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The Isle of Skye 2 or 3 nights

Would you look over my itinerary and see if this is doable or if I would be better off booking another night on the Isle of Skye. I can't get another night at our current lodging, but I can get one about 20 miles away. I'm most concerned about days 7 through 10. We are going in the middle of July.

We spend 5 nights in Edinburgh and Glasgow, pick up a rental car, and then two nights in Oban.
day 6 Oban - Mull and Iona Abbey (is it better to drive ourselves or take a tour?)
day 7 leave Oban to Isle of Skye stopping in Glencoe, estimating about 4 hours to get to Mallaig for the ferry (I'll make reservations ahead). Drive to Dunvegan and then to our lodging in Kensaleyre for 2 nights.
day 8 (Isle of Skye) we do the Trotternish Peninsula (I want to hike Quiraing, the Fairy Glen, and Old Man of Storr - not sure we can do all that in one day).
day 9 (Isle of Skye) original plan was to leave and head to Inverness this day or our new option is to spend another day on the Isle of Skye and spend the night in Kyleakin and head to Inverness on day 10. That would mean only one night in Inverness.
day 10 Inverness
day 11 St. Andrews
day 12 Stirling
day 13 Edinburgh and home

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, drainsrus1,

You'd be best served taking the ferry from Oban to Craignure, then driving down to Fionnphort for the ferry to Iona. That will give you as much time as you need on Iona. Instead of joining a tour, read up as much as you can on Iona, so that you can best enjoy the experience. Be sure to give yourself enough time to get back to Craignure at least 30 minutes before the ferry is scheduled to depart.

On day seven, is that four hour estimate your time from Glencoe to Mallaig, or from Oban to Mallaig via Glencoe? North Ballachulish to Mallaig is a good 2 1/2 hours. Armadale to Dunvegan is at least two hours on a good day.

Day eight is going to involve a lot of hiking. If you have to pick only two, make it the Quiraing and the Fairy Glen. Throw in the Falls of Rha for good measure. But if you do decide to do all three, it should be Fairy Glen, Quiraing, and Old Man of Storr in that order. Or Old Man, Quiraing, and Fairy Glen if you want to go anticlockwise. Just as a point of reference, Donnie Campbell summited all 282 Munros in 31 days.

What you do on days nine and ten depends on what you still want to do on Skye and what you intend to do and see in the Inverness area. Also on how much time you want to spend in St Andrews on day eleven. Count on at least three and a half to four hours from Inverness to St Andrews.

This sounds like a very ambitious itinerary. It will make an excellent sampler for your next visit to Scotland!

Very best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
25 posts

I was planning on 4 hours from Oban to Mallaig with the stop in Glencoe.
On day 10 I was thinking that we might go back and hike on the Peninsula if we weren't able to do all that is one day. We are in good shape, but I didn't know if it was unrealistic to be able to do it all in one day.
I knew the drive to St. Andrews would be a long day but we will break it up with stops on the way.

I appreciate your help!

Posted by
647 posts

If hiking is your prime directive, you'll need more time on Skye. The Quiraing, though only four miles, will take a few hours - it can be quite windy. Besides Rha and Storr, there are also some nice stops like Lealt Falls and Kilt Rock. In the south there is Fairy Pools.

Unfortunately, with the relatively long drive to Inverness and then to St. Andrews, two nights in Inverness leaves only one day if you want to see Culloden or Clava Cairns, or hike Fairy Glen Falls or The Burn. I wouldn't spend two nights there is it's just to break up the drive.

An alternative would be to cut a day out of the big cities., especially since you'll be back to Edinburgh at the end, even if just for the evening.

Yet another idea is to scrap St. Andrews, and save an in depth exploration of the northeast coast for another trip. Rocketing all over the country on a short-ish trip means you'll miss a lot and when you come back, you'll be rocketing around again to pick up missed places. If you focus on a region, your next trip will be the next region. I'm planning our third and fourth three week trips to Scotland and there's no shortage of things we must see/do.

Posted by
98 posts

I like this post because I am considering a similar itinerary but with public transportation only and day tours from 3-4 bases. I would skip St. Andrews just because of location, not worthiness. Thank you.

Posted by
1188 posts

I agree with the advice Mike (Auchterless) has given you. But I am confused as to why you would drive to Dunvegan from Armadale on the way to your lodging in Kensaleyre. The more direct route via Portree would be faster, and would keep you on the main roads, which are better maintained. The minor roads on Skye are scattered with very bad potholes at the moment, and the road from Sligachan to Dunvegan is particularly poor. Unless you are planning to visit Dunvegan Castle of Neist Point lighthouse then I would avoid the detour via Dunvegan on day 7.

Your wider point about whether to add an extra day depends on what you want to see both on Skye and in Inverness. If you want to see other areas of Skye - e.g. a fuller exploration of the North West of Skye (Waternish Peninsula, or Dunvegan, Coral Beach, Neist Point) or visit the Fairy Pools, Talisker Bay, or one of the distilleries, then an extra day would be essential.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi again, drainsrus1,

Are you by chance a plumber?

Looking again at your day seven schedule, your planned route from Oban to Mallaig via Glencoe is a little over 120 miles. If you were to drive without stopping, four hours would be reasonable. However, you're going to see so much that you'll want to take in, or even take photos of, that five hours would be more realistic. Even possibly six hours. These are not all straight roads, although there are stretches where you may want to get up to 60 m.p.h. But then you'd miss something, and u-turns are not easy!

Of course, if it's lashing down rain, you'll probably want to get to Mallaig and have lunch at one of the restaurants in the village, or pick up some supplies at the Co-op.

Don't forget that you want to leave enough time to arrive at the ferry terminal in Mallaig at least 30 minutes prior to sailing. You can't get lost in Mallaig - to get to the ferry terminal, just go straight at the roundabout.

Best wishes once again,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
25 posts

Sorry, no plumber here.

We have a golfer among us that is in hopes of being drawn to play the old course at St. Andrews, and thus the trip out there.

Thanks for the extra info on places to hike on Skye and yes, we were wanting to go to the Dunvegan castle but maybe we don't have time to do that on day 7.

I think we will spend a third night on Skye even if it is in Kyleaking. That gives us one more day to do more hikes. And thanks for the other suggested hikes. I would love to make it to Neist Point Lighthouse but we will have to see how late it is and what the weather is like when get there on day 7.

We aren't planning on doing much in Inverness.

Posted by
1188 posts

Hi again,
If you've nothing much planned for Inverness then I'd definitely stay another night on Skye. Try the Skye Rooms facebook group to find accommodation. It's a group used by local accommodation providers to advertise late availability and you can also post on there to say what you are looking for with dates and someone will surely find you something. If you need time to do Dunvegan Castle and Neist point it makes to look for something in Dunvegan, or Glendale.

Posted by
100 posts

We did the drive from Oban to Mallaig, leaving after breakfast, and barely made it to the 4:00 ferry. We spent some time driving through Glencoe (including some time in the visitor center) and at the Glenfinnan Viaduct, where we had to leave about 10 minutes before the Jacobite train came through, in order to make the ferry. As it was, we were one of the last cars to load. Dunvegan castle will take some time, especially if you visit the gardens (we spent twice as much time in the gardens as we did inside, even though it was raining), and they close at 5:30, so you may want to add that to another day, if you can.

Posted by
81 posts

I had calculated the drive from Oban to Mallaig to catch the Mallaig-Armadale ferry would be about 3 hours plus a bit of time waiting (30 mins) in the ferry line-up.

Is my math incorrect or did you take some long stops along the way or a longer/different route for it to be an all day drive after breakfast?

We are returning from Skye to Glasgow over the bridge.

Posted by
1188 posts

Hi ds,
just coming in on the time to drive from Oban to Mallaig. I live on Skye so drive around the western Highlands quite frequently. Personally I would want to allow a minimum of 3.5 hours for that drive in the tourist season, despite google maps saying it can be done in 2.5 hours. The main reason being that the roads are single carriageway with limited places to overtake, there are many slowly driven camper vans and rental cars about in the season (who often slow down to look at the view/sheep/lochs/mountains/other unspecified distractions). It doesn't take long for queues of traffic to build up, slowing everyone down. Also there are often accidents which then block the entire road for ages, while emergency services are called, arrive, deal with the problem and then get traffic moving again. Also a visitor is likely to want to stop to take photos and see various scenic spots, while I am just focussed on getting from A to B in time to make the ferry. So if I as a local would allow 3.5 hours, I'd suggest a visitor should allow at least another hour to take account of wanting to stop to admire the view. It's a very scenic drive.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you everyone for your help. I will plan on 5 hours to get from Oban to Skye, and I was able to find another place to stay in Portree for one more night. We will spend one day over at Dunvegan and that area and two days on the Totternish Peninsula before heading to Inverness. I SO appreciate all your information!

Posted by
181 posts

We spent five nights in Skye last August and it wasn't nearly enough! We found that doing two destinations each day was the perfect amount. It allowed a easy morning (we'd sleep in and go use the gym at the high school in Portree), an afternoon of adventure, and an evening strolling and shopping in Portree. Keep in mind that you'll have to work around the weather - we often lost an hour here and there sitting in our car waiting for the rain to stop!

Posted by
25 posts

A friend told me we shouldn't try to take the ferry at Mallaig but drive around to the Skye Bridge. She said the road to Mallaig was very windy and slow. From the looks on a map, it seems like a much longer drive. Now I'm second-guessing what I should do. Recommendations? Mallaig and the ferry or the Skye Bridge?

Posted by
6842 posts

drainsrus, if you're coming from Mull, why don't you take the ferry from Tobermory to Kilchoan, then drive to Mallaig and pick up the ferry there. It's a beautiful drive with lots of gorgeous scenery.

ETA: Oops, just realized you're going to Mull for a day trip. If it were me, I'd try and change my accommodations and just stay on Mull. It would be much easier (although I just realized you're going in July, so that might not work).

Posted by
1188 posts

I would take the ferry from Mallaig. It's a lovely drive and no more windy than various sections of the alternative route. And then take the bridge when you leave Skye. That way you will see different scenery on the two legs of the journey to and from Skye. Hopefully you have booked your ferry.......

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you Skyegirl. I thought the same thing about going on the two different routes. I have booked my ferry reservation. We are so excited to visit your country!