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Basic Itinerary Input? - this September

Suggestions on this rough itinerary?

Night 1: Edinburgh

Night 2/3: Pitlochry (Highland Games one day)

Night 4: Inverness

Night 5/6: Orkney

Night 7/8: Skye

Night 9/10: Oban/Glencoe area

Night 10/11: Edinburgh

I couldn't decide on Orkney. Originally we had

Night 1: Edinburgh

Night 2/3: Pitlochry (highland games)

Night 4/5: Inverness

Night 6/7: Skye

Night 8/9: Oban/Glencoe area

Night 10/11: Edinburgh

Posted by
941 posts

Hi, Biggie,

I'd go with your original itinerary. With only basically ten days, you're not going to have time to visit both Orkney and Skye. It's a full days drive from Orkney to Skye. One option could be to drop your car at Inverness airport, fly up to Orkney, and hire another car for your time there. It would be an expensive proposition, but given the time that you have, it would be your only way to fit in both Orkney and Skye.

Your original itinerary is very doable, and would give you a decent amount of time in each destination. That would be a classic ten day tour.

Best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
4882 posts

Covering Skye and Orkney is too much for your timescale. Personally, I would do

Edinburgh - 1 night

Inverness 2 nights

Skye 3 nights (only 2 days)

Glencoe (not Oban) 3 nights - drive the Ardnamurchan peninsula

Edinburgh - 2 nights

Getting about takes time there, particularly on Skye, which is better with 3 full days, not 2 and there will be many stops for photo opportunities.

Posted by
43 posts

Thank you both for your input.

We are coming this September. Gasp! I know- nothing like last minute planning, but there were some factors that were beyond our control. I normally have everything all worked out in advance. We are taking my parents with us to Scotland and then London to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

So looking at our original itinerary, I am able to add another night along the way somewhere;

We are flying into Dublin, then to Edinburgh and will arrive around 2pm on Friday Day 1. From here we are just going to take public transportation to Edinburgh for the night. We have accommodations and dinner reservations already.

On Saturday Day 2 we will be getting up SUPER early and driving to the Braemar Gathering (my mom really wants to go to this- it can't be taken out of the itinerary.) We lucked out and got two nights at a B&B in Pitlochry (Sat/Sun). I'm assuming this will be about a 3 hour drive to Braemar from Edinburgh- then the congestion of parking etc. Also- although we've not driven in Scotland before, we've spent 2 long driving holidays in Ireland previously- and last time was during Ophelia 🤦‍♀️ We've secured dinner reservations as well.

Day 3 (Sunday) We left open for exploring Pitlochry, Cairngorms, Moraig Stone Circle, etc. I understand the Queen will be at Balmoral- I know we wont be able to access Balmoral Castle but do you know if we will we be able to access the Balmoral Cairns??? Also- any recommendations for walks in the area/Cairngorms? We are decent hikers, but my mother does have minor mobility issues- steep steep inclines and too many steps is off the table unfortunately.

Day 4; (Monday) we will travel to Inverness. Maybe stop Speyside along the way. We've also already booked lodging for two nights right on the river in Inverness. We'd like to see Culloden, Loch Ness, Clava Cairns. Uruquart Castle, etc.

Day 5 (Tuesday): free day out of Inverness. This is where it gets tough- do we travel into Torridon or Ullapool area? Torridon looks amazing just saying. See some of the other sites near Inverness? Big long bus trip to Orkney (I know... not ideal and not enough time to see everything, lots of time on bus)? Drive to Thurso ourselves and take a ferry to Orkney and have a private company tour of Orkney? Is the drive to Thurso 2 hours or more? Orkney also sounds awesome with the archeological history.

Day 6 (Wednesday): drive Inverness to Skye. Sleep Skye.
Day 7 (Thursday): Skye. Sleep Skye.

Now I'm nervous about Skye- I've looked and we can get decent enough accommodations ( we're not necessarily that picky) so it's not that. But I've heard both good and bad things about Skye- flooded with Tourists, if its gray out it's not as fun. Etc. Etc. But hiking is nice, landscape is beautiful? Is hiking/walking doable for those in their late 60s? No scrambling up rocks, etc? What exactly would you do on Skye? Honest opinions here.

Day 8,9,10 are essentially open then. We will travel back to Edinburgh the morning of the 11th.

The following is what we would choose from on those 3 days: glenfinnan, Ben nevis, ardnamurchan peninsula, tobermory/isle of mull and definitely Loch Lomand and Trossachs National Park. We also found a coasteering morning trip leaving from near Glencoe (not my parents tho). I'd like to take a guided hike/walk, or find something easier for my parents- and just be in nature as much as possible. The Isle of Mull seems to excite me more than Skye- very nice "castle" stay currently available.

Please help!! Suggestions on this are so very much appreciated so I can lock in our stays.

Posted by
168 posts

Yes, you can access some of the Balmoral cairns even when The Queen is in residence, but having read what you say about your mother's mobility issues I doubt she could manage any of them. You have to walk uphill to them all.

On Sunday (Day 3) those who are able could go for a walk up to Prince Albert's Cairn and pass Princess Beatrice's Cairn on the way and your mother could go to church with The Queen, or stand outside with everyone else and watch the comings and goings if she likes. Other cairns are within walking distance of Prince Albert's Cairn, but I don't think you have time to do too much if you are driving up to Balmoral from Pitlochry again?

90 minutes would be about right for the drive from Pitlochry to Braemar, but on the day of the gathering there will be tailbacks as you approach the village. However the set up is pretty slick and they can cope with the amount of visitors the event attracts. Parking is in a field and if the weather has been wet, or is wet on the day it will be muddy underfoot so be prepared for that.

A good walk in the area which would suit you all would be a circuit of nearby Loch Muick (pronounced "Mick" as in Mick Jagger!). It takes about three hours to complete if you don't stop. The car park charge is GBP4 for all day. There is a visitors centre and toilets are available nearby. Also picnic benches.

I live in the Royal Deeside area, so if there's anything else I can help you with send me a private message :-)

Posted by
941 posts

Hi again, Biggie,

To add to sownacks suggestions, the complete circuit of Loch Muick would not work for mum, as the return journey on the eastern side of the loch is very rough and stony for most of the hike. A suitable alternative would be to take the paved path down the western edge of the loch, as far as Glas Allt Shiel, the hunting lodge built for Queen Victoria, and then return the same way. You can go a bit past the lodge, to where small bridges cross the river, but it's rough going after that. It would be all right for most folks, but if mum has mobility problems, the eastern shore is best avioded.

There is a toilet at Glas Allt Shiel, but it's just a hole in the ground. As Mrs. Auchterless said, "There's no way in hell I'm using that!"

Best wishes for your journey. I hope that mum gets to see the Queen!

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: Count on four hours from Edinburgh to Braemar. Best way to get there is the M90 across the Forth Road bridge toward Perth. As you approach Perth, the M90 splits. You most likely will want to take the part of the A90 that heads toward Dundee. Just after you cross the Tay, get on the A85/A93, which is signposted Blairgowrie and Braemar. It's a lovely drive through Blairgowrie and Glenshee. You'll see a brown sign which reads "Deeside Tourist Route to Aberdeen." That's the way you want to go.

It's the better part of two hours back to Pitlochry from Braemar. You can save some time by taking the B950 just south of Blacklunans, and cutting across to Kirkmichael on the A924. That would save you having to drive all the way down to Bridge of Cally to pick up the A924.

Posted by
43 posts

Thanks Again. I will look into those walks.

My Mom really wants to see the Queen! I didn't realize you could go to church with her?!??! Hoping for an appearance at the games!

Mom and Dad have decided no Orkney- as it takes a lot of time- and I'm happy someone made a decision 😂🤣

Posted by
941 posts

Hi yet again, Biggie,

Glad to hear that you're giving Orkney a miss. It's three hours from Inverness to Thurso, and then there's the ferry time, so you wouldn't have time to do justice to both Orkney and Skye.

A good day trip out of Inverness would be to head over to Lochcarron, drive through Glen Torridon, follow the coast road to Ullapool, and either head up to Ledmore Junction and back to Inverness through Strath Oykel, or take the A835 and visit the Falls of Measach. If you want to get really adventurous, you could tackle the Bealach na Ba to Applecross, then follow the coast road around to Shieldaig. You could have lunch at the Applecross Hotel. If you take that route, and find yourselves pressed for time, you could turn back toward Inverness once you reach Kinlochewe.

Skye sometimes gets bad press because of the hordes of tourists which descend on it during the summer months, but you'll be there in early September, so the crowds will have thinned out a bit. There are lots of walks for all capabilities to take on Skye - the Walk Highlands website is a good one to check out. There are also very good boat trips out of Elgol aboard the Bella Jane or AquaXplore. Also Misty Isle Tours.

If you're planning to visit the Ardnamurchan peninsula after Skye, and are planning to head on to Mull, you can take the Kilchoan to Tobermory ferry (no reservations needed - you just show up, but don't miss the last one!) for one of the prettiest ferry journeys in Scotland. Tobermory is only a few miles from Glengorm Castle, which is where I'm assuming your castle stay would be.

There aren't that many low level hikes on Mull, but you can certainly make do by starting out on some of the longer ones, and turning back when it starts to get a bit rough. The island of Ulva, a short passenger ferry ride from Mull, has some very good low level hikes, and if you're going to Mull, you should definitely visit Iona, where there are many good low level walks.

Mrs. A and I are not quite yet in our dotage, but we're most likely a wee bit older than your mum and dad. We've done lots of hiking in Scotland, despite creaking knees and aching backs. And we don't plan to stop, as long as we can put one foot in front of the other! After all, Tom Weir was still hiking the Scottish hills well into his 80s.

Best wishes for your holiday plans. Don't forget to make those accommodation arrangements as soon as you can. It's almost August!


Mike (Auchterless)