Please sign in to post.

Oban to Skye

I rented a small automatic car with Sat Nav from Celtic Legend starting in Glasgow and will pick it up after we check out of our BnB in Glasgow. We have two nights in Glasgow, two in Oban and two in Portree (couldn’t get a third in Portree) booked. It will be toward the end of our trip after that, so I’m open other last day sights after Skye. This travel is in early June 2023.

We will be driving to Oban and we’re thinking of doing the day tour of the islands and returning to sleep in Oban. What else to see? When we check out of Oban we will travel to our BnB in Portree. BnB owner wants to know what time to expect us in Portree.

According to google maps it takes 4 hours to drive from Oban to Mallaig and to take the ferry to Portree. Google maps also says its 3.5 hours to drive to Glencoe, Fort William, Kyle of Lochash and on to Portree. So six of one half a dozen of the other? Should we skip Oban due to this distance?
How long do those trips really take? I’m assuming that it’s longer and more complicated than it seems on google maps?

What are the roads like on these two routes (single path, windy, double lane)? Is one route “easier” driving for a new driver on the left hand side that are a bit nervous? Is one route better than the other?

On Skye itself I’ve read about the very narrow 1 car roads - are they all like that or are there a main road from Mallaig to Portree? I basically am wondering what to expect.

If you have suggestions to improve this plan they are very welcome. Should we delete Oban and add in another different stop?

Thank you!!

Posted by
5813 posts

I’ve found Google maps’ estimated times to be fairly accurate unless there is a lot of traffic, construction, accident, wrong turn, etc., so you should add a cushion when planning. On part of Skye the road was single track/lane with pullouts for passing. The road from Mallaig to Portree is two lanes. Driving can be slow if you get behind a lorry, tractor, caravan/camper.

Posted by
9120 posts

To get a "second opinion," you can put the same trip into the route planner at Via Michelin, and see how well the two projections match up.

Posted by
3111 posts

I haven't done the ferry alternative, but I'd say "3.5 hours to drive [from Oban] to Glencoe, Fort William, Kyle of Lochash and on to Portree" is not very realistic unless you don't want to do/see anything but just drive.

We stopped in Fort William to use the restrooms and ended up having something to eat in Morrison's supermarket (nice cafeteria, good food, inexpensive, comfortable seating area). We also stopped briefly to see Old Inverlochy Castle and Neptune's Staircase at Banavie. From there we drove straight through and I think it was about 2.5 hours for just that leg of the trip.

Posted by
1595 posts

To get a "second opinion," you can put the same trip into the route planner at Via Michelin, and see how well the two projections match up.

@kim I like checking ViaMichelin as a check. You can specify type of vehicle, fuel prices, speed and it will recalulate.

However I also love that it gives some of the directions in the form of little French style roadsigns.

Posted by
914 posts

Regarding driving times from Oban to Skye. When I drive from Skye (north of Portree) to Fort William using the bridge rather than the ferry it invariably takes me 3 hours and more in the summer when there are more tourists around (as they drive more slowly). Bear in mind that I know the road really well, I overtake slower traffic when safe to do so, and I am not stopping to look at the scenery or take pictures. Your journey will be slower than mine.

If you are taking the ferry you need to allow extra time for checking in (they like you to be there 45 minutes before it sails). And the road between Fort William and Mallaig is slower than the A87 north from Fort William heading for the Skye Bridge.

It's probably a good hour from Oban to Fort William so I'd reckon on at least 4 hours Oban to Portree if using the Skye Bridge and a bit longer than that if using the ferry due to check in times and the slower road out to Mallaig.

All the roads are two lanes (one in each direction) all the way to Portree.

Also you need to book the ferry in advance. I'd say well in advance as sailings sell out.

Hope that helps
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, DS,

Google maps may be leading you astray. I would suggest that you drive to Mallaig from Oban, via Fort William, Take the ferry to Armadale, then drive from Armadale to Portree. After your time on Skye, you can return to the mainland via the Skye Bridge, then return to the Central Belt via the A82, which runs directly through Glencoe. If you have a spare day, you could stay overnight in Fort William and visit Glen Nevis, and take the Aonach Mor gondola, if it is operating.

The road from Armadale to Portree is two lanes almost all the way. There are two spots on the A87 between Lower Breakish and Skulamus where the road crosses a one lane bridge, but you would encounter them only as you drive to the Skye Bridge.

It's about 42 miles from Armadale to Portree, so count on at least an hour for that part of the journey. It's about 45 miles from Fort William to Mallaig, so we're looking at another hour (at least). It's the better part of 50 miles from Oban to Fort William, so count on at least 1.5 hours for that part of your travels. The ferry takes about 45 minutes, depending on tides, but you have to be at the ferry slip in Mallaig at least 30 minutes before departure time. So we're looking at 4 3/4 hours, not including meal and toilet breaks, plus stops to take in the spectacular scenery.

So my recommendation would be not to rush, but take your time and enjoy the journey. If you want to provide your Portree B&B owner with an approximate time, let him/her know that it will be about six hours from the time that you leave Oban.

Don't forget to make a reservation for the Mallaig to Armadale ferry.

Don't skip Oban. There is a lot to see outside of the town, including the island day trip, the ferry to Mull, and the nearby islands of Kerrera and Lismore.

Best wishes for your travels! Don't let driving on the left intimidate you. You will have an automatic transmission, so that's half the battle won already. Once you get outside of Glasgow, it will be easy.

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
81 posts

Thanks everyone ——
So in trying to figure out my ferry reservation from Mallaig to Armadale (Skye) I need to allow the following time
—- 3 hours to drive from Oban to Mallaig
—- 45 minutes waiting for ferry in line up

Are these times OK?
If I leave Oban at 10am then I’m at Mallaig at 1pm and should book the 2 pm ferry?? Would arrive in Portree 2 hours later at 4pm?

If I leave at 9am I can book the 1pm ferry? Arrive in Portree at 3pm?

Do people check the weather at Fort William to see if cancellation may occur?

When I leave Skye via the bridge, maybe I might book a BnB in Fort William or Glencoe or somewhere else (recommendations?) on the way back to Glasgow.

Thank you!!

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi again, ds,

Just a quick note - if there is a ferry cancellation on the Mallaig to Armadale route, there is a huge illuminated sign on the A830 just after you leave Fort William. It provides the times of the next ferries to Skye and North Uist, and will let you know if a ferry has been cancelled. That would give you enough time to turn around and head up the A82 to Invergarry, so you can pick up the A87 for the Skye Bridge.

The departure time for the Mallaig to Armadale ferry is different on each day of the week, so you need to figure out which day you are travelling to Skye, and plan your ferry trip accordingly. You can check out the schedule at Figure on three hours from Oban to Mallaig, then plan to arrive 45 minutes before sailing. If you haven't already printed out your tickets, you'll need to pick them up at the ticket office, which is right at the ferry terminal. They usually start loading about 20 minutes before sailing.

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
81 posts

Thank you

We are booked for the 3pm boat, so according to feedback on this group, that would mean leave Oban before/by 11am - right?

11am plus 3 hours =2pm plus 45 mins in ferry line up before ferry leaves.

Posted by
4067 posts

If travelling this week Monday to Thursday check the CalMac website as there are tidal amendments to the timetable- depending on the day later or earlier than 3pm.
Anyone affected should have had a service notice, but you never know.
Maybe leave a bit earlier to allow for any unforeseen events. Better to kill time in Mallaig than to be running tight if there is any problem on the road.

Posted by
358 posts

Have to say, I wouldn't even consider the ferry. The road only trip is perfectly straight forward and completely in your control

Posted by
81 posts

Is the bridge from Oban to Portree faster than the ferry from Oban to Mallaig to Portree?

If so how much faster?