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AndreaMcL1 May 18th, 2012 06:39 PM

Scotland trip driving questions
Hi. Here's my general itinerary, followed by my three questions. I REALLY wish I had more time for this visit. I am trying not to overload this one trip while still including some of the places important to us. Thanks in advance for your help!

Days 1 & 2: Arrive at and see Edinburgh - Castle, Holyrood, whiskey distillery, a bit of the underground city
Days 3 & 4: (staying in Stirling) Stirling Castle, then Doune Castle and the Birds of Prey Trail
Days 5, 6, & 7: (staying in Dunkeld) A quick drive by of Castle Campbell, a day at Blair Castle, and a day jaunt to the East coast for the Montrose National Wildlife Refuge
Day 8: Eilean Donan??
Days 9, 10, & 11: (staying in Ballachulish) Ardnamore, day roundtrip via train Fort William to Mallaig, local hiking, Castle Stalker
Day 12: (staying in South Queensferry) Linlithgow & South Queensferry
Day 13: fly out of EDI

Q!: All lodging is set except for Day 8. Before I lock in a B&B along the route for this night, my main concern here is whether we'll have enough time to drive from Dunkeld to Eilean Donan and spend a couple of hours at the Castle before it closes. I would really like to see Eilean Donan and would hate to cut it from the trip. About how long should it take us to drive from Dunkeld up the A9 to the A889 to the A86 to the A82 to the A87 and over to Eilean Donan Castle? Is that the fastest route from Dunkeld to Dornie? Also, about how long will it take us to drive from Eilean Donan to Ballachulish the next morning?

Q2. My main concern with the trip in general is driving on the other side of the road! Does anyone have tips or advice for driving in the UK for the first time?

Q3: Of the towns along our route, which are good places to look for local craft stores for small, inexpensive gifts for family members?

Again, many thanks for any info!

enewell May 18th, 2012 07:36 PM

We drove in Scotland last fall, and I do have some advice. Get the smallest car that will hold you and your luggage, watch some youtube videos about going through roundabouts and driving on the left (these really helped), and be prepared to hit lots of curbs. Have your companion remind you frequently to keep to the left.

The highways are much easier driving than the tiny roads in the countryside. There is sometimes only room for one car, and when you see someone coming ahead, you must look for a place to pull over to let the oncoming car pass.

Look for parking at the entry to towns, as street parking makes it difficult to navigate through the centers.

Roundabouts were the most challenging for me, but I finally became a bit more confident. Just keep thinking positive thoughts!

Gordon_R May 18th, 2012 08:21 PM

Q1) Yes that's feasible, and the most direct route to take. I did this drive myself a few weeks ago. You could do that journey in just over 3 hours, maybe a bit longer including time for comfort breaks and the inevitable photo opportunities (there are many on this route!). So provided you set off from Dunkeld after breakfast, you'll have time to see Eilean Donan in the afternoon.

It does seem a shame to go all this way (and be right next to Skye) just for one night though. Especially as you're back-tracking the next day to go to Ballachullish. If it were me, I'd take the bridge over to Skye to see at least a taste of the island and then take the CalMac ferry from Armadale to Mallaig - which puts you at the end of the Road to the Ilses, with a classic run down through Glenfinnan to Ballachullish.

Q2) This question comes up all the time on this forum. It's not that big a deal and you'll soon pick it up. Bear in mind that British people have to drive on the "wrong" side of the road whenever they visit mainland Europe or North America. If they can adjust, so can you.

Q3) No need to go hunting around for gift shops - they'll find you! You'll find the sort of thing you're looking for at virtually all the tourist stops along your route. Eilean Donan castle for example has a large selection of gifts and souvineirs.

One final comment - you mention visiting a Whisky (note correct Scottish spelling) Distillery while <i>in</i> Edinburgh. There aren't any, but you'll pass by several famous ones on your road trip. Dalwhinnie (just off the A9) is very good, and there's also several in and around Pitlochry (Blair Atholl, Edradour etc)

kathieAHPlanner May 18th, 2012 09:04 PM

Along the Royal Mile from the Castle to Holyrood, there is a Whisky shop that sells small bottles of whisky - bigger than carry on, but I put about 5 of them in my suitcase and enjoyed a taste of Scotland when I got home.

Also I learned to drive on the left in Scotland and it is far easier than Ireland (where the roads are not as nice as the ones in Scotland) and far less crowded than the cities in England. If you can, rent a car on the outskirts of town and get on a divided highway as soon as possible. This will give you a chance to get comfortable shifting with the other hand before having to do round-abouts.

rushngal May 18th, 2012 11:43 PM

Regarding driving on the left side of the road, us aussies have to do the opposite when driving in america or europe. Its very easy but a few things to remember are:-

1) Remember to keep the white/yellow line on your right and to keep your passenger "in the gutter". Its easy to do this on highways when there are lots of other cars BUT.....

2) when in the country when there are no other cars around and you may stop to look at an attraction for awhile, get back in your car then its very easy to forget and drive on your side of the road. The wrong side!! That happened to my husband and I in France. We were driving on the left side of the road instead of the right for some time until i saw a car in the distance and as it came closer we both realised it was on the same side as us. Fortunately we had plenty of time to move over. Phew!!

English, scottish and irish roads can be very narrow. You have to pull over, if you can, if not, someone has to reverse back to find somewhere to pull over or you have to very slowly inch by and almost touch side view mirrors or turn them in to get past. The natives are very used to this but it can be a bit unnerving for us. But dont worry about it, we never got a scratch on our rental cars and you will have a great time. Scotland is beautiful and breathtaking with the highlands. We went thru an area called CRAN LARICH on our way to stirling castle from a beautiful little seaside town called OBAN. That is not the usual route to take to Stirling castle but we had to take it as there was a huge train derailment when we were there in 2010 and we were diverted. We were told it was the most beautiful scenery in Scotland and they werent wrong. There are souvenir shops everywhere as well as seafood shops. We loved Scotland and think we have see the most breathtaking scenery so far in our lives. Have a great trip!!

AndreaMcL1 May 19th, 2012 07:48 AM

Thanks so much for the info, everyone! All ideas have been duly noted (and I am adding a trip to Oban on our way back down from Castle Stalker). I did think of one last question, especially based on the info about small roads:

My husband is 6'6" tall, and I'll want to rent a vehicle large enough for him to be comfortable in, since we'll be spending a good amount of time driving from place to place. Ideas? Oh, and it has to be an automatic, since I don't drive stick.

Thanks again!

kathieAHPlanner May 19th, 2012 04:25 PM

Oban is also a distillery. My very first single malt whisky - years ago.

6'6" is very tall and they have a limited number of automatics and they're expensive! They consider a "Large : Standard (Example of this range : Volkswagen Passat)" - this is from the avis site. Have your husband get in a Passat and see if that will work for him. Otherwise get on line and see what is available. And reserve early.

AndreaMcL1 May 21st, 2012 09:49 AM


wilma3225 May 21st, 2012 05:15 PM

you wont need the car in edinburgh. the parking costs are astonishing - when you can find somewhere to park - hire the car from the hotel on leaving edinburgh. Edinburgh is really quite compact and the public transport is good. and i agree on the booking early thing, don't leave it till you get here, or you will be dissappointed. I hope you enjoy your trip.

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