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Is Isle of Skye "worth it" in a one-week itinerary?

We are in the early stages of planning a trip to Scotland in 2017. We haven't booked flights yet but will have about a week. We definitely want to go to Edinburgh (is two full days enough?) but not sure where to go next. After Edinburgh we'd prefer to stay in one place at a self-catering cottage/apt (or B&B if we can't find one) and do daytrips from there rather than spend each night in a different location. I've seen several week-long itineraries include Isle of Skye, but is this really worth the time it takes to get there when we only have a week? If it's a must do, we'll go, but if there are other places that would still give us a similar Scotland experience but not require a full day's drive from Edinburgh, we'd prefer that I think. I notice that Rick suggests Glasgow and Glencoe, but we have little interest in Glasgow. Would Glencoe give us a nice "feel" for Scotland? Is it a good base for exploring? We're keen to do the usual tourist stuff I suppose- see a couple castles, do some walks, spend some time in villages and pubs. We're in good shape but my wife recently had knee surgery so we need to stick to easy/moderate walks this time around. No Ben Nevis I'm afraid. Any suggestions to help me fill in this itinerary?

Day 1: Train/flight from London to Edinburgh
Day 2: Edinburgh
Day 3: Edinburgh
Day 4: leave Edinburgh, visit Stirling Castle en route to ???
Day 5: ???
Day 6: ???
Day 7: Return to London via train or flight from Edinburgh or Glasgow

We could potentially add one more day, depending on flight schedules. Just wanted to be conservative to start. Thanks in advance for your help.

Posted by
340 posts

Bob, are you intending to spend anytime in London itself? Is so, you might want to think about flying into London and returning to the US from Edinburgh, or the other way around. My husband and I have been flying into Edinburgh and returning through Heathrow quite a few times now. Immigration is so quick at Edinburgh's airport, and the walk to luggage pick-up and out to transportation just takes a few minutes (unlike Heathrow). This will also eliminate backtracking and allow more time to enjoy Scotland.

Posted by
2774 posts

If you are heading to Stirling, continuing north would take you to Inverness, which has a good 2 days' worth of things to see and do:

  • Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle; Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition
  • Culloden Battlefield, which has a nice visitor centre with a cafeteria
  • Cawdor Castle
  • Clava Cairns
  • Dolphin watching on the Moray Firth

If you want to stay in Nairn instead of Inverness, I can recommend Tali Ayer B&B in Nairn.

En route northward from Stirling past Pitlochry, you can visit the Dalwhinnie distillery if you are interested in whisky. (But be aware Scotland has among the strictest DUI laws in the world.) Another nice town to stop in is Aviemore. There is a steam train out of Aviemore (Strathspey), which I think may be the antique train featured in a short clip in the Downton Abbey episode when they all went to Scotland.

The above is assuming you rent a car out of Edinburgh. A self-drive tour would give you a good taste of the highlands with enough time to return to Edinburgh.

Posted by
1195 posts

I like epltd's ideas. Skye seems to be the "It" island and therefore is very popular and harder to make reservations even for campsites in an empty field. I would suggest more peaceful, less crowded locations. There are plenty of places to visit that are much closer to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Check Visit Scotland site and Historic Scotland site on line for valuable info and pictures that will help you design your itinerary. Stirling is worth a visit. The are plenty of sites to see near Edinburgh and Glasgow. We found it easy to book B & Bs at the local Tourist Office. We stayed in very nice Georgian Houses and Estate Farmhouses. It of course depends on the time of year. We always travel shoulder season. I would suggest not staying in one place as back tracking can be tedious and take up a lot of valuable time. Traveling in a circle route is best.

Posted by
168 posts

The Downton Abbey railway station clips were filmed at the Bluebell Railway in East Sussex not the Strathspey Railway in Aviemore.

However the Strathspey Railway was used in several episodes of the television series Monarch of the Glen. Broomhill Station still has the sign which reads "Glenbogle" even though the series finished in 2005. Lots of filming took place at Ardverikie Castle and estate and Laggan and Newtonmore which are nearby.

I visited the Strathspey Railway last year and it was an enjoyable way to pass a few hours. You can get nice coffee and cakes in the Mountain Cafe across the road in Aviemore and if the weather is good sit out on the balcony there to enjoy the mountain vista. If you are in Aviemore I also recommend The Old Bridge Inn for lunch or dinner. It's a bit expensive, but we thought worth the price.

Posted by
179 posts

Prior to travel I had been thinking Mull/Iona would be a more easily reachable way to experience that aspect of Scotland. Glad we wound up going to Skye - its different for sure. And, well worth visiting. Didn't see signs of crowding but then we were there in late September.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks all- yes I should have mentioned we will be spending some time in London either at the beginning or end- I'm nt sure which yet but yes it would make sense to book an open-jaw ticket. Thanks for the suggestions- I just want to be sure we still have the opportunity to see stunning scenery if we choose to forego Skye.

Posted by
73 posts

The ??? timing you have for Skye is probably the minimum you'd need; 3 nights/2 full days. The comment I would make about whether it's a similar experience to other places in Scotland is 'not really'(unless you go farther north.) Skye has a rather unique feel and landscape compared to all the (admittedly great) places south of it. On the other hand, a large part of it's attraction is the hiking; Quirang, Old Man of Storr, Neist Point, Fairy Pools, Cuillins, Loch Coruisk etc. which can be fairly demanding on the knees. So you might end up having to limit the number of 'different' areas that you can manage in a week a) due to time restraints and b) due to the demanding nature of some terrain. My wife has a (newly) arthritic knee and she is going to give Skye a try with trekking poles but we will need to be ready to adapt if it doesn't work out. There are more than enough other options to fit in a week.

Going up towards the east on the A9 past the Cairngorms, I know the Hermitage Walk is reasonable; "WalkHighlands.co.uk" gives a ton of options with easiness ratings and lots of other info. Go to 'VisitScotland.com'...'see&do'...castles...'search all of our castles'...'list view' and see what interests you-ruined hulks or operating castles, in which areas of the country. Cawdor Castle up by Inverness is a beautiful little operating castle, while Eilean Donan on the west coast(across from Skye) is the 'cookie-tin castle' photographer's dream.

It does seem a shame to miss the islands though; perhaps look at heading to Loch Lomond/Trossachs National Park>Glencoe(the drive itself is amazing)>Oban>Tobermory on the Isle of Mull from Stirling Castle. That is about 150 miles(and a ferry trip) and would probably get you into a B&B in Tobermory by the evening of the 4th day. Giving you 2 days on Mull; perhaps Turus Mara Puffin /Fingal's Cave boat tour, a trip over to Iona Abbey on Iona?

The common consensus among most posters I've read re. a permanent home base vs. multiple nights in different locations is that it usually doesn't pay to backtrack to the same spot every day, but 3 nights in a location is workable as that gives you two full days before you move on.

Posted by
223 posts

thanks for that walkhighlands.co.uk website referral. That is AWESOME! I am the not-such-a-hiker who is going to Scotland in June with 3 die hard hikers. This will ease my anxiety as I can choose some easier hikes and view the hike and the grade ahead of time. Many thanks,

Kaye