Notices

Scottish Highlands?

Old Oct 10th, 2011, 09:38 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 858
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Scottish Highlands?

You have about convinced us to take a train to Edinburgh from London, rent a car there for a tour of the highlands. I have been researching and have a few more questions:

1. When they say "single track road" does that mean one-lane with two-way traffic? Or one lane each way?

2. We have about 6 nights after leaving Edinburgh. I am having trouble figuring out a plan. I am leaning (now) toward driving point-to-point rather than stopping in one place and doing day trips. I would like to include Aberdeenshire, Culloden/Loch Ness area, somewhere by the sea on the west coast, one island, Kilmartin or another ancient site. Maybe return the car in Glasgow for train ride back south. Am I nuts?

3. We don't mind getting out and walking, but we aren't serious backpackers. Would like to see quaint villages and be able to possibly have a beer and talk to locals. Are there any places that are not in the guide books that we should include? I see places like Eileen Donan listed, but wonder if they will be inundated by tour buses? Or are the smaller villages too small for B&Bs, pubs, etc.?

4. What is your one favorite area of the highlands?

Thank you, Fodorites!
eastenderusvi is offline  
Old Oct 10th, 2011, 09:52 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,802
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
My husband and I did the Trossachs area above Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye in 2006.
We had 8 days total with 3 spent in Edinburgh - the other 5 were spent traversing around the Highlands. We really felt like we spent too much time in the car on our trip, trying to fit in too much. The ride up to Skye is a trek (with very desolate roads, which are beautiful but don't make for fast travel) and then you spend most of your time on Skye.... driving around! So my first advice would be to just warn you -- don't try to squeeze in too much!

Also, in terms of the quaint villages -- we were slightly disappointed in some ways because the highlands are soooo unpopulated.... the villages shown on the map are sometimes literally 3 houses and a post office! So be prepared for that. While on Skye we stayed in Portree which was very nice and big enough for a few pubs and a nice fishing port, very cute.
steviegene is offline  
Old Oct 10th, 2011, 09:52 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 21,314
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
One lane with two-way traffic and a reasonable amount of turn-outs.
Michael is online now  
Old Oct 10th, 2011, 10:06 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,888
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Go to Google, click on Images, then type in 'single track road scotland', and you will see lots of examples.
Heimdall is offline  
Old Oct 10th, 2011, 10:56 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,156
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
What Michael said. the turn outs are called passing places, and I have fond memories of doing some of them with Fodorites from Massachussets, who could not believe how polite and obliging people are. They said that, at home, they'd have been expecting people to out race each other, whereas here they vie to be most obliging



I wouldn't do what you're doing in 6 days, but, hey, it's your holiday.

How would this do?

Day One- Edinburgh to St Andrews

The Forth Rail bridge is worth driving past. The estuary of the Forth widens to superb beaches (with wonderful links golf courses behind them) and in Fife you have St Andrew's, home of golf (and the beach where they filmed the opening sequences of Chariots of Fire). To get there you go past Loch Leven, where Mary, Queen of Scots was kept imprisoned on one of the islands.

If you want to play golf, and you can’t play at the Old Course, there are courses all the way up through Fife. Amongst the best are Elie, Lundin Links, Ladybank and Crail


Day 2 - Dundee to Tomintoul

Cross the Tay Bridge to Dundee, then cut across country to Glamis (castle) then go on to Blairgowrie where you pick up the A93 to Glenshee, and down to Braemar and Deeside. This is where Lizzie Windsor has her summer place, much beloved of American tourists. It's also in a beautiful location and therefore worth the visit. Just at Crathie, which is where you will find Balmoral, if you're daft enough to want to, there's a sign to Royal Lochnagar distillery.. It's not the best whisky in the world but there's no such thing as a bad malt and it does a good tour.

Come back onto the A93 and continue east a few miles till you see signs pointing left to Tomintoul. Take that road and go over Gairn Shiel to Corgarff then turn left towards Cockbridge and up over the Lecht to Tomintoul.

By now, you have crossed two of Scotland's highest roads, and it's not yet tea time. There's a very good whisky shop in Tomintoul (much better than the tourist trap on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh) and, incidentally, there is also a very good wood carver right next door. I would suggest staying here.


Day 3, Tomintoul to Drumnadochit (but not in a straight line).

Go back on your tracks a bit and follow the road down to Dufftown. Here you will find Glenfiddich distillery. Still not my favourite dram, but probably one of the best sellers in the world and almost certainly the best tour.

Follow the road down to the Spey at Aberlour (or Charlestown of Aberlour, to give it its Sunday name)You are right in the heart of Speyside, on the Whisky trail. If you want to see more, almost every second distillery is open to the public. If you have a favourite, ask at one of the tourist offices if they do a tour and just go along. The Macallan is pobably the best Speyside whisky, but Aberlour itself is a good second. Follow the river to Grantown then go up to Nethy Bridge on the south bank. Outside Nethy Bridge you will find Abernethy Forest and Loch Garten which is a huge nature reserve and is worth stopping at to see the Ospreys.

Drive on to Aviemore, close your eyes so you miss it (a travesty of 1960s planning) and go stright up to Inverness on the A9. Spend a little time in Invernes and either spend the night here or ( my choice) set off down Loch Ness towards Drumnadrochit, and find somewhere to stay on the Lochside.

Day 4- Loch Ness to Skye

Get up early and drive quickly down the Loch and then strike west to Kyle of Lochalsh and cross the bridge to Skye and spend the whole of the next day there. You can visit Dunvegan Castle, the Cuillin mountains, Portree, Isle Ornsay, Broadford, Uig, the Clan Donald centre and many more. Scenery terrific. Accommodations available include the Rosedale hotel in Portree and the Isle Ornsay Hotel, both of which are excellent but in different budget categories. An available castle is Kinloch Castle owned and run by Lady Clare MacDonald who is also a gourmet chef

Day Four- Skye to Glasgow

Take the ferry from the south end of Skye at Armadale to Mallaig then drive right east to Fort William through Morar and Arisaig. Drive down the coast road to Oban, through Kilmartin Glen and past Dunadd to Crinan; back to Lochgilphead and over to Inveraray. Cross the Rest and be Thankful to Arrochar on Loch Lomond, go down the lochside and back into Glasgow . That’s a long day and could be easily split

One favourite area of the Highlands? You ask too much!
sheila is offline  
Old Oct 10th, 2011, 10:57 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,561
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We had four nights in the Highlands and did this: drove out from Edinburgh to Inverness on the A9 - this is a four-lane road (two each way) for much of the route and a two-lane road for the rest. Quick stops in Pitlochry for lunch, Blair Castle to wander a bit and at Dalwhinnie distillery to buy. The drive can be done in three hours, the trip can take longer.

We stayed outside Inverness close to Culloden field and the Clava Cairns at a B&B on a farm, and ate in town each night. Took a trip up to Dunrobin Castle (very cool) and you can stop at Glenmorangie Distillery en route. On return from Dunrobin, we visited Cawdor Castle, the "home" of MacBeth (which was erected after his demise). Next day, Culloden, Clava Cairns, stop in Elgin en route to Aberdeenshire. In Aberdeen, we visited a pile of castles and the Highlander Military Museum. With extra days here or south of Elgin (e.g., near Dufftown), you can visit the various highland distilleries. We went from Aberdeen to Edinburgh on the A93, with stops at Glamis Castle and Scone Palace in Perth.

Suggestion here is to hit three evening addresses, maximum. Aberdeenshire, Inverness area, west of Loch Ness. See if you can drop the car in Mallaig and take the scenic train to Ft William and from there to Glasgow if you want more scenery. Combining Islands and Highlands may be a matter of going to more places and seeing less.
BigRuss is offline  
Old Oct 10th, 2011, 03:55 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,948
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
"Drive on to Aviemore, close your eyes so you miss it (a travesty of 1960s planning)"

Ah, Sheila, so very true! Your route has made me homesick.
Barbara is offline  
Old Oct 11th, 2011, 01:15 PM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 858
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
steviegene: You have two great points- we don't want to do too much, and we are concerned about the "unpopulation" as we aren't hikers and backpackers. But we don't want to do the tour bus tour, either.

sheila: You said: "I wouldn't do what you're doing in 6 days, but, hey, it's your holiday." Is that because it is too much? Or did I pick boring places? Thank you for the whisky recommendations. Do you have any ancient sites you recommend?

BigRuss: I had heard of Dunrobin from someone else. Thanks for the "second." So you suggest staying two nights at fewer places?

To all: When one mentions "island", it seems Skye is the one that comes up first. And yet, it seems a longer trek than Mull and Iona or possibly Islay. Am I missing something? Are any of the other islands worth a detour??

And one more question: Does anyone have a boating recommendation? I have seen some tours on lochs, ocean going seal, puffin and dolphin tours, etc. We are water people and would like to work in some sort of boat excursion, even if it is a three hour tour. ;-)
eastenderusvi is offline  
Old Oct 11th, 2011, 01:18 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 1,314
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We just got back from an 8-day trip to Scotland, half of which was spent in the Highlands, and previously visited the Glen Coe area in 2007. We love to drive, so part of the allure of this area for us is the gorgeous landscapes as seen from the car, with frequent stops for pictures, meals and short walks. (We were traveling with a 3-year-old this time and I am 6 months pregnant, so long hikes were definitely out.) After a day in Edinburgh we drove through Glen Coe, spent the night at the Loch Leven Hotel in Ballachulish, and then drove on to Skye via Lochalsh, with a stop at Eilean Donan (yes there might be tour buses but it is a truly breathtaking spot and the drive there from Fort William, which includes a traverse of Glen Garry, is magnificent). We spent two days on Skye, then took the Armadale-Mallaig ferry back to the mainland and proceeded with our trip to the Glasgow area (this was a LONG day as we didn't even leave the island until 1:00, but we made it work).

Others have mentioned that many Highland towns are very small...one that you might like is Portree on Skye, as it is set right on the harbor and is quite lovely with its rows of pastel-hued waterfront houses and shops. We stayed at Ben Tianavaig B&B and loved it; had an excellent meal at the Harbour View restaurant just two doors down.

If you plan to go all the way to Skye, I strongly suggest that you spend at least two days there, if only to give yourself a better chance with the weather. We originally had planned only one day on the island, and if we had stuck with our original schedule we would have seen NOTHING, as it was driving rain and wind all that day (we still drove around the Trotternish peninsula, including Kilt Rock, the Museum of Island Life, and Dunvegan Castle, but missed out on most of the scenery). Then the sun came out and we had glorious weather on the second day.

On a clear or even partly cloudy day, there is nothing quite like a drive around the Cuillin Hills and a short hike to the Fairy Pools, in the west-central area of the island. This was the absolute highlight of our trip. (See www.walkhighlands.co.uk/skye for great info on hikes of all levels.) You can also see Glenbrittle Beach and tour the Talisker distillery as part of this trip if you are so inclined.

The seas were too rough during our visit but we have heard fabulous things about the Bella Jane boat trips out of Elgol.

Skye is a very special place and really encapsulates the Highland experience, especially if you enjoy the outdoors. And yes, there will be many single-track roads! The vast majority of drivers we encountered were very polite (they even wave); there are numerous pull-outs and everyone takes their turn. Don't let the single-tracks scare you off.
hausfrau is offline  
Old Oct 11th, 2011, 01:50 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,752
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
A couple of quick comments. I don't quite understand the idea of missing out on some of the "unpopulated" areas. That's exactly what I love about the Highlands. There will certainly be at least one B&B in almost all of the smaller villages. Portree is lovely, but there are many places on Skye that have excellent B&B's along with a restaurant on the premises so I wouldn't limit yourself to just Portree. Sheila's suggestion of Isle of Oronsay/ Eilean Iarmain on the Sleat Peninsula is a good example and they ( B&B's with restaurant or dining room) exist in a variety of price ranges every where in Scotland.

I like sheila's itinerary but it's a bit too hetic for me.
Russ gives good advice in selecting just three overnight stops. Scotland and the Highlands should, IMO, be savored not rushed through trying to do too much, but it is after all your trip.

There are, as hausfrau mentioned, plenty of shorter distance walking opportunities everywhere in Scotland
historytraveler is online now  
Old Oct 11th, 2011, 03:14 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 466
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We took the National Express bus from Edinburgh to London for 9.00 Pounds each. Much cheaper than the bus if cash matters. We stopped 2 times for potty/food/smoke breaks on the way. See: http://www.nationalexpress.com/home.aspx
jkbritt is offline  
Old Oct 11th, 2011, 03:29 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 483
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Skye is a longer trip than Mull/Iona direct from Oban - ferry is about 40 minutes. The drive from Craignure to the Iona ferry is 35 miles of single track and gorgeous scenery. To get to Islay you need to be further south - crossing from Glasgow through Arran and Kintyre to get the ferry there. If you want to head up to Oban from there you could, but I'd say Skye is too much of a push in the time you have to do all of these.
oliverandharry is offline  
Old Oct 11th, 2011, 03:31 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,752
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
One note about single track roads. I have no problem at all with them in fact generally prefer them, but it is much slower going. So you'll need to factor the increased time element into your itinerary if planning on using them. You can get to almost anywhere in Scotland on dual carriageways.
historytraveler is online now  
Old Oct 11th, 2011, 03:35 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 466
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I meant much cheaper than the train - my bad.
jkbritt is offline  
Old Oct 11th, 2011, 03:59 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,752
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
jkbritt, yes, taking the bus or coach (long distance) can be significantly cheaper than the train, but it takes 2/3 X as long to get from London to Edinburgh. Trains from Kings Cross to Waverley Station, Edinburgh take about 4 hours depending on the train. The National Express coaches take 9-12 hours. If budget is an issue and time not, then the coach works fine.
historytraveler is online now  
Old Oct 12th, 2011, 04:02 AM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 858
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you all for more things and places to consider. My concern is not being in an unpopulated place, but being in a place that is so unpopulated that there would not be an inn or a pub at the end of the day. I was hoping to have an experience of driving for a couple of hours, then finding a spot for the afternoon and night. I don't want to drive for hours on end every day. And I don't want every minute planned.

Re: the single track roads...not skeert, just curious about them. ;-)

And about taking the bus...I guess I have to qualify. I am considering paying the extra for first class on the train. Not really a bus person! LOL
eastenderusvi is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2011, 11:13 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 10,168
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Gee, I think of Portree as being something of a metropolis by Highland standards, seriously.

Things like petrol stations, places to eat, and banking facilities can be few and far between in the Highlands.

It is a lot more like the far western US than anything you might expect from its comparatively small distances.

And do not ignore the issue of driving times. Except on motorways, the times are much longer than the same distance would require in the US.

But that all means you can slow down to enjoy the scenery, stop in a pub for a sandwich and a wee drammie, and generally have a real vacation.
Ackislander is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2011, 01:57 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,156
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I wouldn't do it because it's too much in too short a time. I'd do longer stops and short day trips to supplement (Actually, I would probably just go somewhere for the the week)

Ancient Sites on that routebr />
Fife- Balfarg. My husband spent a wet summer in his student days digging there.

Angus- Meigle scupltured stone. Eassie sculptured stones (very close to Glamis). There's a stone in the churchyard at Glamis, as well

Aberdeenshire- Tomnaverie Stone Circle. Culsh soutterain. Kinord Cross. There's piles or Iron Age stuff round Kinord as well

On Speyside, Little Conval Fort and Mortlach battle stone. Clava Cairns is a biggie, as is Sueno's Stone at Forres

I haven't gone looking at Skye, but there's a list here:-http://www.skye.co.uk/heritage-archaeology.php

Kilmartin Glen, however, is completely remarkable. You could spend a week there and not see everything

Skye comes up first for two reasons. Scenery, especially mountains, and the bridge (ie easy access). Personally, and I know this view is not always shared, I find Mull boring by comparison, but it's also harder to get to. Islay is even harder, but is absolutely the best


If you're following something like my route, either do a seal tour out of Dunvegan or one out of Elgol, both on Skye
sheila is offline  
Old Oct 12th, 2011, 03:06 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,752
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Plockton, just a few miles down the road from Kyle of Lochalsh, offers Calum's Seal trips www.calums-sealtrips.com and I can recommend them. The drive to Egol is beautiful, but it is a longer drive ( an hour or more depending on starting point). Kyle of Lochalsh and Plockton might be a bit quicker especially if coming from the east (A 87) across the Skye Bridge.

There are several wildlife/seal trips at Oban if you're in the Kilmartin area. Dunvegan works well too, as Sheila mentioned, since the seal trips are close to the castle and Dunvegan Castle makes for an excellent visit.
historytraveler is online now  
Old Oct 12th, 2011, 05:25 PM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 858
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you all again for even more information to process.
eastenderusvi is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
Promethia
Europe
21
Jan 4th, 2011 02:07 AM
AlokG
Europe
7
Aug 12th, 2009 04:27 AM
Steve_P
Europe
11
May 15th, 2004 12:13 PM
jsiegendorf
Europe
6
Mar 4th, 2003 11:05 AM
Jane
Europe
5
Nov 7th, 2002 09:55 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

FODOR'S VIDEO