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Whirlwind tour of Scotland in 4-5 days

My husband and I won a trip to Ireland for a week at a fundraiser and decided to extend our vacation a second week to hit the highlights of Scotland. We will be arriving in Dublin on March 13 (yes, St Pattys Day week) and driving a car March 15-20 to include the Ring of Kerry, County Clare and the Aran Islands. We end up back in Dublin and spend the night there on March 20. We are thinking that maybe a flight to/from Edinburgh or Glasgow might save us the most time to see as much of Scotland by car as we can in our limited time. We'd like to spend one day in Edinburgh and then consider Inverness, Oban, Skye and Glasgow as possible stops. We fly back to the US out of Dublin on March 26 at 10 am so would probably need to fly back to Dublin on March 25. We are in our mid 50's and physically active. Our interests are travel photography, meeting local people, food and pubs, possibly a whiskey distillery, and seeing a few castles. My questions are 1) are flights the best way to go from Dublin to Scotland? 2) Should we skip Glasgow and spend more time between Oban, Skye and Invernesss? 3) is it worth going up to Inverness with this time frame?

Posted by
6113 posts

You have no option but to fly given your limited timescale. The 21st will just be transferring to Scotland and a little exploring and then you plan to spend say 22nd in Edinburgh, which only leaves 2.5 days before you have to return to Dublin. You need a minimum of two nights on Skye to make the journey worthwhile so you don't have time this trip.

The weather in March is likely to be cold and wet and very probably snowy, so I would limit your time to Edinburgh and Glasgow, with a day trip out booked when you get there, depending on the weather.

Many castles will not be open in March. Inverness is not a very exciting city, but is the gateway to some great scenery, but IMO you don't have time to go this far.

Posted by
7573 posts

In August 2013 we had 3 night and parts of 5 days on Skye, and just scratched the surface, so you'd have a really quick visit if you went. We rented a car in Inverness and drove to Skye, so not sure what the car rental pick-up options on Skye itself would be, or what the ferry connections might be (or how long it would take on the ferry to reach Skye), but one could conceivably arrive first on Skye from Ireland, then continue eastward towards Glasgow/Edinburgh. Sometimes a straight line isn't the fastest way from Point A to Point B. You'll be doing a quickie, hit-and-run visit in any event, but it should be fun!

Posted by
5678 posts

It shouldn't really take all day to fly from Dublin to Edinburgh or Glasgow. If you fly Aer Lingus there are direct flights and they take about an hour. You can leave as early at 7 AM and come back on a flight close to 8 PM. So you would have a pretty full day in Edinburgh or Glasgow the first day. That gives you three days, but you have to be in Edinburgh or Glasgow airport by 6 latest. You should get about 12 hours of sunlight each day, but sunrise is at 6AM. (They change their clocks on the 27th.) And yes, you should plan for rain, but you need to do that for Ireland too!

There are some issues with castles being open. But look to the Historic Scotland castles as they are perhaps more likely to be open. Doune Castle in Stirlingshire might be an option. Of course, you'll want to visit Edinburgh Castle. If you really like castles, Stirling is impressive. Visiting either of these and then driving north to Dunkeld and spending the night in this small town would be a good option. It has a wonderful pub where there is often music, The Taybank. The next day you could drive up into the Cairngorms to the east and either stay there or circle back. But, if there is snow you might have issues with some of the roads into the mountains. Another beautiful drive would be over to Aberfeldy and out Glen Lyon. One of my favorite drives is probably not an option if there is snow. MC will know if that is likely. (It's over the mountain from Aberfeldy to Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch. But you can always just go up the A5 to Pitlochry. There is the Atholl Distillery and the Eradour Distillery nearby. And just up the road is the Highland Life Folk Museum near Newtonmore, which I believe is open in March. (Newtonmore is where several scenes from The Monarch of the Glen were filmed.)


Posted by
1658 posts

Snow is not unknown in March, but unlikely. I would not rule out a journey based on the likely hood of snow at that time of the year.

Though if you are on the A5 going to Pitlochry, you may be a tad lost. The A5 is in mid Wales! ;-)

Posted by
5678 posts

oops....the A9. I really shouldn't do this after midnight....Good thing there is MC to keep me on my toes. The odd thing is I have never been on or near the A5. Odd.

Posted by
2136 posts

I'd like to suggest an alternative to Skye. While we loved our stay there, it is somewhat touristy, especially in the south. Consider taking the ferry from Oban over to the Isle of Mull. It is much less touristy and has some spectacular scenery.

Once on Mull, we drove up to the village of Dervaig. We stayed in a B&B the overlooks a gorgeous Loch. We then took a side trip over to Tobermory, a gorgeous little village. There's a great distillery there that you can tour. The next day we drove from Dervaig to Iona using a lonely road with spectacular views of the ocean. We spent the afternoon on Iona, seeing the abbey and the graveyard of several kings, including MacBeth. We then took a small ferry in North Mull back to the mainland, where we continued on to Fort William.

BTW, there are standing stones on Mull.