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Scotland - Itinerary Help

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?

Posted by
484 posts

If flying into Edinburgh, I would start my trip by spending the first 2-3 nights there to get over jet lag and sightsee. I would not rent a car until after visiting Edinburgh. Then, you can drive to Stirling and visit Stirling en route to Oban. Oban - you can take an all day boat trip to the isles. There are several options. Restaurant - Cuan Mor is good. From there, you can do Isle of Skye. I could be wrong - but I think you need more than 1 day for Skye. Then, you can go to Inverness or Aberdeen. Maybe hit Pitlochry on way back to Edinburgh airport. Maybe 3 nights Edi, 2 nights Oban, 2 nights Skye, 1 night Inverness, then back to Edi. Airport.

Posted by
5461 posts

Hi Brenda,
If you're doing this this year, I guess you've already finished, but if it's for next year, hear's some advice.

It's between 2.5 and 3 hours to drive from Stirling to Inverness. It takes around an hour or so from Stirling to Dunkeld. Bearing in mind that the Castle opens at 9:30, the very earliest I would plan on leaving would be 11, but it could easily be 11:30. But, clearly, you could be in Dunkeld in time for lunch. I would recommend The Taybank. You could then do the Hermitage Walk or part of it. It would take you a little over two hours to get to Inverness. You should stop off and see Queens View--you can do this in less than a half hour. That's all you have time for in my opinion. Inverness sites will have to wait for the next day.

I am not a fan of either option 2's. You should play with Via Michelin to see what you would be getting into. To start, it's 2 hours no stopping, no traffic to Stonehaven and Dunnattor. I've not been, but it's stunning and so I would plan on an hour stay. It will then take you over five hours to drive to Inverness--no stops, no traffic. Not even pictures. . :( Option 2B is a wee bit better, but still a lot of driving. It will take you nearly 2.5 hours to get to Braemar. So, that puts you near Balmoral in about another 15 minutes or so. So, if you skimp on Stirling, and have no traffic you are there at around 3 PM. You should plan on a minimum of an hour for a tour and that is probably skimping. It will then take you close to two hours to get to Inverness. You'll arrive around 6 or 7 at night. If this is day two after a transatlantic flight you will be totally beat. Again, no time for any Inverness sites. Go to the Hootenanny for a pub dinner maybe hear a little music and then sleep.

So, you are a half day down at this point. Do you want to see Culloden? BTW if you go to Clava Cairns, you drive past Culloden. I would. It's one of the key moments in Scottish history, but you can head straight for Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. You don't have time for a boat tour in my opinion. It's about a half or so to Urquhart from Inverness a ten minutes or so more from Culloden. It's about an 1.5 to 2 hours to Eilean Donan Castle. And it's just a half hour or so on to the bridge. However, it is another 45 minutes plus to Portree. Skye is a bigger Island than you realize. My favorite is the boat trip to Elgol, but there are many, many other options. You can easily spend a week on Skye.

It's 4 hours plus to drive from Portree to Oban. You are retracing your route. Too bad your husband won't do the ferry. The drive from Mallaig to Fort William is stunning.

Indeed the trip to Staffa is an all day tour. Do go to Iona. It's worth it.

The drive to Edinburgh is reasonable. Yes, Edinburgh is full in August. Book your rooms ahead of time. (Another reason to hope that this is early planning for 2015.

Pam

Posted by
3258 posts

We just returned to the US last night from Scotland. A couple of things that might not be on everyone's #1 list, but: we didn't make it to Stirling Castle (but admired it from the road below), but did visit Doune Castle nearby. Aside from its Monty Python connections it was interesting and worth a 60-90 minute visit. Getting to the castle, the main street in town isn't wide enough in places for 2 cars to pass, so be prepared to alternate with oncoming traffic in the narrow spots. . . actually that goes for a lot of places in Scotland, including parts of Skye!

Also, we didn't wind up on the Mallaig ferry, but took the smaller, shorter, cheaper (15 pounds) ferry at Glenelg. Two Iron Age brochs a mile and a half south of Glenelg were worth seeing, too. So we did the "other" road and boat to Skye.