Scotland

A road trip into the highlands

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Edinburgh

Our Scottish adventure began when we landed in Edinburgh, smack in the middle of festival season. The weather was glorious and the streets were packed. Our Airbnb host told us to head down to the George Square Gardens, which had been taken over by food trucks & beer tents.

Assembly festival at George Square Gardens, Edinburgh

We spent a couple of days roaming around Edinburgh, exploring the sights, parks, bars & restaurants around the Old Town & the Royal Mile.

The Scott Monument, Edinburgh

Toward the end of our last day we climbed Arthur’s Seat to check out the pretty amazing view across the whole city.

Descending Arthur

From Edinburgh, we briefly parted ways with Erin & took a train north through the spectacular Cairngorms National Park to the de facto capital of the highlands, Inverness.

Inverness

Fisherman in the River Ness

Inverness is a nice little city on the River Ness. We didn’t find a whole lot to do in Inverness itself (aside from some nice cafes, pubs and an amazing little Jamaican restaurant called Kool Runnings) but if you hire a car, it’s surrounded by stuff to do. On our first day we headed south to take a quick peek at a glassy Loch Ness…

Loch Ness

…before heading into Glen Affric Nature Reserve for a hike.

River in Glen Affric Woods in Glen Affric

Next, we headed north to visit Cawdor Castle (with probably most disappointing hedge maze-related sign of the entire trip) and the Bronze Age tombs and standing stones at the Clava Cairns.

Maze closed for maintenance at Cawdor Castle Clava Cairns Glenfinnan Viaduct

We met up with Erin again & spent the following day driving the full 100km around Loch Ness, stopping off for a few hikes, castles & old cemeteries along the way.

Loch Ness Inverfarigaig Forest Inverfarigaig Forest Tombstone at Boleskine burial ground Bridge Tower in the River Oich, Fort Augustus

Tain & Dornoch

After Inverness, with Danielle joining us fresh from the summit of Ben Nevis, it was time to roadtrip deeper into the highlands for Alex & Hugo’s wedding!

The 45 minute drive up to Tain ended up taking about 5 hours when we took an impromptu detour along the Pictish Trail, saw the Nigg Stone, traipsed through some farmer’s fields in search of a castle (it was on the map, but we only found some cows & a neat little forest) and just made it to the Glenmorangie distillery in time for an afternoon whisky.

Cromarty Firth A trail through a forest just outside the village of Nigg Glenmorangie distillery, Tain
No ball games sign Tain clocktower

After Alex & Hugo’s wedding (which we have no photos of - too much fun feasting, drinking & ceilidh-dancing up a storm!) we parted ways with Erin & Danielle and headed west to the spectacular Isle of Skye.

Isle of Skye

Low tide at Balmacara Low tide at Balmacara
River Sligachan, Isle of Skye Sunset over Loch Snizort from Glenhaultin B&B, Annishader, Skye The Fairy Glen, Skye

Every time you drive around a corner in Scotland you get a new jaw-dropping view of mountains, rivers & lochs, but the misty Quiraing took it to the next level.

The Quiraing The Quiraing The Quiraing Lichen & mist at The Quiraing

We could have spent at least a week exploring Skye, but after a couple of days it was time to head south via Loch Lochy, Fort William and Glencoe to Oban, where we’d catch a ferry to the Isle of Mull.

Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh
Stopping for lunch at the Burger Queen food truck on Loch Lochy Burger Queen food truck on Loch Lochy
Touring around Loch Leven aboard the SeaXplorer at Glencoe Castle Stalker, Argyll and Bute

Isle of Mull

As soon as we arrived on Mull we decided to head towards a large patch of green on our map that had a picture of a deer on it. We didn’t find any deer, but a long way down a dirt track we found Lochbuie - a tiny little town on a desolate bay with a ruined castle and a little post office/food store that runs entirely on the honour system.

We both swear we heard a whale blowholing out in the bay.

Lochbuie Post Office & Larder Pony grazing in Lochbuie
Abandoned fishing equipment at Lochbuie Sheep grazing outside Moy Castle, Lochbuie Ruined boats at Salen, Isle of Mull

We spent a luxurious night at Glengorm Castle followed by a day of hiking, bird watching, otter spotting (unsuccessfully 😢) and exploring some interesting historical sites - standing stones, an iron age hill fort and the ruins of a village whose residents were forced out by the castle’s founder. When they left (many of them for gold rush-era Melbourne), they carved sailing boats on the front door of their cottages.

Glengorm Castle Standing stones & forest at Glengorm Castle
Highland cattle at Glengorm Castle Carving of a ship on a ruined cottage on the grounds of Glengorm Castle

We spent one last night in Mull’s tiny capital Tobermory before the final drive south for a fun unplanned afternoon in Glasgow (after Loch Lomond turned out to be kind of boring) and a morning flight full of rowdy Glaswegians to Turkey!

Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Pro tip: if you ever find yourself road tripping around the highlands and want everything to seem somehow even more surreal & spectacular, chuck the Outlander soundtrack on repeat 😉.