Could you tell me how long it should take to drive from a) Ullapool to Durness, and b) Durness to Thurso? Within the chapter on N. Scotland, Rick Steves gives the route he suggests you take in detail but neglects to tell you how long he expects the driving to take. I have looked at the driving distances map in the back and it does give distances but the routes on the map are a straight shoot; so I don't believe they're taking into account the scenic route Rick is recommending and that we would be taking
Use the excellent maps of www.viamichelin.com
I found it fascinating to bring up the satellite view on Google Earth of the various routes and side destinations. What I saw on most seacoast locations in Scotland was a lot of one way in and the same way out again...so allow for a lot of back tracking. The time it takes depends on other things besides distance...weather (we had snow in April), terrain (Scenic pass had a sign that read "You have been Warned"), sheep herds in the road, number of castles and pubs to stop at on the way, and other tourists making too much traffic. Because of all the mountains and lochs the connecting roadways are fewer...so which way you go may be simpler than you might think. Bon Voyage.
We did this drive last fall. It was absolutely beautiful! We drove from Bettyhill to Durness to Ullapool. During our planning we used Secret Scotland to help us plan the route. I just looked back at my information. From Ullapool to Durness it is 68 miles, but will take 2 hours 15 minutes to drive. There are so many lovely places to stop it probably will take longer! We stopped at Kylesku bridge. The best view of the bridge is from the north side. Smoo Cave in Durness is also very interesting. The road is both single track and widens to two way traffic. Make sure your gas tank is full. There is only one town with petrol on this trip, Scourie. We did not drive to Thurso, but it took us 1 hour 15 minutes to drive 41 miles from Durness to Bettyhill. Then my information says that from Bettyhill to Thurso it takes 1 hour, 30 miles. There are a lot of one track roads so distances really take time! If you go through Bettyhill you should stop at the Strathnaver Museum. My Great Grandparents are buried in the cemetery. The museum is an interesting look at the MacKay clan history. There is a very nice cafe near the parking area. We really enjoyed driving the one track roads! Keep an eye out for sheep in the road!
Agreed, Secret Scotland gives great advice about driving times. Before our first trip to Scotland I spoke to a couple of friends who had been there (separately) and they each complained they were rushing from one destination to the next without enough time to enjoy each place.
I would recommend planning using an average of 40 mph on most of the roads. Some are good for up to the limit of 60 others not so.
Doesn't stop me trying though! ;-)
We drove around the top of Scotland--Inverness to Ullapool, Lochinver, Durness, Betty Hill and Helmsdale. We didn't go all the way to Thurso having been there in an earlier trip. We did three nights--Lochinver, Durness and Helmsdale. I think if i were to do it again I would schedule another day. We did not get out to Cape Wrath, which I would have loved to have done, but it is tricky and you need to budget time for it. We went south from Betty Hill to Strathnaver and explored that area. Then we headed south to Helmsdale. I thought Tongue was wonderful and I would have love to have spent the night there.