The West of Scotland is world-renowned for its natural beauty. It’s also a region brimming with hidden gems. If you’ve been looking for an authentic travel experience, look no further. Get ready to explore the stunning scenery that awaits you. Western Scotland is the perfect destination for a self-drive vacation. Follow me along on a 10-day trip that will hopefully inspire you to explore Scotland.
Scotland is a pretty exotic place, don’t believe me? In 10 days, we have experienced extreme weather conditions from sleet to snow, full-on sunshine, and gale-force wind. For someone who loves non-conventional and extremes, I can tell you I was spoilt. I was also moved by amazing the landscapes in the Glencoe region, Skye and Aran Island down to the south to Portpatrick in Dumfries Galloway.
It all started with the idea that I would be celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary this year. It was the perfect excuse to go back where we got married on March 1st, 1997, in Knockinaam Lodge in Port Patrick. The idea was extended by organising a Highland Road trip. In 10 days, we did 1,100 miles spending a lot of time in the car, battling extreme weather conditions and taking photos.
Loch Lomond to Invernan
Taking the night train from London Euston station to Glasgow added even more anticipation to the trip. Walking along with the platform with my suitcase and camera bag pack trying to film the walk of fame as a an instagram story made it look ridiculous. It seems that we became a society so eager to film and share our every step, and I’m not better, but that discussion is for another time. So let’s not spoil this story. We finally find our wagon along the platform, to board into the sleeping carriage and walk along the tiny corridor to find our cabin. It was my first time in a sleeper cabin where space is measured to the millimetres, functional with a bed mad with fresh white linen. The only issue was where do we put our luggage? We did find some space under the bunk beds. It takes about 8 hours to travel from London to Glasgow on the night train, which leaves at 11.30 and arrives at 7.30 am. Travelling this way was quite comfy. Sitting on the top of the bunk bed with a book whizzing through the English country nearly felt like Harry Potter. Finding sleep was not easy. I’m not someone who can find rest sitting on an aeroplane, a boat or anything moving. I much prefer the comfort of my bed. Somehow I managed to find sleep, probably around 4am to be woken up at 6.30 am getting ready for arrival. Even if the club room had a shower, I couldn’t face the idea of taking a shower in that little cubicle.
When you look at the Caledonian sleeper brochure, the room looks huge, but not so much in reality, the club room, functional, comfortable nonetheless but a very constrained.
In Glasgow, we collected the rental car and took the first leg of the trip towards Loch Lomond. Loch means lake in Gaelic. Lomond is part of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The lake is surrounded by the Luss Heritage Path and opposite the ancient Luss village, with its stone cottages. The beauty of the surroundings and the music of the tiny waves crashing against the shore was beautiful music to my ears. It was serenity, cloudy sky with a hiss of cold airbrushing my cheeks. We continued driving through Luss picturesque village which you could easily imagine bursting with tourists during summertime. Our journey took us via Tarbet and Inveruglas for beautiful panoramas over the lake. We had booked a B&B in Inverarnan for the night but decided to drive to the falls of Dochart in the village of Killin.
Where to stop
- Luss village
- Tarbet – Cruises Loch Lomond
- Falls of Dochart
Travelling to Glencoe is going to take your breath away. We were driving through the pass with snow-covered mountains, battling three seasons in one hour, snow, gale-force wind and freezing rain. But that didn’t take my bewilderment away. It was crazy trying to take photos or videos in the showers of rain, making it impossible to open the car windows without being completely soaked. What a laugh, I’m always up for the adventure, but this was very extreme indeed.
Our journey took us on the road for 130 km from Inverarnan, where we stayed the night, to Fort Augustus via Fort Williams. We often stopped just to contemplate the view or take photos. Every corner of this land is worth a picture. I’m not surprised that ads for cars are often filmed in this area the roads are photogenic and driving through the mountains will give you a sense of adventure.
- Loch Ba View Point
- Fort Williams
Isle of Skye
Since I had seen the movie “Breaking the Waves” with Emily Watson, visiting the Isle of Skye was on my wish list. The drive from Invergarry to Skye was quite adventurous, and we made our first attempt to drive over the mountain pass when we had to go back as driving in heavy snow falls became close to impossible. We made a second attempt, and by then, the snow had melted a bit, but still, it was a case of shall we stay in Invergarry or try the 168km journey through the Highlands? We did it, drove slowly, and managed the trickiest part for the snow to have melted entirely on the other side but being beaten with slit and crazy winds.
We stopped for lunch at Dornie Castle. I’m sure that you are familiar with this castle it’s one of the most famous pictures in Scotland. Next, we continued our journey through the bridge driving across Skye to Hazelbank on the other side of the Island. On the Isle of Skye, you’ll find some of Scotland’s most dramatic landscapes. Skye is a Scottish island in the Inner Hebrides. It is known for its rugged landscapes and various wildlife. The landscape makes you think you’re somewhere out in space with one of the most famous panoramas, the Old Man of Storr.
The landscape has become one of Scotland’s most photographed views (and for an excellent reason). It’s a large rock formation with a narrow pinnacle that reaches approximately 150ft above sea level. It sounds crazy, but you can trek up to see this fantastic view! Next, we drove to Neist Point Lighthouse for the sunset. It’s one of the most famous lighthouses in Scotland, right on the western tip of Scotland. Again, the panorama is absolutely astounding. If you are on this side of the Island, don’t miss it!
If you’re in desperate need of a true coastal town, wander towards Portree. It’s the largest town on the island—the capital town, basically. It’s a fishing village only about 200 years old, and you will find nice cafes and shops for your weekly shopping and to buy souvenirs.
Staying on Sky in Winter is a bit of an adventure as many places are closed for the winter. However, at the least, our chosen restaurant, The Three Chimneys was open for dinner. The Michelin star restaurant chef Scott Davies and his team have been praised for serving the freshest local and seafood set in these gorgeous settings.
Be quite flexible when planning a ferry crossing in Scotland, as the weather can change from one day to another. For example, on the day we left, Skye we had planned a boat trip from Armadale to Mallaig. Unfortunately, the ferry was closed due to heavy winds, and we had to drive back over the bridge to Dornie, adding another 100km to our journey to the Isle of Arran.
Where to stop
- Old Man of Storr
- Neist Point Light House
Isle of Arran
Driving from Skye to Arran was quite an adventure. We were hoping to take the ferry between Armadale and Mallaig, but the crossing was cancelled due to heavy winds. Instead, we went to drive via Dornie, driving down to spend the night in Dunoon before heading to Arran the next day.
We drove through Oban just in time to watch the Caledonian MacBrayne crossing the bay towards Arran. The next day we took a ferry from Dunoon to Gourock to go down to Ardrossan for the ferry across to Brodick.
Arran island is like a small Scotland in itself. It has everything that Scotland is about. The dramatic mountains, the coastline, cascading waterfalls, the holiday towns and beautiful beaches. The Island is 432 square kilometres, and you can quickly drive around either via the North route via Lochranza castle or across from Brodick to Machrie and driving South via Whiting Bay. However, be mindful of the potholes. I have never seen so many on the road, and they can be a nasty surprise to your car. It’s the perfect place for adventurous and outdoor holidays, for cycling, hiking, kayaking or golfing.
Where to stop
- Lochranza Castle
Knockinaam Lodge in Portpatrick
This was the last leg of our trip and the main reason for the journey. We wanted to go back to where we got married 25 years ago, at Knockinaam Lodge in Portpatrick. Driving from Arran was a 3 hours journey with an hour ferry journey to Ardrossan, then moving down South via Prestwick and Ayr. We arrived at Knockinaanm lodge just in time for the sunset on the beach. Going back felt like it was just yesterday. Nothing had changed much. They have built an outside bar with a view of the beach. The exterior building looked the same. The interiors had been redesigned with new rooms being added, but it nearly felt like coming back home. It was wonderful to reconnect with the place and discover that Tony, the chef, was still there from the time we got married. After a very long drive, we settled ourselves in the lounges with homemade crips and champagne. It was pure bliss being served and going through the evening meal menu.
The next day the sun was beaming, and we walked to Portpatrick along the cliffs. It’s about a 4.5 km trek down to the picturesque fishing village of Portpatrick with gorgeous views over the coastline.
10 days in Western Scotland will be plenty of time to see the main attractions while still limiting travel and other activities. This trip is designed to get you up close and personal with some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable, along with plenty of relaxation time and all the hiking, biking, kayaking, and sailing you can handle.
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