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Would appreciate feedback on our 26 day itinerary August 30 to Sept 25, 2015

Hello everyone,

Have been reading this forum, Trip Advisor forums, guide books, websites, and studying my ginormous Michelin map for some time, and just now pulling all the bits together. My husband (who has no interest in trip planning, but loves to travel :) and I will start our trip in Norway, visiting family. We'll arrive in EDI just in time to catch the last 1.5 days of the Fringe Festival, and last day of the International Festival. We have a total of 26 nights in Scotland. I’m still uncertain about how many nights in Inverness area and Glasgow, still pondering those bits.

We are in our 60’s, and love hiking, cycling, photography, and exploring new places. We strongly prefer the self-catering style of travel, and have done many private home/apartment rentals in Europe and the US, so are accustomed to using airbnb, Home Away, etc. We'd prefer to avoid one night stays, in favor of a couple of longer stays where we can slow down and relax a bit, but still do lots of exploration.

I had originally planned to drive Inverness - Orkney, then through Durness, Lochinver, to Ullapool, and ultimately to Skye. But in the end, decided that adds up to quite a bit of driving, and perhaps we’d be better off saving that for a future trip (along with more Islands visits, and Knoydart Peninsula). My husband is from Norway, and we're very interested in the Viking history of the Islands, so I do think we'll be back to explore these areas on a future trip.

Here is the rough outline - some of it is firm, as we’ve booked accommodations. Would appreciate any feedback you might have.

5 nights EDI (airbnb booked in Stockbridge): Enjoy last day of Fringe Festival, and EDI International Festival (have tix for London Symphony at Usher Hall). Castle, Arthur’s Seat, Royal Botanic Garden, Britannia, Leith Walk, Stockbridge Farmer’s Market, Stirling Castle, Roslyn Chapel, museums, etc. Pick up car at airport for drive to Highlands.

2 nights Ballater (Osborne House B&B booked): Braemar Gathering (have tickets), hiking and exploring Royal Deeside area.

2 nights Aberlour (airbnb booked): Whiskey Trail and hiking.

5 -6 nights Inverness area (accommodation not yet booked): Day trip (very long day, we know!) to Orkney, Glen Affric hiking, Dunrobin Castle via train, Blas Music Festival, Kyle Line, etc.

4 nights near Portree (have found place on airbnb, have not yet booked). Drive to Skye via Applecross. Hiking and exploring Skye.

4 nights Lochearnhead cabin (have found place on airbnb, have not yet booked) in Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park: Boat and cycling at Loch Katrine, Taybank for music and meal, Mhor 84 Motel for dinner, lots of hiking and photography.

2 -3 nights Glasgow (accommodation not yet booked): Return car at airport on the way into town. New Lanark, Macintosh sites, museums. We’re also interested in the new Borders Rail Line, which I’ve read will begin service around September 6th.

1 night near EDI airport for early flight home.

Many thanks for your time - I'm so impressed by the great commentary on this site!

Posted by
2441 posts

Stockbridge is a lovely area of the city to stay and actually where I was born (Leslie Place). loads of nice bars , cafes and resturants in the area. the city center is walkable but loads of buses to get you there quickly and cheaply.The water of Leith walkway goes through or indeed under Stock Bridge ( yes it is a small bridge.)worth taking a 5 minute stroll to St Bernards well or another 5 minutes or so to the lovely Dean Village.I actually walked from Balerno to Stockbridge a total of 10 miles along the water of Leith walkway a couple of weekends ago,its is a lovely walk.
As to Aberlour, great place to be based for whisky distilleries, Craigellachie is only a 2 mile walk away along the Speyside way and there are numerous other distilleries in the other direction, so easy to do a hike from Aberlour in either direction, there is a spur to Dufftown which is worth the effort, easy enough to get taxis or public transport back.

Posted by
5461 posts

I don't think that the day trip to Orkney will satisfy you. There are so many interesting sites: Scara Brae, Maes Howe, Ring of Brogdar, Eagles Tomb, Stones of STenness, Bishop's Palace, Earl's Palace, Kirkwall Cathedral and the new Ness of Brogdar. And then there is contemporary Orkney: Crafts trail, Stromness, hiking on Hoy, Italian Chapel. And I've not named all. Particularly, you should also be thinking about Shetland for it's Viking heritage as well as Orkney.

If you have a car, you should drive to Dunrobin. There are things to see on the way. Dornoch has a lovely cathedral. Also, you cross the Dornoch Firth which is wonderful natural area and is a special area of conservation. We didn't have time to really explore, but it is gorgeous. Here's a link to the walks in the area of Dornoch. And here's another. You will enjoy Glen Affric. If you have a full day, and are in good shape do the walk around the Loch. You walk on a road on the South side of the Loch and then you walk along the north shore. It's wet and rocky, but absolutely beautiful.

From Inverness, it's really not hard to get to the west coast for more walking. My walking group currently bases itself in Fortrose at The Anderson, but we used to be based at Strathpeffer. The advantage of this is that you can decide where to go based on the weather. It can be raining in the west, but not in the East. You can get to Torridon, Ullapool, and places in between in about an hour. Loch Maree has good hiking. If you get a wet day and it seems that there are clouds everywhere, sometimes, Culbin Sands to the East past Nairn on the Moray Firth is dry. And you can walk out to the beach and enjoy dolphins, birds and otters.

Finally, I don't know where you live and how hard it is to get to the airport, but I would suggest spending your last night in Edinburgh. You can set up to have an early cab to the airport and be their in plenty of time. When I stayed at the Walton and did this they even left me breakfast at my door. I had checked out the night before and so just grabbed my stuff and my breakfast and was at the airport. Viamichelin says that it's 40 minutes. I remember more like 30 which I think was due to the early morning departure. It's the same in NYC. You need to allocate 45 minutes, but you are there in 30 or less if you leave before 7AM. I just find it much nicer than an airport hotel.

When you get to planning that next trip, make sure you include Mull. It has marvelous Viking heritage. If you and your husband have not yet discovered Nigel Tranter's books, you should. Many are about the Viking west, but many others are about other times in Scottish history. They are historical novels. Also, look for George MacKay Brown novels as well.

Pam

Posted by
448 posts

We are also 60's and enjoyed hiking on Skye and in the highlands. please give the website a look as a resource for hiking in the highlands and on Skye. Numerous hiking recommendations, maps, and user suggestions. www.walkhighlands.co.uk its a great site! We had a very early flight from EDI bck to the states and took a taxi to the airport and it worked out very well, dont feel you need to be near the airport. Looks like an awesome trip! get a small car!

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks everyone, I appreciate the comments. Yes, we realize our time on Orkney is too short, but we go to Norway 1-2 times a year, and it is an easy trip to Scotland from there. So we will definitely be back to "do justice" to the islands. And yes, I've spent many hours on www.walkhighlands.co.uk, which is an amazing resource.

Agree with comments re: not needing to spend last night in an EDI airport hotel, however, we'll spend our last (very full) day in Glasgow, and just want to get on the train and head to EDI and the airport and fall into bed! We'll have spent 5 days in EDI on the front end of the trip, so hope we'll have covered the main points at the beginning.

I think we're in good shape now, I've pinned down all of our airbnb and Home Away rentals. Still lots of details to figure out, but the big pieces seem to be falling into place.

Kind regards,

Cindy
Berkeley, CA

Posted by
5461 posts

When you are looking for walks, also look on local town websites. For example, walks near Dunkeld are on this site. They are likely on WalkHighlands, but I find that the local page can be very helpful as it situates the walks to a town that I am visiting. Here's another example for Aberfeldy. I did the Hermitage Walk and the Birks of Aberfeldy. Both nice shortish walks.

Pam