Scotland Road Trip - Getting Lost In The Highlands Wilderness

We came up with this idea spontaneously over a mid-week dinner at Eat Tokyo with our friends. We wanted somewhere remote, adventurous and fun but close enough to be able to get there by car and take advantage of the Easter holiday. After a surprisingly quick debate about where to go, Scotland seemed to tick most of the boxes. Some of us hadn't been there before but we all knew about its dramatic landscapes and the amazing architecture. There were 5 of us, a VW Golf rental, a 200+ song playlist chosen by our friend Lucio and we were good to go.

 

  • Day 1 - Wednesday Night 17/4/19, Sheffield

We set off from London after work and picked up the car from Avis in Euston, £160 for 5 days.

Our first overnight stop was on the edge of the Peak District, in Sheffield. We stayed in our friend Hannah's family home, where we were greeted to a lovely home cooked dinner. This was a great way to break this trip down and get going early in the morning.

  • Day 2 - Thursday 18/4/19, Loch Ness And The Scottish Highlands
We got going fairly bright and early at 8.30 am after having a breakfast which was kindly prepared by Hannah's mother. Google maps gave it 7 hours and 30 minutes so we thought we would allow 10 hours including all the stops. Our first stop was at a pub just off the motorway for a bit of a lunch and to stretch our legs. Off we went again and along the way our friend Lydia found this little gem of a village called Luss on the quaint west bank of Loch Lomond, which was the ideal place for our first stop in Scotland, pure bliss.
The next stop after Luss was Glencoe - Ballachulish and was fortunately right on our way as we drove straight through the mountains. Imagine on your first day, driving through the Scottish Highlands on a sunny day, it was very easy and enjoyable to say the least. The sight of "The Three Sisters" just on the side of the A82 was absolutely stunning and quite exciting for what was to come.

 

 

For the first two nights we picked a central location in the Scottish Highlands. Invermoriston, close to Loch Ness and within a decent distance to the Cairngorms National Park and Ben Nevis.
After a long but really satisfying drive, we reached our mountain view accommodation B&B and you could finally feel the pure air in your lungs. In the evening we headed to the Loch to watch the sunset, I dipped my feet in the soothing cold water and skipped stones. We then walked back to our lodge by the riverside and cooked up some hot and sizzling chicken fajitas to eat in the cozy conservatory and enjoyed a bottle of wine.
  • Day 3 - Friday 19/4/19, 4 Hour Hike Of Meall Fuar-Mhonaidh
The next morning before our friends got up, we went for an early morning walk down to the nearby falls to catch up with nature on a sunny warm spring morning, the sound of the river was really peaceful.
We soon got going on our next adventure, we bypassed the 13th century Uruqhart Castle, which was an early medieval fortification used in the war of Scottish Independence. We decided that day to hike up to Meall Fear-Mhonaidh, the somewhat remote entrance and car park is situated next to a small but really charming pottery shop called Loch Ness Clay Works. We then started our ascend which takes you up three mounts, the hike takes about 4 hours max in total to get to the top and back down and it is definitely worth it, this was a great way to get some inner peace, delight in the glory of the land, exercise and catch a great view of the Loch from all 360 angles.

 

On the way back down we stopped off at the pottery shop again to take another look and bought a little souvenir/item for our home, this was also a convenient place for a cuppa tea.
On the way back and throughout the trip, we were drawn to finding viewpoints and places to watch the sunset. So at around 6pm we made our way to Glen Affric, specifically Beauly - Cannich. Some places can be a bit tricky to find so we had to ask the locals to point us in the right direction, this areas is known for it's perfect blend of woodland, rivers, mountain peaks and an amazing viewpoint.

 

 

  • Day 4 - Saturday 20/4/19, On Route To Edinburgh Via The Cairngorms
Next day, we got off to a an early start, we made our way to Edinburgh for a 3 hour and a half journey. We were considering and would recommend if you have time to drive through the Cairgnorms National Park as they boast the highest mountain roads in the UK, passing some ski resorts and epic hills (weather permitted) but time was a little limited for us so we took the south side which is a faster route. The great thing about road trips is that there are always places to stop off and Scotland had this in abundance. We made our way to Laggan Stores Coffee Bothy for a quick break and then to Dalwhinnie Distillery, which Maria and I were particularly excited to see.
This Highlands distillery is the highest working distillery in Scotland. If you like your whisky this is a must. The tour shows you the whole process, from the importance of every ingredient, the purity of the water, the barley, the yeast and how this Scottish Whisky matures for up to 70 years. The ticket cost £12, it includes tasting and a glass souvenir. It's an experience for your smell senses.
We then continued our descent to Edinburgh and made it there at around 3pm to a city flat in Leith, just by the harbour, with a stunning sea view.
After unpacking, we got ready for a night out in the city. We first went to a food market to grab a bite at The Pit Market.

 

After that we took an Uber to our first viewpoint Calton Hill which is in the centre of Edinburgh, we then took a short 15 minute walk to Edinburgh Castle (it's an easy city to walk through) and then made our way to the highest pub in the city and dating back to 1680, The Ensign Ewart Pub. We started the night there listening to some really good live Scottish Folklore music, before we made our way through the old town to Stramash for some more live music and then finished off the night in pursuit of a deep fat fried mars bar which we found in a fish and chip shop. When in Edinburgh eh.

 

  • Day 5 - A Sunday Morning in Edinburgh
The next day, we got going around 9.30am, we headed to Arthur's Seat part of Holyrood Park, which is an extinct volcano and an ideal spot to admire the overlooking views of Edinburgh and the wider areas around, if you fancy the brisk and short hike up this hill. We then stopped off for a a really good coffee place called Cairngorms Coffee and sat outside drinking a flat white and had a bite, a great way to end this part of our trip on a fine bank holiday weekend.

 

  • Day 5 - The Lake District
To split up the trip we made sure that our stays coincided with our route plan. So on the way back down towards London, our next accommodation was in Kendal in a really cosy apartment, just off the edge of The Lake District. This was conveniently close to the stunning lakeside village and touristic spot, Bowness-on-Windermere. We strolled along the nearby park and then had a few drinks on the lakeside watching the sunset, top way to finish the evening.
One of the things we really enjoyed as a group was cooking together and laughing about the funny things that happened during the day.

 

The next morning, we sat outside enjoying the early sun of April and had a breakfast style picnic before we made our way for our final 5 hour trip back to London to drop off the car. That was the end of a great time on the road and a lot of memories made in just 5 days.

 Where will the road takes us next ?

 

5 Top Tips and Suggestions

  • Rent a car in Central London or close to where you are leaving from - this is easier as there are no queues, easier due to the location being close to our work, thus saving us a lot of time, as opposed to renting from an airport which suits tourist who have just arrived. 
  • Use a reliable accommodation booking service - although we usually go for Airbnb, there were not many locations in Scotland on offer when we searched about two months before, so we found all our stays for around £30 per person per night, through Hotels.com and Booking.com.  

 

  • Make a decent food shop early on if you are planning on cooking - this saved us quite a bit of time. We didn't need to go to shops, especially when we were in remote places.  

 

  • Suggested places we would have liked to visit: The Cairngorms National Park, Ben Nevis and Stirling Castle. Possibly the North Coast 500 route which is a whole other adventure. 

 

  • Basic things to pack checklist: 
    • ​​1-2 long-sleeve t-shirts
    • 2 short sleeve t-shirts of tank tops
    • 1-2 sweaters, sweatshirts, hoodies or cardigans
    • 2 pairs of jeans, pants or leggings
    • Waterproof windbreaker
    • 1 dressier outfit to go out
    • An umbrella
    • Reusable water bottle
    • UK converter, unlocked phone and UK sim card (if visiting from outside UK)
    • Headphones and a decent playlist
    • 1 good book
    • A camera or a smart phone with a good camera

Leave a comment