After leaving Edinburgh, we started our road trip through Scotland, discovered Stirling, Loch Lomond, then headed to Fort William where we enjoyed beautiful walks in the area. But that was the first part of our journey and Scotland had much more to reveal! Just read on to find out the beautiful spots we have found exploring Scotland…
Fort William – Glenfinnan Viaduct (17 miles, 30 mn)
All Harry Potter’s fans meet at this location several times a day: The Glenfinnan Viaduct. A few miles away from Fort William, this spot is just perfect to see Harry Potter Hogwarts Express (The Jacobite Steam Train), pass.
Watching this authentic old steam train in this iconic scenery is actually really magic. Moreover, if you prefer to experience the journey like Harry Potter and sit inside the train, you can organise a trip from Fort William to Mallaig (much in advance) with The West Coast Company.
Another great thing to do while waiting for the Jacobite Steam Train is to eat in the Glenfinnan Station Museum Dining car. The coach does not move, but it is tastefully restored and furnished to recreate history. You can easily pretend you are travelling through Scotland by train and enjoy a proper meal during your journey!
We arrived without pre-booking and were surprised to get a table right away. We had a great lunch, the food was really fresh and tasty. Everything simple (don’t set your expectations too high, it is no michelin starred restaurant), but well cooked and nicely presented. You can choose from a variety of (yummy) sandwiches, (huge) salads and a selection of desserts. Staff was very helpful and kind too. And also, eating there entitles you to a free tour of the Museum exhibition…
Glenfinnan viaduct – Mallaig (26 miles, 40mn)
Continuing west, we headed to Mallaig, a port on the west coast of the Highlands of Scotland, whose beaches are quite renowned. Actually, in Scottish Gaelic, Mallaig derived from old Norse “Mel Vik”, meaning “sand dune bay”… So true.
We indeed fell in love with this place! Such a beautiful area with turquoise water, white sand, surrounding wild nature, just a few people around…looked like paradise!
This hidden gem was ours for a few hours and we could not stop thinking how life seemed so quiet in that part of the UK. At least, it was a great spot to relax, especially as the weather was still favorable …
Mallaig – Isle of Skye
(40 miles, 2h)
From Mallaig, you can either use the ferry or stay on land -and take the bridge further up- to go to the Isle of Skye. We had to use the second option as the ferry was out of service. But both ways take the same time by car anyway.
Once on the Isle of Skye, we experienced a complete distinct journey. First, the weather was horrible: rain, wind, darkness and cloudy sky… Then, the scenery also looked completely different: very arid landscapes with occasional flocks, scattered small towns and villages, small hills on one side and the sea on the other.
We only had a day and a night on the Isle of Skye, and despite the bad weather we tried to discover as much as we could there.
First stop was at The Old Man of Storr. This is a rocky hill on the north east part of the Isle. The area in front of the cliffs of the Storr is known as “the Sanctuary”. This has a number of weirdly shaped rock pinnacles, the remnants of ancient landslips.
We walked there, despite the rain, darkness and fog. I think this context all the more accentuated the mystical atmosphere of the place …
Legend has it that the Old Man of Storr gets its name because the rock outline and the protruding pinnacle resemble that of the face of an old man, especially when looking at it from the distance.
After this walk, we drove across the Isle, enjoying the different views, the quietness of the area (even the cows are walking at ease on the roads…).
We were impressed by the quality of the roads actually and it was less worrying than we expected…
The Isle of Skye offers many highlights including the Fairy Pools, which we unfortunately did not see that time due to the bad weather. But one day we’ll come back and enjoy this lovely place, as well as Neist Point Lighthouse, located in the West Coast of Skye in the area known as ‘Durinish’ (and one of the most famous lighthouses in Scotland).
Whisky lovers might also want to arrange a tour of the famous Talisker Distillery, set on the shores of Loch Harport.
Isle of Skye – Inverness
(106 miles, 2h30)
Our last stop during this road trip was Inverness. In fact we decided to end our journey in this area, as we were intrigued by its famous lake : the Lochness.
Inverness happened to be a lovely and charming town. We were seduced by its architecture and the beautiful viewpoints over the river Ness.
Inverness – Urquhart Castle (18 miles, 36 mn)
In the morning, we went exploring the west part of the Lochness. We stopped at Urquhart Castle (17 miles away south from Inverness), which is not only ideally located on the shore of Loch Ness but also has a very interesting history…
The most dramatic chapters in Scotland’s history have taken place at Urquhart Castle. We could not stop listening to the guide who spoke passionately about this place.
Urquhart is one of Scotland’s largest castles. It saw great conflict during its 500 years as a medieval fortress. Control of the castle passed back and forth between the Scots and English up until the 1500s. Finally, the last of the government troops blew up the castle when they left. Urquhart’s iconic ruins remain and offer fascinating glimpses into medieval times and the lives of its noble residents. That’s a visit I would highly recommend if you are somewhere in the area.
Urquhart Castle will satisfy the curiosity of adults and kids alike, and I am sure you will remember the visit for long… Scottish history is so rich and complicated that I am still digging into it, several weeks after returning home … !
Urquhart Castle – The Dores Inn (22 miles, 37mn)
We had heard of this Inn and popped by to have a lunch. This pub is located on the shores of South Loch Ness, not far from Inverness town.
On the contrary to me (who sticked to a classic dish), my husband took the opportunity to try a traditional “Stuart Grant Haggis”. This Scottish speciality is actually a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver, and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt… Not really my cup of tea, but apparently very good.
Because we were in Scotland, a proper degustation of whisky was inevitable and this one, from the nearby Tomatin distillery, was apparently exceptional and put a smile on my husband’s face for quite a long time !
Blair Athol Distillery, in Pitlochry, Perthshire
Before ending this Scotland tour, we absolutely wanted to visit a whisky distillery. After asking a few for arranging a tour, we eventually arrive at Blair Athol Distillery, where kids were allowed. Yes, the family context makes it sometimes hard to organize visits (be aware that scottish distilleries mainly don’t accept kids, but we can’t totally blame them for that) and this one was not what we had in mind initially.
Nevertheless, we did not regret it, as the tour was very enjoyable and well organized: the staff were very cheerful and full of experience in the whisky matter and we were all ears during the 2-hour visit.
I loved their bar, built from a previous machine… so inventive and very design!
Moulin Hotel, Pitlochry
Before heading to Blair Athol distillery we had a wonderful, wonderful lunch at Moulin Hotel in the small town of Pitlochry…
The restaurant was cosy, there was a lovely warm atmosphere where the lights, the fire, the various objects (including those statues of Laurel and Hardy), and the comfy furniture just made us feel at home …
The food was exquisite and we enjoyed it until the last bit… Everything was delicious and served in generous portions: all we needed during our long trip through Scotland (but sadly it was almost at the end of it).
So to say, this is a great address if you are quite demanding in terms of food!
Our trip and its memorable discoveries came to an end: we came back home the following day, full of good memories and quite sure we would come back one day to complete our initial trip and make the most of this beautiful part of the UK.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Scotland tour and found inspiration here. If you are soon to visit any of the addresses mentioned in this post, please share your experience here!
To go further:
The West Coast Company website
The Glenfinnan Station Museum Dining Car (PH37 4LT) website
The Fairy Pools: Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye IV47 8TA
Talisker Distillery: Carbost, Isle of Skye IV47 8SR, website
Neist Point Lighthouse: Isle of Skye IV55 8WU
Urquhart Castle: Drumnadrochit, Inverness IV63 6XJ, website
The Dores Inn, Inverness IV2 6TR, website
The Tomatin distillery: Inverness IV13 7YT, website
Blair Athol: Pitlochry, Perthshire, PH16 5LY, website
Moulin Hotel: Pitlochry, Perthshire, PH16 5EW, website