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Best leisurely route Edinburgh/Glencoe/Mull and back

My husband and I will have 8 days after leaving Edinburgh (back to Edinburgh on the 9th) to see some "Must See" sights. It's our first visit to Scotland. While a castle or two would be nice, we mostly love to drink in the landscape, take scenic walks, stop in quaint towns, mix with the locals, and hit a historical highlight or two. Driving on the left will be a bit stressful so I'd like to keep it to no more than 3 hours a day. (Except the last day.) One route that seems to make sense for a leisurely pace is Edinburgh/Stirling/Callendar/Glencoe/Ft. William/Mull-Iona and back to Edinburgh. Any advice for how many days in each location?
We'd like to stay at least 2 nights if it makes sense.
Or does it make sense to go to Inverness with stops along the way, which also sounds beautiful. I don't want to end up racing from place to place or spending all our time driving. But there's so much to see. Please advise!!

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, Debby,

Given what you've said that you'd like to see, I'd advise spending at least two days on Mull. It's a beautiful island, and from Fionnphort, you can take the passenger ferry to Iona. You didn't say when you're going, but if it's soon, you'll have lots of daylight. If it's later in the year, you need to get out early to take advantage of as much daylight as possible.

In addition to Iona, I'd recommend a side trip to the island of Ulva, which is off of the west coast of Mull. Most of the roads on Mull are single track with passing places, so be prepared.

To avoid backtracking, and since you're going to be in Fort William anyway, I'd recommend taking the A830 to Lochailort, the A861 to Salen, and the B8007 to Kilchoan, where you can catch the ferry to Tobermory on Mull. Then you can come back from Craignure to Oban. That way, you avoid backtracking, and see some unbelievable scenery. The B8007 is a spectacular single track road, but you need to drive it at a leisurely pace.

Stirling is just over an hour's drive from Edinburgh, via the M9, and Callander only a half hour beyond Stirling via the A84, so you should have no trouble visiting those places on your first day out. Glencoe is only a couple of hours beyond Callander via the A84, A85, and A82, so you can visit there on day 2. Many visitors to this site overnight in the Glencoe area, so that's something to think about. At that point, you'll be fairly close to Fort William.

After you come back from Mull, you'll still have a few days to spare before your return to Edinburgh. You could possibly travel down the Kintyre peninsula, take a ferry from Claonaig to Lochranza on Arran, visit Arran for a day, then head back from Brodick to Ardrossan. Just a thought.

If you decide to travel to Inverness via the M9/A9, that opens up a whole different choice of options. If you drive straight through, it's about four to five hours with a stop for lunch. Once you get to Inverness, you have the option of driving part of the NC 500, visiting Skye, or heading down the side of the Caledonian Canal to Fort William. If you stay in Inverness for a couple of days, you can make day trips to many places, including Ullapool, Applecross, Lochcarron, etc. If you take the A9, keep to the speed limit. There are speed cameras all along the road.

Ultimately, though, whichever way you go is up to you and your husband. You have eight days, which will allow you to see a lot, without having to do a lot of driving each day. Best thing to do is find a good guidebook, i.e.: Lonely Planet or Rough Guide, and look for places along your planned route that you'd like to visit. You don't necessarily have to buy a guide - you should be able to find one at your local library, or they can order one through interlibrary loan.

Don't worry about driving on the left. It takes anywhere from an hour to a day to get used to it. I'd advise hiring your car at the airport, rather than in the city, as getting acclimated to driving on the left in the middle of Edinburgh can be quite traumatic. If you hire at the airport, you can get right on the A8, then the M9 for Stirling. If you'd feel more comfortable not having to change gears, while concentrating on driving on the left, you may want to arrange for a car with automatic transmission. Though I will say that driving a stick shift is a heck of a lot of fun once you get used to it.

Best wishes for a wonderful trip!

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
2746 posts

Agree about reserving an automatic transmission car and picking it up at the airport. Ask the agent who actually puts you into your car which signs to follow at the roundabouts leaving the airport "campus" to get onto the Motorway headed toward Stirling. The signs are not necessarily self-explanatory to those of us who aren't very fluent with Scotland's geography.

You will see awe-inspiring scenery anywhere and everywhere north of Stirling up toward Glencoe and Ft. William. (I can't speak for the islands but am sure they're beautiful too.) Returning you might want to stay to the west and visit Inveraray, then go over the "rest and be thankful" pass and travel south along the west bank of Loch Lomond. The village of Luss is very charming and you can take a short cruise on the loch from there. See http://www.cruiselochlomond.co.uk/

At the southern end of Loch Lomond in Balloch is a large, well-marked roundabout where you can turn west to go through Stirling and from there back to Edinburgh.

Alternatively, return by way of Inveraray and down through Aviemore and Pitlochry. Again, you can't go wrong with the scenery.