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Itinerary and Travel Advice?

Hi there,
My friend and I will be doing a little over a week exploring the Highlands and we're wanting to avoid driving (not a huge driver in the US, not sure if it's worth the stress). We were looking at the ScotRail Highland Rover pass and it seems like it will get us to all the places we want to go. Does anyone have experience using it for this kind of travel?

Our itinerary is as follows so far:

  • July 31—Fly into Edinburgh
  • July 31-Aug 2—InvernessExploring when we get inBooked tour up to Orkney on Aug 1
  • Aug 2-4—Isle of Skye
  • Aug 4-6—ObanTour of the islands on Aug 5
  • Aug 6-7—Glasgow
  • Aug 7-11—Edinburgh for Fringe

If you have any other tips or suggestions those would be greatly appreciated as well! Thank you!

Posted by
984 posts

I love The Fringe! So glad you're planning to attend!
Safe travels!

Posted by
189 posts

You are going to have problems with this itinerary if you are relying on the train to get you to the different places. There is a train from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh but that is it. You have to cross the bridge to get to Skye. There are no railways on Skye. The bus service on Skye isn’t very good and more geared to getting people to and from work or children to school than for tourists. I’m not sure how you are planning to get around on Skye.

Also how are you getting from Skye to Oban This would involve returning to Inverness and then catching a train to Glasgow and then train to Oban. It is going to take nearly all day.

Posted by
2 posts

I was going off of this map on the site for the Highland Rover pass, which is why I assumed we'd be able to get to all of the locations. And then I figured we'd still rent a car for the stay in Skye.

Posted by
4548 posts

This is a frenetic pace by public transport.

31 July - arrive, presumably from the USA? Edinburgh to Inverness is about 5 hours door to door by train. Get over jet lag. This is the only time you will have available to see whatever you want to see in the Inverness area such as Culloden, Clava Cairns or Cawdor Castle.
1 August - possibly still suffering jet lag, you propose a 3 hour coach drive to John o’Groats to then take the (excellent) all day boat trip to Orkney before heading back another 3 hours to Inverness? You can fly, but this isn’t a quick option either!

2 August - travel to Skye. There aren’t any trains on Skye, so it’s a bus or train/bus combo to get there, taking 4.5+ hours door to door.
3 August - explore Skye
4 August - head to Oban. I can’t see from google an easy way to get there if not driving. A 7.30am Portree bus departure then train journey has you arriving in Oban 6.5 hours later.
5 August - Tour of the Islands
6 August - pack up again and off to Glasgow 4+ hours door to door. Get maybe half a day in Glasgow then off to Edinburgh the following day.

I think you need to prioritise what you want to see, as you are short changing everywhere and you will be spending as long in transit as seeing places and in some instances, longer! Without knowing your interests, it’s difficult to advise. Can you fly into Inverness or via London to Inverness?

Accommodation in Edinburgh needs booking ASAP.

Posted by
18351 posts

As Jennifer has pointed out, you're not going to have enough time anywhere. I think you may be sort of kidding yourself by listing your itinerary the way you have, with each travel day attributed to both the place you're traveling from and the place you're traveling to. In actuality, that day will provide very little time in either place. This is the way I'd document your plan:

July 31: Fly into Edinburgh, train to Inverness (2 nights). Day-trip to Orkney (Aug 1).
Aug 2: Train/bus to Skye (2 nights). Just one full day to see Skye (Aug 3).
Aug 4: Train/bus to Oban (2 nights). Tour of the islands (Aug 5).
Aug 6: Train/bus to Glasgow (1 night). Just hours to see Scotland's largest city.
Aug 7: Train to Edinburgh (4? or 5? nights). Fringe Festival.

I like Glasgow, but you have to drop it. You need that day more in Skye. Personally, I'd drop that long slog of a trip to Orkney and go back sometime when you can spend more time there. But I am not very interested in prehistoric sites, which no doubt colors my advice.

Keep in mind that the weather in western Scotland is very changeable. Rain is common. Giving yourself only one day at prime destinations like Skye may mean you enjoy the scenery from the inside of a bus with rain sheeting down the windows. Even with multiple days it's a challenge to sightsee in western Scotland without a car, because tours, trains and even intercity buses often must be booked well in advance, before you can consult an even halfway-useful weather forecast.

Posted by
489 posts

The advice you have received so far about the pace of your trip is absolutely spot on. Whether you want to race around like this, basically seeing this from the railway carriage window is ultimately up to you. However, here are some (hopefully practical) thoughts.

  1. Unless you have a particular interest in Glasgow I would forget about it for this trip. Your original message says Highlands, so if that's your focus, then don't worry about seeing Glasgow.

  2. Skye. Yes you will need to rent a car while here. None of the big car rental companies are based here on Skye. So I would suggest contacting Morrisons in Portree right now to book your car for August. Morrisons website
    You will be able to arrange for the car to be delivered to Kyle of Lochalsh station to meet your train. You could also then arrange to drop it off at Armadale, where the ferry departs for Mallaig.

  3. The best way to get from Skye to Mull would be to take the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig (as foot passengers), then catch the train to Oban. You would be travelling along one of the most scenic stretches of railway line in the country, changing trains in Fort William and Crianlarich. This is more efficient than back tracking to Inverness.

Hopefully this helps
Jacqui (Skyegirl)