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Using Oban as a base? How many days in Edinburgh? Include Glasgow?

We are planning 7 nights in Scotland next June and I'm trying to avoid unpacking/repacking every 2 days. We're interested in Edinburgh, Stirling Castle, Falkirk, Invarary, Glencoe, Mull/Iona/Staffa, Glenfinnian. I would like to see Skye but don't think we'll have enough time. So I'm thinking about 3 nights in Edinburgh and 4 nights in Oban, using Oban as a base to take day trips to Invarary, Glencoe, Mull/Iona/Staffa, and Glenfinnian viaduct. We are flying into Edinburgh and would rent a car when we head to Oban, seeing Stirling Castle and Falkirk on the way. Is that too long in Oban? Are there better locations to use as a base to see those areas? Thoughts/suggestions? I have been told by several that more than 2 days in Edinburgh is too much -- thoughts? And, are we missing out by not including Glasgow? Do we have time for all this?

Posted by
5512 posts

3 nights in Edinburgh means 2 full days which can be enough depending on what are the key sites or activities you are interested in. I found 1 full day in Edinburgh enough for me, but I was only interested in the Castle. The Royal Mile is not of interest to me. I did, however, very much enjoy a day trip to St. Andrews from Edinburgh.

It will take a very long and full day to try to see Stirling Castle, Falkirk, and drive all the way to Oban. That first night in Oban won't really count for much. That gives you 3 full days. One day to see Mull/ Iona/Staffa. Two days left. Can you see what you want to see in that time?

I read your post twice, and couldn't quite see where you were flying out of. Will that also be Edinburgh? What time is your flight? You may have one less day in Oban than you thought depending on your flights.

If you truly have little interest in Edinburgh, then why not rent a car at the airport and drive to Sterling for your first night?

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you, Carol. We are interested in Edinburgh but don't know whether there's much more to see than the castle and Royal Mile. One or one and a half days seems like it might be enough but perhaps we're missing something. You're probably right that 4 nights/3 full days in Oban may not be enough to see Invarary (1 day), Mull/Iona/Staffa (1 day), and 1 day for both Glencoe and Glenfinnian viaduct is probably not enough time. We expect to take the whole day to get to Oban and will spend most of that day in Sterling I expect. We'll be flying to Bristol and I don't yet know whether we'll be flying out of Glasgow or Edinburgh, which of course could change how we spend our time in Edinburgh.

Posted by
5669 posts

I understand the wish to stay in one place longer than one night, but the places you want to visit are not well placed for that type of travel. It takes longer than you think to get to these places. The roads are small. You want to stop and enjoy the view or have a cup of tea, or read the plaque, or take a picture. Here's a round trip route. It's what I would do,

  • Leave Edinburgh and visit Falkirk.
  • Spend the night in Stirling either seeing the castle in the afternoon or first thing.
  • Drive to Glencoe--take your time. It's a beautiful drive. Visit Glencoe. spend the night in Fort William or a small town.
  • Drive to the Viaduct and then backtrack to Oban. Either spend the night in Oban and do one of the tours of Mull the next day or take the ferry over that afternoon and spend the night on Mull.
  • Visit Mull--catch a late PM ferry and drive to Inverary. Spend the night.
  • Drive to Edinburgh

That is four nights on the road. But you could stay longer on Mull. Also, there is a cool way to get to Mull from Glenfinnan, if you want to see a scenic bit of Scotland that is not as well-known.

Driving from Oban to Glencoe, on to Glenfinnan and back to Oban is 127 miles nearly 3.5 hours without traffic or stops. Driving to Inverary and back is not as bad. It's only an hour and a half, but it doesn't make sense to return as Inverary is on the way back to Glasgow or Edinburgh one of which is your departure city. Stirling and Falkirk are day drips from Edinburgh. The former can be done by train, but the latter would likely require a car.

I feel deep sorrow for the people who think they have seen all of Edinburgh in 1.5 days. First of all the castle itself, if you are interested in history and not just there for the view can easily take two hours or longer. Then as you go down the Royal Mile, you can pick and choose, but it will use up the rest of the day. I like Gladstone's Land. Holyrood Abbey is at least a couple of hour if you consider the tour, the gallery and the gardens. Then there is the superb Museum of Scotland. Some people can spend half a day there, I'll say an hour. Then there is New Town and the Georgian House. Spending some time enjoying Princes Street Gardens. And i am running out of room, so can't really expound further. :( Spend a little more time there even if just to do the day tour to Stirling.

Posted by
27 posts

Edinburgh activities. Depends upon who you talk to but it's about personal preferences. Skip the Royal Mile. Explore Dean Village/Stockbridge. Besides the Castle, there's Arthur's Seat, Royal Botanical garden, closes & wynds tours, vault tours. We like to be out about & not in museums.
You'll be hard pressed to do all the stuff from Oban. Explore Mull: the village of Tobermory or go Fionnphort to Iona. You may want to trim your day trips, narrowing your focus.

Posted by
21301 posts

If you stay in Oban and want to see Iona as well as Mull (not to mention Staffa), it will probably be best to buy the package put together by West Coast Motors. We had hoped to keep our time on Iona flexible (weather-dependent), but there are very few buses crossing Mull from Craignure (the landing point for the Oban ferry) to Fionnphort (the departure point for Iona). When you take the tour package, there's a dedicated bus (with commentary) across Mull. Tobermory will probably require a separate day unless you limit yourself to Mull.

One advantage of a hub-and-spoke approach is that you'll have some flexibility to react to the weather, but driving is slowish even for professional bus drivers. There's a lot of diving for the left-hand-side pullover area when you meet another vehicle on a one-lane road.

Posted by
629 posts

Well I suppose it depends upon your interests as to whether 2 days in Edinburgh is too much. If you like historic cities, with a world class castle, a fine art gallery (and separate excellent portrait gallery), exceptional botanical gardens, and would be interested in touring the Royal Yacht Britannia, climbing up to Arthur's Seat and generally taking in the vibe of Edinburgh, then 2 days will seem rushed. However, if you are more interested in the natural splendour of Scotland, then 2 days will be fine and your planned itinerary and using Oban as a base sounds like a good plan.

I am always somewhat mystified by the attraction of the Glenfinnan viaduct as something people would go out of their way to see. Yes it's a fine viaduct, and yes, sometimes a steam train passes over it, but the whole attraction of the Harry Potter connection completely passes me by. Maybe I am just a bit too blasé having grown up in the UK and being well accustomed to historic sites everywhere you look! The road out to Mallaig, which passes Glenfinnan is, however, very scenic, so don't let me put you off.

Are you missing out by not including Glasgow? Probably not. It's a modern vibrant city, with an interesting industrial past, and a couple of very good museums. But if I only had a week to see Scotland it wouldn't be on my list.
Hope this helps.
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
2949 posts

Another take on Skyegirl's comment "If you like historic cities, with a world class castle, a fine art gallery (and separate excellent portrait gallery), exceptional botanical gardens, and would be interested in touring the Royal Yacht Britannia, climbing up to Arthur's Seat and generally taking in the vibe of Edinburgh, then 2 days will seem rushed." For us, trying to do all of the above would take 3 days minimum. We started at the castle one morning, intending work our way down the Royal Mile to Holyrood, but by the end of the afternoon we had only made it as far as Clarinda's Tea Room, where a tasty late-late lunch/early dinner topped by scones with jam & cream finished off our day.

Posted by
7 posts

Pamela – thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and suggestions! Your roundtrip route is great and I see now that my desire to stay in one place probably isn’t practical for this trip. Rick Steves doesn’t think much of Fort William so I think I’d rather spend a night in Glencoe Village. Thank you too for the alternate route to Mull. We really like to see sights that aren’t so well known.
Pamela, bri08, Skyegirl, and epltd - Thank you for your thoughts on Edinburgh. Rick’s book covers a lot of Edinburgh but the suggestions I’ve received about not spending too much time there made me wonder. Good to have input from others who enjoyed the sights there.
Acraven – thanks for your recommendation for West Coast Motors’ tour. I believe that is the one Rick recommends too.