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Compressed schedule workable?

I was in the midst of planning a trip to Scotland when my sister mentioned she might like to come along. However, she has very limited vacation days so we would need to do this on a compressed schedule. I'm not getting in everything that I would like to see but I always say I will return someday. Can I get some advice on whether my plan would work? I am fully aware this trip will not have a lot of leisure time but I also don't want to kill myself running from point A to B. I want to be able to stop the car from time to time without staring at my watch.

Day 1 - Arrive in Edinburgh in the morning, half day seeing Edinburgh

Day 2 - Edinburgh

Day 3 - rent car at Edinburgh Airport or take train to Stirling and rent car there, Stirling Castle, drive to Glencoe

Day 4 - Drive to Glenfinnan Viaduct then Eilean Donan and Portree

Day 5 - Isle of Skye, Trotternish Peninsula, drive to Urquhart Castle/Loch Ness, spend night near Inverness

Day 6 - Culloden, return car in Inverness and take train to Edinburgh

Day 7 - Flight home

I am nervous about renting a car in Edinburgh because I don't like driving on the left side of the road and driving in a larger city. So I'm hoping that I can rent in Stirling and return it in Inverness. It looks like there are a few car hire companies in both places but would love to hear from anyone who has done a similar "open jaw" on the car hire.

I did consider renting the car at the airport on the day we arrive and putting Edinburgh at the end of the trip. But I have trouble sleeping on planes and I do not want to drive on little sleep.

Posted by
7083 posts

Can you let your sister go home and without you so you can stay as long as you wanted originally?

Posted by
6 posts

My sister doesn't fly often and she has never done so by herself. If I told her to fly 10 hours home by herself, she probably would not go on the trip at all.

Posted by
2532 posts

if you hire your car at the airport then you will not have to go anywhere near Edinburgh city centre with the car,very easy to get onto the road to Stirling from the airport. Buses and trams from the city centre to the airport take about 30 minutes.

Posted by
2926 posts

On Day 5 you've got an awful lot of sights compressed together. If you are really keen to see some of the Isle of Skye and Urquhart Castle (which is right near the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition -- not cheesy and very interesting), then I would spread those over Day 5 and 6 and skip Culloden Battlefield. OTOH if Culloden is more important (and it's right near Cawdor Castle) then eliminate something earlier in the trip such as Stirling Castle or Eilean Donan Castle or Urquhart Castle.

Distances take longer to cover in Scotland than they look on a map, to American eyes anyway.

I agree with Unclegus that the car rental facility at the airport is well connected to the main highways so you won't be navigating crowded city streets. The important thing is to ask the car rental agent (the one who actually signs you into your car) which signs to follow at the roundabout(s) leaving the airport to get on the M9 toward Stirling. Your desired direction may seem obvious to those who've been there, but to a newcomer adjusting to driving on the "wrong" side, it can throw you into a panic to find no signs matching what you expected. For example (I don't know this for a fact, just hypothetically) if there are only 2 choices, Livingston and Linlithgow, you as a tourist would not necessarily know that Linlithgow is the one en route to Stirling.

Posted by
6 posts

What if we saved Urquhart/Loch Ness/Culloden for the morning of day 6? Since the train from Inverness to Edinburgh is only 4 hours, we wouldn't need to catch it until mid-day. (I'm assuming there are multiple trains to take during the day.)

I'm also wondering if we need to take the train all the way to Waverly or if there is a stop closer to the airport if we decided on a hotel near there.

Posted by
2532 posts

there is a stop at Haymarket a couple of minutes before Waverley, walk out the door and there is a bus stop and tram stop that will get you to the Airport in about 20 minutes.

Posted by
5483 posts

You are trying to cover a lot of ground in a little time.

Personally, I would drop Inverness and spend another day on Skye. Culloden is just a field and there isn't much to see there other than taking the audio tour. When I was on Skye, the mist and cloud covered the Cullins (mountains) for two days, so I was glad I had longer to see Skye in clear weather (I was there late June).

I would also skip Loch Ness as there are many nicer lochs that you will see.

It takes longer to get from Inverness to Edinburgh by train than driving.

Posted by
556 posts

I had a lot more time in the area than you will so I stopped at Culloden and really enjoyed it. But, that's me, I like battlefields and the stories that go with them. It took about an hour to do the audio walking tour and the visitor center. I skipped Loch Ness, as others have said there are nicer lakes to see. If you don't have to stop in Inverness (to sleep) then I would also skip this and spend the time on Isle of Skye. I rented my car at the airport as it's easy to get out of town from there so that is a good plan.