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Advice on Scotland Itinerary

Hi All!

We're taking a family trip to the UK this summer and will be spending about a week in Scotland. Traveling with my wife, 4 kids (15, 11, 11, and 8), and my mother in law. We're flying into Edinburgh. After spending a few days there, we plan to rent a van and spend several days exploring Scotland before returning to Edinburgh for a train to York. I have a tentative itinerary and would appreciate any thoughts or insight you all may be able to offer. We have booked our place in Edinburgh and I've been there before and have a pretty good feel for our time there. I'm most interested in input on the roadtrip (days 4-8). i.e. drive times, overnight locations, sights of interest, etc.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Day 1: Arrive Edinburgh

Day 2: Edinburgh

Day 3: Edinburgh

Day 4: Pick up car. Drive to Glencoe – 3.5hrs driving

• Linlithgow Palace?

• Blackness Castle?

• Stirling Castle

• Drive thru Loch Lomand & Trossachs

• Sleep near Glencoe

Day 5: Drive to Isle of Skye – 3hrs driving

• Ft William (Inverlochy Castle?, Neptune’s Staircase?)

• Glenfinnan Viaduct

• Take Mallaig/Armdale Ferry to Skye

• Armdale Castle?

• sleep in Sligachan?

Day 6: Isle of Sky (sleep in Sligachan?)

Day 7: Drive to Pitlochry – 3.75hrs driving

• Eilean Donan Castle

• Urquhart Castle

• Loch Ness Center?

• Inverness (lunch?)

• Cawdor Castle?

• Drive thru Cairngorms

• Blair Castle?

• Sleep Pitlochry?

Day 8: Drive to Edinburgh for train to York

Posted by
2404 posts

Just a quick question- are you in Edinburg for The Fringe during most of August? It's a fantastic performing arts festival that takes over the old town.
Have a great trip!

Posted by
6113 posts

Although Skye is awesome, I wouldn’t drive all the way there with young children just for one day there. I was there in June and The Cuillins were covered in cloud for two days solid and there was fog that didn’t lift. I would consider staying around Glencoe and taking a day trip from Oban to the islands or spend the time in Glencoe rather than going to Skye.

Day 4 - I would opt for Stirling Castle. At present you must book online, as you can’t just turn up and buy tickets. This may change before June. The nearby Falkirk Wheel would appeal to your children.

Day 5 - I wouldn’t bother with the ferry and just drive the road bridge, which avoids lengthy ferry queues. You will need to book accommodation way in advance for Skye.

Day 7 - going via Inverness adds lots of extra miles on the day. Your older children are probably a bit old for Nessie hunting.

Posted by
664 posts

Just to comment on the Skye part of your trip as it's where I live...

If you plan to take the ferry from Mallaig to Skye you need to book your ticket well in advance, especially with a larger vehicle, as space on the ferry is very limited. There are no lengthy queues, because quite simply if you haven't booked (in summer) you won't get on the ferry (or the next one, or the one after that) as they are booked solid.

I probably wouldn't stay in Sligachan, because all that is there is one hotel. If you stay in Broadford or better still Portree, you will have more eating options (you will still need to book with such a large group) and there's a bit more to do of an evening. However, Sligachan is a beautiful spot, so if you don't mind being a bit more remote in terms of eating options it's an OK choice.

On day 7, it would take me longer than 3.75 hours to get to Pitlochry and that's without the stops that you have planned. I certainly wouldn't go via Inverness, as you are going north to come south again. Instead I would head south again after seeing Loch Ness, and then turn left at Spean Bridge to get you across country (very nice scenic drive) and back to the A9, which is your route south to Pitlochry. Blair Castle is a very traditional Scottish castle and worth a visit. You could have lunch at House of Bruar, which does very good fish and chips from their own 'chip shop' or there's a wider choice at their cafeteria style restaurant. It's very close to Blair Castle.

Assuming you will need 4 bedrooms, then the earlier you can book accommodation on Skye the better as things get booked up very quickly.

Hope this helps.
Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
89 posts

I would suggest looking closer at the Isle of Mull vs Skye. I would think it has plenty to offer kids and some of the single-track roads there were the only places where I saw hairy coos up close and personal! You could also drive out to Fionnphort and take a boat to Staffa to see penguins. I was there in the month of August and sadly missed seeing them - but they should be there in June. I also drove from Tobermory (using ferries, too) to the Glenfinnan viaduct - and it was a quiet, scenic drive. The viaduct visit may be a longer stop, especially if you want time it to see the "Harry Potter" train cross. From there - you could head to Ft William and if time allows, go to Inverness (not all in the same day). I would think the Loch Ness monster stuff might be exciting for kids - and its a fun boat ride out to Urquhart castle. You can also do dolphin viewing excursions - i did one from the small town of Avoch and dolphins swam along side us and under the boat. It was awesome and it was a smaller boat than some that leave from Inverness - and its only about 30 minutes away. Skye is beautiful but I agree with others that you would want more time there. And, I made so many more stops to truly appreciate Scotland than I normally would on regular driving trips - so it's a good idea to plan more time between locations.

Posted by
1032 posts

Connie - Puffins, right? There was a lone albatross in the Shetlands one time long ago (cunningly named ‘Albert Ross’ by locals and birdwatchers) but he (or she!) was a good 12,000 miles off course. And an albatross flies a heck of a lot better than it’s Southern Hemisphere cousin the penguin!

Posted by
2977 posts

With seven people and luggage, your vehicle will be large and awkward on many of Scotland's narrow mountain roads. You need to assume that your drive time will be at least twice what a site like Google Maps estimates. Also, you want to be out enjoying Scotland, not just seeing it through the windows of your vehicle. For those reasons I would trim back your itinerary a lot.

Your basic loop from Edinburgh to Glencoe to Skye to Pitlochry and back to Edinburgh is reasonable. If all of your question-mark items are intended as "would like to see if we have time," then this may work all right. Do pay attention to the advice about the ferry to Skye, if you go that route. Having driven the other way around, from Fort William to Kyle of Lochalsh, I can say it is quite spectacular too.

Here's a personal example of a long driving day, in a midsize sedan as opposed to a van or "people carrier" which you'll have to have. In one day we drove from Inveraray via Kilchurn Castle, stopped at the "Hollow Mountain" hydropower visitor centre (fascinating!), over the Connel Bridge (i.e. we didn't go the Glencoe route) to Fort William. We walked around Fort William and watched the Harry Potter train pull out. We did not go out to the Glenfinnan Aqueduct. Lunch (great value & good food!) in the Morrison's supermarket cafeteria in Fort William. Stopped briefly at Old Inverlochy Castle, then at Neptune's Staircase, then drove to Dornie on the mainland near Kyle of Lochalsh bridge. It was a long day, about 10 hours in all. (Of course we weren't inside the car for all those hours.)

Posted by
841 posts

Day 4 and Day 7 need relooking at - unless you are intending to just wave in passing. There is no time allowance for visiting the difference places. You will be surprised just how long it can take to find a car park, park up, get to the attraction (plus a 'comfort break...) and then back to the car afterwards. You are talking about a day sightseeing for the three places you list on Day 4.

Day 7 is even more unrealistic. Eilean Donan is splendid from the outside and everyone stops to take a picture. The inside is less impressive and can be missed. Urquart Castle is worth a visit, especially as far as the younger kids are concerned as who knows, they might see Nessie... Both Cawdor and Blair Castles are a half day. Blair castle is possibly the more interesting. The inside of CAwdor castle is a bit boring and it isn't the Cawdor Castle of Shakespeare's Macbeth as it is a lot later.

As others have said there is a lot of driving involved which could be boring for the kids. Don't underestimate the time taken to drive between destinations. They may not look far but it can take a lot longer than you might expect to cover the ground. Withj the best will in the world, seven people can take a lot longer to organise, especially when it comes to the comfort break!

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you everyone for the helpful input!

We've decided to extend our stay on Isle of Skye to 3 nights and have found lovely accommodations in the town of Uig. We plan to leave Edinburgh on June 25th and overnight somewhere midway between there and Skye. Then on to Uig on June 26th for our 3 nights on Skye. We'll spend the 27th and 28th enjoying Skye. Then we plan to leave Uig on June 29th and overnight somewhere midway on our return to Edinburgh.

I'd appreciate any recommendations on spots to overnight on our trip up and back. We'd prefer to take different routes up and back so we have a different experience each way. Here are some initial thoughts:

Day 1 - Drive to midway point to Skye:

  1. Leave Edinburgh and head to Stirling Castle
  2. Head towards Glencoe thru the Trossachs and Loch Lomand via the A82 OR thru Collandar via the A84 (any thoughts here?)
  3. Sleep near Glencoe or Ft William (or any other recommendations?)

Day 2 - Complete drive up to Skye:

  1. Depart accommodations, maybe a short hike around Glencoe OR sightseeing around Ft William
  2. On to the Glenfinnan Viaduct (the family loves Harry Potter)
  3. Take Mallaig ferry to Skye
  4. Sleep in Uig

Days 3 and 4 - Enjoy Skye

Day 5 - Drive to midway point back to Edinburgh:

  1. Depart Uig
  2. Take the bridge back to the mainland
  3. Stop at Eilean Donan
  4. From there the route is a big question mark for me, so please any input would be appreciated
  5. Option 1A - Head towards Ft Augustus and drive up the east side of Loch Ness to Aviemore. Maybe visit the Reindeer Center?
  6. Option 1B - Head towards Spean Bridge and take the A86 and A9 to Pitlochry
  7. Option 2 - Instead of Aviemore or Pitlochry, we could head south from Spean Bridge back towards Glencoe/Ft William for another overnight in that area.

Day 6 - Complete return to Edinburgh:

  1. Option 1 - From Aviemore or Pitlochry, take the A9 back towards Edinburgh.
  2. Option 2 - From Glencoe/Ft William (or some other recommended location) catch the A84 back to Edinburgh (assuming we took the A82 on the trip up to Skye).

Thanks for your feedback!

Posted by
89 posts

Ianandjulie - Yes, puffins on Staffa, not penguins. Sheesh. Not sure why I said penguins but my mind isn’t what it used to be!

Posted by
664 posts

Hello again shannrushing

Your revised plan looks good.

Stirling is a fantastic castle too, so that's a great choice

Loch Lomond is very pretty, so you might want to take that route across to the A82, but I also really like Callander - it's a pleasant little town and possibly a good place to have lunch on your way across to the A82. That route is also scenic, but you'd miss Loch Lomond.

For your overnight stop you'll have most choice in Fort William, or you could look at Ballachulish.

After Skye when heading back across to pick up the A9 I always go via Spean Bridge, turning left there - your option 1B. It's not a busy road and very scenic. I avoid Loch Ness as it's not one of the most scenic lochs and the traffic can be awful. However, you could do a short diversion north to see it and then head south again to Spean Bridge. I always stop here for lunch when taking that route across to the A9. Scrummy Cakes Your option 1A via Aviemore adds a lots of miles, is not particularly scenic and it would take the best part of day to get there from Uig if you take that route.

Hope that helps!
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
7 posts

You’re revised itinerary is much better. I would also recommend Stirling castle and on the same day detour to visit the Kelpies. It’s a great park with these stunning statues. The Falkirk wheel is also pretty cool for the kids. I don’t recommend the boat ride there though as it takes over an hour. We did watch how it works but chose not to do it.
If you stop in Pitlochry there is a fish ladder that was interesting. We looked the town. It’s picturesque and totally walkable. We found parking near the train and good food at Drummonds.
I agree with Skyegirl about the drive. The scenery going Spean bridge way is lovely. Loch Lomond is one long traffic jam. Most of the loch is obscured by trees, Squeezing past large tour busses was not fun. We have done the ferry and the bridge. I prefer the bridge but if you do go on the ferry there is a nice tea room across the way. We sat outside and had a nice lunch while we waited to board.
If you take the bridge coming back detour to Plockton and take McCallums seal boat. We did it on our honeymoon. He’s great and knows where to find them. Plockton was the setting for Hamish the Robert Carlisle series. It’s a small town and has great weather, terrific views and palm trees,
In Skye go to the Fairy Glen. They were building a car park last time we visited so you may need to pay now. It’s a very pretty place.