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Family Trip to Scottish Highlands in June 2022

I'd love some advice on a UK family trip we are planning for two weeks in June 2022.

We will fly into London and take a train up to York. We'll stay there and tour the city of York and surrounding area, including Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors (as day trips from York) for six days, then head up to Scotland and do the RS six-day Highlands Loop.

Here's what that looks like.
Day 1: Edinburgh to Oban/ with possible stops in Stirling/Inveraray en route.
Day 2: Day trip over to Mull and Iona from Oban
Day 3: Drive to Glencoe, stopping in Glenfinnan to see the viaduct and the head over to Mallaig to take the ferry to Skye and sleep for two nights in Portree.
Day 4: Skye Sights
Day 5: Leave Skye, stop at Eilean Donan Castle, drive along Loch Ness, stay in Inverness
Day 6: Tour Culloden if we didn't have a chance to do it the day before, then head back to Edinburgh to sleep for flight home the next morning. Possibly swing over to Balmoral on way back, though it will add time...

Here are my questions/concerns. We aren't blitz travelers. We generally like to stay in a place a bit longer and this seems like an awful lot of driving/moving around. If there were a stop or so to cut out, what would be suggested and where would you stay longer? I hear Oban isn't very scenic and do we really need to do Mull and Iona if we're staying at Skye? Should we cut out Oban and stay those extra two nights in Skye?

Any/all thoughts welcome!! We are just at the very beginning planning stages and have only been to London/Cotswolds/Edinburgh on our previous UK trip, so this will be entirely different!

Posted by
5029 posts

It’s not a pace that I would want - far too long in the car. You are significantly short changing Skye - most suggest at least 3 full days there. I spent nearly 3 weeks doing a slightly longer version of this loop.

What is your priority? If Skye - I would drop Oban, Mull and Iona. Drive from Edinburgh to Glencoe on day 1. Day 2 drive to Portree via the bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh rather than take the ferry as it’s usually quicker. Day 3 - 5 on Skye. Day 6 - a long drive to Edinburgh (6+ hours plus stops).

Alternative - days 1 & 2 as you planned. Day 3 head to Inverness via Urquart Castle and day 4 explore Culloden, Clava Cairns and Fort George. Day 5 - stay in Stirling or Falkirk and explore Stirling castle and the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel. Less driving than option 1.

Posted by
2802 posts

You've got many wonderful places listed. Traveling in June means you'll have very long days, the better to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Your itinerary would be a lot in 6 days, especially since you say you aren't "blitz" travelers (love that expression!).

Here are my suggestions for narrowing it down.

  1. "Swing over to Balmoral" would be difficult on your last day. If Balmoral is a high priority then forgo a few other things and find an overnight location nearer to Balmoral than Inverness.

  2. Touring Culloden can be quick or not so quick. The visitor centre has lots to see, and if you also want to walk around the battlefield you'll be there for several hours.

  3. I would choose either Skye or the Mull-Iona visit. Since the latter depends on the ferry and you have just one day to either go or not go, you could stick with the plan to go there and then if weather/conditions mess it up, you could fast forward your next day and include Skye. The two options aren't really equivalent, IMO. Others will comment further -- I've been to Skye but not to Mull or Iona. Skye is big. There's lots to see and do, especially if you enjoy the wild outdoors. One caveat is that in June you may have a challenge rearranging accommodations since Skye has limited places to stay and the busy season begins in June, especially the second half of the month.

  4. We loved Inveraray so much that we planned a second Scotland trip just to spend more time there. So even if you don't decide on Oban-Mull-Iona, you could visit Inveraray overnight (I recommend Brambles for lodging and the George Hotel for dinner & pub) and then head to Glencoe in the morning.

Hope this helps!

Posted by
88 posts

Thanks for weighing in!

Jennifer-- frankly I'm not sure between Mull/Iona and Skye which should be my priority! They all sound lovely in different ways, but it seems more people rave about Skye? And I appreciate the tip about taking the quicker route to Skye. I also am intrigued by your alternative suggestions. We have not seen ANY of Scotland aside from four days spent in Edinburgh in 2017 so everything sounds good to me. It's hard to narrow down!

eptltd -- I'm so glad to hear June is a good time to see Scotland. I had not realized how long the days are-- the longest day we get here in Pennsylvania is close to 15 hrs, but 18 sounds amazing. And yes, I did realize "swing over to Balmoral" (even though it was a Rick Steves suggestion) was probably an unrealistic add-on! All your other suggestions are very helpful!

Posted by
169 posts

Wherever you choose to go I recommend that you organise and book accommodation as a priority and that you ask for two night stays as a minimum.

Covid regulations and all the extra sanitising which goes with them plus the increased demand for accommodation now that travel restrictions are being lifted, means that many accommodation providers are only accepting bookings for two nights or more. I certainly get this impression from friends of mine who run a B&B and also from a number of Scottish travel groups on Facebook which I am a member of. One night bookings are only taken to fill in "orphan nights" or if it suits proprietors to do so.

You say you are not blitz travellers and two night reservations will save all the packing and unpacking and allow a more measured pace for travelling.

Another reason for booking suitable places to stay is to accommodate your family in the same place. You don't say how many people are in the group, three maybe four? Are young children part of this family? Would you need a family room, or one room for adults and one for youngsters? Hotels may offer larger rooms but if you prefer bed and breakfast, or guesthouse accommodation then double or twins are likely to be more readily available.

In the pre-Covid world Scotland experienced a boom in tourist numbers in the main because of the Outlander Effect, but for other reasons too. From everything which I hear from my friends and read on the internet this travel boom does not appear to be slowing, with overseas visitors still wanting to travel here and a rise in domestic travellers choosing to experience what the home nations of the UK have to offer, rather than fly abroad.

You may find this company helpful where your itinerary and planning is concerned

www.secret-scotland.com

Good luck.

Posted by
88 posts

Excellent point, sownack.

I should have mentioned we are a family of five -- with kids that will be 12, 17, and 19 by next summer. It never really makes sense for a family our size to stay in a hotel so we usually book houses/apartments/etc. through AirBnB --- we can get an entire living space with kitchen for less money per night than the 2-3 hotel rooms we might need.

I think 2 nights per place sounds like a great idea-- and makes a lot of sense in this COVID world. The only exception would be perhaps a quick, necessary stay overnight in Edinburgh our last night, so we can fly out home the next morning.

I have already been searching accommodations online and will plan to book them as soon as possible after our flights and itinerary are locked in. In fact, where we stay is so important, I am considering working my itinerary around some really beautiful historic properties I found, just so we can stay there!

Posted by
169 posts

There are plenty of hotels in Edinburgh which will offer you a one night booking for your group if you cannot find an Airbnb. That company seems to be the way to go for many people and my friends with the B&B just closed their website and moved to the Airbnb platform to streamline everything for themselves.

Not sure how everything will pan out for you, but if you are not aware already Edinburgh is not car friendly city. Hire your vehicle from the airport and return it there when you have finished with it. Much easier than hiring from the railway station. Public transport is good in the city so you can get to and from your accommodation this way, rather than trying to find somewhere which has car parking available. Also do not under any circumstances hire from a company called Green Motion. They are legitimate, but do employ many sharp practices which have given them a terrible reputation.

Posted by
88 posts

Thanks for the Edinburgh tips, sownack. We spent four days in Edinburgh our last trip, sans car!

Now I am entirely rethinking our Scotland trip! Since we aren't blitz travelers, I am thinking the concept of a base location for six nights (or two locations of three nights each) would suit us better, though we'd have to knock quite a few things off our list.

I found some likely properties around Inverness-- one around Tomatin about equidistant between Inverness and Aviemore and another south of Aviemore in Kincraig.

Any thoughts on those locations as good bases to explore what the Highlands has to offer for first-time visitors? (As noted earlier we only visited Edinburgh before.)

Are there other areas for base locations you'd suggest? I'm wide open at this early stage...

Posted by
169 posts

Two locations for three nights each sounds like a plan to me. You will be on holiday after all :-)

Anywhere reasonably close to Aviemore or in the town itself would be a good base for three nights if you can find accommodation to suit your needs. I certainly recommend the Old Bridge Inn for dinner one night. However I do suggest you book ahead if you want to eat there or anywhere else you like the look of. Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on the hospitality industry in the UK as whole and if you factor in Brexit too, it's become a perfect storm. Obviously no-one can say now what the situation will be in 2022, but these days staff shortages and Covid-19 regulations of social distancing means booking a table is almost essential in some places.

www.oldbridgeinn.co.uk

There's a lot going on in the Aviemore area and from there you can reach other places with reasonable ease. Though I should point out that getting from A to B in Scotland by car can sometimes take longer than you think. Roads are not straight, flat or wide and require concentration to negotiate, but don't let this put you off.

Here are a few places which may be of interest to help get you started

www.visitaviemore.com

www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk

www.cairngormreindeer.co.uk

www.rothiemurchus.net

www.highlifehighland.com/highlandfolkmuseum

https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/culloden

As I say driving to other places such as Royal Deeside to visit Balmoral Castle if you still wanted to do this, or the Pitlochry area to visit Blair Castle are quite possible. Much can be accomplished in the long hours of daylight in June.

With regards another location for three nights, then perhaps the Kyle of Lochalsh or nearby? The more dramatic scenery of Scotland is to be found in the west of the country and it would be a shame not to see and experience it if you can.

Posted by
19395 posts

It's extremely risky not to make dinner reservations in coastal places like Oban and Portree. Without them, you may be buying fish-and-chips from a truck and sitting on a bench (beware the seagulls); it's not just high-end places that will be full. I don't know about places like Aviemore, but the tourist infrastructure along the coast and on the islands has not kept up with the demand.

Posted by
88 posts

I appreciate everyone's feedback!

Still checking flights and I'm not sure why I never thought of it before, but I just realized we can fly home out of Inverness, vs. Edinburgh, which would be a huge help and would save us an entire day.

I'm curious if anyone has any experience/thoughts about the Inverness airport? It looks like we'd connect via Amsterdam back to the US...