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Help with Itinerary: 6 Days in Scotland First Timers!

My son and his family (wife, 2 boys, age 8 and 10) are including me (widow, age 75) on a trip to Scotland this April. We have our plane tickets to London where we will stay for 2 nights (Sunday, April 19 and Monday, April 20), but our travel in Scotland is still undecided and, quite honestly, overwhelming to plan since there seem to be so many beautiful areas to visit.

We are planning to travel by train to Edinburgh (a train trip for the boys), stay one night and then rent a car. Here is our very tentative itinerary.

Day 1: Arrive in Edinburg by train from London. Overnight in Edinburg.
Day 2: Travel to Inverness. Overnight in Inverness/Drumnadrochi area
Day 3: Travel to Skye along Loch Carron. Overnight in South Skye/ Lochalsh area
Day 4: Travel around Skye, taking the ferry to Mallaig. Overnight I Fort William area
Day 5: Travel to Crianlarich, across Rannoch Moor to Loch Lommond OR
Travel from Fort William to Oban and then to Crianlarich, taking the same route to Loch Lommond. Overnight in Loch Lommond area
Day 6: Morning drive to Glasgow to take flight or train back to London for flight home

We would like to tour at least one castle and one distillery, and take seaplanes in Loch Lomond leaving from the Cameron House (which is closed I discovered). We’d also be interested in staying in a castle or a not-to-be-forgotten venue.

I have read in other posts that it may be worth spending more time in Skye than Inverness, but I know my grandsons will want to see Loch Ness and the Exhibition on Nessie. Still, we are limited on time.

Is this itinerary feasible?

Any recommendations on anything (lodging, activities, pubs/restaurants) will be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much.

Posted by
2562 posts

You've got a lot of driving planned. With kids that age I'd try to reduce the driving and allow more time to be out stretching your legs. You've also got mostly 1-night stays, which are a royal pain with kids because they are not very good at packing and unpacking. The adults are going to be burdened with all the logistics of not losing anybody's belongings, checking out, navigating to the next night's lodging, checking in and getting settled. This would not be my idea of a fun trip, frankly.

It sounds like you really don't have much interest in seeing the city of Edinburgh, so why not take the train all the way to Inverness? That would give you another day in the highlands. You could get a rental car at Inverness airport and return it at Glasgow airport.

If you base yourselves near Drumnadrochit for 2-3 nights, you can "commute" to Skye as well as other stunning locations in the highlands.

Instead of Oban, would you consider Inveraray? 2-3 nights there would give you access to the western highlands. For example, there's the visitor centre at Ben Cruachan "Hollow Mountain" hydropower plant where you can take a tour underneath the mountain. There's horseback riding (and very safe pony rides) and paintball at Argyll Adventure. There are miles of walking trails at Auchindrain Township open-air musuem, a real treasure for anyone interested in Scotland's way of life for crofters. Not to mention the historic jail in Inveraray, and Inveraray Castle with the duke's adorable herd of black sheep. You could still go see Oban for a day.

If you want to stay in a castle, Scotland has many so you'll want to consider how "purist" you are (i.e., does it have to be an actual castle that was used as a defense in medieval times?) and how much you want to pay. Come to think of it, if you choose the castle hotel first then you can adjust your itinerary around it so as not to be driving way out of your way just to get to the castle.

Assuming you'll be in the western highlands before Glasgow: traveling south along Loch Lomond, you could take a boat cruise on the loch out of Luss. See Cruise Loch Lomond if interested.

If you need to fill up with gas (petrol) before returning your car, Dumbarton is the most convenient place to stop before the A82 turns into a limited-access highway. Approaching Glasgow (actually located in Paisley, north/downstream on the Clyde from Glasgow itself), the exit for rental car return at the airport is well signposted after you cross over the Erskine Bridge.

Posted by
16 posts

We will definitely look at Inverary instead of Oban. I'm planning only from a tour guide so recommendations from travelers who have been to specific places count a lot. The Inverary Castle looks perfect for the boys as do the jail and the open-air museum. We do intend to do some sightseeing in Edinburgh since we will arrive in the morning, but we'd prefer to see the Scottish countryside rather than a city, hence, the morning departure to Inverness.

Your information on the boat cruise on Loch Lomond and filling up on gas before Glasgow are certainly helpful. Thank you!

Any recommendations for a "once-in-a-lifetime" stay along our tentative route? (At age 75, I have a different perspective than my grandchildren.) As you said, we could plan around a castle (or some other lodging), if we knew which ones to consider. Again, thank you for your help.

Posted by
2562 posts

To find a castle hotel that suits you, you can Google "Scotland castle hotels" (without the quotation marks) and you'll see that there are many, many choices.

The only one I've stayed in is Stonefield, located down the Kintyre peninsula on the shore of Loch Fyne about 2 hours' drive south of Inveraray. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for a family with kids as it has a rather Downton Abbey atmosphere; I'm guessing the kids would be much more enthused about a medieval "knights in armor" castle with a moat and turrets and everything. Of course the latter are massively expensive to keep up, so their lodging rates tend to be $$$.

You might look at the "Trip Reports" section of this forum to find out what other RS fans had to say about various castle hotels in Scotland.

Posted by
506 posts

Look at some of the descriptions of Edinburgh Castle - it may be that you don't have to actually spend a night (and a fortune) to see a real Scottish castle. Don't miss the 1 o'clock gun.

How about something more like this:
Nights 1 and 2 Edinburgh
drive to Inverness
Nights 3 and 4 Inverness
drive to Inverary
Nights 5 and 6 Inverary

Oops, that won't work, I see you're returning to London on Day 6. I'd skip either Edinburgh or Inverness for a trip of five nights. What if you start from Glasgow, visit Loch Lomond on the way to Inverary, spend three nights, visit Stirling Castle on the way to Edinburgh, spend two nights and head back to London?

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you both for your suggestions. I'll definitely check the Trips Reports (which I had not done), and we are now considering skipping Inverness (Marty's idea), rather than both Inverness and Edinburgh.

Posted by
440 posts

If you are planning to take the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig you need to be aware that you will need to book in advance via calmac.co.uk. Another option is to take the historic 'turn table' ferry from Kylerhea to Glenelg. There are no advance bookings and it only takes 6 cars so you line up and wait but the crossing is only 10 minutes as it crosses at a narrower point, so the wait is not usually very long. The boys might enjoy this more than a 'regular' ferry and the drive on both sides is spectacular. There is also an otter hide at Kylerhea when you have a very high chance of seeing sea otters. I've also seen them (and seals) from the ferry.

I have to agree with others about cutting Inverness, it's just a modern town with little to interest tourists.

Looking at your itinerary overall I think you will find it very hectic. You are moving accommodations every night, and all your sightseeing is going to be done on the move. You will probably find that you can't take the kids on a distillery tour, so someone is going to have to mind them while the others go on the tour (potentially quite boring hanging around for the kids).

I would recommend Stirling castle as a good one to tour with kids, it's a manageable size and quite impressively perched on a steep hill. Either that or Edinburgh. Urquhart castle on the side of Loch Ness is another to consider, but it's a ruin - not sure whether the kids would find that fun or not.

Just a note on accommodation. Particularly on Skye you will probably find it difficult at this late stage to secure accommodation, especially as you need 3 rooms and a lot of accommodation providers here are small B&Bs that may have fewer than 3 rooms and many also not take children. If you haven't got your accommodation sorted out then you really do need to be getting that done as soon as possible.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
64 posts

We did Scotland in June. I did a lot of moving like you are planning- and we never made it to Skye. I'd say that in retrospect I wish we had taken it slower. We saw a lot but it all kinds of blurs together.

Posted by
2562 posts

If you're considering just seeing a castle instead of staying overnight in one, Blair Castle is especially appealing to kids, with re-enactment drills and that sort of thing. It is right off the A9 between Pitlochry and Kingussie (on the route north from Edinburgh toward Inverness). The nearby town is Blair Atholl.