Review our Scotland Itinerary - Apr 2023

Old Nov 27th, 2022, 10:56 AM
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Review our Scotland Itinerary - Apr 2023

Our Scotland trip for April 2023 is finally taking shape. Air tickets, hotels and car rental has been booked. We have kept the flight tickets flexible and almost all our stay reservations have free cancellations or minimum commitments.
I thought of sharing the details here and get some feedback - especially if there are some major gaps in the planning.

Trip Duration : 17 nights starting mid-April 2023.
Group Size : 8 folks - 6 adults, 2 teens.

Plan :
Edinburgh - 3 nights, Stay at Airbnb Apartment near the Edinburgh university
Dufftown - 2 nights (drive via Balmoral Castle route), Stay at The Highlander Inn.
Loch Ness - 1 night (do a drive upto Brora and then come back to Loch Ness), Stay at Loch Ness Bunk House
Skye - 4 nights, (drive via Skye bridge), Stay at Sligachan Hotel
Islay - 4 nights (drive via Mallaig), Stay at Lilleville House, Port Ellen
Tarbet - 2 nights (drive via campbeltown), Stay at Tarbet Hotel
Edinburgh - 1 night, Stay at East Claremeont Guest House

The group likes to keep the tour relaxed. So, we are not going to visit every attraction. But wherever we go, we will give it enough time. The interests are around whisky, nature, trails/hikes and a bit of castles.
Car Rental - We have booked with Celtic Legends. We will have 2 Vauxhall Grandland X or Peugeot 3008 type cars. Each of us will have a suitcase. So, hoping that the boot takes 4 suitcases in each car.
I will detail out our itinerary in a further post. At this point, hoping to hear back on the overall itinerary.

A bit on the Whisky interest - The plan is to tour only 2 distilleries (Balvenie & Laphroaig). Balvenie tour has been booked. There is a second set of distilleries where we intend to do tasting only (Glenfarclas, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Bunnahabhain etc). The 3rd category of distilleries are mainly stop and go - these come along the route. we will stop for a photo op, buy souvenirs or samples to try later. The group will have designated drivers duties.

We had planned to do this trip way back in 2019. But that didnt happen and now we are back at it again. This time with the major bookings done, we are keeping all fingers crossed.
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Old Nov 27th, 2022, 11:44 AM
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Lovey destinations -- Great that you got availability at Sligachan. Most central location on Skye.

just a couple of comments re your travel/drive days:

• Edinburgh via Ballater/Balmoral to Dufftown (and with two vehicles) will likely take 5 hours without any stops. So really you will have just one day for the Dufftown area.

• And Sligachan to Mallaig to Port Ellen (assuming you make the ferry to Islay) will EASILY be a 9+ hour drive without a single stop. And there is a lot to stop and see along the way. I would 100% break that journey and stay one night somewhere -- even if just Oban. (Via the bridge would save very little if any time)

• I'd think about skipping the jaunt down to Cambeltown - You already have some very long driving days.
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Old Nov 27th, 2022, 12:03 PM
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I’m very interested in your itinerary other than the long drives. We prefer keeping driving per day to 4 hours or less. “Skye caught my attention I want to visit Skye but trying to figure out navigating will be a challenge for sure.

Have a wonderful trip to Scotland!
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Old Nov 27th, 2022, 12:15 PM
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Thanks janisj

Yes, unfortunately it will be just a day at Dufftown. We wanted to stay longer but adjusted to accommodate the group interests. Day-1 evening will be just dinner - we are thinking of the Craigellachie hotel, primarily for its lovely whisky bar.
For Day-2, we plan to hire a minivan to take us around - start with the Balvenie tour, grab a light lunch and then move onto quick visits to Aberlour, Glenallachie and then do a tasting at Glenfarclas. The evening will be at the Highlander Inn itself. Any recommendations for taxi services in Dufftown? So far, we have noted "Ace Taxi".

The drive from Skye to Port Ellen will indeed be a long one. This is exactly what we were worried too. The options we have are to reduce Skye or Islay stays by a day. Let us work that out.

The campbeltown stop is primarily to see if we get lucky in picking up some rare whiskies from the distilleries or the cadenheads outlet. The secondary market has gone crazy. Hopefully should be manageable.


Last edited by RajatMakar; Nov 27th, 2022 at 12:19 PM.
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Old Nov 27th, 2022, 01:29 PM
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Just quick because I'm dashing out for a few hours. IMO/IME there is no way I would EVER drive -- and trying to keep two cars even close to each other-- for almost 10 hours through that neck of the woods. And do understand that there may be lovely weather in April -- there can also be awful storms.

You may 'see' Skye and Islay -- or you may just see sideways rain. The drive from Ft Augustus to Sligachan is short -- maybe 2 hours if you are lucky. So IF it was me, I would. cut a night from BOTH Skye and Islay and stay 2 nights in Glencoe or Oban. This would give you time to see Glenfinnan, Glencoe, Loch Linnhe, Castle Stalker, Oban etc. and let you get a morning ferry to Islay so even cutting a night won't lose you any useful sightseeing/distillery time (on either island really)

Before finally deciding on the Cambeltown detour -- check out the Whisky centre on the royal mile and other specialist whisky merchants in Edinburgh
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Old Nov 27th, 2022, 07:21 PM
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janisj One option we are thinking of is go to Skye directly from Dufftown, spend 4 nights and then spend a night at Loch Ness. That way the direct drive from Skye to Islay can be avoided. We dont want to travel too often. The 4 days each at Skye and Islay are planned with the hope of having a relaxed schedule.

We will surely check out the whisky stores at Edinburgh. The Campbeltown part of the itinerary is flexible. We will drop it if needed.
Looks like we will pass through Oban/Glencoe this time.

Joy2 Yeah, we too dont want very long drives. Looks like Edinburgh to Dufftown cant be avoided. But based on feedback, trying to reshuffle Loch Ness / Skye / Islay to reduce the driving times. lets see how that works out.

Last edited by Moderator1; Nov 28th, 2022 at 08:41 AM. Reason: Removed response to a deleted commercial post
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Old Nov 27th, 2022, 07:23 PM
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janisj One option we are thinking of is go to Skye directly from Dufftown, spend 4 nights and then spend a night at Loch Ness. That way the direct drive from Skye to Islay can be avoided. We dont want to travel too often. The 4 days each at Skye and Islay are planned with the hope of having a relaxed schedule.

We will surely check out the whisky stores at Edinburgh. The Campbeltown part of the itinerary is flexible. We will drop it if needed.
Looks like we will pass through Oban/Glencoe this time.

Just_In_London yeah, Loch Ness stay is very very brief. We do not plan to do much though - the stay is adjacent to Urquhart castle. That's the only thing we have in the agenda. Anything else that we are missing?

Joy2 Yeah, we too dont want very long drives. Looks like Edinburgh to Dufftown cant be avoided. But based on feedback, trying to reshuffle Loch Ness / Skye / Islay to reduce the driving times. lets see how that works out.
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Old Nov 27th, 2022, 10:42 PM
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" . . . and then spend a night at Loch Ness"

May I ask why?? That's a serious question. Loch Ness is quite far down the list of scenic lochs -- it isn't even in the top 20 (its just 'famous' not 'pretty') . You will drive the entire length of Loch Ness when driving from, Dufftown to Skye. Even stopping to visit Urquhart You'll have plenty of time. I'd personally ditch any thoughts of staying on Loch Ness

"The 4 days each at Skye and Islay are planned with the hope of having a relaxed schedule."

Completely understood -- I prefer slow travel myself. And if you've seen some of the crazy itineraries posted on here -- you guys are spending twice as long as most on Skye/Islay

"Looks like we will pass through Oban/Glencoe this time. "

You will pass through Oban no matter what -- but driving through Glencoe and back is a significant detour. That only adds maybe 25 miles to the drive but at least 2 or 3 hours to the day with the visitors centre and photo ops.

I really REALLY suggest you break the drive between Skye and Islay. Preferably in Glencoe at the Clachaig Inn, but Oban would be good too.

Reversing the order of Loch Ness and Skye doesn't really help anything . . . Even IF you decided to stay in Ft Augustus - it would still be a 7+ hour drive to Port Ellen.
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Old Nov 28th, 2022, 06:18 AM
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janisj Thanks for explaining again. We are checking if we can shuffle the accommodation bookings so that we can split the journey from Skye to Islay with a break at Glencoe.
It seems that our accommodation at Loch Ness bunk house is a non refundable one - the rooms are refundable but the bunk beds are not. we didnt pay enough attention to the fine print as the cost was low - 20~25 GBP per person per night.

But we will write them an email and see if they can do something about it. If this gets done, we will book asap at Clachaig Inn. Rooms are available for our dates.
Other alternative will be to forego the amount. Its not a big amount.
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Old Nov 28th, 2022, 09:32 AM
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This is heresy for most visitors to Scotland, but if it were me (and it most emphatically is not) I'd simply drop Skye altogether. Yes, it's gorgeous - if you can see it. But so is Mull, and given your intention to visit Islay, swapping Mull for Skye would save a lot of driving and would also put you in a position to explore more of the Argyll countryside including Mull and Iona as well as some destinations reachable as day trips from Oban, with more time to slow things down. Maybe the route would look something like this: https://goo.gl/maps/jEuk6kb2LkMfqYRr5

It's fairly certain that you'll be planning to return to Scotland (it's quite addictive) so you might consider saving Skye and the northwest for a subsequent trip, maybe at a more tolerable time of the year (like the early autumn - fabulous.)

I'd also caution that CalMac (Caledonian MacBrayne) the ferry operator, has been going through some tough corporate times, and their summer 2023 schedule (which takes effect at the end of March) hasn't been published yet. Timing of the Islay ferries might be very changeable (a nice way of saying FUBAR) so keep monitoring things.

Just a heretical idea, anyway.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Nov 28th, 2022 at 09:34 AM.
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Old Nov 28th, 2022, 07:13 PM
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Gardyloo Thanks for the route. It completely makes sense to keep the Skye and further north for a future trip. Considering the group interests, I doubt if we will be able to drop Skye. But we are working out some adjustments. Btw, good one on Skye.. "if you can see it"

I am keeping an eye on CalMac site for the summer ferry schedule. We don't want to plan for the last ferry of the day from Kennacraig.



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Old Dec 30th, 2022, 06:53 AM
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The april 2023 bookings for Laphroaig tour opened and we have promptly booked that too. With that we have both our distillery tours booked.
I have been keeping an eye on the Calmac ferry schedule for summer. Its not yet open. Anyone knows around what time it typically opens up.

Any recommendations for restaurants in Edinburgh, Skye and Islay? We plan to book 1 evening in Edinburgh, 2 evenings in Skye and 2 evenings in Islay. The rest will be kept open for exploring what we find interesting during the trip.
Our food choices will be mostly local scottish food, fresh Sea Food joints, Italian etc. Is a per person dinner budget of 25~30 GBP ok for mid-range places? This is without wine or whisky.

Some early thoughts are,
At Dufftown, we plan to dine at The Highlander Inn & The Craigellachie hotel.
At Skye, definitely 1 dinner at our stay - Hotel Sligachan.
At Islay, we will be located at Port Ellen. Not yet zeroed in on any restaurants.

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Old Dec 30th, 2022, 01:30 PM
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I read that Ca!Mac will be releasing the summer schedule sometime in January.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2023, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by RajatMakar View Post
janisj Thanks for explaining again. We are checking if we can shuffle the accommodation bookings so that we can split the journey from Skye to Islay with a break at Glencoe.
It seems that our accommodation at Loch Ness bunk house is a non refundable one - the rooms are refundable but the bunk beds are not. we didnt pay enough attention to the fine print as the cost was low - 20~25 GBP per person per night.

But we will write them an email and see if they can do something about it. If this gets done, we will book asap at Clachaig Inn. Rooms are available for our dates.
Other alternative will be to forego the amount. Its not a big amount.
janisj Thanks for all your help. Quick update : Now we will not travel directly from Skye to Islay. Instead, we will take a break at Glencoe. We got bookings at Clachaig hotel. We cancelled the booking at Loch Ness.
This change also will give us enough time to take the ferry route via Mallaig from Skye and cover Glenfinnan on the way. This looks like a comfortable plan now with enough buffer to stop at en-route attractions.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2023, 09:52 AM
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Thats a lovely itinerary and lets you travel both routes between the mainland and Skye with some amazing scenery on the "Road to the Isles" (the drive from Mallaig to Ft William/Glencoe.
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Old Jan 5th, 2023, 02:12 AM
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Originally Posted by RajatMakar View Post
Any recommendations for restaurants in Edinburgh, Skye and Islay? We plan to book 1 evening in Edinburgh, 2 evenings in Skye and 2 evenings in Islay. The rest will be kept open for exploring what we find interesting during the trip.
Our food choices will be mostly local scottish food, fresh Sea Food joints, Italian etc. Is a per person dinner budget of 25~30 GBP ok for mid-range places? This is without wine or whisky.

Some early thoughts are,
At Dufftown, we plan to dine at The Highlander Inn & The Craigellachie hotel.
At Skye, definitely 1 dinner at our stay - Hotel Sligachan.
At Islay, we will be located at Port Ellen. Not yet zeroed in on any restaurants.
With some early research,
Went ahead and made a breakfast booking for Ivy on the Square at Edinburgh. I have never done a restaurant booking so well in advance
At Islay, Sea Salt Bistro & The Islay hotel are very nearby food options. The do not take online booking. So, thinking of making the bookings in person on the day of arrival at Islay.
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Old Jan 11th, 2023, 07:01 AM
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janisj One question, currently the plan after Islay is to stay for 2 nights at Tarbet and then a night in EDI before flying back.
Since we will be spending enough time among nature in Skye and Islay, We were thinking if we consolidate those 3 nights at Glasgow. We also have the option to return the car at Glasgow for no extra cost.

It gives us a good 2.5 days to explore Glasgow museums, do some final shopping, hit some of the top whisky bars etc. And then we can directly travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh airport.
The flight is at 6 AM. I saw that there are bus services at every hour throughout the night.

Any suggestions on this tweak? Also recommendations for good mid range hotels at Glasgow will be very helpful.

Last edited by RajatMakar; Jan 11th, 2023 at 07:47 AM.
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Old Jan 11th, 2023, 08:15 AM
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If you like cities -- a couple of days in Glasgow would be great. Not at all like Edinburgh.

Terrific museums, Charles Rennie Mackintosh sites, great pubs/whisky bars, easy transport.

I'd want to stay in the very center near Glasgow Central and/or Glasgow Queen Street stations. Unfortunately the last two central city hotels I've used aren't options - one has been partially turned into social services accomodations and the other is in the middle of a major refurbishment. But just use booking.com and filter for distance to Glasgow Central and you get lots of properties.
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Old Jan 11th, 2023, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
If you like cities -- a couple of days in Glasgow would be great. Not at all like Edinburgh.

Terrific museums, Charles Rennie Mackintosh sites, great pubs/whisky bars, easy transport.

I'd want to stay in the very center near Glasgow Central and/or Glasgow Queen Street stations. Unfortunately the last two central city hotels I've used aren't options - one has been partially turned into social services accomodations and the other is in the middle of a major refurbishment. But just use booking.com and filter for distance to Glasgow Central and you get lots of properties.
Thank you. We found a great airbnb on Greendyke street near Mclennan arch. The location seems to be central. We are going ahead with this change.
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Old Jan 17th, 2023, 02:49 AM
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This post is primarily to document here some restaurants and distilleries that we have shortlisted and booked. It can be of use to others.

Distillery Tours & Tastings
1. Laphroaig Warehouse 1 Tour
2. Balvenie Tour
3. Ardnahoe "Old Islay" Tasting

Restaurants
1. The Ivy on the Square at Edinburgh - Breakfast
2. Makars Mash Bar at Edinburgh - Dinner
3. Artisan Restaurant at Glasgow - Lunch
4. Glasgow Bars - The Pot Still & Bon Accord
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