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Scotland in three weeks

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Oct 22nd, 2012, 12:48 PM
  #1
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Scotland in three weeks

We (four adults) are planning a trip to Scotland and northern England next June/July. We have three weeks alloted for the trip. We like to hike, sightsee, visit historical and scenic areas. Our tentative plan is to fly into Edinburgh, visit for 3 days, rent a car and drive the remainder of the time. Day 4 - Hadrian's wall, Day 5 6 & 7 visit N. Lake District, Day 8 drive to Loch Lomond, Day 9 see Trossachs and drive to Oban, Day 10 visit Mull & Iona, Day 11 drive to isle of Skye, Day 12 tour Isle of Skye, Day 13 drive to Ullapool, Day 14 tour area around Ullapool, Day 15 drive to Inverness, Day 16 tour area around Loch Ness, Day 17 Tour West Cairngorms NP, Day 18 drive to East side of Cairngorms, Day 19 tour area to Stonehaven, Day 20 drive through Stirling visit Castle, and stay night near airport, Day 21 - fly home tired.
Have we given us enough time to get to each destination, and see the main things in each area? Thanks
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Oct 22nd, 2012, 01:17 PM
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You might want to take a look at my trip report; click on my name to find it. We started in Glasgow, drove though some of the highlands and back to the tweed river valley to finish in Edinburgh.
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Oct 22nd, 2012, 01:47 PM
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I see that you are a new poster. Welcome to Fodor's! Do you mind a little feedback?

When I opened this I thought you were going there in 3 weeks.....you might get more of the kinds of responses you want if you re-post it as something like "Proposed 3 wk itinerary to Scotland next summer."
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Oct 23rd, 2012, 04:39 AM
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You weren't wrong when you said you would "drive the remainder of the time" Seriously though, your trip does consist of a LOT of time on the road, which is OK for taking in the passing scenery but will leave you feeling tired and frustrated that you don't have enough time IN the places you pass through.

Away from the Edinburgh/Glasgow central belt, the roads are probably much slower and narrower than you are used to. On twisty single lane roads, you can easily be forced to crawl along for ages at 30mph behind a lorry or a caravan. For a first time visitor I'd recommend working out an itinerary that has a maximum of about 80-100 miles a day driving (which equates to about 3 hours driving). Also consider staying for 2-3 nights in each stopover location and use it as a base to make local day trips.

Personally I'd drop the Lake District from this plan as it adds substantially to your mileage and will be crammed with people during the June/July school holidays. Use this time instead to spread out your time in Scotland to a more comfortable pace.
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Oct 23rd, 2012, 06:25 AM
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I like your itinerary, but would personally choose more bases and do day trips from them. Changing locations does take up a lot of valuable vacation time, especially with 4 adults - packing, checking out, finding the new place, settling in, unpacking, etc. - this is time you could spend enjoying the fantastic scenery, and hiking about.

If you like hiking and sightseeing, I would see if I could find more days for Skye. It is truly a magnificent place, and well worth several days. We were there for four nights on our trip in 2008 (also 3 weeks - find my trip report, we visited many of the same places) and it still wasn't enough!

Sheila Ritchie is here on this board, and can usually offer some lovely insight - she lives near Aberdeen.
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Oct 23rd, 2012, 07:27 AM
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That's about 12-13 different hotels in 18-19 nights including about 10 once you re-enter Scotland from the N. Lake District. Seems completely daft. Pick a few hubs and tour from there.

This says little: "We like to hike, sightsee, visit historical and scenic areas" - what do you really want out of the trip and what attracts you to Scotland? Right now, you're ticking off a list of destinations.
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Oct 23rd, 2012, 01:28 PM
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I was lurking while snowed in at Lake Tahoe (wasn't going to log on til I saw your thread)

You have a wonderfuul plan -- IF you had 5 weeks (4 minimum). And especially w/ a party of 4 who are each probably on slightly different body clocks. Some of your days will be entirely behind the wheel.

Places like the Lake district, Mull, Skye, the far NW - the driving will be very SLOOOOW. So - I'd either:

1) cut Northumberland/Hadrian's Wall and the Lake District. Both are great but that is a lot of driving only to turn around and drive back to Scotland. Plus if one visits Northumberland, Alnwick Castle/Gardens is a MUST and one day is not enough for them and the Wall. PLUS plus - you will have to drive through the Borders and miss the Abbeys, St Abbs Head, etc. You are giving yourselves only on day to drive down from Edinburgh AND visit the Wall. To do The Borders/Northumberland/the Lakes justice you'd want 5 or 6 days.

or 2) Cut the far Northwest - which would be a real shame.

or 3) add a week.
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Oct 23rd, 2012, 01:34 PM
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I meant to add - if you are looking at on-line mileage calculators, you will want to add between 25% and 75% - and in some really rural areas even double the times.

Otherwise you are getting the 'perfect world' estimates - no traffic, no weather, no sheep in the road, no delayed ferries, nothing.
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Oct 23rd, 2012, 02:23 PM
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Scottish roads are not American - in Scotland a road with 2 lanes in each direction is a big deal; in the US it can be a frontage road or a side street.

And in Scotland random tractors pull into the roads hauling a-- at a speedy 10-12 miles an hour at any old time. This is not conducive to touring.

Seriously, cut the number of places you want to stay overnight - drop that from 12 to 6 and you've gained 2-3 hours per day that you don't change hotels - or two full days of touring.
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Oct 23rd, 2012, 02:48 PM
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Seconding the above recommendations that you narrow your locations and base out of maybe 3 or 4 locations. Cut England if you want to do Scotland properly. Or vice versa. Driving times in Scotland -- very slow compared to US. We once cooled it for 3 hours alongside a major highway because there had been an accident up ahead and the police were investigating, measuring, etc. Don't underestimate your driving times.
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Oct 23rd, 2012, 03:09 PM
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Forget my advice!!! You are doing fine with this title!
socialworker is offline  
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Oct 24th, 2012, 10:04 AM
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Thanks for all the good advice. We will look at limiting our bases and where we want to go. Two questions. Would it be easy to see the Trossachs and Loch Lomand area from Oban? Should we consider Nairn as a base instead of Inverness for the Loch Ness and Cairngorms National Park?
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Oct 24th, 2012, 10:29 AM
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Not really easy - it is a bit of a trek out there. A lovely trek, to be sure! I would not use Inverness, it's a large city and not very quaint. Yes, lots of restaurants and such, but I prefer the smaller towns. We stayed in Grantown-on-Spey, and it was delightful. We stayed at Kinross House B&B, and had great pies and pints at Craigs Bar down the block. Careful though - GPS signal is blocked sometimes by the nearby RAF base.

I would use Stirling or Killin as a base for The Trossachs. We stayed there in a lovely place (can't remember the name off the top of my head). They've a lovely falls and Inn at the bridge for good lunches.
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Oct 24th, 2012, 11:16 AM
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My four cents:

#1 Three days (nights?) in Edinburgh is perfect.

#2 I think anywhere can be considered "day-trippalbe" (?) so long as it's 2 hours or less one way - especially if you start driving by 8am.

#3 Use Google Maps directions to get rough estimates of all your drive times and have some wiggle room. As mentioned, things (tractors, accidents) do come up. Just plan things so that it's not a disaster if it occasionally takes a little longer...

#4 For 21 days, I think anywhere up to six "home bases" is reasonable (that includes your final airport hotel).

Looking forward to your revised plan - you're on the right track.
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Oct 26th, 2012, 08:25 PM
  #15
 
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• Anywhere between Inverness and Nairn would be a good base.

• I personally wouldn't stay in Killin. Its beautiful but inconvenient as a base -- takes a fair bit of time to get to and from the main road. OK for an excursion but not for day to day touring. I'd stay in Callander or there abouts. Much better 'connection'. (I wouldn't stay IN Stirling either simply because it is a bit too far east to work as a base.)

• Oban is not convenient for anything much except for the ferry to Mull and for touring Kilmartin

• "Use Google Maps directions to get rough estimates of all your drive times and have some wiggle room"

More than 'some' wiggle room. You really need to add significantly to most any drive time calculation.
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Oct 29th, 2012, 06:06 AM
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We found Callander to be rather crowded when we were there, but we really enjoyed the falls in Killin. Yes, you are right, though - it is a bit of a drive to get in and out.

I usually take the miles that www.viamichelin.com gives, and just calculate what it would be at 30-35 mph. Then I add a bit for stopping - food breaks, petrol stops, photography opps, etc.
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