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Itinerary advice for the Highlands in September.

Itinerary advice for the Highlands in September.

May 1st, 2017, 04:00 PM
  #1  
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Itinerary advice for the Highlands in September.

I apologize, but this post might be a bit long.

Last May we had an amazing family trip to Scotland, this is how we divided the nights:

Callander, 3
Skye, 3
Nairn, 2
Stonehaven, 1
Crail, 2
Edinburgh, 4

It worked extremely well, with a couple of long driving days, but the days were also long, and we were all so enchanted with both the Scottish folk and the scenery. I do wish we'd had a couple of extra days, but we were happy our adult daughters were able to spend that time with us. Now on to this year.

My husband and I want to go in September, and we'd love input, as we're just starting to plan.

We will fly Toronto - Glasgow and return, and are looking at flights for the second week of September, possibly the 11th to either the 28th or 30th.

What do we like? Mountains and moors and glens, ruined or semi ruined castles, bagpipes, marmalade with scotch in it and heather honey. Basically the main requirement is scenery that knocks our socks off, as we're pretty well flatlanders.

We all adored Skye and had the good fortune to have no rain while there, and one spectacular day, sun all day, we liked the scenery from Callandar to Glen Coe and from Eilean Donan (castle meh) to where we picked up Loch Ness (Loch meh also), hills and trees.

All I have so far for a plan is three nights in Glasgow, beginning or end depending on flight times, maybe four nights on Mull (too many, too little?), one or two nights near Loch Lomond to explore the Trossachs better (already did Stirling, Inchmahome Priory, Doune Caste, Aberfolye), Argyll

This is where I fall apart, we'd like to explore Wester Ross, and possibly the North East Coast as well, but I can't get a handle on how to plan this part. Would we hopscotch all along the coast, either ending or starting in Inverness, how many nights for this if we were able to take it slowly?

Nothing is booked yet, so we're open to any and all suggestions and recommendations.

Many thanks for taking the time to offer help. We're very excited about another fabulous Scotland trip.
sugarmaple is online now  
May 1st, 2017, 04:33 PM
  #2  
 
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>>maybe four nights on Mull (too many, too little?)<<

4 nights would be great but honestly (and I really love Mull) three nights would be good.

I'd maybe consider something slightly different -- upon arrival at GLA, take the train from Glasgow to Inverness and collect a car there. Get over the jet lag w/ one night in Inverness (OR . . . instead of flying into GLA you could fly in to LHR and then fry to Inverness)

Then head out doing a loop north and west from Inverness, then down the Great Glen. Then to Mull, then Argyll and finish up at GLA to fly home.
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May 1st, 2017, 05:27 PM
  #3  
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Hi janisj

That's an interesting option. We always try to do our trips cost effectively. I could only find the train schedule to the end of July, cheapest £82 for two, and the car is about $25 per day, but it's definitely worth considering.

Jet lag isn't too much of a concern. Last year we had 3 hour layover in LHR, then visited the Kelpies and ended the day in Callander. Not that we'd consider driving directly to Inverness!

If we did opt to drive, perhaps counterclockwise, where would you suggest we stop the first nights?
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May 1st, 2017, 05:52 PM
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.>> and then fry to Inverness)<< oops not 'fry' . . . fly . . .

If you want to drive I'd probably go via Pert or Dunkeld (Dunkeld is really lovely and only about 90 mins/2 hours from GLA. Then you could pretty much bypass Inverness and head up to maybe Dornoch. From Dornoch north to around Thurso, then to the west through Lochinver and Ullapool, then down the Great Glen to Mull/Argyll.

This would be a pretty full 2+ weeks but totally doable.

To allow for more multi night stops me personally, I'd probably cut across west from Dornoch towards Lochinver and cut off the very northern bits.
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May 2nd, 2017, 05:12 AM
  #5  
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Ok, super, we'll go via >>Pert<< ...��sorry janisj, I couldn't resist ...��

So one night in Dunkeld on to Dornoch, for one night?

Across A837 to Lochinver? Is that a scenic route?

Is there any point in cutting off the extreme north east, and going through Tongue and Durness on the way to Lochinver?

And would you recommend staying in Lochinvar or Ullapool, or somewhere else? How many nights?
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May 2nd, 2017, 06:31 AM
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I've got to start previewing

>>So one night in Dunkeld on to Dornoch, for one night?<<

I'd stay 2 nights in Dornoch -- it will take a while to get there and ther is quite a bit you can see in the general area.

>>Across A837 to Lochinver? Is that a scenic route?<<

yes, Very

>>And would you recommend staying in Lochinvar or Ullapool,<<

I'd probably stay in Lochinver AND Poolewe or Gairloch. One night each or 1 night in Lochinver and 2 nights in Poolewe/Gairloch if you have the time.

>>Is there any point in cutting off the extreme north east, and going through Tongue and Durness on the way to Lochinver?<<

That would add a LOT of time -- like 2 full days at least. There is a lot to enjoy no matter which areas you explore, but me personally, I'd rather move a little slower and have time for 2 night stays.
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May 2nd, 2017, 08:07 AM
  #7  
 
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Hi Sugarmaple,
We are kind of in the same situation as you are, have been to Scotland a few times. We are going in June and I wanted to take advantage of Air Canada's daytime flight from Toronto to LHR. We are spending a few days in London and driving up through the Cotswolds, Yorkshire and the Lake District as we will be gone one month in total.

After a few days in Edinburgh we are heading up, past the fishing villages (been before) and to Dunottar, staying in Stonehaven. Then we will wend our way through the Cairngorms. We are spending a night in Dornoch and then heading north and going over to Orkney for a couple of days. We will drive most of the North Coast 500 route, going to Lewis and back on our way. On our way back south we will stop in Gairloch, and somewhere near Ft. William. We take a detour to Arran and finish our vacation with a few days in The Dumfries Galloway area.. Flying home form Glasgow.

You would have time to consider some of the Outer Hebrides as well.Something else to think about.....
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May 2nd, 2017, 12:50 PM
  #8  
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Jane, our original plan was the Orkneys for a few days instead of Mull, but a few posts suggest the scenery is more spectacular in Argyll, and this trip is all about that. If we have extra days, at this point in our thinking, we'll head to Ayrshire.

Dornoch looks like a great choice for a couple of nights,

The Black Isle alone looks like it deserves a full day. We weren't able to see Cawdor Castle last May, and I'd like to fit that in too on the drive from Dunkeld to Dornoch. I have to look closer at a map, that might be too much for one day?
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May 2nd, 2017, 02:06 PM
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By cutting Mull and Argyll back to 3 or 4 nights total can you front load your itinerary giving you a night in Dunkeld, then on to Cawdor and stay a night either near there or on the Black Isle, and then on to Dornoch ?
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May 2nd, 2017, 05:19 PM
  #10  
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From say Gairlich to Mull should we stop one night somewhere?

I'm asking because I was looking into Seaview and Staffa House on Mull, and Seaview only has three nights and Staffa one double room available.

That's assuming

Dunkeld 1
Dornoch 2
Lochinver 1
Gairloch or Poolewe 2
Somewhere? 1
Mull 3
Open 5. D & G? Ayrshire?
Glasgow 3

How does that look?
sugarmaple is online now  
May 2nd, 2017, 06:36 PM
  #11  
 
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I'd consider stopping that night in Invergarry or Invermoriston? Or even in Plockton.
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May 5th, 2017, 10:08 AM
  #12  
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I just booked our plane tickets, and we have 18 nights.

Working from the basic plan, we have five nights to play with, and I'm struggling with options.

In no particular order, five nights:

Option 1 Do the whole coast north from Dornoch and around to Gairloch, and how many days for that?

2 - leave Mull for inverary on loch Fyne, drive kintyre to Campbeltown, how long, then what?

3 - maybe D&G, one or two locations. We were there about (gulp) 40 years ago and stayed in Kirkudbright, visited Threave Castle.

If we don't need five nights for option one, combine one and two?

We just need to keep in mind that the car has to be returned to Glasgow airport no later than 1:00 pm.

Thanks ��
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May 5th, 2017, 10:58 AM
  #13  
 
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Of those I'd probably do a combo of 2 and 3. 2 days for the Kintyre Peninsula, the a ferry across to Arran and a ferry across to the mainland. and 3 days in D&G . . . OR stay one night on Arran and two in D&G.

This would give you entirely different types of scenery than you will have seen up in the NW.
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May 5th, 2017, 11:40 AM
  #14  
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Thanks Janisj, I like that a lot. You've been such a great help. No doubt I'll be back for more specific advice!
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May 5th, 2017, 01:54 PM
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I'm coming to this thread pretty late and as usual Janis has done yeoperson (is that a word?) work so far.

My comments are that Mull and Argyll and the northwest coast are just about my two fave places in all of the Highlands, and while, yes, they're pretty far apart in Scottish terms (not North American ones) I'd do my best to include a few days in both. With 18 days total you have plenty of time.

And in accordance with my own tastes, I'm going to suggest some places that I happen to like a lot, even though some may disagree.

Flying in and out of Glasgow and in September, I'd probably head north first just in case autumn comes early. It actually can make a difference. https://goo.gl/maps/UcB41Vfcu312

If you wanted an easy first day but well positioned for the next day, the village of Luss on the bonny banks of Loch Lomond would be easy. Or if you're a little more energetic, you could motor on to the first of my recommended points, the village of Fortingall at the head of Glen Lyon. Fortingall is a tiny village with a terrific hotel and a bunch of (very unusual in Scotland) thatched buildings next to the ancient churchyard. The yew tree in the churchyard is reputed to be the oldest living thing in Britain, maybe in Europe. Pontius Pilate allegedly was born in Fortingall.

But the star is Glen Lyon itself. In the autumn (if you're lucky enough to be there when the leaves are turning) the valley turns to gold, and there are times when the low clouds or fog that frequents the glen can open up a little and let some sunlight through, resulting in an ethereal incandescent world of glowing yellow and gold. Nothing short of amazing. This usually happens around sunset and it will mark you forever.

Anyway, poetry aside, I'd then continue north on the A9 through Inverness (IMO worthy of filling the tank and that's about it) and up to the Struie Hill Road (B9176) which will take you up and over the hills to the inner part of the Dornoch Firth. Here's the view from the summit - http://gardyloo.us/wp-content/upload...130614_15s.jpg .

Alternatively you can follow the A9 up to Dornoch (which competes with St. Andrews as the real home of golf and also happens to be where the last witch burning in Scotland took place) and head inland from there. Or if you're whisky people, stay on the Ross-shire side of the Firth and visit the Glenmorangie distillery outside Tain. (This is holy ground to me, YMMV.)

I'm recommending your next stop be a little church at the end of the scenic and mainly empty Strath Carron, accessed through Ardgay on the south side of the bridge at Bonar Bridge. Croick Church is about as historic a place as you're going to find in the northern Highlands, for all the wrong reasons. Rather than go into it here, let me just refer you to the second day's narrative in a brief trip report I filed a couple of years ago - http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...n-scotland.cfm

Then, continuing with the previous narrative, I'd suggest you head off across some of the emptiest and loneliest country in Britain - http://gardyloo.us/wp-content/upload...0614_118Hs.jpg - toward the north coast. Stop at the amazing (to me, anyway) prehistoric Dun Dornaigil broch sitting alongside an un-numbered road near the foot of Ben Hope. http://gardyloo.us/wp-content/upload...0614_173Hs.jpg

Continue north and around Loch Eribol to Durness and visit Smoo Cave, then head south toward Ullapool. After Ullapool, continue south to Inverewe Gardens, then through Torridon and around Loch Carron to Plockton.

Here's a map showing this route - https://goo.gl/maps/sxdbqeCuyqA2

The remainder of my "faves tour" consists of wending your way down the coast with a bit of island-hopping. From Plockton I'd cross over to Skye, then head down to the Mallaig ferry and back to the mainland. I'd then head across Morar and the Ardnamurchan Peninsula to the Kilchoan ferry to Tobermory on Mull. Spend a couple of days on Mull, possibly including a day trip to Iona or Staffa, then back to the Oban ferry. (Don't miss Duart Castle overlooking the channel. Like Eilean Donan, it's best viewed from the outside.)

From Oban, head south a half hour or so to Kilmartin. Kilmartin Glen is the home of the largest collection of prehistoric landmarks in Scotland. The floor of the glen is littered with standing stones and stone circles, burial cairns... and the little museum in the Kilmartin church has some marvelous carved Celtic grave slabs, under cover to arrest their decay. It's a tiny, beautiful and quite eerie place, marvelous in my mind.

Then continue around the bottom of the peninsula and stop in Inveraray. This picturesque village is the home of the Campbells, and Inveraray Castle, their somewhat florid and pompous digs (home of Shrimpy on Downton Abbey is worth a tour. (Okay, I've got MacDonald blood in me, what can I say?) Then back over Rest and Be Thankful to Loch Lomind and back to Glesga. Map - https://goo.gl/maps/EF6rzzn2vpp

Like I said, I'm biased, but IMO this is a fabulous combination of places and sights, with a whole lotta history - stone age to jet age - thrown into the mix.
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May 5th, 2017, 02:12 PM
  #16  
 
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Can't preview posts, so sorry about the multiple "phase 1" maps. Use the second one, https://goo.gl/maps/sxdbqeCuyqA2

It also looks like the Flickr links in the old trip report are dead, so here they are from my own website -

Croick Church
http://gardyloo.us/wp-content/upload...30614_63Hs.jpg
http://gardyloo.us/wp-content/upload...130614_25s.jpg

Road to the broch -
http://gardyloo.us/wp-content/upload...30614_105s.jpg
http://gardyloo.us/wp-content/upload...30614_157a.jpg
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May 5th, 2017, 05:11 PM
  #17  
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Thanks so much for chiming in gardyloo. I had already discovered your micro trip report, absolutely haunting history and scenery, and its on the list.

Last year we were on Skye.

Back to my maps, and then I'll be back!

I had really hoped you and janisj would help, as your advice and experience is phenomenal. I so appreciate how generous you both are with your time.
sugarmaple is online now  
May 7th, 2017, 03:36 AM
  #18  
 
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Bookmarking. Thanks for all the info!
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May 7th, 2017, 09:20 AM
  #19  
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I'm hoping for a little more help from my friends...

Is this reasonable?

Day 1, GLA, pick up car 1:00 pm, drive to Alberfeldy, one night

Day 2, Cawdor castle, likely stay in Tain, possibly Dunkeld

Day 3 Drive Black Isle, overnight Tain

Day 4, Croick Church, overnight Lochinver

Day 5, 6, overnight Gairloch

Day 7 overnight invergarry,

if we want, is there time to go from Gairloch to Torridon around to Applecross and Bealach na Bo? If we choose not to do that, which of these is better: go down Glen Carron, Eilean Donen (not stopping there) to Invergarry, or back through Inverness down Loch Ness to invergarry?

Day 8,9,10 Mull, trip to Iona if weather is good, I'm looking at Fionnhport.

Day 11, morning ferry to Oban, kilmartin, overnight Inverary

Day 12, 13. Ayr

Day 14, 15. D &G, threave, sweetheart abbey, caerlaverock, dundrennan (love ruins!) maybe grey mares tail. Maybe overnights in Dumfries, Return car to GLA by 1:00

Day 16,17,18. Glasgow

Four one nighters, four two nights, two three nighters. This is obviously a driving trip, but have we given ourselves enough time most days to stop here and there, get out of the car and maybe hike a bit or more likely gape at the scenery.

Please give me an honest critique. Should I add somewhere or take away somewhere?

When we started this, I thought 18 nights was generous, but it's not enough!
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May 7th, 2017, 10:42 AM
  #20  
 
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I got really confused w/ this bit:

>>Day 1, GLA, pick up car 1:00 pm, drive to Alberfeldy, one night

Day 2, Cawdor castle, likely stay in Tain, possibly Dunkeld

Day 3 Drive Black Isle, overnight Tain<<

Shouldn't it say:

Day 1, GLA, pick up car 1:00 pm, drive to Alberfeldy, one night, possibly Dunkeld

Day 2, Cawdor castle, likely stay in Tain, possibly Dunkeld

Day 3 Drive Black Isle, overnight Tain

>>which of these is better: go down Glen Carron, Eilean Donan (not stopping there) to Invergarry,<<

This for sure

>>trip to Iona if weather is good<<

IMO/IME trip to Iona whether the weather is good, bad or indifferent

I might stay only one night in Ayr and add a night to D&G. There is a lot to see in the area. I'd definitely visit Culzean on the way from Ayr to D&G.

OR -- if you want ti 2 nights in Ayr, cut one night from Glasgow.
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