Scotland - 1 week itinerary

Jul 31st, 2014, 07:52 AM
  #1  
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Scotland - 1 week itinerary

My husband and I will be in Scotland (from NY) for the first week of September. We plan to land on Monday morning, and spend Monday-Thursday traveling the highlands by car: Loch Lommond/Ft William, Iverness, Skye and Oban. We will then head to Edinburgh on Thursday night (return the car) and spend the weekend there.

For the highlands part of the trip, which cities should we sleep in? Should we be moving every night? Is this too ambitious?

Which distillery tour would you recommend?

Also, are there any must see bagpipe concerts going on?

Thanks!
saidie80 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 08:10 AM
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No. Janisj will probably ring in and tell you to spend two nights on Skye if you're really going to go.

<>

If you mean the Monday-Thursday itinerary, then probably yes. The problem is that you're trying to cover the whole western half of Scotland in three days, including going all the way to Inverness (I'll guess to see the nearby sites, not the town itself) and then reversing course all the way back to Old Reekie to return the car at night (including figuring out where you can do this). So that's complicated - Scottish roads are like American country roads and an 80 mile drive isn't doable in 65 minutes.

I wouldn't recommend a distillery tour, especially not the direction you're headed. There aren't many distilleries in the western Highlands and you're not trying to go to Islay. Distillery tours tend to be like museum tours - you're not going to the malting floor or where the tuns are with the mash.

Go to Royal Mile Whiskies in Edinburgh and the Cadenhead shop. They're both on the Royal Mile. Go sampling if they let you. When we visited RMW, they were happy to talk my head off about the country's most famous export. Best stuff I ever had I bought at Cadenhead.
BigRuss is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 08:21 AM
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"highlands part of the trip, which cities should we sleep in"

wonderful

This may help with the pipes http://www.bagpipesociety.org.uk/
bilboburgler is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 08:23 AM
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>>land on Monday morning<< Land where? GLA or EDI?

Are flying in overnight? -- If so you really can't be exploring the highlands on Monday (or driving anywhere much for that matter).

>>Which distillery tour would you recommend?<<

Whichever one is on your route? Most Whisky distillery tours are pretty similar. Some are better than others but you won't have time to detour far to any particular one.

If you are flying in long haul, you will only have about 2.5 days free (not counting Monday) . . . But maybe you are only flying in short haul??????

Ft William is a pit (not actually a pit - but not worth stopping over). Inverness is a busy city and you really don't want to spend 1/3 of your free time there - I'd skip it.

You will want to make some cuts and not plan on covering so much territory. What you cut is your choice but to give you an idea: GLA > Loch Lomond > Oban > Portree > Inverness > EDI is more than 500 miles and easily 14-15 hours 'car time' without a single stop. So just not a 2.5 day journey.
janisj is online now  
Jul 31st, 2014, 09:28 AM
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Yes, your itinerary is too ambitious. Revise and cut.
historytraveler is online now  
Jul 31st, 2014, 02:10 PM
  #6  
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I'm thinking I might unfortunately have to skip Skye.

Monday - tour Stirling Castle, visit Loch Lomand, sleep in Oban
Tuesday - hike/walk in Glencoe, see Ben Nevis (and Fort William), tour Eilean Donan Castle (too much in 1 day?)
Wednesday - Loch Ness boat ride, tour Urquhart Castle, Culloden Battlefield (Fort George? Cawdor?)
Thursday - Dunrobbin for the falconry show?, drive to Pitlochry (dam? Blair Castle? distillery tour?), drive back to Edinburgh.

Is a steamboat ride on Loch Katrine worth trying to fit in?
saidie80 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2014, 02:32 PM
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>>Monday - tour Stirling Castle, visit Loch Lomand[sic], sleep in Oban<<

Once again -- you land on Monday where and after what sort of flight? Whether your plan makes sense we need to know where you are landing and if it is an over night flight.

>>Tuesday - hike/walk in Glencoe, see Ben Nevis (and Fort William), tour Eilean Donan Castle (too much in 1 day?)<<

You would drive through Ft William but there is nothing to see or reason to stop. The best part of Eilean Donan is the view from the loch side car park -- no real need to go inside.

>>Wednesday - Loch Ness boat ride, tour Urquhart Castle, Culloden Battlefield (Fort George? Cawdor?)<<

That is a LOT for one day. Ft George is absolutely ENORMOUS (all of Edinburgh castle would comfortably fit on its parade ground) so just a quick look/see takes a couple of hours. Cawdor is another couple of hours w/ the gardens. Culloden - 1 - 1.5 hours. Urquhart another 3/4 hour or so. So even w/o the boat ride you have more than a day's worth. Just Urquhart to Culloden to Ft George takes about 90 minutes 'car time' . . . so no you can't do all that in one day.

>>Thursday - Dunrobbin for the falconry show?, drive to Pitlochry (dam? Blair Castle? distillery tour?), drive back to Edinburgh.<<

That is easily 2 days worth. Inverness to Dunrobin to Blair Atholl to Pitlochry to EDI is about 275 miles and at least 7 hours behind the wheel.

You are trying to cover waaaaaay too much territory in too little time.
janisj is online now  
Aug 1st, 2014, 04:37 AM
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Agree with pretty much all of what's been said already - the Scottish highlands just aren't designed for these frenetic itineraries where people try to tick all the boxes they've heard of, and visitors are often surprised to find that Scotland is bigger than they'd imagined.

I would constrain your 3 or 4 days outside Edinburgh to a more limited area of Scotland, which you'll most likely enjoy far more. You could for example visit St Andrews/NE Fife coast and Perthshire, or in and around the Trossachs/Loch Lomond (note spelling)/Kyle, or a short island hop through Arran and southern Argyll and Bute.

Quite apart from the lengthy driving times involved in a too short period of time, it seems to be an un-written rule that all first time visitors put Fort William and Inverness on their "must see" list - but it's a shame they put these absurdly over-rated towns ahead of much more worthwhile things to see in Scotland.
Gordon_R is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 04:49 AM
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Oh, meant to add - Janis IMO is IMO being unfairly dismissive of Eilean Donan castle. If you've taken the trouble to drive all the way up to Kyle of Lochalsh, it's well worth paying the admission to go inside and see it. Much of the castle today is a 1920's restoration project but it does convey a wonderful atmosphere, and there's definitely more to it than you'd see from the car park. Speaking of which, the iconic views of the castle - which have graced a billion tins of shortbread - are actually from the minor road that runs parallel to the A87 but higher up the hill overlooking Loch Duich.
Gordon_R is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 04:59 AM
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>>Also, are there any must see bagpipe concerts going on?<<

It's not really a concert "thing". Seeing the massed pipes and drums in action is a highlight of many visitor's trips to Scotland, but you need to be in the right place at the right time. By far the best option would be to visit one of the many Highland Games events, which typically have competitions between different bands. Unfortunately your short trip doesn't lend itself to taking in a Highland Games: www.shga.co.uk

There's also the famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (but held only in August so not helpful to the OP), and military parades that are held occassionally - search the internet / check the local press for details in case you are in luck.

I am led to believe there are also touristy "Scottish themed evenings" held in Edinburgh on a regular basis, which feature pipers and highland dancing along with dinner. Definitely not my sort of thing but if all else fails...
Gordon_R is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 07:41 AM
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TUESDAY
Fort William to Eilean Donan Castle is a three hour round trip. As already pointed out the castle features on all the Shortbread tins and the outside is the best bit, but it is still a long way to drive to take a photograph. You may find a better return would be to spend time around the area. There is plenty of good walking in Glencoe as well as the history. One of our favourite walks is the Lochans walk. It's not very long or very difficult but it is lovely.
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/fortw...oelochan.shtml

Have a look here to check out other things of interest around Fort William by following the links to the text pages with information and pictures:
http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.u...highlands.html

If you decide you do want to explore more by car, there are two suggestions here:
http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.u...coe/index.html
http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.u...han/index.html


WEDNESDAY
Urquhart Castle is a bit disappointing from the inside. It is best seen from the water on your Loch Ness cruise. Don't bother doubling back along the loch for a visit.

Much more rewarding is Fort George which is a fantastic site and deserves a half day. This was the highlight of 10 days we spent in Scotland last autumn. I wrote a series of detailed reviews with lots of pictures here:
http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/R...ProductReviews

If you haven't already found the Undiscovered Scotland Website, then have a look at the page on Fort George here:
http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/nairn/fortgeorge/

Forget Culloden (lots of history but rather a boring place). Forget cawdor Castle (lovely gardens but the inside of the castle is a bit pedestrian) and instead finish off the day at Clava Cairns. They are quite near to Culloden and by the end of the day the crowds will have gone. They are a truly magical place. My review is here:
http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/R...pProductReview
And Undiscovered Scotland here;
http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.u...s/clavacairns/

THURSDAY
Inverness to Dunrobin to Edinburgh is about 260 miles and is going to take at least five hours to drive PLUS stops. You need to prune this back drastically. Dunrobin castle would be the first to go as this would cut out two hours behind the wheel. Just do Blair Castle and a distillery tour. There is either Bells or Eradour.

If you want somewhere to break journey and stretch your legs then the Hermitage walks just north of Dunkeld are worth considering.
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/perth...ermitage.shtml

Driving in Scotland can be slow. Allow yourself plenty of time for the unscheuled stops when you see something or somewhere that takes your fancy.
ESW is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 08:12 AM
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No bloody way. Dunrobin is the better part of 2 hours from Inverness. That's four hours there and back. And I'm as big of a proponent of Dunrobin as you'll find. And Pitlochry is useless as anything other than a pit stop for a quick bite and some petrol. Blair Castle is a good option.

I'd go to Cawdor or Culloden over the Clava Cairns.

Your proposed itinerary does not account for what Gordon notes of Scotland's size. Look at it on a map and it's tiny. But think of it as a storage room stuffed full of shelving. The room may be small but it holds a lot. And getting around it is NOT like driving in the US - there are limited true highways (around Edinburgh and Glasgow). Everything else is country roads of varying size, quality and traffic.
BigRuss is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 10:07 AM
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>>Forget Culloden (lots of history but rather a boring place). Forget cawdor Castle (lovely gardens but the inside of the castle is a bit pedestrian) and instead finish off the day at Clava Cairns. . . . and by the end of the day the crowds will have gone.<<

I couldn't disagree more. Culloden is not boring at all IMO . . . yes go to Clava Cairns, but since the two sites are less than 1 mile from each other as the crow flies why would anyone go to one w/o seeing the other???

Not sure what 'crowds' you are talking about. I've hardly ever seen more than one or two others there (been at least a dozen times)
janisj is online now  
Aug 1st, 2014, 12:38 PM
  #14  
ESW
 
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"why would anyone go to one w/o seeing the other???"
As you may have gathered we would. Having visited Culloden in the past and being decidedly underwhelmed by the place, it is somewhere that wouldn't figure in our itinerary. I think there are more interesting places, like Fort George. It's obvious we have a different take on Culloden. That was my advice. Yours is different. Let the OP decide.

We fell in love with Clava Cairns back in the 70s before it was discovered. You always had the place to yourselves. Back last year we were amazed by the size of the car park and the fact it is on the tour bus tick list. You really do need to see the cairns whe n there are few people around to appreciate the atmosphere. Incidently Clava is best seen either early in the morning or late afternoon as the light is better then.
ESW is offline  
Aug 1st, 2014, 02:00 PM
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Another vote here for Culloden, which we thought was great! There is a time line style museum giving the lead up to the battle from both opposing forces points of view. We then took a self guided audio tour of the actually battle field which my friends and I found very moving.

I agree that you need to choose one or two areas and explore them more thoroughly.
cathies is offline  

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