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Scotland Trip- July 2018

Hello All,
I'm planning a 2-week UK trip on 1st July 2018 with my husband and 4.5 month old daughter. This is my second trip to UK and I had covered Cotswolds, Lake District, Scottish Highlands and Isle of Skye in my previous trip.
Given that I've seen one of the best in Scot and England already, kindly suggest other scenic areas in Scotland like Isle of Mull, North Coast 500 etc. Other option I have is to cover Yorkshire Dales, North Wales (Snowdonia). Both my husband and I are huge fans of scenic landscapes, we are not very interested in castles, historical monuments. Pls pour in your suggestions!

Posted by
3925 posts

Given that I've seen the quintessentially scenic Scot and England already

Having only visited the Cotswolds and the Lake District you haven't seen the "quintessentially scenic England". Is there even such a thing? The English landscape is quite varied, from the rugged north Cornish coastline, its bleak moors, the imposing cliffs and prehistoric wonders of the Jurassic Coast, the stunning and varied landscape of the New Forest, the South Downs, the Mendip Hills, the Chilterns, the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts, the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and Moors, the Penines and the Northumberland Coast to name but a few. Then there's Wales (where do you begin!) and the rest of Scotland.

Will you be driving?

Posted by
765 posts

For scenery I would hit up the Orkney Islands. Wow! They were wonderful and we spent 4 nights/3 days and could have spent more.

Posted by
53 posts

Yes we will be driving.
I'm visiting Jurassic Coast and Windsor (my husband has a conference there). Since I'm spending 6 nights in England, I'd rather focus the remaining 8 nights in Wales or Scotland. Please suggest which would be more 'scenic'; I know Wales will be closer and easier to get to by car, but I am more excited to see the stunning parts of Scotland. Is North Coast 500 a good road trip to consider or is it overrated?

Posted by
901 posts

Hi, aditigupta1887,

I give you a lot of credit for traveling with an infant! Is she 4 1/2 months old now, or will she be 4 1/2 months old in July?

As you're interested in scenery, I'd highly recommend Scotland's Northwest coast, from Kyle of Lochalsh to Durness. Take the A890 north to Strathcarron, then A896 to Kinlochewe. Just after Kishorn, you can take the Bealach na Ba single track road to Applecross, then the road along the coast to Shieldaig.

At Kinlochewe, take the A832 north through Gairloch and Aultbea, The A832 dead ends at the A835. Turn left on the A835 for Ullapool.

Just after Ullapool, turn left on the unclassified road for Achiltibuie and the Summer Isles. Just after Stac Polly and Loch Lurgainn, take the road for Inverkirkaid and Lochinver. Once you get to Lochinver, take the B869 to Stoer and Drumbeg. That road will take you to the A894, just south of Kylesku. Follow the A894 to Laxford Bridge, then the A838 to Durness.

You'll be passing through some of the most beautiful scenery that Scotland has to offer, and some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

As you've already been to Skye, you may want to consider the Outer Hebrides. You'll find some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, particularly on South Harris. Best way to get there is to cross Skye, and take the CalMac ferry from Uig to Tarbert on Harris. From there, you can spend time in Harris and Lewis, then take the ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool, and follow the above Northwest coast directions. Or you can take the ferry from Leverburgh to North Uist, explore the Uists and Benbecula, then take the ferry back to Uig from Lochmaddy. As the Uists are fairly far off of most tourist routes, you'll find very little traffic. You may enjoy the Balranald Nature Reserve on North Uist, where you'll find many migratory birds and a well signposted walk along the Atlantic shore. Part of the walk is not suitable for prams, so you may have to carry your wee lass part of the way.

I'd highly recommend making your accommodation arrangements as soon as possible, especially as you'll have to make cot arrangements for your daughter. I'm heading over at the end of June, and I had difficulty finding accommodation in some of the more remote locations.

Have a wonderful time!

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
20 posts

I'm following off Mike's comment about the Northcoast 500 with a question about the best way to get from Gills Bay to Ullapool in one day. I had hope to travel the north and west coast en route, but see we won't have enough time to do that and allow for stops. I'm thinking we'll drive across to Bettyhill and travel south to Lairg and across to Ullapool, but I'd love to get any feed back from others that have traveled that route. We'll be coming by ferry from Orkney that morning. Apologies if this would be best as a separate post.
Thanks!

Posted by
53 posts

OMG! Thanks Mike, that was very detailed and useful response. From the route that you suggested, Kyle of Lachalsh to Durness itself is 200 miles, I'd ideally want to crash at some place in between and slow down since I have my baby with me. She'll be 4.5 months old in July.
Also, please advise if this is a part of the famous NC500, I have read somewhere that it's best done east to west. Where should I end my trip- John O'Groats?
I'm planning to land in London, take a train to Edinburgh the same day, stay overnight there and then rent a car to leave for Kyle. Is this a smart choice?

Posted by
901 posts

Hi, Elizabeth,

That's the way I'd go, too, if I had to get from Gills Bay to Ullapool in a day. (I'm assuming that you're landing in Gills Bay, then having to be in Ullapool by that evening.) If you don't have to be in Ullapool until the next day, that's a whole different situation.

You should definitely visit the Highland Clearances Museum in Bettyhill, then take the B871 through Strathnaver, rather than the A836 from Tongue to Altnaharra. Once you get to Lairg, you can cut straight across to Ullapool. You miss a lot of scenery that way, but if you tried to drive straight through along the North and West coasts, you wouldn't have time to stop and enjoy. It's a good excuse to go back again!

If you're running early when you get to Ledmore Junction, you could still take the B869 counterclockwise to Drumbeg and Stoer, then the A837 back from Lochinver. It's one of the most spectacular coastal roads in Scotland, as I've probably mentioned many times on this site. And if you're not pressed for time, you could take the unclassified road out of Lochinver toward Inverkirkaig, which would put you on the A835 just north of Ullapool.

Best wishes for a wonderful journey!

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
901 posts

Hi again, aditigupta1887,

Everyone I've seen on the North Coast 500 is making the run clockwise - you're hitting the best scenery first, going west to east. Yes the route that I gave you, with side trips, is part of the NC 500. The NC 500 actually starts at Inverness Castle, and ends there as well, so you'd be joining the tour part of the way along.

One place I forgot to mention is Handa Island, just north of Scourie, but it could be a bit much with an infant, as you'd have to carry her. Handa is a bird sanctuary, and you need to catch the boat from Tarbet (not to be confused with the other Tarbets in Scotland). There's also a very nice restaurant (The Shorehouse) in Tarbet.

After you reach Durness, you could continue across the North coast to John O'Groats, then down the A99/A9 to Inverness. Or if it all gets to be too much scenery overload, you could take the A836 from Tongue down to Lairg, then on to Inverness.

You can do the Edinburgh to Kyle trip in about five hours, if you drive straight through. But you'll want to stop along the way. There is so much to see, and you'll no doubt need to be changing nappies before you get to Kyle!

Happy traveling, and don't forget to make those accommodation arrangements. If you do end up taking the NC 500 route, the largest population centers for accommodation are Gairloch, Ullapool, Lochinver, and Scourie.

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks so much for the detailed advice, and sorry for interrupting the thread! For next time, where would you stay if you were coming from the ferry in Gills Bay and heading west?
Thanks again!

Posted by
901 posts

Hi, Elizabeth,

There's not much along the North coast in the way of good sized towns, so I'd suggest Tongue and Durness on the North coast; and Kinlochbervie, Scourie, Lochinver, Ullapool, and Gairloch on the West side. Kinlochbervie gives you the opportunity to hike out to Sandwood Bay. It's eight miles round trip, but easy going most of the way, and well worth it. At Scourie, you can take the boat from Tarbet out to Handa Island; and from Lochinver, you have a choice of scenic drives going north or south.

Wherever you go, the scenery is stunning.

Have a wonderful time!

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
277 posts

FYI, if you decide to go to Orkney, you’ll be able to see the Ness of Brodgar archaeological dig, which will have tours from 7/4 to 8/22. It’s a 5000 year old possible temple site, with multiple buildings being unearthed in the midst of peak Neolithic sites such as Maeshowe, the Stones of Stenness, and the Ring of Brodgar.

Posted by
53 posts

Hello!
Thanks so much for all your responses. Having read up a little more, I seek your suggestions on the below plan-

1 July- Fly into London. Stay near London Luton airport since flight to Inverness is from here
2 July- Catch a direct EasyJet to Inverness (230 GBP with baggage allowance). Hire a car from Inverness and start NC500.
Overnight stay at Gairloch/ Ullapool
3 July- Overnight stay at Gairloch/ Ullapool
4 July- Overnight stay at Thurso
5 July- Overnight stay at Thurso
6 July- Overnight stay at Kirkwall (Orkney)
7 July- Overnight stay at Kirkwall (Orkney)
8 July- Overnight stay at Helmsdale
9 July- Overnight stay at Helmsdale
10 July- Leave for Inverness and catch return flight to London. Overnight stay at Windsor for husband's conference
11/ 12 July- Overnight stay at Windsor for husband's conference
13/14/15 July- Dorset
16 July- Fly out

Posted by
552 posts

As many others have suggested the drive up to Ullapool is stunning. I drove from Inverness and stopped many times along the way (stayed the night in Gairloch) to take photos or walk. Somewhere along the way I took a walk out to some falls that I've completely forgotten the name of. Maybe someone else can help? You've already been to Skye, but on my way from Skye to Oban I took a detour drive out to Applecross. Stunning scenery, narrow, single track road that climbed slowly and steadily up to the top, then dropped suddenly to a narrow switch-back road down the other side. Of course, you could do it from the other direction. If the weather is not reasonable, though, you won't see much as you get higher into the clouds.