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Itinerary Help

My sister and I (early 60's and early 70's) are planning a return trip to Ireland as well as a visit to Scotland for this fall, mid October. I know the weather will be less than ideal, but having made trips in the last two years during the "off" season, I'm a big fan of the decreased crowds.

Tentatively, I'm thinking three days in Edinburgh, a day trip to Glasgow (all by train), then renting a car and visiting Loch Lomond, Luss in particular, to pay tribute to our heritage Colquhoun. On to Inverness to Culloden and maybe a day trip to ride the Jacobite Rail.

I'm stuck at that point. I realize this is just a taste of Scotland, but wonder if I have missing something big? (Like visiting Texas and missing the Alamo!) We will be either returning to Edinburgh to fly back to the USA, or flying to Dublin to do the Irish half of our trip.

My sister has some mobility issues so long hikes are out. My son is not interested in the great outdoors, either. Castles, museums and scenic views without long hikes are more our cup of tea.

Any thoughts?

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Linda,

How long will you be in Scotland? I have to admit that you could spend a year there and still not see everything that you want to see.

If you're visiting Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, and Fort William, you are covering some of the more tourist oriented areas. I would imagine that you'll be visiting Rossdhu House, which now unfortunately is the main clubhouse for the Loch Lomond Golf Club.

What are your interests? You mention scenic vistas, castles, and museums You also note that your son is not interested in the great outdoors. Is he going with you, or is it just yourself and your sister? A lot of what you see will be determined by how much time you have to spend in Scotland. If you can provide more information, you will receive lots of ideas and recommendations on this forum. Each of us has his or her own idea as to what you can't miss seeing.

Best wishes for your plans!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
32 posts

Hello Mike,
Thanks for the quick response. Yes, I know Rossdhu House is all that is remaining of Clan Colquhoun. Disappointing, but since it's all there is ....

I've seen a Rick Steves day trip from Oban to Mull, Iona and Staffa but on their own website, it states that it is weather dependent ... we're thinking mid October, so am wondering if that is even something to consider.

Isle of Skye is so high on "must do" lists, but it looks like several of the sites are not easily transited. I do not want to plan a trip that leaves my sister sitting in the car waiting for us.

I wonder if we've missed anything that we'll later regret ... long hikes are not really feasible for my group. Castle ruins that are fairly easily negotiable, as well as history, museums, etc. are a main focus.

Routing is my next plan.

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi again, Linda,

I'm not sure that the boat tours to Staffa will be operating in mid to late October. You may want to contact one of the tour companies (Staffa Tours?) to find out. You can, however, visit Iona. The passenger-only ferries depart Fionnphort several times a day. However, if you are staying on Iona, you don't need to worry about the ferry schedule. Boats to Staffa leave from several places on Mull, including Fionnphort. Iona is very walkable. There are no steep hills.

You didn't say how much time you have in Scotland. Daylight hours will be getting shorter as you near the end of October, which may curtail some of your plans. However, there is still lots to be seen.

Given your sister's mobility issues, I'd say that since you'll have a car, a rough itinerary would be as follows:

Edinburgh to St Andrews. Visit the castle and the cathedral.

St Andrews to Dundee: Visit the RRS Discovery and view the introductory film

Dundee to Aberdeen: Take the coast road. Stop in Arbroath for smokies, a local fish based delicacy. Visit Dunnottar Castle, just outside of Stonehaven. (Your sister will not be able to make the trek down to the castle, but all of you can enjoy the magnificent setting from the car park.) Outside of Aberdeen, visit Crathes Castle (open Thursday to Sunday in October) and Fyvie Castle.

Aberdeen to Inverness: Take the coast road. You can enjoy some of the charming fishing villages along the Moray coast, like Pennan, Portsoy, and Cullen. Enjoy some Cullen Skink (a delicious fish chowder) in the town for which it was named.

Inverness to Fort William: The A82 follows the west shore of Loch Ness. There are a few viewpoints along the way. You could stop at Urquhart Castle. It's relatively accessible for visitors with limited mobility, so your sister should be able to enjoy her visit.

Fort William: In mid to late October, the Jacobite only goes out in the morning, so that would involve spending the previous night in Fort William. You could take a drive up Glen Nevis to get a closer look at the "Ben"; however, the best views are from Corpach on the A830.

Fort William to Skye: You'll be retracing the train route that you have already taken, from Fort William to Mallaig. From Mallaig, ferry to Skye. As you noted, most of the hiking on Skye is going to be beyond your sister's limitations. However, there is still plenty to see that can be seen from the car, or a short level walk from the car. A lot is going to depend on weather. If it's overcast with low clouds, you're not going to see a lot. On the other hand, if it's one of those sharp clear October days, as frequently happens, you'll see a lot!

Skye to Mull: There are two ways to approach this - The most scenic would be to take the road from Inverailort to Kilchoan, then the ferry to Tobermory. However, the winter ferry schedule goes into effect on October 23rd., so you may be looking at a more limited availability. The same goes for the Mallaig to Armadale ferries. Once you arrive in Tobermory, it's a straight shot down the main road to Fionnphort. Your second route would be to retrace your route to Fort William, then follow the coast road down to Oban for the ferry to Mull.

Okay, that's just a basic outline, in conjunction with your previously stated plans. There is still a lot more to see and do, including Stirling Castle, Aviemore, the Queen's view of Loch Tummel, Falkirk, Dunkeld, etc. And that's without even touching the Highlands proper.

But I hope that I've at least provided you with a start to your plans. You may want to spend all of your time in Scotland and skip Ireland altogether!

Very best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: Glasgow deserves more than a day trip. You could spend a week visiting all of the excellent museums and historic sites in the city, almost all of which are free.

Posted by
1376 posts

p.p.s.: Many of the sites which do charge admission offer a reduced cost for older folks such as ourselves. Look for the "Concessions" rate on the list of admissions charges. That's us!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1992 posts

Unless you are desperate to travel behind a steam locomotive, you could catch the 'normal' train from Fort William to Mallaig and back. It runs along the same track as the Jacobite, is a more frequent service, cheaper and visibility through the windows may be better.

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Wasleys,

When we were in Mallaig last July, we noted that the Jacobite was being operated using a standard diesel locomotive. I assumed that the steam locomotive was away for repair. It must have been a great disappointment for the trainspotters along the route, not to mention the passengers who had paid extra for the privilege of experiencing the "Golden Age" of steam.

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Big Mike,

Actually, a lot of those signs with admission costs list "OAPs", which is a British acronym for Old Age Pensioners. "Concessions" sounds a lot less ageist, but "Concessions" also includes students and those on unemployment benefits (like the old UB40 category).

I've saved quite a bit over the years in Scotland using the "Concessions" discount. (The one for us more chronologically challenged folks, not the one for the unemployed - yet!)

Don't worry, you'll get there eventually! :)

Slainte mhath!

Slightly Smaller Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
32 posts

Hello Mike (Auchterless),

Still preliminary planning here. This is VERY tentative.

Fly into Edinburgh, spend 4 nights. Pick up car and drive to Falkirk, then Stirling Castle, spending the night in St. Andrews. One day and another night in St. Andrews then coast route via Aberdeen to Inverness. Spend 2 nights, visiting Culloden and Clava Cairns. Drive to Portree along Loch Ness. Two nights in Portree then, this is where it gets messy. My daugher is joining us and would love to experience the Harry Potter steam train, but it seems silly to drive to Ft. William just to take the train back and forth ... without any certainty that it will actually BE a steam train. The alternative is to drive to Amadale and take the ferry to Mallaig, put my son and daughter on the conventional train, then pick them up in Ft. William. Drive to Luss (Clan Colquhoun) then on to Glasgow for 2 nights, before departing for Ireland.

I've used Google Maps to find drive times from one place to another, but am not sure how realistic it is. I will probably be the only one driving and know how exhausting it is thinking LEFT all the time. It is not my intention to just hit a location for the sake of saying we've been there but to have time to sightsee.

I think twelve days is the absolute max, since Ireland is still on the table as well. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Linda

Posted by
32 posts

Hello Mike,
I showed this preliminary plan (on a map with distances marked) to my two adult children that will be joining my sister and I. They have decided they can forego both the Isle of Skye AND the Jacobite Train ride. Now, I'm rethinking. We definitely want to visit Culloden and Clava Cairns and a boat ride on Loch Ness. We will want to visit Luss on the way back to Glasgow where we will still spend a couple of nights. Your thoughts on the best (scenic, not necessarily most direct) route from Inverness to Luss? What to see or do?

Day 1 arrive in Edinburgh sleep in Edinburgh 4 nights
Days 2-4 Edinburgh
Day 5 rent car, drive to Falkirk, Sterling Castle, sleep in St. Andrews
Day 6 drive to Inverness via coast road, sleep near Culloden 2 nights
Day 7 Culloden and Clava Cairns
Day 8 Boat ride on Loch Ness then???
Day 9drive to Luss (Clan Colquhoun) then to Glasgow, sleep in Glasgow 2 nights
Day 10 fly to Dublin
Day
Thanks in advance,
Linda

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi once again, Linda,

Glad you're getting things sorted. I'm a bit concerned about day six. That is a long drive from St. Andrews to Inverness, if you're taking the coast road the whole way. You definitely want to take the coast road as far as Stonehaven, so that you can see Dunnottar Castle, possibly the cliff walk at Arbroath (it wouldn't be to strenuous for your sister - it's paved), and maybe the nature reserve at Fowlsheugh (your sister would need only a short walk to see (and hear) the majority of the birds).

Instead of continuing up the coast to Inverness, I'd recommend getting on the A90 Aberdeen bypass from Stonehaven, then taking the A96 to Inverness. Even that part of the journey will take you at least three hours.

Thinking about your sister's mobility problems, after visiting Culloden and the Clava Cairns, and taking a boat trip on Loch Ness, you may want to consider taking the River Ness walk in the evening. It's about two miles all told, but it's on level ground the whole way. It's a pleasant walk, and quite scenic.

On your way back from Inverness to Luss, instead of taking the A82 south to Fort Augustus, you may want to think about taking the B862 along the eastern shore of Loch Ness as far as Dores, then the B852 to Foyers, rejoining the B862 to Fort Augustus. From there, you can check out the canal locks in the village, then continue down the A82 through Glencoe, and continue on to Luss.

The A9 and the A82 are the primary routes from Inverness to the Central Belt. The A82 is much the more scenic route of the two, and will take you directly to Luss, and then to Glasgow.

I hope that is of some help with your planning!

Best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1992 posts

After your boat trip on Loch Ness, think about doing a scenic drive up to Cannich and then Glen Affric. This has been described as "the most beautiful glen in Scotland" yet receives few visitors. It is a lovely area of natural woodland and water. The road up the glen is slow so take your time. Turn this into a circular drive by heading to Beauly (attractive small town with the remains of a priory). Then depending on time either head back to Inverness or continue your drive to either Strathpeffer (Victorian Spa town) or Dingwall before heading back to Inverness.

The drive is just around 100 miles. Take your time and allow at least four hours PLUS any time for stops. Removing Strathpeffer and Dingwall reduces the distance by 20 miles miles and will cut 45 minutes or so off the driving time.

Posted by
32 posts

My trip plan has been turned upside down. My sister is no longer planning to make the trip, but my 23 year old daughter will join us. I really need help, now. I need to add in Isle of Skye and figure out what to remove. I imagine my son and daughter can live without the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies, but not sure what else to remove. We have 21 days total, including travel, and will split the time between Scotland and Ireland so I imagine I really only have 8.5 -9 days total.
3 days in Edinburgh, a day in Glasgow, a day in Culloden, two nights on the Isle of Skye and a visit to Luss is all I definitely have planned so far ...