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Scotland Experts - Help with Itinerary

Old Feb 21st, 2019, 05:16 AM
  #1  
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Scotland Experts - Help with Itinerary

Hello - first time poster but long time lurker and have planned many wonderful trips utilizing advice from this forum. Scotland has been more difficult. I'm trying to plan an itinerary that is diverse, yet not too rushed. Hoping for some assistance as trying to estimate travel times and distances and how much time to spend in certain areas has me stumped.

About us:- active couple in our late 50's. Love scenery, nature, moderate hikes as well as historical sites and ruins. Keen golfers but are not planning this as a golf trip (and will not go through hoops to play the Old Course). We will plan to play one round and at this point thinking Royal Dornoch based on research. Partner is a big whisky fan. He will enjoy in the evenings wherever we are but would like to visit/tour one distillery. Not crazy about 1 night stays but ok with one or two if it benefits what we want to do.

Trip is planned for mid May 2020. Yes I am early but my research has shown that several places where we'd like to stay book up a year in advance. As such, I'm hoping to pin down at least some parts of the itinerary now so I can be ready to book accommodations when they open up for our dates in 2020.

Travelling from eastern Canada - 16 nights - we will rent a car at EDI after our time in the City.

May 13th - overnight flight to EDI

Edinburgh - 3 Nights
May 14
May 15
May 16

St. Andrews/East Neuk - 1 Night
May 17
This is a Sunday so will walk/visit the course. Spend time in St. Andrews and hopefully time to see one or more of East Neuk villages.

???
May 18
May 19

Need some suggestions of where to stay on route to Dornoch. Upon leaving St. Andrews we will likely stop in Arbroath (partner likes smoked fish almost as much as whisky...is this worth the stop?). Then on to Dunnotar for sure. Hope to potentially see Fraser Castle and Craigievar as well and presume this would be the area to visit a distillery. Thinking Dufftown or Grantown on Spey for these 2 nights? Does this seem reasonable or any other suggestions for a stop between St. Andrews and Dornoch.

Dornoch
May 20
May 21

Plan to stay 2 nights here. Will play one round of golf (possibly 2) and/or enjoy some of the sights of the area.

Glencoe
May 22
May 23

Hike/drives/Glen Etive
Two nights in this area.

Mull
May 24
May 25
May 26

Three nights in Mull. Want to visit Iona and Staffa as well as sites on Mull itself. Would like to stay in Fionnphort and see Tobermory as well. 3 nights Fionnphort or 2 nights with 1 night in Tobermory. Am aware of the lovely B&B in Fionnphort (one of the reasons trying to nail down itinerary this far in advance) not to mention I believe these days will fall over a Bank holiday.

Callander (or nearby)
May 27
May 28
May 29

Thinking of visiting Kilmartin on the way to Callander and then enjoy Trossachs/Loch Lomond from base in Callander along with Stirling/Doune.

EDI - May 30th - fly home

Depending on flight time on the 30th, we may head to EDI as late in the day as possible (visiting Stirling and Doune on route) on the 29th and drop car and stay near airport.

Does this seem reasonable? Originally I had planned 2 nights between Edinburgh and Dornoch and 1 night between Dornoch and Glencoe to break up the drive. However, it seemed too rushed for what we want to see/do in the east (and would have required more 1 night stays). This way, I suspect a long driving day from Dornoch to Glencoe, but we will plan a route to make lots of stops and visits along the way. If we decide to visit Culloden and Cawdor - would it be better on the way to Dornoch or on the way from Dornoch to Glencoe?

Thanks in advance for any advice (as a first time poster I believe it may be a day or two before I can respond to any questions). At this point just looking to determine overnights to aid in getting accommodation. After that I will have lots of time to research our daily plans/hikes/excursions and will post specific questions on that (and food.

Thanks.
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Old Feb 21st, 2019, 06:38 AM
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First, welcome to Fodors as a poster! Enough of the lurking, already.

Since this is over a year away, you have plenty of time to tweak the itinerary, which I agree needs tweaking. There's nothing outrageous or horribly unrealistic about the plan you've already developed, but it's a bit unusual that it compresses a big part of Scotland into a very short time, in particular the Dornoch > Glen Coe part.

Love scenery, nature, moderate hikes as well as historical sites and ruins.
Those of us on this board that tend to respond to all topics Scottish (we know our manias) have our own preferred routes and places, mainly in agreement but sometimes not. So in thinking about alternative routes or activities, bear in mind that while the orchestra mainly plays from the same music, there will be instances where there's an unexpected outburst from the strings or brass.

In my case, I'm extremely fond of the far north - between Dornoch and the northern isles. Even by Scottish standards, this region feels remote and quite primordial, with lots and lots of ghosts haunting the glens. For example, in day trip distance from Dornoch you can visit the wild north coast, reached via an impossibly empty and scenic road that passes a giant prehistoric broch (stone fort) that's stood alone in its empty glen for thousands of years. Or on another trip (or the same one if you're energetic enough) you can visit a lonely church where victims of the infamous Highland Clearances etched pitiful messages on the window glass that you can still read. For whisky lovers, the Glenmorangie distillery at Tain, just across the Dornoch Firth bridge from Dornoch, is - to me - a preeminent example of its ilk; while the buildings are nice enough, the product is - to me - among the best.

I'm also very fond of the western part of your plan - Argyll and Mull. Given your priorities - scenery, history, etc. - I think the area between Glen Etive and Mull, Kilmartin and Loch Fyne is hard to beat - castles and ancient ruins, dramatic scenery, rousing/inspiring/horrifying history... it's all there, and fairly dense on the ground.

So the issue is, how to integrate these areas without having you race from place to place, driven by FOMO and fretting about roads-not-taken.

So with around two weeks (net of Edinburgh) I'd be tempted to think about some less ambitious itineraries that might accomplish your aims without having you relocate quite so much. This might mean swapping some iconic places for others, or skipping some areas while putting more emphasis on others, whatever. Like I say, you have over a year for the tweaking. So some ideas, not necessarily in order. Reject them as you please.

1. Fife as a day trip. Instead of embarking on a drive up the east coast, make the St. Andrews and East Neuk villages a day trip from Edinburgh. If you stayed west of town near the airport (maybe in historic South Queensferry) you'd be able to zip over the Forth road bridges, loop around Fife (via the East Neuk, St. Andrews, and maybe Falkland, lovely in the spring) and then return to Edinburgh in the early evening. In mid-May you'll have very long daylight hours, and this isn't a difficult drive to make.

2, Change the order of things - west coast first, north coast last. May is a transitional month, and the farther north you go the later spring and summer arrive. (Well, spring-y and summer-y, this is Scotland, after all.) Visit the Trossachs, then out to Mull (via Inveraray and Kilmartin) then north last. Allow conditions to improve a little around Dornoch and the far north.

3. Spend a couple of nights en route from Mull to Dornoch. By all means see Glen Coe and Glen Etive, but you also might look at someplace in Wester Ross for a couple of nights. For example, look at the picture-postcard village of Plockton, not far from the Kyle bridge over to Skye. You could do a day trip to Skye from there (Portree is around 90 minutes or a bit less from Plockton) and then when you move on to Dornoch, do so via some glorious Northwest Highland route, such as via Torridon or even Ullapool.

4. Dornoch as a northern base. Use Dornoch as a northern base for whisky, ancient and not-so-ancient ruins and history, golf and eating.

You'll note that this excludes the whole east coast of the country - Deeside castles, whisky trail, Arbroath Smokies, etc. Like I say, others will disagree, perhaps strongly, with these revisions. But look at Glenmorangie v. Speyside whiskies, Loch Fyne kippers v. Arbroath Smokies, and Duart Castle v. Dunnottar. No right or wrong, here, just opinions.

Imaginary map showing these places, not including the "local" loops - https://goo.gl/maps/jNNmkbxUTnm

Fife loop - https://goo.gl/maps/SL8pk9xP35w

Sutherland loop - https://goo.gl/maps/Et5trHWHdfL2

Google or use Undiscovered Scotland - https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/ - to research the places shown on the maps.

Like I say, one person's opinions.

Pictures -

Broch Dun Dornaigil (Dun Dordinalla)



Croick church and windows





View from Tongue (north coast)



Last edited by Gardyloo; Feb 21st, 2019 at 06:45 AM.
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Old Feb 21st, 2019, 07:14 AM
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Love Gardyloo's suggestions. When we went to Scotland we had two weeks also. When I originally started planning I picked way too many places too and had to whittle them down. With tips from many on Fodors (including Gardyloo) I picked a route similar to what Gardyloo recommended (with a few tweaks). I can't imagine you could find more beautiful scenery anywhere. It's funny that you wrote today as I just put up a trip report this morning from our trip which was long overdue.

Happy planning. I don't think you can go wrong no matter where you choose to go. Just don't pick too many places or you will short change where you do plan on going.
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Old Feb 21st, 2019, 08:16 AM
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Haven't yet read all of Gardyloo's suggestions but did look at the map here >>Imaginary map showing these places, not including the "local" loops - https://goo.gl/maps/jNNmkbxUTnm<<

And it looks very good. Just one quick comment right now - Another option is adding one night to Edinburgh and use Rabbies for a small group day tour to St Andrews/Fife fishing villages. https://www.rabbies.com/en/scotland-...-fife-day-tour
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Old Feb 21st, 2019, 11:13 AM
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Thank you Gardyloo, janisj and sberg (read your trip report - thanks). Lots to think about, not least of which is excising Dunottar! Will look further in depth at Gardyloo's suggestion and be back with revisions.
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Old Feb 26th, 2019, 10:47 AM
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Hi again. We've now spent some time looking at the suggestions, in particular, Gardyloo's proposed changes to my original route. I'm not sure we could make this route as set out work. By the time we ended up in Dornoch, we would run out of days before having to get all the way back to Edinburgh to fly home. Having said that, we are now very intrigued by the northern bits/Sutherland loop you suggested and would like to incorporate this into the itinerary.

Here is our revised itinerary. It contains a few more one night stops than I would typically like - but think these will make overall pace and distance between multi night stays more reasonable. Also - I've added an extra night (which I think we will be able to manage). The north is still in the early/mid part of the trip, but we may be able to push the trip out by a week. As in my original post, this is for 2020, however, we would like to use some reward miles and therefore book our flights as soon as they open up (a year in advance) as there are limited seats available on the desired flight options (i.e. direct flights). Also - we will want to look at booking a few accommodations that I have noted sell out up to a year in advance. This is still high level plan - will look at specific routes, activities etc. later in the planning.

So - round 2: (trip will begin mid May - most likely between the 12th and 18th).

Comments, feedback and advice welcome.

Night 1, 2 and 3 - Edinburgh
Night 4 - St. Andrews/East Neuk
Night 5 Ballater/Dufftown/Grantown on Spey??
Night 6, 7 and 8 - Dornoch - golf/day trips north
Night 9 Plockton
Night 10 and 11 Glencoe area
Night 12, 13 and 14 Mull
Night 16, 17 and 18 Trossachs (via Kilmartin/Inverary)
Depart
Depending on our flight time on the final day, we may opt to stay in the Trossachs 2 nights and then spend the day sightseeing/travelling between there and Edinburgh, dropping the car and staying near the airport for final night before flight home the next day.

Does this seem feasible (i.e. a reasonable pace to enjoy a variety of experiences)? I realize we are doing a pretty big loop but have built in multi night stays along with a few one night stays to shorten time in the car. We could cut Dornoch and the north out completely (am confident we could find another nice golf course and do a more compact loop...but Dornoch and surrounds is very appealing. I should note as some may wonder, Mull is a priority so we felt trying to also include Skye would not allow us to do it justice as I think I would want at least 3 nights there so have left it off the itinerary in order to include some other areas of the country - at least for now.

Thanks again - all comments, feedback and suggestions welcome.






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Old Feb 26th, 2019, 12:04 PM
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Your new plan is 'doable' but days 4 through 6 might be a real blur and you will miss tons of worthwhile stuff dashing past. The total drive from Edinburgh, through Fife hitting maybe ONE of the fishing villages and St Andrews, up to Dunnottar, along Deeside, through Tayside or Dufftown, and finishing at Dunnottar will take maybe 9 or 10 hours hours . That doesn't sound like a lot for three days . . . But there are about 25 hours worth of sites en route. (Crail, St Andrews, Dunnottar, a castle or 2 along the Castle Trail, one distillery, Culloden, etc)
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Old Feb 26th, 2019, 01:38 PM
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Thanks janisj. So many decisions....do you have a suggestion to better allocate days? Appreciate your expertise. Thanks.
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Old Feb 26th, 2019, 04:27 PM
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>>do you have a suggestion to better allocate days? <<

Tough love Yes, cut back your scope a little. Rural Scotland is very very special but you can't easily cover the Fife, the east coast, Deeside/the Highlands, the far north, Glencoe, a major island, Kilmartin, and the Trossachs in 2 weeks. What to cut . . . in a perfect world, nothing because I love every corners of the country. But that is not practical.

Some will advise cutting the Trossachs -- I can't do that because it is one of my very favorite parts of the country. Some will say cut Mull -- but ditto. Some will say you don't have time for the far north but I know Dornoch is important to you...

But if I HAD to cut something I'd cut Plockton, Kilmartin/Inveraray and (sadly) one night from the Trossashs. That would leave you:

Night 1, 2 and 3 - Edinburgh
Night 4 -5 - St. Andrews/East Neuk
Night 6- 7 Ballater (see Dunnottar en route)
Night 8 - Dufftown or Grantown on Spey
Nights 9-11 Dornoch - golf/day trips north
Night 12 and 13 Glencoe area
Night 14 -16 Mull
Night 17 and 18 Trossachs

This would leave you just 1 one night stand
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Old Feb 27th, 2019, 01:15 AM
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While you are on Mull, there's a lovely small distillery in Tobermory which is well worth a visit. The whisky is good (and I'm not really a whisky fan) and the tour is compact but informative. If you have a hotel in Tobermory you can walk to it and have no problems with driving.
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Old Feb 27th, 2019, 05:12 AM
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Like I said above (way above) we all have (slightly) different preferred areas and routes. So while Janis is (understandably) very fond of the Trossachs and I'm (perhaps too) fond of the far north, the fact remains that this is YOUR trip to plan, and since you've got more than a year to research things, I'd recommend that you do just that... plan.

You'll be in the country well in advance of the summer crowds, and, aside from the late May bank holiday (25 May according to the interwebs, which is probably going to be after you've finished) you're probably not going to encounter massive competition for lodging, except - maybe - in very high demand areas. So I'd counsel that you not try to plot some day-to-day plan that's so brittle that one missed or diverted day here or there upsets the whole scheme. Why not monitor weather and road conditions for this spring, and draw some conclusions about the odds of good conditions for next year? Monitor some webcams - https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co....ks/webcam.html .

You. Can't. See. It. All. An extra day driving around castle country in Deeside is a day you can't be driving around on Mull. Hopping from one distillery in Speyside to the next really gets you nowhere unless you're such an aficionado of the subtleties between Spey malts (and they are indeed subtle) that it turns into some personal quest, and you're prepared to trade off something else. Do you like gin? Are you aware that artisan gin is now all the rage in Scotland? https://foodanddrink.scotsman.com/dr...try-right-now/

My point being, the more you learn about the various regions, the better you'll be able to target destinations and activities that are of the highest interest or importance to you. The fact is that you're probably going to want to return, sooner rather than later, so you can choose to make this trip a fast skim of the country, or you can focus on a couple of areas or activities and "go deep." Both are totally legitimate approaches.
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Old Feb 27th, 2019, 07:42 AM
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Gardyloo is correct -- you have a lot (tons) of time so absolutely no need to make decisions now. His trip, my trip and your trip would all look a little different.

One resource you might want to seek out is the book 'Scotland the Best' by Peter Irvine. Doesn't matter what edition (its been out for years). Not a guidebook - not a single photograph - just lists with short descriptions of THE best everything in Scotland. The best easy hikes, the best strenuous hikes, the best pubs (country/city/real ale/bloody good), the best views, the best beaches, the best Castles, and gardens and golf courses and waterfalls and scenic drives and glens and fish & chips shops and events and . . . and you name it. A total gazetteer of everything Scotland.


Also definitely research on the Undiscovered Scotland website. https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk
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Old Feb 27th, 2019, 11:23 AM
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Thank you both! "Scotland the Best" on order.
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Old Apr 18th, 2019, 05:26 AM
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Update and Round 3 of itinerary.

The good news is we have found a few more days for the trip, the bad news (not really) is - more decisions! After more reading and discussing, we have landed on the following. The first half is pretty much set (although we could reverse if it works better), it is the second half we are still pondering and looking for advice/suggestions. A few things to note about us - I am very much a planner (if that wasn't already obvious), but a planner so that when we are actually travelling we can be more spontaneous if that makes sense. I realize weather, mood and any number of factors can affect your plans. So whatever options we choose, I will have plan b and plan c etc. along with notes on all manner of things to eat, see and do along the way rather than "what do we do now". We've whiled away many travel days in a park/cafe/pub etc. just enjoying our surroundings when necessary.

Arriving May 16th (morning after overnight flight) and departing June 6th.

16th, 17th, 18th and 19th in Edinburgh with a day trip to St. Andrews. We really want to go to St. Andrews on a Sunday when we can wander the Old Course. With the change in dates, that doesn't work upon departing Edinburgh so have added a night to Edinburgh from our original plan. I checked the train/bus times and it appears they run from early in the morning to quite late in the evening so we will do this on our own. If time permits while in St. Andrews, a bus or taxi to one of the fishing villages for dinner then back to St. Andrews for the return to Edinburgh.

20th and 21st - Ballater (Castles, scenery, hikes)

22nd and 23rd - Dufftown (More castles and Whisky!)

24th, 25th and 26th - Dornoch (Culloden on route, golf and perhaps a driving trip to Smoo Cave/Durness to enjoy some of the scenery)

27th and 28th - TBD (this is where we are struggling - see thoughts at end of itinerary)

29th and 30th - Glencoe

31st, 1st and 2nd - Mull

3rd, 4th and 5th (Trossachs - night of the 5th potentially at airport hotel)

6th - flight home

The 2 nights between Dornoch and Glencoe is where we are struggling to make a decision. So many seemingly wonderful options and yet differing opinions. The world of internet search algorithms likely a reason for this. After spending a lot of time looking at beautiful descriptions, images, routes and locations through the far north west, I got bombarded by articles popping up at how this area is now overcrowded, bad drivers, over sized vehicles blocking the roads, trash etc. Likewise, out of nowhere, articles popping up with horrifying scenes of car accidents caused by tourists....yikes.

Some of the options we are considering. We are fine with 2 one night stays in this part - thinking these days could be about the journey rather than the destination. Please feel free to comment - whether too ambitious, not practical/outright ludicrous or suggest any others. In no particular order:-

Drive from Dornoch to Torridon (via Kinlochewe?) - spend a night in the area. Drive to Plockton via Applecross and Bealach na Ba - see Eileen Donan castle etc. and stay the night. Head to Glencoe via Armadale/Mallaig ferry and Glenfinnian the next day.

Drive from Dornoch to Plockton for the night via Torridon/Applecross. The next morning (early and weather permitting) drive to Elgol and do a boat tour of Lake Coruisk and then head to Arisaig for the night and then to Glencoe the next morning.

Drive from Dornoch to Plockton for the night via Torridon/Applecross. The next morning head directly to Arisaig (or nearby) for the night - explore this area/maybe a boat trip to one of the Small Isles and then to Glencoe the next morning.

Add the 2 nights to other destinations already on the itinerary.

Note - we also considered taking a night from somewhere and then heading to Skye for 3 nights but I really don't think we want to do this (and the above options will allow us to say we were there. Also considered taking a night from somewhere and planning a driving route in the far north west (NC500) - but think this will still be too rushed (and my comments above on the traffic/crowds etc.).

Apologies for the long winded post - but trying to provide as much info as possible. Appreciate any advice, feedback and comments.

Thanks!





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Old Apr 18th, 2019, 07:46 AM
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The new plan (with the extra days) is much better.

>>I got bombarded by articles popping up at how this area is now overcrowded, bad drivers, over sized vehicles blocking the roads, trash etc. Likewise, out of nowhere, articles popping up with horrifying scenes of car accidents caused by tourists....yikes.<<

IME/IMO - what you are finding is lot of hyperbole and over sensationalized "angst'. You could read the exact same thing about almost every corner of the UK or beauty spots in the USA. Yes, there are more people that there used to be. The roads have always been narrow, and there have always been oversized vehicles. One accurate part of that is that the popularity of Skye has exploded a bit - the island is large and it can absorb the people -- but finding accommodations is more difficult that it used to be.

Any of your three new options would work and be totally doable. I'd be happy with any of the three - Elgol / boat tour of Lake Coruisk would be the most weather dependent.
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Old Feb 21st, 2020, 07:55 AM
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Update - Final Itinerary and Lodging Check

Coming back to this. Arriving May 16th and departing June 6th. Lots of reading and research over the past several months and have now finalized itinerary and booked lodging. All can still be cancelled at this point so if anyone has any (negative) insight on any of our choices, feedback welcomed. What we are looking for: given the number of nights, an average of $200 CDN - 115-120 GBP. Generally looking for somewhere we can walk for food and drinks in the evening and/or at least a common area to relax and enjoy a drink upon return for the day if a more remote location. Not all these were my first choice, but availability and/or cost were a factor.

Edinburgh - 4 nights - Motel One Princes Street (day trip to St. Andrews)
Ballater - 2 nights - Gordon Guest House (Castles etc.)
Dufftown - 2 nights - Morven Guest House (Whiskey, castles)
Dornoch - 3 nights - The Dornoch Castle Hotel (Golf/trips northwest)
Plockton - 1 night - The Plockton Hotel (scenic driving day - Dornoch - Torridon - Applecross etc.)
Arisaig - 1 night - The Old Library & Lodge (from Plockton to Lake Coruisk Boat trip and to Arisaig via ferry. If weather prohibits boat trip we are fine eating cost of ferry and traveling an alternative route to Arisaig).
Glencoe - 2 nights - Craiglinnhe House (walks/hikes/Glen Etive)
Mull - 3 nights - Seaview Bed & Breakfast (Iona/Staff - drive to Tobermory via Calgary Bay)
Callander 2 nights - Lubnaig Guest House (Inchmahome, Loch Katrine etc.)
After 2 nights in Callander we will make our way to EDI with stops at Stirling & Doune to drop car and catch an early evening flight to LHR..
Hilton at LHR Terminal 2/3 for return flight the next morning out of Terminal 2.

All ferries are booked. Bella Jane Boat Tour is booked. Just the Staffa tour pending.

Just a brief description of our plans for the areas above. We've done lots of research on what we want to do and see. We are also aware that weather will likely affect some of our plans at some point and we are fine with that - we're fine to spend an afternoon relaxing in a pub or taking alternative routes and plans.

Car rental through Celtic Legends/Arnold Clark. We've always used Auto Europe in the past but had much better selection/pricing/service with Celtic Legends for this trip.

Some advice for anyone planning a trip longer than 2 weeks. I spent far too much time trying to work out the various passes available (Explorer Pass etc.). Given the length of our trip and the fact that several of the big ticket items are on opposite ends of the trip (i.e. outside the 14 days pass limit) - I looked at all kinds of combinations. In the end, we joined "Historic Scotland". For 2 adults it was approximately 100 GBP for a year long membership vs. 80 GBP for the 14 day pass not to mention various other perks of membership (a very handy guide listing all the properties, opening hours, tours, sat nav coordinates). Likewise, when looking at other planned stops, it was a no brainer to join National Trust for Canada which has a reciprocal agreement with UK. For 2 adults - it was approximately 40 GBP. Entry for 2 adults to just a few castles (eg. Fraser, Craigevar, Crathes) not to mention sites and monuments (Culloden, Glenfinnian), all included, are well in excess of that. The admissions to the sites we want to see add up to approximately 280 GBP and the memberships were approximately 140 GBP. That doesn't include various cafe/gift shop discounts and parking. Even if we skip several sites, it will still be well worth it.

Long update post! Any feedback on lodging or plans or glaring omissions is welcome.

Thanks.
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Old Feb 21st, 2020, 08:36 AM
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I haven't read any of your post after your itinerary/list of accommodations since I am in a big rush right now. Will read the rest later today -- but just wanted to let you know the itinerary looks great and very doable. And "Mull - 3 nights - Seaview Bed & Breakfast" is terrific -- Seaview is very popular and is often booked up far in advance.
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Old Feb 21st, 2020, 09:26 AM
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We stayed at Gordon Guest House in Ballater in 2012. Wonderful host, perfect location in town, great breakfasts!!
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Old Feb 23rd, 2020, 03:05 AM
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Thank you both. Good to know. Janis I'm quite sure Seaview was from your suggestion on someone else's thread. I booked the majority of accommodations last fall and even then, some were full.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2020, 09:50 AM
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Finally got time to read the rest of your post.

re the boat out to Staffa - it may have change, but the owner of Seaview used to run tours out there from the dock in Fionnphort so you might check with them. I've not needed to pre-book Staffa, but my last visit was several years ago and things may have changed.

I agree 100% about joining various orgs/associations. I don't currently belong to Historic Scotland or the Nat'l Trust but I have more years than not. I do belong to most major museums/galleries in London, the RHS and Kew because most of my recent trips have been London-centric as will my next one in July. But I'm definitely (re)joining Historic Scotland, English Heritage and the Nat'l trust next year prior to an extended trip. Can be a huge money saver - and when the savings isn't large, the convenience is.
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