My husband and I plan to visit Scotland and England in the fall. We're going to spend two full days in Edinburgh and then rent a car and spend 3 or 4 days exploring the highlands. We'll make a stop in Stirling - just to visit some of the historical sites, but I'm looking for some suggestions for the rest of our itinerary. I'd love to go to Skye, but I'm not sure if we'd have time with 3 or 4 days. I'd love any suggestions!
With just 3 or 4 days you will have to choose the places you most want to see. Personally I think Skye is a bit overrated -- it's lovely, yes, but so is much of the scenery in other parts of Scotland, including many places nearer to Edinburgh.
At the end of your 3-4 days will you end up in Edinburgh, or Glasgow, or ... ? When in the fall are you going? The days get shorter quickly after the equinox, and many attractions have shorter hours outside of the main spring-summer season.
Whatever you choose, be aware that driving in Scotland takes longer than you'd think by looking at the mileage or the Google Maps estimates. The Secret Scotland website has several suggested driving itineraries.
We'll be in Scotland from around the 17th to the 21st of September, so just around the time of the equinox. After leaving Scotland we'll keep our rental car and head to York. Thank you for the Secret Scotland suggestion - I'll take a look at that.
Last September we walked the West Highland Way and took about another week to see more of Scotland. Based on our trip, I would recommend the area of Glencoe. I absolutely loved the wide open spaces with "mountains" in the distance, and then driving through them (or walking in our case). I put mountains in quotes, because they are not high like we are used to here, but they are stunning. I would love to return there some day.
I've been to Scotland many times and love it. There's so much to see there, and its all good.
If you're already in Stirling, you might consider driving over to Oban, on the west coast - its roughly 2 hours away.
They offer a wonderful day trip from Oban to see the isle of Iona. You'll take a one hour ferry to Mull, which is lovely, and then a guided bus tour across Mull to Fiohnport, where you'll catch a second ferry (15 minutes long?) to Iona. You have plenty of time to explore Iona and can do it on foot. Beautiful island and Abbey. Totally worth doing. This tour takes up a full day, then you would have about a four drive back to Edinburgh the following day. The western isles are really quite beautiful, and worth seeing. You wouldn't have to worry about shortened hours on this day trip either. You also have the option of buying a "boxed" lunch on the ferry, and then taking it with you, for a nice picnic along the way. .
The day trip can be booked online with Cal-Mac Ferries, or at the Tourist Information Office in Oban, near the harbour.
Hope this helps. Have fun and happy travels!
A bit of a silly suggestion, but are you a Monty Python fan? Much of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed at Doune Castle, which is open to the public and just a short drive from Stirling Castle (20mins or so). Even beyond the Monty Python connection, it's a neat castle to visit - it's still quite intact, and you can stroll through just about every bit of it, from the halls and and rooms inside to the battlements up top. It's also along the way from Stirling to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
We are making our fourth trip to Scotland this September. We have found that it really depends on what you are interested in as to what you fill your time with. If you head up the east coast you have Stonehaven, a nice little fishing village and just south of there is Dunnottar Castle, which is a stunning castle that sits right on the North Sea.
Of course, just up the road from Stirling is Perth, where you'll find Scone Palace, which is worth seeing. if you head up to Perth, and are committed to the central route, the drive up the A9 is stunning, particularly as you enter into the Cairngorm mountains. That will take you all the way up to Inverness, where we have spent a bit of time. There is tons of hiking in the national park there, if that's your interest. Culloden is up near Inverness, as is Clava Cairns, which is a group of standing stones, if you're into that sort of thing. Loch Ness is right around there as well.
If you head west, you can make your way up to Loch Lomand, which is a beautiful area, and a great national park in its own right. With as little time as you have, I'm not sure I would take a whole day to head over to Iona. Oban is nice, but I don't think its nearly as interesting a town as the seaside villages on the east. But the drive up to the Glen Coe area is hard to beat. From Oban, it a coast road, which is lovely, but long, or you can go through the mountains on A82 for one beautiful drive.
We have loved visiting Skye. You have to invest a full day to really appreciate it, and with 3 or 4 days available, that doesn't seem likely, so I might not try to take it on.
Of course there is a lot of Scotland north of Inverness, but I would forego that with so little time.
Whatever you do, definitely get out of your car and walk outside, whatever the weather is like. There are distilleries all over the place, if that is part of your interest. There are bits of history everywhere to absorb. We are hoping to making it to the Crannog Centre this time around, as well as the "working sheepdogs" place in Kincraig.
There are castles everywhere, coasts on both sides that have small villages to explore. Enjoy the journey!