Help with Scotland itinerary

Jun 20th, 2011, 07:04 AM
  #1  
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Help with Scotland itinerary

Hi all!

We'll be 2 couples, relatively fit and in our early 40s, doing a road trip around Scotland this mid-September. I just wanted to get opinions on our proposed itinerary.
1. Are the distances doable for driving? Not too hectic? We'd like a leisurely pace, with opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenery.
2. Would it be possible to shave off one more day? What would you skip/squeeze together?
3. We plan to take short walks inSkye (Cullins ?) and Glencoe....maybe around 2-3 hours each? Any particular walk you'd suggest?

Aside from walks, we're interested in eating, history, castles, scenic drives. Maybe visit at least one distillery? No, we don't play golf.

Here's the suggested itinerary:

Day 1 – Arrive at Edinburgh
Day 2 – Edinburgh (is Rosslyn worth the trip?)
Day 3 – Leave Edinburgh. Drive through Stirling area, Bannockburn / Wallace Monument / Stirling Castle. Arrive Granton on Spey.
DDay 4 – Leave Granton on Spey. Inverneess. Drive through Loch Ness. Arrive Skye
Day 5 – Skye Walk. Cuillin Hills.
Day 6 – Leave Skye. Ferry to Mallaig. Drive through Ardnamurchan Peninsula to Ballaschulish (stay at hotel)
Day 7 – Leave Ballaschulish (I actually can't find this on the map, but figure its near Glencoe?). Drive through Glencoe. Walk in Glencoe. Drive to Edinburgh
Day 8 – Leave Edinburgh for London

Would really appreciate any inputs or suggestions (remove or add?). Thank you so much!

kat
katsby is offline  
Jun 20th, 2011, 08:10 AM
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What kind of vehicle do you plan to drive through Loch Ness? A submarine? some sort of amphibious vehicle? (Sorry, I don't want to be rude, but I couldn't resist) Loch Ness is a deep lake, not a town, so I am assuming you are driving on one of the roads along the side of Loch Ness, which is quite a scenic route by the way.)

Now to answer your questions:

Rosslyn-you will be having some long days in your car, so if it were I, I would skip Rosslyn, but then I am not a fan of the da Vinci Code. (I did read it) There is so much to see and do in Edinburgh, that I think that would be a better use of your time.

I found Ballaschulish on my road atlas of Britain. It is indeed near Glen Coe, less than 10 miles.

If you like castles, there are at least two on your way to Skye. Urquart Castle is on the shores of Loch Ness on A82 betwween Inverness and Fort Augustus. On the A87 between Kyle of Lochalsh (where there is the bridge to Skye) and Fort Augustus is Eileen Donan Castle, which is frequently photographed. It is on a point which sticks out into the water. My favorite is Eileen Donan as it is furnished as it would have been in the late 19th century. I was really interested in the kitchen, but that is my fascination. Urquart is also interesting, but it is in ruins that you can climb around.

Others will have comments I am sure and can give you more info. Have a great time!
irishface is offline  
Jun 20th, 2011, 08:10 AM
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What kind of vehicle do you plan to drive through Loch Ness? A submarine? some sort of amphibious vehicle? (Sorry, I don't want to be rude, but I couldn't resist) Loch Ness is a deep lake, not a town, so I am assuming you are driving on one of the roads along the side of Loch Ness, which is quite a scenic route by the way.)

Now to answer your questions:

Rosslyn-you will be having some long days in your car, so if it were I, I would skip Rosslyn, but then I am not a fan of the da Vinci Code. (I did read it) There is so much to see and do in Edinburgh, that I think that would be a better use of your time.

I found Ballaschulish on my road atlas of Britain. It is indeed near Glen Coe, less than 10 miles.

If you like castles, there are at least two on your way to Skye. Urquart Castle is on the shores of Loch Ness on A82 betwween Inverness and Fort Augustus. On the A87 between Kyle of Lochalsh (where there is the bridge to Skye) and Fort Augustus is Eileen Donan Castle, which is frequently photographed. It is on a point which sticks out into the water. My favorite is Eileen Donan as it is furnished as it would have been in the late 19th century. I was really interested in the kitchen, but that is my fascination. Urquart is also interesting, but it is in ruins that you can climb around.

Others will have comments I am sure and can give you more info. Have a great time!
irishface is offline  
Jun 20th, 2011, 09:42 AM
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"(I actually can't find this on the map, but figure its near Glencoe?"

Either get a better map -- or spell it right and look again.

it is Ballachulish

Your day from Edinburgh to Grantown on Spey is long/difficult. Traveling via Bannockburn/Stirling is nearly 175 miles and easily 4.5+ hours driving. Stirling Castle takes at least 2 hours, Bannockburn maybe an hour, and allow about 45 mins for the Wallace monument if you climb it. Plus you'll probably want to stop at Blair Castle which is another hour or two.

That plus a meal means you will be enroute literally the entire day - between 10 and 11 hours. And that is skipping Dunkeld and Scone Palace and Killiekrankie and other places.

If it was me -- I'd leave Stirling/Bannockburn til your drive back to Edinburgh. Leaving Ballachulish in the AM, visiting Glencoe -- you'd easily get to Stirling by noon or 1 PM.
janisj is online now  
Jun 21st, 2011, 03:47 AM
  #5  
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Ha ha irishface Yes, we will drive around the loch, not through it. Heard it was beautiful, and of course Loch Ness is famous on its own. We couldn't not go! Thanks for the tips on the castles! And I wholeheartedly agree with you on Rosslyn.

Thanks janisj! Your suggestion to put Stirling and Bannockburn makes sense. You think we can still make it if we take a 2 hour walk around Glencoe? After reading on Dunkeld and Killiekrankie, you're so right....I def want to go to these places!

is there a better option than staying in Granton-on-Spey? From my readings on the Fodor's forums, some people recommend to skip Inverness (the city) and just go around the surrounding areas. So maybe we can stay in Killiekrankie instead, so that we don't have to drive so far?
katsby is offline  
Jun 21st, 2011, 07:42 AM
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Nothing wrong w/ staying in Grantown.

If you take time at Glencoe, you can still get to Stirling in good time to visit the castle. Glencoe to Stilring is about 80 miles and about 2.5 hours driving. So w/ an early start and 2 hours in Glencoe you could easily get to Stirling before 2PM - but I'd take a detour at Killin/Falls of Dochart and get to Stirling by 2:30 or 3 PM.
janisj is online now  
Jun 27th, 2011, 03:18 PM
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Janis's first post will tell you it's possible to spend the entire week between Edinburgh and Inverness and still not have time for everything. Decisions, decisions!
Grantown on Spey (note the spelling) is a pleasant enough place in an area with some fantastic walks to suit all abilities. It's also close to loads of distilleries.
There's not much in Inverness to justify staying there but if you want to get from Grantown on Spey to Skye, presumably over the birdge from Kyle of Lochalsh, your quickest route will go through Inverness anyway.
For your days to and from Skye a lot will depend on where you overnight. Skye is a big place and the indented coastline means distances can be deceptive. Even just the drive from the Skye Bridge to the Mallaig ferry is about 20 miles and could take an hour on narrow roads.
Walks on Skye, Glencoe etc - what level of difficulty are you looking for? Both areas have good walks that you could do with your hands in your pockets, they also have climbs where you need a parachute as well as a safety rope. If you're looking for walks rather than climbs there are better places on Skye than the Cuillin.
Craigellachie is offline  
Jun 27th, 2011, 03:30 PM
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For excellent information regarding walks in Scotland, go to www.walkhighlands.co.uk
historytraveler is online now  
Jun 29th, 2011, 01:10 AM
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Seems like my spelling is all off! My apologies to everyone.

Craigellachie and historytraveler, we're not looking for anything difficult. Hands in pockets sounds about right. I checked out that website, and I think we'll be good for 2 boot scenario. Looking for something around 5 miles, thereabouts. My friend recommended walking in Cuillin, which is why its in my initial plan.

Thanks so much for your input re Skye. We plan to spend 2 nights on Skye. Any suggestions where, since our interests will be scenic drives, castles, and walks?

The more research I do, the more I realize that there is just so much to see. Decisions, decisions is right! Such a shame we're only spending a week in Scotland!
katsby is offline  
Jun 29th, 2011, 11:59 AM
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We enjoyed Urquhart (sp) in 1998. The bagpiper was walking the ramparts when we were there. Keep in mind it IS a ruin, but the setting is beautiful. Actually, someone (in the news) thought they had seen Nessie the week before!
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Jun 30th, 2011, 05:38 AM
  #11  
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Thanks hopingtotravel! Urquhart is in the itinerary!! I WAS warned it was a ruin, but beautiful nonetheless. So in the itinerary it goes!
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Jun 30th, 2011, 06:01 AM
  #12  
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Urqhart is indeed a good stop. Interesting ruin, great vantage point to see Loch Ness, and a nice, relatively new visitors center with all that entails. Good way to break up the trip from Inverness to Skye. You can also stop at Eilean Donan along the way, although due to the 19th century renovations, I view this as more of a photo stop than a prime interior tour opportunity.
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Jun 30th, 2011, 07:56 AM
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Thanks for the feedback twk!

I'd also like to put in Dunnotar in the itinerary, since I've read in other threads that this castle was outstanding. Am I being too ambitious to try to squeeze it in Day 3 (before arriving at Grantown?)
katsby is offline  
Jun 30th, 2011, 09:42 AM
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Back to that map

Dunnottar is on the east coast - Grantown-on-Spey is in the north center of the country.

From Edinburgh to Grantown via Dunnottar by the most direct route (w/o ANY detours to other amazing places in the area) is about 220 miles and 5.5+ hours w/o stops. And taking a more scenic route would mean a 7 or 8 hour drive. Even a short visit to Dunnottar takes a minimum 1 hour because one needs to walk out to the ruins and back. But most will spend a good 2 hours there.

So you are spending an entire day to get to one (absolutely terrific) castle totally out of the way from other parts of your itinerary.

You have limited days -- so make a list of your musts and then we can help you decide which are possible . . .
janisj is online now  
Jun 30th, 2011, 11:23 AM
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Funny, we are planning an 8-day trip to Scotland in September too! We'll be staying in Edinburgh, Ballachulish, and Skye as well, then doing some ancestral research south of Glasgow.

We took a trip to the Highlands in 2007 and enjoyed hiking up the Devil's Staircase (a segment of the West Highland Way) in Glen Coe. It is a bit steep and rocky in places but nothing you can't handle. You will get great views of Buachaille Etive Mor and the glen. We did the hike in the mist/rain and still really enjoyed it - if you have good weather I am sure the views are even more spectacular! (It is an out-and-back hike, so if you are looking for a loop this would not fit the bill.) You start and finish at a roadside parking area at Altnafeadh Trailhead and you can go as far as you want on the West Highland Way. Some pictures from the hike are in the first half of this set:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/hausfra...th/1432264953/

I think we are going to try the Fairy Pools hike on Skye (we will be traveling with a 3-year-old, so that limits us somewhat). I have heard it is beautiful. From my research it sounds like a boat tour is the best option for getting a taste of the Cuillin Hills (it seems you otherwise have to do some pretty serious hiking to actually get into the hills).
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Jun 30th, 2011, 06:06 PM
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janisj - exactly. I was looking at the map and saw it was out of the way, but I have heard this castle is SPECTACULAR and not to be missed. Was contemplating on staying near Dunnotar instead of Grantown, but then this would mean a car ride clear across Scotland from Dunnotar to Skye on the next day! Sigh.

hausfrau - thanks for your input on the walks! The Devil's Staircase sounds something I'd really enjoy. Actually, out-and-back works better, since we can at least time our trek better (just turn back halfway through the time alloted ). Your pictures are beautiful! But I don't think you can take an ugly picture in Scotland, right? I might make a separate post on walks/treks on Scotland. Might get more answers with a specific subject matter.
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Jun 30th, 2011, 07:09 PM
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"this castle is SPECTACULAR and not to be missed"

It is -- IF you are anywhere in the same part of Scotland. Just like Skye wouldn't make sense for a trip concentrating on the east coast, Dunnottar doesn't make sense on a trip focused on the west coast.

But not to worry -- you are going to miss 150 other SPECTACULAR sites. Just the nature of the beast -- Scotland is chock-a-block w/ spectacular 'un-missables'. So take your number of days and pick what's doable -- don't try to see things in every corner of the country.

(Dunnottar to Portree on Skye would be a 6 hour drive non-stop -- 8 to 9 hours w/ stops. Makes no sense. Especially since you'll be bypassing a score of spectacular sites in between)
janisj is online now  
Jul 1st, 2011, 01:55 AM
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thanks so much janisj. You're right. I have to accept that I can't see everything, and Skye has been on my wish list for ages, so Dunnotar (and St. Andrew) will have to wait til my next trip. Thanks for being the realist!

How does this look? Anything to remove/add?


Sept 16 Friday
7AM Leave London. Train to Edinburgh.
1125AM Arrive Edinburgh
Check in hotel

Sept 17 Saturday
Edinburgh

Sept 18 Sunday
Leave Edinburgh. Drive North
See Dunkeld, Killiekrankie, Scone Palace,
Blair Castle
Arrive Grantown on Spey

Sept 19 Monday
Leave Grantown on Spey. Drive West.
Glenfiddich distillery
Loch Ness
Urquart Castle
Eileen Donan Castle
Arrive Isle of Skye

Sept 20 Tuesday
Explore Isle of Skye (need more detail here, since its a big place)
Talisker Distillery?
Cuillin Hills (boat? walk?)

Sept 21 Wednesday
Leave Isle of Skye. Take ferry to Mallaig. Drive through Ardnamurchan Peninsula to Ballachulish.
Arrive Ballachulish.

Sept 22 Thursday
Leave Ballachulish
Glen Coe. (2 hour hike?)
Stirling Castle
Wallace Monument
Bannockburn
Kilin/Falls of Dochart
Arrive Edinburgh

Sept 23 Friday
Leave Edinburgh

hausfrau have you finished your itinerary already? Mind sharing what you're planning on seeing?
katsby is offline  
Jul 1st, 2011, 07:25 AM
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Doable - just a couple of minor things/places are out of order.

• Glenfiddich is not west of Grantown on Spey -- it is almost an hour east. I'd skip it and just tour Tallisker when you get to Skye. Not entirely of course, but in general, one distillery tour is much like every other

• On Thurs, Killin is the first place you'll reach after leaving Glencoe. So it would be Glencoe > Killin > Stirling > Edinburgh. That day you'll have to move along -- but it is definitely doable. Ballachulish to Edinburgh w/ a detour to Killin and Stirling/Bannockburn is about a 3.5 hour drive. W/ 2 hrs at Glencoe, the jaunt in to Killin, and 2+ hours for Stirling Castle you are talking a pretty full day -- and you want to make sure you arrive at Stirling by 4 PM at the latest.

You may have to skip Bannockburn since last entry is 4:45.
janisj is online now  
Jul 1st, 2011, 12:45 PM
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You can definitely do Devil's Staircase in a couple hours (probably less if you are just going to top of the hill marked with a cairn in my photo).

I can highly recommend the drive around the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. It is lovely!

I agree with janisj that your day on 9/22 is pretty full. We drove from Glen Coe to Edinburgh stopping to tour Stirling Castle and Doune Castle and that was a full day.

We are going exactly one week after you (we had to shift our dates because there is a cross-country bike/kayak race the weekend of the 17-18th that made it difficult for us to find a hotel in the West Highlands). Our itinerary is still pretty rough, and we are keeping it flexible since we will be traveling overseas with a small child for the first time and don't know how she will handle the jet lag, etc. but here's how it looks so far:

Fri 9/23
Arrive EDI, afternoon in Edinburgh
Camera Obscura/World of Illusions if we are all up for it

Sat 9/24
Day in Edinburgh
Museum of Scotland, Arthur's Seat, strolling/shopping (we have already been to Edinburgh Castle & Mary King's Close - both of which I highly recommend)

Sun 9/25
Drive to West Highlands via Glen Coe, night in Ballachulish

Mon 9/26
Drive to Skye, stop at Eilean Donan castle, night in Portree

Tues 9/27
Day on Skye - Fairy Pools hike, boat ride, night in Portree

Wed 9/28
Drive to Strathaven (south of Glasgow)

Thurs 9/29
Day exploring ancestry, night in Strathaven

Fri 9/30
Day exploring ancestry, drive to hotel near EDI

Sat 10/1
Fly home from EDI
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