Scotland May 2020 Help with Itinerary

Old Apr 4th, 2019, 04:19 PM
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Scotland May 2020 Help with Itinerary

After years of talking about traveling to Scotland, we are finally doing it!!

A little about us: We are a couple in our mid 50's and enjoy history, hiking, experiencing local culture, live music, nature, a good pint and good food. Although my husband and I have similar interests, we have differing travel styles. I believe we should see everything we can since we have traveled so far and spent so much to get there. My husband's mantra is: "I would rather not come home more tired than when I left." Somehow, after 32 years of traveling together we can both say we have enjoyed each trip we have taken. He can see the importance of having an itinerary (preferring a loose agenda) and I am glad he encourages me to abandon the itinerary every once in a while to enjoy an unscheduled stop.

Because of the vast beauty of Scotland, this trip has probably been the most difficult to plan. Once I started reading countless trip reports with photos of gorgeous scenery, I wanted to see it all!! And, yes, I have read the same advice given to posters over and over: Less is more! I really thought I could heed the advice, but I think I have failed with my first pass of an itinerary.

After reading that the last weekend in May is a holiday and the first week in June is a school holiday (do I have that correct?) I am thinking we will travel Mid-May of 2020. We have enough credit card points to cover airfare and most of the lodging, if we don't stay in the expensive category, but if there is a special place to splurge on, we are open to suggestions.
Here is the rough draft:
Day 1- Arrive in Edinburgh from the East Coast of the U.S around 9 or 10 a.m. Overnight for 3 nights in Edinburgh- maybe the Apex Waterloo hotel?
Day 2- Edinburgh
Day 3- Edinburgh
Day 4- Head to Stirling to see the castle and then on the the Loch Lomond area. Overnight there (Open to suggestions on lodging)
Day 5- Hiking in Loch Lomond and overnight in Loch lomond
Day 6- Mull and overnight in Mull for 2 nights??? (Suggestions on accommodations welcomed)
Day 7- Mull and Iona
Day 8- Glencoe area for 2 nights (suggestions welcomed)
Day 9- Glencoe
Day 10- Skye for 3 nights (I believe I would like to stay in the centrally located area of Portree, suggestions please)
Day 11- Skye
Day 12- Skye
Day 13- Drive to Grantown on Spey, overnight there
Day 14- See area around Grantown on Spey, overnight there or somewhere on our way to St. Andrews?? One expert suggested driving south through Cairngorms Park instead of down A9
Day 15: Drive to St. andrews and overnight there or nearby.
Day 16: See sites between St. Andrews and Edinburg and overnight in Edinburgh for flight out the next morning.
1. What are your overall thoughts on the itinerary?
2. I based my itinerary loosely on several trip reports and Rick Steve's itinerary. He suggested staying in Oban two nights and taking a day trip to Mull and Iona. Would it be better to stay on Mull two nights (as I have it presently on my itinerary) instead of trying to fit in all the sites on Mull and Iona in a day trip?
3. What route would be best from Skye towards Grantown on Spey? We want to see Loch Ness, but have no interest in the tours.
4. I feel very uncertain on the itinerary from Grantown on Spey to St. Andrews. Should we stay 1 night at Grantown on Spey, and another night somewhere between there and St. Andrews or two nights in Grantown on Spey.
5. We would like to take a tour of one distillery, where and which one would you suggest?
Thanks in advance for reading this and answering these questions!!

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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 04:26 PM
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Oh- where to start 😏 But I'm trying to post on a moving bus & not having much luck. More tonight . . . But just one thing - staying on Mull is much better IMO than trying to day trip
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 04:40 PM
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Thanks janisj for such a quick response! I will start researching Mull. I look forward to hearing from you when you are off that bus and have time!
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 08:24 PM
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Back -- re the lodging on points -- there are few places in the rural bits where your points will do you much if any good. We aren't talking a lot of chain hotels and such.

>>but if there is a special place to splurge on<< lots -- but what is a 'splurg'e to you - and actual number in $ or (preferably)

Mid May is a terrific time to travel -- wedged in between two Bank holidays and before any summer breaks so few British or European families will be traveling. Plus long days -- not as long as in June but still long.

If I were you -- I would bite the bullet and pick EITHER Mull or Skye and stay three nights on the island you choose. I personally prefer Mull but Skye is terrific of course. For Skye . . . >>I believe I would like to stay in the centrally located area of Portree<< Portree is not central -- but it is the only town so many people like to stay there because of the choices of accommodations and a few places to eat, ATM/bank etc. The most central and convenient place to stay would be Sligachan -- it is a hotel/campground/pub/restaurant at the central crossroads of the island. Staying there would make any touring around Skye other than the Trotternish peninsula easier. The driving is veru slow so the more centra the better -- but barring Sligachan, Portree would be next best.

>>One expert suggested driving south through Cairngorms Park instead of down A9<<. That is a bit confusing because the A9 traverses the Cairngorms. Re the Cairngorms -- they are lovely mountain scenery but not any better than a lot of other places so IMO not worth diverting just to 'see' them.

With 16 nights I'd think about something like (this could be easily done clockwise or counter clockwise - I'll lay out a counter clockwise route):

3 nights Edinburgh

2 nights in Fife (St Andrews or Crail)

3 nights Deeside (maybe Ballater)

2 nights Glencoe

2 or 3 nights Mull (could substitute Skye instead)

3 nights Trossachs/Callander (for Loch Lomond, Stirling, Inchmahome, Doune etc.)

Then you'd be less than an hour's drive from EDI . . .
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 08:28 PM
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. . . If you did this in reverse finishing up in say Crail you'd be about 90 minutes from the airport
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 08:58 PM
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If you can -- in Glencoe book at the Clachaig . . . NOT fancy but just a great place to stay. Some rooms have amazing views of Gelncoe. Pub, bars, good food all day, live music about a dozen times a month
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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 05:27 AM
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Let's rewind a bit. You have 13 months in which to plan this visit, so while I understand the tension between "plan everything" and "go with the flow" approaches (been there, done that) I would take the time now to hit the books and decide what places, activities, and the types of experiences you're looking for, rather than drawing lines and circles on a map. Now I'm not suggesting this turns into a college course on Scottish history and geography - part of the joy of exploration happens when you stumble onto a place that you didn't know existed, or come upon some activity - festival, market, whatever - that gives you some insight or delight that you hadn't expected. But a basic knowledge of the options and the benefit/costs of one choice over another... now that is useful stuff.

Take Mull v. Skye. I too would choose Mull, but it's not that simple if your aim is to see rugged landscapes and get a real sense of the "Celtic fringe." While the weather, even in May, can be fairly unpredictable (which is a nice way of saying, "Yikes!") including Skye as part of a tour of the far north and northwest of Scotland is totally legitimate, even necessary. The northwest of the country - Wester Ross, Torridon, Sutherland, the north coast, Ben Loyal and Ben Hope... is as wild a landscape as you'll find in Europe - evocative, historic and beyond gorgeous. But a day driving around the northwest is a day you can't be driving around the castles in Deeside, or visiting the prehistoric ruins in Kilmartin in Argyll, or exploring the Fife fishing villages. Or maybe it's two days, counting the time it would take to travel up and down, or diagonally across the country. Hope you see what I mean.

So some basic "lay of the land" information becomes important, as do factors like weather and landscapes. Scotland gets much of its weather off the Atlantic, so - in general - the west of the country is wetter than the east; the mountains in the west and in the middle block much of the moisture rolling in off the ocean. In general there's more arable agricultural land in the east and south than in the north and west, which means historically there were more people and more settlement in those areas, thus more historic communities survive to this day compared to the west. In the late 1700s through the mid-1800s a concerted effort to depopulate the Highlands resulted in wide swaths of territory that now appear to be empty of people - just sheep and ruined buildings visible - that were once quite heavily settled. The industrial revolution was felt most acutely in the "central belt" of Scotland between Edinburgh and Glasgow, where, arguably, much of the modern industrial era was born.

One of my "go-to" resources for this is Undiscovered Scotland - . Start with the "Scotfax" page - - and go from there.

Knowing about these things isn't crucial to the experience, but in my mind, having some sense of them can be useful in helping to set priorities. I will say this with little fear of being wrong: you'll probably be planning your second visit before you're halfway through the first, so resist the impulse to see it all and all at once. It's not going anywhere.
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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 12:49 PM
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We did a trip somewhat like yours up until day 12 a few years ago in September. We flew from the east coast and landed in Inverness and flew out of Edinburgh. Our trip looked like this:

2 nights Glenlivet . -Thistle Dhu Bed and Breakfast . The home of luxury speyside accommodation - Thistle Dhu Bed and Breakfast Glenlivet
1 night Aultbea - Aultbea Hotel .
3 nights Skye - The Snug in Edinbane (not far from Portree). It's a self contained small house. It was wonderful!!! The Snug | Contact
2 nights Mull . High Oatfield B & B. Very reasonable, need to pay in cash. They really rent out two rooms on the top of their house. Was kind of taken aback when we saw it but we actually liked it very much. They bring breakfast to your room.
2 nights Onich . Home - Lochview Guesthouse near Fort William . We loved this place! Right near Glencoe
1 night Callendar
Dropped off car at EDI then,
3 nights Edinburgh. Flew home from EDI

I loved our trip and are glad we went to both Mull and Skye. They are both beautiful and very different. You have lots of time to plan your trip so just really look. I changed my trip quite a few times before i finalized it. I did a lot of research on the Undiscovered Scotland website that Gardlyloo recommended.

Happy planning.
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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 02:04 PM
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"I believe I would like to stay in the centrally located area of Portree, suggestions please)"

Cullin Hills Hotel

Dinner: Scorrybreac (reserve early)

View from hotel.

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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 07:51 PM
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Thanks so much janisj and Gardyloo.
I think the idea of a counter-clockwise trip is very wise!
I do believe I have more research to do before deciding on an itinerary. This has all been so helpful. I definitely will read up on the history and look at some good guide books and will get back to you all.

janisj, to answer your question, the credit card company will just credit us for the travel so we don't need to deal any differently with anyone that is booking our accommodations (as long as they take credit!).

I will get back to you all soon! I can't tell you how much I appreciate your expert advice!!

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