A Staycation Tour Part 1

A Staycation Tour. Part 1.

23rd September 2020.

Day 1 – 10th September 2020

We were so happy to be asked to design a private tour of Scotland for clients who are based in Edinburgh, Scotland. We spend most of our time touring with clients from overseas, so this request provided the perfect opportunity for us to show some locals what they have been missing over the years. To be fair to us Scots and Brits, we do love our country and its scenic beauty, but when we get our annual holiday time we do tend to head overseas for a change of scene, a bit of culture, different food and, of course, nice sunny weather (hopefully)! However, as our guests discovered, all of this is right here in Scotland, and more… Okay, you must be prepared for changing skies! Read on…

We left Edinburgh and headed west to central Scotland to our first stop, the massive, but still beautifully detailed, Kelpies. This recent addition to the Forth and Clyde canal has helped to regenerate this area and it is well worth the stop. It is an absolute unique experience to walk beside the horse head sculptures as they tower over you. It is impossible to take a bad photograph of The Kelpies, such is their beauty in sculpture. www.thehelix.co.uk/kelpies-tour/

We continued our journey west for about an hour and we were in to The Trossachs National Park, where our scenic beauty started and stayed with us for 10 days, until our return to the city of Edinburgh. On our journeys to the north west of Scotland, we always enjoy a stop at Loch Lubnaig, here, you can take your first breath of highland air while looking over the beautiful loch to Ben Ledi. A drive through Strathyre and past Lochearnhead brings us to the much-loved highland village of Killin. Here, you can enjoy a walk around the spectacular Falls of Dochart which tumble through the village under the old bridge. Lunch is at the Falls of Dochart Inn, a favourite place of ours www.fallsofdochartinn.co.uk  

Fed watered and happy we continue to Glencoe. You will find Glencoe on almost every Scottish itinerary, and so it should be, it is a place of absolute breath-taking beauty. However, for me, the breath-taking beauty starts way before that narrow glen. Travelling out of Tyndrum the first breath-taking feature is the vibrant green and huge conical peak of Beinn Dorian, I love to photograph this mountain. It is a striking shape and it seems to act as a welcome, to Glencoe! As the road continues through Bridge of Orchy and we begin to climb (the road reaches just over 1000ft), we get a fantastic view of Loch Tulla and the mountain landscape you just travelled through from a handy pull off spot. As we continue north, we traverse the Black Mount where the views over the landscape and Lochan na Achaise are truly stunning. We are now in the flat wide open land of Rannoch Moor which stretches for miles to the east, and hanging over this area, enticing you to go further, is the immense Buchaille Etive More – a most beautiful and rugged mountain. From here, the mountains begin to tower over you, in a kind of, there’s no turning back now my friend… Continue on to the majestic Three Sisters of Glencoe, it just gets better. We stop for photographs and look at the mountains in awe, we talk about the tragic history of the Glencoe Massacre in 1692, stop by the river Coe and look at the many waterfalls around us. By the time we reach the Glencoe visitor centre we need to catch our breath! “That was totally and incredibly amazing”! Is what is said to me “I know” I say. “I do this every week of the year, and it still gets you”.

The drive to our destination for the next two nights by the banks of the beautiful and vast Loch Linnhe, provides the perfect serene landscape to reflect on our journey from the city to the epic beauty of the Highlands of Scotland.

Our evening meal tonight is at the Creagan Inn where a full size bowl of fresh Scottish Mussels in a white wine, cream and garlic sauce with added smoked haddock sealed the end to a perfect day www.creaganinn.co.uk

Day 2 – 11th September 2020

Travelling south from our lovely guest house in Benderloch, we continue through Oban and travel on the stunning Argyll coastal route making a stop at Arduaine. Here, we have morning coffee and cake at The Loch Melfort Hotel, which has stunning views over Loch Melfort. It is also worth noting that having a walk around Arduaine Gardens is a fabulous visit. We continue to the prehistoric Kilmartin Glen – an absolute gem of Argyll and the West Highlands of Scotland.

So, what is Kilmartin Glen? Well, it is worth mentioning that people have lived and worshipped here for possibly 10,000 years, with pottery finds in this area dating to 7000BC. The glen is Scotland’s richest prehistoric landscape and holds many stone Cairns (ancient burial chambers), Standing Stones and beautiful Rock Carvings. These stone monuments date as far back as 3000BC. We visited most of the prehistoric monuments just as the sun broke through, it was so peaceful and thought provoking. One of the things I love to do in Kilmartin is to climb Dunadd. It is an easy walk to the summit where views of the glen and the river Add, as it snakes across the landscape, are superb. Sections of wall and rock carvings near the top are evidence of a time over 1000 years ago when Dunadd was an imposing fort. Carved into the bedrock are some of Scotland’s most intriguing carvings – a footprint and a basin. The footprint carved into the rock could be a ceremonial footprint used to initiate the earliest Scottish Kings. Of course, we obliged! http://www.kilmartin.org/

After our wander in this ancient landscape, we made the short journey to the pretty village of Crinan. The canal built here in 1801 take its name from the village and connects Loch Gilp with the sound of Jura without the need for a long diversion around the Kintyre Peninsula, and in particular the exposed Mull of Kintyre.

Crinan is a peaceful village with beautiful coastal views over the sound of Jura. After our village walk, we travel all the way back to Oban. Oban is a thriving harbour town and is also a nice place to wander with the comings and goings of local people, fisherman and boats in the harbour and ferries going to and coming from the Isles.

Our table for dinner was booked for 6.00pm at the excellent local fish restaurant – EE-Usk http://www.eeusk.com/ We have been going to this restaurant for years and they did not disappoint! After our day of exploring, all we could think about was fresh fish and chips, and that is exactly what we ordered. I think this is one of the best fish and chips you will get in Scotland, and after our day exploring coastal and ancient Argyll, they tasted all the better!

Day 3 – 12th September 2020

Today we travel north beyond the highland town of Fort William, where Scotland’s (and the United Kingdom’s) highest mountain, Ben Nevis sits (4406ft). We get views of the top of this great mountain from the roadside, which is always nice. We stop at old Inverlochy Castle, which dates to 1280, to have a walk around the ruins. This was home to the mighty Comyn family whose downfall was suffered during the reign of King Robert the Bruce. Clan Campbell suffered its biggest defeat here in 1645. Their covenanting army lost over 1000 men as they were outmanoeuvred by Royalist troops under the command of the Marquess of Montrose.

Next, we stop at the poignant Commando Memorial which affords spectacular views of the Nevis range. Travelling through the great glen by beautiful Loch Lochy, we turn west over the Glengarry viewpoint and on to Lochalsh district. This run in to Glen Shiel is yet another of the many spectacular roads in the highlands flanked by mountain and loch. We stop to look at the rugged terrain and discover the history of the Battle of Glen Shiel (1719), here a Jacobite army which included Spanish troops, was defeated by Government troops with the backing of highland clans.

No trip to this part of Scotland would be complete without a stop, and we do recommend a visit, at Eilean Donan Castle. An old Mackenzie stronghold and now home to the MacRaes. It was destroyed during the battle of Glenshiel but was rebuilt in the early 20th Century after lying in ruin for 200 years! Eilean Donan Castle could be the most photographed castle in Scotland, and when you see its location, it is easy to see why. www.eileandonancastle.com  We continue through Loch Carron and into the wilds of Wester Ross, and our destination for two glorious nights at Loch Torridon. As we settle into our accommodation, surrounded by the most beautiful mountains, we reflect on another spectacular day of touring and sightseeing…

Day 4 – 13th September 2020

We opt for a shorter day today and make the short journey to the west highland town of Gairloch. On this route we travel down Glen Torridon which has wonderful views of one of the greatest mountains in Scotland – Ben Eighe. This mountain is a geological wonder and is made up of the billion-year-old Torridonian Sandstones. It is overlain with Cambrian Sandstones which were deposited around 550 million years ago. These sandstones form white scree slopes at the top and are made up of quartz grains; this is what gives it its bright white colour. As we journey on these spectacular roads, we travel by one of our favourite lochs, Loch Maree which has amazing views of the giant sandstone mountain – Slioch. We enjoy a simple lunch at the GALE centre – they do amazing soups, sandwiches, and home-made cake! http://www.galeactionforum.co.uk/  Our route back to Torridon is the same way, but that is okay as this route is so spectacular that to do it 1000 times wouldn’t be enough! Our evening dinner is in the newly re-named Bo & Muc at the Torridon Hotel www.thetorridon.com/eat-drink/bo-muc/ We all enjoyed excellent hearty highland food before settling down again, in stunning remote mountain country.    

Our journey continues in our next blog…