold out to private equity but retained his first restaurant. It's now back to its original contemporary edge without feeling like a overbranded tourist trap that it had been. It's well worth a visit if you like seafood, as are the waterfront places in Oban.

There's a ice cream shop just above the quayside in Oban which does the largest ice cream cones in the world, they are about ten scoops and are called Olympic torches. Great fun.

Be very aware that this last summer has been hideously busy here in Scotland. We have at times been swamped. At times, ALL the accommodation on Skye and Mull was booked, camp sites and the lot. Book well in advance and also for the ferry which is now subsidised to reasonable prices.

This year, we didn't book our return leg from Craignure to Oban and were forced to detour via Lochaline (which Janis suggests as a very good route to Mallaig).

HT also gives solid advice about Distilleries, Talisker has a dramatic location, a superior product and more in depth tours than Tobermory.

I can assure you, that you will have a far more enjoyable experience by visiting one island only.
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 09:50 AM
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>>Mull and Skye in a week makes no sense.everything will take longer. But if they are both 'musts' then there is no way they can also squeeze Inverness and the northern loop.

I agree re Loch Fyne -- but the detour to Inveraray just adds to another long drive day.
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 11:31 AM
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Mull and Skye in a week makes no sense.

True that . . .


I agree. Assuming a party of six in a minivan means things will be moving... how to say?... at impulse speed rather than warp (guess what TV show I'm channeling) I wonder if less might not be more.

What if you dropped Skye and Inverness and kept yourselves to the Trossachs, Mull and Argyll? Between the mainland and Mull/Iona, you've got scenery every bit as spectacular as anything you'd see farther north, plenty of variety, history, (I assume) geological and natural history, and you wouldn't have to break camp (with attendant packing, bill-settling, etc.) and pack, unpack, and re-pack the vehicle so often. You could spend whole day doing things besides driving on narrow or single-track roads.

From Oban, for example, you can easily visit Glen Coe and Glen Etive in a very pleasant day - https://goo.gl/maps/NPvBZanuEsA2 - or head south to (amazing) Kilmartin and its prehistoric sites, then return via Loch Fyne and Inveraray, https://goo.gl/maps/3Gbxzs7VLpn

You could greatly limit your driving hours (and don't judge actual times based on Google - it's notoriously optimistic) and actually have time to stop and walk around, visit a pub, and not have to be spending as many hours fretting about logistics.

If these places don't ring any bells, look them up on Undiscovered Scotland, a terrific resource. http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 11:40 AM
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>>and kept yourselves to the Trossachs, Mull and Argyll?LOVE driving in Scotland and typically rent a stick. But it does demand concentration and 4 or 5 hours in the car every day will wear on the driver quickly (and wear on the poor slubs stuck in the back seats even faster)
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 12:04 PM
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That would be my choice -- But then I don't have to explain myself to the curious back home "What! - You went to Scotland and didn't go to Loch Ness or Skye???"

I know, but really, on the Glen Coe/Glen Etive "loop" it wouldn't be impossible to shoot over and through Ft. William and drive up the Great Glen to the bottom of Loch Ness, turn around and head back. Seeing Loch Ness through car windows is about as much as anybody does anyway. You could swap bragging about Skye with a brag about seeing the place in Glen Etive used in Skyfall - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxBt5fcwIQw - and look at Kilchurn Castle (on Loch Awe on the way back from Glen Etive) as a stand-in for Castle Urquhart on Loch Ness. http://www.castlesfortsbattles.co.uk...407e_05_06.jpg
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 12:15 PM
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Let's also put into context a day trip to Iona from Oban. (In the middle of a demanding week trip)

Early ferry to Craignure, then an absolute battle down mainly simgke track roads with passing places for 2 hours. Avoiding sheep, milk tankers and many many tour buses, camper vans and caravans. This year at various times the traffic bunched and it took 10 minutes to negotiate (back up) each passing place. There's about 60 of them.

Then get to the Iona ferry.

Race around Iona, see nothing and then do the whole thing in reverse.

It's very demanding, unnecessarily.

Same on Skye.

To get over to the Cullins and Talisker, it's a long drive.
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 12:20 PM
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I was kidding -- We'd all be rich if we got a $ for every 'Tartan loop' itinerary we get on here. I assume is is because Loch ness/Inverness/Eilean Donan/Skye are the 'famous' places.

>>and look at Kilchurn Castle
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 12:29 PM
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http://www.benmoreestate.co.uk/knock-house/

Is at the centre of Mull and has very flexible accommodation options. Very good standards and this area is swamped with wildlife.
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 05:12 PM
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We just came back from 14 days in Scotland. Your trip is too rushed. We spent 2 full days (3 nights) on both Mull and Skye and barely scratched the surface! You also have to account for the weather. The drive to get the ferry to Iona is quite long on a one track road. It poured the day we were there so we did not even try to go to Staffa too. I learned long ago to enjoy what you see and don't worry about what you miss. Mull is less crowded and is gorgeous. Skye is lovely too but is is a large island to see. You can't see the best of it in one day. Listen to the experts, they gave me some great advice.
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 05:39 PM
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YES, the weather! I don't know if you were referring to the impact on driving or sightseeing, sberg, but you almost have to double your stay at each place to make sure you get some decent weather days. I know some say just deal with it and make the most of it, but if you're planning a full day of walking/hiking, a full day of cold pouring rain is not something easily dealt with.

Long story short, I also agree that you are trying to see too much in 8 days. We saw less in 9 days and also only scratched the surface.
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 05:42 PM
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Bookmarking
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 06:23 PM
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We may not hear from the OP again. Asked a question last year, got nearly 30 responses - and never acknowledged any of them. May not know how to find his way back to his threads???
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Old Sep 11th, 2017, 06:49 PM
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That's OK, this is all just an outlet for us anyways, right? Hehe
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