Scottish Highlands Options

Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 11:21 AM
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Scottish Highlands Options

My fiancee and I are trying to set up an excursion from Edinburgh to and through the Scottish Highlands in September with these parameters: 4-5 nights, 2 nights in or around Aberdeen. Preferred activities = seeing castles and critters and the landscape (and I'd like a couple of drams). Questions: (1) which is better to stay in or near as a western highland base, Fort William or Inverness? (2) how much can rationally be done in a given day (i.e., how many castles to explore if they're reasonably close together)? (3) If we pick Inverness, can we still swing past Eilean Donan castle on a trip back to Edinburgh? (4) suggested places to stay for < 150 quid total per night?

Thanks for your help.
BigRuss is offline  
Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 11:54 AM
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Hi There:
If you decide to base yourself in Inverness there is a lot more selection of guided day trips(to Skye, Orkney, &/or to see Eilean Donan, etc.) than if you base yourself in Fort William. Here's a website that give the availiable day tours out of Inverness and it's gr8 in planning just about anywhere in Scotland. Have a good trip! I leave for Scotland in a month.
ThisBuds4ME888 is offline  
Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 12:15 PM
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Both Inverness and Ft William are best avoided. Staying outside either one is fine but both towns are REALLY nothing special. I usually self cater for a week at a time in these areas so can't help you w/ specific B&Bs in your price range (I know several lower cost ones but it seems you are looking a little more up market). If Sheila sees your thread she will likely have some ideas for places to stay.

Near Inverness is convenient for Culloden, Cawdor/Brodie castles, the Black Isle, Loch Ness/Urquhart castle, the scenery of Wester Ross, etc.

Nearer Ft William is convenient for Skye, Glencoe, Loch Ness/Urquahart, Glenfinnan, Loch Linnhe, Kilchurn castle, etc.

Either area would be good as a base - but west or NW of Ft William would probably be my choice.

For your days near Aberdeen be sure to visit Crathes, Dunnottar and Craigevar castles.

How many castles is too many castles??? Well, nobody can answer that for you. Really not two castles are exactly the same -- some are brooding riuns on the sea, some are "stately homes" with glorious gardens, some are homey family homes, some are massive fortified keeps. I can't say that I've ever been "castled out" - but 3 a day would certainly be doable.
janis is offline  
Old Apr 22nd, 2004, 01:23 PM
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I'd skip Eilean Donan Castle. Not to be too opinionated, but I was really disappointed in this one. It is beautifully sited, but you can see that on a drive-by. It is jammed with tourist buses.

But, the problem with it is this: it's NOT an old castle. I know I didn't do my homework well enough (bad me, bad me!), but this was one occasion when I relied on other people's opinions.

It was built in the 1900's sometime, and built to look old outside and Victorian/Edwardian inside.

It was built on a floorplan that I believe the owner dreamed one night and convinced himself it was the original design.

Too manufactured for my taste - and really, really crowded.

Moving on the heart of your post, I wouldn't necessarily base myself in either of those areas. I'd suggest just driving around. When you're tired or hungry, stop and find a nifty place to take care of that need. You won't waste time retracing your steps back to the same place every night that way.

Drive around Skye - we took two full days there, stopping at everything from peat bogs (oh, the sinking feeling of walking in a peat bog!) to the Museum of Island Life (is that the right name?). Stayed overnight at Duntulm Castle Hotel (forgettable, but a great location) and picked up some entertaining literature about things that happened centuries ago (like rolling people down hills in barrels to determine guilt or innocence).

Loved the drive through Glen Coe, and all of the little twisty roads we found.

Stayed one night in a place that recommended a restaurant far too many "left at the forks" away. We honestly weren't sure if we'd find our way back to the B&B. But the restaurant was great and on the way back we had a highlight of the trip when I decided to run into a small store and grab a Pepsi. There wasn't a parking place, so my husband and parents dropped me off and drove up the road a ways to turn around and come back for me.

As I approached the store, the lights went out (closing time, not a personal rejection). So, I had about 3 minutes to stand in the center of this small town and wait for them to come back.

As I waited, I heard a sound that we hadn't yet encountered "live" in our wanderings - bagpipes! When the rest of the group came back, I made them stop the car, turn off the ignition and listen. We were so enthralled that we slowly edged our way down the side streets until we found both a parking spot and the rehearsal location for the local bagpipe band. We could see and hear through the doors and loved it.

After the rehearsal (about 25 minute after our arrival) we chatted with several of the members of the band and had a wonderful time.

Ah, the joys of wandering!

Perhaps we'll bump into you - we're heading to Scotland in September, too!


leonberger is offline  
Old Apr 23rd, 2004, 02:48 AM
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Inverness is on the east coast, is way outside the western highlands and has little highland character.Fort William is the pits.Eilean Donan is pretty & worth a photo, but don't go in.
I'd suggest Oban or Portree(Skye).Both are far more jolly & pretty than Inverness or Ft William.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2004, 08:17 AM
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Is that 2 nights in Aberdeen plus 2 or 4 nights in the north?

For your Fort William/Inverness question, I'd pick somewhere near Inverness. The reason is that it is traffic hub, giving good access to all sorts of places in the west, which, although they may be prettier (indeed, they ARE prettier) involve deep indentations in the coastline which take for ever to circumnavigate.
I don't think you can reasonably do more than about 3 BIG things in a day no matter how close.

Eilean Donan is about an hour and a half from Inverness. You'd be better to pick it up on a Highland Day out than fit it into a route between Inverness and Edinburgh.

Near Aberdeen, try Pittodrie House or the Udny Arms at Newburgh.

Try the Lovat Arms in Beauly for an Inverness base.

sheila is offline  
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