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4-8 days in SCOTLAND. First-timers.

After 1 week in the Netherlands/Belgium, and a 2-week driving tour of Ireland, we're excited to end in Scotland for 4-8 days; 1st week of October. I've done some research on, but I’m either tired or am just not getting it because I'm not finding it inspirational.

Aside from 2.5 days in Edinburgh, not sure what destination we should add. We have essentially 5 additional days, including travel time. Isle of Skye and Inverness and/or Aberdeen? Interests: appreciate history & architecture; light hiking; would love visiting a great castle or two; ocean views a plus. If driving, would prefer to avoid drives longer than 3-4 hrs. Need to fly to AMS on the 8th day, at the latest, out of any major airport.

Tentative schedule:

Day 1: arrive Edinburgh, mid-afternoon. 1/2 day Edinburgh.

Day 2: Castle & ?

Day 3: Royal Mile & ?

Day 4: to... Isle of Skye. DRIVING vs. TRAINS. If driving - via north through Stirling? Ft. William? Other suggested stops? If by train, can we get to Skye the same day? I think last stop is Mallaig, but then what? Is a car necessary to tour the isle? Overnite at the in-between place, or at Skye.

Day 5: Skye. Overnite.

Day 6: More Skye? or elsewhere?

Day 7: to Inverness (how far is it driving vs. train?). Overnite.

Day 8: fly out of Inverness back to Amsterdam (return ticket from there to USA)

If you think the last 4 days are too rushed, which will make my hubby very unhappy, maybe it’s smarter to concentrate on Edinburgh for 3 days with 2 more days of close-by, worthwhile sidetrips & just fly out of Edinburgh on the 6th day. I know the decision depends on our own stamina, etc., but would love to hear your opinions. I don’t think we’ll be back to Scotland any time soon. Help! Thanks!

Posted by
104 posts

If you enjoy history, architecture, and light hiking, you might consider walking part or all of the Borders Abbeys Way for the last several days of your trip after visiting Edinburgh and maybe Stirling for the castle (via train, maybe). Here is the official website for the walk, where you can download each section of the official walk booklet:

Depending on how much walking you want to do, you can take shorter walks from the towns rather than walking from town to town. You could also drive and base yourself in one of the towns to visit the others, but maybe you'll want to get out of the car after driving in Ireland for two weeks :-). Early October would probably be an excellent time to visit. I'm going in July, but that is apparently the rainiest and midge-iest time of the year--but that's when I can go. You are lucky to travel in early fall!

If you have a guidebook, look for the section on the Borders or on the main towns, which are Melrose, Jedburgh, and Kelso. This is the home territory of Sir Walter Scott, also, and you can visit his home, Abbotsford, and Floors Castle from towns on this route. If you don't want to walk, it is well served by public buses too (but no trains), from town to town and also to Edinburgh and Newcastle (about equal distances from this area). From the Borders you could go to Newcastle or Edinburgh to fly to Amsterdam. (KLM flies nonstop from Newcastle and Edinburgh to Amsterdam very inexpensively--just checked on Expedia, so even if you do visit Skye, you might want to go back south to fly out, unless you really have a strong commitment to visiting Inverness.)

If you want more info, please feel free to PM me :-).

Posted by
3419 posts

Personnally, I'd give Edinburgh one to one and a half days.

Then train to Aviemore- 1 to 3 days- hikes abound, from Mt. Caringorm to the Rothmurchie estate. Blair Athol with a distillery and a castle is a short train ride away. There is a restored steam train and a microbrewery in town too. Several other distilleries can be reached by bus or train, too.

From there train to Inverness- as many days as possilbe. Lots of excellent day trips- Isle of Skye and Eliean Donnan castle, Orkney, Cullodean Battlefield and Clava Cairns, Great Glen, Glencoe, Ft. William, Ft. Agustus, etc.

Posted by
2154 posts

I think your plan is a good one. I would spend days 4 through 8 in Inverness and Skye -- maybe two nights in each. If you won't be back to Scotland any time soon, then don't miss seeing some of the highlands. If you are worried about running out of steam, take the train to Inverness and spend days 4-8 in Inverness, seeing Skye by booking a tour. Another option is to drive up to Mallaig and take the ferry over to Skye, spend two nights there and then drive over to Inverness for two nights. I like that option better, but it will be a little more stressful for the driver.

Posted by
5576 posts

If you really want to see Skye, I think you need to drive. Then if you drive, you can go up to Ullapool. There are some lovely hikes in the hills above Ullapool that would probably suit you very well. BTW, even if you are doing light hiking bring real hiking boots--goretex or other waterproof--with you. Also, don't forget a goretext or other waterproof rain jacket preferably with a hood. The paths are rough, rocky and wet, but the scenery is spectacular.

I agree with that you have a bit too much time in Edinburgh if you really want to see the highlands. On the first day try and go up to the castle that day. You want to keep yourself moving and the views and the history of castle will help. Plus it's a wonderful orientation to the city. You can take the second day to explore the Royal Mile and get over to New Town to see the Georgian House if you can. If it really pours rain, go the Museum of Scotland. It is excellent.

If you want some other ideas on walks let me know. I go walking in Scotland almost every year. I head off again just after July 4.


Posted by
126 posts

Thanks everyone! I just got a Scotland book and will put together and itinerary taking into account your suggestions.

Posted by
34 posts

We just got back from 10 days in GB. Had problems getting an automatic car in Edinburgh and had to take the train from there to Inverness which ended up being very pleasant. We rented a car in Inverness and did day trips from there for 3 days. We went to Cawdor Castle, Culloden and a distillery one day and Isle of Skye via Loch Ness on another day. On the last day we went down towards Ft. William on the way to Glasgow. Inverness makes a great home base to see a lot of the Highlands. It took about 1 1/2 hrs to get to Skye, another hour to get to Portree, so if you want to see more of Skye, spend a night there. We were travelling with kids, though, and find it easier to stay in one place for a few days rather than changing lodgings every night. We stayed at St. Ann's Guesthouse in Inverness which was fabulous and walking distance to downtown Inverness.

Posted by
668 posts

If you are interested in architecture, when in Edinburgh, see Holyrood Palace at the other end of the Royal Mile from the Castle. Last renovated about 1634 and still inhabited. Tours are available if the Royal family is not in residence. By contrast, almost across the road is the new Scottish Parliamen Building. In my view an eyesore and quite out of place, but much admired by those in the profession - designed by Spanish architect Eric Miralles.

Aberdeen seems out of your way, but is noted for its many granite buildings.

Posted by
192 posts

Please allow me to put in my 2 cents' worth about the Netherlands and Belgium.
In Amsterdam, give an hour at least to the Dutch Resistance Museum. It is absolutely amazing.

In Belgium--we spent just one day in Bruges, wish we'd spent several there. Find the lace-making ladies, it's worth the time and effort. They were so kind, answered our silly questions, etc. I think we spent about an hour there.

Posted by
43 posts

We just got back from a two week driving trip to Scotland and feel our itinerary worked out very well. It sounds like your interests are similar to ours - hiking, history, scenery. Our trip included three nights in each of Edinburgh and Glencoe in the highlands, 4 nights on Isle of Skye (to include a day trip to Harris), two nights in Inverness , 1 night in Ballater in the Cairngorms.

We included several hours at Sterling castle, and hikes near Glencoe and a great hike on Isle of Skye. The scenery at Glencoe and Skye was stunning! We loved Scotland. We've done quite a bit of overseas traveling and put our experience in Scotland at the top of our list. The best part of the trip was the friendliness of the Scottish people.

Posted by
8 posts

We just did 5 days in scotland and followed Ricks itinerary suggestions-remember the roads are narrow 2 lane roads (no freeways) so the driving times are slower, we averaged about 50 mph-the stirling Castle is definitely worth a stop, so is Iverary: we really liked Oban and the drive back through the Glencoe valley; excellent Glencoe visitor center, plenty of turnouts along the Glencoe Valley road for hiking but busy on weekends/sunny days; you could probably do Mile?Castle in a day, make sure you see some of new town also (ie George St), not so crazy as Mile area

Posted by
126 posts

Some great suggestions. Thanks everyone! I did a bit of research on the Border Abbeys and it sounds like a place we would like to see. I haven't put a new itinerary together yet, but I'm thinking we could drive from Edinburgh to Kelso (34 miles) and begin with Kelso Abbey and end with Melrose Abbey. There is a great tour described at We would probably stay the night at one of the border towns. From Edinburgh, we will have to backtrack up north, but Stirling seems a good overnight stop so we can visit the castle there. I have to check how long it will take from Kelso to Edinburgh. If it's too long a drive, may have to find a town to stop at north of Edinburgh.

Just thinking out loud, I may have to cut a day/night somewhere along the way. So far, if we spend 3 nights in Edinburgh (so we can have 2 full days there), 1 night border town, 1 night Stirling, 2 nights Skye and 2 nights Inverness - that puts us at 9 nights... Also need to check if we can fly out of Inverness to Amsterdam. I will have to spend a bit more time checking driving times, etc.

Thanks again and I appreciate additional comments and suggestions.

Posted by
5576 posts

You can fly to Amsterdam from Inverness, but you have to connect. The drive from Kelso to Edinburgh is not far. You could go straight to Stirling from the Abbey's. They are very nice. Look into visiting Traquair House. I really enjoyed my visit. There is even a maze! Look into checking drive times on via michelin. You need to add about 20% as you'll stop more to see the views etc. You could also think about doing Stirling as a day trip by train from Edinburgh. Then pick up your car, tour the abbeys and then head north. you could stop at Perth or a bit further north in Dunkeld or Pitlochry. It's probably 2 hours from Peebles to Dunkeld. Watch the traffic though as you have to cross on the Firth of Forth Bridge.


Posted by
43 posts

One thought -- two nights mean really one day at a place for sight-seeing.

Posted by
10 posts

We loved Stirling Castle which isn't very far from Edinburg, you can also do any of the many distilleries that are all over Scotland.

Posted by
6 posts

If you go to Skye, definitely splurge on a dinner at Three Chimneys. We stayed in the House-Over-By next door for three nights last year and it was one of our favorite travel moments. The food is phenomenal and the setting is gorgeous and looks over the water. Even if you don't stay there, it is a fantastic experience for a dinner. We're headed back in August, and the B&B is booked, so we are staying in Portree, but will at least have a fabulous dinner.

We drove to Skye via the "Road to Skye" which takes you through some amazing country. Glencoe was phenomenally beautiful. You'll end up in Mallaig and take the ferry to Skye. We loved this drive and I'd recommend it if you aren't opposed to getting a car. On the way back to Edinburgh, we took the bridge across and drove back through the Highlands. Together, these two drives let you see a lot of the country and are both very enjoyable. Last year, we broke up the drive to Skye by staying overnight in Fort William on the way there; we drove straight back to Edinburgh in 5 hours on the return trip, so we've opted to just do the drives in a single day to have more time in Skye this year. To me, Skye was more compelling than Fort William and I'd opt for another night there instead.

To really see Skye, you will need a car to roam around on your own.

We really love Edinburgh; the sites are all fairly self-explanatory, but if you need recommendations on other stuff... our favorite meal was at The Kitchin in Leith (also a splurge, but totally worth it); my favorite shop on the Royal Mile was Ragamuffin (close to Holyrood) - it had bright, colorful sweaters that were different from what you saw in all the other shops; and we had a fab stay at The Tigerlily. This year we opted for an apartment to save money, but we'll have one night at the Tigerlily on our way out of town.

The other adventure we are throwing in this year is three nights in Orkney. Hopefully, we can report back on that!