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First trip to Scotland-Planning last leg: Inverness or Not?

Hello everyone, thanks for all of your advice in previous posts. We are planning a trip to Scotland next September and have planned much of it so far but I am deliberating about the last week. Here are the plans so far, what I could use advice about is whether to include Inverness this time or plan a second trip to Inverness, Orkney, North Coast in the future.
Plans so far:
10 days in Wales (some time in Cardiff, a 5-day tour, and then two days at the Abergavenny Food festival)
2 days in Wigtown/Dumfries, Galloway: for genealogical fun, castle visit (via train and bus)
Train to Glasgow: spend 2 days seeing museums and tea at Macintosh at Willow
Rabbies Tour to Mull: 3 days; hopefully talk Rabbies into leaving us in Inverary
Bus+Ferry to Islay, (where we will rent a car) for 4 days of R&R, sightseeing, and distilleries
Ferry back to either Kennacraig or Oban...then?
This is where I am deliberating between (either via train and/or bus):
1. continuing North, perhaps to Fort William and the train to Mallaig and back (neither of us are Harry Potter fans but it sounds like such a wonderful trip). Then onto Inverness, then Edinburgh.
2. Oban and/or Fort Wiliam to Edinburgh and 3 days in Edinburgh.

Lately we've been thinking that, by the time we return from Islay, we'll have been on the road for almost four weeks and even with a nice 4-day stretch on Islay, we might be ready to go straight to Edinburgh (with a possible stop at Stirling). And, then we have an excuse to come back for a second time to see more!

We are not under a time constraint, other than our cat who will be awaiting our return.

Advice? Many of the posts about Inverness start with "It's a good starting point for tours" not about what a wonderful place it is. We know we want to have time in Edinburgh but wondering if we should keep going to Inverness for "sights not to be missed" before continuing on to Edinburgh?
Thanks and happy trails to all!

Posted by
678 posts

Hi Liz - speaking from personal experience, having visited, I must say that going to Inverness for it’s own sake is a mistake. I’ve been several times, the main one being to meet our tour group/barge heading south down the Great Glen Way. The other times I’ve passed through on the way to/from somewhere else, i.e., en route to Torridon or Ullapool or through the airport to the Outer Hebrides.

Do not get me wrong, it is a perfectly pleasant place. However if you have limited time there are plenty of better places that will be more rewarding and a better use of your time.

Hope you have a grand trip!


Posted by
678 posts

P.S. The train ride from Fort William to Mallaig was excellent before Harry Potter, remains so, and will continue to be great even when HP is a dim memory. Don’t expect too much of Mallaig at the far end. It’s main purpose is as a fishing village and that’s what it determinedly remains for the most part!

Posted by
558 posts

We went to Inverness because it seemed the closed place to rent a car (we had hiked into Fort William). For me there are not any "sights not to be missed" in Inverness. Spend more time in Edinburgh.

Posted by
490 posts

Inverness is a working town and the hub for people who live in the Highlands. It is not a particularly beautiful town and personally I would spend some time in Edinburgh over Inverness any time. The train line to Mallaig is gorgeous. You do not have to ride an overpriced steam train if that is not your thing. The regular train sees the same scenery!
Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
76 posts

Hi there,
As Skyegirl noted there are other trains that take the same route as the steam train and they are much, much less expensive. I researched the line this weekend; however, I am a train aficionado so I chose to take a steam train at the much higher price. The chance to take an an antique train trumped the budget.

Disclaimer: I have never traveled this train route and will only be taking the Mallaig to Fort William route. Others may have more valid experiences.

Have a fun time what ever you decide!

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks for your replies, we're settled on 2 days in Fort William for the train ride and then on to Edinburgh. Still considering the steam versus other train question. I have one vote for each way...

Posted by
120 posts

I'll weigh in on the steam train vs. regular train question with my experience. I was in Ft. William last September with a friend and we opted to take the regular train, but only to Glenfinnan station. We got off there and hiked the mile or so back to the lookout so that we could watch the steam train go by on the viaduct. It was one of the best things we did the whole trip! We then spent the day wandering/hiking in the Glenfinnan area. There's a visitor center near the viaduct where we were able to sit and get some coffees when we needed to warm up a little. We had picked up some sandwiches in Ft. William before we left and had a picnic lunch next to the Glenfinnan Monument overlooking Loch Shiel.

We could have taken the train back to Ft. William, but we opted for the bus instead as it picked up right at the viaduct, so we didn't have to retrace our steps back to the train station. If I recall, it only cost 3 or 4 pounds for the bus back. The train was cheap too, around 7 pounds. I guess it all depends on if you want to RIDE the steam train or if you want to SEE the steam train. For me, nothing could compare to watching the steam train go across the viaduct, just like in the movie. We caught it going both ways, once from the lookout up on the hill and once from the valley looking up at the viaduct. I have the most amazing pictures from that day.