I've just been on a road trip to the west coast of Scotland with my friend Karen who was visiting from London, and we were blessed with some beautiful weather......Scotland delivered.
We drove 620 miles in 4 days, often on single track roads, to see lochs, castles, wildlife, knitting shops, waterfalls and beaches. We set off from Dundee and drove to Glencoe via Loch Earn. We ate lunch beside a lochan on Rannoch Moor before heading down through Glencoe and on to Eilean Donan Castle (used in the film Highlander) and onto our first B&B at Balmacara Square on the Kyle of Lochalsh. We went to the beautiful village of Plockton (where they filmed Hamish McBeth) for dinner at the Plockton Hotel.
View from Glen Spean
Eilean Donan Castle.....Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh
Highland traffic jam, Duirnish, Kyle of Lochalsh - on our way to dinner at Plockton
Plockton at dusk
The next day we drove across the Skye Bridge and spent the day touring the island. We started in Glen Brittle with a walk to the wonderful Fairy Pools, a series of cascading waterfalls coming off the Cuillin Hills and down Glen Brittle. The water is crystal clear, the water is chilly, but it looks like an amazing place for some outdoor swimming.
After the Fairy Pools we headed off round the island, stopping at various places en route. This included the knitting shop at the end of the world (at least that's how it felt), Shilasdair, an amazing place with beautifully dyed wools. We bought some luxury DK made with alpaca, merino, cashmere and baby camel...
Shilsadair, Haillin, Waternish, Skye
Looking back to the Quirang, Skye - a magical area formed moving geology - with buttresses, cliffs and pinnacles.
We spent the night at the beautiful Tigh an Dochas, a 5-star B&B at Broadford on Skye. It was an amazing place to spend the night - modern, beautifully designed by Skye based architects, Dualchas, and with fantastic views from the guest lounge and the deck outside the rooms. Breakfast was amazing - a huge choice - fresh raspberries, strawberries and blueberries with greek yoghurt, homemade blueberry and pine nut muffins, smoked salmon and oatcakes, porridge, full cooked breakfast using local produce, kippers, scrambled egg....we certainly didn't need to eat until dinner!
Day 3 saw us taking the ferry from Armadale on Skye to Mallaig on the mainland. The views of Skye and the small isles (Rum and Eigg) as well as the coastline north of Mallaig were amazing.
We headed out of Mallaig and took the coastal road towards Fort William (often called the Road to the Isles, except we were leaving the isles) and stopped at a number of beaches between Morar and Arisaig, called the White Sands of Morar (where they filmed parts of Local Hero). It was absolutely glorious, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the water crystal clear and the sand so white. I took my annual dip in the sea (the Scottish sea that is) near Morar and you would be forgiven for thinking you were in the Mediterranean that day.
Beach at Morar
Me in the sea at the beautiful Sands of Morar.
And that's me swimming in the sea - beautiful, invigorating and FREEZING!
After swimming and lunch in the sun on the beach we continued our drive along the road to Fort William, passing the Glenfinnan Viaduct (made famous in Harry Potter films) just in time to catch the Hogwarts Express (steam train journeys available twice a day from Fort William to Mallaig) crossing the bridge.
Hogwarts Express on the Glenfinnan Viaduct
We then headed south towards Oban and Lochgilphead. We were staying in another lovely B&B called Skookum House in the small village of Kilmichael Glassery so we could spend the next day visiting the prehistoric and historic sites that dot the landscape of Kilmartin.
That evening we had dinner at the Cairnbaan Hotel on the side of the Crinan Canal (a 9 mile section of canal that allowed sailors to avoid sailing round the treacherous Mull of Kintryre) and then headed to Crinan for sunset views - and we were not disappointed!
Sunset at Crinan Harbour
Sunset at Crinan
The next morning we visited Dunadd Fort, perhaps the birthplace of Scotland as we know it - the capital of Dalriada...before heading to the Kilmartin House Museum to learn about the history of the valley with 150 different archaeological sites from standing stones, to burial cairns, to abandoned croft houses and the hill forts of early Scottish kings - all within about 3 miles of each other and giving a great opportunity "to walk with ghosts" as the museum states.
Standing stones in Kilmartin
It was soon time to head home after a wonderful few days. I hope you've enjoyed the speedy tour of NW Scotland.