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Itinerary for mid to late September

This is my husband and my first time to Scotland.
We are flying into and out of Edinburgh.

We are planning on using all public transportation. Currently thinking of buying Spirit of Scotland 8 day pass.
We like spending time in nature with a spattering of touring national treasures (ie castles, museums, etc.).
Our pace is relaxed but steady.
Please look at my itinerary and let me know what you think.

Day 1. Arrive Edinburgh around 4:30 p.m.
Day 2. Tour Edinburgh
Day 3. Tour Edinburgh
Day 4. Leave Edinburg for Nairn (stay in Nairn)
Day 5. Tour Nairn and surrounding area
Day 6. Leave Nairn for Skye (stay in Broadford on Skye, entire Skye via Kyle of Lochalsh)
Day 7. Tour Skye
Day 8. Tour Skye
Day 9. Leave Skye for Stirling (leave Skye via Armadale, stay in Stirling)
Day 10. Tour Stirling
Day 11. Leave Stirling for Edinburgh (stay at airport in Edinburgh)
Day 12. Leave Edinburgh, flight at 6a.m.

Thanks for any time and information you can spare.

Posted by
6434 posts

I'm not convinced that the Spirit of Scotland pays for itself- 4 days in 8 £149 or 8 days £189-

Train Edinburgh to Nairn £26 Advance Fare
Train Nairn to Kyle £34.60 full price Single
Coach Kyle to Broadford £4.30 (you may be able to get a service bus at 1455 or 1647 instead of the coach but same kind of fare)
Coach Broadford to Portree on each of 2 days £9.00
Stagecoach Day Rovers Skye on each of 2 days £8.70
Bus at 0655, 0943 and 1150 Broadford to Armadale £4.50. The early bus gives nice connections, The 0943 bus gives you a very long layover in Mallaig, the 1150 bus again good connections but a very late arrival in to Stirling and seeing half the West Highland line in the dark.
Train Mallaig to Glasgow £42
Train Glasgow to Stirling £9.50
(Much less than the through fare Mallaig to Stirling)
Train Stirling to EDI £10.80
Edinburgh Tram Day Rover inc Airport £7.50

TOTAL £175.60- all except the Day 4 train to Nairn are full fares

Maybe the convenience of not buying individual tickets outweighs the £14 difference

Staying at Broadford is a bit limiting as most of the buses to Portree are the long distance coaches- the first being at 11am. Apart from that you've only really got a service bus at 8am (from Broadford Hospital, not the Post Office).

Posted by
1188 posts

Skye is really difficult by public transport. The buses (apart from the main Citylink ones) are not very frequent and tend to be based on school runs. Personally I'd consider some kind of organised tour for Skye so you can get to some more of the more difficult to reach spots. Perhaps a Rabbie's tour or Skye Jeep Tours

Posted by
1464 posts

Ferries are no longer included with the Spirit of Scotland Pass as of April 2023. Friends of mine spent a week staying in a condo in Edinburgh and took day trip tours from there. They covered a lot of ground at a reasonable cost. Rabbies Tours or similar seem to be popular.
We did 2 driving trips throughout Scotland because public transportation is not convenient in the rural areas. IMO I think that Skye, although it has spectacular landscapes can be be a one day experience. Stirling can be a day trip from Edinburgh. If you do want to tour north I would stay in Inverness rather than Nairn because you can take more day trips from there. Taking the train to better served locations and then booking day tours could work for you, I always reccommend driving yourself if possible for you.

Posted by
22 posts

Thank you for the thought provoking replies.

The Spirit of Scotland versus buying all trains and buses separately deserves some sitting down and doing calculations once my itinerary is set. It does include buses and trams...

Would it make any difference to take a longer bus ride and stay in Portree on Isle of Skye?

Or perhaps stay in Fort Williams and do day trips to Glen Coe and Isle of Skye?

Should I extend our original stay in Edinburgh and do Stirling as a day trip and then return to Edinburgh straight from the Highlands?That would give us another 2 days to add to either the Nairn/Inverness area or Highlands. Or a stop I overlooked?

Thanks!

Posted by
6434 posts
  1. Personally I think that Stirling would be a better idea as a day trip from Edinburgh than as a visit on a diversion as described. Then you can return straight from the Highlands to Edinburgh.

  2. Skyegirl (Jacqui) is our Skye specialist. Take what she says very seriously. I am used to using public transit, and coping with it's limitations. I can get around Skye reasonably well by transit. But I don't know how well you are used to using infrequent transit at home and/or to using UK transit. I would rather that you took her practical advice than my UK centric experience of coping with pretty limited timetables.

  3. Personally if you do definetly want to use transit, rather than tours, I think Portree, rather than Broadford, is much the better place to stay. Likewise you are a bit late to the show for finding accommodation. Jacqui will give you a late Skye rooms facebook page, whatever exactly it is called.

  4. No matter where you stay on Skye if using the Armadale ferry you have to mesh in 3 buses a day to Armadale, with 3 trains a day from Mallaig (which have a huge gap between 10 am and 4pm). The best days of the week to do the Armadale route are Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Catch the bus which arrives at Armadale at 1020, then the 1030 ferry, then the 1210 Shiels Bus #500 to Fort William (arrives 1325) then a Citylink coach at 1410 to Glasgow, changing to another coach which arrives at Edinburgh at 1930. That can be booked as one journey (including the Mallaig bus) on the Scottish Citylink website.

If you keep Stirling where it is in the schedule a change of coach at Glasgow gets you there at 1915.

That is the civilised way to do the journey.

  1. If you think Nairn fits your plans better (and Stagecoach do have a good bus network in the area as well as the trains) then stay there rather in Inverness- a city which repeatedly draws opposing and polarised opinions on this forum.
Posted by
1188 posts

Hmm, well Portree will certainly have more accommodation and eating options that Broadford, and you might still find availability for B&B in mid/late September, but the facebook group for late availability is called Skye Rooms. You can ask to join the group and then post details of what you're looking for including dates, number of nights, budget etc. Accommodation providers with availability will then reply to your post and let you know what they have available.

I must admit that the very idea of travelling around Skye by public transport fills me with dread - and I'm well accustomed to using UK public transport having lived all over the UK and relied on public transport to get to work for many years. Here I've only travelled on the bus once, and that was the Glendale to Portree early morning service that passes the end of my road at 0730 on its way to Portree to drop the kids at the high school. As for trying to marry up buses and ferries, well as you've been told above that is likely to involve some long waits in between services.

Once you are back on the mainland your public transport experience is likely to improve and the Citylink buses are pretty good.

I'm not convinced that staying in Fort William and trying to do a day trip to Skye would work. But I know that there are Rabbie's tours from Inverness that include Skye. That could be a good option and you'd certainly see more of Skye that way than you would relying on the local buses.

Good Luck!
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
22 posts

Thank you for all the helpful information!
I'm going to spend some time redoing my itinerary.
1. Add some days spent in Edinburgh and do day trips
2.Add some time in Nairn/Inverness and do day trips
3. Eliminate Isle of Skye (save for another trip in the future)
4. Add Fort William as a base and do day trips on the West Highland Coast. Fort William is labeled by many as a somewhat soulless town, but a great base city for the surrounding area.

Posted by
1188 posts

I think this is now a good plan. Nothing wrong with Fort William. The pedestrianised high street is not bad at all. There's a couple of good coffee shops/cafes including an excellent vegan one (and this from a meat eater!) and as you say an excellent base from which to explore. If you fancy a walk out of town you could check out the Highland Soap Company visitor centre and cafe, which is excellent.

Posted by
1976 posts

A lot of people are very ready to dismiss Fort William. It isn't as bad as it is made out to be. The High Street is pedestrianised (have a quick look in St Andrew’s Episcopalian Church on the High Street which has rather a nice Chancel area) and there is a large Morrisons supermarket opposite the station. It is an excellent base for exploring the area, with a wide choice of accommodation.

Posted by
22 posts

I have put to use all the helpful information that has been posted.
I now have accommodations in Edinburgh, Nairn, and Fort William.
The Edinburgh and Nairn accommodations were researched and picked based on recommendations from this forum.
I did read the forum link that was provided for Fort William, and decided there are many advantages to staying in Fort William.
Thank you for all the information provided!!!

Posted by
6434 posts

Good,

I think you will enjoy Fort William.

Also have a look into the West Highland Museum in the middle of the High Street, and also go down to see the remains of the Fort which gives Fort William it's name.

Have a look at Shiel Buses website- you will be surprised where they get to (including to wonderful walks in Glen Nevis, and hourly to Ballachulish and Kinlochleven) and and how good their local services are, as well as there being the hourly bus service up Loch Ness.

Before Covid CalMac had a thriving business running tours from Fort William using the Mallaig ferries to Skye and the small isles, part of a much larger tours business using their ferries around the system, which shows no sign of coming back.

The other 'secret' if you are going to Glenfinnan is the cruises on Loch Shiel, which can be good for seeing wildlife. You barely see these mentioned in any guidebook.

Posted by
22 posts

Such a timely reply!
I'm getting to a point where I am putting together a wish list of things to see.
I will definitely research your suggestions.
You are correct, the guide books give information about the most popular/iconic sites. This forum is wonderful for the hidden gems.
Thank you!

Posted by
1976 posts

An even better source of ideas is the Undiscovered Scotland website. I don't bother with guide books now and use it to plan all my Scottish holidays. Start with the map pages and follow the links to text pages with lots of information and pictures. It repays time spent to find out just what the site covers - It also has accommodation suggestions and also late availability ideas. There is a list of events too as well as ideas for driving tours...