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The coast road from Ullapool up the A835-A837-A894-A838 to Durness is pretty nice, from here you can carry on along the north coast to John O'Groats which is not so special or head south down the A836 to central Scotlland which is.
If you only have 10 days, I'd stick with anywhere along the west coast and up to the north coast is great. I would't rush back to John o'Groats, nothing much there apart from a bunch of disappointed looking tourists.
For Islands, Skye and Mull are great. Depending on your route, you could get the ferry from Oban to Mull, go down to Iona, camp at Fidden Farm near the ferry. Plenty of free camping on Mull too, one place is Calgary Bay. You should then get the ferry from Tobermory to Kilchoan on Ardnamurchan. Lovely little campsite in Kilchoan. Ardnamuchan is very nice, some great beaches (Sanna Bay & Singing Sands).
Perthshire and the Trossachs are lovely, but very crowded and over policed at weekends. Further north from there the road through Glencoe is spectacular (the Clachaig Inn just outside the village of Glencoe is a good place to stay) and you could then head up to Fort William and take the fantastic 'Road to the Isles' to Mallaig and catch the ferry to Skye.
From Skye I would head over to Lochcaron and then to Applecross (superb pub and good camping) via the Bealach na Ba pass and go round the Applecross peninsular to Sheildaig. Then through the spectacular Torridon area (good pub at Torridon village) to Kinlochewe (stonking lunches at the Whistle Stop cafe) and on to Gairloch on the Wester Ross Coastal Route. Good food at the Old Inn, Gairloch) Stunning mountain senery on one side- beaches on the other, what's not to like?
From there go up to Ullapool (Ceilidh Place has great food, as does the chippy by the harbour) and continue north to Assynt. Lochinver is the main town here, and the road from there round through Drumbeg is a stonker. You could also go to Achiltibuie if you've got time, it really feels like the end of the world, it's so remote.
Head up the coast to Durness and along the top to Thurso, or down through the middle at Bettyhill to Lairg. The east coast is a very nice run on a god day, but much of Caithness is a bit flat... Into Inverness you could then go south via the Spey Valley, Tomintoul, Braemar and Glen Shee to come out at Perth and then go south from there.
And I haven't even mentioned the islands yet. CalMac do an island hopper ticket which will save you money if you want to visit several islands.
Scotland is an amazing place, we spent a significant amount of time during last year's five-weeks-through-the-UK-trip in Scotland.
The area north of Ullapool is very nice indeed. If you're into camping there's a very beautiful and cheap (10 pounds per night for tent + 2 people) campsite in Thurso, right at the cliffs with an awesome view over the sea Northwards. There are also several good places for wild camping along the western coast, some right at the beach and well hidden from the road:
Although it has been said before: don't go to John O'Groats. It's a sad sad place and you don't want to go there. We did. We shouldn't have. If you do want to go to the northernmost place in mainland Scotland go to Dunnet Head, a few miles west of John O'Groats. There's nothing there except for a lighthouse and some (ok, lots of) sheep but it's the actual northernmost place you can drive to on the main island.
The Orkneys are also interesting, but probably less so than the Hebrides. The Shetlands are very interesting, too, but you'd have to take a rather expensive overnight ferry from Kirkwall (Orkneys) or Aberdeen. But it's worth it if you have the time and money:
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, leaking oil, shouting GERONIMO!"
A couple of years ago some friends and I spent a week going around the coast of Scotland. If you check out the link below you will get an idea of our route. On some of the pages there are addresses in which to stay. We often talk about that trip, and all agree it was the best trip we have made together.
Lots of good advice on here so far. I would recommend you take a ferry out to the Hebrides, or Western Isles. The Isle of Harris is really pretty with mountains and some spectacular beaches. Lots of wild camping spots too.
Its all pretty good and great roads everywhere but the best bit of advice I could offer you is to watch the weather like a hawk. The west of Scotland is no place to get trapped for 2 - 3 days if the weather is grim. Some of the west coast islands are the places to head to but only if the weather is good. Use your own lap top or visit the tourist information offices to get accurate weather forecasts off of BBC weather or other web based weather system. The weather is often warm and sunny in the east whilst it's bucketing with rain on the west coast.
You could use a place like Inverness as a more permanent base and tour to the west coast from there and return again each evening. You can get one fine day and the next terrible on the west coast so nipping over on the good days is not such a bad plan as its means you could avoid getting caught in 2 days torrential rain. July/August is no guarantee of good weather.
I've just come back from a 10 day trip taking in highlights
* Applecross peninsula round from Lochcarron over Bealach na Ba to Loch Torridon. Stay at the famous Applecross Inn - or at least eat there; Pub of the Year 2008,9
* Ullapool - Durness via the tiny beautiful B869 coast road from Lochinver and detour to the Stoer lighthouse on the Minch
* Outer Hebrides (ferries Ullapool-Stornoway, Tarbert-Uig,Skye), especially the Harris Gold Road loop
* Isle of Skye loop over the NE tip, Elgol to view the Cuillins
* Isle of Mull W Coast road from Tobermory, Calgary to Iona. As mentioned above, wonderful Fidden camping next to the sea at Fionnphort. Iona monastery, only if you love crowds - but do not miss the boat trip to Fingal's Cave on Staffa Island.
Getting excited reading this thread, will be up northern scotland some time in the summer, i love the place! great photo's on here plus good advice too, first went up to john o groats 20 years ago and never felt the need to go back, too many other far better places to go than there.
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