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!