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Would love your advice (car travel from Wales to Highlands to Edinburgh)

Please take a moment to critique part of our plan for next summer. We'd be grateful for your opinions.

We leave Conwy, Wales early on an August Tuesday morning in our rental car. We are due in St. Andrews (NE of Edinburgh) on Friday afternoon. The 3.5 day drive will take us up through Glasgow to Glencoe, up the Caledonian canal area to Inverness, then hooking down south again toward St. Andrews / Edinburgh area. Our priorities for travel are scenery, local culture / people, history, museums, modest hikes. Our tentative plan is to make Tuesday a day all on the road and drive straight to Glencoe where we will stay two nights. End up for the third night (Thursday) in Inverness. Drive to St. Andrews (4 hours) leaving promptly after breakfast Friday morning.

My first question is whether it is crazy to drive from Conwy to Glencoe in a day. It's 6 hours if we do not stop, but we would probably stop to take some things in, making it about a 10 hour day. In the US, this is hardly ever an issue for us. (Need to get from Sacramento to LA? Easy.) I know the roads are different, and after Glasgow we no longer have the M-6 and M-74. But it seems that if we have the will, it's doable in a day. Yes?

We would then have the ability to explore the Highlands slowly with 2 nights in Glencoe. We would tour the Highlands in that area by car and foot: Ben Nevis, local hikes, etc., After our second night in Glencoe, we also can slowly see the Caledonian Canal sights, and sights in and near Inverness before we end the day there. By driving that single, long day to Glencoe we realize that we're sacrificing stops on the way in the Lake District, Hadrian's Wall and Glasgow. This is all in the name of maximizing our time in the Highlands. Worth it?

So to sum up: we are curious on 2 levels: 1) The ambition of the long drive between Conwy and Glencoe, and 2) The loss of the sightseeing opportunities on the way north because of this choice.

Again, our sincere thanks for your input. I look forward to your input / opinions.

Cal and Nancy Stevens

Posted by
1209 posts

When you leave Conwy have you already "done" Wales? Too bad you can't linger to see more Edwards Castles which are true Castles not Victorian remodels. I would spend some time in Glasgow which has some world class Museums. Misty Glencoe can be lovely or dreary. The Lake District would be good for your short hikes if you can climb some hills for the vistas. I found Hadrians Wall more interesting but on the East side. You would need more time to enjoy the drive to Inverness. Why not just go as far as Loch Lomond and the Trossachs then continue on to Stirling and Falkirk, then Edinburgh: book ahead because of festival season; ending in St Andrews. Check Visit Scotland and Historic Scotland web sites for some videos and some useful info.

Posted by
19 posts

Kathleen, thank you for the input. Yes, we will have done some of the sights in north Wales. The section of our trip that is described in my post is part of a larger itinerary--it just happens to be the part of the itinerary we are fuzzy on. The RS tour of Scotland (which we considered, but chose to do Scotland on our own) focuses on Oban (and the day-trip to Iona) more than other things, but we thought the mountains around Glencoe would be of interest. And your suggestions of Loch Lommond and Stirling give us something to chew on. You would do these and not Inverness? Thank you again for sharing your ideas.

Posted by
1209 posts

Yes driving in Scotland is different than driving I-5. I just looked through Lonely Planets 2017 Scotland and they have many interesting driving tour suggestions. Inverness does make a good base for the North Highlands if you have the time; so I would just give Glen Coe one night and leave by noon. I still would recommend shorter distances so that you have time to enjoy your trip.

Posted by
2806 posts

Instead of driving all the way to Glencoe in one day, you might prefer to spend the night in a scenic spot along Loch Lomond, such as Duck Bay (fairly large hotel & restaurant w/commanding view of the loch) or Luss (tiny, charming village). Luss also has a dock where you can take boat tours on the loch.

If you do that, it may buy you a bit of time to stop at Hadrian's Wall. See http://hadrianswallcountry.co.uk/travel/car

Personally I have not found the Lake District to be all that terrific, so I wouldn't feel bad about passing it by.

Posted by
1209 posts

I concur with epltd. I have tried to refrain from too much personal opinion but the Lake District which has been pretty much turned into Disneyland for busloads of day trippers: unless you do climb into the hills for some very pretty views. Staying in Loch Lomond first before Glen Coe makes a lot of sense. We only stayed for an hour in Glen Coe because it was fogged in. The Highlands has been over Romanticized since Queen Victoria, when other parts of Scotland are just as beautiful with actually more historic landmarks. That's why I suggested Stirling which has Queen Mary's Palace. The Middle Ages with it's Castles and Abbeys are in the central and southern parts of Scotland, with a few notable exceptions. The National Parks do offer a lot Mountains to climb but few are snow capped year round; most are granite with heather glens, there are few natural evergreen forests. Geologically the Western part of Scotland has evidence that part of Eastern Canada crashed into it....which created this interesting terrain. Hadrians Wall is fun to hike.

Posted by
19 posts

VERY helpful input from each one posting here! Thanks to each of you!
Based on commentary here, we will probably dial back our ambition about the Conwy to Glencoe driving day. We will not go that far in one day. After staying in Glasgow or Loch Lommond on Tuesday, we will take a day to drive into the highlands and up to Inverness, perhaps basing ourselves two days there (Wed & Thu) before driving to St. Andrews on Friday morning. Our plans are in flux so if anyone has other inputs, we thank you in advance for your helpfulness.

Posted by
2806 posts

What's the attraction of St. Andrews? Are you golfers, or interested in the university, or the seacoast? IMO the British Golf Museum is great whether golfer or not -- lots of interesting exhibits -- and its cafe has a huge glass window overlooking the Old Course 1st-18th hole. Similarly, playing the Himalayas is cheap and lots of fun for all (but note there are no lockers or other facilities to leave your belongings while you play). The walking tour of the Old Course, in contrast, is of interest to serious golf fans as it mainly consists of standing around on the 1st-18th hole hearing anecdotes about famous golfers and tournaments, delivered in a thick Scottish accent. If you are not familiar with golf jargon, or you hate standing around in a chilly drizzle, this tour would not be all that much fun.

To see the lovely coast, follow the road toward Anstruther out of St. Andrews. I can recommend the Old Station B&B which lies just a couple of miles outside of town on that road. It is actually a converted old railway station, as the name suggests.

Posted by
4 posts

We traveled in Scotland this past summer, taking a car from Edinburgh on a 3 day driving trip to Inverness to Fort William to Glasgow. Now, something that we were totally unprepared for, even after reading many posts, was the driving. Nobody told us how narrow these windy, twisty roads are! Especially the more north you get. Stunning views, breathtaking scenery, yes, but.... when you are driving standard on the left hand side with literally 3 inches of shoulder and a tour bus rounds the corner.... so stressful! The Highland roads are narrow and you need to slow down when you pass through villages so you don't make really great time. Please rethink a long day on the road. My caution to you is that you may lose the joy and magic of the adventure when you push through to the point of being too stressed and exhausted to enjoy what you are driving past.