We are debating a driving (young seniors)versus an escorted tour of the Highlands but definitely want to go to the Isle of Lewis to experience family heritage. Seems most tours don't touch on the Outer Hebrides . We also don't want to miss the usual spots such as Loch Ness, etc. Is driving difficult? Any suggestions as to setting up tours versus taking our chances on where to stay? Our budget is not unlimited!
We included a couple days on Lewis as part of our trip a couple summers ago. Lewis is easy to get around on - I cannot image any reason why one might need a "guide" there. Driving on Lewis is easy. As elsewhere in Scotland, some small lanes are more narrow than most of us are used to, but there's not exactly a lot of traffic there so it's not an issue, and most roads are perfectly ordinary. Beautiful landscapes, a bit empty and desolate (but that's part of the charm). Not a lot of trees. We loved it. We flew in from Edinburg and rented a car at the airport. Easy as pie. It's a quiet, low-key place, so don't expect nightlife or a lot of dazzle, but if you enjoy scruffy northern places with natural beauty and salty characters, you'll probably like it.
Thanks for your input. Did you fly back and forth to and from Stornoway to Edinbrough? Also considering taking a train for mainland sights & setting up our own B & B's,etc.
This was part of a larger UK trip. We flew into London, spent a few days there. Took the train out to Salsbury, picked up our rental car there (we wanted to go to Stonehenge anyway, and I did not want to drive in/near London). From Stonehenge we drive up to Glastonbury, through the Cotswolds, to York, Durham, and on up to Edinburgh. From Edinburgh we drove up around the Highlands, Loch Ness, etc., and dropped our car off in Inverness. That's where we caught the flight to Stornoway (sorry, nor from Edinburgh). A couple days with a rented car on Lewis, then we flew Stornoway to Kirkwall on Orkney (via Inverness). Did a couple days on Orkney, then flew from Orkney direct to London. We finished with a couple days there before flying back to the US.
The trip was awesome, though a bit more hurried than most people like. Lots of driving. Lots of standing stones. Lots of seafood (scallops from Orkney were the size of your fist, tender and deeelish...). The only trains we took were from London to Salsbury (Stonehenge). Flights were on "FlyBe" a low-cost airline. None were terribly expensive. Stayed mostly in B&Bs. We enjoyed it all. We don't do guided tours, and I wouldn't imagine anyone would have trouble there, it's all English (well, kind of...) easy and well set up for visitors. Easy traveling in the UK. Great places!!!
It takes a few hours on the road to acclimate to driving on the left -- even in an automatic transmission car -- and I would emphatically not recommend driving on the day of arrival when you're jetlagged. But, if you flew into Edinburgh and spent a night or two in town, then rented a car from the airport, the access to main motorways from there is quite easy. Do ask the rental agent which signs to follow at the roundabouts to get going in your desired direction, however.
You could drive up to Inverness and spend a day seeing the nearby Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness as well as the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition, then continue to either Ullapool or the Isle of Skye to catch a ferry to Lewis and Harris. See https://www.calmac.co.uk/destinations/lewis