Two Days in Scotland Highlands in April - No Car

My family and I will be traveling in Scotland in April. The plan is to arrive in Glasgow/Edinburgh early Thursday morning and immediately go to the highlands. We would like to spend Thursday and Friday exploring the highlands and then stopping by Stirling on our way to Edinburgh Saturday. We would stay in Edinburgh until Tuesday. What can we see in two days without a car? My main thoughts are 1. Oban/Island Tour/Glencoe 2. Loch Lomond/Trossachs 3. Birnam/Dunkeld/Pictolochry Would love to take the "Hogwarts Express" to Mallaig, but don't think I have time to do Skye and it would be out of the way. Is there any way to fit in Islands, Glens, Lochs, and Mountains? Thanks in advance for the help!

Posted by Sarah
Chico, CALIFORNIA, United States
5 posts

Also, I should add that my brother and I are in our early twenties, and my Mom is in her early fifties. Mom and I are big history fans, and all of us love to hike, bike, etc. Just wanting to see all that is meant by "seeing the highlands" in two days if that is possible..

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

Sarah, Are you arriving from the US on Thursday? Coming all the way from CA you will be tired even if you sleep. I'm glad you're not driving. You really have only one day. Since you like history, here's my suggestion. Take a train to Inverness. It's a wonderful trip. You can then take a pubic bus to Culloden Battlefield. This, of course, is where Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated and is significant part of Scottish History. If you still have energy, look into a bus ride to Fort George. This is still an active fort, but it's very historical and has fantastic views of the Moray Firth. An alternative would be to visit Cawdor Castle. They have beautiful gardens and some fun history in the castle. On Friday, I would take a tour. I'm sure that you can sign up for one at the TI. (You should check into this on Thursday.) I am sure you could do one to Loch Ness with a visit to Urquhart Castle and boat tour. There is a day trip to Orkney. It's long, but it's magnificent. Saturday, catch an early train to Stirling. Leave your luggage in the train station and tour the castle. Don't miss Argyll's Lodgings as well. It's a spectacular castle and you should plan on a couple of hours. Catch a train to Edinburgh. Pam

Posted by Sarah
Chico, CALIFORNIA, United States
5 posts

Hi Pamela,
I have read your posts on some other Scotland boards, you seem to be quite the expert! We will actually be coming from Oxford area. Spending three weeks in Europe altogether, first in Ireland, then England, and finishing up in Scotland. My Mom was in Scotland years ago and mostly remembers her trip to Edinburgh and the Orkney Islands. Mom was hoping to get away from the "city" on the highlands trip, and I thought the areas around Inverness might be at tad touristy. Will have to check back with Rick's GB and read over that bit again. You think the trip all the way up is worth it, a better glimpse of the highlands than staying a bit further south?

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

I actually don't think that Inverness is that touristy. It's actually a key small cityhey let's be real it's an overgrown townand is key to the economy of the north. This is where business happens and not just the tourist business. The city itself, to be honest, doesn't have many tourist sites. The local museum is a bit quaint. Kind of like what you would find in, say, Dubuque. ; ) Toni's favorite, Aviemore is an alternative. It's pretty touristy as well. It was originally a ski resort. I do like Perthshire. Dunkeld or Pitlochry would be good alternatives. Look to see what is playing if anything in the Festival Theatre in Pitlochry. If nothing is playing there, then think about staying in Dunkeld so you can hear some music at the Taybank. Check their website. There are great walks near Dunkeld. You can get to Blair Castle by train. In Pitlochry there is the Explorer's Garden and a couple of distilleries. Pam

Posted by Barb
Central Florida
192 posts

If you have a "time-crunch," here's an idea. From Edinburgh - you can take a one-day Rabbie's Tour and see Loch Lommond, Stirling Castle, and the Trossachs in one day. We did this. Nice Day. Loch Lommond is pleasant - but not a must-see. If you are going to Loch Ness - you don't need to see Loch Lommond also. (Or vice versa)
Urquhart Castle is in ruins. My family and I took a cruise from Inverness on Loch Ness (Reflections Cruise) Jacobite Boat Company. The boat slowly cruised next to Urquhart Castle. I don't see any reason to actually set foot on Urquhart Castle. The view from the boat was adequate "to see it." We took trains and a bus from Edinburgh to Oban to Inverness. No Car. Pitlochry is located between Inverness and Edinburgh. Same train route. We had 2 weeks in Scotland. Don't know what your time frame is. Edinburgh - do the royal mile - Edinburgh Castle, St. Giles, and Holyrood Palace. Britannia is not on royal mile, but a public bus can get you there with little problem. It's anchored at a shopping mall. You have to go into the mall to access and see Britannia. You won't see it from the bus stop.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

As I have been to Urquhart Castle, I beg to differ as to whether or not it is worth a visit. I was there on a glorious day with the sun shining on Loch Ness. There is a great visitor center that explains the history of the castle and the area. And, you can clamber all over the castle and get a sense of its size and importance. You have very limited time. You can choose as suggested to take day-long bus tours or to take a train to a location and do some exploring on your own. It's a matter of travel style. My style is the latter. Pam

Posted by Sarah
Chico, CALIFORNIA, United States
5 posts

Hi Barb, What did you think of Oban compared to Inverness? From what I've seen, most people on here tend to recommend Inverness over Oban. I plan on seeing a few old castles in both Ireland and England, and plan on seeing Stirling in Scotland. Cawdor Castle,though beautiful I'm sure, might be one castle too many at that point, same with Urquhart. Trying to find a nice balance of seeing the Highlands without repeating things we've pretty much done on the trip already.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

I'm sure Barb will provide her opinion on Oban. There are some people who are really love the town. To me, it seemed like a Ferry Port to get me to Mull and other islands. ; ) I think the other thing that colors my thinking about basing myself in Oban is that I know that if the weather in the West goes bad, I have few alternatives. Scotland's weather is interesting as it varies tremendously within 20 miles. It's because it's an island so the weather moves fast and because of the mountains. Pay attention to the little suns and clouds (black and white) as the placement on the map matters. To be honest you should be prepared for rain no matter what. ; ) When I visit Scotland it's usually on a walking trip and even when I'm touring I would be looking for walks as well as attractions and there aren't many that suit my abilities in the immediate area. If you do decide to go to Oban, the best thing to do do would be to take a day tour of Mull or do the three island tour--Staffa, Mull and Iona. That's a great tour. Alternatively, you can just go over to Mull and visit Duarte Castle. Duarte Castle was critical to the Lord of the Isles and all the long ships which went up and down Mull Sound and the islands of Inner Hebrides. There are also wild boar tours, but I don't know if they are happening in April. Look for the PBS show on the Eagles of Mull. It's wonderful. Pam