What do you know of Scotland? It’s part of the UK, the locals have a funny accent and some speak Gaelic, there are lots of sheep and coos, it’s hilly, and it rains a lot. Does that about sum it up?
While all of that is technically true, there is so much more to the region. There are plenty of castles, for example. My favorite was Eilean Donan, built on a tiny island in Loch Duich, close to the bridge that’ll take you to the Isle of Skye. With all of this fog surrounding it, the place was just the right amount of moody. Urquhart Castle, in comparison, was disappointing. It is more famous for being situated right at Loch Ness, but the structure barely survived the last few centuries. We snuck this view over the wall, and I don’t believe there is more to it than this.
I also planned on seeing the castle called Fort William from the Netflix series Outlander, but sadly it isn’t situated in Fort William. I was slightly disappointed when I realized this. The example of Fort William is a great one when it comes to what you should see in the Highlands. While you have probably heard a little about a town or two, don’t bother going there. The tiny villages and the landscape, in general, are so much more enjoyable.
Some of the best examples for cute villages include Luss and its flowers, Mallaig, a fishing town from where you’ll be able to take the ferry to the Isle of Skye (don’t forget to reserve a slot!), Portree with its colorful houses, Tomintoul and Ballater. But I am quite confident you can find more if you buckle in and drive wherever your intuition takes you.
We realized pretty soon that it is better to wing a road trip like this. To only think ahead to the next day and set a destination where we would sleep. We chose the roads that looked interesting and stopped in spots where we wanted to take pictures or go for a little hike.
One of my favorite hiking places was Glenfinnan, even though it is very touristy. But there is a little wooden walkway leading over the marshland, and you can also get closer to the Viaduct when you hike up a small road.
The only larger town we stayed in during our three-day trip (also: take more time than we did!) was the capital of the Highlands: Inverness. I had also seen footage of what I thought was Inverness in Outlander, but I pretty soon realized they must have filmed these particular scenes somewhere else as well. Still, I very much liked discovering this gloomy town. Even though the majority of pubs were closed and we wanted to take this evening to try some Scottish craft beer.
It is difficult to say where we saw the most beautiful landscapes. Some were barren, others covered in moss, then we suddenly entered woods only to see the water of a loch sparkling to our right after the road turned. I think it’s safe to say its the diversity of landscapes that makes this part of the UK so stunning.
Due to the rain, we sadly could not enjoy our day on the Isle of Skye to the fullest. We went to see the Fairy Pools, but unfortunately, the level of the affluent river had risen too much for us to cross it without rain boots. And we only had one pair of shoes to change into, which we planned to use in the evening once the rain had stopped. The road we had to take to get there was adventure enough, though, especially in the fog. And it was this very fog which kept us from driving north to see the Storr as well – due to the crappy visibility we would have been unable to see it anyways.
In retrospect, I now wish we would have taken more than three days to explore the Highlands, especially because Edinburgh was very crowded and much less relaxing than the serenity of being on the road.