Hi everyone –
First, a huge thank you to all of the posters here. I obsessively researched for a couple of years and my family and I (husband + 16 yr old daughter) have just returned from our 12-day trip.
So much shaping was done via this forum – and it was the trip of a lifetime, everything I dreamed of and more. This country is stunning, the people are warm and welcoming and the food is superb. Sharing reflections/thoughts for future travelers here!
Thank you – and happy planning,
- Our interests include historic cities, off the beaten path discoveries, unspoiled nature, moderate hikes, castle ruins, cozy pubs and nice people. Prefer charming and quaint accommodations/dining experiences.
- Visited late June 2017, flew in & out of Edinburgh
- For us – who drove 900 miles in total – satellite navigation was amazing…and made things so much easier. Totally worth it.
- The driving is do-able but not a breeze. We were on a zillion single-track roads and even the highways were tight with very little wiggle room. It takes a bit of guts – but just go for it. We didn’t see a single accident/wreck, just drive safely/smart and keep it that way : )
- Midges – I worried about these way, way too much. Don’t sweat them…just pray for a little wind. : )
- We found that it was often hard to get a table for dinner Edinburgh & Portree…you could figure it out, but if you wanted to plan ahead, reservations were good.
Trip Overview & Notes:
DAY 1 – EDINBURGH
- Taxi to Norton House for a quick refresh post flight in from Los Angeles. It was great to grab a quick shower & feel human! Email ahead for reservation/confirmation.
- Pick up + 2 hour city tour with Andy Majoribanks of Edinburgh Cab Tours. He offered historical insights and a great overview of the city. Perfect way to get acclimated…so glad we did this the first day we arrived.
- Stayed VRBO #4019547 – Completely charming apartment in Stockbridge in New Town a few blocks over from Circus Lane (most beautiful street in the world in my opinion). Lovely back patio. Loved this home-y little neighborhood – great shops and cafes – great to be out of the hustle…but not too far away!
DAY 2 – EDINBURGH
- Lunch at Grassmarket (White Hart Inn – nice and cozy – while in tourist zone still felt local)
- Greyfriars Cemetery – I love old cemeteries and this might have been the best…Harry Potter fans will find McGonagall and Tom Riddle tombstones, the neighboring orphanage and view to the castle – all clear JK Rowling inspiration in one 360 view!
- W. Armstrong & Son – greatest vintage clothing store find in Grassmarket. If you like shopping vintage, go here!
- Popped over to Botanical Gardens – a nice walk and pretty, but not a must-see (and I love gardens)
DAY 3 – EDINBURGH
- Sunday morning Farmers Market in Stockbridge – not huge but fantastic…great food and vendors.
- Holyrood Palace (really neat), Mary Kings Close Tour (a little cheesy but fun – worth it)
DAY 4 – HEADING TO TORRIDON
- Taxi to Edinburgh Airport Arnold Clark car rental. Booked through William Wallace (you’ll find him listed here on the forums). Easy and no issues, good service.
- Drove to Torridon in the Wester Ross…Google it. It’s amazing and not talked about much here. So happy it stuck in my memory…it’s so worth a visit. Off the beaten track and just wonderful.
- Stayed at the Torridon Inn (not The Torridon, but adjacent to it). Perfect little motor court hotel, upscale-ish but not stuffy (whereby the proper hotel next door seemed a little bit over the top, though the grounds were spectacular!).
- Stunning mountain location…as if you’d put the Sierras beside a sea loch. If this in any way sounds compelling, you must put this on your list.
DAY 5 – TORRIDON
- Walk around the loch, bike ride in the afternoon. Perfect day.
- Tea at Nanny’s in Shieldaig…best tea of the trip. Can’t beat the selection and the view!
DAY 6 – HEADING TO SKYE, PORTREE
- Drove over the Applecross Peninsula…blessed by stunning weather.
- Lunch Applecross Inn…more than just a great location, they have fantastic food.
- Drove Bealach na Ba…it’s as wild as they say it is. A nail-biter of a drive. Thankfully we had perfect weather for it. Really a lifetime experience.
- Tea in Plockton. It was a nice little village but not as lovely as I had expected. Could have missed it.
- Stayed at VRBO # 8124388, The Old Mill in Portree. BEYOND AMAZING. A beautifully restored old property. About a quarter mile from the main section of town, close to Cuillin Hills Hotel. Three floors and tons of space for us, lovely bay views and so incredibly comfortable. Staying here was a highlight of our trip. (I have booked a lot of VRBOs but this was the best. Ever. I searched for eons for the best place in Portree and this was it!)
- General note: from all the talk on the forums, I expected crowds on Skye and found them. But don’t let it put you off – Skye is beautiful. Mystical and otherworldly. Just start early for anything you consider a must-see before the tour buses show up! Also was very happy we stayed in Portree. It was perfectly situated to get around…but still be prepared to do a lot of driving!
DAY 7 – SKYE
- Trotternish Peninsula… Fairy Glen (first stop of the day, amazing), Quiraing (had ambition of hiking but it was way too crowded), Kilt Rock (quick visit, impressive), Rubha na Brathairean / Brother’s Point (this is a beautiful walk, truly a hidden gem with it all to ourselves – a trip highlight for us – do it).
- Lunch at Glenview Hotel/Skye Pie Café. Adorable and delicious, highly recommend.
- Drove up to Flodigarry Hotel – wish we could have stopped for tea but couldn’t eat any more! Beautiful location, worth the drive up.
DAY 8 – SKYE
DAY 9 – SKYE
- Dunvegan Castle – lots of debate on TA. The gardens were amazing as most people say…I liked the castle tour quite a bit (though others have found lackluster), it’s not a must-see but a nice thing to do for a break from the rain. Seal tour looked a little silly, though in a beautiful area…you could see seals from the shore.
- Coral Beach walk….if you catch the right weather, this is a lovely flat walk to a stunning stretch of beach. Loved it.
- Sligachan Hotel for tea – felt ski lodge-y…in a good way. Nice place to take a break after a day of driving.
DAY 10 – HEADING TO GLENCOE
- Road from Mallaig to Glenfinnan – seemed beautiful but it was pouring!
- Stopped at Glenfinnan Railway Station and had a lovely lunch in their 1950s vintage dining car…highly recommend for a simple lunch.
- Arrived at the Clachaig Inn…I worked hard to get this reservation as they’re popular and book up early. The popularity is all about the location… it’s in the most incredibly idyllic, natural spot. The hotel is serviceable but very old/funky, the breakfast isn’t great; the main restaurant is ok. Didn’t make it to the Boots bar which sounds fun. I’d stay here again strictly for the location but the hotel itself really could use a top to tail makeover.
DAY 11 – GLENCOE
- Hiking – you can’t go wrong around here! Did the short loop to Signal Rock near the hotel.
- Spent a sunny afternoon exploring Glen Etive. It’s surreally beautiful.
DAY 12 – STIRLING
- Booked Stirling mainly for proximity to Edinburgh Airport for the next morning (and that ended up being a great plan – it was a super easy 45 minute drive).
- Such a happy accident to love this city so much – airport proximity or not, it’s definitely worth a day or two.
- Stayed at Castlecroft B&B. Lovely place and Laura is a fabulous host. The best shower and wifi of the trip…lovely breakfast too. Perfectly situated at the base of the castle hill with views of the surrounding countryside…footpaths leading you to town make for an absolutely lovely 10-minute walk.
- Stirling Castle (so much to see here and totally different from Edinburgh Castle), Church of the Holy Rood (breathtaking), great cemeteries.
- Darnley Coffee House great for lunch/tea
- Fabulous dinner at Brea