Off to the Highlands I go!
August 19, 2012 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Where should I go for a short trip (3 days) to the Scottish Highlands?

I'm headed out to Scotland for 5 days and would love to see a bit of the Highlands during my trip. My current plan is as follows:

Day 1: Edinburgh touristy stuff
Day 2: Travel to Highlands
Day 3-4: Around the Highlands
Day 5: Glascow

I realize now its not a proper amount of time to see this beautiful country but I would love to get a taste of the Highlands before I get home. I am interested in hiking, outdoors, awesome views, and seeing the wilderness side of Scotland. I plan on hiking a day or so and then taking another day to do touristy stuff like going to see a loch or some castles. I'm not driving as I'm by myself and will be using trains/buses/foot to get around.

I originally planned to base out of Fort William but am not sure anymore. I heard the Isle of Skye is amazing but am not sure if I can make it there in my timeframe.

Question is, would a visit to the Isle of Arran or Skye be doable in 3 days or so? Where would you base yourself out of for a taste of the Highlands? Would it be worthwhile to take a tour because of my short timeframe (not currently in my plans as I dislike being on buses all day...) Thanks for your help!
posted by snowysoul to Travel & Transportation around Scotland (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Skye, Skye and Skye again!
A small magical place with a vast amount of amazing scenery all packed together on a tiny little island.
My advice is to rent a room in hotel sligachan and go on day hikes from there. You can look on walk highlands for advice on hikes.
Also the locals are very nice and everybody is in good Scottish humor :-)
Just bring good rain gear and you're good to go.
posted by Mai2k3 at 3:48 PM on August 19, 2012

Glen Coe and Skye--any one with as much enthusiasm as mai2K3 cannot be wrong. It is beautiful country. Can't help with public transport--no possibility of a car for 2-3 days ?
posted by rmhsinc at 3:56 PM on August 19, 2012

Best answer: A visit to Arran would be much easier than a visit to Skye because it's much more quickly accessible from Glasgow. To get to Brodick on Arran from Glasgow you take a local train to Ardrossan (just under an hour) and the ferry from there (also just under an hour); to get to Portree on Skye from Glasgow you sit on a bus for over six hours, assuming the traffic is flowing alright: this means that out of your three days, you'd spend two half-days travelling. You go through Glasgow to get to either place from Edinburgh by bus or rail.

Skye is indeed amazing, but Arran is pretty fantastic too, especially the mountainous northern half of the island. There's a youth hostel and a distillery at Lochranza; the views from the north coast of Arran around there up the Firth of Clyde and over Kintyre are wonderful. Further down the west coast of the island, there are several sets of standing stones in a beautiful and lonely setting at Machrie Moor, where I once found a recently-sacrificed rooster. Getting around Arran by public transport isn't that easy, but you can usually manage something. It may be worth hiring a bike, if you can do that in Brodick--memail me if you'd like a bit more information on biking on the island (basically, highly recommended).

Further than Arran but not as far as Skye, Oban is three hours from Glasgow along an amazingly beautiful railway line; from there you'd be able to get onto Mull, which I (sadly) haven't yet managed to visit, though I know a lot of people who have and they all loved it. But this, too, would involve quite a lot of travel when you have so little time.

Arran this time; Mull, Skye, and Islay next time(s). Not to mention Orkney, Shetland, the outer Hebrides...
posted by lapsangsouchong at 3:56 PM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree - Skye is amazing and three days there would be great. The northern and southern ends are completely different, so you would be getting a wide range of experiences without having to do a lot of driving. Although, travel time between locations in the Highlands in general is shorter than you think - even the drive straight from Inverness to Skye is just a few hours. Last fall we drove from Edinburgh to Inverness to Skye to Ullapool to Durness to Glencoe and back to Edinburgh in just over a week and the trip didn't seem rushed at all. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I would recommend against staying in Fort William simply because, when we drove through after spending a week in the more rural Highlands, we were aghast at all the people and "civilization" everywhere we looked. We had intended to stay there for the night but drove on to the small village of Glencoe, which was more to our liking.
posted by something something at 4:03 PM on August 19, 2012

Also recommending Skye. Earlier this year a friend and I drove Edinburgh-Inverness-Portree-Oban-Edinburgh without staying more than one night in any one place. Definitely want to go back to Skye since we missed a bunch there, and it's worth whatever time it takes to get out there.
posted by dogwalker at 4:51 PM on August 19, 2012

lapsangsouchong has the right idea here. If you dont have a car you will not have 3 days on Skye. The suggested trips from Glasgow are good you could even do a small part of the West Highland Way recently named by National Geographic as one of its top 20 Worldwide hikes. You can get transport to the start/end of many of the sections and head towards or away from Glasgow.
You can always do parts of the other trails available as well. ( )

You may want to do a small day trip trip from Edinburgh to get a taste of the Highlands something like The Hairy Coo . Never used them but there are lots like them as well.)

When you are in Glasgow try to go and see the Govan Stones ( website ) they have become a bit of an obsession of mine as too few people know about them or go to see them but they are amazing.
posted by stuartmm at 11:27 PM on August 19, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the info, I really appreciate it. I decided in the interest of time and (really not wanting to spend a day of my three days in transit) to head out to Arran this time and plan a proper trip to Skye next time. I wish I could rent a car but I'm alone and under 25, which with the mandatory underage insurance at all the places I looked at made it out of my budget. Really looking forward to heading out tomorrow!!
posted by snowysoul at 2:37 AM on August 20, 2012

snowysoul--a decision you will be glad you made. I have holidayed on Arran (Little Scotland) and I have no doubt you will enjoy it, find it manageable and rewarding. Have a fine time and Skye will be there waiting for you. The northern portion of Arran is particularly captivating
posted by rmhsinc at 9:10 AM on August 20, 2012

snowysoul, if you are taking more than a couple of trains, buses or ferries, you may wish to look at the Highland Rover travelpass, which will give you four days of unlimited consecutive travel in an eight-day period for £78.40. You will find that this may be cheaper even than a couple of trains and ferries combined.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:28 AM on August 28, 2012

« Older 2 dimensions isn't enough!   |   DIY Budget Natural & Organic beauty podcasts... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.