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HIgh Level Itinerary including Ben Nevis (drive up from wales)

Hi everyone.(sorry for the type in the title) ....I have been trying to get my high level itinerary put together, but my list of what I want to do and see just gets longer and longer, but my vacation days keeps staying the same. I thought I should finally post so I can get a reality check.

An overview of my whole trip:

Fly into Dublin (using airmiles saved over 2K dollars) then to North Wales for a Family Reunion that will be on August 2nd.

Flying out of Dublin on the 15th - so decided to leave Scotland on the 13th in the morning to have a day in Dublin and one full sightseeing day in countryside of Ireland. (the tickets have not been purchased from Scotland to Dublin yet)

If we stick to the idea that I posted above then we basically have from August 3rd - August 12

Our focus will be Scenary, Military Tatoo, castles, hiking (1 to 3 hours), any wildlife, maybe one distillery. 2 of the 4 of us will be climbing Ben Nevis. (will come back with questions on how to split up if need be)

We do not need fancy hotels or even big towns/cities.

Not into a lot of museums (at least not lengthy).

As you read through all my thoughts, try not to laugh too much, as I know I have listed too much for us to fit in...but I wanted to list the places/things i have researched so far and basically looking for assistance in how to organize/direction (Glasgow and clockwise loop or Edinburgh first and counter clockwise or anything else) to drive/what cities to sleep in/ skip certain things if they are too much the same and I am short on time. Our plan is to enjoy the scenary not just drive past. We will be the type to stop take pictures, do some hiking, etc.

We would start our trip on August 3rd to depart for Scotland:

Snowdonia NP in Wales (maybe 1 night)
Drive through Lake District (stay night or how far can we make it ??)

Glasgow (just a stop in....do not need to spend a lot of time there)

Loch Lommond/Trossachs area

Oban (thinking already that I needs to skip)

Glencoe

Ben Nevis Hike (2 out of the 4 people)

Skye
---(I know we want two full days to explore and hike - so arrive early one morning and stay two nights or arrive late and stay 3 nights)
- see Eilann Donan Castle on way out
- also noticed recommendations to go in via the ferry and out the bridge (is that for Views/experience etc)

Torridon (maybe need to skip)

Lochness (maybe need to skip)

Kincraig to see http://www.leaultworkingsheepdogs.co.uk/ has to be at 4:00pm - got this off of reviews form RS tours - it was the highlight of a lot of people's trip.

Cairngorms NP

Stirling Castle

Edinburgh (Thinking arrive at night on the 10th, full day on the 11th and military Tatoo at night on 11th, and then free day on the 12th - or should we just arrive on the 11th in the morning)

Depart on the 13th. (this could be from Edinburgh or Glasgow based on easy flghts to Dublin; I to find flights from Inverness or somewhere else to dublin so to not backtrack, but htere weren't any that I could find)

(other places I had on the list but figure I need to take them off due to time:ferry to Mull and Iona, Dunnotter Castle, St. Andrews, Falkland)

Hope this wasn't too much and looking forward to your replies!! I am sure I will ask details as we progress.

Posted by
7575 posts

Hi Stacey-looks like a full itinerary and you'll have lots to see and do, even if it winds up not being everything on your list! Having 2 weeks in Scotland this past August (and we were mostly farther north than it looks like you're planning, and we didn't include a trip to Wales or Ireland as well), I'll toss in a couple of things, which you may already know. Our trip was punctuated by rain about every other day. A hurricane that had hit the east coast of the USA moved on to park itself over the UK, so a couple of those days were heavy rain, which added to the challenge of driving on the left, on narrower roads than we have at home. Trucks, cars, and motorhomes coming the other direction (and some had foreign plates, so they weren't from places where traffic normally drives on the left, either) sometimes strayed over the center line, so you have to watch for that, but also not drop off the left edge of the road.

Order your Tattoo tickets early, especially if you want to sit in a specific section and/or on a specific night. We opted for seats in section 6, near the front.

Coming from the north, we arrived on Skye via the bridge and departed via the shorter, cheaper car ferry to Glenelg. That gave us a ferry experience and the opportunity to see 2 Iron Age brochs just outside Glenelg, but it still took some time to drive to and from that ferry. On Skye, if you're hiking among the Storr or Quiraing, expect lots of other cars in the trailhead car park, and lots of other hikers. Hiking will mean sheep dung, too. Oh, and probably rain, as mentioned above ;-)

Ben Nevis may be socked in by clouds (with or without rain). Even if 2 of you are planning on going up the standard track, be sure you have a compass and the coordinates to find your way back down safely if visibility is low. The 2 who aren't planning on summiting The Ben could consider a boat tour on Loch Linnhe out of Fort William.

Posted by
132 posts

Thanks so much!
And jealous of the 2 weeks....but I know it is always like that..just need more time :-)

The tips are great..and the driving comments...very interesting especially if both sides are usd to driving on the "other side"

I am looking up the ferry's now as I had not heard of the one you said.

I will check out the one you took and this one Mallaig (mainland) to Armadale (skye).
Did you take the Mallaig due to the cost or due to the scenary! which I am all for!!!
And we will be going south to North...that might make a difference.

Would love any of your highlights.

Posted by
7575 posts

We really needed more than 2 weeks, but you gotta go back to work to pay for the next trip :-)

Highlights included being in Edinburgh during the Festival Fringe, attending the Tattoo, eating at Oink (2 locations now - the one listed in Rick Steves' guidebook and the other at the south end of the Royal Mile, a couple of doors down from our rented apartment for the week), a too-quick visit up to Shetland and Orkney isles for Neolithic and archaeological sights and seabirds (didn't get to go sea kayaking but shared dinner with some Californian visitors who did), Skye (in spite of -- or maybe because of the rain, which caused the steep, green mountainsides to spout rivers and waterfalls), seeing Fort William and Ben Nevis (got a bad cough the one day I had for trying to climb it, so didn't get to), and great Indian food in addition to haggis and other Scottish delicacies. Also Doune castle (northwest of Stirling and its impressive castle), where the Monty Python blokes and others have filmed. We attended some great Scottish music perfomances, too. In Edinburgh, check out the Royal Oak pub, with music upstairs and sometimes also in the basement, and a great Indian restaurant next door (have whisky with your vindaloo).

Again, we were rushed - just parts of 3 days on Skye - and we approached it from the north. It was pouring rain and the road along Loch Ness from Inverness was packed with traffic, and the parking lots for both Urquhart and Eilean Donan castles were completely full of tour buses and other cars (Monday, Aug. 11) so we opted to skip both of them :-( and continue on to Skye, where we had a B&B reservation that night. The bridge was the easiest way there, and you could argue that there's no route thru Scotland that's not scenic. The tiny ferry between Glenelg on the mainland and Kylerhea on Skye used to be the way everyone got to and from Skye by car (before the bridge) and the bigger Mallaig-Armadale ferry is how most people go by water now. We also understand the drive between Mallaig and Fort William is incredibly scenic, but we didn't have the time to fit in the drive to the southern (Sleat) part of Skye and that bigger (and yes, more expensive) ferry. Maybe next time . . .

Posted by
132 posts

thanks!!!

I do have a question for you and others who will hopefully jump in.

Does it really make a difference in our routing - clocwise or counterclockwise.
Example:
Lake District - Glasgow - Glencoe - Ben Nevis - Skye - Aviemore - Lochness - Caringroms (can we get this in) - Stirling - Edinburgh

OR

Lake District - Edinburgh - Stirling - Ben Nevis - Lochness - Skye - Glencoe - Glasgow (or maybe back to Edinburgh)

I am asking now the couple that is traveling with us might want to go to edinburgh first to drop off their cat and then start there and come back there.

They are also thinking we can leave wales - and get to Edinburgh in a day ...to me that is rushing it..and not stopping and enjoying....

Thoughts

Posted by
7575 posts

Others will probably chime in, but it's whichever direction works for you -- even zig-zag, if necessary, but a more or less circular route might be the most efficient if there aren't other factors like a specific need to be somewhere on a given day. It seems a previous post in this forum noted that Rick Steves' guidebook suggests going in one direction, and his group tours go in the opposite direction, so even Rick can work with either clockwise or (as they say in the UK) anti-clockwise.

Posted by
132 posts

INteresting you pointed that out about RS..as I noticed that he discusses the top sites and if you only have this many days go to these places, but then even his tours do not do that.....

Posted by
5678 posts

Before getting into the details, I cannot see any reason why clockwise or counterclockwise makes a whit of difference in planning your trip unless perhaps you are Wiccan. Since some of you have a reason to go to Edinburgh early, I'll work from that assumption.

Next, in terms of getting to Scotland, it would be a full day drive in my mind to get from Snowdonia to Glasgow or Edinburgh. It comes up on ViaMichelin as between 6-7 hours. With a stop for lunch, that's a day's trip. Not a long day of driving, but a day. If you want to stop in the Lake District, you will add at least a couple of hours to the trip. Another alternative would be to push through to the Borders, stop for a bit at Hadrian's Wall and spend the night in Melrose and see the Abbey's or push on through to Edinburgh. So, that's August 3rd.

If you want to see the Tatoo, you'll need another day in Edinburgh. You can explore the city--tour the Castle, it's worth it for the views, climb Arthur's Seat to work on the kinks from the long drive of the day before. That's August 4.

August 5 head to Stirling. The drive will be a bit over an hour. Drive straight up and park at the Castle. They open at 9:30. You could stop off at the Bannockburn Battle site on the way. If you leave by noon you can get to Kincraig by 4 PM. You will be driving through some beautiful scenery and the itch to stop and take pictures or explore will be great. Since you like to walk, know that you'll be going past an area of some lovely walks near Dunkeld. If you leave early enough, you could stop for lunch there at the Taybank and do a quick walk by the Tay, but you would be clock watching. Not sure I want to do that on vacation. At this point you can either head up to spend the night in Inverness, or stay in Kincraig. If you do the latter, you might choose to do some walks in the Cairngorms the next day. (BTW Toni is going to tell you to stay in Aviemore. The advantage is that you're a wee bit closer to the walks, but Kincraig looks nice so I would stay there.) Rothiemurchus has tons of options.

August 6. I am going to keep you moving to the sites that you specified. You can decide to add the Cairngorms or not. You can drive straight through Inverness and on to Urquhart Castle in less than two hours. There you choose to do a boat, tour the castle, check out the Nessie tat, whatever suits your pleasure. Loch views from the castle are great. There are lots of choices for cruises. I'm sending you next to Torridon. You will head north to the Muir of Ord and then west on the A832--Great North Road. This road joins other roads, but will take you to Kinlochewe. This is the start of Torridon Glen. There are lots of walks. If you want to spend a day in this area you would love it. Loch Maree to the west is great, but also there are walks down the Glen.

August 7. I am keeping you going as you said two days on Skye for hiking. It's a little over an hour to get to Eilean Donan. It's a beautifully situated castle. Up to you whether or not you want to take the time tour or head over to Skye and start walking. I'm going to send you to Portree in the center give you two nights. So you're moving south on the 9th. Skye is a big island. It will take over an hour to get to Portree. You drive past Sligachan on the way to Portree and you might want to hike in a bit to the Cuilins. If you are up for longer hike, you can get to a great view of Loch Coruisk.

Pam

Posted by
5678 posts

August 9. Take the ferry to Mallaig. It takes over an hour to get from Portree to the Ferry port so bear that in mind. Also, it's a beautiful drive so bear that in mind. :) It looks like there is 9:25 ferry--with 9 sailings. It's a fast trip--half an hour. It's a little over an hour to Fort William from Mallaig. It's a gorgeous drive.

August 10. I'm leaving you in Fort William so you can climb Ben Nevis.

August 11--13. So, you have time. At this point you could go back and add the hiking in the Cairngorms or Torridon. Alternatively, you could drive to Oban and take the Ferry to Mull for a couple of days. Or, you could drive through to the Trossachs via Glencoe. From the Trossachs you can easily get to either Edinburgh or Glasgow to catch flight to Dublin.

Pam

Posted by
132 posts

Hi PAM! waiting for your to jump in :-) you have a lot of fans on this board!!!

Not to throw you off, but got a question if we did go clockwise (as one person in our group wanted to do that) don't ask why, but if it really doesn't matter, is it too much to ask to re-route for me. I REALLY LOVE all your detail!!!

BUT before you do, a few more notes as we decided to get a car in Liverpool so we will have two cars:
1. We are thinking we want to enjoy the ride up and stop at the lake district get out for an hour or two (unless someone said not worth it!)
2. 2 of us will go to Edinburgh and drop off cat / the other 2 can go straight to the hotel in the area we stay
3. We will be doing the Tatoo on the way back so like this:
august 4 - drive up to Scotland
August 5th - 10th driving around the area
August 10th stay in edinburgh (or outside of EDI if we need more time ) (thinking if we are going counterclockwise we can wake up and enjoy the Cairngorm NP before heading back to EDI).
August 11th - full day EDI and Tatoo
August 12th - full day EDI
August 13th fly out

driving the road between Glenco and Edinburgh - should we take A84 or A82?

And thanks for the note on the Isle of Skye..as normally we don't need the big city, but it seems that is central. I did find a place for 4 of us in the Glenhinnisdal area. Thoughts? And others in case I don't see something in Portree.

sorry to ask you to assist in the other direction!

Questions I have off the bat..going from Skye - can we make it to Kincraig by 4:00 to see the Lenault working dogs...(with ENJOYING the trip!)

Should we see Stirling Castle the first morning like you said if we are still going clockwise.

Posted by
5678 posts

It's 3-4 hours from Edinburgh to Fort William. You could stop and see Stirling on the way. Just remember it's a big castle and you should allow an hour plus to see it. It's quite good--the renaissance palace was recently restored. You can then pick up the trip in reverse. If you want to do Mull do it before Stirling.

When you say drive around the area, do you want to check out the Borders? The Abbey's, Abbotsford, Traquair House, are all good.

To see Glencoe you take the A82.

Portree is not a big city at all. The only really big cities in Scotland are Glasgow and Edinburgh. Even Aberdeen, Dundee and I Inverness are not "big" cities. There are only a little over 2,000 people in Portree and 400 of them are children. :)

It's probably 4-5 hours to drive from Portree to Kincraig. And you're driving fast past all the good stuff and will miss Loch Ness and Torridon. If you like to walk and you like beautiful scenery, you don't want to miss Torridon. It's 3 hours from Kinlochewe. You could leave in the AM see Loch Ness and get to Kincraig.

I suggest that you go to www.viamichelin.com and start playing with routes.

Pam

Posted by
132 posts

HI pam..thanks..

when i said drive around the glenco area…I probably meant when we wake - then maybe go to ben nevis with our friends, and sightsee around glance (haven't researched a lot yet)…more scenery tho/hikes/small villages etc.

BUT if the sightseeing is really "getting there" then maybe we do not need to hang around the area.

The trip from Skye to Kincraig..I do not want to rush…and if we need to be in Kincraig at 4:00pm..then maybe we get there later and stay the night then see the area and see the dogs at 4:00 to 5:00 on the 10th - and get to Edinburgh later like 8 or so.

Basically either way - (clockwise / counterclockwise) the 4:00pm is messing me up! But I know we can do it ..just figuring out how.
Maybe on the 9th - on the way to Kincraig hit those places you suggested, ENJOY them; make it by 4 - and do the loch the next morning. So backtracking a little.
something like this:
9th - leave skye enjoy the trip to avimore/kincraig - (castle on the way out, torridon, other stuff need to remember :-)
- make kincraig by 3:30
stay in aviemore or kincraig
10th - see loch (backtrack) - need to figure out how long
- head to EDI

OR - sightsee all the way - on the 9th
10th - see sights around Cairngorm NP etc
4 to 5 dogs
5 head to EDI

(or in this case is it better for the counterclockwise - see stirling on the way out, see cairngorm - then the dogs at 4)
head out a few more hours toward skye..stay somewhere;
6th - to skye enjoying our time - )

Posted by
132 posts

I was thinking if we do the counter clockwise are we rushing the Glencoe to Edinburgh or not really as we do not have a place to be by a certain time.

Posted by
132 posts

Hey Pam..I started using the viamichelin site and it says that Torridon to Kinlochewe is only 19 minutes...were you saying it was 3 hours between the two ...in this sentence

"If you like to walk and you like beautiful scenery, you don't want to miss Torridon. It's 3 hours from Kinlochewe. You could leave in the AM see Loch Ness and get to Kincraig"

Also if we go counterclockwise sounds like you think it will be too hard to see Torridon ...which I know is recommended a lot here on RS. IS that tue? You had commented from Portree to Kincraig that w would mss Loch Ness and Torridon.

We could skip the Loch Ness if we need to as it seems is it a little out of the way (??) and we are seeing lots of other beautiful scenery.

Posted by
1658 posts

Hi Stacey

I think Pam was refering to walk from Kinlochewe to Torridon. I have had a look at your schedule and it seems a bit confused.
North Wales to central Scotland is basically a days journey, especially if you add in rest stops and some of the sites on route.

Secondly Scotland may look small on the map, but because of geography it is quite big. That journey on a map may be short but with the volume of traffic and quality of some of the roads may take a lot longer.

Is there anything specifically you want to see?

Posted by
132 posts

Hey MC....
sorry if it is confusing...I am sure I am analyzing too much.

I do know from North wales it will be a full day journey. As far as what specifically I want to see, I am still working on that, but since I know I had to narrow some things down..I can recap again...on the things I know we are doing - and then other then that - trying to narrow down the route and determining the things to see, which is beautiful scenery and THINGS that we can't see other places - i.e. the military Tatoo, castles, etc.

FOR SURE things we want to do:
1. Military Tattoo
2. Leault working farm (in Kincraig) - must be here at 3:30pm and can't be on a Saturday

Areas I Know we want to see
1. Isle of Skye - get out of car and hike etc so looking at a full two days including boat trip

  1. Other areas but need to narrow down: Glencoe Loch Lommond Cairn National Park Torrin (I originally stated Loch Ness, but I could skip if it helps to see other places like Torrin that I keep hearing about)

Interests
- gorgeous scenery / different scenery
- short hikes to enjoy the scenery; short hikes to get to a destination to see scenery
- wildlife
- castle (only tour maybe 1 or two) but love to see in the scenery
- small quaint villages / true scotland type of places/maybe a whisky tour
- photography so we will be stopping for pictures...we do not just want to whizz by everything.

Not sure if that helps....but the exact things to do and see along a route still working on - and struggling as too much to do and see

Known Information/dates
4th - travel day from Wales - arriving evening into Scotland
5th - 13th - 8 nights / 8 days in Scotland as we are flying out of Edinburgh on the 13th early morning.

so we have:
6th (full day)
7th (full day)
8th (full day)
9th (full day)
10th (full day)
11th (full day - military tattoo - prefer this day as it will be late and we will fly out the next day, but can be the 12th)
12th Full day

13th - fly to Dublin - have not booked flights yet

I hope this helps!!

Thanks for everyone's input..I hope I am driving you crazy.

Posted by
1658 posts

If you are doing the plan you suggest, I'd recommend travelling round Scotland clockwise.

Aim on that day to get up to the Greater Glasgow area on the day up and take it from there. This would give a night's rest prior to the Highland roads.

Clockwise also means being able to go on the ferry to Skye and back by the bridge. This means you are not doubling back to see Eilean Donan or Glenfinnan. Also Eilean Donan is better approached from the sea (view wise), remember it was meant to be intimidating to raiders from the sea so this has the best aspect.

For the dog trials, Kincraig is just off the A9 between Inverness and Perth, I would leave this until heading to Edinburgh or in making a day on the A9 and heading in to Perthshire before the capital.

The other suggestion is simplify. Don't try and programme in too much this early. If you want a distillery there are plenty with good reps in Perthshire. Even the Famous Grouse is not that far out the way at Crieff.

Posted by
132 posts

Thanks MC and I will try not to overthink it!

so on the isle of skye in and out - would it be the Maliag Ferry to Skye and then Bridge out of skye.

How would I see the Eilean Donan from the water....?

Posted by
1658 posts

Mallaig for the ferry and back via the bridge. The A87 sweeps along the north banks of Loch Duich which gives a good seaward view of Eilean Donan.

Posted by
1658 posts

To add why you want to see Eilean Donan from the seaward side. It is the classical tourist sight in the Highlands, especially when the sky scene is moody. There is a reason it is on the front of so many guidebooks to Scotland. And will appear somewhere in the ones for the UK. It is everywhere, and yet being Scottish is something I have never tired of. That is the magic of that vista and why you should come back from Skye by the bridge.

Posted by
132 posts

I was just thinking that if I was on the skye bridge I would not be seeing it from the sea view.

I thought you were saying we should be on the ferry to see it. (from the sea view :-)

By the way, this is the kind of detail I look at when I am traveling....and exactly why I was wondering if it is better to go one away vs another.

Posted by
1658 posts

Stacey, it may be a Briticism, not sure. Seaward is 'the side to the sea' the opposite is 'landward'. The BBC Scotland programme about matters relating to farming is called 'Landward' and in the south west of England the regional ITV station used to be called 'Westward' as in 'Westward Ho!', ie to see it you had to be heading west to see it.

So for Eilean Donan the best vista is from seaward heading landward. The reverse would be from landward heading seaward.

Posted by
132 posts

That's cool!!!!

Learned something new :-)

Posted by
7575 posts

To augment what MC says, we learned that Scotland has Lochs (water surrounded by land, like Loch Ness and Loch Lomond), and Sea Lochs, what some might refer to as a fjord, inlet, or bay (and what are all big enough to look like the sea to someone from land-locked Colorado).

Posted by
1658 posts

To augment what MC says, we learned that Scotland has Lochs (water surrounded by land, like Loch Ness and Loch Lomond), and Sea Lochs, what some might refer to as a fjord, inlet, or bay (and what are all big enough to look like the sea to someone from land-locked Colorado).

And one lake! The Lake of Menteith!

Yes, we are that kind of country.

Posted by
7575 posts

And also locks, for getting a boat up a canal. And Edinburgh and Glasgow have a few locks on a few doors, I suspect. Lochs, locks, and 1 lake - sublime!