I've read through a lot of the previous posts, but I am still finding myself a bit overwhelmed with planning a Scotland itinerary for May 2020. My sister and I will be arriving in Edinburgh from London probably late afternoon on Day 3 of our trip. Day 3-9 we have not made any decisions on yet, but we have to be in Inverness by night time on Day 9 to catch our morning flight out of Inverness on Day 10. We would like to see the Highlands and had thought about seeing Skye. Is this too much driving for the amount of time we have? My sister has driven in Ireland before, including in the Donegal area, and generally enjoys driving. We are open to tours, and have read some good things about Rabbie's, but have never done a multi-day tour. I want to make sure our trip is more about quality over quantity, but there is also so much I want to see in Scotland! Any input would be much appreciated!
I really boils down to what your priorities really are. There are a number of ways you could "slice and dice" your time. One example -
Day 4 - See sights in Edinburgh
Day 5- Sightsee Edinburgh
Day 6- Day trip from Edinburgh
Day 7- Late afternoon train to Inverness
Day 8 - Day tour from Inverness - skye, culloden, etc. etc.
Day 9 - 2nd day tour from Inverness
Day 10 - Fly home.
Pros - not a lot of mental work - just book and go and less moving around.
Downside - not as flexible.
The other option would be to take a day from the Edinburgh portion and train to Inverness, pick up a car and drive to Skye, returning the afternoon of day 9 to Inverness.
Pros - more flexibility
Cons - definitely more work. If you choose this option, just be aware that estimated travel times aren't terribly accurate - once you get off the main highways the going is a bit slower!!!
Both options work- but again, it really depends upon your priorities and how you like to travel. Since the trip is about "quality" I would personally vote for option one. Less time in transit and fewer mechanics and would give you a variety of "tastes" of the Highlands.
We've been all over the Highlands a number of times - truly gorgeous country!!!
Nancy, thanks for your reply. Its so nice to get input from someone who has been to Scotland! I really noticed in Ireland that the google estimates for driving were off for us tourists! It often took 30 minutes to an hour longer than the projections, and I would not say my sister is a slow driver!
There is enough to keep you occupied in Scotland for 6 weeks or more and you only have 6 days, so you need to work out what you want to see, not what posters on this forum have seen.
Edinburgh itself can easily fill 2 full days, so nights 3-5 here. Skye deserves 3 full days and it will take you 7 hours to drive there from Edinburgh, including a few short photo stops. Skye is a good 3 hour drive each way from Inverness, so it’s not practical as a day trip. So, you need to decide if you want to include Skye, as this is a major time commitment. Whilst it has great scenery, it isn’t my favourite part of Scotland and the last time I was there for 3 days in June, we had low cloud the whole time, so we couldn’t even see the hills! Nights 6-8 on Skye.
Drive to Inverness (half a day) on day 9 and spend the afternoon looking around Culloden or Cawdor Castle.
Alternatively, instead of Skye, visit Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Glencoe then the Cairngorms for stunning scenery, but less driving than Skye.
Google Maps always underestimates drive times by about a third.
Thanks for your reply Jennifer! I gathered from my research that Skye does take a lot of time, so I am still on the fence about whether we should go there on this trip, or maybe save it for a trip back to Scotland. Thanks for your suggestions, I will for sure keep them in mind.
I think it comes down to Skye or a real visit to Edinburgh. Both are very worthwhile. You'll just have to go back.
If you have only six days in Scotland, and your main interest is the Highlands (As it should be!), I'd suggest that you fly directly to Inverness from London, hire your car there, and spend your six days visiting Skye and the Northwest Highlands. With the possible exception of the Canadian Rockies, there is no more beautiful place on Earth.
British Airways has direct flights from LHR to Inverness. The flight time is under two hours, and the cost is very reasonable.
Edinburgh is a beautiful city for the most part, but it is crowded year round. If you start out in Inverness, you'll avoid the crowds, see some magnificent scenery, and meet some wonderful people. You can save Edinburgh for another holiday. I've said this before, but holidays in Scotland are like potato chips - you can't have just one!
It hadn't even dawned on me to fly to Inverness! It seems that would make the Highlands and Skye much easier to fit into our allotted time. For sure something to consider. Thanks for the reply!
As others have said, it really boils down to what you are interested in and how you want to spend your time. You can't really go wrong with whatever you choose. We really, really enjoyed Edinburgh. It's such a cool city to explore with lots of things to see and do. It's one of my favorite European cities we've visited. We had 2.5 days for Edinburgh itself and still didn't manage to see and do everything we had wanted to. But, we did cover a lot of things. In addition to that time, we used Rabbie's for their Outlander Castle day trip from Edinburgh. It allowed us the opportunity to cover a LOT of castles that we were interested in, as well as a small village called Culross. All are within proximity to Edinburgh but allowed us to see them while someone else was behind the windshield (instead of my husband).
I have to say that Skye was absolutely incredible and did live up to the hype. I have no regrets about fitting it into our itinerary. We did a lot of hiking while we were there and would love to go back to keep exploring. I would definitely say three days at a minimum. You'll have longer daylight hours in May than we did in October but there is so much to see and do. So much beautiful hiking! But, I'm sure there is a lot of gorgeous scenery for hiking just about anywhere in Scotland!
From what I have gathered from the research I did before our trip, the weather can be a bag of cats on Skye (and elsewhere). We certainly experienced that while we were on Skye this October. It would downpour, get sunny, get foggy, downpour, and get sunny again. We went prepared, expecting the worst, and left very happy as our expectations were exceeded. The right attitude and gear is everything. They aren't kidding about the waterproof boots and rain gear, lol.
I like the suggestions that others have given: either flying into Inverness and including Skye or flying into Edinburgh and exploring the Trossachs and Glen Coe area before heading up to Inverness. Both would make for wonderful trips.