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Road Trip: Edinburgh, Highlands, Skye, Inverness

Hi All,

I will be visiting UK later this year and have planned a 3 day road trip from Edinburgh. Wanted to get opinions from people familiar with the area to comment whether this is a reasonable and also suggest something I may have missed.
We will be a group of 4 people (me, wife and parents). We are interesting in seeing scenic/historic spots.

Day 1: Fly from London to Edinburgh (land around 10.30. Pick up a rental car). Have lunch near the car rental place. Start the trip
- Visit Stirling Castle
- Callander
- Crianlarich
- Ben Nevis (if time permits)
- Fort William
- Spean Bridge
- Check in to Binnilidh B&B for the night

Day 2: Isle of Skye
- Eilean Donan Castle
- Sligachan Waterfall
- The Fairy Pools
- Neist Point Lighthouse
- Dunvegan Castle
- Uig/Fairy Glen
- Duntulm Castle
- The Quiraing
- Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls Viewpoint
- Trotternish Ridge View Cottage
- Old Man of Storr
- Portree
- Check-in at Glenarroch Guest House for the night (Kyleakin)

Day 3:
- Drive to Applecross (read this road to Applecross is a must do)
- Shieldag
- Gairloch
- Ullapool
- Urquhart Castle
- Loch Ness
- Check-in at Caberfeidh B&B (Inverness) for the night.
- If time permits, would like to see something in Inverness as well

Day 4: Drive back to Edinburgh Airport (6 PM flight to London)
- Aviemore
- A' Mharconaich
(would I have time to see Cairngorms NP?)
- Pitlochry
- Edinburgh Aiport (return car)

For all the places I have listed, I am not sure how much time each place would take up. I may have to remove some places if short on time.

Please let me know if this sounds like a reasonable plan :)

Posted by
1650 posts

Too much, too short a time. Non stop driving in best conditions from Edinburgh to Fort William is 3 hours.

You arrive at Edinburgh We-Really-Need-A-Decent-Name International at 1030. Take an hour to get through disembarkation, through quality control, and then get to the hire car lot it will be closer to 1200 at the earliest.

The road to Stirling is motorway, and the M9 is one of the few you can timetable in the limit. After it? You need to think of the driving phase as 45 mph / 70 km/h as the upper.

Day 1, and I have not even started on Day 2 yet, is implausible to me.

From my house to Stirling Castle is roughly the same as Edinburgh-Please-Not-Alex-Salmond Intl. to Stirling. I credit one hour to get there. In my own car. And two to three hours there. And I am a Historic Scotland member. Day 1, you will not be leaving Stirling before 1700.

Posted by
1650 posts

I have just had a chance to look at Day 2 and 3, and this is frighteningly unrealistic. The timescales even if you are used to driving on the left are far too narrow. I would actually say the driving element plus the things you want to do could be dangerous.

Even sharing the driving.

Posted by
24 posts

Do you actually want to get out of the car to explore these sites, or just drive by and wave at them as you pass? This is way, way too much for a three day trip. I would be hard pressed to squeeze all that into a week. Remember, this a vacation. Slow down and savor the journey. If you only have three days, I would cut this itinerary by 50% at least.

Posted by
1650 posts

Do you actually want to get out of the car to explore these sites, or just drive by and wave at them as you pass? This is way, way too much for a three day trip. I would be hard pressed to squeeze all that into a week. Remember, this a vacation. Slow down and savor the journey. If you only have three days, I would cut this itinerary by 50% at least

Humbled here. Seven posts and Kathi from Ohio manages to condense my two posts into a few sentences!

Posted by
24 posts

{laughing} Thanks, MC-Glasgow. This is experience talking. An American with an hour to kill before a boat ride from Kylesku who thought it was a good idea to take the scenic route from Lochinver along the B869. It's only 22 miles, right? What could go wrong?

Posted by
877 posts

Half the amount of stops, twice the amount of time. Just for example, the drive out to Applecross is highly recommended, I did it myself, but it is a one track road, and any time you meet another car someone has to pull over into a pull-out so cars can pass. You will not get up to any speed on this road as the steeper portion is literally hair-pin (switch-back) turns. I spent two days on the Isle of Skye and did not see everything you have on your list. I think everyone else has pretty much covered the problems with this itinerary. Make an extremely short list of your must-sees, one for before lunch, one for after lunch, and go from there. On your first day don't plan on getting much further than Stirling as it will take you a lot longer than you think to get out of the airport, get your car, get orientated, and get going. You will be jet lagged so I would limit the driving this day. On your last day when you have to return the car I would only plan for one stop before lunch. So, you really only have two full days in between. I would cut the Isle of Skye. It's too far.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks, MC-Glasgow, Kathi, and Anita!

Looks like I went overboard :( I'll have to re-plan the whole trip now.
I actually used this to plan my trip. It looks pretty similar to my list on days 1-3 (I guess he didn't do Stirling Castle)

What would you guys recommend as an ideal 3-day trip that covers Highlands and other beautiful/historic places?
From whatever I have read so far, I feel I really want to do the drive to Applecross.


Posted by
877 posts

Take a look at the Secret Scotland web site, I paid them to do my driving itinerary and it was good. Remember, you don't really have three full days as the days you are at the airport coming and going you will lose a lot of time. You might want to consider just staying in Edinburgh and taking some guided day trips, of which there are many options, and then spending your half days seeing the city. If you just google day trips from Edinburgh you will get lots of results. This might be simpler, and cover more ground than you could yourself. Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities, and in the evening there are many things to do like walking tours, or the ghosts and torture tour of the underground, music and pubs.

Posted by
244 posts

I second Secret Scotland. They have some interesting driving trips with many interesting secret stops along the way! I'm sure they have a three day trip that will give you the experience you want. We spent three days on the Isle of Skye and only saw half of what is on your list! Miles may look short but traveling in Scotland will take much longer then you expect! You won't be traveling at 70 miles per hour. More like 35 - 40 mph, unless you are a local :) Here is a link to a 3 day tour on their website, Secret Scotland

Posted by
5678 posts

If you really want to get to Applecross, staying in Edinburgh is not an option. If Applecross your peak experience for this trip then you need to plan to make that happen and everything else is on the side. And you can do that. You can return to Scotland! I have had 10 trips. I never knew I would have ten trips when I made my first trip, and I didn't know I would keep coming back after my second trip. I will admit that somewhere around the 4th or 5th trip I knew I was hooked. :) I'm in mourning as I've not been back in six years.

So, I will say that Applecross is a wonderful goal. It's a beautiful peninsula and it's a gorgeous place. I saw it through down pours of rain. The hillside were weeping water and it was still gorgeous. If you were to drive straight to Applecross from Edinburgh Google maps says it will take about 5 hours--no stops--and it's straight up the center on A5. Here's a thought

Day 1. Drive to Inverness. Don't have lunch near the car hire. Suck it up and have it in Dunkeld/Birnam. Try the Tay Bank. After lunch and exploring Dunkeld head to Inverness and spend the night.

Day 2. Duck down to visit Urquhart Castle and see Loch Ness and then head toward Applecross. I think I would stop off at Torridon some other small town and do the Applecross drive on Day 3

Day 3 Tour Applecross. You will want to the end day in Fort William.

Day 4. Drive to Edinburgh.

See this route and see what you think about it.

Posted by
1457 posts

Just looked at Pamela's suggested tour and feel that is a great intro tour with some of the most scenic areas covered. Remember like Pamela; you can come back again. I have been to Scotland twice and spent over a week each time. I would dedicate at least a week to the West and the Isles the next time. I think that Edinburgh deserves at least 2 days. It depends on your goals and interests. We are Campbells, so we had to visit all the Clan Castles and Battlefields, etc. Stirling is a good stop for the Royal Palace; but don't be taken aback from the wind turbines. Skye is interesting geologically...some of it's terraine is supposed to have come about by a piece of Canada crashing into the west coast during the Continental Drift which cause some volcanic like eruptions. It has become very popular for touring movie scenery which has put a big demand on food and lodging. Be sure to make arrangements ahead of time.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you all for the suggestions!

Pamela's trip plan looks good and achievable too. I will start looking for hotels in Inverness (Day 1), Torridon (Day 2) and Fort WIlliam (Day 3). Thank you Pamela!

I am so glad that I posted my initial plan here for review. I was looking at driving times each day (~5 hrs) so thought it was a reasonable plan.
I agree that a 3 day trip is not enough to explore Scotland, but I am pressed for time and 3-4 days was all I could squeeze.

Will definitely plan another trip later with my wife and perhaps do some camping on the Isle of Skye in future.

Posted by
8 posts

No availability near Applecross area :(
I am now thinking of doing Applecross drive from Inverness on Day 2 itself and reach the Glenarroach B&B by night (existing reservation). Stay in Spean Bridge on Day 3 and return to Edinburgh on Day 4

Posted by
5678 posts

You can do Applecross from the Inverness area in a day trip. I did it from the Black Isle which is very similar. Spean Bridge is a great option as place to stay. You might want to drop the Loch Ness / Urquhart Castle from the trip or see it the day before or be quick as you have a long day and you want to make sure you have time to stop and enjoy the road to Applecross. There is lovely cafe in a walled garden at Applecross which is a great place for lunch.