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Help requested for 3 week trip to Scotland in May

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Help requested for 3 week trip to Scotland in May

We (my mother, a friend and me) are planning a 3 week trip to Scotland in May. We have an itinerary in mind, but would love feedback and specific advice regarding best/most scenic routes, logistics, are we missing anything we absolutely shouldn't, is the pace ok or too rushed, etc. Our main interests are amazing scenery, interesting ancient sites, some easy walking (no major hiking, nothing too steep, but definitely want to spend time out of the car and IN the wonderful scenery!), and seeing puffins. Some castles would be nice, no interest in golf.

This will be a driving trip - our friend will be doing all the driving, but we did a similar 3 week trip in Ireland a couple of years ago, and it worked out well, though don't want to schedule too much driving in one day. 2 of us will be flying from overseas, but our friend who will drive is from England, so the roads shouldn't be too challenging.

We'll have 22 nights, here is the plan so far:

May 3 - arrive in Edinburgh, spend 4 nights. ( 3 full days, + half a jetlagged day).

May 7 -leave Edinburgh in the morning, spend next 2 nights in Callendar. Wanted to visit Stirling, Inchmahome priory, Loch Lomond and/or Loch Katrine. Suggestions on how to plan those 2 days in the Callendar area, other things not to miss?

May 9 - leave Callendar for Oban, Plan to take the whole day, visit Glen Coe on the way. May take a walk here, if there are some easy ones? What else would be worth doing this day? Please suggest if Glen Coe is best visited on one of our later days after leaving Oban. Main goal of staying in Oban is to visit Iona and Treshnish Islands. (though of staying in Mull, but as the main things we want to do are go to the islands off Mull, Oban seems a more convenient base and we wouldn't have to rush that day trying to make a timed ferry to Mull. Plan next 3 nights in Oban (2 days).

May 10 - day trip from Mull to Staffa and Treshnish islands (specifically Lunga, to see the puffins! Heard this is one of the absolute best places to see them close up). Full day, return to Oban at night.

May 11 - return to Mull and take ferry to Iona. Spend a while there, return to Mull and take ferry back to Oban in the evening.

May 12 - leave Oban for Skye. Next 3 nights on Skye. we'll probably arrive by the end of the day, so that's 2 full days on Skye (more would be nice, but hopefully not too rushed)?. Suggestions on best/most scenic route, nice stops along the way? This seems like a long drive. Where to stay on Skye that is convenient and will minimize too much driving? What should be absolutely not miss on Skye - don't want to try to do it all in 2 days and rush around too much.

May 15 - leave Skye, next few days all about the scenery along the coast, ending up at ferry to Orkney. Plan to spend first night after leaving Skye in Ullapool. Visit Inverewe Gardens on the way. Suggestions on route, (Applecross drive?), any other good stops along the way? Should we stay in Ullapool, or go a bit further to Lochinver?

May 16 - Drive further along coast, end up in Durness for the night. Drive the small coast roads, ? visit Cape Wrath, walk along some beaches? Need suggestions for where to stop. We could also drive though faster, skip the Durness night and go straight to the ferry for Orkney, but this area seemed worth taking our time and going slower.

May 17- drive from Durness to Scrabster, take evening ferry 9(I think at 7 pm) to Orkney/Stromness. This gives us the whole day for the drive - any good stops along the way? Thought of going a bit past Scrabster to visit Mey Castle.Next 4 nights on Orkney (gives us 3 full days). We'll have a car on Orkney, may also take a small group or private tour if it's worth it.

May 21 - Take ferry back from Orkney at 6:30 am, or we could take the other ferry, Pentland back, at 7:45. Any advantage to taking a different ferry back.

We have 4 more nights in Scotland before our flight back. Not sure exactly where to spend those nights. Any suggestions, based on what we'll have already seen by this point?

I was thinking 3 nights somewhere near Inverness (not in the town), with a day trip to Glen Affric (any easy walks here?) and Urquhart castle/Loch Ness one day, another day to visit Culloden, maybe a castle nearby. We could split up the days but if there's one base that would be not too far a drive from Thurso and convenient for the day trips I mentioned, that might be best. Would like to fit in Dunnotar Castle, so could spend one night around Stonehaven, but I'm thinking that might be too rushed. Any suggestion for where to stay around Inverness? Also, suggestions for good stops along the way from Thurso to Inverness area, and best route?

May 24 --leave where ever we are, drive south to St Andrews - visit the town (beach cathedral, not specifically interested in golf) - stay here or somewhere nearby for last night.

may 25 - drive to Edinburgh airport for flight home (will be after 11 am, so would staying in/near St Andrews that night work?)

Looking forward to feedback and suggestions!

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1. Re: Help requested for 3 week trip to Scotland in May

It's a terrific itinerary - takes in lots of wonderful places, and (unlike so many tours suggested on this forum) allows enough time to enjoy them all properly.

I've only got a couple of suggestions for improvement:

1. Taking a car on the ferry from Oban to Mull is quite expensive, and doing two return journeys is even more expensive! For this reason, and other reasons too, I suggest you stay one night in Oban (9 May), cross to Mull first thing on 10 May, and spend two nights on Mull.

2. If you do the above, the best way to Skye on 12 May is not via Oban, but by taking the direct route via one of the shorter (and cheaper) crossings from Mull to the mainland, either from Tobermory to Kilchoan or Fishnish to Lochaline. From Kilchoan or Lochaline it's a wonderful drive across a quiet and stunningly scenic landscape to Mallaig, where you catch the ferry to Skye.

I can't think of any other way of improving this itinerary - it is well thought-out and very doable. Enjoy!

PS: A couple more minor points:

1. Don't pick up your hire car until you leave Edinburgh - you don't need it while you are there.

2. Plenty of places to stay on Skye, but Portree is the island's 'capital', and it's quite central for touring.

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2. Re: Help requested for 3 week trip to Scotland in May

FYI I found it very difficult to get a one night stay at a B and B IN St.Andrews so bear that in mind when trying to book. A hotel may be your only option. I would recommend staying in the town though as there is plenty to see and do and lots of places to eat so you can just park your car and leave it as the town is very walkable. If you don't have to be back to airport until after 11:00 then St.Andrews is about one hour's drive from Edinburgh.

Perhaps head down from Inverness via Deeside (Braemar, Ballater etc ) and over to Stonehaven from there then via Dundee across the River Tay into Fife for your visit to St.A.

Woody x

Edited: 22 January 2014, 13:41
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3. Re: Help requested for 3 week trip to Scotland in May

Dhmellor, I'm glad our itinerary sounds good, put a lot of thought into it! Had to eliminate Lewis/Harris which I would have liked to have included,but don't see how to fit it in without rushing the pace or leaving out something else important.

I know taking the car to Mull is expensive, so the plan by staying in Oban was actually not to take the car over at all. There is a Treshnish island and Staffa day trip which leaves from Oban and actually costs the same (including the ferry over from Oban round trip) as the same trip leaving from Mull. The next day was going to take the ferry over again as a passenger, take the bus to Fionnphort and ferry over to Iona, and return to Oban that night.Would that be good, or is is still better to stay on Mull. In which case, should we do three nights there, instead of one in Oban and the next 2 on Mull.

Unfortunately, we'll have a car while in Edinburgh - so need suggestions on where to stay (city center if possible) with reasonable parking near by. We won't be hiring, as our friend will be driving up from Manchester in her own car and meeting us in Edinburgh. Planning to park it somewhere until we leave the city, but don't want to spend a fortune on that (but still would like to stay in the city center if possible).

Any suggestions on where to stay near Inverness after we leave Orkney? Woodybark, thanks for suggestion on route to Fife. Really, 3 days (4 nights) on Orkney too much? I thought there was LOTS to see on do, and it might not be enough!

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4. Re: Help requested for 3 week trip to Scotland in May

This flat has FREE underground parking and is literally 2 minutes from The Royal Mile. We have stayed in it and I would be very happy to return. Great base, close to eateries and easy walking to Princes Street, Royal Mile etc.

www.homeaway.co.uk/p1052515

Somewhere to stay near Inverness? Nairn is a pleasant seaside town, Findhorn is a pretty village with boats in the estuary and lovely views. Further south the likes of Grantown on Spey, ( where I live) Aviemore or Boat of Garten are in the Cairngorms National park and in a beautiful,scenic area with plenty to see and do

www.visitcairngorms.com

Woody x

PS Give yourself as long as possible on Orkney - yes there is loads to see.

Edited: 22 January 2014, 16:08
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5. Re: Help requested for 3 week trip to Scotland in May

That flat is available for your dates and with free parking would be ideal IMHO!

W x

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6. Re: Help requested for 3 week trip to Scotland in May

To answer your questions, illy, personally I would stay all three nights on Mull. The only reason I suggested Friday night in Oban is because you are planning to go there via Glencoe, and you might want to spend a bit of time in Glencoe without worrying about missing the ferry. However, 9 May being a Friday, there is a late ferry at 22.30 - but if you catch that you'll need to check whether the place where you stay on Mull is prepared to wait up for you till the wee small hours!

Three reasons for staying on Mull rather than in Oban:

1. It;'s a lovely peaceful, laid-back island. Oban is OK but it's a noisy bustling ferry port.

2. Having your own car on Mull allows you freedom to explore a bit, and beats rattling around on buses.

3. The direct route from Mull to Mallaig, via the Kilchoan or Lochaline ferries, is much better than going via boring old Fort William!

I can quite see how much work you have already put in to this itinerary, illy, and I also agree that you were right to leave out Lewis and Harris. If you had kept them in you would have had to drop somewhere else.

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7. Re: Help requested for 3 week trip to Scotland in May

Thanks, Woody, for the apartment suggestion! That sounds like it might be perfect!

Sounds like staying on Mull is strongly recommended! if we do that, and stay in Fionnphort, how long of a drive would it be to Skye? Sounds like a very long day. Are there any stops recommended to break up the drive? (don't want to exhaust our driver that day, with lots of driving around Skye to come! And would you recommend the Kilchoan or Fishnish ferry. These would not need to be booked in advance, correct? We'd miss the "Road to the Isles" drive if we drive from Mull and not Oban - I thought that was something not to miss, but it sounds like the other route from Mull would be more scenic?

Any specific hotel (B&B or guest house, really) suggestions for our route? We'll need 2 rooms, and want to keep the cost to no more than about 80-90 pounds for a double, and if possible under 50 for the single.

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8. Re: Help requested for 3 week trip to Scotland in May

From Mull to Skye via Lochaline or Kilchoan is about 80 miles, so it's an easy day's drive, albeit on slow winding single track roads, and of course there are two short ferry crossings to make it slower still. But it's a wonderful drive. These two ferries from Mull cannot be booked in advance, but the ferry from Mallaig to Skye should be booked ahead.

You join the well-known 'Road to the Isles' route at Lochailort, so you wouldn't miss all of it.

Personally I wouldn't choose to stay at Fionnphort - it's a functional modern village which is basically full of car parks and coach parties, because it's the departure point for the tourist honeypot of Iona. I think you'd be better staying somewhere more central on Mull. You only need to go all the way to Fionnphort once, on your Iona day. Your Staffa and Treshnish trip can be taken from Ulva Ferry or even (I think) Tobermory.

It's many years since I stayed in a B&B on Mull, so can't help with that. Plenty of good reviews here on TA, though.

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9. Re: Help requested for 3 week trip to Scotland in May

Your itinerary looks similar to mine (but not identical).

What about taking the Glenelg ferry to Skye?

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10. Re: Help requested for 3 week trip to Scotland in May

The only word of warning I would offer is that St. Andrews to Edinburgh airport for a flight after 11am might sound ok but if you've got a 2hr check in (plus a bit of extra time to allow for any delays) you are going to be travelling at rush hour unless you fly after lunchtime. Traffic heading south over the Forth Road Bridge is very slow without fail after around 7:30am and any breakdowns or accidents and it can back up for hours. Depending on your flight time I would be tempted to stay south of the bridge the night before your flight.

Looks like a great intinery!

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