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Working on Getting Scotland Visit Set

Hi All,

Well, we have finally sorted out at least some of our September trip to Scotland. This is our third visit, and we have decided to rent a cottage north of Aviemore on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. We have a car (first time driving on the left side of the road and dealing with turn-outs) and beginning to sort out those must-see's.

We will be spending a little time in Glasgow to start out, and we are spending a day in Edinburgh before we come home. We have basically 4 to 5 days in the highlands. We've spent time in Inverness and on the east coast. We are going to do the Scone Palace and Pitlochry at some point during that week. The funicular train to the top of Cairngorm Mountain looks pretty interesting. What other things do you consider Must-see or Must-do things in the highlands?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and suggestions.


Posted by
1386 posts

Hi, Steve,

North Coast 500 (NC500). Check out their website. If you enjoy the Cairngorm funicular, then you might enjoy the Aonach Mor gondola ride outside Fort William.

West coast route as far as Ullapool, or further if you have time. It's part of the NC500. You can turn back toward Inverness from Ullapool, or further north from Laxford Bridge.

If you go that way, the Bealach na Ba pass to Applecross, and around the coast to Sheildaig, should definitely be on your to do list, as well as the unclassified side road to Achiltibuie, north on the Wee Mad Road to Lochinver, then the B869 to Loch Glencoul, via Stoer and Drumbeg. That latter road is best done counterclockwise, if you can fit it in.

The coast roads will take you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Take your time, and enjoy!

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
3351 posts

I’m not sure what you have done in your previous visits, but here’s my 2 cents.
Culloden Battlefield, Cawdor Castle, Brodie castle, which has falconry (a must for us)
Isle of Skye for scenery and hiking.

Posted by
3122 posts

As noted by previous comment, you'll be near the Culloden Battlefield, Cawdor Castle, and Clava Cairns -- as well as the coastal town of Nairn, where there's whale watching in the Moray Firth.

You'll also be within range of Balmoral Castle, if that interests you. Another castle and a really lovely one to visit is Glamis, though that would be a long day's drive for you. Blair Castle and Dalwhinnie Distillery are both right along the A9 so very easy to reach from where you'll be.

I'm puzzled as to why someone would recommend the North Coast 500 when you have only 4-5 days and you'll be staying near Aviemore.

Posted by
38 posts

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. As we sort out this journey we're definitely looking for those places that might not be on the typical list.

I would agree, Culloden and Clava Cairns are great spots to see. Last time to Scotland we spent a few days in Inverness and enjoyed our day trip there. While we took a taxi to get out there (and the taxi driver drove us out to Clava Cairns first, before dropping us off at Culloden) we enjoyed using the local bus service to get us back.

The NC 500 sounds intriguing. We realize we don't have enough time to do the whole thing, but the drive across to Ullapool and then maybe up a bit to Elphin and across might be fun. We were toying with heading to Tain anyway, so a good way to get there. I think the biggest part is simply getting used to the one-lane roads and turnouts. I'm thinking the rest of the trip will need to be made another time, as it seems it is a whole journey all on it's own.

The Royal Deeside trip is another great suggestion. Braemer and Ballater look like interesting places to stop and enjoy on our travels.

We were looking at Nairn as a place to go, so I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it. And it looks like we can hop over to Blair Castle while we're over there.

I think Dahlwhinnie is in the plans, as is GlenMorangie when we're in Tain. It's amazing how quickly the time fills up.

Thanks to you all for your suggestions. We appreciate it.

Posted by
1386 posts

Hi again, Steve,

Most of the roads now are two lanes, so unless you're planning to tackle the Bealach na Ba, you shouldn't be on many one lane roads with passing places. The main thing to consider would be roundabouts, but once you're out of Inverness, there aren't many.

You could drive straight to Ullapool as a day trip, on the A835. The NC500 actually starts and ends at Inverness Castle, so as you're staying in Aviemore, you couldn't do the whole thing in a day. But you could try a part of it, which will definitely whet your appetite for a fourth visit. Most of the roads in the Highlands loop back to Inverness, even as far as Laxford Bridge. For instance, if you decide to take a day trip to Ullapool, instead of backtracking, you could stay on the A835 to Ledmore Junction, then return by way of Strath Oykel on the A837.

Best thing to do is get a decent sized road atlas, and plan your day trips accordingly. Once the maps are spread out in front of you, you'll have a better idea of the distances and time involved. has a good full sized AA road atlas of Great Britain available, or since you're starting out in Glasgow, and if you can wait 'til then, you can get a good atlas at any of the chain book stores or tourist offices.

Best wishes!

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
5678 posts

I just did a long day road trip from inverness, up the East Coast to Wick and on to John Groats. (This road is all two lane, oh my there are some steep hairpin curves.) I did the short hike over to see the Duncansby Stacks. Even this late the number of birds were amazing. I then headed west along to Thurso and then took a wee road down to Helmsdale. It was single track, but I think that I saw at most ten cars the entire 38 miles. It was gorgeous. You would have a another hour on the trip from Aviemore.

If you're wiling to drive south think about just heading out to Rannoch Station from Queens View. It's a beautiful drive. This is technically the road to the Isles. When I was out there late last week, the winds of Hector were pouring over Rannoch Moor and whipping up the surf on Loch Rannoch.

A word of warning about picking up your car in Glasgow. If you are picking it up city centre, you may run into the same long wait that I had at Edinburgh. I was supposed to pick it up at 10:30. i think stood in line for 45 minutes as everyone dithered over insurance. They had three staff members, but each person was 10-15 minutes to serve. So, get there early or take a bus out to the airport to get the car.

When you are in Pitlochry, check out the Explorer's Garden. Beautiful place with some interesting history. On the way south there is the Highland Folk Museum in Newton More. And I enjoyed a quick stop at the Ruthven Barracks. If you take the wee road instead of the A9 you'll drive right past it.

Back in Aviemore check out the Rothiemurchus Estate for some great hiking.

Single track roads are not that bad once you get used to them. In fact, I kind of like them better. You don't have to pretend that both cars can fit on the road like you do on some supposed double lane roads!


Posted by
360 posts

One of the most interesting things we saw was the Leault Working Sheepdog demo. It's about a 45-60 min. drive from Inverness, at the top of the Cairngorms park (a friend that now lives in Edinburgh recommended it). It was far more interesting than I expected it to be, as I just had no idea how it all worked (high ratings on Trip Advisor too). It's about an hour demo and only runs June - Sept. We also hit Dunrobin Castle, which has been well maintained/upgraded (and is still furnished), has a French-style garden, and a really cool falconry demo (check their web site for the falconry times).

Posted by
38 posts

Thanks everyone for these additional suggestions.
Pam, thanks for the description of your sojourn up to John O' Groats. We've been toying with that trip versus across to the west coast and Wester Ross. You've given us more to think on. And I appreciate your comments on car rental. We are definitely renting the car at the airport in Glasgow.
Mike, that's the circle I think we're looking at if we go to Ullapool and Wester Ross, and a map is definitely in our future. I bought a GPS for the trip, along with a chip with the Great Britain roads on it, but a physical map seems like a good idea.
Becky, the working sheepdog in Leault are definitely on the list. We used to have a border collie, and my wife raised sheep as a child, so it's a perfect choice for us. Dunrobin Castle looks incredible. If we end up on the east coast rather than the west, I think its definitely a stop to consider.
We're glad to hear the Highland Folk Museum was a good experience. We were definitely planning on doing that on our way to or from Pitlochry and Leault. That should make for a busy day.
Thanks again everyone for the many suggestions. Our itinerary is definitely filling up.

Posted by
5678 posts

Steve, I've done the western drive as well. Both trips are beautiful and you won't go wrong with whichever one you choose. You might plan on both and make the call when you are there based on the weather forecast. I made the recent trip North trying to escape some rain. And it worked! I had rain until Dornoch and then it stopped. The next day I went West and it was a beautiful day with little to no rain in the west. I didn't make the loop as I did a later start than planned. But it was beautiful. I love the drive to Ullapool and north.