Please sign in to post.

Best laid plans often change

Just got word that the flight we were connecting to at LHR (coming from Hawaii through Seattle) to Inverness was cancelled.

Per BA, our options are to fly in to and out of any other airport that BA serves (Aberdeen, Glasgow or Edinburgh) or take a much later flight to INV, Spending an extra 10 hours at LHR is not my idea of the way to spend our first day in Britain when I know how tired we'll be after that long time in the air. We leave the evening of May 1 and don't arrive until the early morning of May 3.

We'll be getting a rail/bus/ferry pass for the 2 weeks we'll be there in early May. Our top priorities are Edinburgh (if we fly in or out of there), Falkirk, Stirling, Oban, Skye and Harris and Lewis. We understand it's cramming a lot in to a short period of time, but we tend to go and go when we're on vacation, even though we're well in to our senior years.

I'd really appreciate any recommendations as to which airports to use, both for arrival and departure, for the least amount of time getting to where we want to be via public transportation.

Thank you for any suggestions!

Posted by
956 posts

Hi, Terri,

How can BA know that a flight in May was cancelled, unless they've stopped serving that route altogether? If you fly in to Aberdeen, it's about eight miles from Dyce to the train station. Both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports are centrally located, and would offer easy access to Stirling and Falkirk. Falkirk is closer to EDI; GLA is closer to Stirling.

Will you be purchasing a transport pass that covers you every day for your time in Scotland, or will it be one of those eight days out of 15 days passes? If it's the latter, you may have to purchase extra tickets to cover the days that you need to travel outwith the designated eight.

If you fly in to EDI, you can spend your time there, then visit Falkirk and Stirling on your way over to Oban and Mull. There are several ways of getting from Mull to Skye. Once you cross Skye, you'll be on the ferry from Uig to Tarbert. Getting around the Outer Hebrides by public transportation is not easy, but it can be done. Western Isles buses serve the route all the way from Port of Ness to Rodel. The bus even goes to Luskentyre. If you fancy a good hike, the bus stops at Northton on Harris, and there is a very easy low level hike out to a ruined 14th. century church. You pass some gorgeous beaches along the way.

There's no bus service in the Outer Hebrides on Sunday. be sure to keep that in mind.

Can BA route you any different way, or do they no longer serve Inverness? If it's just the particular day of the week that they don't fly, can you leave a day earlier to get a flight with a better connection?

Good luck!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
126 posts

Thanks, Mike! A wealth of info as always!

BA changed their flights from INV from 3 a day to only 2 "due to financial reasons" per the agent.

Is it worth going from the islands back over to Aberdeen for the return flight or better to just head back down to Glasgow or Edinburgh? The agent said that we could change in any way we wanted, even to changing dates of the flights. As we're using miles for the SEA-Hawaii routing and back home, we're pretty locked in on the dates, but want to make the most of what we have in Scotland without being on the train most of the time.

We're looking at the 8 out of 15 days Spirit of Scotland ticket as we'll want to spend nights in different areas. Unless I misread the options, the 8 days don't have to be consecutive.

Posted by
8641 posts

Will BA give you lounge access while you wait for the 'much later' flight?

Posted by
2090 posts

I'd fly into EDI. There's now an airport tram that takes you right into the city from the airport. How can anyone get enough of this great city?
Safe travels.

Posted by
956 posts

Hi again, Terri,

As you're using public transportation, you don't have the disadvantage of having to return a hired car to where you picked it up.

Here's a possibility, if you end up flying in to EDI from Seattle - Loganair/FlyBe has direct flights from Stornoway to Edinburgh. You could conceivably end your road/rail/ferry part of your holiday in Stornoway, then fly back to EDI. Then if you have any days left on your holiday, you could spend them exploring the areas around Edinburgh. If you hadn't visited Falkirk by then, you'd have a good opportunity to do so.

Loganair has flights from Stornoway to Aberdeen, but they involve puddle jumping, and are a lot more expensive than the direct flights to Edinburgh. Aberdeen is pretty far out of the way for the rest of your plans, unless it's the only airport that will work on your particular day. It's just over two hours to Inverness by train from Aberdeen, and about three hours to Edinburgh. But then you'd be using your pass on the first day, and would only have seven days of travel left before you have to start paying for individual journeys.

There are no direct flights from Benbecula or Inverness (The airports closest to Stornoway) to Edinburgh.

Keep us posted on your plans.

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
126 posts

Sitting in a first class lounge is nice, but doesn't compare to losing a half day of our time is Scotland. :)

Thank you, Pat. Edinburgh is great, but we've been there before and was hoping to do much more in the Highlands and islands this trip.

Mike, I'll check on flights on LoganAir. I've already checked train travel from Aberdeen and would not only add about $100 to the flight cost if we didn't use the pass, but would be about 2 1/2 hours wasted. There are a lot of castles in the area, but with Duone (my favorite), Edinburgh and Stirling, I think we'd have enough other than seeing others in passing.

We could fly in to EDI, take the bus to town and work in a clockwise direction, ending up in Inverness. We can still fly out of there, just would be a much earlier flight (7A)and still have a 7 hour layover at LHR. Advantage is that we wouldn't need to backtrack to EDI or GLA as well as saving a day of the rail pass.

Posted by
4670 posts

How can BA know that a flight in May was cancelled, unless they've stopped serving that route altogether?

Back in the summer BA changed our Boxing Day flight to Mallorca to Christmas Day so we changed our hotel bookings, car hire etc. A few days later they cancelled the flight entirely. No compensation on the additional costs of the hotel and car hire changes. We re-booked with Easyjet in the end.

Posted by
2128 posts

Can you fly from Seattle to Amsterdam on KLM. Plenty of flights from AMS to various Scottish cities? Plus you stay airside in Amsterdam and do immigration where you enter the UK, avoiding London.

Posted by
126 posts

Tickets are already purchased.

We flew in and out of Amsterdam the last time we flew to Scotland, but this time the BA deal was much better with no overnight needed in SEA after flying in from Hawaii.

Posted by
681 posts

OMG, good luck. Just thinking of all the alternatives is giving me a headache. I can't imagine what you feel!

Posted by
126 posts

Definitely a lot to think about, Nancy. So many options to figure out. At least our trip is some time away, so at least we don't have to make an immediate decision.

On the other side, we could get everything redone then find out that another flight has been changed or cancelled.

Despite it all, we're going back to Scotland and that makes it all worth the hassle!

Posted by
126 posts

Now that we have a better idea of times and travel, we're wondering if we may not be better off using a local guide for the Skye and Lewis/Harris portions of the trip. Most of the tours head out from Inverness, but as we'll already have the train/ferry/bus pass, it may be time and cost effective to use local guides where we'll have more time to look at the things we really want to see rather than be on a time table that a bigger tour offers. We could spend the night before on the islands as well, giving us more time.

Would love any recommendations any have. We've booked a Rabbies tour for some of the Outlander places we want to go. I've already done Duone Castle, but didn't have enough time to fully explore it as the tour got there fairly close to closing time.

Posted by
956 posts

Hi, Terri,

Make sure that you get to Midhope and Blackness Castles on your "Outlander" tour, as well as Callendar House in Falkirk. They're all within a few miles of one another. I think that Rabbie's goes to Midhope and Blackness; not sure about Callendar House. Glen Finnich would be alother good place to visit, although it takes a bit of climbing.

Good idea about hiring local guides for Skye and Harris/Lewis. Public transportation is not the greatest on the islands. You can get to where you're going without much problem; but you may have to wait a long time to get to the next stop, or get back to your lodging due to the infrequency of the buses. Taxi service, although good, especially on Skye, may take a long time to get to you.

Things not to miss on Harris are the beaches at Luskentyre and Scarista, St. Clement's Church, and the easy but beautiful walk out to the ruined teampall from the turning point at Northton. Also the Golden Road and ithe island of Scalpay, if your guide is up to it.

On Lewis, don't miss Dun Carloway broch and the Callanish standing stones, as well as the Garenin Blackhouses and Lews Castle.

There is much on Skye in most guidebooks. The Steves' guidebook devotes 33 pages to Skye, and 0 to Harris and Lewis. By comparison, Lonely Planet (2017) devotes 11 pages to Skye, and six to Harris and Lewis.

I can recommend the Harris Hotel in Tarbert if you're looking to stay in the Outer Hebrides overnight. Also the Hotel Hebrides in Tarbert for evening meals. You can walk from one to the other.

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
126 posts

Thanks again, Mike! The Callanish Stones are the reason we've decided to head to the Outer Hebrides. Our budget is tight, so we're hoping we'll get better opportunities with a local guide.

I think for Skye, the spots that most tours cover are what we're looking at, but thought we'd be wasting money and time by heading back to Inverness only to head back out to Lewis and Harris.

Posted by
956 posts

Hi again, Terri,

You can catch a bus to Uig on Skye, then take the CalMac ferry from there to Tarbert on Harris. It's a pleasant ferry ride, and a good opportunity to see minke whales or dolphins, if you're lucky.

There are about six buses a day from Portree to Uig, so you can find a bus that will match up with your ferry schedule. There are only two ferries a day on that route.

If you do end up staying at the Harris Hotel, it's a short walk from the ferry terminal, just at the start of the A859 leading to Stornoway. Don't quote me on this, but they may be willing to pick you up at the ferry terminal. They also do laundry for a small fee, if your laundry is starting to pile up. Otherwise, there is a small laundromat in Stornoway, near the college dorms. The Harris hotel dinners are expensive, which is why we've walked down to the restaurant at the Hotel Hebrides, which is less expensive. If you decide to walk to the hotel, stay to the left as you leave the ferry, instead of heading in to town. You'll pass the gin distillery on the left, then connect with the A859, where you'll turn right.

There are other standing stones near Callanish, but none so dramatic. There's a small cafe at the visitor center. There's free admission to the visitor center and the stones, but a charge to see the (unnecessary) introductory video.

Wish I could go with you and be your guide!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
126 posts

Oh, if that were only possible, Mike! Bet you'd make the best guide there.

Posted by
126 posts

This is a 'just in case' question. It looks as though our best bet for flights is going to be EDI, both coming and going to avoid a very long layover at LHR, so we'll be using a few more hours in getting back to Edinburgh for the flight.

If we find that we're a bit short on time once in Scotland (early to mid-May), would you recommend skipping the Mull Island section of the trip or the Outer Hebrides and possibly Skye? Beaches are the least of our interests since we live in Hawaii, and museums are far down the list from scenery and people.

Posted by
956 posts

Hi, Terri,

If I had the choice between visiting Skye/Harris-Lewis and Mull, I'd definitely go with the former. There's much more to see on Skye, Harris, and Lewis, even if you never get anywhere near to a beach (but you should visit at least one on Harris!). Although Mull is a beautiful island, it's more of a stopping off point for Iona and Staffa. That said, I do love Tobermory, and there are a couple of castles worth visiting.

Armadale to EDI is about a seven hour drive, including ferry time. However, you shouldn't depend on a ferry voyage on a day that you're heading to EDI. They're usually extremely dependable, but there's always the chance of a mechanical breakdown or a sudden force three gale.

Hope that helps.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
126 posts

I was hoping you'd respond. Your opinions are valued as are others! We were looking at the 3 isle tour including Mull, etc. My spreadsheet is loaded with links and great to-dos.

We'll be in EDI for a few days on arrival and likely at least a night before departure. Best laid plans.... :) We'd planned on a ferry/bus/train from the Outer Hebrides back to Inverness, then down to Edinburgh, so will have at least 3 days set aside for getting there.

Looks like we may be switching things up a bit and going counter-clockwise rather than clockwise, which would put Mull tour at the end rather than the beginning of the trip.

Happy Thanksgiving!