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.