Ye banks and braes and streams and narrow roads abound… Scotland!
September 10, 2018 12:56 AM   Subscribe

In about a week, Mrs. Jabo and I are headed to Scotland. We’re spending a few days in Edinburgh and then driving to Oban, on to Portree, and finally Pitlochry before we return back to Edinburgh. About 7 days in all. Any recommendations for a nice spot, pub or hiking trail that we shouldn’t miss along the way? And hows the weather?
posted by jabo to Travel & Transportation around Scotland (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Between Oban and Portree is Glencoe, and if you have spare time I'd recommend stopping to see the Three Sisters. (Google-fy for stunning pix.)

If you don't have much time, it's at least worth the photo opportunity. If you have a little more time (1-2 hours), I'd recommend a hike up to the very dramatic Hidden Valley. And if you have even more time (3-4 hours), a hike up to the Pap of Glencoe affords stunning views. (It's a somewhat arduous hike: need good shoes and be willing to do a bit of scrambling up the last bit to get to the top.)

Bonus: A drive through Glen Etive (which is to the east of the Three Sisters and Glencoe). It's a single-track road that'll take you to some remote and awe-inspiring views of landscape and loch. Bonus points for finding the spot that was use for an iconic scene from Skyfall. (Although you'll probably see a lot of cars and people taking photos there.) That drive would take a few hours to get to the end and back.
posted by Quaversalis at 1:22 AM on September 10, 2018

I always like a circular route, rather than up & back on the same road. So, as long as the ferry timings don't mess up your overall schedule, I'd be tempted to go Oban to Portree via Mull (boat from Oban to Craignure, maybe check out Iona on the way to Tobermory, another short boat ride to Kilchoan, then via Ardnamurchan, Arisaig, Mallaig & another boat to Armadale, which I think is a much much nicer way to arrive on Skye than over the bridge). All the ferry details are on the CalMac site, a Hopscotch 7 ticket is the one you'd need.

You don't want to miss Glencoe, but you can still do it on the way back to Pitlochry (over the Skye bridge, turn right at Spean Bridge, then via Fort William & Crainlarich). If you do go that way - near the end of Loch Tay you can take a short diversion to Fortingall, which is a fascinating place - has a 5000-year-old yew tree in the church yard, & was supposedly the birthplace of Pontius Pilate. If you have time while you're there, Glen Lyon is a beautiful walk.
posted by rd45 at 2:29 AM on September 10, 2018

Outside of Oban is a village called Ellenabeich. The island the village is on (Seil--there's a causeway, no ferry needed) is just lovely to walk around, but there's also a tour boat company (Seafari Adventures) that departs from the village and offers various wildlife-watching expeditions. I spent a really cracking day first doing some rambling on the island (up to the top of the cliffs) and then taking a boat trip to the Corryvrecken whirlpool.

I'm 100% jellz of your trip. That is pretty much my dream itinerary.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:32 AM on September 10, 2018

On Skye, on the southern part of the island--there's an Otter Hide over in Kylerhea; the drive over from the A87 was a little hair-raising, though.

A little out of your way, unless you do the walk from Sligachan, there's the Fairy Pools; also a bit out of your way is Talisker Beach (and you'll also pass the distillery on your way there, if that's of interest).

If you go further north on the A855 (which will be the road north out of Portree), you'll get to The Old Man of Storr; way up at the top of the island is The Quiraing. We also had the Fairy Glen over by Uig recommended to us, but didn't get a chance to make it out there.

For food in Portree, we liked Antler's Bar and Grill the best, I think. The pub in the Bosville hotel was very cozy.
posted by damayanti at 5:14 AM on September 10, 2018

If you're going through Glencoe, a stop at the Clachaig is pretty much compulsory - ideally round the back in the Boots Bar rather than the front bit. Tho be aware that the drink drive limit in Scotland is low - lower than the rest of the UK.
posted by penguin pie at 5:48 AM on September 10, 2018

As to weather, I was in Oban 2 weeks ago and it was warmish but beware--you may well get showers at intervals even on what seems like a fine day. Then half an hour later it's fine again.
If you're going to Oban, I take it you know about Fingal's Cave and Iona.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:09 AM on September 10, 2018

Does your "about 7 days in all" include Edinburgh? If so, your intended itinerary could end up being more than you bargained for. When driving in the U.S., we are accustomed to seeing a map distance of 60 miles and thinking "Oh, that'll take me about an hour." In Scotland, that same distance can easily take two hours, or more. Add slow-downs to accommodate passing traffic on single-track roads and - depending on where you drive - stops for meandering sheep.

The suggestions above are nearly all postcard perfect. You won't want to be rushed to leave simply to maintain your schedule.

And, having said all that, may I suggest the village of Plockton just north of where you return to the mainland from Skye. The influence of the Gulf Stream means you can see royal palms growing along the shore of Loch Carron.
posted by John Borrowman at 8:10 AM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks all for the recommendations; so many great places that we may have to go back. Here is the report on how our trip went.

We landed in Edinburgh on November 17th, 2018 and stayed on Princes St near the Castle. Immediately found the wonderful Princes Park garden and fountain. Walked up to Edinburgh Castle and took one of the tours offered for free every half hour that was very fun and informative. Next day we had Storm Ali so we took the bus out to see Rosslyn Chapel, a beautiful 15th century church and a nice part of the Midlothian Scottish countryside (despite the howling winds, the rain broke right when we arrived).

Rented a car and the saving grace of driving was the navigation system that led us along the right roadways. I absoutely had to stop at Doune Castle the location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail and along our route. There was a wonderful audio tour narrated by Terry Jones that focused on the history and daily life of the castle (part of it is available on the official website I linked to). Sadly, I forgot to ask about coconuts. Next we visited the Glencoe Valley and hiked the An Torr trail as well as visited the visitor center nearby.

Due to the storm, we elected to stay a day longer in Edinburgh and so we weren’t able to visit Iona and Mull from Oban. Oban was not the most charming place but its main draw is probably the ferries to the outer isles. The drive to Portree in Skye was wonderful. Very scenic with a drive over the pass, a stop at the picturesque Eilean Donan Castle and then across the Skye Bridge. Portree was tiny but very charming (and we can’t say enough good things about our stay at the Marine House B & B and our wonderful host Fiona).

We traveled around the Northern end of Sky, along the Trotternish Peninsula. The roads were one lane and crowded at times, especially when the odd tour bus came along. Stops were also crowded; the Old Man of Storr was packed so we went on to see Kilt Rock, Duntulm Castle at the Northern end and the Museum of Scottish Life, all lovely sights. We wanted to check out the Quiraing Walk but decided to leave that for another time.

Skye was definitely our favorite place and I wish we were able to see Iona and Mull. The weather was very changeable and could go from a cold drizzle to warm sunny skies. The number of rainbows I photographed became a running comment (“oh there’s ANOTHER one!”). Our final stop was Pitlochry where we planned to explore the Craingorms. The drive along the A86 had a long section of one lane travel that was a bit hairy but passed through some beautiful forest and lake scenery. Pilochry is larger than Portree and seemed more upscale. There were many walking trails around town, the best crosses a bouncy suspension bridge over the River Tummel, through the old Port na Craig and then upstream to the dam.

We drove out to Dunkeld to see the Dunkeld Cathedral and have a nice walk along the River Tay. Landscape is more wooded in this part and not as dramatic as Skye but still very pleasant. There were lots of natural areas like the park that one would need a car to have access to so driving is a good way to see the area. Mrs Jabo was very worried before the trip about driving but once she got behind the wheel and got comfortable, it was a blast. It also helps to have a partner who can advise when you are getting too close to the edge of the road.

After this, it was back to Edinburgh for a final evening before leaving. We returned to what had become our favorite pub on Rose St., the Rose and Crown (great staff, fish and chips and ale). Scotland was wonderful, even with a tropical storm and the wind and rain. We are already looking in to a walking tour of other areas once we recover financially! Well worth the visit and we are looking forward to going back.
posted by jabo at 6:39 PM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

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