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Waystop between Skye and Okneys?

I'm wrestling with my itinerary for two weeks in Scotland, and I'm looking for a good stop on the trip from Portree to Gill's Bay to lessen the driving and to make ferry catching a little less stressful. I was going to stop in Ullapool, but I understand the music has evaporated, and it's not much of a driving saver. We're going to Inverness after Orkney, so that's a boring choice. If we stopped in Gill's Bay or nearby, we could at least take the morning ferry and eliminate the risk of a long drive to catch a ferry.

Is there a good waystop that might have some trad music in June and that has some interesting stops on the way? It's hard to sort through all the "attractions". We're definitely drawn towards ruined castles and short hikes more than shopping.

Posted by
670 posts

The days are long in June goes sorta twillight ish from 11pm to 3am..great time to be touring.
The Crask Inn above Lairg might be worth a look as a stop over and if you are going to Ullapool it's worth continuing on to " the mad little road of Sutherland" ,the minor road to Lochinver.

That means you could pass the castle ruins on Loch Assynt on your way towards Lairg.

Posted by
1379 posts

I was in Scotland in September. I looked long and hard at driving up north to take a ferry to the Orkneys. In the end I decided that the smart play was drop the car and fly LoganAir (the plaid airline) from Inverness. There's just nothing on the mainland. It's a desolate land's end and so many miles to and fro.

Posted by
32 posts

I looked at that option, but we really don't like tour buses and there's too many great things to see on Orkney to not have the car. Maybe I'll check the possibility of doing it by bicycle. I also thought we'd stop at Blackwater Falls, Whalingoe Steps and Sinclair Castle to stretch our legs.

My current plan (number 12 of a continuing series) is to stop in John o'Groats or Gill's Bay for the night. That allows not having to "race" on the long drive to make the ferry, and we only lose a few hours on Orkney by getting there late the next morning.

Posted by
440 posts

I disagree that the north is a desolate wasteland. It's empty (ish) but stunningly beautiful. You could schedule an overnight stop at the craft village at Balnakeil, Durness. It's a quirky place sited on an old military base and has interesting craft studios and a fabulous chocolatier (including café). There are a few accommodation options nearby.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
1379 posts

There are tour guides on Orkney who will show you the sights.
If you can afford it, plane plus guide is the better way to go.

Posted by
440 posts

You could always fly to Orkney and rent a car while there....

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks for the thoughts, but flying to Orkney is not just a matter of saving driving time. Until I change things to not be coming from Portree, it costs a night and morning to fly. I can leave Portree at 7am, stop at several places, and be in Kirkwall by 8:30pm - or be in John o'Groats by 7pm and Kirkwall by 11:30am. The flying option means arriving in Inverness in the late afternoon, spending the night, then waiting for a late morning flight to Kirkwall. Similar issue going the other way.

The biggest plus for flying is that you lower the risk of weather cancellations. LoganAir should be more reliable than Pentland Ferries. Since my trip is next year, I can watch the Pentland website and see what the odds are in June.

I'll put the plan aside for a few days and see what percolates to the surface in my thoughts.

Posted by
3944 posts

I don’t like tours or tour coaches, but we took the one day ferry/coach trip from John o’Groats and it was far more informative than just driving round ourselves. If I went again, unless I was staying for several nights, I wouldn’t take our car over there.

There are risks that the planes and ferries won’t run if its windy.

Who knows who will still be in business after the current situation?

Posted by
32 posts

We're spending two nights in Kirkwall, so I think having the car is a plus. Airfare for four plus a full day package on Orkney will be almost $1500, compared to a bit of driving and ferry tolls of $100 or so. I rearranged the trip so that we're coming from Inverness which isn't that far, and then making a longish drive to Fort William afterwards. Both allow a relaxed ferry experience. Two of us enjoy the driving experience on the wrong side with shaggy obstacles and cliffs. Two of us enjoy Parkruns, and we'd like to do a couple of Ceilidhs, so the itinerary is pretty constrained. Fort William is on the schedule for the Parkrun, and Oban and Edinburgh have to be specific nights for Ceilidhs. A second Parkrun in Edinburgh fits as well.

I'm hoping there's a Scotland to visit and a way to get there. And I was worried about the impact of Brexit!

Posted by
1379 posts

Yup, the airfare for 4 on the plaid airline is a killer. I paid only 419€ ($460 Inverness-Kirkwall-Edinburgh for 2. So you might recheck your quote.

I like your revised plan, and you will like Skara Brae.

BTW Scotland is stuck in Brexited UK for a while. They had a "once-in-a-generation" referendum in 2014, and as much as PM Sturgeon wants one, she's not likely to get another for many years.

Posted by
32 posts

Logan Air is about L100/pp each way, depending on flight - some less, some more. I talked with a mini-van tour firm and they wanted L95/pp for all day tour, private or with others. That's $1374US. Driving allows us to stop by Whalingoe Steps, O'groats sign post, and Tomb of Eagles. Plus it allows us to get to Birsay near the low tide.

My current plan is Glasgow-2xInverness-2xKirkwall-FortWilliam-2xPortree-2xOban-2xBrodick-Edinburgh-Glasgow

I decided against the dash away from Glasgow the first night since we have different inbound flights. Too many opportunities for flight delays.

Posted by
15 posts

I just saw your post from last month, so not sure if you will see this but thought I would add my two cents to the conversation. My 2020 trip to Scotland in May just had to be cancelled. I had planned to stay in Keiss (near John OGroats) overnight & take the ferry and day tour to the Orkneys the next morning & come back on the last ferry & stay the 2nd night at same place in Keiss. The Keiss lodging was thru AirBnB and looks like it was close to water, nice views. Since you want to stay in the Orkneys for a week, this plan would not work for you, but I would suggest spending the night near where the ferry departs and take the ferry the next day, rather than the stress of trying to make the last ferry over after such a long drive from Portree. I’m hoping to reschedule my trip for next April/May so May be able to add more info to you before your fall 2021 trip.
Janet

Posted by
32 posts

I shuffled my stops so that I'm driving from Inverness to the mid-day ferry, then headed to Fort William after the mid-day ferry back, which shortens the drive. My trip is June 2021, if it happens. I looked at staying in o'Groats or Gills Bay, but after driving around the area using Google Streetview, I decided it was pretty uninteresting. I'm now doing Glasgow-2xInverness-2xKirkwall-Fort William-2xPortree-2xOban-2xBrodick-2xEdinburgh.

Posted by
15 posts

While you are in Inverness, if you have time, no too far from Inverness ;there is a quaint little town called “Tain” home of the Glenmorangie Whisky Brewery. They also have an interesting local place where they make some nice pottery. I visited there back in 2002 and enjoyed it there. I have distant cousins who had/ have a hotel there.