My husband and I are flying into Edinburgh and renting a car. Our itinerary is:
Day 1 - Arrive 5pm at EDI, drive to Stirling hotel
Day 2 - Tour Stirling castle; drive to Inverness - what else can we realistically fit in? I've read some comments on short walks near Dunkeld and Pitlochry including to Black Spout and Hermitage. We like short hikes and waterfalls. I saw a comment on Queen's view and want to stop there. Where is the best place to grab a picnic lunch near Dunkeld or Pitlochry? Any recommended casual pubs/tea rooms? Would we have time for all of this - Stirling Castle, short hike near Dunkeld or Pitlochry, Queen's View, then tour Cawdor Castle, Clava Cairns, and/or Culloden Battlefield?
Day 2 Option #2 - My husband wants to go to Aberdeen just to see more of Scotland. Is this possible: Tour Stirling Castle, drive to Inverness via Aberdeen - and tour a couple castle stops I assume (Balmoral Castle, Dunnottar? Which ones are the highlights and doable timewise?) Will we end up spending most of our day in the car and not seeing much versus the A9 route from Stirling to Inverness?
Day 3 - Visit Loch Ness (is a boat tour worthwhile?), Urquhart castle, tour Eilean Donan Castle, drive to Kyleakin B&B on Isle of Skye. Would we have more time on this day to see Cawdor Castle, Clava Cairns, and/or Culloden vs. Day 2?
Day 4 - Rick Steve's recommended driving loop around Isle of Skye - anything we shouldn't miss like a recommended hike (Fairy Pools?) or boat trip in Elgol to sea loch to see seals?
Day 5 - Drive from Kyleakin to Oban. What do you recommend for short hikes/things to do en route via Fort Augustus and Glencoe? My husband doesn't want to take the Mallaig ferry. Will we be missing some awesome scenery?
Day 6 - Oban (full Day Staffa boat trip)
Day 7 - 9 - Drive to Edinburgh - 2 nights there then fly home - Is the Edinburgh Festival going to turn the streets into a madhouse of people the first 3 days of Aug? Do sights stay open later?
Is there anything else we should try not to miss between Stirling and Inverness, Isle of Skye, and Oban?