So after Loch Ness and Ben Nevis, we were pretty sure the A82 road couldn’t deliver anymore of the goods. Oh, weren’t we wrong!
After leaving the Aonach Mor and their breathtaking gondola rides, we kept on driving until we reached the area of Glencoe. So, before I purge out every possible descriptive word known to men to describe the Glencoe area, let me just say – if there is one place you go to in Scotland, one single place – make it Glencoe. Don’t get me wrong, the entire Highlands are beautiful but Glencoe is just the most glorious bit of country we covered in the UK. So glorious in fact, that we had to stop and get out of the car four times in the space of half an hour. It was just that damn impressive.
Unfortunately, I don’t have many photos to back up my claims. But in all honesty, no photo will do Glencoe justice. You just have to witness it yourself to understand why words and photos aren’t enough to grasp the incredible landscape.
We passed through this part of the Highlands far too quickly despite all the stops we made. Before we knew it we had left Glencoe far behind and were approaching Loch Lomond. It was starting to get dark and we had been so sidetracked by our massive day that we had forgotten to book accommodation.
Luckily, the B&B scene was popping around Loch Lomond and a little old lady took us in for the night. She recommended dinner by the waterfront, which was superb. I think my eyes are starting to hurt from all the magnificent scenery that I’ve witnessed today. It has been seriously impressive.
Sleep came easy to us, being worn out from our huuuuge day in the Highlands. It was definitely short and sweet, but it was worth every second. I’m going to put it out there, best day on the road trip. No contest, at all. The only thing that would have made this day the best ever on record, would be if I had seen some Highland Cows. I can’t believe I didn’t see a single one. And I can’t believe how much time I spent glued to the window hoping to spot one! I guess I will just have to return. Bummer :p
Tomorrow we’re off to Northen Ireland! Ticking off another new country!
In my true family fashion, we were jam-packing our days to the absolute last second. After we’d ticked off Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, we were speeding towards the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis.
Ben, of course, had been looming over us for awhile now but as we got closer, the colossal size of him and his mountain-y friends was beginning to overwhelm me. Standing at 1,344 metres above sea level, Ben is the peak of the Scottish Highlands.
We hadn’t intended to stop in at Ben, due to time restrictions but had spotted a sign for a gondola going up Aonach Mor, one of the mountains in the Ben Nevis range. Thinking we couldn’t pass the big fella without getting up amongst the clouds, we paid our money and jumped in the gondola and watched the people below us get smaller and smaller.
We scored an excellent day. The wind dropped as we reached the top of Aonach Mor and the fluffy clouds looked cartoon like against the perfect blue sky. We had even timed it perfectly so that the large group before us were heading back down as we walked off the gondola. There was a walking track which took you out to a higher peak on the mountain. Mum and I fast-tracked to the top point where the landscape made our jaws drop to the rocky ground. We could not only clearly see Ben Nevis and the Great Glen but the clear skies gave us a view spanning for miles. I know I say this a fair bit, but this was hands down, one of the best views I’ve ever seen.
Mum and I were the only two up here and it felt like we were on top of the world. The air tasted fresher and it made you feel pretty damn lucky that you are alive. We stayed up there for awhile, in awe of the view until other people started to come along. Heading into the cafeteria, we grabbed a bottle of water and jumped back in the gondola towards lower ground.
We met Dad down at the bottom, stoked with what we had just experienced. I would have to say this has one of the best things I have done, thank God we decided to stop in!
We jumped back in the car and said goodbye to Ben and his hilly friends as we delved further down the A82.
Unbelievably, I’m not even finished my day of driving through the Highlands. Read on to see how we dealt with witnessing the most extraordinary places on Earth.
Heyoo – Due to the last couple of weeks being an absolute blur, I’m a bit behind in my stories. I’m back home in Australia now, but am telling them as if I was still up to date with my travels. J.x
We left Newtonmore and headed up to Inverness which we would bypass completely and head down one of the greatest driving roads known to man, the A82.
The A82 is the road to drive down if you’re going from Inverness to Glasgow. Not only does it take you past Loch Ness, Loch Lomond and Ben Nevis. It winds you through the incredible Scottish landscapes, from the dark black lochs to the mountainous range in the Highlands.
We started our drive and before we knew it, the deep dark waters of Loch Ness were beside us. I always assumed Loch Ness was just a big lake that you could walk around, but its actually bloody massive! We drove along for a good half an hour before pulling up for a coffee break. The water is jet black and apparently super deep, with its deepest point coming in at 230 metres. You could probably get to China from there! :p
Of course, the most famous aspect to Loch Ness is the elusive Loch Ness Monster. There have been many searches for old Nessie but is now regarded as a modern day myth. Nonetheless, the area surrounding Loch Ness sure market Nessie impressively. There are Nessie ciders, shirts, and even a Loch Ness Discovery Centre known as Nessieland. We skipped past it and headed towards Urquhart Castle, who stands grandly on the edge of Loch Ness.
The castle dates back to the 13th century and was mainly used as a royal residence. However due to many raids, the castle was abandoned in the 17th century until it was opened to the public in the 20th century. It is one of the most visited castles in Scotland, due to its beautiful location and remarkably well kept ruins.
We jumped back in the car continued down the A82 until we reached the end of Loch Ness. Though our view wasn’t about to take a turn for the worse, as soon as Loch Ness finished, we were blessed with several other Lochs, including Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. The dark, still water contrasting against the mountains topped with fog were anything but an eyesore. This part of Scotland was just too good lookin’ for words.
While we didn’t find Nessie (though I swear I saw ripples!), the beautiful scenery kept up spirits high. We had only covered a part of the A82, but I was eager to see where the rest of the road took us.
Keep reading for what the rest of the Highlands brings us!
We left Irene’s with a mission to fit in as much as we could for the day. First cab off the rank was the Buller’s of Buchan, which was v. v. exciting, as there are about three things in this world named after our last name Buchan. In Scotland however, it is lovely because we don’t have to spell out our last name all the time and its always pronounced correctly! Perks of having a Scottish heritage! What we didn’t realise is that there is an entire Buchan coastal route of the North-Eastern coast of Scotland, AND a bus line named after us… We were thrilled!
We followed our coastal road (yep I’m claiming it as my own) until we reached the spot where the Buller’s were supposed to be. There was a small car park and two tracks leading off in different direction so we took a punt and went for the one heading to the waters edge. It was about a five-minute walk to the edge and we were in awe of the rocky, cliff-faced coastline. The bright green grass contrasting with the dark brown cliffs were dramatic and sheer. It was surprisingly quiet though. There wasn’t much wind and the water was almost still. I had expected rough waters thrashing up again the cliffs but the quietness was somewhat peaceful.
The Buller’s of Buchan refer to the collapsed sea cave and the adjacent village. It’s a pretty impressive bit of rock formation and also home to various kinds of seabirds, including puffins, fulmars and kittiwakes. I was hoping to see a puffin but unfortunately we were there at the wrong time of the year. We walked along the coastline a bit, taking the token photos with ‘our’ Buller’s before jumping back in the car to our next stop, the Pitmedden Gardens.
The Pitmedden Gardens were about a 45 minute drive from the Buller’s, and we reached them in time for a light lunch before exploring the gardens. Shared a delicious sweet potato and coconut soup and a dang good Malteser Slice. We headed out into the gardens and was severely impressed by the detail and design in these flawless renaissance gardens. Dating back to 1675, the gardens were inspired by Charles’ II garden at Holyrood House in Edinburgh.
Now owned by the National Trust, the grounds of Pitmedden are impeccably maintained and open to the public all year round. I was particularly impressed with the geometric designs and the brightly coloured snapdragon flowers. Reminded me of my grandmas old house where I used to play with the snapdragon flowers.
We jumped back in the car and drove towards our next stop – the Craigevar Castle. This castle stuck out to us due to pink colour and fairytale-esque looking design. Still in Aberdeenshire, we reached Craigevar in about an hour and rushed down the leafy, tree lined path until we reached the castle. Delighted that it actually was a light pink, we waited for the guided tour to start in the only way we knew how. By taking many, many photos of the castle!
Our tour guide was a young girl who knew so much about the history of Craigevar and the surrounding towns. The castle has stood like it is today since 1626. It was a family residence for over 350 years until it was handed over to the National Trust in 1963 and has been a delight for tourists to discover in Scotland ever since.
After the castle we jumped back in the car and winded through the bendy and hairpin-filled roads until we reached our perch for the night. We had literally closed our eyes and pointed some on the map and landed on the popular little town of Newtonmore. We were staying at the Balavil Hotel, which served a rather scrumptious chocolate cake. The town stretched out along the main road and seemed to be popular with hikers and outdoorsy folk. Unfortunately we were flying through, so we barely got a chance to experience this cute little village.
Tomorrow morning we are off to find the Loch Ness Monster! Hope she’s feeling friendly!
Ahh Edinburgh, the big old grey city with a wealth of history and a rich Scottish culture. I know cities tend to just be the same, but there’s just something about Edinburgh that makes it unique. It might have something to do with the huge castle plonked on top of the hill overlooking the city, I don’t know :p We arrived into Edinburgh after a reasonably short drive from the Lake District. It was exciting crossing over into Scotland – a first for me! We even stopped on the side of the highway and snapped a selfie with the ‘Welcome to Scotland’ sign. It was about 5pm once we reached our accommodation for the night, which was an apartment just five minutes from the Old Town. They were called Holistic Apartments and they were lovely on the inside, but the outside wasn’t exactly what you would call ‘holistic’. But with a double bed and a washing machine, it was all we needed.
After settling in we drove into the Old Town and walked up the Royal Mile to check out the Edinburgh Castle. The sun was settling past the big old grey buildings, which created a golden light over the ancient castle. The cobblestone streets glowed golden and the distant sound of bagpipes made the Scottish capital morph from the harsh, cold city into a beautiful old style town.
The Royal Mile was buzzing with people and the search for a dinner spot was difficult as most restaurants were filled up with people. We eventually settled on the No. 1 High Street Bar, which served lovely fish and chips. Mum and I also dared to try the unappealing haggis, which I must admit was actually not that bad. But maybe that’s because it was served as a mince with mashed potato. If you just pretended it was regular mince, you could almost call it delicious. We headed back to our apartment to do some more washing and research of what to do the following day. We woke the next morning to fog as thick as pea soup. Despite not being able to see twenty metres ahead, we got organised and set out for the morning’s activity, hiking to Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is the highest peak in Holyrood Park. It peaks at 250m above sea level, which gives you a fantastic panoramic view of Edinburgh. Or at least, that’s what I hear. Mum and I took on the mountain despite the heavy fog; in hopes of the sun deciding to appear once we reached the top. In typical blonde fashion, we decided to take the steep track up because it looked shorter. However with the fog making seeing any further than 20 metres ahead impossible and our total lack of knowledge on where to walk, Mum and I ended up taking the longest route possible. We reached what we thought was the Seat, however it was actually the highest point. Not satisfied, we continued walking and reached a crossroads with absolutely no idea which one to take. There are no signs on this hill, at all!
We asked a fellow walker and he pointed us in the direction of the steepest route, typical! We hauled ourselves up the many stairs, pausing to catch out breath and look out into the thick fog for a possibility of seeing the city below us but no luck. We continued on until we reached the actual Arthurs Seat. I’m sure the view would have been fantastic, but we could only see grey, thick fog.
Breathless, sweaty and tired, we headed back down the hill to find that we had taken the longest route possible, and could have been at the top within half and hour. Ahh well, the cardio was good for us!
We got back to our apartment and quickly showered and packed up in time for check out. Our first point of call was our course, coffee, as well a dirty big cream cake for Mumma Bear as a reward for climbing the mountain 😛 After coffee, we walked up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle where we handed over our 18£ to walk through the old castle.
Edinburgh Castle has believed to be on Castle Rock since the reign of David I in the 12th century. It was used as a royal residence until the 15th century when it was used at military barracks. The castle has had a pretty rough life, but today it serves mainly as a tourist attraction and the home to the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo. We spent over an hour walking through the castle, learning about the history and marvelling at how intact it was. We were treated to a hilarious history lesson in the Great Hall by a Scot in a kilt, who threatened to reveal the truth behind the ‘what do they wear under the kilt’ mystery!
As usual, time was escaping us and we had places to be. We headed back to the car and navigated our way out of the city centre, not before launching ourselves onto a tram line and bus and taxi only zone! Getting out of Edinburgh didn’t take long and before we knew it, we were back to zooming past green paddocks and cute little towns.
Our next stop for the night is Anstruther, a small fishing village before climbing up to the top of Scotland towards Aberdeen! J. x