Our time in Scotland was more adventure than relaxation. David had long dreamed of seeing the wilderness of the Scottish highlands, his family heritage, and Scottish friends had regaled me with romantic stories of ancient castles (over 3000 of them!) scattered across the northern part of Britain. We knew we wanted to see a lot of the country, but with only a few days, we would have to make a trade off between breadth of exposure and seeing any one town in depth. Since we are traveling constantly, we often make our plans at the last minute, and when we looked into lodging in Scotland we found hotels were almost completely booked up for August due to peak season. We decided to set off anyway, without knowing where we’d stay, trusting that it would all work out, similar to our world trip in general. In the end, we drove most of the day, diverting on smaller, scenic routes through mountain passes, coastal towns, and small villages keeping watch for little inns with a vacancy sign out front. Due to this spirit of adventure, we found ourselves welcomed into some of the coziest bed and breakfasts that still had vacancy and weren’t yet caught up with modern times offering their properties online.
We landed early in Glasgow from Northern Ireland and headed for the rugged Western Highlands. En route, we passed through the lakes region, home to Loch Lomond and Argyll (of sweater fame). We stopped for lunch and a pint at The Drovers Inn, one part pub with rooms, one part whimsical taxidermy museum, and we were told, by the locals, it was as authentic as they come. Stopping through Glencoe Pass is a must for any visitor to Scotland. There’s one valley with a perfect little white farmhouse at the base of a mountain, and plenty of places to hike and take in the stunning scenery.
We briefly stopped through Oban to visit the distillery, but as we approached town we were overwhelmed by the number of people in the streets. These tiny Scottish towns weren’t built to handle the August tourism boom and we decided to chose more off-the-beaten-track destinations for the rest of our trip. In the afternoon we reached the Western Highlands, and took a side road that lead us deep into the mountainous chutes, with miles of single-track roads, barely wide enough for one car, and turnouts called “passing places” every 100m or so. We kept stopping the car at these little turnouts to take photos of sheep crossing the road, or the myriad rainbows that emerged from the constant sun showers. Eventually, we made our way to the small town of Kilchoan for a cosy dinner and a night’s rest at Kilchoan Lodge.
The next day we woke early to drive north to the far tip of Scotland: John o’ Grotes. On the way, we passed Loch Ness and explored Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands before heading north to check out the amazing collection of silver antiques at Iain Marr Antiques (a must if you’re in the area!) and monastic priory in Beauly. We stopped through Golspie and caught a look at the beautiful Dunrobin Castle, a French-style chateau, before continuing our drive up the east coast. I was getting worried that we wouldn’t find a place to stay, as towns were much smaller and more spread out in this part of the country, but we eventually found an old Victorian hotel called Forse of Nature, which, while clean, enough seemed like the perfect setting for a murder mystery novel, so we slept lightly and left early the next morning.
On our third day, we passed through John o’ Groats and started tracing the lacy northern coast of the island, eventually cutting south to admire the beauty of Cairngorms National Park and walk the quaint streets of Pitchory before heading to the Bankfoot Inn near Perth for dinner and to stay the night. Many pubs in the U.K. have a couple of rooms available above the restaurant, and the Bankfoot Inn was a perfect, and utterly charming, example. I loved the laid back decor and our room was over 150 years old! The full Scottish breakfast we had in the pub the next morning was also my favorite of the trip.
On our final day, we drove through picturesque farmland to Drummond castle to explore their manicured gardens before heading to Crossbasket Castle to spend the night. This beautifully restored 17th century castle was the perfect place to spend a stormy afternoon curled up with a good book and a cup of tea while watching the rain fall on the forest through our bay window.
All in all I think our road trip experiment was a success!
All photos by David and Stacie for Stacie Flinner.com