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A two week itinerary using public transportation

Hello all,

I am planning a two week trip to Scotland in June next year with an 11 year old. Idea is to strike a balance between covering things and pacing oneself. I don't want us to be rushing around. We like a mix of urban settings and countryside/scenic areas. We will be using public transportation -- the Spirit of Scotland pass (8 travel days in 15 days) seems ideal. We are flying in and out of Edinburgh. After my initial research I have come up with the following itinerary (first draft):

-- Oban/Mull/Iona. 3 nights. Not sure how to structure this but it seems Oban would be the most convenient base with a day trip covering Mull/Iona/Staffa. Perhaps the other full day we can do a trip covering some of the other islands? Any ideas?

-- Portree, Skye. 4 nights. People highly recommend renting a car here but it seems there is a company Go Skye that offers reasonably priced tours AND shuttle services to various spots on the island. Would love to hear any experiences with exploring Skye using some such service/public transport.

-- Inverness. 3 nights. The SOS pass can be used one of those days for a roundtrip to Thruso. Don't know if that trip can be combined with any activity there.

-- Edinburgh. 4 nights.

I am open to removing/adding days, or changing bases, based on feedback here. There's five solid days of using the SOS pass here. Will have to figure out how to use the other three. We love doing long walks/moderate hikes through scenic landscapes. The Glencoe region seemed a good one for it, but at first glance, it doesn't seem like there's the necessary combination of a convenient base/public transportation to do such an exploration. Anyway, any insights/advice will be highly appreciated.

Thanks much in advance!

Posted by
13211 posts

I have a suggestion for a nice, very scenic walk at Oban.

The closest island, just across the harbour, is the sparsely populated Isle of Kerrara. It has a few farms, a ruined castle to explore, and a tea house for refreshments. There is a 6-mile loop path around, or you can simply walk to the castle and tea house and back without doing the full loop. We saw Highland cattle (the so-call “hairy coo” and lots of sheep near the castle. And great views of the water in every direction.

To get there, you take a small private passenger-only ferry (12 people at a time). We had a taxi take us to the ferry dock, and after the hike we walked back to town. It is only about a mile, but parts are along a road with little or no shoulder.

Some information here:

But reading the reviews on Tripadvisor will give you a better picture. And there are photos.

Posted by
293 posts

It has been 25 years since I spent 10 days in Scotland. So what I am saying now may not still be true. In the late 90's, every little house had a wool loom in their car garage, and people were looming woolens all over the place. Beautiful tweed clothing could be had for reasonable prices, and I bought a lovely tweed jacket that I still wear. I bought a length of lovely soft lambswool fabric in Oban or Fort William that I wear as a shawl every winter to kick off the Thanksgiving / Christmas season. Leave room in your suitcase to bring back some tweeds.

Posted by
581 posts

Have you priced out the train tickets individually? Is it cheaper than buying the pass if you don't use all the travel days? Don't get caught up in the idea that you have 8 days of travel so you have to use them all. If the pass is good value even if you don't use all of the travel days then don't worry about it. Can you use the pass to do day trips from Edinburgh to either Glasgow/Stirling or St. Andrew's? Keep in mind that on the days you have to travel you will lose a day to joining a guided day tour at your destination as most of them will leave at 9 am, probably before you get there, so plan to spend some time just seeing things in town unless you can find half day tours that will fit your schedule. Portree, for instance, is not very big so if there is not a tour available what are you going to do with your time? Sometimes, it's best to travel at the end of the day so that you are at your next destination in the evening and will be able to join a day tour the next morning. This can make for a long day, but it might mean you won't miss a tour that may not be available every day. Without knowing exactly what you are going to do from each town it's hard to say if you need to add or remove days. You need to check the tour schedules and figure out what you want to do, then check the train schedules to see if you can accomplish it with the days you have allotted to each place. I think, at the moment, you have a good plan, but I'm not familiar with the tour company and shuttles on Skye as I had a car.

Posted by
64 posts


"Portree, for instance, is not very big so if there is not a tour available what are you going to do with your time? "

Precisely. I need to make sure 4 nights in Skye makes sense. Somewhere in-between we probably need a day to not do much at all. Skye, as perhaps the most(?) scenic area on this itinerary, seemed like a good place for that. The trip from Oban to Portree will probably consume a good half of the day. Is there enough in Portree to fill up a day and a half of leisurely exploration? Leisurely to us would probably mean stepping out of the hotel late, take a long lunch/dinner at places with great views. The other 2 full days would then be exploring Skye using a serivce like Go Skye. One day I would dedicate to walking/hiking Quiraing. One could be a full day guided tour of Skye. If we feel energetic enough to spend all 3 (full) days out, then one might skip the full day tour and instead use the shuttle service each day to Old Man of Storr, Quiraing, and Fairy Pools respectively. Does that make sense? Alternatively I could take a night out of Skye and assign it elsewhere. Maybe to Edinbugh, and then use the pass to make more day trips to one or more of Glasgow/Stirling/St. Andrew's. Yours (and anyone else's) opinion on this would be highly appreciated.

@lola: Isle of Kerrara indeed sounds like a wonderful side trip! Exactly the sort of insight I was looking for. Assures me that we won't be wanting for things to do in/around Oban during the 3 night stay.

@Shelly: Haha, wonderful heads up. You have me thinking. This trip to Scotland is actually itself a side trip from Iceland. We are roundtripping using EasyJet, which compels us to a carry-on size even smaller than what one typically gets away with on the larger airlines. So it will be quite an achievment if we are not pushing the limit there. On the other hand, landing a tweed jacket such as you describe, of such durability, might be hard to pass up. I will be giving this a serious thought.