October trip in Scotland - One Week

Old Aug 31st, 2023, 08:02 AM
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October trip in Scotland - One Week

Hi! I'm planning a one week trip to Scotland for my husband and me the first week of October. It's our first time visiting. We want to explore Edinburgh a bit, but we're really hoping to spend most of the time enjoying the natural beauty of the country, hopefully getting to see some fall colors.

Here's the itinerary I'm currently looking at:
Day 1 (Sat, Sept 30): Arrive in Edinburgh, overnight in Pitlochry.
Day 2 (Sun, Oct 1): Drive to Ullinish on the Isle of Skye.
Days 3-4 (Mon, Oct 2 - Tues, Oct 3): Explore Skye.
Day 5 (Wed, Oct 4): Drive from Ullinish to Glencoe.
Days 6-7 (Thurs, Oct 5 - Fri, Oct 6): Explore Glencoe.
Day 8 (Sat, Oct 7): Drive from Glencoe to Edinburgh, passing by Loch Lomond.
Day 9 (Depart, Oct 8): Departure.

I'd love any feedback about these locations and the pace of the trip. I've been going back in forth about having two full days in both Isle of Skye and Glencoe, or if I should plann for 3 full days on the Isle of Skye and one full day in Glencoe.

Thank you!
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Old Aug 31st, 2023, 10:35 AM
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If Skye is a must that October is about as good as it gets crowds-wise --but be prepared for nasty weather (or it could be beautiful -- or nasty and beautiful on the same day )

But very first of all (are you flying in long haul? - if not you can ignore the following bit) -- driving on your arrival day is a really awful idea. EDI to Pitlochry (why Pitlochry/ ) is about 90 miles -- that seems easy enough, but jet lag, micro sleeps, and just acclimating to the driving, road rules, signage, etc makes this a dangerous proposition.

Then Pitlochry (again - why Pitlochry) to Ullinish is about a 5 hour drive. Assuming you take the bridge to Skye you'll want to take the Armadale/Mallaig ferry back to the mainland. Ullinish to Glencoe will take about 4 hours plus many Photo stops + the ferry. Arisaig, Glenfinnan, Neptune's Staircase etc -- so probably realistically a 7-ish hour drive

To be brutally frank -- I personally would not even try to squeeze Skye into such a short trip . . . October Skye averages over 20 days of rain and they don't call it the Misty Isle for no reason. It was my third visit to the island before I was able to see a darned thing -- Now - that 3rd trip was glorious but the first two were pretty miserable. They say there is no such thing as bad weather - just bad clothing - but trust me there definitely can be BAD weather.
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Old Aug 31st, 2023, 11:13 AM
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Let me echo Janis' suggestion about giving a pass to Skye; in fact I'd pass on the west altogether. The distances are great, the driving slow (and hazardous in poor weather or if you're still getting accustomed to the time change) and of course you might not be able to see things without the mist or the wiper blades getting in the way.

And honestly, if you want autumn foliage, the west coast isn't the best place for it. There's some, but nowhere near as much as you might be able to see farther east.

I'm a broken record on this (and I've said before that sure is a metaphor that dates me) but for a combination of glorious scenery, autumn leaves, history, comfortable accommodations and relative convenience to Edinburgh, there's no more ideal place in October than Glen Lyon in the Perthshire Highlands, roughly two hours north of Edinburgh airport (where I'd recommend you collect your car.)

Glen Lyon is the longest enclosed glen in Scotland, full of beautiful scenery and, importantly, its eastern end (the one closest to the road network) is heavily forested with deciduous trees, unlike much of the west of Scotland where reforestation focuses mainly on conifers. As you go west up Glen Lyon, the trees peter out until you're on open moorland, similar to the landscapes you'd encounter in western and northern parts of Scotland.

One day in October I was in Glen Lyon when the late afternoon sun broke through the fog that had blanketed the glen all day. The light reflected off the yellow and red leaves of the trees back into the remaining mist, and the entire sky turned to an incandescent gold. I listened to see if the heavenly host were singing but only heard the local sheep.

At the east end of the glen is the remarkable little village of Fortingall, home of a terrific country hotel, a group of lovely old thatched buildings (very unusual in Scotland) and a yew tree in the village churchyard that's reputedly the oldest living thing in Europe. Tradition says that Pontius Pilate was born in Fortingall, but the dates don't add up; nevertheless, there's a fair number of prehistoric bits and pieces lying about the glen and area.

If there's no room at the Fortingall Hotel (which would be a shame) then there are accommodations in the nearby villages of Aberfeldy or Dunkeld. There are numerous drives and day trips possible from a base in Fortingall or Aberfeldy - to the Falls of Dochart in Killin, or up to Braemar on the Royal Deeside (Balmoral Castle et al) via the Spittal of Glenshee. Braemar and the Dee Valley are also terrific places to see autumn foliage. Here's a map showing the locations of some of these places. https://goo.gl/maps/YDxKAMUeEPBUH4EF6

This would be my strong suggestion given your tight schedule.




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Old Aug 31st, 2023, 11:56 AM
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Thank you both for the insight. Gardyloo, Glen Lyon sounds magical. So, it sounds like you'd suggest doing a day or two in Edinburgh and spending the rest of the time with Fortingall as homebase, yes?
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Old Aug 31st, 2023, 12:38 PM
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Not speaking for Gardyloo -- but Fortingall is pretty remote, very rural and very tiny -- like the hotel, the church, a few houses (some thatched which is unusual in Scotland) and glorious scenery. Staying the Fortingall hotel for a night or two would be fabulous, but me personally I would not use it as a longer base.

With just a week I'd maybe want 3 days in Edinburgh, 2 days in Glen Lyon and a couple of days elsewhere -- the Fife fishing villages/St Andrews/Falkland, or the Trossachs/Stirling/Doune/Aberfoyle area, or perhaps East Lothian/some of the Borders.

. . . You really don't have much time and would need maybe a few Plan B's to account for weather.
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Old Aug 31st, 2023, 12:50 PM
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For example you could do something like:

Day 1 (Sat, Sept 30): Arrive in Edinburgh, stay the nights of sept 30, Oct 1, 2
Day 4 (Tues, Oct 3): Collect car and drive to Perthshire stay the nights of Oct 3,4 in Fortingall (or Aberfeldy or nearby if Fortingall Hotel isn't available)
Day 6 (Thurs, Oct 5) Drive to Fife stay nights Oct 5, 6, 7 in Crail or Anstruther or St Andrews or Kilconquhar. explore Fife, Falkland maybe a day trip up to Glamis Castle or Dunnottar
Day 9 (Depart, Oct 8): Departure. It is an easy 80-90 minute from say Anstruther or St Andrews to EDI so unless your flight is very early AM you could stay the last night. If the flight is early -- then just leave Fife the evening of the 7th and stay at a hotel near EDI the last night.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 09:18 AM
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To be clear, I wasn't proposing that you spend more than a couple of nights in Fortingall or some nearby town. My main recommendation was that you NOT travel diagonally across the country to Skye and the northwest given your available time.

The thing is, you have a pretty wide range of choices as to where to spend the nights you're not spending around Edinburgh. While I do think Skye is too far for such a short trip, you COULD include a taste of the western Highlands as part of a short and quick visit. For example, you could spend a day driving from Edinburgh to Glen Coe via Glen Etive - a combination of locations close to unparalleled in their beauty, then return via Killin, Fortingall and the Perthshire Highlands and central Fife, something like this: https://goo.gl/maps/2LPwWY165sJs3bj17 . With this plan I'd spend 3 nights in Edinburgh, 1 in Glencoe, 2 in Fortingall/Aberfeldy, and 2 in Falkland, from which you could do a day trip around the Fife coast like this - https://goo.gl/maps/9XrnU8EK7tAz6YKm7

Another 2- or 3-night loop from Edinburgh that would give you autumn foliage and terrific coastal scenery, as well as a massive hit of history, would be a route that stops in a number of picturesque villages along the East Lothian and Berwickshire coast, then crosses the English border to the outstanding historic villages of Lindisfarne (aka Holy Island) and Bamburgh with its words-can't-describe castle. You'd then return to Edinburgh via the Scottish Borders, a region rich in history (ruined abbeys, castles) and one that is also very beautiful in the autumn. Use Undiscovered Scotland or google the places on this map - https://goo.gl/maps/3pyMzUohwAPzuEJ4A

Many choices.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2023, 12:40 PM
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Thanks for the feedback, Gardyloo.. and the thoughtful options. I'll dive in on this info.
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