How do I get there?
I’ve noticed people planning journey times from Google Maps. That might be fine – but especially in rural Scotland, some of the times or routes suggested are crazy.
For long distance travel times, I usually go to https://www.rac.co.uk/route-planner/. I find their times realistic and the routes and route options good. As well as Start and Destination, you can put in intermediate stops so you can use it to plan a route for a day in detail if you wish. But of course, the times given assume normal traffic so if your route taken you through any big city at peak hours (7 to 10:30, 3:30 to 6:30pm), then expect traffic to slow. And then there are roadworks, accidents, etc. Assuming you’ll stop for food every couple of hours and might stop for photo ops, then for tourist driving I’d add 50% onto journey times.
Also think about whether the journey is part of your holiday. I often for holidays seek to go one route and return another. This is what the RAC suggest for Edinburgh-Portree.
The A9 route (bold) is fastest, timed at 5.25 hours but they give an option of cutting across to Glasgow on the M8 and then heading north through the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, timing this at 6 hours. That sounds superficially attractive but the M8 is horrible, and the A82 can be very slow going so I’d avoid that route.
I might however take the M9 out of Edinburgh, taking a route that will skirt the Kelpies and Stirling and takes me through the north edge of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and through iconic Glen Coe. It’ll also take 6 hours. This might be my preferred route as I’m not very fond of the A9 and I know there are roadworks as it’s being upgraded to dual carriageway.
What’s important is that when embarking on an A to B long distance drive is that you consider alternative routes. If there is a fatality, roads will close for several hours for investigations. Check before you set out and look out for the large traffic advisory variable signs on main routes. If you use Twitter @trafficscotland is great. They use e.g. #A9 for all their reports on that road so it’s easy to find the latest information.
I own a holiday house on the mainland just before you get to the Skye Bridge. I had guests staying in Glasgow then intending driving to my house. But the A82 north of Spean Bridge shut due to a fatal accident and I knew it would stay shut for hours. So I phoned them and sent them all the way to Inverness to get to the house. It sounds like a crazy diversion but it was the fastest route. Sometimes in the Highlands, with so few roads and mountains and lochs, the diversions are HUGE. If you are trying to reach a ferry or airplane or a big event, think about worst cases.
Now, you’ll have noticed that all three route options from Edinburgh to Portree take you through Fort William (assuming you don’t need the massive divert via Inverness). I’ve annotated this map that the RAC give from Fort William to Portree (and cut off the map once we are on Skye for readability.
The main route takes you up on the A82 north before cutting across to the A87 and then onto the Skye Bridge.
If you’ve time, and this is ScotlandTime so why wouldn’t you, you might want to divert at Ratagan to explore GlenElg and cross to Skye at the Kylerhea narrows on the wonderful heritage ferry (summer only). See here for how to spend a day exploring : http://scotlandtime.co.uk/places/a-circuit-of-treasures/
Or you could follow the iconic Road to the Isles to Mallaig for the ferry (book!), stopping off at Glenfinnan (Monument, viaduct and lovely church) and the white sands of Morar.
And, particularly if you’ve coming from the south, you might not want to go to Fort William at all and cross on the wee Corran ferry for a scenic wander. But you will want to allow a lot of time for these small single track roads but you do want to head to Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point of mainland Scotland and a point that the yachtsmen treat with great respect.
You see why we are Scotland Time. The more you look at think, the more options open up even in something as simple as driving from Edinburgh to Portree. Give me a motorhome and no schedule and I’d never actually arrive anywhere.
Meander is a lovely word.