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Suggestions for return route from Isle of Skye

Hi all,

I'll be visiting the Western Highlands (Glencoe and Isle of Skye, specifically) in early September. From Glasgow, I'll drive the A82 along the western shore of Loch Lomond to Glencoe (2.5D/2N) and then onwards to the Isle of Skye (3.5D/3N) , but am undecided about which route I should take back to Glasgow. I've found some popular routes online, but nothing really jumps out at me.

Which of these routes would you recommend?...

  • via Pitlochry/Perth (A87 > A82 > A86 > A889 > A9)
  • via Oban (A830 > A82)
  • via Mull (A830 > A861)
  • via eastern side of the Trossachs (A82 > A85 > A84 > to either Callandar or Stirling, then to Glasgow)
  • I've ruled out returning via Lochness (I have no interest)

...Given these parameters:

  • I have no interest in history or museums more generally (which I understand is a big drawcard for Stirling, Option 4). I don't have a desire to tour the inside of castles, and prefer to view ruins against a beautiful natural backdrop.
  • I gravitate towards mountainous landscapes like the Quiraing and Glencoe (especially when they're luridly green)
  • Not interested in sandy bays but do like tall sheer cliffs (think: Cliffs of Moher, Ireland)
  • Context: Longhaul flight into London then train/fly to Glasgow or EDI. Onwards to Ireland (Republic).

Rough itinerary:

  • Day 1 - 3: Glasgow
  • Day 4: Hire car, drive the A82. Lunch at one of the loch-side towns (e.g. Luss) and possible boat trip on Loch Lomond. Arrive Glencoe mid/late arvo?
  • Day 5: Glencoe
  • Day 6: Glencoe/Glen Etive
  • Day 7: AM - Drive to Isle of Skye (either via Mallaig or Kyle). PM - explore Skye
  • Day 8 - 10: Skye
  • Day 11: Possible side trip to neighbouring island?
  • Day 12: Return trip commences...then after returning my car to Glasgow or doing a one-way drop in Edinburgh, I'll spend a few days in Edinburgh. I can also tack this onto the front end of the itinerary.

All constructive input is appreciated! :-)

Posted by
963 posts

I'm giving this thread a bump to make up for a previous technical issue. Aka Webmaster reasons. ;)

Posted by
6842 posts

Hi, BWSydney, I responded to your other post that must have come after this one disappeared for awhile. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/scotland/return-route-from-isle-of-skye-suggestions

Your criteria is different in the newer post, so I wasn't sure if you were still looking for responses to this post, or would prefer answers to the newer one.

Edit to add: You mentioned a possible side trip to a neighboring island while you are on Skye. I would recommend visiting Raasay, which was one of the highlights of my trip in 2023. It has beautiful scenery but is very peaceful and blessedly free of crowds. There is a lot of hiking available, ruins to see, a small distillery, and Raasay House has dining options available. It's an easy 20-minute ride by ferry from Skye, and you can bring your car over.

Posted by
1188 posts

Personally I would take either the Pitlochry/Perth route of the Callander route. Both are pleasant drives and I alternate between them when heading south from Skye.

Mardee is right that Raasay would make a great island side trip from Skye. You could also consider visiting Canna (one of the small isles) for a half day trip on one of the boat trips run by Bella Jane/Aquaexplore from Elgol.

None of the Outer Hebrides is really possible as a day trip from Skye. The schedules all force an overnight.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks @Mardee. Unfortunately, my original post wasn't copied to my clipboard, so I wrote the new post from scratch and inadvertently omitted/added info to it. Please go off the criteria in the new post at https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/scotland/return-route-from-isle-of-skye-suggestions (which I believe has two additional points - love of trad music and not a confident driver).

And yes, I've heard good things about Isle of Arran - I'm particularly in the northern sections where it is more mountainous. Even if it doesn't fall on my route back from the highlands, I will make a point of doing a day trip from Glasgow. Although I think that after hiking and gallavanting about Glencoe and Isle of Skye for a week, I'll need to take a serious rest stop in Glasgow.

Did you hire a car or use public transport for your 3 day stay there? I've heard that a car is essential on Isle of Mull (if you want to really see it properly), so wondering if that's also the case on Isle of Arran.

Posted by
5 posts

And thank you both for your recommendations re: side-trips from Isle of Skye.

@Skyegirl, you mention your preference for Pitlochry/Perth route and the Callander routes. Can you elaborate on the scenery or topography of both routes? Is it the case that Perthshire is a fairly flat area? And when you've returned via the Callandar route, have you stopped by the lochs on the eastern side of the trossachs and how did that experience compare to driving by/seeing Loch Lomond (if you've been there)? Thanks :-)

Posted by
6486 posts

Arran only has 2 roads- the one round the coast and the string road across the middle.

A bus meets every ferry from Ardrossan to go across the String and to go both ways round the ring road, so no a car is not essential.

The only problem is when the ferry service is diverted to Troon as is happening all this week- due to forecasted high easterly winds making Ardrossan untenable. Troon is an extended passage time so connections will be missed at Brodick.

Posted by
1188 posts

Hi again,
The scenery is pretty similar on both routes, although I'd say the more northerly route is a bit more rugged and wild and does offer a possible diversion to have a look at Glen Roy Nature Reserve, which is an ice age landscape and quite spectacular and usually fairly empty of tourists. It's just off the A86 at Roy Bridge. This route is rather less interesting once you hit the A9, which is a very busy road linking Inverness with Stirling. However, you could divert off the A9 to have a look at Loch Rannoch and drive out to the remote railway station which has a tea room on the platform.

The more southern route is still beautiful but retraces some of your route north as you would pass through Glencoe again. To my mind the lochs are more beautiful than Loch Lomond and the area is less busy than Loch Lomond, although not as remote as Glen Roy etc. There are many places to park up and go for a walk.

I enjoy a wander through Callander too from time to time, although I am more interested in natural beauty than shops and towns.

Based on your stated preferences from your original post and if you only have one day for this portion of your trip, I would lean towards the northern route and be sure to stop at Glen Roy.