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Edinburgh to Portree, best route and rental car.

I will be visiting Scotland in June and want to start in Edinburgh then go to the Isle of Skye for 4 or 5 days or so, then back to Edinburgh. I will stay in Portree. I'm not sure how to get there on a budget and with minimal driving. I want to drive around Skye and Portree once there, but am not sure about driving all the way there from Edinburgh. I'm on a solo trip from the USA and not used to driving on the other side of the road. One site I saw said to take a bus to Inverness and rent a car from there. Another said to take the train all the way to Kyle and rent there. Then when I looked up costs to rent a car in Kyle they seemed expensive. £40 a day. Is that normal? Is it cheaper to rent a car from Inverness? Is the route easy? Any tips would be helpful, thanks!

Posted by
3091 posts

If you are not considering stopping between Edinburgh and Skye ( a shame , really ) and given your reticence about driving , rail service from Edinburgh to the Kyle of Localsh is about seven hours , and a discount ticket is as low as 16 pounds . Any additional rental fee would easily be offset by the rental cost plus fuel from Edinburgh . Under the circumstances you describe , that seems the best solution . If you were to change your mind about stopping en route , that would alter my recommendation .

Posted by
742 posts

Theres also Scotish Citylink buses.
I know they run,Portree to Glasgow route a good few times aday,and its a very scenic route.

The Highland Rover rail ticket might be worth a look.

Posted by
4758 posts

Skye from Edinburgh is c 5.5 hours driving and longer by train, as the roads are winding, but it is a scenic route so you may need to add time for stopping for the views!

Car hire prices do not vary much from different locations - try www.holidayautos.co.uk as they usually offer good rates. Automatics are usually more expensive than manual transmissions but this may give you one less thing to think about. Be careful on hire prices - some seem a better deal but them there are more "add-ons" such as insurance etc. Some companies limit the mileage that you can cover but you should be ok on this point.

Driving or the train/bus is your choice. Rail fares are more expensive if you just turn up on the day and buy an open return ticket that is valid for any time than if you buy in advance and state what time train you will be travelling on . Booking this journey for June return will cost between £81.30 and £118 depending on the time of travel. The £16 fare mentioned by the other respondent is only valid on the return leg for the train departing Kyle at 17.13 and arriving Edinburgh at 00.11 the following day, which is not ideal for most. There are only 3 outward and 4 return rail services a day and involve changing at Inverness and some also at Perth, so if one train is cancelled, there will be a long wait!

Is Skye a necessity? You could stay in or near Oban which has better road access from Edinburgh and is shorter than the drive to Skye, then drive to Glencoe in the Highlands for a day or take the ferry over to the island of Mull as a foot passenger. It's a great part of the world but it can't be rushed due to the winding roads.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you everyone. I have about 10 days in Scotland and this is part of a year long around the world trip for me. I'm super excited about Scotland. I do think Skye is a definite for me while there. From what I've read and seen in photos it calls to me most. I love to hike and am a photographer. I love the rock formations there and the day hikes available. I'm not completely opposed to a car rental for a portion of the trip, I mainly don't want to be driving around cities like Edinburgh in one. If there were a nice town on the road to skye that I could train or bus to and then rent the car, that would be ideal. I chose Edinburgh and Skye as my two places to visit because I'd like to relax into the places a bit rather than rushing things to fit in more. I thought I would get a good balance of the nature and city of Scotland that way. I could possibly add in one more small area to stay a night or two and get the car if there's something I absolutely must see. Glencoe in the Highlands looks fabulous too. Thank you for the recommendation, it's hard to choose. The Jacobite train also looks awesome but it seems out of the way and is just a loop so it wouldn't take me near Skye. I really appreciate all the help and timely responses. I'm a sponge for info and any tips I can get. :)

Posted by
4 posts

Jennifer, I looked up Glencoe and it looks awesome as well. And the famous viaduct is near there too. I may have to stop there. Thanks! Hopefully I can find a town outside of Edinburgh along the way to rent a car so I can drive to the area. Thanks again.

Posted by
1292 posts

The Jacobite can be taken one way from Ft William to Mallaig (or vice versa) where a ferry can be taken over to Skye. It is a route also served by ScotRail's normal services.

About hiring a car, don't discount getting one near Edinburgh, although the roads will be busier, the first couple of hours will be on dual carriageways/motorways which, again, are easier to adapt to because the traffic is seperated by a barrier.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks again. I didn't know that about the Jacobite train. Can anyone recommend a car rental outside the Edinburgh city center? Just so I'm not dealing with city traffic and streets. Is the airport less hectic? Or is there a smaller city outside of Edinburgh on the way to Skye/Glencoe that would be good? Thanks so much! This forum is so helpful!

Posted by
1292 posts

If you are happy with the extra costs hiring at an airport seem to incur, the airport might actually be your best bet. It is to the west of Edinburgh, you will not need to go into the city with the car, and taking the right exits at the roundabouts onto the A8 and M9 will take you from the airport to the road you want, initially the M9, in quite a short timescale.

Posted by
17 posts

I am making the same journey in a few months. I have the same driving concerns. After a lot of research, I am taking a train from Edinburgh to Kyle. Renting a car at Kyle, and driving the 45 minutes or so to Portree.

For the car, I am using www.skyecarhire.co.uk.

Posted by
453 posts

Sheri, I am a 62 year old guy from Indiana and in October my wife and I flew into Edinburgh and rented a car at the airport. We immediately went west avoiding Edinburgh traffic, quickly hitting the "interstate" which was easy driving much like the interstates here in the US, but of course on the opposite side. We drove to Fort William and spent 4 days there. The drive was pretty stressful as it was my first in the UK but it was doable, took about 3 hours. We visited Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, and the viaduct for the Harry Potter train passing, it was an awesome 4 days. We then drove to the Isle of Skye (2.5 hrs) and were there for four days as well. The roads on Skye were also very narrow but by the end of the week I was adjusting. At times the one lane roads on Skye were a welcoming sight as everyone slows down and are extremely courteous. We drove directly from Skye back to the Edinbugh airport and by the time we made that trip I was comfortable with the roads and the trip bck was close to 5 hours and the roads were really pretty nice, wide in places, and a couple of hours of the trip are on great interstate type roads. Here is my advice. if you rent a car get absolutely the smallest car you can fit yourself and your gear into. We accepted a car a size larger than we needed and it was VERY STRESSFUL as the roads are so narrow, lined often by curbs and rock walls. Stay small small small and of course pay for the automatic. We drove all over the Isle of Skye and it was awesome but be aware that it will take you much longer to get around as the roads are as I mentioned. I loved Skye. Please take some time to learn the proper way to navigate one lane roads in the UK (you can google it) and become familiar with common road and roundabout courtesies. It is my belief that to get the most from Skye you will need a car but don't be afraid to hit the out of the way places, they are worth it. If you want to hit me up on private message I would be HAPPY to share the names of our B&B's and the place in the US where I rented the car and got some good information on driving in the UK We dropped the car at the airport on our return to Edinburgh and took the tram into the old city. We got an automatic car for $32 a day and that included all taxes, I used my credit card to cover for insurance...good luck Dave