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Scotland Itinerary Help

I don't know about drive times to see the places we'd like to visit in the Highlands so I don't know if what I've planned is feasible or enjoyable. This will be the 2nd week of our visit to Great Britain. We are a family of 4 with 15 & 12 year old teens.
Friday-Monday. 3 days & 4 nights in Edinburgh, including a daytrip to see our ancestors' castle south of Edinburgh.
Tuesday. Drive to Inverness with 90 minutes for stops at Culloden & Clava Cairns. Drive to Loch Ness with 60 minutes at Loch Ness Centre. Drive to Fort Augustus with 30-45 minutes at Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre. Drive to Fort William and Glenfinnan Viaduct via Road to the Isles (Harry Potter fans). Drive to Oban.
Wednesday. Three Isles Early Bird Tour to Mull, Iona and Fingal's Cave (7:45-17:45) Stay in Oban or Glencoe.
Thursday. Glencoe Visitor's Centre. Drive to Glasgow via Glencoe Pass, Rannoch Moor, Loch Lomond. Return car and get 15:10 or 16:46 train from Glasgow Central to London Euston, arriving 20:26 or 21:51. Whew! Should we save Inverness and Loch Ness for another trip and focus on the Fort William/Glencoe/Oban area? Would this save us driving time? Thanks for the input!

Posted by
4555 posts

Hopefully, Kate will put her two cents worth in, but your Tuesday sounds absolutely crazy! You're looking at AT LEAST six hours driving for that day, never mind all the stops you plan....or the great spots you'll miss (like Blair Castle, Castle Urquhart, or just stopping at a pull-off along the highway and drinking in the Highlands). Something has to give here. The only two "shortcuts" will take you through the highlands to Fort William, but using slower back highways, making the run from Edinburgh still three hours, and missing Loch Ness. I hate to say it, because I love the history of north-eastern Scotland, but since you're set on going to Oban and the isles, bypass the Inverness-Loch Ness area this time.

Posted by
5678 posts

I have to agree that Tuesday is crazy. Much as I love Edinburgh, I would cut a day there and add it to the highlands portion of your trip. You will be rushing from place to place with no real time to look and reflect on what you are seeing. When you go to the Loch Ness Center you drive right past Urquhart Castle which has wonderful views up and down the Loch and nice visitor center with a good video and space for your 12 and 15 year olds to explore. If you try to do all this in one day you have no time for surprises or exploration which would be a shame.

You can do the the three-island tour, but it's a long day.


Posted by
208 posts

Wow! You're itinerary makes me tired - and I cram a lot into a vacation!
My first question would be - what castle south of Edinburgh are you heading to? I know some are closed for "visitors" but not for clansmen - they're often an exception to the rule. It is worth looking into.

The drive to Inverness will take some time - where are you getting the car? You're not using it in Edinburgh, right?
Culloden is something I would allow more than 90 minutes at - especially since they recently renovated the visitors center. I would most certainly consider a guided tour at Culloden - it is one of the best sights I've seen anywhere. I would allow 2-3 hours. The Clava Cairns aren't too far but its not right next door - I think it took us 15-25 minutes to drive. The Cairns are eerie but very cool to see.
I think you need more time at the Loch Ness Center. Its been a while since I've been there, but I remember spending a fair amount of time there.
To Be Continued...

Posted by
208 posts

If I had to omit part of your trip to save some time, I might (and I can't believe I'm saying this) omit one day in Edinburgh. I might omit Fort Augustus and the Caledonian Canal center.
After you spend a day on a ferry/boat to the three islands (Mull, Iona & Staffa) you'd probably be best to stay the night in Oban, get a good nights sleep, get your land legs and leave in the morning for your next stop.

If you haven't yet done so, get a road map of Scotland, take some sticky notes and plot out your trip on the map. It does help and it gives you a really good idea of distances you'd need to travel, etc.
PM me if you have any questions. Good luck! Remember to take your time - the Kingdom of Scotland has been there for a long time - you'll go back!

Posted by
3428 posts

Personally, the Inverness area is my absolute favorite. And I don't recommend driving. Use the trains. Take the train from London to Edinburgh- stay 1 night and tour the family castle that day or the next, then take the train to Inverness. There's LOTS to do- boat trips on the firth, Culloden battlefield and center, Clava Carins, whiskey tours. You can even do a day trip up to Orkney! There are also day trips to Isle of Skye (it includes Ellan Donnan castle (forgive my spelling)), Glen Co tours, and lots of others. If you want to break it up further, stop for one or two nights in Aviemore between Edinburgh and Inverness- lots to do there also. You can then catch the train to Glasgow if you wish, or reverse the trip up except stay in York one night.

Posted by
17 posts

I live in Aberdeenshire and visited the recently renovated Culloden battlefield last week. It deserves more time than the 90 minutes you have alloted to it. We had a 30 minute guided tour and then spent another hour in the exhibition halls, never mind actually going out onto the battlefield itself.

Lots of visitors underestimate the amount of time it takes to drive from A to B in the Highlands of Scotland. Please don't fall into that trap.

If I can be of further assistance PM me.

Posted by
29 posts

Thanks for the help, everyone. It's back to the drawing board! I will post Plan B shortly. In the meantime I'm still open to suggestions.

Posted by
425 posts

I would also agree with cutting one day in Edinburgh and spending more time in the highlands. I was in Scotland last week and traveled from Edinburgh to Inverness via the west side of Loch Ness which takes you near Fort William thru Fort Augustus and on to Inverness and it was fantastic. It took me about 9 hours to do the drive, with 1 distillery stop in Pitlochry and a planned stop at Urquhart Castle for about an hour. The rest of the time was spent on the side of the road taking pictures and just "taking it in"!

You really should adjust your drive times. The roads are very very narrow and twisty. I intentionally took the scenic routes and probably didn't travel 55 mph for more than a mile or two. I know the locals were glad when I woould pull over to let them pass.

I too am interested in the castle you spoke of south of Edinburgh. I toured Rosslyn Chapel and Castle last Monday and really enjoyed it.


Posted by
10344 posts

Kathy: You can get drive times and other car trip planning help

Posted by
20 posts

You must stop and eat at this restaurant in Glencoe!!!!!!! It's called 'The Carnoch'. Dear Lord! The food was delicious!! Also, if you do stay in Glencoe, there's a great B&B right behind the restaurant. I have to say I expected this quaint little town to be a little bigger. But we enjoyed in nonetheless. For our 12 days of vacation, the food in Glencoe was the absolute best. Can you tell I miss it? HAHA!!

One more thing, to add to what most everyone else is saying, slow down and give yourself some more time. We planned our trip by not really planning. We knew there were a few must see things but the rest of the trip was stopping when we saw something fun and interesting, ex. Kilmartin Stones, Castle Stalker, town of Crieff (loved that town). I could go on and on. I understand the want to see as much as possible in the time you have, but it may be more enjoyable to leave something for a later trip if that's an option. Enjoy your trip!