This is the time of year that we make plans, resolutions and bucket lists. I’m a big planner and I love having exciting things ahead – there will be a post on my bucket list soon. I’m writing this and a recommendation for your bucket list! I recommend that touring Scotland is something everyone should try. Now, how do I even begin to describe my Scottish road trip?
I spent 4 days and 3 nights with four of my friends driving around Scotland. We figured that we ought to, as we’ve lived in Scotland all our lives and have never been to the ‘top’. Rosie is English but we call her an honourary Scot. We felt that she needs an education on all things Scottish – well, everything besides Scot’s slang, burgers in Glasgow and alcohol (we’ve covered that)!
We bundled into the car at 9am sharp after filling up on rolls ‘n’ square sausage at my house and headed straight for Loch Lomond. Yes, we played the song. We wanted Rosie to experience the bridges of Scotland, and number one was the Erskine Bridge!
Our fast moving start was thwarted. I stalled at a crucial ‘Give Way’ and a bus (which seemed like it was being driven by my grandpa) got in front of us. In my defence, it’s not my car. It’s a man car I borrowed and I’m used to driving my Mini! So we sat behind this bus until we reached Crianlarich. Ditching the 35mph bus we ventured ‘up the way’, past Glencoe and a few other beauty spots until we made it to the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
This photo doesn’t do the view justice – we drove in a huge circle that took us higher and higher uphill and this spot was a picnic area overlooking the valley. It was stunning!
Here is our view of the Glenfinnan Viaduct – the rail ridge to Hogwarts! As a massive Harry Potter fan, I was really excited. Really excited until we exited the car and realised it was MILES away. At least I’ve seen it – albeit from a distance – next time we’ll allow some time for a walk up the river for a closer inspection.
I found this way more exciting than the viaduct itself! Whilst in Glenfinnan we stopped at the Glenfinnan House Hotel for a pit stop AKA some food, use of the loos and running about their field excitedly.
Pâté with Oatcakes and Whitebait with salad and sauces
We then hurtled towards Mallaig to catch the ferry to the Isle of Skye. I drove in to the ferry port, pulled up next to the man in the hi-vis jacket and proudly stated ‘We’re here for the ferry!’ … he looked bemused and everyone in my car started sniggering. Yes, I’m a moron.
A walk around Mallaig while waiting on the ferry lead me to this place. Isn’t it cute?! It looks like it’s a tearoom plucked right out of a Disney forest.
As I drove onto the ferry I saw a sign asking drivers to turn off their alarm, as the motion (of the ocean) can set them off. This amused my friends, as the car made a really annoying musical alert every time we stopped and opened doors. After screaming at the car repeatedly, I phoned the owner of the idiot car who (moaned at me for “messing about with buttons” and) explained how to stop it. I wasn’t about to phone back and ask how to disable the alarm.
We’d barely left the ferry port when the scream of a car alarm echoed through the boat. Everyone looked at me….
It wasn’t me! Hallelujah! And the car behaved the whole way to Skye!
We arrived for our first overnight stay – we stayed in Saucy Mary’s Lodge. Sounds like a brothel, doesn’t it? Saucy Mary is a fan of the sauce (booze). She isn’t a prostitute. You can imagine my relief. Hostels are pretty much a base for the night, nothing fancy. We dumped our stuff and ventured to Portree to see the sights and get some dinner, but unbelievably (to us, everyone else seemed to think this was fair enough) there wasn’t a single table in any restaurants or hotels that night. We enjoyed our view of the harbour and the smell of food oozing from the countless restaurants, yet bundled into the car, hungry.
My friend Caroline and I kept seeing mussels in a marinières sauce on the menus and sighing with hungry desperation. Starving, we made our way home with the hope in our hearts that we’d pass somewhere. We did find somewhere, The Sligachan, and like destiny, they served the biggest bowl of mussels marinières ever. WINNER.
This place fed us and also nearly killed me. They have a playpark which is a big flame to this wee moth. Take my advice kids: don’t wave to the camera when you’re on the flying fox.
I’m so graceful. My friend said I was majestic.
The next day we took the scenic drive to Dunvegan to try out the Three Chimneys Restaurant – my friend Alison has been before and loved it. I’m going to write a full review on the restaurant in my next post!
The next part of the journey was a shift of driving to get us from Kyleakin up to Durness via the north west coast of the country. Bridge number two: The Skye Bridge. It was a beautiful drive – we passed through stunning, lush scenery filled with hills, lochs, a dam…it was amazing. The roads are easy enough to drive, but they shrink and swell between single track and normal roads so you need to be careful and be alert. We stopped in a hotel for some caffeine and it was the land that time forgot. No 3G, no wifi, little understanding of English (and the girl was Scottish) and the place was just ODD. But they sold tea, and that was absolutely necessary!
We arrived in Durness and admired the village. Driving past, we spied some…how do you describe them in proper English? We called them ‘Brownie huts’ so to the average joe that would be cabins? We had a good five minute jolly about how funny it would be if that’s where we were staying.
The joke was on us! The Durness youth hostel was our home for the evening, and I can confidently say this was my favourite night.
I was having too much fun to care that it wasn’t a private room! We stayed in a place called Smoo, which I think is the best place name ever. It’s fun to say! Smooooo!
We acquainted ourselves with the Smoo Cave Hotel and had a beautiful evening meal there. I opted for one of my favourites – ‘Haggis, Neeps & Tatties’ – it was amazing. Rosie enjoyed her first taste of haggis!
We returned to the hut for a few drinks, a few rounds of uno and then a round of Ring of Fire. It was a night that I’ll always cherish. My face hurt the next morning from laughing. We went back to the Smoo Cave Hotel for a full breakfast to set us up for a long day of driving!
Just as we left Smoo/Durness we passed this cove. It was the most beautiful spot. We pulled over and just stood there and enjoyed it.
The next day was a trek along the very top of the country to Dunnet Head which is the most northern point of Scotland. I made a slight error in judgement and took us on a 40 mile detour, but we still made decent time! The views were absolutely stunning.
We moved on to our next destination – the famous John O’Groats. The mileage we covered that day was ridiculous when I think back! From John O’Groats we drove right down to Pitlochry. It was a long drive but with a bit of Celine Dion and then the iPod on shuffle, it’s nothing unbearable!
In Pitlochry we were met by the friendliest chap in all the land who ran the hostel we stayed in. We were shown to our room and after a quick freshening up we were out the door. We needed FOOD. Specifically, Indian food. The Prince of India came highly recommended so we decided to give it a try. It was glorious!
We went back to the hostel for a few drinks, some fun with the pool table and a few guitars. It wasn’t normal behaviour. No. I’m not going to say any more, but here is a photo. You should be aware that I cannot play the guitar.
We met an American and despite my best efforts, he couldn’t pronounce Edinburgh correctly by the time I left him. Why do Americans say Edinburro? He could repeat ‘Edin’ and then ‘burruh’ but couldn’t say ‘Edinburgh’.
The next day was home time! From Pitlochry we drove to St Andrews (via the Tay Bridge) to play on the beach. Some may say it’s just a beach, but it’s a beautiful beach. Especially when you’ve got a bit of a hangover, your wellies on and are splashing around with your friends, forgetting that you all have jobs, bills and responsibilities. It’s good for the soul!
We moved on to Anstruther to try the famous fish ‘n’ chip shop, The Anstruther Fish Bar. I don’t do negative reviews so I won’t harp on, but it’s totally overrated and not worth the 45 minute wait. It’s not horrible, but you get quicker and friendlier service and cheaper, tastier food almost anywhere else. We bundled into the car for the last time, crossed our final bridge, the Forth Road Bridge, and went home. It was an amazing road trip, packed with scenery, good food, banter and everything you’d want and expect from Scotland!
We spent £72 on the ferry and hostels and then the diesel bill between 5 of us was approximately £35. £100 for three nights and four days of gorgeous scenery, geographical conquest and sheer hilarity and bonding with your friends. This year I’m going a much smaller road trip, but the long term plan is to have visited every Scottish island, preferably in a Winnebago (WannaBANGo).
I’m going to leave you with this gem:
Fanny Aitken. I laughed. A lot.
Everyone should both visit and road-trip Scotland! Go on, put it on your bucket list!
These websites were so helpful in planning my trip: