Scotland itinerary – 3 weeks

Jan 1st, 2017, 07:21 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 12
Scotland itinerary – 3 weeks

Hi everyone,

We have started planning an itinerary for a three week trip in Scotland in June 2017. We are hoping that fellow Fodorites can take a look and let us know if it is achievable or over-ambitious!

A bit of background information about us:
- we have been to London before, the three-night stay in London is purely to visit the V&A and Tate Britain (didn’t get there last visit), catch up with friends and get over jetlag (travelling from Australia)
- we will be driving the majority of the North Coast 500 route (except the section from Inverness to Lochcarron)
- family ancestry from Caithness and Sutherland, so going through this region is a must
- key interests – nature/scenery, hiking (we will be doing small hikes along the way – 1 to 1.5hrs mostly), museums (will be visiting the major ones in Glasgow and Edinburgh) and photography

We have allocated six nights in Edinburgh as we have heard that there is plenty to do, and we figure that by the time our driving tour is over we would want to stay in one place for a quite a long while ☺

We have not yet booked accommodations but will do so once the itinerary is confirmed as we are totally aware that accommodation fills up quickly (especially along the NC500). We welcome recommendations for accommodation, budget is between £75 -£100 (absolute max)/night. We prefer to stay at b&b for the hearty breakfasts!

(Driving distances and driving time from Googlemaps, time does not include sightseeing)

Thursday 1 June – LONDON, arrives 1.15pm
Friday 2 June – LONDON
Saturday 3 June –LONDON
Sunday 4 June – Train to GLASGOW, arrives 2pm, after check in visit Glasgow cathedral, city chambers
Monday 5 June – GLASGOW – Glasgow school of art, Macintosh House (yes we are MacIntosh fans!) & Kelvingrove Art Gallery
Tuesday 6 June – GLENCOE – pick up car in the morning, drive to Glencoe, passing Loch Lomond (short walk – 1hr), Glen Etive, Lost valley walk (if time permits – 2.5hrs), check in b&b (183km, 2h52m)
Wednesday 7 June – PLOCKTON – Glencoe Lochan walk (1hr) prior to leaving Glencoe, head towards Glen Nevis, Steal Falls walk (1.5-2hr), Eilean Donan Castle, check in b&b (177km, 2h57m)
Thursday 8 June – TORRIDON – drive along Bealach na ba Road to Applecross (lunch), head to Torridon and check in (109km, 2h40m)
Friday 9 June – LOCHINVER – via Poolwe, visiting Corrieshalloch Gorge (fall of Measach walk, 45min), Knockan Crag walk (1hr), Ardvreck castle, check in b&b
Saturday 10 June – LOCHINVER – rest day, maybe do the Drumbeg loop (62km, 1.5hrs)
Sunday 11 June – TONGUE – drive to Durness, visit Balnakeil Beach, Sango Bay and Smoo cave, head to tongue and check in (133 km, 2h16m)
Monday 12 June – JOHN O’GROAT – Rock Rose Distillery, Dunnet’s Head, Mey Castle, Duncansby Stacks, head to b&b and check in (1h39m, 100km)
Tuesday 13 June – JOHN O’GROAT – day trip tour to Orklay with local operator (no driving today!)
Wednesday 14 June – BLACK ISLE – head to Wick, visiting Castle Sinclair, Whaligo Steps, Clann Gunn museum in Latheron, Dunrobin castle, Black Isle brewery, check in b&b (2h40m, 178km)
Thursday 15 June – INVERGARRY – head to Inverness (spend an hour), Culloden Battlefields, then along west side of Loch Ness to Tomich (Plodda falls walk – 1 hour), head to Invergarry and check in b&b (3h11m, 170km)
Friday 16 June – STIRLING – head to Dunkeld, visit Doune Castle and Stirling castle, drop off car in Stirling and overnight (3h, 230km)
Saturday 17 June – train to EDINBURGH
Sunday 18 June - EDINBURGH
Monday 19 June - EDINBURGH
Tuesday 20 June - EDINBURGH
Tuesday 21 June - EDINBURGH
Wednesday 22 June - EDINBURGH
Thursday 23 June – Fly out at 8.10am

Your feedback and suggestions are most welcome! Many thanks in advance!
lilloulou_au is offline  
Jan 1st, 2017, 07:34 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 65,382
I don't have time this minute to look over your entire itinerary -- but just one very quick comment: >>driving time from Googlemaps,<<

NO! Google Mao is very (much too) optimistic. You will need to add between 25% and nearly 100% to every drive time -- depending on how rural the area/traffic/construction/free roaming livestock/etc.
janisj is online now  
Jan 1st, 2017, 11:35 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 846
Always found the AA route planner to be a bit more accurate than Google maps:
Hooameye is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2017, 12:58 AM
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 7
One quick thought about getting from London to Glasgow - flying can sometimes be a cheaper option than trains and certainly faster. Obviously you miss out on the scenic train journey but with your very tight itinerary, you might prefer to allow yourself a bit more time in Glasgow.
gubgreen is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2017, 06:13 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,438
I too would discount Google's time estimates a little; however I don't see any days that are infeasible even with a contingency allowance for that. Remember that daylight lasts a long time in Scotland in June; you're very far north.

A couple of things to mention, however. First is that you might want to come up with a standby "rainy day" plan. June can be nice in the north, or it can involve rain coming at you horizontally. Bring some books or something useful for days when the best you can manage is a pub somewhere.

Second, for your hikes, one word: midges. Find some bug repellent that works; maybe go test it someplace in the Aussie outback this summer to make sure it's effective. Many a walk in northern Scotland in June has ended in people wanting to jump in a water body to get away from the midges. This is especially the case if you fancy roaming in the gloaming.

Third, a recommendation that you modify your route slightly, especially if you have Caithness or Sutherland roots.

I'm not sure of your overall plan, but assuming it looks something like this - - note the addition of two points not included in your detailed itinerary.

First is a detour south from Loch Eriboll along an un-numbered road (last time I looked) past the foot of Ben Hope (good walks, by the way) to Dun Dornaigil (or Dun Dornadilla a prehistoric broch or fort that sits all by itself alongside a gloriously lonely road, one of the prettiest in the Highlands to my mind. Pictures from June: and . This little road (which runs all the way to Altnaharra) is stunning, and so far off the beaten path that there's barely a path at all.

Second, and IMO very important for someone with roots in the region, is a stop at Croick Church at the end of Strathcarron, south of Bonar Bridge. In the 1840s the churchyard was used as a holding depot for evicted Highlanders during the Clearances, and before being shipped to the coast (or to Ireland or Canada or Glasgow or North Carolina) a number of them scratched pitiful messages, some in English, some in Gaelic, on the church windows. This is a very powerful and emotional place, beautiful and melancholy. and

The road over Struie Hill (B9176) from Ardgay is also beautiful and considerably quicker than going out to the A9 as you head south to the Black Isle. (BTW, why? Maybe some family connections?)

The "NC500" is a worthy but recent creation. Bear in mind, though, that pretty much every little side road in the northwest Highlands is incredibly rewarding, even if it hasn't made the cut for inclusion in some marketing scheme.
Gardyloo is online now  
Jan 2nd, 2017, 07:12 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 17,032
NC500 a marketing concept

Orklay, do you mean Orkney or Oaklay?

There are a few midge apps, giving you likely density for the next few days. If the wind drops below 8 mph they can be "interesting".
bilboburgler is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2017, 09:16 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 65,382
I don't think anyplace will be filled up because it is on the "NC500" -- you will want to book some places ahead because parts are very (VERY) rural and B&Bs can be few and far between is some places. But it is also a less intensely visited part of the country.
janisj is online now  
Jan 3rd, 2017, 12:35 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 12
Many thanks for everyone’s feedback and comments! I will definitely check out the AA route planner and allow extra time for contingency. We can always play it by ear and see how the drive pans out on the given day – totally ok if we have to skip an activity if needed.

Good point about flying to Glasgow – it appears that there is a BA flight leaving at 8.20am, arriving Glasgow at 9.50am – so it’s definitely worth considering.

I have encountered the notorious New Zealand sandflies in my previous travels (I presume that they are quite similar to the midges), the bites were intensely itchy and it took a long time to heal, so yes definitely will be packing insect repellents and tea tree oil. bilboburgler - I had no idea that midges apps existed! I will definitely look into it. Sorry about the type in my post, I meant to type Orkney (not Orklay)

Gardyloo – your photos are beautiful! So atmospheric - I can see that you have a very good eye. Thanks for your suggestion of additional places to visit - we can definitely fit in both Broch Dun Dornaigil and the Croick Church as detours. There is no reason for us to go to the Black Isle, except that we were looking for somewhere to stay outside of Inverness (and my DH is kind of interested in visiting the Black Isle brewery, but it’s not crucial because I am sure there are other breweries/distilleries along the way). The B9176 does look to be more direct than the A9 so perhaps we could look for a B&B along this route.

Thanks again everyone
lilloulou_au is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2017, 05:15 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 17,032
bilboburgler is offline  
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