Scotland 6/27-7/7 itinerary help!

Old Jan 20th, 2019, 05:15 AM
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Scotland 6/27-7/7 itinerary help!

Hi everyone!
If you read my last post, you will notice you have helped us already! Our new plan is to depart JFK on 6/27 and return on 7/7. janisj has been kind enough to help tweak my plan a little already! Any help or advice, additions or corrections would be greatly appreciated.
To give you a little background, I'll be traveling with my parents (in their 60's) and we love to travel. We'd love a few easy hikes, good food, quaint villages and amazing scenery. We don't need the absolute cheapest options, but would like everything to stay reasonable. ($100-125 for hotels for example, since we do need 2 rooms)
Thanks so much again for all of your help!
:0) Joanna

Day 1: overnight flight from JFK
Day 2: Edinburgh (looking at Travelodge Princes St, Queens St. or Waterloo Place? also for a great afternoon tea?)
Day 3: Edinburgh
Day 4: rent a car...Fife, St. Andrews
Day 5: Ballater- Blair Castle? Dunnotar, Castle Trail (which Castles do you recommend?)
Day 6: Ballater
Day 7: near Inverness? Culloden? Loch ness?
Day 8: Skye
Day 9: Skye
Day 10: Glencoe to Stirling (Luss Highland games)
Day 11: fly home
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Old Jan 20th, 2019, 08:31 AM
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Good that you changed the trip to June. That will help a LOT in Edinburgh.

All of those Travelodges are good locations -- I'd personally chose Princes Street, or more likely Rose Street which you didn't list.

>>Day 5: Ballater- Blair Castle? Dunnotar, Castle Trail (which Castles do you recommend?)
Day 6: Ballater
Day 7: near Inverness? Culloden? Loch ness?<<

Blair Castle doesn't fit in that mix. After leaving St Andrews you could visit Glamis Castle, then Dunnottar before heading on to Ballater for the 2 nights. Then the next day you could visit any of a number of great properties. My two top on the list would be Craigievar and Fraser but there are lots of others. Don't figure Loch Ness into your day 7 plans. It is just 'there' you can't miss it and you will drive right along it on the way from Inverness to Skye. So Day 7 you could do Culloden and someplace like Ft George (ENORMOUS) or Cawdor Castle, Or Elgin or or or

Day 10 - you would be hard pressed to visit Glencoe, Stirling AND the Highland Games on one day, especially driving from Skye. I would skip the Games - Or Skip Stirling Castle.
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Old Jan 20th, 2019, 09:51 AM
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Thanks so much! I hadnít even seen the Rose St Travelodge in my searching. Are there any other reasonable priced hotels youíd recommend over the Travelodges in general?
I mainly wanted to go to the Highland games to see some traditional Scottish dancing, music, etc. Iíve read about some shows in Edinburgh we could go to, but every review seems to say they are cheesy and bad. Is there anywhere else you would recommend seeing something like that?
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Old Jan 20th, 2019, 12:50 PM
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Travelodges will be the cheapest hotels. They are cheaper than even most modest B&B's -- basic but modern and clean. Premier Inns are a little higher on the food chain and their rates are higher. Apex also has some decent properties in Edinburgh. Any of the three chains would be good -- Travelodges would be cheapest.

Other than during Highland games, you really aren't going to find highland dancing etc except at commercial caleigh's

There is a games in Ceres on June 29 - which is less than 10 miles from St Andrews. If you split your Edinburgh time in to 1 night on arrival and one or two nights before flying home you could move everything up one day and be perfectly located for Ceres.

The problem trying to do make Luss the day you leave Skye -- it would take a minimum 5 hours just driving from say Portree to Luss . . . without a single stop at Glencoe or Glenfinnan or Stirling.
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Old Jan 21st, 2019, 06:34 AM
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Thank you! I'll keep on adjusting!
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Old Jan 21st, 2019, 03:29 PM
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Here's my latest plan. Can't thank you enough for your input!

6/27 Day 1: overnight flight from JFK

6/28 Day 2: Edinburgh
6
/29 Day 3: Edinburgh- afternoon tea
6/30 Day 4: rent a car...St. Andrews to Glamis to Dunnotar, stay in Stonehaven
7/1 Day 5: Braemar Castle, Balmoral, Ballater
7/2 Day 6: Elgin to Culloden to Urquhart castle, stay in Drumnadrochit
7/3 Day 7: Eilean Donnan castle, Skye
7/4 Day 8: Skye
7/5 Day 9: Ft William to Glencoe
7/6 Day 10: Luss Highland games to Stirling
7/7 Day 11: fly home
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Old Jan 21st, 2019, 04:04 PM
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A bit confused -- (counting days does that). Where are you staying each night?

June 30 Day 4 is just about impossible. Getting out to EDI, collecting the car, driving to St Andrews, to Glamis, to Dunnottar and Stoneheven will be at least 5 hours travel time (4 hours butts in seats plus travel out to the airport and arranging the car. If you collect the car in central Edinburgh instead then it will be a 4.5 to 5 hour drive depending on traffic). This is without a single stop and you want not one but THREE major stops. St Andrews/Glamis/Dunnottar are each 2+ hour stops. Plus Dunnottar closes at 5:30 so you simply won't get there in time.

July 1 Day 5 Balmoral is very meh. You can't visit anything but one room. Properties like Craigievar and/or Fraser are much better 'visits'. Braemar is OK too.

July 2 Day 6 is pretty difficult too. That is about a 4 hour drive plus any stops.

July 5 Day 9 doesn't make sense to me. Do you actually mean Skye to Glencoe?

July 6 Day 10: Glencoe to Luss Highland games to Stirling is doable but hectic. Glencoe to Luss is about an 80 or 90 minute drive. Then another 1+ hour to Stirling. So if you only spend a couple of hours at the games you might get to Stirling by 2PM or so.

I think you mean these nights:
6/28 - 29 Edinburgh

6/30 Stonehaven
7/1 Ballater
7/2 Drumnadrochit
7/3 - 4 Skye
7/5 Glencoe
7/6 Stirling
7/7 Day 11: fly home

My Honest opinion: This is a lot of drive drive drive with all one night stops except for Skye. I was trying to fit in most of your wish list but that isn't what I'd really recommend. IMO you are trying to fit everything from Edinburgh to the far east coast to the north to the far west coast and back into 9 days when it is a two week trip. Consider EITHER Edinburgh/Fife/Aberdeenshire . . . or . . . Edinburgh/Skye/Luss/Stirling/the Trossachs. Hard choice but IMO/IME either would be a more satisfactory experience than rushing around so much.
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Old Jan 21st, 2019, 04:44 PM
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I definitely am trying to squeeze in as much as possible, but I totally understand your point. I'll keep working on it. Thanks so much for your help
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Old Jan 21st, 2019, 06:45 PM
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>>I definitely am trying to squeeze in as much as possible,<<

Just a hint . . . Scotland really doesn't lend itself to squeezing is a lot in a short time. That's easy for me to say since since I've been to Scotland countless times and will be back again, so I'm not tempted to rush around so much. But the fact is driving in rural Scotland is not fast. The distance seem short but with the single tracks, the caravans (travel trailers), farm vehicles, and even livestock . . . in most rural areas you will average maybe 35mph (if you are lucky). Add to that the amazing photo ops/stops around every bend in the road. It just isn't a place you want to drive 5 or 6 hours a day -- even 2 hours can be a lot sometimes. And with the long drives it becomes very stressful for the primary driver since s/he can't look when the passengers says "OOH OOH see that!!" whether it being a Highland cow w/ her brand new calf, or the amazing view down a gorgeous glen, or wildlife, or a waterfall. Then you're trying to squeeze in one-offs like the Games at Luss. If Luss is a must then you need to rethink gong so far NE or North. Same with St Andrews and Dunnottar -- if they are musts -- then Skye becomes a problem.

It is hard to give up 'musts' but IME 2 and even 3 night stays with spoke and wheel day trips in fewer areas actually lets you see more. Especially with all the packing/unpacking/checking in/checking out with one nighters.

Just things to think about . . . where ever you go and what ever you see, no matter what, you will miss 100's of other worthwhile places . . .
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Old Jan 22nd, 2019, 02:07 AM
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I guess google maps doesnít account for the slow traveling, because, based on them, what I had planned seemed totally doable. But, I totally understand what youíre saying. What would be your must see things? Itís hard for me to cut things off my list because I want to see everything!
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Old Jan 22nd, 2019, 04:55 AM
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>>I guess google maps doesn’t account for the slow traveling, because, based on them, what I had planned seemed totally doable.<<

Google Maps is very (VERY) optimistic re drive time calculations. Invariably one needs to add between 25% and nearly 100% to the times when touring around Scotland.

>>What would be your must see things?<<

Not a fair question -- as I said I've been countless times (probably 20 plus X over many years sometimes for as long as 6 weeks and sometimes for just a long weekend). My musts would probably be totally different than most first time visitors. But a few of my very favorites include Edinburgh, Mackintosh sites in and around Glasgow, Inchmahome Priory, Dunnottar, Mull/Iona, just about anywhere in the very far northwest, Craigievar Castle, the Border Abbeys, the Trossachs in general, Doune Castle (mostly for Monty Python and the loaner coconuts ), Glen Etive, Kilchurn Castle, the Fife fishing villages, parts of Skye, Gardens (Inverewe, Threave, Edinburgh Botanic, Crathes Castle, Crarae when the rhoddy's are in bloom), Neolithinc sites all over but several in Kilmartin, the Outer Hebrides and Orkney . . . and 100 other musts

Now this list didn't help you one bit since it would take a month+ to get to all of them. But google some of them and see what you think.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2019, 05:38 AM
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For hotels in Edinburgh you might also look at Motel One: there are two in the centre. Itís a German chain, similar price point to Premier Inns but with a bit of style. Rooms are small but the public areas tend to be nice.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2019, 06:22 AM
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I'm going to agree (as usual) with Janis. The route you've mapped out is unrealistic and I might say a bit "brittle." By that I mean that it's a set of dominoes that poses the risk that one bad traffic day, or two back-to-back inclement ones, and you'll be pushing overly hard just to make it to your booked lodgings the next night, and rushing past things just to get there. It's clear you've already done a lot of research on the route and the destinations (e.g. finding the Highland Games at Luss) and that's a good thing, but some other perspectives might be warranted.

I agree that it probably will come down to some uncomfortable choices, such as the North Sea side of the country v. the Atlantic. But before I propose a somewhat different (okay, very different) plan, I'm going to ask you to step back and think about what you expect to get out of the various stops on the trip. ALL of your listed targets are worthwhile (well, most) but touring in a short number of days is a zero-sum game. Option A might exclude Option B because you can't manufacture extra days. And Options C-N are off the table from the start. So my recommendation is to think about stand-ins and substitutions, a few of which might help to reduce the hours on the roads, the crowds when you get there, or the competition for scarce overnight accommodations. You might even be able to take in some sights or activities that a higher-speed trip would force you to skip, or blast past, ignorant of their existence. Hope that makes sense.

Take castles. Edinburgh, Glamis, Dunnottar, Balmoral, Urquhart, Eilean Donan, Stirling... when is enough? Or islands. What specifically draws you to Skye? I know it's a beautiful place, there's no argument about that. But it's also a very popular one, and accommodations get booked up very early. What if there was another island that could offer the same sorts of experiences, but hours closer to other things, and less crowded?

Presumably you get my drift.

So here's an alternative plan to imagine. It's only offered as a suggestion, or a "thought experiment" as I call it, a la Einstein (believe me, no relation.) Map - https://goo.gl/maps/t7P9mzqZ8UA2

What this does: It skips Fife, Angus and Aberdeenshire, Inverness, Loch Ness and Skye. It substitutes Mull for Skye and Argyll for Invernessshire and Wester Ross. It includes some substitute villages, castles and historic sites for the ones farther east and north.

Most importantly, it reduces drive times (actually more than just the "bottom line" on the Google maps) and gives you the best part of three full days on Mull, which - just my view - is a more than acceptable stand-in for Skye.

Here's the (imaginary) day-by-day, with overnight points listed.

27-Jun NYC-EDI
28-Jun Edinburgh
29-Jun Edinburgh
30-Jun Callendar via Culross, Stirling
1-Jul Glencoe via Glen Etive
2-Jul Mull
3-Jul Mull
4-Jul Mull
5-Jul Inveraray via Kilmartin
6-Jul So. Queensferry via Day at Luss
7-Jul EDI-NYC

Google the places shown or mentioned, or use Undiscovered Scotland - an excellent resource. https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/

Specifically....

Culross is a restored village on the River Forth that was used in the Outlander TV series but which gives an outstanding picture of village life. It's also very beautiful. I'd visit the Bannockburn battle site, or the Kelpies, or both, but I probably would just take a picture of Stirling Castle rather than going on a tour. Callendar is a very pleasant overnight spot; you might take an afternoon cruise around Loch Katrine.

Callendar to Glencoe will take you through some of the most dramatic scenery in the country, including the Rannoch Moor. I'd definitely drive into Glen Etive and back; in sun or gloom this is Scottish Highland scenery at its best.

The next day, drive south to Oban and take the ferry over to the Isle of Mull. You'll pass Duart Castle overlooking the channel - to my mind this has the same visual impact as Eilean Donan, but you can decide. I've shown the picturesque town of Tobermory as the overnight location on Mull, but there are other places one could stay. I'd do some serious research on Mull; there are many things to do and see, but they're a bit spread out and travel is slow on the island. You could head to Fionnphort and take a day cruise to Iona (among the most important historic sites in Britain) or past Fingal's Cave on Staffa; or see standing stones or other castles around the island, visit a distillery or two... like I say, do some research.

Then you'd return to the mainland and make your way toward Loch Lomond. I'd spend the next night in Inveraray, a fabulously picturesque village on Loch Fyne (famous for seafood.) Near the village is Inveraray Castle, home of the Campbells and the imposing (pompous?) home of Cousin Shrimpy from Downton Abbey. On the way to Inveraray from Oban, stop at the tiny village of Kilmartin, where there's an excellent collection of carved Celtic gravestones and, on the floor of Kilmartin Glen, just below the village, are numerous neolithic and Bronze Age monuments - stone circles, standing stones, burial cairns... testifying to the presence of humans in this lovely valley going back thousands and thousands of years.

Leave Inveraray in the morning and make your way to Luss (probably an hour or 90 minutes tops) and attend the Highland Games. I think this would be a lot of fun and shouldn't be skipped. Then after the games, head back toward Edinburgh. I'd spend the last night in South Queensferry, a very historic village underneath the Forth road bridges and the spectacular old Forth railway bridge, one of the engineering marvels of its day. There are several good hotels in or near Queensferry, and several good places to eat and drink. The airport is minutes away the next day. (R. L. Stevenson wrote part of Kidnapped while staying at the Hawes Inn.)

So anyway, this is a big departure from your plan, and you can certainly reject it and go with your existing ideas. The driving won't kill you and you'll see a lot. But touring rural Scotland really is a case of "less is more" so do consider some of these alternatives. One thing for sure: you might think you'll not going to want to return, but... well...

Last edited by Gardyloo; Jan 22nd, 2019 at 06:43 AM.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2019, 09:25 AM
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I canít thank you enough for all of your time and help! Iíll be doing a lot of research about all these new ideas!
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Old Jan 22nd, 2019, 05:09 PM
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I've done a bunch of research about all of your suggestions and have made some painful cuts! (I really wanted to get that picture of Dunnottar!) but now I'm stuck about what to do in the middle...also I'd like to fit in Glen Etive and Callander somehow...

6/27 Day 1: overnight flight from JFK
6/28 Day 2: Edinburgh
6/29 Day 3: Edinburgh- afternoon tea
6/30 Day 4: rent a car...St. Andrews ? Or should I just start heading west?
7/1 Day 5:
7/2 Day 6:
7/3 Day 7: Skye
7/4 Day 8: Skye
7/5 Day 9: to Ft William to Glencoe
7/6 Day 10: Luss Highland games to Stirling
7/7 Day 11: fly home
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Old Jan 22nd, 2019, 05:39 PM
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Unless you want a served, white-gloved afternoon tea, I recommend going to Clarenda's Tea Room on the Royal Mile (69 Canongate) - it's fairly close to Holyrood Palace. It's a cozy, old-fashioned tea room with delicious food. I'll be in Edinburgh in May and I definitely plan a return visit!
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Old Jan 22nd, 2019, 05:47 PM
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I’m a fan of Clarinda’s too but the closest thing to an afternoon tea served there is a cream tea which is just tea and scone. A good spot for a quick cup of tea or light lunch.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2019, 05:53 PM
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Meant to add for the afternoon tea experience, I recommend the Dome. The setting is lovely.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2019, 07:48 PM
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Ok to play with your new plan (and omitting St Andrews -- wrong side of the country)

6/27 Day 1: overnight flight from JFK
6/28 Days 2 - 3: Edinburgh
6/30 Days 4 -5 : rent a car...drive to Callander, stay 2 nights (visit Stirling, Inchmahome, Doune, the Trossachs in General)
7/2 Days 6: - 8 Drive to Skye via the Bridge. 3 nights on Skye.
7/5 Day 9: Skye to Oban or Kilmartin via the ferry (Kilmartin would be my preference).
7/6 Day 10: Kilmartin to Inveraray to Luss (total drive time less than 2 hours) Attend Games and stay in the area. See Note for Day 11.
7/7 Day 11: Luss to EDI fly home (Note: This depends on your flight time -- Staying the night before in Lus works if your flight is after noon. Luss to EDI is less than a 2 hour drive. But if your flight is in the morning -- After the games on Day 10 I'd drive closer to Edinburgh or even all the way to the airport and turn in the car, and stay at or near the airport.)

Day 6 will be the only really long driving day - close to 6 hours car time, but in June it will be light until 11PM and even detouring to Killin and stopping in Glencoe and Eilean Donan with an early start you could still be on Skye by late afternoon or early evening.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2019, 04:35 PM
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I can’t thank you all enough for your time and suggestions.

Janisj…I'm a little confused because, according to google maps, the Day 9 you propose-Skye to Kilmartin- would be about a 5 hour drive, which I assume actually means a 7 hour drive? How does this look? I'm worried I cut out too many of the good things?

6/27 Day 1: overnight flight from JFK

6/28 Day 2: Edinburgh

6/29 Day 3: Edinburgh- afternoon tea

6/30 Day 4: rent a car- Culross, Kelpies? stay in Callendar

7/1 Day 5: Glen Etive, stay in Glencoe

7/2 Day 6: Eilean Donan to Skye

7/3 Day 7: Skye

7/4 Day 8: drive to Fort William

7/5 Day 9: Fort William to Inverary to Luss?

7/6 Day 10: Luss Highland games, stay in Stirling

7/7 Day 11: fly home

Last edited by alwayzmile; Jan 23rd, 2019 at 04:41 PM.
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