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A September Itinerary Question

Greetings!! I love reading this forum. So many of you are very gracious & helpful!! I am fulfilling a long time dream & heading to Scotland end of September with my hubby. We could not get off of work long enough so a 9 day-er will have to do.

Edinburgh 3 nights / Inverness 3 nights / Glasgow 3 nights

Rental car last day in Edinburgh until 1st day in Glasgow.
Planning 2 bus tours (so I can relax & enjoy views).
#1 on last day in Inverness to Skye (stop at Eilean Donan Castle).
#2 on last day in Glasgow to Stirling, Loch Lomond & Trossachs NP

My questions are regarding our drives from Edinburgh to Inverness & then Inverness to Glasgow.
To Inverness: I am considering heading straight up the A9 since it will be day #1 of driving on left (which I’ve done before all over Ireland, but....). Stopping somewhere that catches our interest on the way (Pitlochry, Killecrankie?). I see from reading this board that this route is not very scenic. I feel that may be a waste then.

To Glasgow: My plan on the return trip is to stay west & drive thru Glencoe. Possibly stopping first in Fort William. Would it be “better” (more scenic, easier...) to go thru Glencoe when driving north to Inverness? And stop at Fort William after, time permitting? I love to stop at lookouts & areas of interest when driving. And I see from the info here that driving takes longer than one would expect.

There are other places I would like to fit in on our trips up & down. INPO: Oban, Aviemore, Doune Castle, any other castle or drive a bit thru the Cairngorms. I do not want to do all of these, one or two added to our trip would be great! I just don’t know what is do-able.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!! Thank You!!

Posted by
5550 posts

Oh, my! Where did you get the idea that the drive up the A9 is not scenic? The drive across Fife is not extraordinary, but it is better than the drive from Chicago to Champagne/Urbana or Chicago to Lafayette Indiana! And then once you hit Perthshire it's quite lovely. The train which follows a similar route is rated as one of the most beautiful train rides. The thing about the A9 is that there is traffic. Traffic does not mean that the views are not spectacular. :) Pitlochry is a nice town, and probably a good place for lunch. You could take a break and visit the Explorers Garden for an hour or so and stretch your legs. If your legs needed stretching sooner, you could stop in Birnam/Dunkeld and walk in Birnam wood along the Tay river or check out the Hermitage. The Killekrankie stop has a visitor's center. But I think I would stop at Queen's View. It offers a beautiful view of the lochs that make up the road to the isles.

Aviemore is more of a center to buy things in preparation for outdoor activities such as hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. But there is a steam train there which might interest you. There is the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank You Pamela! I will plan for the A9 up to Inverness. I have read pages & pages of questions & answers here, I’ve taken tons of notes. This RS board is great. I did get the overall impression that taking another route other than the A9 would be more scenic. I was just going with that. I can drive up & back via the western routes however if that would be a more “Scottish experience” way to go!!

Posted by
2732 posts

The A9 is plenty scenic, IMO. One thing to be aware of is that it's divided highway ("dual carriageway") in some sections, and regular 4-lane in others. You just have to pay attention to these transitions, which are well signposted. There are plenty of places to turn off and stop so you can gaze at the scenery if you so desire.

Posted by
5550 posts

That is a really good point about the changing type of road that is the A9. I will always remember zipping along quite well to all of sudden find myself behind a tractor towing a towering pile of hay. :) I thought I was right back in rural Wisconsin!

Posted by
5550 posts

To add a bit...there are other routes. But they take longer. And ultimately you end up back on the A9 anyway. I am trying really, really hard to think of a boring drive in Scotland and am having a hard time thinking of any. :) If you want some side trips as you go north, check out these. Here's one that just gives you some options off the A9. I love the drive over the mountain from Aberfeldy to Loch Rannoch. I discovered the backroads to Aviemore from Newtonmore when I visited Ruthven Barracks on my last trip.

A completely different route is to head up toward Braemar which takes you through the eastern edge of the Cairngorms. It too is a beautiful route. It's just a different way.

I suspect I've now made your decision harder. :) But you should rest assured that whichever way you pick, you will have a wonderful time and you should have no regrets or second thoughts. To be honest, at the end of your trip you will be thinking, "Hmmm, when can I come back again?"

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks Pamela & epltd!! I appreciate the info. I would really enjoy trying one of the off highway routes, esp thru eastern Cairngorms. I will research that a bit more, thanks. I’m sure it takes longer to get to Inverness from Edinburgh than it appears, but a stretch of road thru mountains would be worth exploring.

Posted by
28 posts

I am amazed that you have planned your Scotland trip by staying in 3 cities.
Why ?
With a first visit to Scotland, certainly spend 2 nights in Edinburgh.
But why go to Inverness and Glasgow?
Why not stay in small towns close to the scenery.
I had a memorable trip to the west coast of Scotland last year and stayed for 2 nights in Fort William,
3 nights on Raasay on the Isle of Skye (fantastic)
3 nights in Ullapooll.
3 nights in Lochinver

Posted by
5550 posts

Hey, all those small towns are in the west. There is more to Scotland than the west coast hard as that often is to believe. :)

If the OP wants small towns there are lovely small villages all over Scotland. I've stayed in Inverness and really enjoyed being able to go to Hootananny to hear some music and to eat at Rocpool or the Mustard Seed. But I've also stayed outside of town in Strathpeffer--small Victoria Spa town--and in Fortrose on the Black Isle. I know others would recommend Nairn.

So, if you chose Inverness because you want a good base, it's a good one for that. And you can get the above good food and music. If you want to explore smaller towns, you can do that too.

And while some might call Inverness a City, I think it might be more accurate to call it an overgrown town. :) The total population is less than 50,000. My 15-year-old niece would scornfully tell you that there is no way that Inverness is a city. She would probably dispute Edinburgh and might accept Glasgow, so all things are relative.

Pam

Posted by
8 posts

Hi b.paul1, The trip that we are taking to Scotland is the best way for us to get there for the money. We were able to get a good deal via a tour site with hotel & airfare. It’s our foot in the door. This is working for us. It’s our first Scotland trip but not our last. Next time we go small towns & B&Bs. I’m just beyond thrilled we are making this work!!!

Posted by
51 posts

Hi Danala22. We're taking virtually the same trip in September -- complete with the same (or similar) day trips! So hopefully you've planned well ;-) We fly into Inverness: 3 nights (2 1/2 days) in Inverness, but one of those days is a bus tour to Skye. Bus (Citylink Gold) to Edinburgh. 2 nights (2 full days) in Edinburgh. Train to Stirling. 1 day / night in Stirling. Train to Glasgow: 3 nights ( 1 3/4 days) in Glasgow & 1 full day bus tour to Oban/Glencoe. Flying out of Glasgow.

We're planning it all without car, so a little heavy on cities, and lighter on the countryside. But 9 days is just not enough time for it all. We consider this "a taste of" type trip, and hopefully not too stressed. I agree you just need to assume you'll be back. Once I made that mental change, I've been able to enjoy all my past trips more. Alas I've never been back to any of them, but have wonderful memories of all. Good enough!

Posted by
8 posts

Hi kj!! You seem as excited as I am!! I always call trips like these Table of Contents trips. I will be back for the chapters. Our trip package included a car rental so I’ll be driving between cities. I drove across Ireland & it wasn’t as difficult as I thot it would be. Tho it is exhausting cuz you gotta concentrate so hard the entire time. Buses & trains are way more relaxing!! We are going the last week September. It’s not too far off now. I wish you guys a fun & fantastic trip!!!

Posted by
9 posts

You don’t say how late in September you will be there but the autumn colors should be turning then. We were there late October last year and the colors around Pitlochry and Killiecrankie were stunning.

While you’re in Inverness take a short drive to Chanonry Point. It’s quite picturesque and it’s common to see pods of dolphins going through the channel to Moray Firth.

Inverness through Glencoe to Glasgow is doable in one day but it’s so beautiful it’s hard not to keep stopping. There are several viewpoints on A82 that are spectacular and the drive along Loch Lomond is very pretty.

I like your table of contents analogy. Last year we spent a month driving around Scotland to make our ToC and this year’s chapter was going back to Shetland for three weeks.

Posted by
8 posts

Greetings creazer!! Thank you for the Glencoe information. I am planning to frequently stop during this drive!! Rural Scotland is what I truly want to see, my next trip will indeed be small towns & villages & more highlands & island. I was also hoping we could fit in a stop in Oban or Glenfiinan on our way south. I keep seeing how much longer drives take so I am hesitant to plan for this. I will see where we are when....& go from there. As far as autumn colors we may be a bit early for intense color (last week of Sept) but I would enjoy seeing early color & late gardens!! In all my travels there are only a couple places I plan to revisit....Scotland & Ireland are at the top of that short list!!
Thanks again for responding to my query!! Cheers.

Posted by
8 posts

OHHH! craezer!!! Autocorrect changed your name in my prior post!! I typed the proper way!! This is a pet peeve of mine.....ugh. So sorry :-D

Posted by
21 posts

Keep in mind that the smaller roads around the Cairngorms are quite narrow and curvy at times. So you may come around a curve and have a huge logging truck coming right at you. I would say take A9 to get you to Inverness and you will have plenty of opportunity to take smaller more scenic roads as you drive around to get to any sights you have selected. As a stop, we enjoyed House of Bruar in Blair Atholl right off the A9. A fancy store which has a large selection of Scottish food and a couple of on site restaurants. As for Inverness, we found the people in town to be very friendly. We had several errands to take care of in town-SIM card from phone store, exchanging old for new pound notes at the bank and some thermal underwear at Marks and Spencer. Everyone was genuinely friendly and actually engaged us in conversation.

Posted by
8 posts

Hi Cynthia!! Thank You!! I do think staying with A9 to Inverness is the smart move for day 1 of driving on the left. I really appreciate your suggestion in Blair Athol, it sounds pretty perfect for a stop!! We are getting very excited...less than a month away!! I wish we were staying longer!!!

Posted by
5550 posts

Hi again. I really have to comment about running into logging trucks on small roads. I've driven a lot in Scotland, but I have not run encountered any logging trucks there. I may have been lucky, but I have encountered them in Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon and I think in Maine. :( I'm not saying you won't encounter them in Scotland, but you won't dodge them by sticking to the A9. In fact, the A9 is not like the typical US divided highway. It is not consistently limited access with clovers leaf exits and on-ramps. Rather it switches from being what feels like a typical US divided highway to a two-lane road to a four-lane road with exits on left and right. Traffic crosses it. So, I'm also not saying it's unsafe, but you do need to be as alert on the A9 as you would be a smaller road. Personally, I am more focused on a smaller road where the speeds may be slower and I am watching the curves in the road. That may not be you, however. It depends on what you are used to.

No matter what, do take the turn-off for Queen View. It's a lovely view of the road to the isles. You can also have a cup of tea.

Posted by
506 posts

Hi
I agree with Pamela who said that the Queen's View Visit Scotland link here is worth a stop, but it's not the road to the isles. It's a road that runs out to Loch Rannoch and the railway station at Rannoch Moor Rannoch Moor link It is also worth a trip as it's a lovely drive out to the station and there's a wonderful tearoom on the station platform. You could easily spend half a day doing this 'out and back' drive off the A9, possibly in place of Pitlochry, which while lovely is just a small town.

The road to the isles is the road from Fort William to Mallaig, which passes through Glenfinnan, with it's monument to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the viaduct, famous for its role in the Harry Potter films.

House of Bruar is also fun. It's known as the Harrods of the North locally. It sells upmarket foods and clothing, as well as fine art. It has a great selection of hunting, shooting, fishing attire to cater for the many stalking and hunting parties that head up to the Highlands. The café is pretty average (in my humble opinion) but the rest of it is well worth a gawp.

Hope this helps
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
21 posts

Hello again. To clarify a couple of points-the logging trucks were in the Kinloch Rannoch area from our trip a couple of weeks ago. The roads were quite small in the general area and the main point was that you can come around a curve and encounter a large vehicle. Yes, you can drive more slowly, but you may get a local person on your tail and not a lot of opportunity to pull off-depends on the road. That being said you are staying in Inverness and may not be visiting this area. You will need to do what feels comfortable for you and you will soon find out! I don't have the necessary nerves of steel.
For the House of Bruar we ate at the Fish and Chip shop which is a separate little building and we thought it was quite good. They have lobster also.
Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
506 posts

Cynthia - I forgot that Bruar now has a 'chippie'. I will passing there this weekend so will check it out. Sounds good though, especially the lobster.

You're also right about logging trucks. There are plenty of them all over Scotland and they don't take any prisoners in terms of using the road. It can be equally daunting as a local to come across one when you least expect it. I find it's best just to get out of their way and let them pass. As for being followed by locals who want to go faster than you on single track or other narrow roads, my advice would be to pull over whenever it is safe to do so and let them pass. You will likely get a cheery wave to thank you (at least what I always do when a tourist lets me pass!).

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)