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Help for Scotland Itinerary for May

I'm getting a late start planning a trip to Scotland for our family of six this May and realize I may need to make some changes to our plans - biggest change would be skipping Skye as I'm finding no accommodations. We love hiking, music, history, whiskey! I welcome any suggestions for our itinerary.

Day 1 /2 - Arrive London - two nights in London (flights much cheaper to fly in here)
Day 3 Train to Glasgow - spend the night and get rental car in the morning
Day 4/5 Oban - 2 nights - would like to explore Islands Mull, Iona, Straffa - have considered doing the three island tour, but maybe spend more time exploring islands if we are not going to Skye
Day 6/7 Skye - 2 nights - unfortunately may need to skip - would like to take the Jacobite Steam Train so perhaps stay near Ft William?
Day 8/9 Inverness - 2 nights
Day 10 Speyside/Craingorms- - 1 night
Day 11 - ?
Day12/13 - Edinburgh (we have spent three days in Edinburgh at the beginning of an Ireland trip - love it so want to spend some more time there)
Day 14 - train to London - fly home

When reading about Skye, it may be best to skip as we will have a larger car for six people. We had a rental for the six of us in Ireland so we are familiar with narrow roads, but Skye sounds like a lot of single lane roads.

Thank you for any thoughts on this itinerary!

Posted by
189 posts

Skye sounds like a lot of single lane roads.

They are still wide enough for a bus or a fire engine.

Posted by
259 posts

A lot of the roads are single track but it doesn’t really matter if you have a bigger car as there’s only room for one vehicle anyway. I found the roads on Skye and in that part of Scotland generally easier to manage than in some other rural places because they don’t have hedges and walls up against them. They’re laid on open land.

Posted by
815 posts

A good sensible itinerary.
Whisky fans should always consider going to the islands of Islay and Jura in their itinerary. From Glasgow you can either drive to the mainland port of Kennacraig or ferry hop via either the Isle of Arran or via Rothesay (Isle of Bute)/Colintraive/Portavadie, or the twice a week ferry direct from Oban.
Islay also has flights from Glasgow and Oban. The Oban flights are on tiny Islander planes, great for sightseeing.
You'll get your Whisky fix on Speyside, but Oban has a distillery in the town Centre.
In Oban, for music, try the Skippinish Ceilidh House.
If Skye is booked up, think about staying in Mallaig and using the Armadale ferry to go over for the day.
The main highways on Skye are 2 lane. All over Scotland the single track roads have regular passing places, so nothing to fear there.
If you stay in Mallaig then half the group can use the train (steam or service) on the way there from Oban, and half on the way back to Inverness. I'm firmly on 'team service train' on that route, but if you want to use the steam so be it.
In Oban there are also three other great island possibilities-
1. Kerrera- in Oban Bay- a 5 minute ferry runs from 2 miles south of Oban. Walk out there or park up at the slipway. Foot pax over, a great 1/2 day walk round the south end of the island.
2. Lismore- 4 vehicle ferries a day from Oban. Another great island for walking. 2 to 3 hours from end to end. I like going one way on the Oban boat, walking down the Island to the other end and getting the foot ferry back over, then bus back to Oban.
3. The Slate islands of Seil, Luing and Easdale. An easy short drive south from Oban across the 'Bridge over the Atlantic'. Little ferries out to the islands. So called because of their history of quarrying slate which went all over the world. Easdale has a huge hole in the middle which was the old quarry and is a foot ferry over, just a delightful little island. Seil/Luing is a vehicle ferry

Posted by
1006 posts

Skye is always popular and accommodation books up very early. You may have difficulty finding somewhere for six people. Have a look at Skye Rooms Facebook page as this may be one way of finding somewhere to stay.

Two nights on Skye only effectively gives one and a bit days - not very long. Fort William isn’t a good base to do day trips to Skye from. The other alternative would be to head to Kyle of Lochalsh and use the bridge for day trip(s) to Skye - easier and cheaper than booking the ferry from Mallaig.

If the Jacobite Steam train is non negotiable, you need to allow a full day for this and plan to spend either night before or the night after in or around Fort William. Check out the timetable here.

The normal service train also travels along exactly the same route so is an acceptable alternative if you aren’t desperate to travel behind steam. It’s a more frequent service, cheaper and views from the windows may be better.

A short reminder - In Scotland whisky is spelt without the 'e' and they can get quite upset by this... Irish whiskey does have an 'e'.

I assume Inverness is being used as a base for Culloden? If so also include a visit to Clava Cairns close by. Fort George is also well worth a visit too. This was built after Culloden to control the Highlands and crush any future Jacobite rebellions. It was built on a promontory with a series of massive banks and ditches on the landward side. The scale of Fort George is impressive and it is virtually unchanged since it was built. It remains one of the largest and most impregnable fortifications in Europe.

However by the time it was finished, the Highlands were relatively calm and no action was ever required from Fort George. There is a story, maybe apocryphal, that one shot was fired by a jittery soldier on night duty who thought he saw a Jacobite soldier creeping up to the fort and fired at him. Next morning the guards found the dead body of a cow.

Speyside/Cairngorms - either deserve more than 1 day, especially if planning to do any hiking.

Posted by
213 posts

Accommodation for day 10 and 11 could be a couple of nights in the pretty highland villages of Ballater or Braemar which are about 16 miles from each other along the A93 and situated in the Cairngorms National Park. No need to change venue for the night unless availability or lack thereof dictates this.

Lots to see and do in the area

Posted by
6222 posts

I see some inefficiencies (and some risk) in your plan to arrive in London, spend 2 days there, then take a train to Glasgow where you'll rent your car.

Your Scotland trip looks like it doesn't really begin until "Day 4" of your trip. Then at the end of your trip, you appear to be planning to take the train from Edinburgh to London, then get on a plane and fly home. Maybe I'm misreading your plan, but I would not either begin or end my trip that way.

You are going to arrive in London pretty tired, yet you're going to stop right there, settle in and stay two nights. If it were me, I'd push on all the way to your actual destination, which seems to be Glasgow. You mention it's "much cheaper" to fly to London, but given how expensive hotels are in London (and everything else in London) I'd wonder if the financial cost really favors arrival in London so much - I'd get out a calculator and make a fair comparison, factoring in actual costs for the "cheaper" flight plus other expenses you will incur. Regardless of any minor difference in cost, I'd consider the even greater "cost" in TIME for going that way. You will be spending your arrival day plus the next day in London. That's fine if you really want that time there, but your trip is quite short, and I'd be looking very hard at how my days are allocated.

Are you really planning to wake up on "Day 14" in Edinburgh, take the train all the way to London, then fly home, all on that same day? I would not recommend doing that, there are just too many things that could cause you to miss your flight home. My rule-of-thumb is to always spend my last night at (or at least not terribly far from) my departure airport.

Instead, consider re-arranging the start and finish of your UK time: First, take a hard look at the actual cost differences between flying in to London, or flying in a city in Scotland (Edinburgh or Glasgow). Assuming you stick with your flight to London, rather than stopping there for 2 days, upon arrival push straight on to Glasgow, either by train or by a separate flight (if flying, you would be on two separate tickets, so you would want to allow at least several hours between scheduled arrival time in London and the departing flight to Glasgow). Maybe take the train as it would probably allow you to snooze more comfortably (though the flight would get you there quicker...). Sleep your first night in the UK not in London, but in Scotland, next morning your trip actually begins (on what you're calling "Day 2" rather than your "Day 4"). On your arrival day (wherever you choose to stop moving), you will be tired, jetlagged, etc so you're not getting much out of that day anyway; you might as well use that arrival day to get all the way to where you actually want to be...for my first place to sleep, I always look at "pushing on through" to my real destination rather than just stopping where the long flight happens to drop you.

If you want time in London, do London at the end of your trip, not at the start. It's more efficient to spend time in any place as a single block (as many days as you choose) rather than splitting it up into some days at the start, some days at the end. You should spend your last night there anyway (to ensure you don't miss your flight home).

Rearranging things this way would effectively "buy" you at least one extra day in Scotland, maybe as much as 2-3 days. In a trip as short as yours, given all the things to see/do in Scotland, that's what I'd do. Hope some of that helps.

Posted by
716 posts

I have to say I totally agree with David about flying on up to Scotland on the first day and then spending your last night near Heathrow. I think it would also make your rental car cheaper as you'd be renting and dropping off from Glasgow airport and won't incur any charges for dropping off at a different place from where you picked up. Or you could drop the car at Edinburgh and get a bus or train from Edinburgh through to Glasgow and onwards to the airport by bus.

Posted by
51 posts

So appreciate this forum and everyone that takes time to reply!

David - I really appreciate your advice on pushing through to Scotland and tacking on London at end of the trip. I was planning to stay in London the night before we fly home and, you are right, it makes more sense to end trip there if we want to spend a day or two. Still finalizing exactly how many days for trip. Thinking 12 nights plus two travel days so 10 in Scotland and 2 in London.

I found a couple of places today that could work for Skye accommodations, but the one in Portree does not have the best reviews - The Royal Hotel.

I did book a two bedroom lodge at the Broadford Lodges Skye that had availability open up today. Seems like this might be a decent location to explore Skye and reviews are positive. Need to educate myself more, but I believe not far from bridge. I was thrilled to find something that would work for the six of us.

Thoughts on Broadford?

Posted by
23032 posts

I think you're going to be very sorry to have only two nights on Skye. Two nights' lodging is a heavy expense for just about 1-1/2 days on the island. Weather is very iffy in Scotland, especially western Scotland. You might have weather poorly suited to sightseeing even from inside a car. I encountered a lot of rain.

Another place you can check for lodging is Kyle of Lochalsh, just across the bridge from Skye.

Posted by
51 posts

I did add a third night in Broadford as a possibility so we could spend more time in Skye. Just need to decide what our priorities are! Perhaps one night in Inverness would be enough.