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request for suggestions on 6-day self-drive family trip from London

Hi all,

I am planning 6-day self-drive trip to Scotland from south London in May 2018. It will be 6 of us, my wife and I, two children (13 and 7) and my parents (early 60s). My children and parents are ok with light physical activities, but not anything too strenuous. Our main interest is in natural beauty, mountains, lakes, scenic routes, landscapes etc. (of which there is no shortage in Scotland!)

I am no expert on Scotland tourism, but I have done some research and have come up with the following high-level itinerary.

I request to fellow members and experts is to make any suggestions on attractions, scenic routes and activities etc that I should do as per the high level itinerary below. I am happy also to make changes to the itinerary itself if I am being stupid by including or excluding certain things!

Please comment especially on MUST DO items.

Many thanks to everyone.

Day 1: 
Start from south London
Drive 300 miles / 5 hours
Windermere Lake (MUST include Kirkstone Pass, Ulswater)
Lunch and Boating at Windermere
Drive 130 miles / 3 hours
Reach Edinburgh
Stay overnight in Edinburgh

Day 2:
Edinburgh Sightseeing (Details TBC)
Stay overnight in Edinburgh

Day 3:
Start from Edinburgh
Drive 3 hours 20 mins / 135 miles
Arrive at Fort William 
(MUST include the scenic drive from "GLENCOE TO FORT WILLIAM", and the glen itself)
(TRY to include Steall Falls, Glen Nevis, near Fort William)
Lunch and Afternoon in Fort William
Take A830 ("ROAD TO THE ISLES") from Ben Nevis to Mallaig, including Glenfinnan Viaduct
Drive 1 hour / 40 miles
Arrive in the evening at Mallaig
Stay overnight in Mallaig

Day 4:
(Details TBC)
Stay overnight in Mallaig

Day 5:
Morning in Mallaig
Travel to TBC
Options (Ayrshire & Arran / Glenashdale Falls on the Isle of Arran are impressive! It's a great wee 4.5km circular walk in Whiting Bay.)
Stay overnight near TBC (Ayr)

Day 6:
Start from Ayr
Drive 7 hours 30 mins / 450 miles
Stop at TBC on the way...Oxford? Yorkshire dales?
Arrive at south London late evening


  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    Your itinerary has got my spider senses tingling starting Day 4. I personally think this itinerary is way too ambitious and you'll have to re-do it but let me tell you why. Google Maps times (which I think you've based your estimates on) work fine on major roads but can be thrown out of the window for rural roads that are single lane in many cases (eg: on Skye, possible Lake District).

    Another concern I have is that this itinerary has way too little "feet on the ground" sightseeing, all of you will be in the car for the majority (maybe even 70%) of the trip. Where this does maximize the distance covered, you'll have trouble appreciating any of the stops because they are jaw-droppingly beautiful and Scotland is best enjoyed relaxed and not in a hurry.

    Final concern I have is that if you (@hardik_shah) are the only one driving, you will be exhausted on each leg of the trip and would have to start early and end moderately late on most days. Even with 2 drivers, I think these 6 days can be stressful. But it is your call.

    Before I make a separate comment about potentially reworking your itinerary, I'll ask a few questions below and comment on your must-sees

    • Would you be averse to flying LGW-EDI and back with your car-rental being fully Scotland based? The Lakes and other parts of England (which I have written some posts on here) too need time to be appreciated and you can gain half a day on Day 1 and Day 6 of Scottish sightseeing if you fly. Easyjet fares can be quite reasonable if booked now.
    • Make sure your Mallaig - Armadale ferries are booked ASAP  for your car once you finalize your itinerary.
    • "MUST include Kirkstone Pass, Ulswater" - Agreed. Also include Aira Force falls. Lunch at Windermere is good but I wouldn't quite recommend the boating. Again, going to the Lakes for an afternoon runs counter to all there is to explore in the area.
    • "(MUST include the scenic drive from "GLENCOE TO FORT WILLIAM", and the glen itself)" - If the weather is good, make an hour long stop at the 3 sisters / lost valley. The actual visitor centre is also a nice stop for tea but it is not where the beauty is most visible.
    • "Take A830 ("ROAD TO THE ISLES") from Ben Nevis to Mallaig, including Glenfinnan Viaduct" - You must switch to the B8008 from Arisaig to Morar for the true road to the isles and enjoy some of Scotland's best beaches. My take on the area.
    • Exploring Skye from Mallaig is a huge mistake due to distance and dependence on the ferry. Stay overnight at Broadford or Sligachan and preferably at Portree. Ideally, stay 2 nights. My notes here and here, tonnes to see on the island with Quiraing, the Fairy Pools and the Old man of Storr being dont miss.
    • Arran is a spectacular place to visit indeed (my notes here), am very happy to see it on your itinerary. Do base yourself on the island on Lochranza or Brodick instead of going to Ayr.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, DunoonSpeyside)

  • Many thanks for your reply @Horizons I note your point about the current version being too ambitious. Back to the drawing board :)

    Thanks also for other suggestions.
  • FullStopNextChapterFullStopNextChapter VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭
    Phew! I agree that your itinerary is way to ambitious @hardik_shah. Quality not quantity. 
    You want to get to know Scotland and experience it fully. Not drive through, periodically stopping for photos to say you have "been there."

    Less is definitely more. Please do come back to us if you need help on ideas, timings etc. 

    Good luck
    Join in my new chapter over on the blog. Discovering all things that make Scotland the place everyone wants to visit. 

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