When we reached the border between England and Scotland we were suddenly surrounded in misty fog. Remarkably, within 2 minutes the fog completely disappeared and it looked like a perfect summer’s day – it was almost like Scotland was trying to put-off the English from venturing into their territory.
We made a slight detour to visit Culzean Castle and Country Park (a National Trust savings of £34). We had a quick walk through the castle itself but spent most of our time enjoying the sunshine and extensive grounds. It was a one-stop shop with the coastal path, forest trail, lake, gardens and farm.
Our next destination was our one-night stopover in Glasgow. We didn’t know what to expect and hadn’t really researched what to do… with only a few hours to check the place out, we decided to go for a walk around the city. It took us two hours to complete a loop of the centre, stopping at various points of interest. Glasgow was noticeably a student city with several universities. There were also lots of old buildings, plenty of street art, parks and a river with more than twenty bridges … and the best part, not many tourists! In our short time, we were pleasantly surprised.
Escaping traffic, by leaving early in the morning (and also on a Saturday) we headed for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. We pulled into the Conic Hill carpark just before 9am which was still relatively empty (we’d heard this free carpark gets hectic). It was also a perfect time of the day to go on a hike to the summit. Although it did get a bit chilly and windy near the top. The scenery was spectacular!
On the way down, the track started to get uncomfortably packed and we were very glad we started the hike at 9am rather than 11am like everyone else…
The hike took us a bit longer than expected and when we checked the time, we realised the All Blacks were only minutes away from kicking off their first game for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Luckily, we had mobile coverage from the summit so we shared our support before making our decent. Unfortunately, nowhere in the village was playing the game, but we were informed that the town down the road would have a pub showing it …so we gave up our then prime park (definitely come early if you ever visit Loch Lomond) and drove back to Drymen. We ended up having lunch and watching the last 20 minutes of the game in (arguably) the oldest licensed pub in Scotland, ‘The Clachan Inn,’ established in 1734.
Our next destination was a two-night stay in a castle! We’d found this unique stay on airbnb and had organised our UK road trip around its availability. The Knockderry Castle is located on the Rosneath peninsular, overlooking Loch Long, in the Argyll and Bute region. Our host gave us a quick history on the castle during our check in; the historic house was built on the site of an old Viking fortress and has many guests including the French president Charles de Gaulle. Our host also informed us that our bedroom had been slept in by one of the Kings of Norway during their visit to the area. We had a relaxing couple of days, playing Kings and Queens.
We checked-out of our castle and were on the road by 7am, headed for Glenfinnan (160kms drive – estimated 2 hours 40 minutes of travelling). The roads were single lane for some stretches but incredibly scenic. At the start of the trip we enjoyed the loch by early morning light/fog and further into the drive we couldn’t resist pulling over several times to photograph the valleys and lakes.
We arrived at the Glenfinnan National Trust carpark at 10am, managing to take one of the last available car spaces (our membership also covered the £3 parking fee). The big attraction to this area is the Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct, the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland (380m) opened in 1901, mostly made famous by the Harry Potter films. We had planned our visit for the passing of the Jacobite steam train (aka: The Hogwarts Express) at 10:50am. With more than enough time to spare we treated ourselves to a hot drink from the café before finding our way to the vantage point to take our photos.
After the two-minute show, we made our way back to the carpark, where we explored the Glenfinnan Memorial, and then the National Trust visitor centre, which had an exhibition about the Highlander Rising and some cute souvenirs.
We then continued our journey onto Mallaig where we crossed the channel to Armadale (southern village on the Isle of Skye – not the suburb in Perth) via the ferry. The 30-minute crossing was a good opportunity to stretch the legs and enjoy the views from the water.
The ferry crossing saved us about an hour (but making it 2 hours less driving). We had a quick supply stop in Broadford before heading to our next airbnb. At one stage we found our car surrounded by cows on the road.
We arrived at our countryside cabin on the northern tip of the Isle of Skye and were blown away by the views from every window (including highland cow neighbours). We were glad we’d booked a 3-night stay in this stunning location.
We were also super close to many of the places we wanted to explore. The next morning, we were pleasantly surprised to wake up to a lovely sunny day (when most of the UK was forecast for stormy weather). We headed off in search of fairies… 8 miles drive from our accommodation was Fairy Glen. We had a fun morning wandering around this hilly landscape.
Next, we drove around to another nearby scenic spot, ‘The Quiraing’. When we parked on the edge of this incredible ridge line created by a large landslide, it was clear we’d found a magical place. Without walking the entire track, we managed to capture some amazing photographs.
In the evening we went for a walk around the paddocks near our cabin and watched another pretty sunset.
The next morning was a bit more overcast (but still better than expected). We decided to go walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs! We’d heard that the beach down our road has a collection of dinosaurs foot prints (only discovered in 2015) in the rocks which can be found at low tide. It didn’t take us too long to locate the prints which looked both like round rock pools and hyporelief mounds.
After our morning of palaeontology, we decided to go for a bit of a drive to check out Coral Beach (on the western peninsular), one of Scotland’s best beaches. It was a shore of colour contrasts, with the black basalt stones and white coral sands (but also the many different seaweed colours too). We took it all in with a picnic lunch and then enjoyed a walk along the coast.
Then Kadin decided to go for his mandatory Scotland swim… everyone else dressed up in their coats and woollies watched on. Straight after Kadin’s quick dip, the rain and wind set in. We drove back to our place and enjoyed a cosy night in front of our log fire.
The next morning, (check-out day) we awoke to the sound of rain. We managed to pack the car during a break in the weather and then drove along the northern coast, stopping at Mealt Falls viewpoint. Again, we waited for a break in the rain before venturing out to see the view.
We had intended to do the ‘Old Man of Storr’ walk on way to our next airbnb but got rained off! A bit disappointing, but we were still feeling pretty stoked with everything we managed to do around Skye and our luck with the weather for most of our stay. Instead we continued our drive towards Inverness, pulling over from time-to-time to take in the scenery. Including a brief stop for a walk (at Lochalsh Woodlands), and later, we (successfully) tried to spot the Loch Ness Monster.
Have fun at work!