Scottish Highlands/Islands

Old Jul 6th, 2004, 12:01 PM
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Scottish Highlands/Islands

I am in need of some big time assistance here. We're arriving Edinburgh from US in early August. I have booked the three nights in Edi and gotten the Tattoo tickets.

I also have the end of our trip worked out -two nights in Windermere and then the drive to London.

I need help with the three nights in the middle. Our intention was to explore the highlands and Hebrides by car, but research has convinced me we won't have time to do the big circle I envisioned (Edinburgh - toward Inverness - Skye - Mull and then down to Windermere).

My husband wants to see Loch Ness and I'm set on Skye. We need at least one good castle and one distillery to visit. We're big on water and scenery. I hate not seeing Iona this trip.

I'm also rather frantic about finding accommodations in August and feel I should book ahead which means I really need a set itineray.

Anyone want to take this on with specific route suggestions? Any way to see Loch Ness and then on to Skye all in one day? Better to stay near the Skye bridge or farther in? Or is there a place to stay that would give us good access to Skye and Mull for day trips?

I guess it's obvious I'm in a pickle here. Thanks.
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Old Jul 6th, 2004, 12:36 PM
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I can do you scenery, water, distillery and Iona in 2 days. IMHO you'd be nuts to do Loch Ness OR Skye as well, but you could one of them if it was a sine qua non...
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Old Jul 6th, 2004, 01:22 PM
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Sheila is pretty accurate - a distillery, good scenery, Mull/Iona - doable in 3 days. The rest would mean you'll just see all the gorgeous scenery through the car windows.

Why does your husband want to see Loch Ness? the reason I ask is that is the one place every American HAS to see in Scotland is this loch - I think there is a myth about that it is the be all and end all of Scottish scenery. It is (Literally) one of the least attractive lochs in the entire country. Don't get me wrong - it is not terrible and if you had 2 weeks and wanted to visit Loch Ness and Urquhart castle - sure - but with only a couple of days it would be a shame to waste time going there.

As for Skye - it is glorious - and you actually could squeeze in Skye, Mull and Iona (and see castles and distilleries on the isles) into a 3- day itinerary.

Cal Mac (the ferry company) markets a group ticket for a car and three ferry trips that would make a loop Skye > Mallaig > Mull > Oban. 2 nights on SKye and 1 on Mull (or 1 night on Skye and 2 on Mull) and then a drive from Oban down to the Lakes would be possible - but not easily w/ the trip up to Loch Ness.
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Old Jul 6th, 2004, 01:41 PM
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Luckily, I was able to see Loch Ness on the way to Skye from Aberdeenshire. But if I had to choose one or the other, I'd choose Skye. The landscapes and skyscapes there are utterly gorgeous beyond description. I hope you have a lovely trip.

BC
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Old Jul 6th, 2004, 01:50 PM
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We just returned last night from 12 days in Scotland. I concur with the others: I wouldn't trade Skye for Loch Ness. If you spend some time in the areas near Oban and go out to Mull/Iona and/or Skye, you will see lochs and coastal scenery that is much more impressive than Loch Ness. We had to squeeze in Loch Ness, but then we were traveling with an 11-year-old, and that was her one big request.

We'll get our trip report and a link to our photos up soon (hopefully), but one thing we found is that it usually takes longer than you think to get from point A to point B. So try not to be too ambitious with how far you are driving or how many stops you are making each day. Or, as janis says, you'll be seeing it all out the car window...
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Old Jul 6th, 2004, 02:00 PM
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I'm back.

I enjoyed the drive from Edinburgh up through Pitlochry and Aviemore to Inverness, though there's not much to see in Inverness. And the drive from Inverness to Invergarry and on to Skye is interesting as well. Eileen Doonan Castle may not fill your bill for a "good castle" but it's photogenic.

I think the comment that Loch Ness is one of the least attractive lochs in the entire country is odd.

As far as timing . . . it is correct to say that you'll see gorgeous scenery through the car windows, because there's quite a bit of ground to cover if you travel from Edin to Inverness to Skye and on to Mull. I am pretty sure the "car windows" observation was meant condescendingly, but if that stlye of travel appeals to you, you will see a lot of spectacular scenery. I'd do this in a heartbeat.

Snoopy
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Old Jul 6th, 2004, 07:47 PM
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I'd say your solution lies in and around Fort William, a jumping-off point for Skye as well as Inverness (via Loch Ness) and many other Highland sites. From Edinburgh, go through Perth to Pitlochrie, Blair Castle, to Spean Bridge and on to Fort William. If you click on my screen name you should find a few other posts wherein I highly recommended The Grange B&B in Fort William (www.grangefortwilliam.com). Great rooms, personalized service and full breakfast, views over Loch Linnhe (much prettier than Ness), proximity to Ben Nevis. This seems to fit your requirements, giving you flexibility to see most (but not all) of what you want to cover in three days and nights.
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Old Jul 6th, 2004, 11:35 PM
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Fort William's fine for Skye but you won't get Iona from there.
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Old Jul 7th, 2004, 03:52 AM
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Having seen Loch Ness 2 or 3 times (in passing through), I agree with the others; nice, but certainly not necessary. A comment on Windermere: A few years back my wife and I had two or three nights booked in Windemere; but one night was more than enough. In our case, which involved a relatively leisurly schedule, we checked out early and drove over into N. Wales for an enjoyable stay at Llandudno (never heard of it before getting there). You might want to cut out one night in Windermere and add one night further north, or south. Also, it sounds like you may be planning to drive from Windermere to London in a day; it can be done, but will be quite challenging.
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Old Jul 7th, 2004, 10:06 AM
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Many thanks to all of you who took time to reply. I appreciate your ideas and comments. Every comment helped me get "unstuck" from my muddled state and start looking at maps again.

Why does my husband want to see Loch Ness??? Go figure - he just does. The "traveling with an 11 year old" comment by ms go probably sums up my situation, too. Sometimes you just do things because a person you love wants to.

Sheila, I'm interested in knowing more about how you'd route me - with the Skye OR Loch Ness options, please.(yes, we're nuts.)

3gigs, the Fort William idea was exactly what I was asking for. I tend to not want to move every night, if we can figure out how not to.

All of you, thanks. More comments, elaboration are welcome. Janis, your posts made me put Mull on my "must see" list long ago, so I appreciate the ferry idea.
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Old Jul 7th, 2004, 11:36 AM
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In May, we stayed 2 nights in Bowness on Windermere at the BW Burn How Hotel which we really enjoyed. We spent 1 full day driving around the area, spending time in Ambleside, Grasmere, Rydal and Winderemere. I remember the drive from Bowness to Stirling as one of the lovliest of the trip.
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Old Jul 7th, 2004, 12:44 PM
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I'm not sure I have much assistance as I am also in need of information for Scotland. We were planning to drive from England - we will first be in London - to Scotland starting out at Fort Williams and working our way up to Skye and then on to Inverness and then down to Edinburgh for a few days. We will either take the train or plane back to London for our flight home. Does this seem doable in eight days? We hope we don't have to see everything from the car window.
 
Old Jul 7th, 2004, 02:39 PM
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OK, to go west, I'd leave Edinburgh, drive past Stirling, Callander, Balquhidder, Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Dalmally, through the Pass of Brander and down into Oban- I wouldn't rush, but I wouldn't hang about either and I'd want to be in Oban by early afternoon.

I'd spend the afternoon mooching round Oban, and take in Oban distillery.

In the evening I'd take a run down to Temple Wood in Kilmartin.

day 2, I'd take a boat tip to Iona. As may have mentioned (once or twice)I think Mull is much overrated, but I'm sure you can pick up a boat trip that stops at both.

You might want to get up the road a bit that night- maybe go to Port Appin or Kentallen or somewhere- far enough to have made a start for the morning.

Day three, high tail it to Mallaig and the ferry, drive up as far as Portree- are you getting to spend another night out here, or do you have to be back. If you have to be back, retrace your steps as far as Ballchulish, cust through Glencoe and home.
If you are allowed another night in the wilds, (sigh) come off over the bridge, go south east to Invermoriston, and up Loch Ness to Inverness, get on te dual carriageway and head south as fast as the car will take you.

Chloe, I would strongly advise you to take the sleeper from london to Fort William (no "s") or even Mallaig (see "Great Train Journeys of the World), and pick up the car there.

You will be much fresher for the journey round the north and they say that waking to breakfast as you roll over Rannoch Moor is one of the great experiences of a lifetime's travel
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Old Jul 8th, 2004, 06:51 AM
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Thanks Sheila -
That all sounds like good advice.

We (my husband, myself and our 18 year old daughter) were thinking of driving because the car rental was the same price whether we rented in London or Scotland. We thought we'd stop on the way in the Lakes area.

We also want to fit in the The Jacobite steam train leaving from Fort wsilliam to Mallaig. And my husband's ancestry goes back to the Foulis Castle in Evanton north of Inverness.

So, does that change the ideas you sent? We also really want to go to Skye which sounds beautiful. And we'll end in Endinburgh for a couple of days and the return to London.
 
Old Jul 8th, 2004, 09:16 AM
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Sheila -
Thinking about your suggestions again, I'm going to look into the train. I'm going to look into train to Glasgow. I'm thinking that we will start there so we end in Edinburgh because I think we have more options for the return trip to London from there. I need to look into this as well. Is there any benefit to starting in Edinburgh and going north, west, south and east, or starting in Glasgow area and going west, north, east, and south?

Let's say we get to Glasgow area by car or train.

Day 1 - Up to Oban and spend the night.
Day 2 - Then to Fort William and The Jacobite train.
Day 3 - Then from Mallaig to Isle of Skye,
Day 4 - then over to Inverness.
Day 5 - Down to Edinburgh for a few days.

Of course this is the general idea, no specifics yet. We would miss the drive and all inbetween Edinburgh and Glasgow. Is this something we should try to include?

Is there anything you would suggest instead of what I've included? I know we can't see it all, but just wondering.

This itinerary includes my daughters desire to go on The Jacobite train, and my husbands desire to see "the family castle" which I understand may only really be a house - Foulis Castle.

Looking forward to hearing suggestions and ideas. I have found so much helpful information on this site.

I really need to get this all set soon because we leave on July 21st! We will be in London for 7 days first.
 
Old Jul 8th, 2004, 01:31 PM
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That's fine. You have the minor problem that your car is in Fort William and you are in Mallaig and going west.

There's no train between Oban and Fort William, but there is a bus.

So you could train to Oban, bus to FW, Jacobite to Mallaig and pick up the hire car there. Doing what you're trying to do, that's what I'd do
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Old Jul 11th, 2004, 08:27 PM
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Sheila -
Thanks for this information. I'm getting bogged down with all the details and fitting the schedules.

Now we are still trying to figure out how to get up to Scotland. Because we had planned to drive, we had planned to have a rental car to go out to Oxford and Stratford-on-Avon and then continue to drive north to Scotland. From your comments and others, we are looking into the train. From what we can see on the internet it looks like the train is quite expensive. I'd really like to take the overnight train. Is it possible to get the train from Stratford-on-Avon to Scotland or would we have to go back to London?

Then once we are in Scotland this problem with the Jacobite train from Fort William to Mallaig and back and our car is making it hard to know how to get to Skye. Could we drop the rental car in Fort William and pick up a car in Mallaig. I've heard once we are out of the larger cities, car rentals can be very tricky and expensive. If we can drop the car and pick up another car, that makes it much easier. If we can't - what do you suggest. The train gets back to Fort William at 16.00. From what I could see the last ferry leaves Mallaig at 17.00, so we couldn't make that. Could we drive that night from Fort William to Skye - how long a drive is it.

I'd appreciate any thoughts and ideas. This has me very confused!
 
Old Jul 12th, 2004, 04:27 AM
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Oxford and Stratford are new information.

You will have greater flexibility if you do this in a car, but I think you will be knackered.

If it were me, I'd take a day trip from London to Startford and Oxford- I'm sure there must be some. I'd then get the sleeper from London to Fort William.

The sleeper leaves London Euston at 8.30pm on weekday evenings. It stops at Watford at 9.55pm. The only other stops (in England) are at Crewe and Preston, neither of which should be of any interest to you.

It gets in at 9.43am. The Jacobite leaves at 10.20am, and car hire is also available locally from Morar Motors (phone 00 44 1687 462118).

The Jacobite gets in at 12.25, so you've time for a leisurely lunch and to get the 2.40pm boat.




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