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Help with Two Week Scotland Itinerary

My partner and I (mid-40s) are hoping to travel to Scotland for a two-week trip in late May. It will be our first time in Scotland. My brain feels scrambled by the overwhelming amount of information now available to travellers and I think I need some reassurance that we're not way off the mark with our draft itinerary. We're floundering and wasting precious planning time; I'm already worried that we've left the planning a bit late, especially accommodations.

A few things about us:

  • We are not city people but are really looking forward to seeing Edinburgh.
  • We will rent a car and don't mind driving (we live in Canada where everything is far away) but prefer not to stay in a new place each night. For us, booking accommodations is one of the most stressful parts of travelling (finding something reasonably priced in a good location seems to take ages of searching).
  • We like beautiful scenery and easy-moderate hiking - would probably choose Cairngorms over Trossachs.
  • We want to see castles - the popular ones and the less popular ones.
  • We like to get off the beaten path but also want to see the classic Scotland sites on our first trip to Scotland. If we had more time or if this was our second trip to Scotland, we would do the NC500.

Draft Itinerary:
Day 1 - Arrive, explore Edinburgh
Day 2 - Explore Edinburgh (is this enough time in Edinburgh?)
Day 3 - Edinburgh to Inverness (or Aviemore? Or is Inverness a better hub for exploring this area?)
Day 4 - Day trips from Inverness
Day 5 - Day trips from Inverness
Day 6 - Cairngorms to Gairloch (Gairloch seems off the beaten path - worth it?)
Day 7 - Day trips from Gairloch
Day 8 - Gairloch to Skye
Day 9 - Tour Skye
Day 10 - Tour Skye (is this enough time on Skye?)
Day 11 - Skye to Fort William / Glencoe
Day 12 - Day trips from Fort William
Day 13 - Day trips from Fort William
Day 14 - Fort William to Glasgow / Edinburgh, depart

I apologize if this post is a bit long. Any and all advice appreciated, thank you!

Posted by
206 posts

We are doing the Rick Steves 13-day Best of Scotland tour in May. Though that month seems to be booked, would it take some stress away to consider doing a guided tour? Accommodations are arranged, transportation as well. here is the link just in case you want to browse it. If you changed your dates you could go in June. Just a thought.

Your itinerary looks good but since we have no experience there, I couldn’t say which place is best. I just know how much we are looking forward to being there, so, cheers! Hope you can craft the trip you want.

Posted by
6775 posts

As you are not city people then 1 day in Edinburgh may be enough for you. Many people here will vehemently suggest quite a bit longer, you know your travel style. Even I would suggest a 2nd full day there as a minimum.

Good day trips are possible into Fife (say St Andrews) or down to North Berwick, by public transit if that is more your style than city life. Or Falkirk for the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel. Or Stirling for the Castle (but you could do that on the way north).

But don't rent the car until you are ready to leave Edinburgh.

If you really are not city people and want somewhere reasonably priced think about Dundee. Edinburgh is very easy by train from there.

From "Inverness" where you stay depends on what day trips you are planning- as several potential ones are north of Inverness.

I would suggest neither Inverness or Aviemore- the latter being a fairly soul less, functional sort of town.

For the Cairngorms I would suggest Grantown on Spey, Carrbridge, Nethy Bridge or Boat of Garten.

For the Black Isle, and north towards Dornoch, I would suggest Strathpeffer- a Victorian spa town.

Yes Gairloch is totally worth it scenery wise, it depends what you mean by off the beaten path- but it is on the NC500 driving route so you will not be the only ones there!

Posted by
1228 posts

Sounds like a decent plan and good advice from isn31c above too. There's not a lot in Aviemore so if you want to stay in a bigger settlement then Inverness would be a reasonable choice. I stayed in the Heathmount Hotel recently and can recommend it. It's in a quiet area of the city (Southside) but walkable back into town and with a decent restaurant. Other people like Nairn for a base and that would be a good place from which to explore Speyside, Cawdor Castle etc.

Depending what day trips you have planned from Fort William and unless you are mountain walkers, I'd suggest cutting a night from there and adding it to Skye. And I'd suggest leaving Skye using the ferry to Mallaig, which means you will approach Fort William via the Road to the Isles and could maybe do a diversion to have a look at Ardnamurchan.

Posted by
939 posts

I quite like Aviemore. Controversial opinion, I know. I wouldn't agree that there's not much to it. It's got a decent main street with good shopping in small stores. Decent chippy at the train station. For years it was the only town around there with both an Indian and Chinese takeaway. A couple of times I bought ex-rental ski and snowboard jackets there in the summer at bargain prices to serve as my winter jacket.

I'm not sure how much of the 70's architecture from when it launched as a ski resort remains. It did have a period when it was quite run down after Stakis Group went under. It bounced back though and I think it's a pretty decent little town. I'd stay in a static caravan in the park to the south of the town in my youth, when I was there mainly for the fishing with my dad. Later, I've also camped at the site at Loch Morlich a couple of times and it's a great site in a fantastic location. Rothiemurchus is a well managed estate for the visitor to enjoy near Aviemore, with lots of great walking and fishing. It's easier with a car, but the run up to the chairlift from Aviemore past Loch Morlich is nice, and taking the chairlift to the top of the hill is quite spectacular on a nice day in summer. I also used to enjoy visiting the Highland Wildlife Park at Kingussie, a few miles south, and they're still going strong.

I'd sort of agree that Skye needs as much time as you can give too though. It's a big place and getting around to see things can be slow going at times.

I'm currently looking at Nairn for a few night in June with my mother. My mum and sister stayed there in an AirB&B last year. We've been looking at a caravan on the Lochloy Resort. My tastes are obviously a little less sophisticated than my sister's. We have stayed there many times in the distant past though, before its current incarnation as a Parkdean Resort.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks so much everyone, I appreciate you all taking the time to comment and provide your advice.