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ktstel Feb 22nd, 2017 03:06 PM

itinerary help: 18 days in Wales/Scotland
I'd love to have your insight and expertise about the following itinerary (and questions) planned for this September.
We prefer driving to the train; we're quite comfortable with the roads, having driven on previous trips to the Highlands. We'd like to expand on what we've already seen: Glen Coe, Inverness, Spean Bridge areas.

Day 1/2: London to Stonehenge, then 2 nights in Castle Combe
Day 3/4: Drive to Conwy or Betws-y-Coed, explore Snowdonia

---we will then be on our way to Skye. We're trying to limit the 1-nite stops as much as possible without spending all day in the car, but does this itinerary then make sense? We considered overnighting in Greenock on night 5, and ferrying the next morning to Dunoon to drive the "scenic route to Inveraray and Oban on the way to Portree)
Day 5: Overnight in Keswick
Day 6. Overnight in Inveraray possible detour to Hadrian's wall if time)
Days 7-9. Overnight in Portree, explore isle
Days 10-12 Drive/homebase in Plockton, Ulapool , Black Isle or Cairngorm (two areas we haven't explored)
Days 13-15. Drive/homebase in Trossachs
Day 16-18. Drop car, enjoy Edinburgh
Day 19. Fly to LHR

Thanks in advance for your thoughts. You can't imagine how helpful your insights are!

janisj Feb 22nd, 2017 05:10 PM

just a quick note for now: Inveraray to Portree will be close to a 6 hour drive plus any stops.

ESW Feb 23rd, 2017 12:03 AM

You are planning some long days driving in the car. I'm wondering if you are underetimating the time needed to drive in the UK. Distances may not sound that long but will take a lot longer to cover than you might expect. Times on Google maps are misleading and you need to allow 50% to cover time for stops, traffic etc.

What made you choose Stonehenge, Castle Combe and North Wales before heading to Scotland? Are these essentials? If not cutting them out, and flying to eitehr Glasgow or Scotland to begin the trip would give you much more time to drive the sceninc route via Dunoon, Inverary and Oban on your way to Portree, as well as giving you time to expand what you've already seen in Scotland.

I'm a bit worried about the amount of time you are allocating to Wales and wonder if it is enough to repay the effort of getting there.

Castle Combe to either Conwy or Betwys y Coed is nearly 200 miles if travelling the scenic route up through Leominster, Ludlow, Shrewsbury, Oswestry... This is going to be five hours+ driving with stops added on top of this. The other alternative is up round Birmingham - pretty boring driving and then cutting across country to Betwys y Coed or continuing to Warrington and Chester for Conwy. This is longer, may be marginally quicker as long as there are no traffic holdups but is mind numbing driving...

This effectively only gives you a full day for North Wales and Snowdonia. I have to question whether it is worth it, and whether it might be better spent adding time to Scotland. Your Scottish itinerary is pretty tight.

Keswick to Inverary is another 4-5 hour drive. I'm not quite sure what your expectations of Hadrians Wall are, and what you are wanting to do/see here. Housesteads is the most popular and well visited Fort. This will add an extra 50 miles to the trip - possibly 90minutes driving. You need to allow an hour for the fort and longer if you want to walk along part of the Roman wall from here.

Janis has already flagged up travel time from Inverary to Portree. Again this is effectively only one full day for Skye. Ditto for the rest of the trip...

janisj Feb 23rd, 2017 08:27 AM

Back after a loooong night.

ESW has pointed out a lot of the issues.

You have 18 days and want to visit parts of three countries - I'm assuming you used googlemap or similar to figure your drive times - right? If so you need to add 25% to 75% to most of the times (and occasionally even more)

>>if travelling the scenic route up through Leominster, Ludlow, Shrewsbury, Oswestry... This is going to be five hours+ driving with stops added on top of this<<

IME it would likely take even longer

Keswick to Inveraray is a long day without a detour to Hadrian's Wall -- and you won't have had any time in the Lakes either.

So what you have is a series of hellaciously long travel days and virtually no time in each destination.

I'd really rethink the whole plan for square one. What are the main areas you want to visit?

If you mostly want to see Scotland (which is what I see from your overall plan) . . . than JUST do Scotland. Or perhaps a couple of days in the the Lake District, a day/night for the Wall, and the rest in Scotland.

If just Scotland - then take a train or fly up to Edinburgh, rent a car after you visit the city, then turn in the car at EDI and fly to LHR.

If the Lakes & Scotland - then train or fly to Manchester or Liverpool.

And when re-figuring you itinerary - Driving in the Lakes and on Skye and in the Northwest you will average about 35 mph

ktstel Feb 23rd, 2017 11:49 AM

Thanks for your replies.

We'll be in London in Sept. and want to return to SKYE and the Highlands. DH wants to drive and see "some" of Wales. We've been "plumping" up viaMichelin mileage/times, which previously served us well in Scotland.

Since we'd be driving east toward Wales, it seemed like a no brainer to do Stonehenge and the Cotswalds, but we're more than willing to adapt, which is why I asked for your help.

We're not averse to longer "transition days" in the car to get to a homebase where we then spend 2-4 days. This works well for us.

So, starting over, is this more realistic?

Day 1: Train from LHR to Conwy/Bangor.
Days 2,3: Rent car; explore Snowdonia
Day 4: Train to Ayr
Days 5,6: Rent car; drive to Oban, Explore Mull
Day 7: Ferry from Mallaig to Armadale; (We previously went via
the A87 bridge; thought it would be fun this time to
approach via the ferry.) Drive to Portree
Days 8,9: Explore Skye
Days 10-12: Drive/homebase in Plockton, Ulapool, Black Isle or Cairngorm (two areas we haven't explored)
Days 13-15. Drive to homebase in Trossachs, then day trips.
Day 16-18. Drop car, enjoy Edinburgh
Day 19. Fly to LHR.

As always, thanks for your time and advice.

janisj Feb 23rd, 2017 12:03 PM

>>Day 1: Train from LHR to Conwy/Bangor.
Days 2,3: Rent car; explore Snowdonia
Day 4: Train to Ayr
Days 5,6: Rent car; drive to Oban, Explore Mull <<

Better but how about this adjustment to the first bits instead:

(First of all there is no train from LHR to anywhere but Paddington station in London.)

Day 1: Train to Paddington and taxi to Euston station. Train from Euston station to Chester (or possibly Manchester).
Days 2,3: Rent car; explore Snowdonia (keep car)
Day 4: Drive to Moffat (this would give you time for a detour along the Wall)
Days 5,6: Drive Moffat to Oban; Explore Mull . . . and the rest looks doable.

ESW Feb 23rd, 2017 12:34 PM

That sounds so much better - and I like the idea of stopping at Moffat and doing Hadrian's Wall.

Chester is possibly a better place to pick up the car as it saves having to negotiate Manchester and the motorway between Mnachester and Chester which can get very busy.

janisj Feb 23rd, 2017 12:48 PM

I agree re Chester - but staying a night in Manchester (sans car of course) would be nice as well.

Another option would be a train from London to Liverpool -

But Chester is the closest to North Wales.

ESW Feb 23rd, 2017 01:07 PM

Chester is also a superb city with its walls, cathedral and The Rows.

ktstel Feb 24th, 2017 10:37 AM

Thank you to all for your upgrades; our itinerary is the better for your suggestions.

One question: We've been using viamichelin to calculate miles/times. Would you say those estimates are conservative or liberal? Moffat to Mallaig, for example, shows 205 miles and 5hrs, 5 min.

Thanks again for your input.

janisj Feb 24th, 2017 01:06 PM

I'd give it about 5.5 hours but a lot depends on traffic around Glasgow and if there is construction etc farther north.

Via Michelin is better than googlemap but still often optimistic.

ktstel Feb 24th, 2017 03:05 PM

Thanks, JanisJ! How would you compare driving times between RAC and viaMichelin? (should have asked that before)

janisj Feb 24th, 2017 03:17 PM

Funny -- I belonged to the RAC when I lived in the UK for a while but have never used their mileage calculator so I have no idea. I generally use either AA or viamichelin.

But the main point is none of them are accurate - especially if one is trying to make a specific ferry sailing ;)

No matter the site you usually need to add a fair amount of time - because of livestock in the road, getting stuck behind a caravan (travel trailer), weather, congested villages, construction, you name it. Most roads you will be on except for the M6/M74 will be two lane and anything can slow you down.

On roads I know well I will typically add about 25% - and am thrilled if it ends up faster.

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