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a VirtualTourist member from Chicago asked on May 7, 2016


August itinerary

I've trying to get the rough outline of my trip done up so I can start booking some hotels, let me know if I'm missing something really wonderful. I'll have a few days in London and 1 1/2 days in Edinburgh, one of which I'm day tripping to Glasgow, before Mr. Dabs arrives and we pick up the car, end of August/early September. Big fan of Outlander as you regulars probably already know

Friday Killearn (Outlander), Roslyn chapel is a maybe, can spend the day near Loch Lomond, staying in Dumbarton (stayed here last year before the same swim)

Saturday swim Loch Lomond 10:30am, will have time to see something during the day, head back to Edinburgh for the Tattoo at 7:30pm, stay Edinburgh Park

Sunday Bamburgh castle, Alnwick castle (Downton Abbey), hotel????

Monday Hadrian’s Wall/Housesteads Roman Fort, need to go through the option of places to visit that you gave me on a previous post, hotel near/outside Glasgow?

Tuesday Loch Awe, Inverary Castle (have been to both, Mr. Dabs hasn't), stay in Oban?

Wednesday morning ferry to Mull if possible, stay on Mull, will have car

Thursday looking at boat tours to the Treshnish Isles, hotel Mull or Oban depending on timetables

Friday don't have anything for Friday yet, need to be reasonably close to Loch Ard for the swim at night

Saturday another swim Loch Ard, starts at 11:15, this is not booked yet and isn't essential
Scone Palace if we have enough time, hotel Pitlochry? Pitlochry is not a must but I thought it looked nice when we drove through on our way to Inverness last year

Sunday head back to Edinburgh, can see Scone on the way back, hotel booked in Edinburgh, fly home next morning

1) where to stay between Alnwick and Housesteads, would like to get closer to Housesteads so we can get going in the am

2) where to stay between Housesteads and Oban, I picked outside Glasgow so we weren't driving in the dark

3) where to stay on Mull? I'm guessing it will not be inexpensive which is why I'd be thinking about only one night on Mull

4) recommendations for wildlife boat trips from Mull to ??? I see that it's not puffin season but that there is the possibility of whales or seals. I've found a few to Treshnish

I had a look at Applecross and the rest of Skye and while I'd love to see all of it, I don't want to spend that much time in the car on this trip.


16 Answers

answered on 5/7/16 by
a VT member from London

I'll have to plot this out on a map which I don't have with me right now but my first impression is "Goodness gracious, that seems like a lot of zigzagging all over the place." I'll look in to it later and see if I can simplify things a bit.

Bamburgh and Alnwick are both in Northumbria which is in England not Scotland but I guess you knew that already. Most of the filming for Downton Abbey was done at Highclere Castle near Newbury in Berkshire which is also in England. Some episodes and scenes were filmed at Alnwick but most was done in southern England.

I'm not being very helpful am I? I'll get my maps out later and see if it can all be done in a way that doesn't involve zigzagging and back tracking all over the place.

answered on 5/7/16 by
a VT member from Chicago

Ha ha, yes I know part of it's England but I was afraid if I put it in the UK forum that it would get overlooked. We visited Highclere a couple of years ago, Alnwick was just used in the last episode but when I saw it I thought "ooh, I need to see where that is so I can visit" and it's reasonably close to Edinburgh. This is our 3rd driving trip in the UK so we've seen quite a lot, the last two were a crazy amount of driving so I want to keep this one at least reasonable.

It is a bit of zigzagging, the same thing happened to us last year. I can't change the swim in Loch Lomond and I can't change the Tattoo tickets so we have to zig and zag there. The rest of it is kind of a loop, if I take Loch Ard there's no backtracking. But Loch Ard will probably stay in to make Mr. Dabs happy.

answered on 5/7/16 by
a VT member from London

I have the day off tomorrow. I've been zigzagging across London all day long trying to operate someone else's itinerary in a tour bus and it's now 9:30pm and I'm "knackered".

I'll put my thinking cap on in the morning. I know all too well what driving all day long feels like and see if I can make it a bit easier.

answered on 5/7/16 by
a VT member

Having visited the places you mentioned - and yes I love Scotland I would suggest the following

Rosslyn Chapel - a real wow factor - and you will want to spend longer there than you anticipate

Alnwick - we were disappointed as it consisted mainly of charity shops although I am told that the gardens are beautiful

Bamburgh - OK and that's about it

I would head to Sky and Applecross [original link] - take the pass over the mountain for scenic views. Skye is always beautiful as Is Oban. Travelling from Oban to Skye via the bridge you will go through Kyle of Lochaish - which is a beautiful scenic drive

I will get shouted down by other VTs but we were bitterly disappointed by Hadrians Wall last year as a lot of it was difficult to see and involved some walks through fields etc.

Pitlochry - again another pretty spot and one of our favourites - good place for touring

Beware there is Inverary and InverGARY - Invervary is very picturesque whilst InverGARY is a hamlet and nothing to write home about

Free public toilets in Scotland are well signposted and are normally in the community halls entrances - and they are spotless

The Oban Highland Games are well worth seeing - I think they're at the end of August


answered on 5/7/16 by
a VT member from Chicago

Thanks for the feedback crazymum, I'm pretty set on Alnwick and Mr. Dabs wants to see Hadrian's wall, I hope it's just a matter of preference rather than not being worth seeing but I will have a look in the general areas in case we need something else to fill the time.

I left a letter or two out but it's Inveraray Castle we are visiting, it was also on Downton Abbey and while I drove past it last time, I didn't go in.

We spent a 1/2 day on Skye last year and visited Eilean Donan, I know we didn't see everything but I don't think we want to go that far north this trip. I think I'd rather have a slightly more relaxing visit to Mull and save the north for the next time I can talk Mr. Dabs into going.

Thanks for the tip on the games, it would have been fun but Mr. Dabs isn't in Scotland yet on that date and I'm in Edinburgh which is not a quick ride to Oban. It looks like there might be some kind of games in Braemar on Sept 3rd, anyone know anything about that? I'd have to talk Mr. Dabs out of the Loch Ard swim.....

answered on 5/8/16 by
a VT member from Hong Kong

Not going to be of much help, but just want to say Roslyn chapel should be a definite not a maybe. It is well worth a visit.

answered on 5/8/16 by
a VT member from Paignton

I'll give you my thoughts firstly on your main points :-

Friday - Not familiar with Outlander I'm afraid

Maybe Balloch, Balmaha or Luss for Loch Lomond (my choice would be Luss)
Perhaps leave Rosslyn until you return to Edinburgh on Saturday

Sat - Rosslyn Chapel - [original VT link]

Sun - Bamburgh - [original VT link]

I like Alnwick and I shall be visiting the castle later this month
The Farne Islands or Lindisfarne would be my first choice - [original VT link]
The Ship Inn at Seahouses (for accommodation) is worth a look if you were to go to the
Farne Islands

Monday - Hadrian's Wall country - [original VT link]

Tuesday - Loch Awe - have you been to the Hydro-Electric underground tour at Cruachan?

I agree with an overnight stop in Oban

Wed - Stay overnight on Mull if possible - go over to Iona (a must)

Thurs - The Treshnish Isles and Staffa are another must

Friday - Maybe a look at The Trossachs with a boat trip on Loch Katrine and overnight stop in Callander?

Sat - Pitlochry is a good base for Perhshire, but it's going away from Edinburgh. Have you been to St. Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife?

answered on 5/8/16 by
a VT member from London

Before I sit down for hours on my day off going through all of this. Where is Mr Dabs arriving? Glasgow or Edinburgh? If Edinburgh, why not just go to Glasgow together on the way to Loch Lomond? It will save a lot of time and mileage or on the way back?

To me it looks like you'll be going from Edinburgh on a day trip to Glasgow and back to Edinburgh, then to Loch Lomond and then back to Edinburgh again. Glasgow is on the way to Loch Lomond, why make the same return trip twice?

People know me on here for being open, honest and sometimes a bit blunt. I never mean to be rude but to me, that part seems utterly pointless and a total waste of time when you can visit Glasgow on the way to Loch Lomond or on the way back to Edinburgh.

I'll look at the rest of it when I know where Mr Dabs is arriving.

answered on 5/8/16 by
a VT member from Chicago

Mr. Dabs is arriving into Edinburgh where we will pick up the car. He's coming from Chicago and while I'll be fresh, he'll be jet lagged and I'm not comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road. Last year we did the same thing and drove to Loch Lomond after stopping at several places and he was really tired so that's why I didn't want to stop and try to get a full day of touring in Glasgow done and then have to continue on to Dumbarton (Loch Lomond). We could also visit Glasgow on the way from Hadrian's wall up to Oban but I just asked him and he has no interest in seeing Glasgow which is why I'm doing it before he gets there. The train is around an hour each way, 12.60£ for a off peak return.

So I thought one stop, Rosslyn, might work since it's just outside of Edinburgh (I thought about doing this by bus by it's about an hour each way, 20 minutes or so by car from EDI) or we'd just head to Loch Lomond and spend the day there since we didn't see much of the area last time.

I do appreciate anyone's point of view, sometimes obvious solutions are staring you right in the face! But Glasgow is the reason I'm going up a day early, I've seen most of the sights in Edinburgh but wanted to be there in the evening for the Fringe shows so I'm staying in Edinburgh.

answered on 5/8/16 by
a VT member from Chicago

Malcolm, many thanks for the suggestions, I will look at moving Rosslyn to Saturday, maybe once I have an idea about the weather for Friday and Saturday. Last year we were going to do a boat ride on Loch Lomond on Saturday but the weather was pretty awful.

I had a look at Lindisfarne but I think the problem was the tide schedule, but I'll have another peek at it since everyone loves it so much.

Mr. Dabs would probably enjoy the hydro electric tour, I'll see it that is up his alley. We've also not been to Falkirk to see the wheel.

Is Iona a trip by boat from Mull? I'll have a bit more of a look at it. Do you have a recommendation for lodging on Mull? It seems to me that I should be looking at that now because space is probably limited.

Pitlochry might get the ax, it seems like it's the part that doesn't work. But we've been to St. Andrews and drove the East Neuk coast so I don't think that's a good option either. On the other hand if the gathering in Braemar is worth the effort, then we will be up near Pitlochry. Another thing I'll have to decide sooner rather than later. Mr. Dabs wasn't so enthused about the swim in Loch Ard that I can't persuade him if I find something interesting.

[original link]

answered on 5/8/16 by
a VT member from Paignton

As regards your day to Glasgow I'm going to suggest the hop on hop off bus tour. Sometimes these tours aren't worth it, but the Glasgow one is ideal. You'll see a lot more in a shorter time than you would otherwise. I haven't done a tip on it, but I have done a few pages on Glasgow - [original VT link]
Lindisfarne is quite special, especially if you can visit at a time when you can immerse yourself in the spirituality of it all.
The same applies to Iona, which is only a very short ferry ride from Mull. I'm not religious in the slightest but both Lindisfarne and Iona have something magical about them.
As regards Mull, we stayed at the Tobermory Hotel on our first trip, but the second place escapes me for the moment. It was wonderful, but expensive. I had a bit more money floating around at the time. I can probably find it if you need me to.
It looks as though the last Friday and Saturday could be amended, and if so, your options might be somewhat better

answered on 5/8/16 by
a VT member from London

OK so I've spent most of the afternoon going through all of this on my one day off from operating other people's itineraries that I blame for going prematurely bald and grey. If I'm perfectly honest, if I was Mr Dabs and I had to do all of the driving I'd be filing for a divorce right now.

It's all possible to do but I thought you wanted a more leisurely and relaxed vacation this time round.

I'd be "having kittens" and "throwing a hissy fit" if someone asked me to do all that driving while on vacation.

As a professional tour driver I'd be quite happy if somebody gave me your itinerary at work but I get paid to do it. I sure as hell wouldn't want to do it just for fun. Poor Mr Dabs is going to be driving all day long again and be exhausted.

As I've said quite a few times in the UK and Europe forums to people planning self-drive itineraries is to keep it simple. If you have time to add things on then it's a bonus. If you try to do too much then you'll end up exhausted and disappointed because you ran out of time or energy to do it all.

It's all possible to do but if you don't want Mr Dabs to be tired and grumpy at the end of each day I would suggest sitting down and deciding on the things that you both really want to see together.

Maybe I should give up driving for a living and become a marriage guidance counsellor instead. :)

answered on 5/8/16 by
a VT member

The Falkirk Wheel is a feat of engineering and from what I can remember a few years back there is a very informative centre describing all aspects of the wheel - it was free when I visited - also had a decent café at reasonable prices

answered on 5/8/16 by
a VT member from Chicago

I plotted it all out on google maps and it was less than 2 hours of driving per day, of course, some days have more and some less. 2 hours of driving where we live is sometimes only 1/2 of someone's commute every day. Really. That said, he did ask if there was a way to do the Mull, Iona, Treshnish part without driving that he would like that.

So if we based ourselves in Oban and visited Mull, Iona etc that way, would we lose a lot in terms of flexibility since we wouldn't have a car? I assume everything we would do then would be guided.

answered on 5/8/16 by
a VT member from London

Google's timings are wrong. No professional driver in the UK relies on Google timings. Google says you can drive from London to Edinburgh in 6 hours and (I'm just checking) 54 minutes. It will take a lot longer than Google says unless you have a Ferrari, exceed every speed limit and don't even stop to eat or use restrooms.

You can ignore my advice to simplify things or go ahead with it. It's not my vacation but it will take a lot longer to get around than Google says.

answered on 5/8/16 by
a VT member from Chicago

Yes, Google can be a bit ambitious in their timing, I look at via Michelin once I've plotted things out to get something slightly more accurate. And even there it's not, since invariably you stop to have lunch or at the market or to see that hairy coo that's hanging out in a field.

I just booked a hotel (cancellable) in Oban for the 3 nights and will have all day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to explore the area. If anyone has recommendations for day trips from Oban to Iona, Mull or any of the other islands, please let me know. I'm OK with a guided tour, a boat trip or self guided if that's possible. Iona looks quite small but Mull looks like you'd need a guide. Or perhaps there are buses?

I do appreciate your perspective Martin, as someone who drives for a living, but we tend to do trips like this that are fairly well packed, someone at one of the homes we visited last year said American visitors just tend to do that, maybe because we get so little vacation time and it's so costly to get to Europe.

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