This is just a portion of our overall roadtrip across Denmark, Norway, and Scotland, so we are going to break it down by country. Here is the lineup for Scotland:
Day 1: Glasgow - arrived by Train
Day 2: Oban
Day 3: Ben Nevis (stop in Glen Etive)
Day 4: Isle of Skye (stop at Glenfinnanen Viadcut)
Day 5: Isle of Skye
Day 6: Isle of Skye - Shieldag
Day 7: Inverness - Grantown-on-Spey
Day 8: Castles - Aberdeen - Inverbervie
Day 9: St. Andrews
Day 10: Edinburgh
Day 11: Glasgow - fly home
What we packed:
Checked bag - Camping/hiking gear
Checked bag - Clothes/toiletries
Carry-on bag - Camera backpack
Carry-on bag - Hiking backpack
Total drive time: 0h
Accommodations: Clyde Hostel
We arrived to Glasgow from Liverpool, after attending The Open golf tournament for Saturday's 3rd Round. Once we arrived to Glasgow we decided to venture out to find a spot to watch the final round of golf. We found a nearby pub called O'Neills, which had a projector screen with golf on, nothing memorable about the pub itself. Then we went to dinner at a nice place called The Butchershop, which had excellent food. The hostel was not a good stay; find something else.
Total drive time: 2h 40m
Route: Glasgow - Oban - Benderloch
Accommodations: Seaview Caravan and Camping Park
The day began with picking up a rental car and heading northwest to Oban, a 2.5 hour drive. A little over halfway, there is a decent place for lunch in Tyndrum called The Real Food Cafe. Once you arrive in Oban, you can just find a place to park and walk the town. We began with a tour of the Oban Distillery. The tour is £10 per person, and is a good deal if you are interested in observing the process. You get a sample shot at the end of the tour, and you keep the glass it comes in. In addition, you get a coupon for a discount off any whiskey purchase at their store. If you plan to visit other distillery's in Scotland, there is a coupon book you can take with you. Walk the pier for sight-seeing, and find some fresh seafood. Atop the city is McCaig's Tower, which appears to be the crown of the city. You can walk to the top of the hill to get there, or just drive. The views are nice. We had appetisers at Ee Usk before heading to our campsite for the night. Just north of the city is a nice campground called Seaview Camping Park. Great staff, great sites, and a walking trail to the beach.
Total drive time: 3h
Route: Benderloch - Glen Etive - Fort William
Accommodations: Glen Nevis Caravan & Camping Park
On our way from Oban to Fort William, we ventured off to the place of the iconic scene from Skyfall. It is a scenic drive back into the valley. Here is the exact location via Google Maps.
Next, we headed towards the base of Ben Nevis and prepped for the hike to Scotland's highest peak. This hike is on the easier side (steep, but easy), in fact local athletes run to the top and back down for exercise. Average-paced hikers can expect this full hike to take about 6 hours; about 3 hours and 45 minutes to reach the top and 2 hours and 15 minutes to get back down. The first 2 hours of this hike are great, it is somewhat slow and steady inclines with great views, and even a lake. The latter half of the hike is a steep climb on loose rocks. No cliffs to deal with, but be mindful of your ankles. As we approached the top, it became windy and the clouds engulfed us for a moment. This hike was difficult for us because we were running out of gas from our trip. There were multiple occasions where we wanted to turn around and go back to the bottom, but it is worth getting to the top, especially if you're there on a clear day. When we reached the bottom, we went to the Ben Nevis campground to stay for the night. Here, is where we found out about MIDGES - Scotland's version of a mosquito. They are much smaller and come in larger numbers. If you plan to camp in the Highlands of Scotland, it is advised that you get some repellent.
Total drive time: 3h 30 m
Route: Fort William - Glenfinnanen Viaduct - Portree
Accommodations: Torvaig Caravan & Camp Site
After camping at the base of Ben Nevis (Ben Nevis Self Catering Park), we drove towards Fort William. You Harry Potter fans are on your way to the magical bridge. There IS a parking lot along the road, with a coffee shop. This is paid parking and allows you to take the 10 minute walk up a small trail and be able to view the bridge. However, this view is a letdown. If you head north just a little bit more there is another parking lot with free parking, and you'll get out for a 10-15 minute walk towards the bridge. If you google images of this bridge, you'll see quite a few angles, but the best one resembles what you see in the movies; back behind the bridge overlooking the valley. To get here, follow the paved road/trail until you're underneath the bridge. You'll take a right and still be walking beneath the bridge and see a boggy hill that you can walk through to get the image below. We didn't see a steam engine roll through but you might!
We used the remainder of the day to continue our travels up to Portree in the Isle of Skye. Portree serves as a great home-base for exploring the Isle. We stayed just a few minutes drive north of the city at Torvaig Caravan & Camp Site. This is a well maintained campsite with great owners. Showers and laundry available.
Total drive time: 2h
Route: Portree - Fairy Pools - Talisker Distillery - Dunvegan Castle - Portree
Accommodations: Torvaig Caravan & Camp Site
The Old Man of Storr! Just north of Portree you'll see a place to park for the mile-long hike up the hill towards the vertical rock formations, with the Old Man of Storr being the most notable. As we approached the base, the wind was so extreme we could hardly stand! It was unreal. Something we hadn't experienced before. You'll likely get here on a better day. It is an easy trek that just entails a steady incline.
Next we worked our way back towards the Fairy Pools. This is a small stream coming from hills that has some unique formations built into it, primarily a few spots where the riverbed is shaped like a big round hot tub. I don't believe anyone gets into the water, but it is a nice, easy walk along the water with the hills surrounding.
Continue to head west towards Dunvegan Castle, which is tucked along the shores of a bay on the western coast of the Isle of Skye. This castle is very well kepted, and has a great variety of gardens and short walking trails to stroll. Admission is €12/adult. Inside the castle you'll some unique artifacts as well. Overall, we find most castles to be interesting to attend, and this one is worth seeing if you are in the area.
Next, we headed back to Portree for dinner and back to our campsite.
Total drive time: 4h 15m
Route: Portree - Quiraing - Fairy Glen - Plockton - Shieldag
Accommodations: Shieldag Camping Area
Waking up early in Portree, we have just one more place to visit prior to leaving town, and that is the Quiraing area north of Portree. This can easily be paired with the Old Man of Storr as a day trip. Park at the base of Quiraing, where you'll likely see other cars parked, or a small coffee shop as an indicator as to where you'll park. This was one of our favorite short hikes, as it resembles (in our eyes) something out of Lord of The Rings. The hike is easy, with a small incline and no drop-offs. The trail will take you back into the hills between the steep foggy peaks as you approach Mordor (if only!). As you've likely realized by this point, the weather in Scotland changes every 20 minutes, so we experienced some intermittent rain. This is an extremely unique place that is definitely worth seeing.
Next, we went to the Fairy Glens, which is also efficiently routed had you began with Old Man of Storr, then Quiraing, then Fairy Glens. These are small, unique landscapes that seem to swirl up like ice cream cones. There are a few plateaus you can get to the top of, but we remained on the ground and simply walked through a few areas of the glens. Nothing too dramatic here, but being that you are likely passing through, this is worth a short stop.
Next we depart Isle of Skye to get back to the main island and continue heading towards northern Scotland. We've picked a spot to camp in Shieldaig along the way, which will serve as a break from the hiking as we continue towards Inverness. If you want to continue heading northeast towards Inverness, you'll have the option to not detour towards Shieldaig while on your way to Inverness. On our way to Shieldaig we stopped in Plockton, which is a small town on the shore. As with all of the shore towns we visited, this was similar in that it is a small town within a bay and has a quiet laid-back culture. We primarily used these stops as rest areas for breaks from driving.
Continue to Shieldaig, where you'll find a small quiet town with one bar/restaurant to hang out at for the night. We stopped here for dinner and had our first Haggis (you gotta try it at some point during your stay in Scotland!). We left briefly to setup our tent at the campsite, which is an honor system plot of land just above the bar (easily accessed with a 5 minute walk). We went back to the bar to hang out for the night and mingle with the locals and get a better feel for the culture (and accents!).
Total drive time: 3h 15m
Route: Shieldag - Torridon - Inverness - Grantown-on-Spey
Accommodations: Grantown-on-Spey Caravan Park
Heading north towards Inverness, we took in the scenery along the way. Some cool harbours and always a joy to drive anywhere through Scotland. At our destination, Inverness, we parked the car downtown and walked around for lunch. We found a paved trail that goes up the canal and comes back on the other side, so we took that little stroll to stretch the legs. Overall, Inverness didn't have much to offer, but was a stopping point as we trekked further north along the western shore towards the site of the Lochness Monster. We explored the area, and of course, DID NOT see Nessy :). But the vibe around this old tale is still going strong. We stopped at a restaurant that had good reviews, The Dores Inn. Our food was sub-par, perhaps just an off night or we selected the wrong menu item; we'd still give it another try.
To conclude our day, we headed east towards Grantown-on-Spey to setup camp. This is at the northern edge of Cairngorms National Park, and was a great spot to stay until we went into the park the following day.
Total drive time: 3h 45m
Route: Grantown-on-Spey - Balmoral Castle - Braemar - Aberdeen - Stonehaven - Inverbervie
Accommodations: Inverbervie Caravan Park
Next we went through the Caringorms, exploring multiple castles along the way. The primary spot to visit is Balmoral Castle, vacation home of the Royal Family! This was honestly the coolest, most well-kept castle grounds we've ever visited. They have it all, including the family history, so it is great to experience the life of royalty if only for a few hours.
Continue heading southeast towards the coast and you'll see Dunnottar Castle. This is one of the true island cliff castles. We arrived as sunset approached, and we must say the views turned out much better than the pictures.
Total drive time: 1h 30m
Route: Inverbervie - St. Andrews
Accommodations: 34 Argyle Street Guest House
We woke the next day with plans to head to St. Andrews. The original plan was to get there as early as possible so that Derek could get his name on the list to hopefully play the Old Course that day. The local advice is that you arrive to the course around 5:30am and get your name on the waiting list and hope that there are cancellations. We didn't have the ambition to get there by 5:30, so we pushed it off a bit and didn't arrive to the course until 10:30am. We still put Derek's name down as an alternate in the queue, but did not expect to play. As time passed, it became more of a possibility, and by 1:30pm, it was certain that I would get to play. With the 2:20pm tee time, I joined a group of three other players and got to play the Old Course at St. Andrews. What an experience! Our day ended up being dedicated towards golf, but we went out for drinks afterwards and explored the town of St. Andrews.
We absolutely loved St. Andrews. It is hard to describe why, but it just felt so welcoming, we'll go back any chance we get.
St. Andrews also has some history, and we visited the remains of a church just on the south-end of town.
Our B&B was, to this day, the highest quality B&B we've ever stayed at. 5-Star amenities. The hosts are extremely welcoming, they offer great advice and prepared a delicious breakfast the next day. When we go back to St. Andrews, we intend to stay with them again.
Total drive time: 1h 30m
Route: St. Andrews - Edinburgh
We made our way to Edinburgh with the intentions of enjoying a night out in a larger city. We found our Aibnb and took the bus to the city centre. We walked the Royal Mile and went to Edinburgh Castle. This castle is well worth a visit if it is your first time to the city. You can spend a couple of hours here easily. After the castle, we were wiped. We knew it was the last day of our month long road trip, so we grabbed dinner and headed back to our Airbnb. Dinner was at a lovely Thai place that came from Hugh and Barbara (the owners of 34 Argyle Street in St. Andrews). Chaophraya, has a rooftop eatery and great food!
Total drive time: 1h 15m
Route: Edinburgh - Glasgow
Our flight home was out of Glasgow, so we made the short drive from Edinburgh. Before heading to the airport we stopped at The Necropolis and Glasgow Cathedral. The history here is really remarkable and just look at that cathedral!