Scotland Road Trip – Part 1

Where: Scotland Road Trip – Part 1
When: October 2019
Hotel: Highland Hotel, Fort William / Breakish Bay Pods, Isle of Skye
Why Scotland: We were coming up on John’s 45th birthday, and when deciding where to go, the first option that popped into my mind was to go back to Scotland. We had spent his 40th birthday in Edinburgh (read Part 1 here and Part 2 here), and had wanted to go back to see more of the country. Even though Scotland doesn’t seem large, there is so much to do and see, it was hard to narrow down exactly where we should go. After reading through blogs, I built an itinerary where we flew into Edinburgh, and headed straight west towards Isle of Skye. We were going in mid-October, which meant the weather could be hit or miss…but I love traveling in the off-season, so we were at least sure to miss the crowds that flooded Scotland in June-August.

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I saw this in an article and laughed out loud…there is no better way to describe what it is like to drive in the Scottish highlands. It is terrifying.

The Trip: It was as if everything that could go wrong, did go wrong at first. The plane was delayed, which meant that we would be getting into Scotland later than expected. Not a huge problem in the grand scheme of things…but we didn’t know what the “highways” looked like outside of city. (See the above photo for a proper description). On top of that, when we landed and went to the Hertz counter, our name was not on the Gold Member board, which was odd. Until it was our turn, and somehow, I had made the reservation for the wrong day, and there were no automatics left. Disappointing on two fronts, I had booked us a sports car as a treat for John’s birthday and it was an automatic so I could drive too. I’m comfortable driving on the other side of the road…but have yet to learn how to drive manuals. 😦 So, not only was John out his sports car but he’d have to drive the whole time.

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We always take an airport selfie for our trips!

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Germany from the air

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On approach into Edinburgh

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We made it! (This fun sign is found right outside of the airport entrance!)

THEN! We had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us from Edinburgh to our first stop of the night, Fort William. It would have been fine before the delay – but now, we weren’t getting in until after 10 p.m. Not a big deal. John and I are road warriors, so this was okay. EXCEPT that Scottish Highland highways are not real highways and we were on what we though were backroads with zero lights to help guide the way. It was honestly so ridiculous that it’s funny now, but at the time we both were honestly sure that these roads were where horror films started. By the time we reached our hotel for the night, the Highland Hotel, we just wanted to fall into bed. EXCEPT that the first room they gave us was in an annex building that seemed to be the rejected rooms and smelled like mold. Thankfully, they were able to switch us and we went to sleep sure that the next day had to be better than the first. 🙂

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We woke up to this view of Loch Linnhe, and thankfully a non-raining sky!

Our plan for the next day was to stop at the Glennfinnan Viaduct, made famous in the Harry Potter films, before heading to the Isle of Skye. The Glennfinnan Viaduct is absolutely beautiful and not to be missed, even if you aren’t a Harry Potter fan! It’s actually much smaller in person than in the films, but a super pretty setting either way. We had gorgeous falls colors and a pretty sky, which made for some great pictures! There is parking and a small visitor’s center, and two places to view the viaduct. We opted to go the longer route rather than climb up for a higher view but is farther away from the viaduct. (This was recommended by the parking attendant). It seemed like it was the perfect choice.

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On the trail to the viaduct…even if you don’t plan on hiking, wear good shoes! 

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So gorgeous, and the pictures don’t even come close to doing it justice. I love the fall colors too!

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Birthday boy close to the bridge!

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So cool.

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There is a trail that takes you under the bridge to the other side – and definitely don’t skip doing this, and walking up the hill for a gorgeous viewpoint.

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One of my favorite photos from this trip, complete with our Harry Potter scarves!

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More pretty!

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Heading out to our next stop. (One tip for the ladies – Scotland is crazy windy, so if you are like me and get lots of flyaways, make sure to have a hat or headband with you at all times!

Our next stop was the Isle of Skye, which we were going to reach by the ferry from Mallaig. Make sure to check the timetables so you know when the boats leave – we had spent more time than expected at Glenfinnan so we missed the ferry I originally planned on us taking. Not a huge deal – it only meant a little restructuring of the Skye itinerary. Another tip when planning for Scotland…don’t skimp on time scheduled at each stop or you’ll be rushed. Not to mention, the roads will also mean you need more time between locations.

The ferry to Skye is huge with lots of onboard decks to enjoy a snack or the scenery. After enjoying a cappuccino inside while redoing the itinerary, I stepped out for some photos. Definitely do this if the weather cooperates!

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We saw so many rainbows in Scotland – literally at least one every hour. This was coolest…we found the end of the rainbow!

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We had time to kill before the ferry and enjoyed the view of the islands from Mallaig!

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He’s a trooper! Doing all the driving and still smiling!

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First ones on to the ferry!

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Driving on board. You can’t stay in your car during the ride, so make sure to gather up what you need for the quick ferry ride.

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Passing another ferry.

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Views of the mainland.

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More of the mainland.

The ferry takes about 45 minutes, and then you are free to explore Skye! On the ship, I had taken out visiting the Fairy Pools, the Talisker distillery and the Dunvegan Castle. They all sit on the same side of the island so it was easy to pick those as ones to miss. The Fairy Pools are about a 40-minute roundtrip walk from the car port to the pools, and while they look super pretty, I wanted to see the Fairy Glens more. The Talisker distillery is a staple stop on Skye, but I don’t drink scotch whisky and John wouldn’t have because he was driving, so it was an easy one to cross off the list. And finally, the Dunvegan Castle. It is the oldest, continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, but was so far from everything I really wanted to see, I had no FOMO about not going there.

Instead, we headed to the Fairy Glens – about 90 minutes from where the ferry lets you off. It was a good choice. The Fairy Glens were one of my favorite areas of the island. The road into the glens is one lane, which would be harrowing in busier times, but thankfully, being the offseason, it wasn’t bad. And we were able to park literally at the start of the trail, rather than 30 minutes away, which is recommended in busier times. The surrounding area is already pretty and then you walk up this hill and you are in this beautiful landscape with bright greens and unusual landscapes, it’s really like nowhere I have seen before. (This is also where good boots come in! The hike is not hard or long, but super muddy and slippery!)

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Driving to the Fairy Glens on Isle of Skye

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The landscape was crazy pretty and changed so much along the drive

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We parked just down a hill from this by the Fairy Glens.

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Such an unusual landscape.

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In the Fairy Glens

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So many good photo ops here!

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You can climb up to the top of the rock behind us, but the mud was so bad and it was so slippery, I opted against it. I have a fear of going downhill on mountains because I’d fall and hurt myself…and it would so happen here!

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Literally like nothing I have ever seen!

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The views are beautiful as are the grounds!

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So many photo ops!

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It’s even prettier in person.

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Lots of time and pictures spent here!

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More Fairy Glens…

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The Fairy Glen stone circle – which is actually super small and the secondary attraction to the landscape!

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This is the one road in and out. I can’t imagine how crazy busy it gets in summer months. 

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Thank goodness Johnny was driving!

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The weather changes so much daily, it’s hard to keep up!

We were staying at the southern end of the island, close to the Skye bridge, but before we headed back that way, we drove the Quiraing Pass, with steep grades, one-lane roads, tight bends and SO MUCH SCENERY! There is a hike in the Quiraing that is quite popular, but it takes two hours (without stops) and ranks “hard” in difficulty…neither of what we were looking for, especially when we could drive it. 😉 We then found ourselves back on the coast, with picturesque views, including a great one of the Old Man of Storr. There aren’t a ton of options for food, so we safely picked to stop in Portree, a postcard town. I don’t know how we got so lucky, but we picked to eat at the Lower Deck restaurant, which wasn’t quite open when we got there. We opted to wait, and ended up being first in a very long line. The food was good, we had a window table, and it was the perfect ending to the day.

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The drive through the Quiraing – the sheep are super unconcerned with you.

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It’s not a cliche, there are sheep everywhere!

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Rough, rugged and because it was later in the day, thankfully empty!

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Honestly, this was so pretty – but I don’t know if I would have enjoyed if we weren’t the only ones on the road. It would have been anxiety-inducing in the summer months.

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On the coastal road.

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Random phone booth -which I’m guessing doesn’t work.

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The Storr

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The views, which aren’t captured, were amazing. This is driving toward Storr. The landscape on the opposite shore was so pretty.

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The lone rock on the left is the Old Man Storr, which you can hike too in about 90 minutes.

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The famous view of Portree. The first yellow building is where we ate dinner.

However, there of course had to be something that didn’t go quite as planned. I had booked something on my bucket list – a night in a glamping pod in Breakish. Still on the Isle of Skye, about 40 minutes south of Portree. We were trying to avoid a late night drive again, but being fall, it got dark early and the rain that had held off all day came in with a vengeance. We got super lost, but thankfully, the pod owner (booked on AirBnB) was AWESOME, and he came to find us in the rain and take us back to the pod. The good news was, the pod was super cute and lived up to my expectations. It was warm, and comfortable and when we woke up, we had amazing views of Loch Carron. (Side fact, in case you were wondering, there are over 31,000 lochs in Scotland). I HIGHLY suggest this unique experience if you find yourself on the Isle of Skye.

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The inside of the pod – it is well-equipped and so cute!

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Sunrise over the pod!

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View from the pod

Final Impressions: The Highlands are as beautiful as described, and Isle of Skye has landscape that isn’t found elsewhere. I am so happy we made the trek – it was a wonderful day of exploring.

2 thoughts on “Scotland Road Trip – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Scotland Road Trip – Part 2 | Adventures Abroad

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