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Week in Scotland - but maybe too much time driving?

We are traveling to Scotland September 5 - 12, arriving in Edinburgh via train from London. Our current plan is to spend the afternoon of the 5th, all of the 6th in Edinburgh and then pick up rental car on the morning of the 7th. We will then head to St. Andrews for the afternoon and stay in Pitlochry (Friday) for the evening of the 7th and attend the Highlander games in Pitlochry on the 8th. First Question: Will we won't to spend the entire day in Pitlochry watching the games or will this be something that is entertaining for a bit, but not worth an entire day? I am not trying to belittle the activity, just not sure what we should expect. We are then planning on heading to Inverness and staying there for Saturday night. We would like to see the Culloden Battlefield on the way to Invesness and the following day see Loch Ness on our way to Isle of Sky (Sunday). Our plan is to stay one night in Skye and then drive to Oban (Monday) and back to Edinburgh Tuesday. Our flights leave early in the morning on Wednesday. I feel that we are driving too much and maybe should stay somewhere for more than one night. Question Two: Should we skip Oban and stay somewhere more on the general route back to Edinburgh, say Glencoe, Fort Williams or Stirling or stay somewhere else for two days? I'm a bit concerned about the drive back from Skye to Edinburgh, Google maps says that it should take about 6 hours. Any suggestions appreciated. Thank you.

Posted by
3386 posts

I like Oban, it is an interesting town and I enjoyed staying there. However, its main attraction is that it is a "jumping off" place for trips to the Inner Hebrides. You are not planning on doing any of those trips since you are doing your "island experience" on Skye. I don't know that I would go there based on the rest of your plan.

Posted by
2744 posts

You only have a week in Scotland. You've allowed yourselves 1.5 days in Edinburgh, which is very minimal. Then you plan just 1 day to pick up your car, see St. Andrews, and drive to Pitlochry -- again, very minimal time to do a lot. What do you want to see and do in St. Andrews? I think you should either plan to spend the night there, or omit it and go directly to Pitlochry.

I can't advise about the Highlander Games, but if you want to drive from Pitlochry to Inverness and see Culloden Battlefield on the way (it's not really on the way -- you know that from the map, yes?) you will not have all day to watch the games.

Between Inverness and the Isle of Skye it is reasonable to stop at the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition and/or Urquhart Castle -- that is one segment of your plan that I think works well.

I would omit Oban. You could very well enjoy a night or two in Glencoe -- or Inveraray; have you considered it? (In my opinion, Fort William is more of a transit hub than a charming vacation destination.) If you'd rather be in a sizeable town than out in the highlands all week, then choose Stirling instead.

Driving back to Edinburgh on Tuesday shouldn't be a problem provided you plan enough "air" in your schedule to accommodate unforeseen delays from who knows what. Plan to turn in your car by, say, 5 PM and sleep in an airport hotel.

Posted by
511 posts

To be brief - yes it's too much driving. Most of your time will be spent driving. The further north and west you go the worse the roads get. You have allowed very little time for Skye, which is a much bigger island than most people expect. The drive from Inverness to Skye takes 3 hours out of season - so you can expect more like 4.5 hours with traffic and stops for photos. What are you planning to visit on Skye? The main sights are spread out from each other, for example driving from the Fairy Pools to Neist Point would take 1.5 hours on our single track roads. Also have you booked accommodation on Skye yet? If not you may be struggling to find anything good at this short notice. My advice would be to rethink and not try to cram so much in.

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, jennifercraig8,

Not to mention that the A863 out of Dunvegan is chock-a-block with potholes, making driving even slowly (i.e.: well below the speed limit) a bone shaking experience! :(

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: Just to avoid confusion, it's the Pitlochry "Highland" Games, not "Highlander." Nothing at all to do with Christopher Lambert and his ilk. :)

Posted by
1778 posts

No doubt about it, this is too much driving! You will see Scotland from behind your windshield!
We did this exact same itinerary, but we did it in 12 days!

Driving takes much longer than expected. For instance, when we drive from Inverness ( where we had spent 3 nights), google maps said approx 3 hrs. It took us 7, since you will want to stop for food, pics, bathroom etc.
Revise your itinerary and you will have a much better vacation.

Posted by
4957 posts

We had 3 days on Skye, and just scratched the surface. Heading back towards Edinburgh, we spent 2 nights in Fort William, and the morning we left Fort William for Edinburgh, it absolutely POURED rain. Our windscreen wipers were going full speed, but the traffic was crawling. So weather can lengthen your travel times, even beyond the normal estimates.