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Critique my 2-wk itinerary for Scotland and Ireland

We will be traveling to Scotland and Ireland in May and have planned out a tentative itinerary. Please let me know if this seems reasonable, if there are days that are too hectic, or if we should re-order some places around for efficiency, etc. We will be renting a car in both countries. Thanks so much for your help!

SCOTLAND

Day 1
Land in Glasgow at noon – drive to Stirling
See Stirling Castle
Drive to Loch Lomond for scenic views
Spend the night in Balloch

Day 2
Drive through Glencoe Valley up to Loch Ness, see Urquhart Castle
Drive to Portree
Spend the night in Portree

Day 3
Explore Isle of Skye
Drive to Eilean Donan Castle
Drive to Oban
Spend the night in Oban

Day 4

Explore Oban (despite the proximity, will skip Isle of Mull and the other isles because that will take a full day - plan to see puffins with easier access in Ireland instead)
Drive to Kilmarten Glen
Spend the night in Oban

Day 5
Drive to Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh
Drop off car at B&B outside Edinburgh
take bus into Edinburgh for the rest of the day to sightsee
Spend the night outside Edinburgh

Day 6
take the bus into Edinburgh for a full day of sightseeing
Spend the night outside Edinburgh

IRELAND

Day 7
Early morning flight into Dublin from Edinburgh
Drive to Giant's Causeway
Drive to Trim
Spend the night in Trim

(Ideally we would fly into Belfast to save time, but when we looked into picking up a car in Belfast and dropping it off in Shannon, the rental would cost almost 10 times more per day than if we picked up in Dublin! Over a week's time, that adds up. Please let me know if we are somehow missing an inexpensive way to rent in Belfast and drop off in Shannon because we would love to do that instead.)

Day 8
Take the bus into Dublin for a full day of sightseeing
Spend the night in Trim

Day 9
Drive to Newgrange, Knowth, and Hill of Tara
Drive back to Trim to see Trim Castle
Spend the night in Trim

Day 10
Drive to Killarney

Stops along the way: Kilkenny Castle, Kells Priory, Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle
Spend the night near Killarney National Park

Day 11
See Skellig Michael for ruins and puffins - half day
Explore Killarney National Park rest of day
Spend the night near Killarney National Park

Day 12
Explore the Ring of Kerry
Spend the night near Killarney National Park

Day 13
Explore Dingle Peninsula
Drive north to the Cliffs of Moher
Drive to Ennis
Spend the night in Ennis

Day 14
Drive to Shannon airport for flight home

Posted by
2127 posts

I think you have planned too much for Day 1 - I'm not sure where you are flying in from, but you may have jet lag. Also have you thought about the amount of time it will take to get off the plane, clear customs and get a rental car?

On Day 3 you will not have time to see much of Skye. Do you realize how big it is? You need to spend another night there, IMO.

If you are not going to visit any islands (Day 4), I see no reason to go to Oban. It's not that great. I have not been to Kilmartin Glen, but you might want to skip this to give yourself another day in Skye to give you more time to see it.

Days 5 & 6 - I'm not sure why you are staying outside Edinburgh. With such a short time to see what is my favorite city in the world, I would want to be right in the city to maximize your time.

Day 10 - That's a lot of stops for one day. I would skip Kilkenny Castle - it's not that great.

Day 11 - This may be unrealistic. What time will you have to get up to catch a boat to Skellig Michael? You will not have much time for Killarney NP

Day 13 - The Dingle Peninsula is my favorite part of Ireland. I don't think you're giving it enough time if you want to see the Cliffs of Moher the same day.

You've identified some great places to visit, but I think you're spending too much time in transit. It feels to me like to much of driving by and checking things off a list. Have you checked the driving distances? You need to add 25% time to the estimates because driving in Ireland is not as speedy as it is in the US.

Posted by
5563 posts

I think you're packing too much into your first day and you feel a little out of order to me, but that may just be me. And I cannot for the life of my understand why you are not staying in city centre for Edinburgh. Unless you have family connections that keep you in the burbs, I think you should reconsider your plans.

Day 1 Drive to Kimartin driving up the west side of Loch Lomond. You could stop at Luss to walk around a bit and enjoy the lake. It's a beautiful drive down Loch Fyne. You could choose to spend the night in Inveraray. It's an interesting little place and you could go on to Kilmartin in the AM. But, I am going to assume that you'll go on to Kilmartin and find a B&B in the area.

Day 2 Drive to Mallaig and take the ferry to Skye and on to Portree. You can take a detour to see Glencoe. You will then drive past Glenfinnan where Prince Charlie landed, you'll see the famous Harry Potter Viaduct and the scenery is gorgeous. You'll go through Fort William. It's very touristy, but might be a good place to stop for lunch.

Day 3. Do a mid day start for Eilean Donan and then drive across to Loch Ness and up to Urquhart. This second drive will likely take you a couple of hours. It's beautiful and there can be traffic on the north side of Loch Ness. I would push on through and stay at some place as far down the A9 as you can get Pitlochry would be good.

Day 4 Drive to Stirling taking time to stop and look at Queen View. You could also, do a very scenic drive rather than just hopping on the A9, but rather continue West from Queens View and drive the single track over the mountain to Aberfeldy and then south to Stirling. You want to get to Stirling by early afternoon as the Castle is big and worth taking the time to tour it. The town is nice and I would recommend staying there.

Day 5 Drive to Rosslyn. I would then drive into Edinburgh, ditch the car and spend the next two nights in Edinburgh. You could also go straight to Edinburgh and take the bus to Rosslyn. If you do the latter, you could ditch the car in Stirling and take the train to Edinburgh.

I think I hit everything except the time exploring Oban. I don't know enough of what you expect to see around Oban. And I will admit that when I went to Oban, I didn't stay there, but rather headed straight to Mull and Tobermory. :)

Pam

Posted by
9363 posts

You won't find cheaper car rental from Belfast to Shannon because they are in different countries. It is always expensive to rent in one country and drop in another. You could take the train to Dublin from Belfast and rent there, though.

Posted by
9110 posts

Day 1 will kill you.

Day 2 is nutty. Balloch to Urquhart and then to Portree is seven hours of road time. Urquhart is an ugly ruin and barely worth the walk down the hill, plus you skied the monster museums. You'll spend the whole day driving and not see anything.

Day 7 is going to be a bear without a car in Scotland. Do you know where Turnhouse actually is? You're going to have to get to Waverly or something to get public transportation out there.

Day 13 won't happen in a single day unless you keep your tail glued to the car seat, have really good luck with traffic and farm animals, and skip the western tip of the peninsula. There ain't gonna be no exploring (or food or bathroom stops for that matter).

Day 10 is about the same as above.

Oban is empty.

Study up on puffin habits and post a report if you actually see one. If they aren't nesting, they're generally gone out to sea.

Posted by
9363 posts

Why all of the back and forth in Ireland? You will basically drive past Trim to get to Giants Causeway, then go back to Trim. Then into Dublin for a day (!?) and back to Trim again. Then to the Newgrange area - and back to Trim. You will want to be at Newgrange as early as possible in order to beat the tour buses.

You are also planning to "explore" Dingle and drive several hours to the Cliffs of Moher in one day. You will not be doing justice to Dingle at all in that amount of time. You really need to look at the driving distances and times from one place to another (I use www.viamichelin.com and add 25% to their time estimates because driving in Ireland can be very slow). Remember to allow for adequate time to actually visit the places you are going. Also remember that you will want to stop for photos, meals, and gas - and you'll no doubt get lost at some point.

Posted by
783 posts

I think this would be a good itinerary if you had 4 weeks but not two. Changing locations daily makes you a lot more tired. You are also going to be spending a lot of time in the car. On a map of Ireland and the UK, things look a lot closer than they really are (sort of like Vegas). As the crow flies, cities seem close but the roads between them are windy and often two lanes, even if they look like they would be major roads. I would recommend spending more time in certain locations (Edinburgh and Killarney specifically). Someone else said Edinburgh is his/her favorite city in the world and I agree 100%. Try to maximize your time there. You won't regret it!

It doesn't look like you were planning to spend a lot of time in Glasgow. Have you thought about flying into Edinburgh and trying to hit some of thing things on your itinerary as a day trip? Stirling castle could be easily done as a day trip. And you can also get up to Loch Ness as a day trip (although a LONG one). But I was underwhelmed by Loch Ness. I know it's a huge cultural thing and the lake is ginormous but there are a lot of other things that are just as pretty. And I didn't see Nessie which I hear is quite common :)

With regards to Edinburgh, how far outside of the city are you staying? I stayed at Kingsway B&B which was about a 15-20 minute walk or 5 minute bus ride from the Royal Mile and very convenient, well priced. I didn't want to pay more for a hotel in the city center and I was happy with my location. But I wouldn't stay any further than that.

I agree with skipping Kilkenny castle and anything Kilkenny related. It's a friendly town, good people, but there are more interesting things to see.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks so much for your comments! This is exactly the type of reality check we needed. We are going to start eliminating places as you suggested - Kilkenny Castle, Loch Ness, Skellig Michael in favor of another day in Dingle or the Ring, Oban in favor of another day in Skye, etc. We are New Yorkers and are used to driving fast. Haha! This slower way of traveling will be an eye-opener for us, I'm sure.

Posted by
31303 posts

I definitely agree with the others - your first draft was FAR too ambitious and busy!!!

Your Profile doesn't indicate your home location, so it would help to have some idea where you're from? If you're from North America, don't underestimate the effects of jet lag for the first few days after arrival (and especially Day 1). Is driving on the "correct side of the road" going to be a challenge?

One thing that I've found when driving in that part of the world, is that trips ALWAYS take longer than even the most precise and well planned MapQuest directions (sometimes significantly). It's a good idea to allow for more driving time between locations. Also, especially in Ireland a GPS along with a good map would be prudent.

I'll wait to see your next revision before commenting further.

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
1888 posts

You are getting there with your plans. Would definitely give more time to Dingle, it is really worth it. Drive it clockwise. I would personally drop the Ring of Kerry, did not find it anywhere as nice as Dingle. Good luck.

Posted by
635 posts

Day 1: Spend the night in Stirling. It might be worth buying the Scottish Heritage Pass. Do the math.

Day 2: Spend the night in Inverness. Skip the Isle of Skye unless you will give it 3 days and 2 nights.

Day 3: See Culloden and spend the night in/around Edinburgh.

Day 4/5: See Edinburgh and spend the night.

Day 6: Fly to Dublin. Stay in Dublin.

Day 7: Dublin

Day 8: Pick up car (probably at the airport). Be at Newgrange/Knowth at dawn. Buy the OPW pass. See Trim Castle, Tara, etc in the rest of the day. Spend the night around Trim. There isn't much in Trim but you can check.

I'd skip the Giants Causeway on your short trip.

Day 9: See Glendalough, Kilkenny Castle and spend the night in Kilkenny.

Day 10: See the Rock of Cashel, etc. Spend the night near Killarney NP.

Day 11/12: End up in Dingle -- 2 nights.

Day 13: Cliffs of Mohr. Spend the night in Doolin (only if you have a late flight).

Day 14: Plane from Shannon

This is still a kamikaze trip. I'd suggest you slow down and smell the roses. Pick Scotland or Ireland.

Posted by
5563 posts

Hi Judi, I too live in NYC and I've driven all over the midwest and in CA and TX and New England on country roads and city roads, but none were like the roads in Scotland. They are often wee roads and I love them. But north of the Central Belt, except for select places on the A9 you will not see a four lane highway. You will on the other hand see plenty of one-lane highways. :) I love them, but you have to have patience and you have to realize that you aren't going to get there as fast as you think. As mentioned Via Michelin is great trip planner. I've made ten plus trips to Scotland and driven on most of the trips. You're going to need to slow down.

I remember when I moved from Chicago to Madison in WI, I got frustrated with the grocery checkout clerks. They seemed to have to chat with every customer. Yikes, I thought, just ring up the food and be done with it. It's mostly rural and doesn't move at a city pace. Have you seen the movie Local Hero? It's a great one for capturing some of the spirit of Scotland. And while I've only been once to Ireland a very long time ago on a family trip, I truly suspect that the approach is similar. You can expect a more up tempo in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin, but even south of Edinburgh can get the slower vibe.

But slowing down is great. You will still have a fantastic trip. You'll probably decide that you really need to go back. But hey we're a lot closer to the UK here in NYC than I was in Wisconsin!

Pam

Posted by
81 posts

Ellen - We just completed our 2nd trip to Ireland and have yet to make it to Northern Ireland - although this trip we were very close in Donegal. Here are my suggestions:

Reverse your days like Nancy says. Day 7 - spend your first day in Dublin. Take a bus from the airport to City Centre. For time purposes, you could spend the night close to the airport and pick up your car first thing in the morning on Day 8 and head straight to Newgrange. As others have said, be there when it opens. After Newgrange, Knowth & Hill of Tara, you could then head to Trim. Day 9 would be for Trim and the Giant Causeway. Day 10 will be a killer. I would recommend spending the night in Cashel. Ard Ri House is a great B&B. Day 11 Killarney National Park and wind up the night in Dingle. The Lighthouse B&B is our favorite. We have not done the Ring of Kerry because of varying opinions on the helpline. The Slea Head drive on the Dingle Peninsula is about a 4 hour endeavor - if you stop for all the photo ops. I would personally spend 2 nights in Dingle. Day 13 I would drive to Cliffs of Moher. It's about a 4 hour drive. Depending on your flight time out of Shannon, you could stay in Doolin for night 13 or come back to Ennis. Shannon airport is a real peach - nice and easy.

You will discover like we have that to do Ireland justice is really about 4 trips worth. Be sure you take Rick's guidebook with you. It is VERY helpful!

P.S. I have resolved myself to the fact that I will get lost everyday! But it's ok. You get to see something you hadn't planned on.