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Need itinerary suggestions - Sept 2020

My husband & I are headed to Scotland for the 1st time. We land in Edinburgh the morning of Thursday, Sept 3rd, and have a late morning flight home on Sunday, Sept 13th. So far, below is all we have scheduled and need help figuring out what to do next.

  • Thursday: land in Edinburgh and stay there until Friday (not sure when to leave)
  • Friday: rent a car and drive to Ballater (we already have a room reserved)
  • Saturday - attend the Braemer Gathering (already have tickets). We need sleeping accommodations for Saturday night. Should we go back to Ballater or up to Aviemore?

And that's where I've stopped because I am overwhelmed by the options. I'd like to see Rothiemurchas Estate and walk around Loch an Eilein. From there maybe head to Loch Ness and Culloden Battlefield, or maybe Ft. William, Glencoe, and Skye (is Mull prettier and less traveled?) Definitely want to spend a day in Glasgow, and would like to be back in Edinburgh late morning on the 12th.

Any suggestions for a do-able itinerary? We are "go with the flow" travellers, and can be up and out by 9 AM, but I'd like to nail down sleeping accommodations and the Ferry, so we have a rough schedule that we can fill in as we go.

Posted by
895 posts

Hi Bliss,

My wife and I are are/were(?) supposed to make our first trip to Scotland in June, but that's up in the air with the current situation. Since it's our first trip there I can't write this through experience of what to see but with some recommendations based on what we've learned so far;

Edinburgh deserves more than a day. We're going to spend a week with some day trips. We're going to Mull instead of Skye but that's a bucket list thing. Dont assume the Google suggestions for driving times are correct, the general consensus seems to be to add 25%.

Here's a link to our itinerary that I posted a few weeks ago for our trip, maybe you'll find some useful nuggets in it for your trip. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/scotland/itinerary-by-request

Posted by
128 posts

I prefer Mull to Skye - it's not as busy and the scenery is as good.

It sounds as if you are wanting to do lots around the Inverness/Cairngorm area. Add Clava Cairns to the list and also Fort George. Plan out how long this will take and IF there is enough time, visit Mull. If not finish off in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Both deserve more time than you are giving them.

Don't try and be too ambitious in the time you have available. It will take you a lot longer to cover distance than you might expect. As mentioned in teh previous post, add 25% to google drive times AND THEN ADD ON TIME FOR STOPS!

Posted by
2562 posts

After Ballater, Aviemore and the Rothiemurchas Estate would be a logical two-night stop if that's a high priority for you. If the Culloden Battlefield is also important, I suggest staying the next two nights in Nairn. It's a charming (but not cutesy) town right on the Moray Firth, convenient to Culloden as well as Cawdor Castle and the Clava Cairns. (Good thing the letter "C" doesn't charge a toll...)

Since you also want to visit either Skye or Mull, you may have to choose one or the other of Aviemore or Nairn, not both. Mull will take more of your time in travel miles to the ferry, adhering to the ferry schedule, etc. Skye is a large island with lots to see, depending what interests you most.

As the previous post warns, driving times in Scotland are significantly longer than what Google Maps or other online maps indicate. And you are there to see the scenery and experience Scotland, not rush from one stop to the next. Several of my friends have taken vacations in Scotland and come back regretting that they tried to go too many places in too short a time.

Definitely sleep in Edinburgh the night before your flight, preferably right near the airport so you can return your car the night before. You don't want the stress of having to drive to the airport and encountering a delay with a traffic jam, road repair, or a computer glitch at the rental facility. https://www.edinburghairport.com/prepare/hotels

Posted by
41 posts

Agree, Edinburgh deserves a few days. It’s a great city with a beautiful castle, museums and a palace plus lots and lots of places to eat and drink.

Hope the world health situation gets straightened out by Sept.

Posted by
6024 posts

Sure hope you did not make any reservations that cannot be cancelled without a penalty