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Isle of Skye?

I've heard the Isle of Skye is not to be missed by some, others say there are better places to visit. Suggestions for the "better Places" would be appreciated. Beginning to work on our itinerary - we were considering the Shetland Islands, however we have limited time.

Thank you

Posted by
228 posts

I guess it depends on your appetite for 'transfer time' - i.e. the amount of holiday time you are prepared to use up switching between sites. In my opinion, Skye is nice, but nothing special in the context of Scotland as a whole, so I would only recommend it if you were in the vicinity anyway. Shetland, on the other hand, is sufficiently different from the rest of Scotland to warrant spending time getting there and back.

How much time do you have and where else do you want to visit?

Posted by
552 posts

It’s really going to depend on how much time you have. I enjoyed Skye, but would not make a beeline there from Edinburgh or Glasgow (depending on where you are flying in to) if I only had a week. If you are interested in Shetland then I would do that on this trip and leave Skye for another time as trying to do both would eat up a lot of time. You won’t regret it. You will enjoy any part of Scotland you visit, it’s all good.

Posted by
68 posts

thank you for the thoughtful replies. I'm wondering what other islands would be interesting for us to visit, Mull, Iona perhaps. Whiskey for my husband, art and archaeology for me. Inner of outer Hebrides. We will begin in Edinburgh and go from there. No set itinerary, perhaps 4 or 5 days.
thank you

Posted by
583 posts

The main reason to head to Skye (although not the sole reason) in my opinion is for the Cuillin mountains, especially the Black Cuillin which represents the best Alpine style climbing in the UK. It's rough and tough and not for the inexperienced or casual hiker. There are other attractions like the Trotternish ridge and the fact that it's big and empty away from the tourist hot spots like the Fairy Pools, Portree etc.

Might I suggest Aran as an alternative? Mountainous in its northern part, a couple of attractive towns, Neolithic sites on the west side in particular, remote beaches. Not for nothing is it called 'Scotland in miniature'. And it's easily reached from Glasgow (about an hour's drive to Ardrossan where the CalMac ferries depart for Arran).

Downside would be trying not to clash with 'Glasgow on holiday' when it's relative proximity makes it busy.

The Shetlands are hard to reach and in my recollection very empty. Nothing wrong with that if you like big and empty! I always tell people that my interest in birds sprang from there as there was nothing much else to do, particularly outside Lerwick! There are quite a few sites to investigate and you'd probably not be mobbed with tourists, but I wouldn't miss the mainland Highlands if you haven't been there already. My main recollection of Shetland was walking across the Hermaness bird reserve to view the Muckle Flugga lighthouse (and to try and see the resident albatross, several thousand miles off course. It will, however, be long gone by now - it was a long while back) all the while fending off attacks from the resident Arctic Skuas (Bonxies) which dive bomb you as you walk the not inconsiderable distance across the reserve! An unopened umbrella proved handy - holding it above your head meant they attacked that and not your actual head!

It's a thought anyway! Have a great trip wherever you end up!

Ian

Posted by
2564 posts

Wait -- are you saying that your entire trip will be just 4 or 5 days? If so, stay in Edinburgh and take a day tour to the highlands with a company like Rabbies or Wee Red Bus.

Posted by
552 posts

Yes, if you actually only have 4 to 5 days then just stay in Edinburgh. From there you can just do a couple of guided day trips and spend the rest of the time seeing the city which has a lot to offer.

Posted by
1526 posts

Agree with Anita, you don’t have a lot of time. Stick with Edinburgh and take day trips to Stirling castle, the borders or the highlands. I certainly would not consider the Shetlands with that limited time!

Posted by
68 posts

Thank you again for your suggestions, I sense a love of travel in you all. All the locations you have suggested are beautiful. We too live in an area surrounded by natural beauty, Washington state with both the Cascade and Olympic mountains, especially Mt. Rainier. My husband is the outdoorsman who has hiked many of the mountain trails.

What I would like him to see would be vistas he can't find nearby; not an easy task. For me it's the art and archaeology, and of course castles that is the draw. The more I've thought about it, your suggestions to stick to Edinburgh might be best. Much more to consider than when I first began to put an itinerary together.

Once again thank you

Posted by
1579 posts

We have been to Scotland half a dozen times and Skye is one of our favorite parts. From Edinburgh, I would suggest a loop up towards Inverness (skip the not very exciting city of Inverness), down the Great Glen with a stop at Urquart Castle. When you get to Fort Augustus, take the Road to the Isles. If you stay near Broadford on Skye you can easily visit the three fingerlike peninsulas at the end of Skye and also visit Eileen Donan Castle and Plockton on the mainland. It's also possible from Uig on Skye to take a ferry to Harris/Lewis if you want an "Outer Hebrides" experience. Returning, drive through Glencoe which is absolutely gorgeous, especially if the weather is a bit moody. I don't have my map out, but you will pass Stirling Castle on this loop, if that interests you.

We didn't get around to Mull until our last trip - it's good for nature lovers, although not as lovely IMHO as western Washington. Mull doesn't have a lot of roads and those on the far side away from Tobermory are VERY narrow, even by Scottish highlands standards. Tour books led us to expect to see more on Iona than we actually found.

Edinburgh is an interesting city, but with limited time I would give it one full day - Start at the castle, walk the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace, climb Arthur's Seat if time permits. Or replace that hike with time in the Royal Museum of Scotland, full of interesting exhibits.

Google map: Edinburgh, Queen's View, Inverness, Broadford, Glenfinnen, Fort William, Glencoe, Stirling Castle, Edinburgh and you will see the route. It's about 450 miles total, plus whatever you choose to drive while on Skye. Less miles than a RT from Seattle to Spokane.

Posted by
228 posts

Cynthia said: "It's about 450 miles total, plus whatever you choose to drive while on Skye. Less miles than a RT from Seattle to Spokane."

Sure, but the route from Edinburgh to the far tip of Skye includes narrower roads with fewer overtaking opportunities, so all it takes is a couple of dawdling cars/caravans to start a little convoy and the tailbacks can get very tedious, adding significantly to travel times. I'm not saying it's an epic journey, but given the OP's short stay in Scotland, I really don't think it's a good use of time unless there is a REALLY good reason to visit Skye,.

Posted by
1579 posts

On our six trips to Scotland we have not encountered horrible road delays. Yes, one drives about 35-50 mph, but the 450 mile drive time is spread over several days. Many Scottish roads are narrow, but there are passing places every mile or so and most drivers use them if they are delaying other cars behind them. On Skye itself, there are enough roads to make different choices if there are significant delays.

Posted by
15 posts

We really enjoyed staying in Oban when we were there last summer. It was a great base for some day hikes in the Glencoe region, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and for a day trip/bout tour of Mull, Staffa (Fingal’s Cave), and Lunga. If you are going to be there when the puffins will be nesting, I cannot recommend our boat tour with Staffa Tours highly enough. Best part of our trip hands down. I was trying to decide between Skye or somewhere closer to Edinburgh/Glasgow when I was planning our trip and I am so happy that I decided to skip Skye for our first trip and save it for another time.

Posted by
2662 posts

4 or 5 days isn’t much time. If you decide to stay in Edinburgh there are also Craigmiller castle and Rosslyn chapel (seen in the da Vinci code movie and knights Templar connected) outside of Edinburgh that are easy to reach by bus. I enjoyed driving the Isle of Skye but it would be better if one has the time to do some hiking or other outdoor activities.

Posted by
2941 posts

I would NOT just stay in Edinburgh! My disclaimer here is that I find the countryside far more interesting and enjoyable than cities most of the time. 5 days is not a great deal of time so your challenge is to not spend most of your time in transport from one place to another. Pick one other location that won't take too long to get to. I would say if you want to explore islands you should skip Edinburgh entirely and focus on the islands with just 5 days.

Posted by
1071 posts

Look at the Visit Scotland web site for some good visuals. Both Glasgow and Edinburgh have World Class art collections. Edinburgh has mostly Georgian Architecture. Historic Scotland has great Castle pictures. Skye is picturesque and worth a side trip if you are already in the area; it is very very popular because you can drive on instead of taking a ferry. If you are interested in the Renaissance be sure to visit Holyrood Palace, Stirling Castle and Lithlingow Palace. If you are interested in churches go south to visit the Borders Abbeys from the Middle Ages. Save the islands for another time when you can afford to go on a small live aboard cruise. Most of the guided trips to the islands do not include the cost of accommodations and reservations have to be made separately.