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If you had three weeks in Scotland

I'm looking to plan a trip to Scotland for next August. We will rent a car (we've driven in UK and Ireland before) We want some hiking, charming villages, beautiful scenery/mountains. We've been to Edinburgh so that isn't on the plan unless we can score tickets to the Tattoo.
We would like to stay about 4 nights per location if that seems right, and maybe a week on Skye? We are flexible with how many days since we could be gone an month but do want to watch our costs.

What areas would you go?

On Skye, would it be nice to stay in two locations, one north and one south?


Posted by
1992 posts

We're going to Scotland for the first time in June so I can't recommend based on experience, but if it helps give you ideas, here's part of our itinerary:

Edinburgh-1 week, 2 day trips. One for an Outlander tour and one south of Edinburgh to Rossland Chapel.

Week 2:

  • Rent a car, head to Inverness for 3 nights. See the local sites such as Culloden. One day will be to drive north along the coast. Nothing in particular to see, just meander until we're bored.
  • Head south towards Oban, stay one night at Barcaldine Castle.
  • 2 nights on Mull. Bucket list visit, my hometown is named after Calgary Beach on Mull. 2nd day will be to visit Staffa and Iona.
  • 3 nights in Glasgow. From what I've read so far I think it may be underrated thanks to the attraction of Edinburgh.
Posted by
2 posts

I can't answer your exact questions but we are also planning an August 22 visit. Skye is wonderful! We stayed in Portree several years ago and as it is centrally located it might meet your needs. I'm looking into Oban as it is on the west coast with ferry access to the Inner islands. Does anyone have any hints on a self catering there? We did score Tattoo tickets on our last Scotland trip -very exciting but boy do they pack you in there! Very tightly seated on stadium bench seating.

Enjoy your planning !

Posted by
19519 posts

I also liked Glasgow a lot. I really enjoyed the Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings I was able to track down. I made a side-trip to the attractive smaller town of Helensurgh to see the Hill House. This is easy enough by train if you decide to spend some time in Glasgow without a car. My trip was 26 days long and I spent six of those days in Glasgow; I enjoy cities, and I wasn't driving.

Relatively long stays are a good idea in Scotland since there's always a risk of rain (especially in the west); it's great to have some flexibility for each day's activities. With all that Scotland has to offer, I'm not sure I'd go as high as seven days on Skye, though. Four nights was too short, given the weather I ran into, so maybe five or six nights?? On the other hand, you'll have a car so if you got itchy feet you could drive off the island via the bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh to see things like Eilean Donan castle and the little village of Plockton.

Having no car, I used Oban as a base for the West Coast Motors trip to Mull and Iona. There's nothing terribly special about Oban; it's just convenient for folks depending on public transportation.

I used Dundee as a base to see St. Andrews. The Victoria & Albert Museum has a new branch, a design museum, in Dundee. The city has other museums and historic sights that might be of interest; it's blessedly non-touristy. On my way back to Edinburgh I took buses through some of the East Neuk villages rather than opting for the (faster) train.

There's a great deal more to see in Scotland. I'd recommend making full use of your car to see more of the Highlands than I did.

Many of the Scottish castles have nice, large gardens, making them not quick stops.

The tourism infrastructure in Scotland is somewhat underbuilt. There's more demand than supply where both lodgings and restaurant tables are concerned. Hotels in Dundee and Glasgow were comparatively inexpensive. Things were different in Oban, Portree and Edinburgh. You need to make dinner reservations if you expect to consume that meal sitting at a table in a restaurant as opposed to perching on a bench where you'll have to fend off the seagulls.

Posted by
12574 posts

For part of your time in the Highlands, you could consider a 3- or 4-night stay at the HF Holidays country house at Glencoe, with guided walking if you like:

We have not been to this house, but have enjoyed 3 short holidays at other HF Holiday country houses in England, and booked for another next September. The price is all-inclusive—-lodging, meals (the food is excellent), guided walks on 3 different levels each day, and transport to and from the trailheads. The volunteer guides are very good, and we particularly enjoy the camaraderie among the guests on the trail and at social hour before and after dinner.

They also offer 4-day and 7-night options, as well as programs in other areas of Scotland, such as Iona and Mull, the Orkneys, etc.

Posted by
142 posts

We did a great trip in the summer of 2018, about a month. Here’s our itinerary. Maybe it will generate some ideas for you.

We flew into Glasgow and out of Edinburgh.
Sunday June 10 stay in Glasgow 2 nights Airbnb.

Train to Edinburgh.
Tuesday June 12 stay in Edinburgh 3 nights Airbnb.

Friday June 15 pick up Europcar at Edinburgh airport.
and stay in Pitlochry 3 nights. Poplars Guesthouse.

There is a full days worth of lovely places to see between Edinburgh and Pitlochry, then one day just exploring Pitlochry and one day leisurely driving around Loch Tummel.
Monday June 18 stay in Inverness 5 nights Airbnb.

Inverness is a great base for highland day trips. From here we visited Culloden and Clava Cairns; Nairn and Findhorn; Lochness; lovely towns going north towards Helmsale.
Saturday June 23 stay in Ullapool 2 nights. Eilean Donan Guest House.

There is a spectacular drive north on the A835 hwy.
Monday June 25 stay in Portree 6 nights split between two different places. Skye books up. We actually shuffled our dates a little in order to stay a week. There are lots of nice day hikes.
Sunday July 1 stay in Glencoe 3 nights. Fern Villa Guest House.

Beautiful drives and hikes in the area.
Wednesday July 4 stay in Oban 2 nights. Gramarvin Guest House. Rose Villa.

We skipped the Isle of Mull and instead did a day trip to the evocative standing stones and cairns around Kilmartin.
Friday July 6 stay in Callander 3 nights. Abbotsford Lodge.

Many pleasant hikes in the area. Also we partly planned our trip so we could spend a day at an authentic local Highlands Games. Fantastic one at Luss on Loch Lomand. Highly recommend you research if any are happening during your dates.
Monday July 9 return car and fly out of Edinburgh.

Posted by
1322 posts

I don’t hike and I have also already been to Edinburgh, as well as 5 days based in Ft William. I am going in July for just over 2 weeks (well, if my friends pull it together, we may first spend a week doing whatever they say and I will leave for my 2 weeks after that (for a total of 3 weeks. So no jet lag on my solo part.)

Mull: 4 nights
Skye: arrive and rent a car in Armadale, 4 nights, return car at Uig.
Harris & Lewis: rent a car at Tarbert, 6 nights (split 2 & 4 between Harris and Lewis), return car in Stornaway, fly to
Edinburgh: 1 night since I will have already been there.
From Edinburgh, I will head toward Durham & York.

It would be so easy to extend a night in Mull and more on Skye. I would also love to get to the Orkney Islands. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for me to still add it in. You could also head through the Cairngorms from Inverness (not sure if Logan Air flies there but probably).

Posted by
1872 posts

For hiking, we enjoyed the Old Man Of Storr hike just a wee bit down the road from Portree
( where we were based). There is also some excellent hiking in the Quirang. Check out walk highlands ( just google)

Posted by
624 posts

In early September 2019 we spent 4 nights on Arran and could easily have spent a week. It truly is Scotland in miniature. It has a little of everything: standing stones, ruined castles, manor houses, hill walking, Goat Fell and now, two distilleries. We stayed at the Glenartney B&B. The rooms are small but everything is impeccable and the owner is a volunteer with Arran Mountain Rescue. So his hiking suggestions are perfect.

A PP suggested HF Holidays house in Glencoe. We spent 4 nights there after Arran. We were full board and self-guided. The accommodations were comfortable, the food excellent and the hiking great. Even though we were self-guided the guides were very generous with their time in giving us ideas and guidance. We did a little of everything, including a part of the West Highland Way.

Posted by
933 posts

I don't know that you need a whole week on Skye, though you should definitely go. I would stay in Portree and make sure to see Dunvegan, go hiking, see some ruined Brochs, Kilmuir graveyard with the grave of Flora McDonald. You could see Eilan Donan either on the way onto the island or off of. If you like the Neolithic era definitely take the time to go to Orkney. Amazing! If you want to go to some of the outer islands you could definitely spend 5-6 nights there.

Posted by
257 posts

A few more general thoughts...

August is peak holiday time, so book your accommodation early, particularly on Skye.

Don’t underestimate the time needed to drive between places. Distances may not seem far on a map, but will take a lot longer to cover than you might expect. Once you leave motorways and main trunk roads, many roads are very slow and 30mph may be a reasonable estimate.

Make sure you rent from a reputable company. Arnold Clarke is recommended. Avoid Green Motion or Easirent which may look a lot cheaper but are notorious for hitting you with all sorts of excess charges. They get really bad reviews.

The Walk Highlands website is the best for walking ideas. As well as giving length and estimate of time, it also grades walks on level of difficulty and ’bog factor!

The Undiscovered Scotland website is one of the best, especially once you have decided on an area to visit. Start with the relevant map and follow the links to text pages with lots of information and pictures. This covers places the guide books have never dreamed about and there really are some hidden gems. I use it to plan all my trips to Scotland.

I also like DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Scotland (pick up cheaply from Amazon. It doesn’t need to be the latest edition as long as you check current visiting information from the web). This has a wealth of detail along with some superb pictures and reasonable maps to get you started. It also covers many places ignored by the other guides.

Posted by
530 posts

If coming to Skye in August then accommodation will be in short supply and at premium prices. If you want to do 'self catering' (i.e. a vacation rental) then almost all providers will expect you to stay 7 nights and most have Saturday as their changeover day. Skye easily warrants a week of anyone's time so if you are veering towards that length of stay then I'd suggest starting to look for a cottage now. Reputable agencies include LHH, Wilderness Cottages and Unique Cottages. I would stay in one place on the island rather than moving about.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
776 posts

Hi Susan and Monte

The shout out for Arran is a good one. ‘Scotland in miniature’ is correct! Great walking, Brodick Castle and gardens, standing stones/circles on Machrie Moor, beaches and an off shore Buddhist monastery. What’s not to like! And it’s relatively easy to get to - frequent ferries from Ardrossan. If you plan to take your car over - a good idea - book in advance.

The new distillery (Lagg) is owned by the same people who own the Lochranza distillery, but the plan is for them to do different things. They are about as far apart as you can get on Arran. I did the whisky tasting session at Lagg earlier in the year - it must have been good as I emerged carrying two bottles of limited edition Sherry cask stored single malt. And a t-shirt!

If you wanted rugged, beautiful and spectacular, go north west. Nobody has mentioned Torridon or Sutherland but they are big, empty and a bit magnificent. If you are into serious hiking, there’s lots to go at up there, but you’ll need to be well equipped and have decent weather. Even driving round those areas is an experience though!

Hope you fix something up that meets your needs!