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10 1/2 Day Driving (and camping?) Tour of Scotland

Hi all... first trip to Scotland ...at least for me.  My wife and I will be flying into Edinburgh from Iceland (after a 15 day ring rd trip) on Aug 23.  We'll pick up car or camper van on 24th Aug, and return back to Edinburgh on September 3, to fly to Milan Italy later that evening. The reason I mention a camper van is..... we think it will give us more freedom to pick and choose the places to stay and for how long. Especially if a place strikes our fancy. An occasional B&B is not out of the question some nights, if camping doesn't fit into the area we have chosen.
Our British friends threw out a list of places that run a mostly northern and western circle from Edinburgh. Heading north, Pitlochry, Aviemore, Inverness, Kyle of Lochaish, Isle of Skye, Mallaig, Glencoe, Loch Lomond and Stirling. These places were mentioned also. Inverewe Gardens, Applecross Peninsula and Loch Torridon. Anyway.. this seems like a lot and maybe they are just on the route as we pass thru. We will want to visit some castles (for sure), hike some beautiful mountain scenery, and walk along some of the beaches on the coast. If we choose to travel the camper van route, we will likely fix breakfast and lunch and maybe a few dinners. We're not opposed to eating out dinner or visiting a pub or two when the situation presents itself. Would probably prefer it most nights, unless we are at a simply spectacular camp site. 
This is not our usual way we like to travel. We usually find a couple of places to base out of for a few days, and then take day trips. In this case, we think moving everyday makes the most sense to get a good taste of Scotland for our ten days. I'd welcome all opinions and suggestions on camping (not camping), better route, castles, beaches, hiking places to eat/drink etc.....
Thanks Howard and Debbie from Colorado

Comments

  • powderglutpowderglut Member ✭✭
    In my  searches I just found the North Coast 500.  This might be the perfect loop with a bit of Skye and Loch Lomond. So much to see. I love it!
  • VisitScotlandAmandaVisitScotlandAmanda Member, Administrator, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    Hi @powderglut! Welcome to the community :)

    Our resident expert for this type of query is @Horizons - I'm sure she'll have some ideas and suggestions in mind for you!

    Side note - I see you've mentioned Skye - if you do intend to stay here I do encourage you to book as far in advance as possible - it's very popular over summer time and gets booked up very quickly!

    I'm sure you'll have an amazing trip and the amount of time you're here allows you the opportunity to see and do a lot before you move on again. Time to start preparing the bucket list :)
    Kiwi gal, relocated to Scotland. 
    Instagram
  • powderglutpowderglut Member ✭✭
    edited November 28
    Thanks Amanda.....I think we feel confident in getting a camper van and doing a big circle from Edinburgh including the North Coast 500.  Then on to Isle of Skye and Loch Lomond. The nice thing is, we can do it at our own pace. If we really like a place, maybe we'll stay an extra day. Hopefully weather will be nice enough to see it all. Still doing my homework for this area. Just looks amazing. Anyone wanting to chime in on their favorites would be greatly appreciated.   
  • VisitScotlandAmandaVisitScotlandAmanda Member, Administrator, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    Make sure you check out our North Coast 500 mega thread - it has lots of local tips and tricks that I'm sure you'll find useful!
    Kiwi gal, relocated to Scotland. 
    Instagram
  • HorizonsHorizons VisitScotland Contributor ✭✭✭
    edited November 28
    powderglut, there is one more powerful advantage camper vans give you, the freedom to switch out your initial plan based on the weather. From personal experience, I can tell you that this is a needed gift, for example, if the 2 days you planned to be on Skye rain out, there is not point visiting the island those 2 days. Also, finding a new stop each day or couple of days is a generally good idea for Scotland. Giving you my idea of an ideal itinerary with links to my own experiences in blogposts.

    NC 500 is a good trip for 3-4 days and the megathread has some great recommendations. Torridon is my personal favourite but mostly due to a spectacular hike in the area that I had to reserve a day for.

    I very highly recommend detouring to the Orkney mainland for 2 more days. It is one of the best places to visit in Scotland IMO.

    Also highly recommend taking the ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway, staying overnight on Harris or Lewis, seeing Harris' spectacular beaches and then taking the ferry to Uig, Skye the next day.

    Resources: the UK campsite website to find campsites, you'll need to call a couple of days in advance atleast to find a space. CalMac to book ferry spots if you're visiting the Outer Hebrides. Orkney should have car spaces but check with Northlink / Pentland Ferries based on your choice. WalkHighlands for some spectacular walks.

    Putting it all together, I recommend this itinerary, as soon as you reach Edinburgh or a day before that, check 7 day weather forecasts for all major spots on the route, decide on clockwise / anticlockwise direction based on how the weather will be favourable, make bookings as needed and only then finalize your trip. I know this seems to put everything off to the last moment but it is quite easily possible to spend your entire time sulking in the rain if you have fixed plans. OR fix a plan but if the weather turns unfavourable, try to make cancellations and make one on the fly.

    Edinburgh - Inverness (see Perthshire sights on the way such as Queen's View, Pitlochry, Hermitage @ Dunkeld) - NC 500 via John O'Groats - Orkney (optional but highly recommended) - Ullapool - Stornoway - Luskentyre / Huishnish - Tarbert (Harris) - Uig - Glenbrittle campsite Skye - Eilean Donan castle - Glencoe - Stirling - Edinburgh
    We're a globetrotting travel blogger couple. Find us on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 Week

    See Scotland with us (incl: SkyeMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban)
  • powderglutpowderglut Member ✭✭
    @Horizons thanks for your input. I will definitely look at weather the day before we leave Iceland. Do you have any best website for weather in Northern Scotland?
    Perhaps we'll get to Harris and Lewis (really does look incredible)... actual route is still in the planning stages. And yes....obviously weather will decide whether we are hiking and exploring beaches/ mountains or.... in a museum /castle. 
    I've wanted to see the coast and Highlands of Northern Scotland more than any place in Europe. Getting to do both Iceland and this part of Scotland in one trip, is a huge "check" on our Bucket list. Hopefully weather in August and early Sept will work in our favor. The camper van should give us the freedom to pick and choose if the weather falls apart. I think we'll put a list together.. of all the places we want to see in each area. Then try to hit them all on the way.  10 1/2 days should give us a pretty good taste.
  • HorizonsHorizons VisitScotland Contributor ✭✭✭
    BBC Weather works well generally. MWIS for Scottish mountains. Enjoy your holiday!
    We're a globetrotting travel blogger couple. Find us on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 Week

    See Scotland with us (incl: SkyeMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban)
  • VisitScotlandAngelaVisitScotlandAngela Member, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    Hi @powderglut

    I see you are planning a visit to Loch Lomond whilst you are in Scotland in August.  Loch Lomond is amazing, although I am biased as I live and work here.  :p  I agree that travelling by motorhome is a fantastic and flexible way to explore Scotland and there are some amazing campsites where you can stay overnight.  Wild camping is also great although please keep in mind that within Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park that wild camping bylaws are in place between March and October.  This means that there are designated areas to stay overnight in a campervan or motorhome which require a permit.  You can find out more information about camping in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park here.
  • powderglutpowderglut Member ✭✭
    Yes.. thanks for that info. We will leave Edinburgh (Kelty) and head north to Inverness on Fri Aug 24. Take our time on NC 500 probably counter clockwise. If weather is completely fabulous we may ferry over to Harris and Lewis....otherwise continue on thru the NC 500 then over to Skye. However many days we have left after Skye, will determine where we can still go before we return vehicle on Mon Sept 3.
    My wife and I are both avid hikers and will likely feel the need to traipse somewhere for "at the least" 2 hours each day.  If it looks good, we will probably need to see it up close, and get out of the car. So.....I really can't quite gauge, what pace we will travel at. Weather will likely play a big part in the speed in which we travel. Loch Lomond is high on my list, and I really hope it fits in as we head back from Skye. I also will have my fly rod, and will take an opportunity now and then, to see if I can entice a trout, salmon or char on our way thru the countryside. Doesn't really look like you can go wrong anywhere in Northern Scotland.
  • HorizonsHorizons VisitScotland Contributor ✭✭✭
    Doesn't really look like you can go wrong anywhere in Northern Scotland.
    You have no idea how true that is. A tiny correction would be to remove the "Northern" bit. The rest of Scotland has some stunning gems that are rarely talked about but that's where people like me like to spend some time exploring away from the madness of the crowds. I also hope the community will be able to shine a spotlight on those areas more with time.
    We're a globetrotting travel blogger couple. Find us on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 Week

    See Scotland with us (incl: SkyeMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban)
  • powderglutpowderglut Member ✭✭
    I really changed this trip up from my original plan. We were going to fly into London, then head into Wales, then the Lake District, Scotland and back to London. Once I realized how easy it is to fly into Edinburgh from Iceland...we started talking about simplifying the trip, and doing less driving, and concentrating on a smaller area. I think we'll be a lot happier keeping this trip just in Scotland. Shorter days of driving. 
    Since this is a three part trip, I have been working on my Iceland list lately and put this Scotland part on the back burner. Will still gladly take any stops or suggestions we must see and do. This site is really a gem for putting together a Scotland trip!
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