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indiancouple Sep 21st, 2013 10:06 PM

Please help plan an 8-day Scotland trip in May
We are in the early stages of planning a 15-16 day trip to Ireland and Scotland in May 2014. We are a couple in our mid 50's, avid travelers who have been around the world a lot, but never to this part. We love natural beauty and scenery, and are not really the museum types or foodies. We propose to start the trip in Ireland, where we will probably spend 7 days. Given below is the first draft itinerary for the Scotland portion, where we need help and suggestions.

Day 1 : Fly from Dublin to Glasgow in morning; take rental car at airport and head out to Loch Lomond. Should we also visit the Trossachs ? Drive further north to Glencoe and look around. Spend the night at either Glencoe or Fort William (which one is recommended ?). Please suggest specific things to do during the day.

Day 2 : Stay in the Glencoe area. Maybe do short walks around Ben Nevis or Glencoe. Should we take the train to Mallaig and back ? Night at Glencoe or Fort William.

Day 3 : Drive north to Inverness. Stop at Loch Ness. Maybe roam around Glen Afric. Suggestions for things to do. Night at Inverness.

Day 4 : Drive to Isle of Skye. Plan to stay here for 2 nights. Should we stay at Portree, or somewhere else ? Please suggest scenic places to visit on Skye.

Day 5 : Full day at Skye. Night at Skye.

Day 6 : Drive to Oban. Should we go to Mull for the day ? Other things to see here ? Night at Oban.

Day 7 : Drive to Edinburgh, via Sterling Castle. At Edinburgh, see Royal Yatch Brittania, Rosslyn Chapel. Night at Edinburgh.

Day 8 : Spend the day at Royal Mile, Edinburgh. Night at Edinburgh.

Day 9 : Fly home.

The above is a very preliminary itinerary, and can be modified, as nothing is frozen as yet. Please give suggestions, keeping our interests in mind (mentioned above). Thanks in advance.

ellen_burne Sep 21st, 2013 10:14 PM

I absolutely loved Edinburgh and think you may need more time there than what you have planned! There is so much to see, do and discover.

janisj Sep 21st, 2013 10:46 PM

Not a great plan unfortunately. You only have a 7.5 days and are zig zagging all over the place. Glasgow to Glencoe to Inverness to Skye to Oban to Edinburgh is not an efficient use of your limited time. Plus neither (specially) Ft William nor Inverness is a place to spend time/stay. I'd ONLY go towards Inverness if you were staying a few days to see things in the area - but you aren't. Yu are planning on driving up ti I'ness only to turn around the next day to drive to Skye.

Points I'd consider: 1) dropping Inverness.

2) staying in Glencoe or Ballachullish - NOT Ft William.

3) 2 nights on Skye only nets you 1.5 days on the island. It is a large island and the driving is slow.

4) Oban itself is OK but not be-all-end-all and. I'd skip it on such a short trip. Now, if you had more time and were taking the ferry over to Mull for a couple of nights - that's different.

5) As it is you will only have than one day free in Edinburgh.

>>Day 7 : Drive to Edinburgh, via Sterling Castle. At Edinburgh, see Royal Yatch Brittania, Rosslyn Chapel. Night at Edinburgh.<<

Utterly impossible. The drive from Oban to Edinburgh via Stirling and Roslin will take 3.5 to 4 hours. Stirling Castle takes at least two hours to even scratch the surface. then visiting Rosslyn Chapel. Then dropping the car and getting to the Yacht. This is two days worth.

Doable in your time? Glencoe and Ben Nevis area, Skye, Stirling, Edinburgh,

indiancouple Sep 21st, 2013 11:38 PM

janisj, your point is well taken. I knew I was trying to include too much, and wanted suggestions about what to eliminate. Do keep in mind that no matter how great Edinburgh is supposed to be, we do not wish to spend too much time in cities, and would rather concentrate on scenic natural sights elsewhere.

I could easily knock off Oban from the itinerary, and add it to Inverness. That would make it 2 nights in Glencoe, 2 nights in Inverness, 2 nights on Skye, and 2 nights in Edinburgh. Does this seem doable, or would you still suggest knocking off Inverness ? If so, where to add those 2 nights ?

We are not too hung up on Sterling Castle. We would have seen lots of castles in Ireland prior to reaching here, and we do have the Edinburgh Castle to follow, so Sterling can be skipped if the schedule looks tight.

Thanks for eliminating Ft William as a place to stay. Now I have to select between Glencoe and Balachullish ! Pros and cons ?

Gordon_R Sep 22nd, 2013 03:20 AM

It's a common mistake, but it's Stirling, not "Sterling" (nothing at all to do with the currency).

Have you checked a map? Glencoe and Ballachulish are practically next door to each other so either is fine, as is anywhere on the road up Loch Linnhe towards Fort William (just not IN Fort William).

As I always say, I can't fully understand why people always rush lemming-like to Skye on very short trips to Scotland. It <i>is</i> wonderful, but then so are so many other, more easily accessible, places in Scotland.

MissPrism Sep 22nd, 2013 04:26 AM

I agree about Skye. I often advise people to try Arran. It really is Scotland in miniature. You've got mountains, the sea, wildlife a couple of castles and even a distillery.
There seems to be a beaten track, Stirling, Inverness, Fort William, Loch Ness, Glencoe and Skye

zippo Sep 22nd, 2013 04:29 AM

Leave out Inverness, don't get out of the car in Fort William.

janisj Sep 22nd, 2013 09:26 AM

You are not alone. The 'Tartan Trail' always includes Edinburgh, Inverness and Skye. Inverness is nothing special but there IS a lot to see in the surrounding countryside. Skye is VERY special -- but it is hell and gone on the opposite side of the country from Edinburgh. I have been to all these places many times. But never all three on the same trip unless I was spending 3 or 4 week in Scotland.

The main problem is folks have only heard about a few of the fabulous places in Scotland (and Inverness is not one of them) and try to squeeze the big three into every trip no matter how short. Loch Lomond/Glencoe/the Great Glen/Inverness/Skye (the west side bits) is a decent week -- Or -- Edinburgh, Stirling/the Trossachs and <i> maybe</i> Fife is a decent week. But traveling hundreds of miles on slow roads to fit opposite sides of the country into a week . . . just doesn't make sense IMO.

indiancouple Sep 22nd, 2013 09:40 AM

Thank you all for the feedback. So the consensus is that we are trying to do too much. We are willing to rule out Inverness. Could someone suggest as to where we add those 2 nights ? Perhaps 1 night in Skye (making it 3 nights). Where else to add 1 night ? We have a total of 8 nights in Scotland. Do not wish to increase Edinburgh beyond 2 nights.

So we have 2 nights in Glencoe, 3 nights in Skye, and 2 nights in Edinburgh, with 1 night to spare.

How long a drive would it be from Skye all the way to Edinburgh ?

janisj Sep 22nd, 2013 10:04 AM

I know you don't want to spend much time in cities, but do you actually want to see anything IN Edinburgh? 2 nights will only give you 1.5 days there.

If that's OK w/ you, then I'd spend that 'extra' night in/near Callander to see some of the Trossachs -- very pretty scenery/lochs/waterfalls/Inchmahome Priory

-- then the next morning you can visit Stirling Castle and then drive on to EDI to drop the car. Public transport into the city centre and your two nights there.

Nikki Sep 22nd, 2013 11:47 AM

I recently spent two weeks in Scotland, one of which was in Edinburgh, and one of which included many of the sites you propose to see. Here is my trip report:

latedaytraveler Sep 22nd, 2013 01:31 PM


We spent a lovely week in Scotland in late May several years back. One thing to consider – it can be REALLY chilly so plan accordingly.

Have a great time….

indy_dad Sep 22nd, 2013 09:46 PM

See if any of our trips can help:

Callander/Skye via Glencoe/Loch Ness & Inverness area


St. Andrews (etc.) and Royal Deeside (the first day or so might be relevant)

indiancouple Sep 22nd, 2013 10:43 PM

Thanks everyone for great suggestions. Have to go through the trip reports referenced by Niki and indy_dad in detail. Great details provided in both trip reports.

janisj, would the correct order/sequence of travel be as follows :
1. Drive from Glasgow via Loch Lomond to Glencoe (2 nights)
2. Drive from Glencoe to Skye (using Armadale ferry) (3 nights)
3. Drive back the same route to Callander (1 night)
4. Drive to Edinburgh (2 nights).

If the above sequence is amiss, please suggest corrections. We are not too keen on Stirling Castle, and may give it a miss, to give us a little more time in Edinburgh.

Gordon_R Sep 23rd, 2013 02:04 AM

That looks MUCH better. One possible refinement though: rather than using the Mallaig to Armadale ferry there <i>and</i> back, I'd take the Skye bridge one way. This avoids having to retrace your steps, and will allow you to see/visit Eilean Donan castle and the Kyle of Lochalsh - one of the most enchanting spots in the whole of Scotland.

zippo Sep 23rd, 2013 06:27 AM

The road to Mallaig (for the ferry to Armadale) is very slow, tight and twisty. I'd avoid the ferry, take the bridge.

Gordon_R Sep 23rd, 2013 07:04 AM

>>The road to Mallaig (for the ferry to Armadale) is very slow, tight and twisty.<<.

No it isn't, well no more than any other A-road in the Highlands. The A830 is the famous "road to the isles" that passes by Glenfinnan (famous railway viaduct and Jacobite monument) and the truly amazingly beautiful beaches at Arisaig. The CalMac ferry is also a true slice of Hebridean life and not to be missed at least once.

janisj Sep 23rd, 2013 08:28 AM

>>The road to Mallaig (for the ferry to Armadale) is very slow, tight and twisty. I'd avoid the ferry, take the bridge.<<

Sorry zippo but it most certainly isn't. Or a Gordon_R says, no more so than any other road in that part of Scotland. Actually it is a very good road

I agree w/ Gordon re traveling one way via the ferry and and one way via the bridge. The travel time is just about equal.

indiancouple Sep 23rd, 2013 08:29 AM

Thanks Gordon for the suggestion to take different routes going in and out of Skye. Makes a lot of sense. I guess we will go in using the Malaig-Armadale ferry, and get out using the bridge.

I must thank everyone for their inputs in helping improve this itinerary. I know I started with a plan on "the beaten track". But isn't that what you expect from a first-timer ? I researched the itinerary that package tours typically offer, and used that as a starting point. Then Fodorites helped change it to a more realistic schedule, which is the purpose of this forum.

Still need ideas about best place to stay on Skye. Portree ? Or Sligachan ? Or somewhere else ? Would also appreciate suggestions on most recommended things to do on Skye, now that we will be there for 3 nights.

indiancouple Sep 23rd, 2013 08:32 AM

janisj, you and I must have sent our last posts almost at the identical time ! Just when I sent my post, I saw your comment. Now I am doubly reassured about using different routes going in and out of Skye. Thanks for helping modify my itinerary.

Still awaiting response to my queries above.

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