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Scotland Itinerary

We’re going to Scotland for 9.5 days in late November, and I’m struggling with the itinerary. I’m afraid I’m trying to pack too much in, so I’d love to hear thoughts.

Day 1 Glasgow (we’ll arrive around 10am)
Day 2 Glasgow
Day 3 Fort William (stop at Glencoe on the way)
Day 4 Portree (stop at Glenfinnan Viaduct on the way)
Day 5 Portree
Day 6 Inverness
Day 7 Edinburgh (stop at Loch Ness on the way)
Day 8 Edinburgh
Day 9 Edinburgh (take train back to Glasgow in evening)
Day 10 Glasgow (flight leaves at 12:45)

For context, we are American, so lots of driving doesn’t phase us (although I know I shouldn’t trust the time on Google maps). I probably would have skipped Glasgow entirely, but it was the cheapest airfare, so I’m using the money saved to add days. It seems like a lovely city, but it would have been lower priority otherwise. I’m concerned that trying to go to Inverness might be a stretch. I added it because our ten year old would like to see Loch Ness and if we’re going that far, we’re practically already in Inverness, but I’m wondering if I should cut that leg in favor of one more day in Edinburgh. One night in Portree is also an option.

Posted by
1253 posts

Days are relatively short , sunset will be before 4pm.
Nothing you can do about that of course ,but an early start each morning will still make it possible to achieve a lot.
Theres a little " castle" on the Lump above Portree harbour.
I wonder whether from Fort William to Portree you could do Loch Ness that day.
Save Glenfinnan for the return trip

Posted by
5 posts

I wasn’t originally planning to go to Inverness until I saw how close it was to Loch Ness. I was originally going to try and go either on the way to or from Glasgow/Edinburgh. I don’t think there will be boat tours that time of year, so I’m wondering if I should scrap that leg entirely. It would likely just be a quick stop at Urquhart Castle and a few minutes for her to search for Nessie. Maybe I just get her a folklore book for her birthday and convince her it will be just as fun to go looking for kelpies at another Loch that’s along one of our routes.

Posted by
1147 posts

Your current route implies that you want to take the ferry to Skye ("Portree - stop at Glenfinann Viaduct on the way"). You need to take a couple of things into account. Firstly that this will involve a ferry from Mallaig to Armdale (Skye) and you will need to book the ferry to be sure of getting a place on your chosen ferry . Secondly, that in winter the weather can affect sailings more often than in summer. If you can't get the ferry then you will be back tracking from the viaduct to Fort William and from there it is 2.5 hours to the Skye bridge and another hour to Portree. Daylight is in short supply in late November.

Almost every American I have met (and I run a B&B so I meet a lot!) has not only underestimated the time it takes to drive places here, but also the type of driving. Guests often arrive somewhat traumatised by the experience! Our roads are narrow. They have no 'shoulder' and in the Highlands and Skye you will encounter single track roads with passing places. These are one narrow strip of road shared by traffic going in both directions. You have to pull in passing places to let traffic coming in the other direction pass. You need to familiarise yourself with how to drive on these roads. This video will give you the basics. If you cannot keep up with the flow of traffic and are causing a tailback you also need to pull over to let traffic pass you because you will not want to be driving as fast as the locals.

Anyway, back to your itinerary. It looks as though you are planning for one full day (day 5) in Skye. I'm not sure you will particularly enjoy Skye in late November. The weather is likely to be extremely unpredictable but one thing is almost 100% certain - and that is that it will be wet and very windy. All of Skye's attractions (except Dunvegan Castle which will be closed in late November) are outside. I'd not be wanting to spend a day hiking in late November! So I'm wondering whether you should have a rethink. Do you really want to come this far north and west in late November? Loch Ness is not one of Scotland's prettiest lochs. Yes there is the Nessie connection, but the Nessie visitor centre in Drumnadrochit is tacky even for a 10 year old.

If you want to see an island and take a ferry then maybe Arran (known as Scotland in miniature) might be better as it is much closer to Glasgow. You could spend a night or two there (instead of Glencoe, Fort William, Portree & Inverness) and focus the rest of your time in the Central Belt. This might give you time to also include Stirling (there a fabulous Kelpies sculpture just south at Falkirk) and its fantastic castle, which is great for kids. Also Edinburgh Castle and I'd also recommend the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, which has lots of hands on stuff for kids.

I hope this helps. I honestly think the Highlands and Skye in late November could be a recipe for a miserable vacation (and I live here!).

Posted by
5 posts

We’ve been to Iceland in October (we’re shoulder season people lol), which I imagine will be similar weather to what we would see in Scotland in November. We plan on bringing lots of layers, rain paints, etc., so I’m not so worried about it being cold and wet. I was already considering taking the long way to the bridge to get to Skye because of the ferry unpredictability that time of year. We had just wanted to take some of that route because there were points of interest.

Posted by
1147 posts

In which case then you probably know what you're getting into! You'll want to be securing accommodation in Skye asap as many smaller places will close at the end of October. Portree is definitely your best bet on the island as there are more dining options too at that time of year. Your 10 year old might like Gasta, which is a great pizza place on the southern edge of Portree village.

Posted by
1253 posts

If Nessie is unavailable for viewing and theres ALWAYS a sighting the week before the summer holidays kick in, her sister lives over at Loch Morar which is scenically far more a wow place and only a couple of mins of the Mallaig road at unsurprisingly, Morar

Posted by
1891 posts

Richard has beaten me to it. Forget Loch Ness and go to Loch Morar instead. Like Loch Ness, this is a very deep and there have been stories of a monster here too. There's lots of information on google...

It is very isolated and there is a narrow unclassified road along part of the north shore. It is very scenic and the road runs along the shore so you will get much better views of Loch Morar than you would of Loch Ness. Chances are you will have it to yourself and you have as much chance of seeing Morar as you will of seeing Nessie...

Scrap Inverness from the itinerary and add that night to elsewhere.

Posted by
408 posts

As much of an Inverness fanboi as I am, I agree. Bag it and Loch Ness. The monster won't likely make an appearance, and the lake itself is meh.

Posted by
6015 posts

The other thing about the Armadale ferry is that in winter it is often run by the same vessel as for the small isles. That means it may only run twice a day- morning and late afternoon. The afternoon sailing is around dusk, meaning that you would be driving across Skye in the dark.

There is an electronic board on the way out of Fort William advising of the ferry status, at a point in time when you can easily turn round, likewise one at Broadford on Skye. However both are currently not working, due to technical problems.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you so much about the tip about Loch Morar! Searching for Morag seems like it will work better. With the ferry, is that something we can play by ear, or are we likely to be out of luck if we don’t secure a reservation in advance? I was hoping maybe that time of year it might be something we can decide based on conditions.

Posted by
1147 posts

No you definitely can't play it by ear with the ferry. You always need a reservation for a car to be certain. I wouldn't want to play roulette with the standby line. It would add so much time to your journey to have to back track to Fort William and then drive north to Skye. If you find your self doing the final section in the dark then I would much sooner drive the Armadale to Portree section in the dark than the Invergarry to Kyle of Lochalsh section. There are always a lot of red deer on the A87 section and far fewer on the Armadale to Portree section (i.e. taking the ferry route). Our local road watch facebook group is always full of tales from people whose cars have been written off by deer collisions on the A87 at dusk or after dark.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you for the tip, I grew up in a place with a lot of snow and a massive deer over population problem, so I understand deer and bad weather are a recipe for disaster. I’d love to spot some red deer, but preferably in daylight and at a reasonable distance from our rental car. How late do you think we could leave making a reservation for the ferry? Is it something we could decide a few days ahead based on the forecast? I truly appreciate everyone’s help.

Posted by
6015 posts

You can't reserve anyway until the winter timetables are published, sometime mid to late September, maybe into October, depending when they work out the winter refit programme and thus which vessels can be stationed where.

If the ferry is cancelled CalMac will tell you and refund you, so it doesn't make a deal of difference how soon you book after they open.