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Realistic itinerary?

My husband and I will be in Scotland from May 30-June 9 and I'm honing in on exactly what is doable on our itinerary. I've looked at distance between cities via Google maps but I've heard that underestimates the actual time. I would very much appreciate any feedback on my proposed itinerary. I know I won't be able to do all the things listed on the driving day, but I wanted to show what I'm considering.

May 30: Arrive EDI early morning, so in EDI all day
May 31: EDI all day
June 1: EDI all day
June 2: Pick up car, drive to Oban (taking in Kelpies, Stirling Castle, Doune Castle along the way)
June 3: Oban all day (3-island tour)
June 4: Drive to Isle of Skye/Portree (taking in Glencoe Village and Fort William)
June 5: Isle of Skye all day (Trotternish Peninsula loop, Dunvegan Castle, Talisker Distillery) -- the 3-island tour is all day so if we do that, we can't do anything else
June 6: Drive to Dingwall -- we are staying in Foulis Castle as my mother-in-law's surname is Foulis (taking in Eileen Donan Castle, Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle along the way)
June 7: Dingwall all day (Dunrobiin Castle, Storehouse of Foulis Restaurant/Clansman Museum)
June 8: Drive to St. Andrews (taking in Culloden Battlefield, Clava Cairns, Cawdor Castle on the way) -- would LOVE to see the Leault sheepdogs but there's only 1 show at 4 p.m. and that won't allow us to get to St. Andrews in time to see anything. Hopefully arrive at St. Andrews by mid-late afternoon and spend rest of day seeing sights in St. Andrews
June 9: Return car to EDI and take train to London for 3 nights
June 12: Fly home from London

I so appreciate your input, thank you!

Tammy

Posted by
2559 posts

It's true that the travel times estimated on Google maps are unrealistically short. They assume a driver familiar with the roads, not interested in the scenery (much less stopping to take a photo), not needing restroom breaks, and no traffic or road repair works. In the highlands road repairs are often needed, and the summer months are the time when they get done. There could be detours. Also, if you get behind a slow vehicle, your opportunity to pass may not come along for a few miles. OTOH the CityLink buses move along at a great clip even on the narrow mountain roads, so if you happen to get behind one of them you may get to cover a lot of ground... until they get to their next bus stop.

If you are early risers and energetic travelers, you can probably manage this itinerary, but a lot of your "taking in ... on the way" would be rushed if you tried to do them all, so it's good that you're just listing them as options. For example, on a map it may look really simple to drive from Dingwall to St. Andrews with stops at the three historic sites you've listed, but you have to allow navigation time to actually find the place, park the car, use the restrooms, etc. And all three are out of your way by, I'd say, about half an hour going and coming, so that alone adds an hour to your travel time.

Since you'll be there in June the daylight hours will be very long, which works in your favor. Still, the opening hours of attractions won't generally extend into the evening.

I may be on the wimpy side, but in planning car trips I try not to have more than 3 hours total driving in any given day. If one day has to go longer than that, I try to compensate with less driving on the adjacent days. Because my idea of a worthwhile trip is that I'll get to experience Scotland, not the interior of the car.

Posted by
1027 posts

If you can return the car in St Andrews (or more realistically Dundee) you could take the train from St Andrews (i.e. Leuchars) direct to London on the 9th. This will mean a one way drop off fee, but might be worth it.

(Also, airport codes are not used to refer to cities in Europe. But I presume you don't plan to spend three days at Edinburgh Airport, that would be a very boring vacation.)

Posted by
1492 posts

Lots of time spent in the car, but maybe you already know that. Day 8 is especially unrealistic......Culloden, Clava and Cawdor with a late afternoon arrivalt in St. Andrews? Me thinks not.

Posted by
17603 posts

I do think you are trying to pack too many things into each day. It takes longer to see things than it does to just write them on an itinerary. You are going to find yourself either leaving a venue sooner than you like because you're behind schedule, or not doing the last thing on the list that day.

Posted by
436 posts

As others have said your plans look very rushed to me. I will comment on June 5 as I live here on Skye and can probably best advise on this location. Personally I wouldn't bother with Dunvegan Castle if you only have one full day on Skye. It's not one of Scotland's finest castles, although the gardens and general setting are nice. Unless you are particularly interested in Talisker, given that you only have 1 day on Skye I wouldn't waste that precious day with a distillery tour. I would get outside and do some walking to best appreciate the natural splendour of the island. Walkhighlands.co.uk is a good resource.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
128 posts

I would agree with Skyegirl. I wasn't overimpressed by Dunvegan Castle and the tour seemed to concentrate on the MacLoed family history, which is interesting if you had MacLoed ancestry but not otherwise.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks everyone, this is helpful! I know the itinerary is ambitious and we won't see/do everything on the list. My husband and I are in our late 50s and this will be our first trip out of the US. We don't know if/when we'll be able to come back, so we're trying to see as much of the country as we can. We are relatively healthy but overweight so we won't be doing any hiking.

Badger: Thanks for the suggestion to return the car to Dundee. I'll see what those logistics look like. And yes, I meant Edinburgh when I said EDI -- I've just been writing it as EDI in my planning notes.

Skyegirl and wasleys: Thanks for the advice on Dunvegan -- we will skip that as well as the distillery tour and have a more leisurely day on Skye.

Tammy

Posted by
539 posts

On day 8, I would get an early start and go to Culloden first. Their website says to allow 2 hours minimum and more if you’re into history. They have an interactive museum and a “you are there” film of the battle that’s pretty intense. The battlefield can be seen with a tour group only and they’ll give you a time when you get there. It’s definitely worth the visit. There’ s a cafeteria in the visitors center if the timing is right. From there I’d go to Clara Cairns. It’s interesting and doesn’t take long to see. At that point, I’d skip Cawdor Castle if you’re trying to get to St. Andrews. The inside is quite modern since the countess lives there. It was interesting, but skip-able.

Posted by
128 posts

I'd also agree with skipping Cawdor Castle. It isn't one of the better Scottish castles and I found the inside a bit scruffy. Their website is at great pains to explain the castle has no connection with Shakespeare's Macbeth either. The present castle was built 300 years after Macbeth's death.

St Andrew's is delightful and repays time spent there. Make sure you visit the ruined castle and cathedral.

Posted by
13 posts

wasleys: Thanks for the suggestion and info on Culloden. Sounds like I can skip Cawdor Castle too. I see that there is a Highland Folk Museum and Blair Castle on the A9 route to St. Andrews. Are either of these places worth a stop?

Tammy

Posted by
436 posts

On your Skye day, if you do the Trotternish loop you will pass the Island Life Museum. A good little introduction to life in the Highlands and Islands in the 1800s.

Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
128 posts

I've not been to the Highland Folk Museum (it has been on the todo list for years...) It is free to enter (donations appreciated) so if you have time it is worth calling in. It gets consistently good reviews on Trip Advisor.

I enjoyed Blair Castle and that is well worth visiting.

The Museum of Island Life in Skye is also well worth visiting. When there, also drive up to Kilmuir Graveyard for the views. (Flora MacDonald of Bonnie Prince Charlie fame is also buried there.)