Scottish Highlands by car--Suggestions?

Old Nov 4th, 2005, 12:17 PM
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twk
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Scottish Highlands by car--Suggestions?

I have worked out an itinerary for my trip to Scotland in late June, but there is some flexibility built in and I figured this might be a good time to solicit some advide from the resident Scotland experts as to what to see on the driving portion of the tour.

We will be arriving at Glasgow Airport on the morning of June 21 (a Wednesday). Our first two nights are in Inveraray, and this will be my first time to drive on the left (I will have someone to navigate, so that will help). At one point, we had considered taking a train to Stirling, renting a car there, seeing the castle, and then driving to Inveraray, but right now, I'm thinking about just picking up the car at the airport, heading west, and hoping to see Inveraray Castle and the town on the day of arrival, then using our second day to travel from Inveraray to Stirling and back.

Our third, fourth, and fifth nights will be spent in Inverness. On the way to Inverness on Friday (after driving through Glen Coe), I hope to take the Jacobite Steam train to Mallaig and back to Fort William. For the other two days we'll be in Inverness, we would like to take one day to go to Skye and back (I know, it would be nice to stay on Skye, but time constraints render that impractical) and spend the other day touring sites closer to Inverness (Fort George, Culloden, maybe Cairngorm). Given that these two days would be a Saturday and a Sunday, which day should we go to Skye and which should we stay close to Inverness?

Finally, on that Monday, we'll be heading from Inverness to Edinburgh (where we'll spend 3 nights). My tentative plan is to drop off the rental car in Perth, then take the train into Edinburgh. Looking at the maps and trying to fit in things we would like to see, rahter than taking the A9, I'm leaning toward taking the long way to Perth, via Deeside, then on to Glamis Caslte, and possibly Scone (or vice versa, depening on time). Any thoughts on this?
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Old Nov 4th, 2005, 06:53 PM
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OK - I'll be more gentle than usual

Parts of your itinerary are muddled at best and crazy at worst.

Just random thoughts in no particular order:

1) There is no reason to drop the car at Perth. It is VERY easy to drop it at Edinburgh Airport, which is west of the city and right off the motorway, and then take the airport shuttle into the city.

2) If you do drive all the way to Edinburgh airport you can go via the A9 instead of the M90 and pass right by Stirling. You can visit the castle and then have a short-ish drive to EDI.

3) a day trip to Stirling from Inveraray really makes no sense. There is so much to see in the area around Inveraray/Argyll

4) You want to go to Ft William, take the train to Mallaig (which is a VERY short ferry trip from Skye) and back to Ft William before driving up to I'ness. But then later want to take a day trip from I'ness to Skye. A LOT of to-ing and fro-ing.
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Old Nov 5th, 2005, 06:06 AM
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Mmm. Bit less brutal but.....

1. Take your time getting to Inverary. It would take me somewhere just over an hour. You'll be getting off a flight, a bit jet- lagged, so take it easy. Wonderful scenery en route. Stop and smell the roses.

2 Not a good use of your time to go from Inverary to Stirling. Is Stirling a "must see"? Go to Kilchurn or Carnasserie instead. Or go back further in time and spend the day in Kilmartin Glen. Or go to the beach. But don't go to Stirling.

3. The Jacobite leaves at 10.20am. It will take you at least 2 hours to get to Fort William (you can do it faster- maybe 1 1/2 hours, but presumably you want to STOP in Glen Coe), so you'll have an early start. OK?

4. Why don't you go to Skye after you've done your steam trip? I know you have to cover the same straetch of Scotland again, but it's a lovely place to be; get the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale and spend the Friday night on Skye, and all day Saturday, then just zip up to Inverness to sleep? (or not, stay in Skye another night and you're only an hour from Inverness in the morning. Anyway........)

If you do do it, do Skye on Saturday and east of Inverness on Sunday
Inverness?

5.I too would suggest taking the car back to Edinburgh airport, whether you do it through Deeside or Stirling. I'm pretty sure you would be struggling for time to do both. Both routes are nice tho'.
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Old Nov 5th, 2005, 07:21 AM
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My family did a whirlwind taste of Scotland tour last June, driving for the first time on the left. We did fine. Glen Coe was gorgeous! The one mistake we made was thinking we could just show up in Ft. Williams and take the steam train. Our B&B host strongly suggested we call right away and see if we could get reservations for the next day, but it was already booked solid. Lesson learned. Enjoy the trip.
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Old Nov 5th, 2005, 11:15 AM
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This is just my opinion but of all the places we visited in Scotland last June, Inverness was the least appealing. We drove through it and I felt thankful we were not stopping--looked busy and industrial like. I cannot imagine doing Skye as just a day trip.
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Old Nov 5th, 2005, 03:40 PM
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Just my personal opinion, often stated on Fodors, but you're putting in some long, long days. Why? Whatever you do, you'll leave behind a million fabulous places that you don't have time to visit, so would it be a real disaster to make that a million and one or two? That way you give yourself time to really enjoy the places you do visit.
Where are you travelling from? If you're flying east across the pond, be prepared for jet lag hitting you, probably on day 2 3 or 4 rather than day 1.
I agree with others, Inveraray to Stirling is not a good use of a day.
Day trip from Inverness to Skye and back? If you want to spend time on Skye, why sleep in Inverness? Skye is a BIG place, too big to see in a full day. You'll hardly scratch the surface if you have to fit in a return journey from Inverness on the same day.
The "long way" to Perth via Deeside has a lot to recommend it, but I don't see the need to leave the car in Perth. Why not spend a night in or near Perth and take the car to Edinburgh Airport the next day?
You've got the makings of a wonderful trip, don't spoil it by doing too much and leaving yourself too tired to enjoy it.
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Old Nov 7th, 2005, 12:41 PM
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Thanks for the input. Perhaps I should have broken this up and just asked for specific advice on specific legs, but just so that you folks will know I'm not crazy some explanations.

1. I decided on Inverary and Inverness as bases for a driving tour fully intending to spend a lot of time on the road. I've read all the comments on this board about Inverness and taken them into consideration. I simply chose it because I prefer some driving over a one night stay on Skye. Also, I'm a history buff, and given a choice between Skye and Cullodden/Fort George, Skye would probably be cut from my intinerary.

2. Inverary was selected as a base because my sister and I have Campbell ancestry that we can trace back to Inverary and wanted to see the place. I considered something a little more centrally located (as in halfway between Inverary and Stirling), but didn't see anything that particularly stood out. I'm from West Texas, used to driving great distances, and I think we'll be OK with that drive. I understand the concern, and wouldn't reccommend it for folks who dislike spending more than a couple of hours in a car, but we can always cut it short if necssary. However, Stirling is very high on my list as an historical site.

3. I'm aware of the time the train departs. I'll have tickets in hand, and we will be travelling in late June, so the sun will be well up when we set off for Glen Coe. We are early risers, so that won't be a problem.

4. I considered skipping the steam train and taking the ferry from Mallaig to Skye, but, as mentioned above, I didn't want to spend only one night in a place, and 2 nights on Skye is too much for us, given our preference for history over scenery. I suppose we could skip the train, take the ferry to Skye and see it that day, but my sister wants to see Loch Ness and that's what makes me lean toward Inverary to Inverness, broken up by the train trip.

5. I've considered dropping the car at Edinburgh Airport, but my thought in dropping it at Perth is that this will keep me from having to drive into an urban area and/or deal with traffic on the Forth Bridge. A lot of Americans who've driven in the UK tell me that picking up and dropping off the car in a small town is advisable. As a small town person myself, I hate dealing with airport rental locations over here, so I'm thinking there would be some benefit in avoiding it over there, particulary given how close the car rental dropoff in Perth is to the train station. Am I absoultely crazy for thinking this? I kind of also like the idea of taking the train over the Forth Rail Bridge, and the train station is very close to our B&B in New Town. Still, if it is sheer lunacy, I could just return the car at the Edinburgh Airport, and then, if necessary, catch Stirling (in lieu of Scone and Glamis) on the way from Inverness if I don't do it on the second day.
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Old Nov 7th, 2005, 09:38 PM
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I don't have time to make full responses to your thoughts just now. But a couple of short comments:

1) Driving long distances in Texas is nothing like driving long distances in Scotland. In many places you will be VERY lucky to average 40 miles an hour.

2) Edinburgh airport is an easier drop off place than finding your way around in Perth. It is NOT in Edinburgh but to the west right off of the motorway. Could not be easier.

I'll try to post more in the morning, but it does seem like your mind is made up re most of the advice/warnings you've already received.
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Old Nov 9th, 2005, 02:27 PM
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If you're hiring a car anyway it would be easier to drop it at the airport. As long as you don't try and drive south over the Forth Road Bridge and into Edinburgh during the morning rush hour (more like 2+ hours up to about 9 a.m.) the traffic shouldn't be too bad - the airport is on your side of the city so you don't need to hit the city centre. A train journey across the Forth Bridge is nice but you can get a return ticket from Edinburgh to Inverkeithing and the round trip is under an hour. You don't get a good view of either bridge while you're crossing them.
I would keep quiet about that Campbell ancestry when you visit Glencoe...
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Old Nov 9th, 2005, 08:34 PM
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I agree with the other posters who say to drop your car at EDI. We, too, are small town people, but dropping at Edinburgh airport is quite easy. The airport is far from the city and the traffic is moderate compared to US urban areas. And Perth is not all that easy to drive in either.
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Old Nov 9th, 2005, 08:39 PM
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Sheila -- Just curious. Why not Stirling? We think the castle is quite worth a visit.
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Old Nov 10th, 2005, 04:11 AM
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Stirling's super. But it doesn't warrant the out of the way trip you're contemplating
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