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3 day whirlwind tour with Scottish Highlands

Hello!! (I'm new to posting on forums, but a long time Rick follower, so I hope this helps!!)

My husband and I are planning our 2 week honeymoon in July or Aug for Ireland-Scotland-England. Hopefully planning on a 5 day trip in Ireland, with a 3 day trip in Scotland, and the rest in England. I'm a big Harry Potter fan, but I don't want this to completely guide my sightseeing. I'd like to do Edinburgh (not Glasgow--trying to keep in only one major city), and a day or two in the Scottish Highlands, with day 3 incorporating some Scottish sightseeing with traveling down to the North of England (my family is here). Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Fort William, Isle of Skye, and the Glenfinnan viaduct are things that are sticking out in my mind. My husband loves steam locomotives and thought it'd be very cool to ride on the train. With time, I don't know if this is possible or worthwhile since we would get the best views while not on the train. I would just LOVE to see the jacobite steam train traveling down the viaduct. Seeing one of the lochs would be wonderful, but we don't need to see Loch Ness simply because that's where "Nessie" has been seen : ). We are into the sights, history, and culture of the land and don't need tourist traps. Isle of Skye seems out of reach with this itinerary, but unsure what is even possible. We are planning on renting a car and eventually dropping it off in York to take the train to London.

I've gotten so much advice already on the forum so I hope your words of wisdom will provide some guidance!

Posted by
1577 posts

Hello Sarah, and welcome, failte.

First of all Pam and Cyn who will have their own great suggestions, will know my initial suggestion about distances! See if they can guess :-)

My suggestion is based on what you want to see in Scotland ditch the car. Don't bother with one until down south, or at all in Great Britain if areas you want to see are near the railway. It is the train you want. The West Highland Line from Glasgow Queen Street to Mallaig via Fort William is operated by ScotRail as the main railway line in that part of the world. It is also, once clear of Glasgow's suburbs, one of the most picturesque in Britain and you'd get to cross remote and atmospheric Rannoch Moor. Twice. And up and down Loch Lomond.

At Ft William you can get the bus out to Glencoe, the regular trains out to Mallaig stopping at Glenfinnan, or the Jacobite steam train on the same line.

Mallaig is one of the crossing points to Skye but probably not worth crossing this time.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
6782 posts

We had a whirlwind 14 day trip that included just Scotland this past August. If any of your days are pouring rain, as we had twice, you might find slow traffic and soggy stops, which might influence how far you can go and how much time you choose to spend outside. Suitable clothing is suggested any time of year ;-)

We didn't make it to Glasgow, either, but it's so close to Loch Lomond, and Glencoe and Fort William are not that far from there. Of course, by Motorway with good conditions, you can travel between Glasgow and Edinburgh in about an hour. You may not want to actually drive within either city, and the countryside has relatively narrow roadways that require attention to stay within your lane, and to observe whether other drivers are doing likewise! MC has previously made compelling arguments for visiting Glasgow (Scotland's greatest city).

We still missed a lot in our 14 days, but with your suggested 3 quickies, if you still want Edinburgh and not Glasgow, I'd suggest arriving in Edinburgh, see a bit (walk the Royal Mile & have lunch), maybe pick up a rental car on the way out and drive to Fort William, seeing Glencoe along the way, ride the steam train (we didn't do that, so I'm not sure of the timetables), glance at Skye from across the water (it's worth a longer visit on your next trip), and then work you way over to York. You'll have a great time in any event!

Posted by
1577 posts

If you are like Cyn and prepared for a whirlwind trip you will enjoy it! My advice always is for a lot of visitors Scotland looks small for a map, which being honest it is, but because of its geography is quite large, and unless you are prepared I would not want your memory of Scotland is the watching the back of a Ford Focus for three hours!

Posted by
7 posts

MC-- You make a compelling argument for the train. In talking to my husband about doing the Jacobite Steam train (I'm worried about the customer service and the experience based on some bad reviews online, although there were some good as well) and his thought was the car might be better because we can stop at our leisure and spend more or less time in certain areas and control our time table. But you are right that the train may be going into more unchartered territory and allow us to see the part of Scotland that I'm excited to see. I'm debating whether taking the cool steam train (my husband is excited to ride in it and take a look at the engines--me...I'm a massive Harry Potter fan) or to take the updated rail that runs the same line.

You are absolutely right about it being a whirlwind and I don't want to see the back of a ford focus haha. So that makes a great argument for the rail, plus less focus on road conditions and treacherous driving on the opposite side...

Cyn--I realized in my planning that Glasgow is much closer than Edinburgh to the sites I want to see. Maybe I should fly from Dublin to Glasgow instead of Edinburgh?? ::SIGH:: too many decisions!! Regardless I will be very happy to just be in Scotland Rain or Shine!

Thank you both for your input..This has been great for me!

Posted by
1577 posts

If you are wanting to see the west Highlands then flying in to Glasgow probably makes a better choice as Glasgow is much more the transport hub in Scotland.

If you do hire a car, don't worry too much. Driving on the left is really easy, I do it all the time! ;-) Sometime I do it in France as well!