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How to spend a week in the Highlands?

My family roots come from Applecross Scotland so seeing where my family is from would be amazing. I would love to spend as much time possible in Scotland especially in the highlands. I have some ideas of what I would like to see such as: Glencoe, Loch Lomond, Loch Ness, Ben Nevis, Isle of Skye, Orkney Islands, Hebrides and more. I would love see some of the most gorgeous scenery in Scotland such as Glens, Ben's (Mountains), Lakes, Rivers, Rolling Hills. Also can someone list some of the top castles to see. I looked at a top 12 and saw some really nice ones. I love Dunnator, Eillean Dun. How can I spend a week or more driving through the Highlands? I will be going in the summer to get the best weather possible. I will also be going to Wales to see the castles and England to see the Cotswolds and the Lakes Districts. Thanks everyone for your help. Also, is Cornwall really worth it????

Posted by
1829 posts

I suggest you buy a copy of Rough Guide Scotland and use it to plan your trip. You can easily spend a week in Scotland. Cornwall? Psaw!

Posted by
1291 posts

Cornwall is worth it but as an add on after Scotland and Wales, you might be a bit underwhelmed.

As Monte says, get a Rough Guide, and a cheap map. Remember those distances can be deceiving as a mountain nay be in the way. Going over to the islands except Skye will involve time on a ferry, and money for the ferry. So any trip to Orkney, hint just Orkney or the Orkney Islands, Orkneys at a push, but never Orkney Islands.

The Hebrides fall into two, Outer, covered by Comharle nan Eileann na Siar (Western Isles Council) and the Inner Hebrides, split between Highland Council and Argyll and Bute. A lot of people forget Argyll and Bute are in the Highlands and pass that by. My favourite island is Mull, in Argyll and Bute, with its additional attraction of Iona. Inverary is also in Argyll and Bute, seat of the Campbells. The title of Duke of Argyll possibly gives that away.

You can easily spend a week, going to Orkney alone will prpbably take up three days to do it justice.

So square one: Monte's Rough Guide, a cheap map, a pad of paper and a HB pencil, and some coffee, or possibly a nice glass of red.

Posted by
4749 posts

I think you are trying to cover too much ground in a week, so if you actually want to get out of the car at some point, rather than just speeding between destinations (well, as much as you can speed in the Highlands), I would drop Orkney from your itinerary and focus on the west side of the country. The Hebrides is also debatable if you want to spend time looking at castles etc. should help with what to see.

I spent a week based in Glencoe and did not even have time to get to Skye. The Ardnamurchan peninsula was one of the prettiest places of the whole trip - you can get a car ferry over there then drive back via Fort William. Oban Chocolate Shop is fantastic - you can have a coffee and try a small plate of chocolates whilst you watch them being made, then buy a bag for the car!

I would avoid the Lake District in August - so much traffic then nowhere to park! Instead, I would head to nearby Forest of Bowland or The Yorkshire Dales for great countryside and slightly fewer people. Or stop in the Borders towns such as Kelso or Jedburgh which were changed hands between the Scots and the English several times (many years ago)!

Personally, I think Cornwall is over-rated - I prefer Devon and Dorset.

Posted by
1586 posts

We enjoy coastlines and really like visiting Cornwall. There are lots of pretty villages, neolithic sites, good restaurants, stately homes, and spectacular gardens in a fairly compact area. However, Cornwall is quite far from your other destinations......We found the Cotswolds excessively "twee"; the Lakes District is pretty but not terribly exciting. All IMHO, of course......Our other favorite part of Great Britain is Scotland, especially the northwestern parts. You might enjoy a trip involving Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle (skip Inverness), driving down the Great Glen, heading up to Skye, then catching the Uig-Tarbert ferry for two nights on Harris / Lewis (avoid Sundays there). You could take the ferry back to Uig or if you have the time, take the other ferry to Ullapool, looping back down through Loch Torridon and then to Applecross. I wouldn't worry too much about castles in Scotland if you are also going to Wales which is thick with them. Castles come in three varieties: ruined (the ones we like), heavily restored, and ones built by rich people during the 1800s.

Posted by
5561 posts

If your family roots are from Applecross then you really should go there! It's a beautiful place. The peninsula itself has a fantastic road with startling scenery. We saw it in the rain and were awed. Undiscovered Scotland lays out a driving route that is very close to what we did and probably is better.

And the others are right; you cannot do all of this. So, maybe a little geography is warranted first. Scotland seems small, but because the roads are small and there are so many sea lochs and regular lochs it's not easy to get around. The mountains don't speed things up either! If you want Castles in the Highlands, here's a interesting map. And castles come in all shapes and sizes. Eilean Donan is restored and has stuff in it. Ardvreck is a romantic ruin. I like both. If you want a section of Scotland with more densely packed castles, try Aberdeenshire and Grampian. This where you'll find Balmoral, Fraser Castle and more. And there there is the incredible ruin Kildrummy. At any rate you get the picture.

You spend the week driving through the Highlands from place to place. Circling the top and down the west coast is really beautiful. Or you could pick a couple of places and make day trips from home bases. I push for somewhere near inverness as it's easy to get north, west, east and south from there. So you can have flexibility when the weather challenges you. And yes, even though it is summer, the weather is likely to challenge you, unless you truly have the weather gods on your side--appropriate sacrifices should be made! The area to the North that I would recommend are Dornoch and Dunrobin. To the east is Speyside and interesting castles in Grampian. To the immediate south are the Cairngorms and places like Kingussie. To the west is Torridon, Applecross, Skye, Ullapool, and more.

If you want to stay in the west you could split your time between a northern base--maybe Gairloch and the Fort William area. I agree that Ardnamurchan is amazing. But the other lochs near Loch Ness are beautiful too. Make sure that take the wee roads. Turn off the main road periodically and explore. Here BTW is an interesting page I just found on Undiscovered Scotland of recommended driving tours.

And don't just whiz through the souther bits on you way to the Lake District. Stop in Edinburgh and Stirling for two of the best castles. And the Trossachs and Perthshire have beautiful scenery as well. Glen Lyon is one of my favorites. And if you want stark countryside and stark history don't forget the Borders! Check out Hermitage Castle!! Fending off the Sassenach and the Reivers for centuries. Check this out about the Debatable Lands. "'all Scotsmen and Englishmen from this time forth shall be free to rob, burn, spoil and slay any person or animals or goods belonging to all who inhabit the Debatable Lands.'"