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Doable? 10 days couple no kids


Please see link for proposed route. Overnight/base recommendations appreciated. Trying to drive no more than 3-4 hrs a day. Hubby is driving and he told me he likes to have some flexibility and not be tied to a specific itinerary but doesn’t want to get stuck without accommodation (we normally wing it). He also wants to see a lot but still have down time. Priorities are mix of castles/history and scenery. Prefer picturesque villages (Killin, plockton, tongue) to busy centers (ft Williams/Inverness) unless it is a major difference in convenience/drive time. Only absolute must is Orkney due to local culture and awesome prehistory. Think it will be most unique part of trip.

This was previously a motorbike trip but is now possibly a Caterham or convertible trip. We are packing very light.


Tentative: day 1: arrive Edinburgh morning 9am. Nap. See some sites and walk around
Day 2: Falkirk wheel (possible engineering tour) Stirling Castle/Kilchurn Castle o/n killin
Day 3: glencoe (ski lift over) Kintail, Torridon/applecross loop w/Bealach na ba. Lite hiking. O/n plockton?

Day 4: travel to harris via skye early as possible. Day in harris. Golden rd, luskentyre etc beaches o/n island
Day 5: day in Lewis. Standing stones, Carloway Broch, Iron Age house Ferry to ullapool o/n ulapool
Day 6: ullapool to Assynt/Kylesku area via inverpolly and stoer head. O/n assynt or Kylesku.

Day 7: assynt/Kylesku to scrabster via smoo caves, balnakeil beach, tongue. O/n tongue or near ferry.

OR detour to duncansby head and whaligoe steps and leave for Orkney from gills bay.
Day 8-10: orkney -mainland 2 days then hoy and/or rousay 1 day. Or 1 day each. See as many ancient sites
as possible by day and, hopefully listen to some music at night.

Day 10: Fly back to edinburg from Kirkwall or see duncansby and whaligoe steps then fly from wick.

Day 11: fly home. OR extra day-where to put it?
Day 12: fly home.

*I hate to nix aberdeenshire but it just seems too out of the way. Draw: castles and less crowded and scenic roads. See last note.
* possible detours to tantallon/dirleton, Killin, loch morar
*fly back from Kirkwall or wick to Edinburgh to eliminate some drive time
*possible addition of 11th day, to either be spent in Edinburgh area, on skye or harris/Lewis, or northwest.
*The alternative someone else proposed to keep aberdeenshire had me nixing kilchurn, stirling and falkirk wheel but I think the drive time would be too much even then.

Thank you!

Posted by
6223 posts

Boy, that looks...frantic. You have a LOT of moving around, along with days where you have multiple things to see/do on that day. And many days where you have both - that is "get to someplace, spend time someplace, including attractions X, Y and Z etc." I have to question how realistic those days are.

What time of year?

I did a good portion of this (not all of it) a couple summers ago. We had a wonderful time but were moving very fast, probably a little too fast. I think it looks like you may be going even faster.

I would go back and take a hard, sober look at your estimated drive/travel times, and be realistic about days that start with X hours in transit, then include a list of things you expect to see/do/accomplish on that same day. Getting around on those small roads takes longer than you first expect.

One other thing: you could save some transit time by flying between some of these places (eg we flew out to Stornoway, on Lewis; after about a day-and-a-half there, we flew on to Orkney; from Orkney, we flew back to London via Edinburgh). While I certainly enjoy the ferry experience, you may not have enough time for the luxury of the time necessary for the ferry experience.

Tip: eat some scallops when you're on Orkney - the best I've ever had (and the size of a man's fist). Found them in a bar across from the docks in Kirkwall. Mmmmm.

Posted by
503 posts

Personally, I think you will have significant problems with this itinerary. Driving times listed on Google are not very realistic - the general the "rule of thumb" is to add about 20 - 25% to the stated time.
Day 4 is problematic. Assuming you take the ferry from Uig to you MIGHT be able to do it - it all depends upon the ferry schedule. To be honest, I think trying to drive to skye to make a specific ferry on the same day is asking for trouble. If you are intent on going to Harris, stay on skye the night before. The ferry schedule is varied and very dependent on weather conditions - with your proposed itinerary you have absolutely no room for delays or cancellations - something you need to keep in mind regardless of what time of year you go.
You have the same issue with 7 if you plan to go to Orkney - ferries don't run every hour and if you are taking a car (which you will be doing) you should definitely make a reservation.. If you are serious about seeing Harris and Orkney you need to look at the ferry schedules and determine if the ferry times work given the other places on your itinerary.
In short, I think you need to be a bit more realistic on what you can reasonably see in that time frame. I'd recommend making a list ofy your "must see"s" and then work from there.

Posted by
1306 posts

Hi, 2stubburn1,

That is one frantic schedule, especially days three to five. On your Outer Hebrides part of the itinerary, you are going to be at the mercy of the MacBrayne schedule.

Day two isn't bad, and is eminently doable. Overnighting in Killin will give you a good shot at an early start for Glencoe. However, on day three, doing Glencoe and the Torridon loop via the Bealach na Ba is going to take a lot longer than you are giving yourselves time for. The coast road around to Sheildaig is very slow going, as is the Bealach. The good thing is that if you visit Glen Torridon and Beinn Eighe, you can return by way of Achnasheen and avoid seeing some of the same road twice.

On day three, your schedule is going to be determined by the ferry schedule. For day four, if you overnight in Plockton, it is a minimum of three hours from Plockton to Uig. MacBraynes only have early ferries on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Otherwise, it's a 2 p.m. sailing to Tarbert on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday; and 6:30 Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. If you want to do the Golden Road, as well as visiting Luskentyre, Scarista, and Northton beaches, you are looking at a minimum of six hours if you plan to do anything more than see the beaches through the windscreen of your car.

On day five, unless you overnight on Lewis instead of Harris, you are going to need an early start to take in Callanish, Dun Carloway, and the blackhouses. The last ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool leaves at 2 p.m. Monday to Friday; 3:30 on Saturday; and 3:00 on Sunday. Don't forget that you need to be at the ferry slip 30 minutes ahead of departure.

Day six (if you've made it that far), there is very little accommodation near Kylesku. You'd be better off overnighting in Lochinver or Scourie. A visit to Handa Island would be a good side trip while you're in the area.

Day ten: Make sure that you hire your car from a company that has an office in Kirkwall, so that you can do a one way drop off. If you fly from Wick to Edinburgh, be aware that Loganair has only one flight per day, and it generally leaves in early afternoon. You'd also need to check about car drop off there as well.

Spend that extra day in Scotland, and fly home on day 12. Stretch the middle part out of your itinerary out a bit, and take the time to enjoy the magnificent scenery.

I have to say that if I told my wife we were doing an itinerary like yours, she'd have my guts for garters!

Best wishes for your holidays. You've certainly picked some beautiful areas of Scotland to visit. Take the time to enjoy them. :)


Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
800 posts

Wow - this is totally unrealistic in terms of your aim of only having 3 or 4 hours drive time each day. Google and other route planning software wildly underestimate the drive times in this part of the world. (I couldn't get your link to open by the way).

Personally, I wouldn't drive Highland roads in a sports car or anything with a low suspension. The roads have lots of potholes, and I sometimes to struggle to avoid them even though I know where they are (on Skye at least!). We have had B&B guests who have been delayed because they've hit a pothole which has taken out not one, but two of the tyres on their rental car. It took them pretty much all day to get towed to the nearest settlement and for replacements to be fitted. We've had other guests where the rental company has forced them to return the damaged car to the pick up point (e.g. Glasgow airport) before giving them a replacement vehicle to continue their journey. Guests who've arrived in sports cars often get out of their cars, clutching their aching backs! And a convertible might seem like a good idea, but it's generally windy here and if it's not windy it's probably raining - or both. So the amount of time spent with the lid down could be miniscule.

On to your itinerary. Day 1 and 2 look OK, but then it gets problematic.

Day 3. Killin to Glencoe ski lift is at least an hour driving. The Glencoe to Kintail is at least 2 hours. Then you plan to do Applecross, the Bealach na Ba and loop back to Plockton. That could take at least 3 hours on its own and is mostly single track road with passing places (see my recent post for a film about driving on these roads). You will not be able to overtake, you will be relying on slower vehicles getting out your way. The Bealach in summer will be a steady stream of rental cars, campervans and motorbikes all doing what you are doing. There will be plenty of hold ups, while people negotiate the passing places. I love driving that route, but not in summer with all the traffic.

Day 4 - Plockton to Uig for the ferry. Allow 2 to 2.5 hours. It is about 1.45 from the bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh to Uig and that's on a good day with no slow traffic getting in your way. You need to be at the ferry a minimum of 30 minutes before it departs. Have you looked at the summer schedule? There are only one or two ferries a day depending which day of the week you travel. The earliest is either 0930 or 1410 depending on the day. You won't have much time for anything except a drive around Harris and a quick look at a couple of beaches. We spent a whole week on Lewis/Harris and didn't see everything or do all the hiking we wanted to. Again, there are lots of single track roads here, which will slow you down.

Day 5 Lewis to Ullapool. Here is the ferry schedule. ferry to Ullapool There are only two per day. So you won't have all day on Lewis as the ferry is either at 1400, 1500 or 1530 depending on day. Not enough time to do the things you've listed.

I'm less familiar with the northern part of your route, but suspect you may have been over ambitious on what can be achieved, as again there are plenty of single track roads.

Day 8-10. I am familiar with Orkney and again I think you are trying to do too much. There are plenty of amazing sites on the mainland of Orkney to fill your time.

Just a thought on accommodation. You are planning to travel to places where accommodation is limited. You will need to book well ahead of time. You don't say when you are travelling but I'm assuming summer. Good places fill up fast.

Best wishes,
Skyegirl (Jacqui)

Posted by
459 posts

We wanted hiking and scenery on our trip to Glen Coe, around the Fort William area, out to Skye and back to Edinburgh and I used this site to help me locate hikes that were awesome. It is a great tool for early planning and then for working out your routing along the way. I thought it might be helpful for you.

Posted by
1306 posts

Hi again, 2stubburn1,

Some additional information that may be of some help:

If you're hiring a car out of EDI, Avis and Europcar are the only major car rental agencies that have an office in Kirkwall. If you plan to drop off in Wick, Hertz is the only agency which serves the airport. If you plan to hire a fancy car out of EDI, make sure that you can do a one way drop off up north. I don't see much use for a sports car or convertible up there. They may charge you extra for having the car transported back to a place where it would stand a chance of being hired.

Loganair only has one flight per day from Wick to Edinburgh, and three from Kirkwall to Edinburgh.

Also, if you are overnighting in Killin on day two, Kilchurn Castle is really far out of your way. Best to go from Falkirk to Stirling, and maybe visit Doune Castle on your way to Killin. Days three and four, if your itinerary remains the way it is, you'd be looking at a conservative estimate of eight to nine hours of driving per day. Possibly longer, depending on traffic. I know that's not what you want to hear, but as Jacqui (Skyegirl) pointed out, you'll be on a lot of narrow or single track roads, with not much opportunity to pass other vehicles. Not that you'd want to be in a hurry - the scenery is too magnificent to rush by!

Best wishes once again,

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: It's approximately 60 miles from Tongue to Scrabster. Count on at least two hours drive time. Thurso to Whaligoe is approximately 30 miles. If you're visiting Duncansby Head in the same day as Whaligoe, it's going to be out of your way, especially if you're coming from the Kylesku area. It's about 75 miles from Kylesku to Tongue. If you're stopping at the Smoo Cave and Balnakeil on that section of your route, you need to get a really early start.

If you're sailing from Scrabster to Stromness, you have to be really aware of the ferry schedule. Even in peak summer season, there are only three services per day, with the first leaving at 8:45 a.m. Remember that you have to be at the ferry slip 30 minutes ahead of departure. The voyage time is 90 minutes, so you need to take that into consideration in your travel time.

You may want to consider passing up on the North Coast, and turning back toward Inverness from Laxford Bridge. You could then turn in your car at Inverness Airport, fly to Kirkwall, since Orkney seems the main focus of your journey, hire a new car there, and spend some extra time enjoying the islands at a more leisurely pace. Then you could fly back to Edinburgh from Kirkwall. There are two flights daily from Inverness to Kirkwall, and the prices seem reasonable. Flight time is 45 minutes.

Posted by
5 posts

Based on numerous suggestions, I am now trying to decide between three possible routes. The first includes aberdeenshire and has two options. End Harris/Lewis then fly back to Edinburgh OR nix harris/Lewis and drive back via glencoe,stirling back to Edinburgh. The other two focus on the west: one including harris/Lewis and the other including Applecross/Torridon/Gairloch. Both latter two involve flying back from Kirkwall or wick to Edinburgh.!24648083&lat=57.544694080889315&lng=-4.816177262771703&utm_campaign=trip&utm_medium=share&utm_source=copy&z=6.369911538813217!18*1*6*5*4*8*9,t!24651459&lat=57.40230369761164&lng=-6.644861659970843&utm_campaign=trip&utm_medium=share&utm_source=copy&z=6.369911538813212!24647418&lat=57.63635262238975&lng=-5.591490229286819&utm_campaign=trip&utm_medium=share&utm_source=email&z=6.601807540264702

Posted by
1306 posts

Hi again, 2stubburn1,

Much as I love Aberdeenshire, I'd definitely have to give it up in favor of Harris and Lewis. I see that your second two itineraries involve flying into or out of Wick. Don't forget that there's only one flight daily to and from EDI, and Hertz is the only game in town for car rental. If you do take the A93 up from Perth and through Blairgowrie, Braemar Castle is worth a miss. Crathes, Drum, Craigievar, Fyvie, and Haddo House are much more interesting.

If you're going to be in Lochinver, it would definitely be better to take the unclassified "Wee Mad Road" south to Stac Pollaidh and Loch Lurgainn, as opposed to going back out to the A894.

Don't forget to make reservations in advance for whichever ferries you decide to take, and to be at the ferry slip at least 30 minutes prior to departure.

Best of luck,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
5 posts

Hi, me again.

Trying to prioritize: in terms of scenic value (best prettiness to traffic ratio) what would be your ranking for each area: Applecross/Torridon, gairloch, the northwest from assynt to Durness, harris/Lewis, Glencoe, or other (please describe).

.....Stuck in a waiting room right now. Thanks.

Posted by
1306 posts

Hi again, 2stubburn1,

I know I'm going to take a lot of heat for this, but in order of traffic to scenery, I'd say:

1) Assynt to Durness, especially if you get off of the main roads. Some of the most spectacular scenery in Scotland, if not the world. Of particular interest would be the Stac Pollaidh/Loch Lurgainn area; the Coigach peninsula; the B869 from Lochinver to Kylesku; the Tarbet-Fanagmore-Foindle loop near Scourie; the hike to Sandwood Bay; and the ferry/minibus outing to Cape Wrath.

2) Harris and Lewis, particularly South Harris, for its stunning beaches and east coast "moonscape." Lewis for the stones at Callanish and Dun Carloway.

3) The Applecross peninsula, mainly for the Bealach na Ba and the drive around the Inner Sound and Loch Torridon on the way to Sheildaig. The drive up through Beinn Eighe, and alongside Loch Maree, on your way to Gairloch, is definitely a plus.

4) Tossup between Gairloch and Glencoe. Gairloch was a bit down at the heels last time we visited. And it was a sunny day! It's a good place for an overnight, but the fun is in all of the side roads that take you out to the end of peninsulas. Big Sand, on the way to Melvaig, is an excellent beach, and the campsite is a good place to do the laundry. Side roads lead to places like Cove, Mellon Udrigle, Badachro, and Redpoint. Poolewe and Inverewe Gardens are close by.

On the other hand, Glencoe is more of an atmospheric place, with an austere beauty, and many places to hike and get away from it all. As it's on the main tourist route from the Central Belt to Skye, you'll find a lot more visitors there. Whether it's the mountain climbing or the association with the Glencoe Massacre, Glencoe has become one of the most popular destinations in Scotland.

"Oh cruel is the snow that sweeps Glencoe
And covers the grave o' Donald
And cruel is the foe that raped Glencoe
And murdered the house o' MacDonald"

Those would be my personal choices, based on your question. I hope that helps in some way with your own choices!

Best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
5 posts

It is helpful. Thanks. The trip is end of May/early June btw. I know it is bank holiday. I can move a week back but I will still catch bank holiday on tail end.

Main issue I am torn about is harris/Lewis vs applecross/Torridon/Bealach na ba/gairloch. I assume harris/Lewis has better traffic but also I have to contend w/ferry schedules. The route taking harris/Lewis includes the ferry from skye-harris/Lewis-Ullapool missing the Torridon area. Doubling back adds a lot of drive time.


Posted by
800 posts

I would do Lewis & Harris in preference to the Bealach if I absolutely had to choose only one. Lewis & Harris are stunningly beautiful and the roads are much less busy. It's a very hard choice to have to make, but that'd be the way I'd go.