Scotland in September

Old Feb 18th, 2008, 10:12 AM
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Scotland in September

Hi all
My friend and I plan to visit the Lake District and Scotland by hire car in the latter half of September 2008. We have allowed roughly two weeks for the whole trip from fly in to fly out at Heathrow.

I would really appreciate some feedback on the skeleton itinerary that I have drawn up:

Day 1: Fly into Heathrow, pick up car and drive to Windermere up the motorway.

Days 2 and 3: Windermere

Day 4: Windermere to Oban via Loch Lomond, bypassing Glasgow if possible (is this overly ambitious?)

Day 5: Oban to Mull to Staffa to Fort William (can one exit through the north side of Mull or does one have to retrace to Oban?)

Day 6: Fort William to Mallaig to Uig (Skye) to Tarbert (Lewis)

Day 7: Tarbert to Stornoway to Ullaport to Dingwall

Day 8: Day trip north from Dingwall

Day 9: Dingwall to Inverness to Pitlochry to Perth to Edinburgh

Day 10: In Edinburgh

Day 11: Edinburgh to Heathrow and fly out.

This gives us 3 extra days that we can spread around depending on what feedback we get. We may have to spend one of those days somewhere close to Heathrow, as driving from Edinburgh to Heathrow, turning in a rental car and then catching a plane out all in one day may be a bit much.

My friend and I are heavily into photography and mainly love mountains, lakes, rivers, coastal cliffs and beautiful scenery in general. We are in our sixties, so long hikes are out, though we don't mind a 20 minute walk to get to a really good vantage point for a great shot.

Any accommodation tips would also be really helpful. Ideal would be twin-bedded rooms with facilities in the range 25 to 50 pounds per person per night.

Thanks in anticipation.
Yelpir is offline  
Old Feb 18th, 2008, 10:24 AM
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I don't have time for a complete answer just now, but a few points:

1) If you are flying in long haul, your Day 1 is close to insane. Sorry, but it is. That is too far to drive - especially jet lagged. Why not fly into Manchester or Liverpool???

2) There is no need at all to go from Mull to Oban to Ft William to get to Mallaig. You can take a ferry to Lochaline or Kilchoan and across to Mallaig.

3) Why on earth do you want to drive all the way back to Heathrow when you can very easily fly EDI to LHR in an hour. There are usually no rental car drop off fees - or very small ones.

And finally - the entire plan is primarily driving vast distances over very narrow/slow roads.

If you are "of a certain age" and are into photography - I'd slow down a LOT and actually have time to stop and take photos . . . . . .
janisj is offline  
Old Feb 18th, 2008, 10:51 AM
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Driving 250 miles to Windermere after an overnight flight isn't just difficult. It's seriously irresponsible.

If you want to be a danger to others, play with your compatriots' lives at home. People with so litle sense aren't welcome here.
flanneruk is offline  
Old Feb 18th, 2008, 11:37 AM
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I agree that your plan looks like an enormous amount of driving, and with frequent stops for taking in the scenery and photography, you are going to have a very tough time.

I've only spent a few days in Scotland so I can't give you detailed advice, but I can help with your Day 4 question. We drove from Grasmere to Glencoe in one day last July. It rained most of the way so that slowed us down a tad. We made one stop - to see Castlerigg stone circle near Keswick. We ended up going through Glasgow due to an accident on the M6, so that added some time. Once into Scotland, we stopped numerous times for photos (Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor, Glen Coe). I estimate that we left Grasmere around 10:00 am and arrived near Glencoe around 5:00 pm, so in total it took us about 7 hours (we ate on the road).

If you are seriously into photography, I would highly recommend that you spend more time in the Glen Coe area. The glen itself is incredible, plus you are within easy reach of a fabulous coastal drive that we really enjoyed: north past Fort William to Glenfinnan, then on through Moidart and Sunart (traveling counterclockwise on the A861) and along the north shore of Loch Linnhe back to Fort William (with the option of taking the ferry across Loch Linnhe from Ardgour to Corran).

You might want to check out the website for some great scenic drives.

hausfrau is offline  
Old Feb 18th, 2008, 01:51 PM
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I would drop the Lake District part of your itinerary and fly into Glasgow or Edinburgh.
This past spring I had planned to do York and Hadrian's wall visits and then spend the rest of our time in Scotland. After advice from this board, I dropped the England part of our trip and flew into and out of Edinburgh for two weeks in Scotland. I know your holiday will be much more safe and enjoyable.
You can always come back for a second trip to Northern England.
BTW, two weeks in Scotland can produce wonderful photography and lasting memories.
d1carter is offline  
Old Feb 18th, 2008, 01:52 PM
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janisj: Thank you for your considered and polite comments.

I had originally planned to break the Heathrow to Windermere journey over two days but was told it was only a 4 hour drive. A detail I left out was that only my friend is flying in on day 1. I will have been in the UK for a week beforehand, so will be fresh to drive. However, I will listen to what you have advised and consider splitting the journey again.

Your idea of flying from Heathrow to somewhere upcountry rather than driving is a good one.

Thanks for the information on the ferry from Mull to Lochaline. It was just what I was looking for.

The only reason why I was driving back to Heathrow was to return the car. To be honest, it didn't occur to me that I did not need to return it to the same place I picked it up. Thanks for the tip.

I live in South Africa where we can cover vast distances in a day. My last trip was to New Zealand, where I worked on 200 miles a day, which was fine. In my ignorance, I thought Scotland would be pretty much like New Zealand. Thanks for straightening me out. What do you think would be a reasonable target for a day's travel in Scotland? 120 miles? I'm not one for sitting in one place for long. I like to keep moving. There's always another great picture just around the next corner

flanneruk: Chill, brother. Consider your blood-pressure

hausfrau: I appreciate your constructive suggestions. I will start doing some research into the Glencoe area.

I am accustomed to driving long distances, but prefer not to do more than 4 hours of actual driving in a day so that we can stop often to savour the beauty. I will split any day where the actual drive time is likely to be more than that.

I don't have a good map at this time and am working from an atlas, so it's hard for me to judge the distances. The bad days in my mind were 1,4 and 11. The others didn't look too bad. If we can do a one-way run with the car then we can solve day 11 by flying from Edinburgh to Heathrow. If we fly part of the way on day 1 then that problem is also solved, leaving only day 4. Unless anyone thinks the other days are also bad, of course.

Yelpir is offline  
Old Feb 18th, 2008, 02:12 PM
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d1carter: Thanks for the advice. The rub is that my friend is a Beatrix Potter fan and she would shoot me if I suggested dropping the Lake District from the itinerary

Perhaps we could fly from Heathrow to Glasgow and drive down to the Lake District from there?

I imagine flying internally within the UK is pretty expensive? When you are converting SA Rands at 15 to the pound, one has to consider these things.
Yelpir is offline  
Old Feb 19th, 2008, 04:36 AM
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For UK driving, allow for covering 35 miles an hour on the whole.

BA and bmi both fly between Heathrow and both Edinburgh & Glasgow - bmi is usually cheaper.

Using random dates in September I got the following :-

6 Sept - LHR-GLA - from £37

20 Sept - EDI-LHR - from £35
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Old Feb 19th, 2008, 04:37 AM
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P.S. The sooner you book, the cheaper.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Old Feb 20th, 2008, 12:31 PM
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Thanks, Caroline, and all of you who have helped me thus far.

I am currently reworking my itinerary based on the good advice that I have received. I am now looking at a timeframe of between 16 and 18 days for the whole trip (including Lake District).

My friend is flying in from Australia and I will be tying up with her at Heathrow, having spent a week relaxing with my daughter in Surrey. Mt friend lands at 0600 and I will meet up with her at 0800. I will prebook a rental car for pickup at or near Heathrow.

Does anyone still think that we cannot make the Lake District in a day? Is 60mph up the motorway out of the question? If it means adding another day to the itinerary, I would rather take the option of flying to Manchester and hiring there. Points to note: I will be fresh, with no jetlag. In South Africa we also drive on the left, so no problem there.

My main question at this point is: I have read many itineraries that give a lot of time to Skye, but very few that include Harris/Lewis. Is it foolish to include Harris/Lewis in a 13 day tour of scotland? Would the time be better spent elsewhere?

Also, am I being foolish in using a full day out of my trip to see Fingal's Cave? (via Mull). I was greatly impressed by Giant's Causeway in Ireland and when I saw that Fingal's Cave was made from the same 6 sided volcanic pillars, I felt that I just had to see it.
Can I really get from Oban to Staffa and back to Fort William in a day or will ferry times stymie me?

I realise that these are tough, out of the ordinary questions and I will understand if no one answers them, but I would really appreciate feedback if someone has answers.

Yelpir is offline  
Old Feb 20th, 2008, 12:45 PM
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You can comfortably do the drive from Heathrow to WIndermere in a 4-5 hours. We drove back from a wedding there a couple of years and had no problems with the distance. Since you will be fresh to drive it i see no problem with that. Take the M6 toll road rather than the normal M6 - it is quiter and quicker.
Driving around Scotland is a different matter - things take a lot longer there, as we found out last Spetember! I would break the journey to Oban somewhere - it is long slow drive.
hetismij is offline  
Old Feb 20th, 2008, 01:11 PM
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If you love photography of landscapes, definitely spend as much time as you can in Skye, it is simply breathtaking. We will be there for 4 nights in June, I'll post pics

We will also be on Lewis/Harris, Orkney and Mull for 3 nights each. Perhaps my pics/trip report will help you make up your mind about it! I think Fingal's Cave will be spectacular, I'm looking forward to it myself. I will also be spending some time on the Isle of Iona, right near Mull. Check out for ferry schedules and prices.

60 miles north of London isn't a bad deal, when not jetlagged. It's the 60 miles on the backroads and sheep tracks that's evil fun. We kept getting turned around looking for Hadrian's Wall once, and kept ending up back in Scotland by accident.

I would fly into Manchester anyhow - you might get cheaper flights and why waste time driving on the highway up when you could be sightseeing? Besides, MAN much easier to deal with, from all accounts, than LHR or LGW.
GreenDragon is offline  
Old Feb 20th, 2008, 01:43 PM
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hetismij: Thanks for your response. Yes, the stretch to Oban has been bothering me too. I will look for somewhere to break it. Nice to have feedback from someone who has recently done the drive between the Lake District and London.

GreenDragon: Your description of your trip in June is making me salivate. Can't wait to see your pics. All that time on the islands!! Wonderful!

Unfortunately we are on a tight budget so if we can avoid the airfare from Heathrow to Manchester by driving, we will. Unless, of course, it would save us a day.

Thanks for the link to CalMac. That will help a lot.

It is gradually sinking into my thick skull that driving in Scotland is SLOWWW. I will keep tossing things out of the itinerary until folks think it is manageable. It's not easy for me because I usually like to see as much as I possibly can in the time (and for the money) I have at my disposal.
Yelpir is offline  
Old Feb 20th, 2008, 01:58 PM
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Yeah, driving in Scotland is an average of 35mph, no more. Sure, you can make it up on larger roads, but then you hit the sheep tracks

My full itinerary is 3 nights each in Edinburgh, Grantown-on-Spey, Orkney, Lewis/Harris, Skye (4 nights), Mull and then Killin. 6 of us, whew!
GreenDragon is offline  
Old Feb 20th, 2008, 02:27 PM
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You could easily do the drive from Heathrow to Windermere. We have driven several times from the Lakes area to our friends in Loch Lomond. And we have also driven from their house to Oban,but there is no way I would do it all in one hit..Lakes to Oban. There is some beautiful scenery in Scotland and you will want to stop as well. It is easy to bypass Glasgow,just follow the signs and have a good map. Enjoy your trip.
huddoshols is offline  
Old Feb 20th, 2008, 04:11 PM
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Just two very quick comment just now:

1) since you will be in the UK ahead of time and already are "right hand drive fluent" - and w/ an early start the drive up to the Lakes won't be bad.

2) going to Fingal's cave won't eat up a whole day. I'd stay on Mull one night (or even 2 if you can swing it). A fishing/tour boat leaves Fionnphort at 9:45 a.m. or 12:15 p.m. . The whole trip takes about 2 hr 15 mins. It is a fantastic experience.
janisj is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2008, 11:15 AM
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Thanks for all the great advice, folks

Ok, I'm ready to float version 2 of the itinerary and then run for cover

Day 1: Drive from Heathrow to Windermere (driving chosen over flying for cost reasons)
Days 2 and 3: In Windermere and environs
Day 4: Drive from Windermere to Loch Lomond and overnight there
Day 5: Loch Lomond to Glen Coe and overnight in Oban
Day 6: Take the ferry to Mull, boat to Staffa (Fingal's Cave), ferry to Lochaline and overnight at Fort William (this day looks a little long. What do you think? janicej recommended spending a night on Mull and I will seriously think about it)
Day 7: Fort William to Mallaig, ferry to Armadale, overnight in Uig (Skye)
Day 8: Ferry from Uig to Tarbert (Harris), overnight in Stornaway
Day 9: Ferry from Stornaway to Ullapool, overnight in Scourie
Day 10: Drive to Thurso and John O'Groats, overnight in Wick
Day 11: Drive to Dingwall and overnight in Inverness
Day 12: Drive through Pitlochry and Perth to Edinburgh
Day 13: In Edinburgh. Take the overnight sleeper train to London
Day 14: Fly home from Heathrow.

I still have the possibility of adding 2 more days if a) the itinerary is too busy or b) we have missed anything out.

Right. Now I am ducking for cover as everyone tells me I am doing too much driving My only excuse is that I love to keep moving. I must see what is over that next hill

Seriously, if you think the distances each day are crazy or I'm missing a lot by not exploring particular areas in depth, tell me. I will appreciate it.
Yelpir is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2008, 11:49 AM
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An extra day or two would really help a lot. But even w/o adding time you can get an extra day out of this itinerary.

To go from Oban to Mull to Oban to Ft William to Mallaig is crazy (meant in the <i>nicest</i> possible way )

You can go from Oban &gt; Mull and overnight there

Then you can go from Mull &gt; the mainland &gt; Mallaig w/o having to double back through Oban/Ft William. Plus it would save you from staying in Ft William which is a hole.

take a look at the Caledonian MacBrayne website and check out the hopscotch routes 6 and 7. click on Island Hopscothch/Rover
janisj is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2008, 11:52 AM
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oops meant to add - you can leave Mull and be on Skye in a few hours. Ferry to Kilchoan or Lochaline, drive across to Mallaig and catch the ferry to Armadale.
janisj is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2008, 01:10 PM
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Thanks, janicej. I really appreciate your help.

The reason I thought to go from Mull to Fort William (actually via Lochaline rather than Oban) was so as not to miss 'The Road to the Isles' (Fort William to Mallaig) which some folks call the most scenic road in Scotland. If you tell me that it is not what it is cracked up to be, I will take your advice and give Fort William a miss
Yelpir is offline  

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