- December 22, 2016
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Driving through the Scottish Highlands was just magical. When I think of Scotland, I think lush green mountains, rolling hills, breath-taking landscape and it certainly lived up to the hype. Everyone we interacted with in Scotland was nice and extremely helpful. I have to admit, initially I was very nervous about driving in Scotland because they drive on the left side of the road and I’m not used to it. I wasn’t sure if I’ll be able to do it safely but to my great surprise, it wasn’t so bad. Initially, I had to actively remind myself to drive on the “opposite” side of the road but after a while I got used to it.
From Edinburgh to Isle of Skye
I wanted a scenic and leisurely drive with lots of stops along the way. I was very excited about the drive since I had seen tons of pictures about Scottish Highlands. We started driving early in the morning from Edinburgh and went west on M9 to Stirling, about an hour away. This part of the drive was pretty but nothing too exciting. Since we here hungry we stopped for traditional Scottish breakfast eggs, bacon, baked beans, black pudding, and tea. After a short eating break, we got back on the road toward Tyndrym (A84 to A85 to A82). Now this is where the Scottish Highlands starts to show its true beauty. One of the fist stops we made on the way to Tyndrum was at Loch Earn (I think). Since this was a few months ago, I’m having a hard time remembering the exact name but it was very pretty and peaceful. There was a big, green mountain at the base of the lake and we were the only ones there. On the way to Tyndrum, we saw by the bridge from Harry Potter movies. I didn’t expect to see the bridge so when we came across it, I was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a pull off point near by so I had to keep on driving. By the time we got to Tyndrum, it was time for lunch.
After lunch we continued on A82 to Glencoe. Throughout the drive, you are surrounded by beautiful, lush, green mountains, waterfalls, streams, and lakes. It was overcast the day
we drove through the Highlands but it only rained for a short period of time. Many of the mountain tops were hidden in clouds which made the whole drive more magical. On A82, near Glencoe, there is a beautiful waterfall on the side of the highway. There is a small pull off near the waterfall and it is definitely worth the stop. After walking around the waterfall for a few minutes, it started to rain a little so we ran back to our car and continued on our drive. All along the drive, there are also lots and lots of sheep grazing. All the sheep had a colored patch on them and I have no idea what the colors meant.
From Glencoe we continued on A82 to Fort William, the second largest town in the Highlands. Fort Williams is a cute, picturesque town surrounded by lakes and is close to
Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles. At Fort William visitor center, we decided to go on a short walk. It was a great excuse to stretch our legs and spend more time in the Highlands. Our next stop on A82 was Commando Memorial, dedicated to the men of the original British Commando forces raised during World War II. This memorial overlooks the training area of Commando Training Depot at Achnacarry castle and offers a view of Ben Nevis. When we pulled into the parking lot of the memorial, we were the only ones walking around. For a few minutes we enjoyed the peaceful environment before a big tour bus came along, signaling us to continue our drive north on A82 for about 15 miles before turning on A87.
Our next and last stop on the way to Isle of Skye was Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most recognized and photographed castles in Scotland. It is located on a small rocky island
where Loch Alsh, Loch Duich, and Loch Long meet. The castle was originally built in 13th century for Alexander II as a defense against the Viking. Since then, the castle has been destroyed, re-built and renovated many times until the Jacobite uprising in the 17th and 18th century when the castle was destroyed again. It was not rebuilt or renovated for almost 200 years after that. The castle was rebuilt and renovated in the early 20th century and opened to the public in 1955. By the time we made it to the castle, it was closed so we couldn’t see it from the inside. We walked around the castle, took pictures and continued on our way to Duisdale House Hotel in Isle of Skye.
A drive that was supposed to take about 4:30 hours ended up being almost 8 hours long with all the stops. I wish we could have made longer stops and explored the Highlands more. Maybe next time, I’ll be able to go hiking in Glencoe and Fort William, go biking around Ben Nevis, or maybe I’ll go to different parts of the Scottish Highlands.
From Isle of Skye to Edinburgh
We spent a day and half in Isle of Skye which was not nearly enough. But unfortunately, that’s was all the time we had and we needed to return to Edinburgh. Our drive back to Edinburgh couldn’t include too many stops since we had to return our rental car.
Our first stop was for a little pick me up at Invergarry Hotel after almost an hour and half of driving on A87. The hotel said they had WiFi but like everywhere in Highlands and Skye, the connection was very weak and slow. Since we were in UK, we had to have scones with clotted cream and tea. I can’t believe I spent so many days in UK without having scones with clotted cream. They were light, fluffy, and just perfectly baked. After about half an hour of break, it was time to get back on the road.
Since we were driving through the highlands, we had to stop for a tour of one of the Highlands single malt scotch distilleries and what better option than the highest distillery in Scotland, Dalwhinnie Distillery. We got there before lunch and just before the Whiskey and Chocolate tastings started. The tour guide was very helpful and when he learned that we planned on visiting Lagavulin distillery on Islay he asked us to stick around after the tour ended. He came over and signed us up to become Friends of Classic Malts so we could get the basic tour for free and discounts on our purchase at Lagavulin. Signing up was free and it only took about a minute. Once you become a friend, a basic tour at any distillery owned by Diagio is free.
The Dalwhinnie Whiskey and Chocolate tour ended up being a long break and since we had to return the rental car, we couldn’t really make too many other stops. However, we were lucky enough to see double rainbow on the way back to Edinburgh via Perth. If we had more time, I would have loved to explore Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park on our way back to Edinburgh.
One of the things I would strongly recommend is downloading the entire Scotland map from google since data in Scotland, and especially in Highlands, is terrible. We got sim cards from O2. The service and data were great in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and most cities. Highlands, Islay, and Skye had very dodgy service and downloading the Scotland map was really helpful.
For more photos, please visit my Instagram page: Rupal’s Travel Diaries