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dbaker Jun 18th, 2006 05:52 PM

Scotland Itinerary - Am I crazy?
Okay, here goes. I am kind of afraid to ask this but I figure I better know if I'm way off base now than have a ruined vacation later. We are in our early 40s traveling with our 18 year old son. We travel in the US a lot, are not afraid to travel great distances or times to see what we want, and are generally rushed and pack as much into our trips as we can - and like it that way. No window shopping or leisurely afternoon teas for us. We want to get the most varied "taste" of Scotland in our short time there. We are visiting Scotland for my son's high school graduation present in August and here is what I have planned. I got the mileages and times off the website so I think they are pretty accruate. I added 10% to the times as suggested. I assumed that we will spend about an hour at each stop (give or take - some more, some less). I also have us starting out each day by 8 or 9 am and finishing up dinner around 8 or so. I've got it all planned out and it works on paper. Again, we don't mind being rushed but I want an honest opinion as to whether or not I have selected the "best" sights and if there is anything I really ought to leave out. Thanks.

Sat - Plane arrives Glasgow at 9 am, I figure we will be on the road by noon and want to be at Dirleton Castle in Nrth Berwich by 2 pm or so for a special event they are having that day. After that, back to Edinburgh to our hotel with plans to attend a Scottish Dance show that evening - Total driving = About 2 1/2 hours, with 2 hours at castle

Sunday - Drive from Edinburgh to Linthigow Castle (spend 2 hours), then back to Roslin Chapel (spend 1 hour), then Craigmiller Castle (they have a special even there that afternoon-spend 3 hours). Maybe, if time, see Cairnpapple that day also (1 hour). Nothing planned that night - Total driving = 3 1/2 hours, about 160 miles, with about 7 hours spent between all the sights

Monday - Stay in Edinburgh all day and see the Castle (2 hours), Holyrood (2 hours), the Botanic Garden (1 hour) and the National Museum of Scotland (2 hours), plus 2 hours for general walking/sightseeing. We got tickets for the Tatoo that evening.

Tuesday - Edinburgh to Perth, and we want to see Stirling Castle (2 1/2 hours), Wallace Monument (1 hour), Doune Castle (1 hour), Dunblane Cathedral (1 hour), and Castle Campbell (1 hour). Staying in Perth.

Wednesday - Perth to Ballatar, and we want to stop by Elcho and Huntington Castles (at 1 hour each, are these worth it?), Broughty Castle (1 hour), Donnottar Castle (2 hours), and I read that the beach above Arbroat is beautiful so we are planning to stop there for an hour or so also. Hotel in Ballater.

Thursday - Ballatar to Inchnadamph (I know, a LONG drive but I think it will be worth it) Planning to stop at Huntly Castle (at 1 hour, if it is worth it), Elgin Cathedral (1 hour), Clava Cairns (45 minutes), Culloden (45 minutes), and Fort George (2 hours). Staying in Inchnadamph.

Friday - Inchnadamph to Lewiston, but via two beaches I read about north west of Inchnadamph called Clactoll and Achmeivich. Other than the 2 beach stops (at 1 hour each, plus a VERY slow road to the beach according to the website), we want to see Urquhart castle (2 hours) but will probably skip the Loch Ness commercialism hype unless someone tells me it is worth it. Staying in Lewiston.

Saturday - Lewiston to Glasgow, and stopping at Glencoe (1 hour), Dunstaffnage Castle (1 hour), Iverarary Castle (2 hours), and (if time and traffic is good to us) maybe even stopping at Dumbarton Castle (1 1/2 hours) on the way into Glasgow.

Sunday - Fly home.

Most meals will be "picnic-style" on the road to save $$ and time.

Thanks for your opinion. We are used to a fast-paced vacation and I made this plan using the best internet info I could find, but I better ask people who have been there.

dbaker Jun 18th, 2006 05:56 PM


janisj Jun 18th, 2006 06:28 PM

OK -you want it straight or you want us to pussy foot about it?

Just a few very minor points to get you thinking.

- I'd re-think your first day You want to get off an overnight flight - and drive to Direlton and back to Edinburgh in a jetlagged stupor?

- you cannot keep to any sort of &quot;out at 8:00 a.m., dinner at 8:00 p.m.&quot; schedule for days on end. If you are staying at B&amp;Bs you <i>might</i> get breakfast by 8:30 or 9:00 but then you have to check out.

- places where you say &quot;total driving xxx hours&quot; will almost always take longer.

- Scheduling a set time per stop - just doesn't work that way. Some like Clava Cairns may only take 15/20 minutes, whereas a Dunnottar or Ft George, or Stirlling Castle, or Edinburgh Castle might take 3 hours w/o even blinking.

A regimented itinerary like this is a forced march. Even being used to rushing helter skelter - you simply can't expect things to fit your schedule.

noe847 Jun 18th, 2006 07:23 PM

What a great graduation gift! Scotland is such a fun place to tour, and the weather is generally enjoyable in August. Here are some random reactions to your itinerary:

I'm assuming that you've already lined up lodging in Edinburgh with parking included? August is a very busy time for Edinburgh, with the festivals, etc.

janisj has a good point about your first day. That overnight flight is killer. You will NOT be able to do all that you have planned for that day!

We did a general tour around Scotland for 2 weeks in 1999, and we were (barely) good for one stop and a modest amount of driving the first day. We flew into Aberdeen and drove along the Dee to Ballater for the first night. Our only planned stop was Crathes, which is a small house castle and lovely gardens. About halfway through the Crathes stop we all just 'hit the wall'. We staggered out to the car, and it was all we could do to drive to the hotel where everyone collapsed for a nap. Actually I stayed awake and after he slept a short while, my husband and I enjoyed a beer. When we tried to wake our kids it was nearly impossible, (especially as they had locked their door, and we didn't have a key.) All we managed was dinner - at the hotel - and then back to bed.

If you pace yourself the first day, and get rest that night, you might be able to get the right jump for your ambitious next days. So, for your first day, I'd either:

1. go to N. Berwick and skip the Scottish dance show the first night - maybe don't even go to Edinburgh that night.

2. skip the event in N. Berwick (what is the event?) and go to Edinburgh, see a few sights and get a nap in before the evening performance.

On Monday, your Edinburgh day, the castle will take the better part of the morning. Then you should factor in time for the Royal Mile - between the castle and the Holyrood palace. If the day is clear, visit the Camera Obscura, near the castle. The walk up to Arthur's Seat is wonderful - I'd leave a couple of hours for that.

In Dunblane, stop at David Bennett &amp; Son, 82 High street, just a block or so from the cathedral, for a steak pie. They have won awards for their pies, and we enjoyed the steak and guinness pie and the steak and black pepper pie.

On your Thursday, I don't think you can do the drive from Ballater to Inchnadamph and have time for any stops. It really takes a long time to drive in Scotland. On our second day we did Ballater to Drumnadrochit with four stops (a distillery, Pluscarden Abbey, lunch at Nairn, and Culloden) and didn't reach the hotel until after dark - this was also August. You won't see much in 45 minutes at Culloden.

Yes, skip the Nessie exhibits and buy a postcard somewhere.

What we found worked well on our tour was to plan our night's stops in advance - we had all our lodging reservations. Each day we would set out, with a list of potential stops along the way. We'd adjust as we went, depending on our mood, the weather, how long the drive was taking, and how long our stops were. There were lots of things left 'on the cutting room floor' but we did see some wonderful things and the drive itself is so beautiful.

dbaker Jun 18th, 2006 08:32 PM

We are very excited about the trip as both my husband and my great-great grandparents were born in Scotland. We even named our son Scott and he has had an affinity for Scotland since he was a small boy.

Since our flight is 9 hours from Chicago, we thought we would be sleeping and not be tired when we get there. Not correct? Or does it depend on if one can sleep on a plane? The tickets to the dance show on Sat night were inexpensive, so if we are tired, we'll just skip it as you wisely advised. The event they are having at the castle is a demonstration of how a 14th century knight would have prepared for battle and my son is very interested in that. It is the only time we can see it on our trip so we really wanted to try to make it to that if possible.

I have all the lodgings already reserved for each night, with special arrangements already having been made for an early continental-style breakfast instead of the fully cooked one that is served later in the morning.

In general, are the times on aaroadwatch pretty accurate or not? If they aren't, is there a better website I can use? Supposedly, Ballanter to Inchnadamph is about 4 1/2 hours (and under 200 miles) according to the website - that is why I thought we would have time for lots of stops. That is the longest &quot;driving&quot; day we have. I understand that the scenery is spectacular for most of the route - one of the reasons we wanted to do it. Has anyone been to either of the beaches I mentioned? And if so, are they indeed worth the extra effort to go there or not? Are there other beaches just as spectacular that are not as far away?

As far as the &quot;1 hour&quot; allotment, I should have clarified that it was just an estimate. I kind of figured that some of the items on my list might not even be worth stopping at, whereas others would be really great and we'd want to linger there more. I was wondering if there were any items on the list that you would advise me to &quot;leave off&quot; the list so that we could spend more time at the other places.

Thank you so much for your honest replies. We are kind of crazy I know. Two years ago, following an overnight flight from Los Angeles to Washington DC, we did a 5 day, 6 state tour, including New York and 3 amusement parks and 500+ miles of driving. And yes, we were exhausted but had the time of our life. On a normal basis, our &quot;great southern california lifestyle&quot; has my husband and I both leaving the house by 6 am, fighting traffic for 2 hours, working a full day, fighting stopped traffic coming home for another 2 hours (at 60 miles each way), and getting home abound 6 pm if we are lucky. So an 8 to 8 schedule doesn't sound half bad to us because that is our &quot;norm&quot;. I am going to take it easy on the first day and be extra cautious though, following your advice. If I am not 100% sure of my faculties and driving ability, we will cancel the castle and drive right to Edinburgh instead. Thank you for pointing out that this might be a necessary concession.

Thanks for the confirmation about the Nessie stuff. We will skip it.

You didn't mention the Holyrood in Edinburgh. Is it worth going to or would we be better off to spend more time at Edinburgh castle?

Thank you again for your input. It is MUCH appreciated.

janisj Jun 18th, 2006 09:03 PM

I truly believe your plan is difficult at best, and some of it is actually impossible.

A nine hour flight over night can be a killer. It takes some people 2 or 3 days to recover. It isn't just the flight time - that 9:00 a.m. arrival is 3:00 a.m. according to your body clock. You've already been up about 20 hours (don't count on sleeping a lot unless you are flying first class) and need to stay awake another 11 hours or so.

And as for your plan for Inchnadamph/Achmelvich - that is in far, FAR northwest Scotland w/ a big part of the route over single track roads. Some of it you will be <u>lucky</u> to average 35 mph. And you hope to visit Huntly Castle, Elgin Cathedral, Clava Cairns, Culloden, and Fort George enroute. That is (quite literally) a three day trip from Ballater to Inchnadamph and back to Lewiston - and even 3 days would be rushing.

Ft George alone takes about 3 or 4 hours simply because it is ENORMOUS. Walking from the car park to the fort and then from one end to the other takes about 45 mins w/o even taking in any of the exhibits.

Another problem you are building in - one way folks can make good time is by skipping lunch or just having snacks. Easy because they get an enormous cooked breakfast every morning at their B&amp;Bs. But you aren't waiting around for B'fast. So you'll have to allow about an hour every day just for a lunch stop (there aren't any fast food stops out in the highlands)

I can't believe an 18yo man will be happy w/ a quick continental b'fast and picnic lunch every day.

dbaker Jun 18th, 2006 09:20 PM

Sounds like we will be skipping Fort George. It wasn't something we were that excited about anyway. As far as the drive times, assuming what you are saying is true because you actually know these things, then the website must be way off. They seem to think the drive will only take about 4 1/2 hours to get from Ballater to Inchnadamph and then only 5 hours to get from Inchnadamph to Lewiston. Now I am confused because I thought I had read that I could pretty much count on the times quoted on that website as being pretty accurate.

noe847 Jun 18th, 2006 09:37 PM

Don't underestimate the adjustment to the driving - the jet lag, the unfamiliar side of the road, and the very narrow roads. Add in optimistic planning and you could end up with a more hectic trip than you think. The driving is slow, and the striking scenery/wonderful little towns will be inviting you to stop.

Another example from our 'big tour': On the third day we were scheduled to end with a seated dinner at a fixed time at a wonderful restaurant (our only real deadline of the trip). Our itinerary for the day looked reasonable enough on paper but in reality turned out to be quite ambitious. We made it, through some very determined driving by my husband, at times on single track roads. He was so stressed out by the end of that day that I ended up driving the rest of the 2 weeks!

I would be having some serious questions about Inchnadamph. Save it for a future trip when you can really take in the highlands and the islands.

To answer your question, I would skip Holyrood Palace, but then again I'm not a palace kind of person. On the other hand, I found the Cathedral ruins attached to the palace to be quite interesting. Others will - and have - disagreed with me about Holyrood.

It is going to be hard for you to see the high points of Edinburgh in essentially one day, so you will be the ones to say whether you want to see a palace or a museum or a rugged walk up a hill in the middle of the city.

Similarly, with just one week, you will be able to get a wonderful introduction to Scotland but you will leave with more on your 'to see next time' list than you can believe.

sheila Jun 18th, 2006 10:26 PM

Well, I don't necessarily think your times are out, but I would question teh wisdom of what you're doing.

On the Saturday arrival day, I think you're underestimating the time it will take to get to Dirleton because of traffic. But you're oversetimating how long it will take you to get away from Glasgow airport; so, swings and roundabouts, tmes are OK. In my limited experience jetlag is worse west to east than vice versa- but it's not that long a drive and it's on major central belt roads, rather than single tacks; OTOH it will be heavily trafficked.
Day 2; I'd ditch Roslin; but taht's just me. Otherwise doable.

Your Edinburgh day you'll struggle with. I'd buy a hop on hop off ticket and see the stuff in priority order- rather than geographical order. Then, if you run out of time, so what?

On Tuesday- OK, but... Dunblane; moving tho' it is because of the massacre, is no great shakes architectually or historically, so 10 minutes is more like it. Castle campbell you could take or leave.

Wednesday's a bit all over the shop- why Ballater? Elcho's super, and I have a soft spot for Huntingtower, having been brought up about 1/2 a mile away. You are majoring on Castles? Your compatriots usually do Scone rather than these sorts of places (Don't get me wrong- you're right; they....may be not so right:))

I can't remember anyone here ever mentioning Brought Ferry Castle, and there may be a reason for that:) But the big question is, since you're heading east again, next day, why go all the way west to Ballater just to sleep- super countryside, but way off your route.

Thursday is doable but long; a LOT shorter if you start from Aberdeen or north.

That's a big loop round the north coast. Again doable, and PLEASE don't drop this bit. It's so off the beaten track, that many people miss it altogether. Were it me, I'd not book the accommodation so that if travelling got too much I could just pull off the main road and stay somewhere rather than fight my way up the Loch side (and I'll admit; I think that's the first time someone mentioned a place on here, I had to go and look up)

Leave your rout to Glasgow open to tie in with the time you have left. The one I'd drop would be Dunstaffnage. YOu could easily spend an hour in the visitor centre at glencoae without going near the great outdoors.

Good luck

gabrieltraian Jun 18th, 2006 10:48 PM

My wife and I travelled for four days around Scotland plus two days we stayed in Edinburgh. We drove a car and we are about the same as you, i.e. we don't mind travelling and be on our feet for a long time and eat where and however we can, especially that our budget is low.

I'll give you a few details now and I'll return a little later with more of our itinerary and what we did.

We toured the UK in 2003 and came to Scotland from Belfast by ferry. We got off at Stranraer, took the train to Ayr and visited the Culzean Castle (beautiful!). Eisenhower had an apartment there as gift from the Scottish govt for the US support during the WWII. The setting of the castle is marvellous, on the sea cliffs.

We took our car from Prestwick (not far from Ayr) and drove north along Loch Lomond.

Before reaching Glasgow we stopped briefly in Kilwinning, just to see House no. Nothing, the Mother Lodge of the Scottish Masonry. Pure curiosity, nothing else. Unfortunately it was just after 6pm and it was closed.

We stopped for the night on the shores of Loch Lomond at a lovely B&amp;B, at about 10pm.

Second day we left before 9 am and continued to Inveraray where it took us 2-3 hours to visit the castle.

We continued to Oban, then on to Fort William. In Oban we stopped for nearly 1 hour to walk through the town. In Fort William we stopped for maybe just over an hour for some walking.

From Fort William we continued to Mallaig to catch the ferry to the Isle of Skye. It was around 7pm when we reached the island.

We were ambitious enough to reach the north tip of the island the same evening. We stopped a lot on the road because the scenery is soooo beautiful. And all over the Highlands as well. You cannot drive at a constant high speed. Narrow roads and beautiful scenery, too beautiful not to stop for photos. We did stop many times.

We followed the route on the west side till we reached Dunvegan, sometime around 8-9pm. We stayed at a B&amp;B.

Next morning we visited Dunvegan Castle, owned by the MacLeods. We also took a boat tour to the seals. Cute creatures!

At around 12pm we left Dunvegan and took the eastern road towards Portree. Stopped again on the way several times for photos and scenery. Stopped in Portree for a short walk through the town.

We reached the bridge at Kyleakin and we went to visit the Eilean Donan Castle (from the movie Highlander).

We drove along the shores of Loch Ness and stopped at Inverness for the night. It was around 8-9pm.

Third day morning we went through the city for a while, then we went to Loch Ness for a touristy cruise on the lake.

We passed by the Urquhart castle on this cruise. Just some ruins. You can see the same ruins at other castles around Scotland. I would gladly skip it.

We continued our drive south to Blair Atholl to visit Blair Castle. We reached there at around 4.30 pm, just in time for the last entry to the castle.

After the visit to the castle (once inside we had just about enough time to visit it before closing) we continued to Stirling. At about 8pm we were there.

Fourth day we visited the castle and the Braveheart Monument and then continued to Edinburgh. Two days in this city and we did the National Museum of Scotland, the Scotland Art Gallery, Modern Art Museum, the Castle, Holyrood Palace, Britannia Royal Yacht, walked through the city, Scott Monument, Hard Rock Cafe, International Jazz &amp; Blues Festival...

All this in four days around Scotland plus two days in Edinburgh.

I'll look in my trip report and see what else I can come up with a little later.

dbaker Jun 18th, 2006 10:56 PM

The north west coastal area is something we really do want to see, so thanks for confirming that it would be worth it. We do want to go off the beaten path and are willing to drive to get there, especially after 3 days in Edinburgh in August, when all the guidebooks say there will be many, many people all over the place. Realizing that the drive will be long is alright because it is beautiful, right? Still, I do wish I could find more information about those beaches and the area in general so I can be doubly sure the drive is worth it.

Also, thank you for letting me know that Dunstaffnage isn't necessarily that great. It sure does look good (very large and imposing) from the photos on the web. Sounds like we'd be better off to spend more time at Glencoe than hurrying off to go there.

The reason we chose to stay at Ballater is because it was between Stonehaven (the last castle we want to see that day) and Huntly, the 1st castle we want to see the next morning. It seemed like the most logical place to look for a B &amp; B.

Concerning the single track roads, are they paved or not? Are the roads full of potholes and unsafe?

And, yet, we are very interested in the castles and would like to see a good mix - from ruins we can climb around on all the way up to fully restored places full of antiquities. And on the way, we are hoping that the long, long drives will be the perfect way to see the countryside. Even with single track and driving on the opposite side of the road, the driving can't be more stressful than the driving we do here everyday. I just want to be sure that logistically we CAN do it, not whether or not it might be stressful for some drivers.

Thanks again :o)

dbaker Jun 18th, 2006 11:09 PM

Thanks for the itenerary. That is interesting about the Urquart Castle not being anything special. If we had to choose between Urquart and spending some time in Ullapool, which would be the better choice? To gabrieltraian, may I ask what time of year you went? I truly thought we could see everything we wanted to see in Edinburgh in one day (Castle, Holyrood, Museum of Scotland and the Botanic Garden), allowing for 2 hours to walk the &quot;mile&quot;) and it sounds like you did all that, plus a lot more, in 2 days. Maybe it is not doable in August when we are going due to the crowds?

sheila Jun 18th, 2006 11:24 PM

Have a look at the two websites- the Internet Guide to Scotland Online; and Undiscovered Scotland. I'd be surprised if you didn't find something about your beaches there. Or just put the names into Google and see what pops up.

To go from Stonehaven to Ballater is about 50 miles, due west, then it's nearly 40 miles from Ballater to Huntly north east wards next day.

You could overnight in, say, Inverurie, 30 miles north of Stoney, and be 25 miles from Huntly in the morning. In ROUTE terms it makes more sense.

Single track roads are paved. No potholes. Just narrow.

I'd pick Ullapool over Urquhart Castle any day, but we're all different.

gabrieltraian Jun 19th, 2006 12:05 AM

Been there in July. Crowded enough, even though it was not during the Tattoo. It was however, during the Int'l Jazz &amp; Blues Festival.

So I'm back with more details now. By giving you these details you can gauge on the driving distances, attractions to visit and durations, even though some of them do not coincide fully with your itinerary, but you can still make an idea of what to expect.

For easy reading I'll divide this excerpt from my trip report in parts, one for each day.

Here it goes then..

July 18 - From Stranraer we took the train to Ayr. The bus was leaving later so we had time to stroll through the town and eat something. Ayr is not a big city, but it is nice, with lots of old buildings and a typical provincial atmosphere.

We reached the Culzean Castle at about 2pm. The castle is like from a fairy tales book, peched on the top of some cliffs on the sea shore. We could see the mountains on the Arran island from there.

When the owner family donated the castle to the Scottish govt in 1945, they requested that the top floor be given as a present to General Eisenhower
from the Scottish people.

We admired the beauty of the sea. The high rocky shore made a beautiful contrast with the deep sea blue.

Inside the castle we visited the Weaponry Hall, the biggest collection of weapons after the one at Windsor Castle. All the walls were adorned with
all kinds of weapons in artistic arrangements. We visited the Library, dinig room, climbed up the Oval Stairs, went through the Drawing Rooms, State Bedroom, and many other halls and rooms, all decorated with beautiful art objects, paintings and old furniture. We were pleasantly surprised to see paintings by well-known artists, like
Sir Joshua Reynolds and Frans Snyders.

After finishing the visit inside, we went down on the sea shore, at the foot of the cliff where the castle stood on top. We walked on the small beach there, enjoyed the magnificent views of the wide open sea, a light mist hovering above the rocky relief of the coast, climbing up slightly towards the top of the castle cliff.

We then walked through the gardens, among alleys bordered by colourful flowers, sat on a bench in front of a kinetic fountain for a while to enjoy the moment.

We had our lunch at one of the restaurants near the castle, sea on one side and a forest the other side. Beautiful scenery!

Sometime during the afternoon we took the bus back to Ayr and from there we continued to Prestwick airport, a few km farther away.

We had booked a car from Europcar for our next few days in Scotland.

We settled ourselves comfortably in the car and our 5 days left hand side driving adventure began. We had never driven on the left side before and we were not experienced drivers, hardly 1-2 years.

We went out on the highway and the nervousness could be felt high in the air. At every turn we were tensed not to go the wrong lane. Lots of roundabouts that we had to enter to the left, then we were watching for every sign to see where we were heading and how much longer we had.

Our first stop was at Kilwinning, just after 6pm. A small town with deserted streets at that time of the day.

We parked the car and went on foot. After asking a few persons for directions, we found House no. Zero. As it was closed we couldn't visit. We walked for a while through the town, took some pictures at a monastery ruins and then we went on with our driving.

Our first big try that evening was to pass Glasgow. We had a map with us and followed the itinerary. In order for us to be able to visit everything we had planned in Scotland, it was utterly important to pass Glasgow that evening, to avoid delays due to traffic or distance during the next day. Also, we didn't want to wake up too early to make up for the time and distance.

We were a bit nervous when we reached Glasgow. Heavy traffic and the roads were branching quickly, we had to look for and follow the signs with great care not to go the wrong road.

We were lucky that the other drivers were very courteous and allowed us to change lanes easily.

We didn't stop at all in Glasgow, which seemed to be a nice and modern city.

We drove on the highway in a much lighter traffic now that we passed Glasgow, and we reached Dumbarton. We looked for a place to stay overnight but we didn't find. It had just passed 8pm, but it was still daylight.

We decided to go on till we found an affordable place to stay. We already started to get used to the idea of spending the night in the car, when we reached Balloch. We slowed down to look for B&amp;B signs. After a wide bend we saw three houses offering B&amp;B with rooms available.

It was just before 10pm and starting to get dark.

I'll continue later....

gabrieltraian Jun 19th, 2006 12:10 AM

Or should I better post this as a separate trip report?....

gabrieltraian Jun 19th, 2006 02:30 AM


We went to the door of one of the houses and rang the bell a couple of times. We waited for a minute and because the door was cracked open, we put a foot inside. There was a small space and then another door leading inside.

I thought that since the main door was open, nobody would mind if I opened the next one and call someone from inside. I cracked open the door and heard steps coming near. I waited and a nice and lively old lady appeared.

We asked whether she had a room available and she said yes. We wanted to see it and it was superb. Spick and span, merry decorations in pink and light blue, with dolls and beautiful pictures, like a room prepared by granny for her grandchildren coming to the countryside. We decided to stay there overnight.

It was late anyway and we didn’t want to keep searching for accommodation. Our hostess, Jackie, told us that had we delayed 3 more minutes she would have locked the door for the night (it was 3 minutes to 10 when we rang the bell).

We start getting ready to go to bed and she tells us, talking mostly to my wife: “Why don’t you take your husband somewhere to drink, woman?! Take him somewhere to drink something!”

She was really funny with her Scottish Highlands accent. We asked her to tell us where to go and she did.

At about 10.15pm we were walking the streets in the village. It was quiet, we could feel the clean, fresh air. We reached near the shores of the Loch Lomond and the moonlight views were superb.

There was a forest nearby and on the opposite shore we could distinguish the mountains. We found the place recommended by Jackie and sat down for a beer. It was quite crowded and the atmosphere was pleasant and merry. We returned sometime after 11pm. Our room was at the first floor and Jackie saw us coming: “So you still came back early!”

We took a refreshing shower and dropped dead asleep in the very comfortable and sleep inducing bed. We slept very well at Jackie’s.

gabrieltraian Jun 19th, 2006 02:37 AM

Day 2 - July 19

In the morning we had a full, feasty breakfast, and then we talked with Jackie for a while. We gave her a souvenir with the 7 sands of the 7 Emirates (we are Romanians living in the Emirates) and she was happy. She in turn gave us a letters set with the traditional Scottish pattern.

We left at about 9am and stopped in the village of Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond. We walked through the village, took pictures, admired the beautiful houses with lots of flowers hanging on the walls, doors and windows. Beautiful village.

We walked along the shores of the lake for a while, sat on a bench and took in the views: foggy mountains on the opposite shore, smooth quiet waters of the lake.

After a while we drove on along the shores. We stopped several times for photos, the views were too beautiful to miss. We stopped again for a little longer in Tarbet and Dalmally, where again we walked along the shores of the lake Lomond.

When we left Tarbet we missed the sign towards Inveraray, being swept away by the beauty of the scenery. Thus we took a different and approx 70km longer route till we reached the castle. Even though we went on a different and longer road, we enjoyed beautiful scenery and again stopped a few times for photos. The traffic was very easy, most of the time the road was ours only, thus we were less nervous behind the wheel.

It was raining when we reached the beautiful, grey coloured with 4 round towers castle. The town of Inveraray lies on the shores of Loch Fyne, among beautiful scenery with forest hills and mountains on the other side of the lake.

We thoroughly enjoyed the visit to this castle. Sumptuous decorations, French style furniture, art objects, a big 1830 Waterford crystal chandelier, 18th century tapestries, paintings all over the place. Among the objects displayed in the Armoury we could see Rob Roy’s sporran.

A nice surprise for us were the many paintings by Thomas Gainsborough that we saw in various rooms in the castle.

Very happy after this visit and delighted by what we had seen, we continued our way north. The road took us along the shores of Loch Fyne among beautiful scenery: hills, forests, lakes.

We made a half an hour stop in Lochgilphead for a short rest. We then drove on to Oban on a deserted road. We stopped again on the way a couple of times, because the silence was so acute, so deep, it was deafening. We took a few photos desperately hoping that we would be able to capture THE SILENCE, THE QUIET in the picture.

It was 6pm when we reached Oban. A bit crowded there, but we managed to park somewhere and started to walk. The setting of Oban is beautiful, at the foot of some hills, on the sea shore. We liked this place.

We left Oban and drove along the shores of Loch Etive. Again we couldn’t resist temptation and stopped a few times for photos. For a few hours, till we reached Glencoe, the scenery was superb. We were already in the mountains and every now and then a lake would appear among the forests in the valleys. The grass grows in some places in the shape of pillows, thick round bunches. The lakes were covered with small isles of trees and bushes. The mist and clouds were down to a few meters above us. A somewhat eerie silence reigned over that area, giving an air of mystery to the landscape.

When we reached the valley of Glencoe the mist was right above us. It was past 8pm, still daylight, and everything around us was extremely beautiful. We had never seen such scenery before and this was one reason for which we stopped many times.

This was one unforeseen factor that lead us to delays in our trip. A fight was going on inside ourselves, between stopping one more time to admire the landscape and take a photo, and hurrying to find a place to stay for the night. Of course, the photos won hands down.

Unfortunately, even the photos could not express the air, the profound SILENCE, the mystery that ruled over that place.

We were so impressed and while admiring this fascinating scenery, I remembered the bloody event that took place here in the winter of 1692. In the morning of February 13th, the members of Clan MacDonald were slain at the orders of King William III, by the very soldiers that were hosted there for 10 days.

We were the only ones driving on that road and I was thinking of this event while admiring the landscape. All of a sudden, somewhere on the right, out of the mist, in that deserted place, an old hotel appeared from nowhere. The moment we saw it we decided to stay there for the night. It was much too beautiful and the air clean and refreshing. They had rooms available so we stayed. The name of the hotel is Kings House and here the troops of King George III stayed for one night after the battle of Culloden in 1745.

gabrieltraian Jun 19th, 2006 02:58 AM

In the end I decided to post under your title, since I was crazy enough to do a similar itinerary.

So it matches with your title and it could be useful to you.

gabrieltraian Jun 19th, 2006 03:46 AM

Day 3 – July 19

In the morning of July 19 we went to Glencoe Visitors Centre. From there we continued to Fort William at a low speed, because... the scenery was too beautiful.

We stopped a few times along the shores of Loch Linnhe to take pictures. At around noon we reached Fort William, a beautiful town with gardens and parks full of flowers, surrounded by mountains. We left the car in a parking and bought something to eat. It was full of tourists.

We liked this town, with one-floor houses having shops at the ground floor and lots of flowers hanging on the street lamps.

We continued our way to Mallaig, where we wanted to board the ferry to Skye. We again made our usual stops for Kodak moments and we reached the Ben Nevis Distillery.

We thought that after the lunch that we just had, a wee dram would be very welcome for digestion.
We went in and asked if they had any tours available. We found out that the next tour was in half an hour so we booked for it. At the end we were served with a shot and we gave in to the temptation of buying a bottle of 10-year old Single Malt.

We drove again at low speed, slow progress towards our destination, and we reached the Glenfinnan Monument, where Prince Charles Eduard Stuart raised the Stuarts to fight for the Jacobite cause in 1745. We saw the column from a big distance, a highlander on top of it.

The monument is exactly on the shores of Loch Shiel, surrounded by mountains. We climbed a narrow spiral stair to the top and admired the superb views from there, with the mountains-bordered lake, the 21-archs 30m-high railway viaduct.

We continued our drive to Mallaig on a road belonging only to us. On some portions the road was a single lane, but at every 50-100 meters there are small lay-by's on both sides where one could pull the car and wait for the other car to pass, when meeting from opposite directions.

We kept driving slowly, stopping many times for photos among superb views with mountains, lakes, a lone house here and there...

We drove along the sea shore for a while and there we were in Mallaig, a little behind schedule for our ferry to Skye. We were lucky however, as the last ferry was delayed.

But we became worried when we saw that the car queue was long, very long. Moreover, three cars were already above the maximum number of cars allowed. We went in queue, 4th on the waiting list. The queue became longer and longer as time passed.

The ferry came 25 minutes late. We were nervous, as the cars were too many for us to be taken in as well. We were even luckier, ‘cause we could still go in!! Behind us there were 3 or 4 more cars that were taken. We were just on the brink of having to stay in Mallaig for the night, and thus becoming short of time for our visit schedule and itinerary in Scotland.

We went upstairs on the ferry and admired the views. All of a sudden a big creature swimming in the harbour waters caught our attention. It was a seal and many people came to the rails to see it and take pictures.

The journey to the Isle of Skye was very nice and lasted for less than half an hour. We could see the mountains on the mainland and then the coast of Skye appeared.

We got off in Armadale and our trip on the island began. We hadn’t even come out of Armadale, and the beautiful scenery started to abound.

The road was single lane and the traffic like non-existent. Rarely a car was passing by. We passed by the Cuillin Hills and after every hill or mountain there was a lake. We stopped so many times along this road.

We couldn’t even go into the third gear that the scenery would change and we had to stop again. We were under a magic spell. Lots of fat round woolly sheep grazing unattended on the hills.

But we had to have this happen to us as well: a traffic jam on the Isle of Skye. A sheep on the side of the road decided to cross so we stopped to give the required way. At that moment, from the opposite direction came another car and stopped as well. For a few seconds we waited together for the lonely sheep to cross the street.

We also saw the famous Highland cows, beautiful with their fancy rock style hairdo. After more than two hours of driving and stopping, we reached Dunvegan, at the north-western part of the island.

We found a room available in a B&amp;B on the shores of a lake. It was quiet and an idyllic landscape, like in the fairy tales. We liked this place very much.

Our hostess was a merry woman. She showed us to our room, beautiful, clean, happy room.
We went out for a walk. It was not long after 8pm and we could still see the sun going behind the mountains. The streets of this town were nearly deserted, rarely we would meet someone who would immediately engage us in conversation. Beautiful!!

Invariably they asked us where we came from and told us that we were lucky to have a sunny day. As we had learned at the two distilleries that we toured (Ben Nevis in Scotland and Bushmills in M. Ireland) about the smoky whisky of the Hebrides, we decided to go to a pub and try one, since we were there.

There was nobody in the pub and the owner asked us, of course, where were we from. Nice. So we had a Talisker, the well-known brand on Skye. Smoky, indeed, but special and good.

gabrieltraian Jun 19th, 2006 04:33 AM

Day 4 – July 20

In the morning our hostess served us a very good breakfast and then we went off straight to Dunvegan Castle, which has been the fortress and residence of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years.

We visited the castle and after that we went to the boat pier for a trip to the seals. We put on our life vests and the boatman took us slowly and skillfully till a few yards away from the beautiful creatures.

We were under a spell, kept taking photo after photo, finishing more than one 36-shots roll. They were so cute, some in the water, some lazy and bored on the rocks, with their big round eyes looking at us as if saying “who are these people spoiling our sleep?”

We were desperate to catch all the seals in our photos and didn’t know where to look first not to miss one.

After the trip, which took half an hour, we walked through the castle gardens with small clearances, springs and eyes of clear water. We left the castle and continued our way to the north of the island.

The well-known British red phone booths were placed here and there at the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, in a land where the sheep rules.

The road took us many times along the coast. Strong winds were there, but the views beat that easily. Grey clouds added to the charm of the sea.

We saw the Kilt Rock, 180 meters above the sea. It is like a kilt indeed.
We reached Portree, a small and nice town, houses painted in merry colours, pink, light blue, white, yellow. We parked the car and went for a walk.

Portree is a nice place. Many houses were on the hills and we could see them above the forest. The bay was full of boats and sails. We didn’t spend much time here, as we were behind schedule.

Before we came out of the island we stopped several more times for photos. We reached Kyleakin, crossed the nice modern bridge that connects the island to the mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh.

One of the castles that we wanted to visit by all means was Eilean Donan, featured in the movie Highlander, 1985. Built in 1220, it was a fortress of Clan MacKenzie, the Clan MacRae.

We visited the castle and saw a commemorative plate dedicated to all the clan members that died in WWI.

From here we went straight to Loch Ness to see the monster. Superb views on the way through the mountains. We reached the lake at about 6pm.

Urquhart Castle is on the shores of the lake but we didn’t visit it as it had just closed a few minutes before. However, we were not impressed by its view.

We took a look at it from the cliff above and except the ruins there was nothing else.

We continued our drive to Inverness. At Drumnadrochit something caught our attention on the side of the road. We slowed down quickly and parked.

We walked back a little and we had a nice surprise. There was a shop and a small exhibition on the Monster theme, but outside on the pavement was the monster himself!!

He caught our attention on the side of the road! We made his acquaintance, even made friends with him and fixed up a meeting for next morning for a cruise on the lake.

We reached Inverness at about 7.30 pm, found a place to stay and went for a walk down town. We were not too impressed by the city, however it is nice for a short walk around.

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