Wow, eight gorgeous weeks spent in the highlands and some of the islands of north-west Scotland, over 1800 miles travelled and 28 different overnight stops! The scenery is a feast for the eyes, the coastlines are some the best we’ve ever seen, peace and tranquillity is easy to find and there is just so much more air to breathe!
See our map, first overnight stop was at Moffat with our real trip starting on the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, then sticking fairly close to the coast but largely avoiding the NC500 which we thought may be busy, we travelled up through the highlands, with a detour to the Isle of Skye, then from Ullapool took the ferry to the Outer Hebrides (Isles of Lewis, Harris, North Uist and South Uist) before landing back at Mallaig and slowly heading home to England.
Our motorhome is not small and while that’s great when you are parked up and you have plenty of room in which to live and lots of storage space, some of the Scottish roads are fairly narrow so you have to take things slowly and calmly... We never really had a problem and while we don’t drive fast we do frequently pull in to let those behind us past.
Obviously you can’t go to Scotland and not partake in a wee dram or two! 🥃 So we did whisky tours and tastings at Oban Distillery, Ben Nevis Distillery and Abhainn Dearg Distillery. Overall we tasted more than 25 whiskies at various tastings and bars but we can’t agree on a favourite so we’ve just got to keep tasting… for that we may need to return to Seumas Bar on Isle of Skye where they had more than 400 whiskies behind the bar!
We spent lots of time finding out about local history and culture. We visited Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan castle near the Kyle of Lochalsh; learnt about the Glencoe Massacre at the Glencoe Visitor Centre and the life of Bonnie Prince Charlie at the Glennfinnan Visitor Centre. We saw some of the Lewis chessmen at Stornoway Museum, they were made in Norway in the 12th century and found on the Isle of Lewis nearly 200 years ago. We also visited a preserved blackhouse and walked around the Callanish stones, the Isle of Lewis’s answer to Stonehenge and equally evocative of a long-lost people and culture. Our prize though went to Gairloch Museum, this highland village converted its Cold War anti-aircraft operations centre into a museum that includes geology, archaeology, history, natural world and an art exhibition, all for £5 and with an excellent cafe on site too.
One of the highlights was a day return trip on The Jacobite, a steam train which runs from Fort William to Mallaig aka Hogworts Express, the route was lined with lots of train spotters and Harry Potter enthusiasts. You haven’t got to mind a bit of soot and vibration but you are soothed by the gentle puff puff sound of the engine as you travel.
We also took a couple of sunny boat trips, one from Oban around the rugged Isle of Kerrera with its 16th century fort ruins, and another from Ullapool to the beautiful Summer Isles.
We always try to ensure any trip is a food and drink fest and this one was no different, and we like to buy from and support the local communities that we pass through. Highlights included an early afternoon ale tasting session at Fyne Ales followed by lots of seafood at Loch Fyne Oyster Bar on Loch Fyne; we had the best ever soup and sandwich at Brambles in Inveraray; we also tried out lots of lovely seafood (including more portions of fish and chips than we are going to own up to) and various combinations of haggis - traditional haggis neeps and tatties, haggis burger, and best of all a haggis toasted sandwich with bacon and mac cheese at Eilean Donan castle, delicious, though probably not the healthiest sandwich we've ever had! On our way home we treated ourselves to afternoon tea at the Lodge on Loch Lomond, one of our favourite hotels.
You don’t have to look hard to find wildlife, we saw deer, highland cattle, huge jellyfish, seals, otters, porpoises, dolphins and loads of sea birds especially gannets. Ray saw a golden eagle or so he says 😉. We would have loved to spy a few puffins but they eluded us so again there’s another good reason to return. There seem to be so many more garden birds here than at home, the highlands are teeming in particular with sparrows, starlings and pied wagtails. We met some very friendly hens who seemed to like our motorhome! We did encounter some midges especially in the warmer earlier weeks of our journey, we had gone equipped with plenty of repellent and midge nets but to be honest apart from a few bites, they were never really a nuisance.
We had all weathers, sometimes in a day, sometimes in an hour! We had loads of sunny weather at first, but as autumn crept in, we also had howling gales and horizontal rain, that’s when you are really grateful you are in a motorhome and not a tent! We named the Outer Hebrides the land of rainbows as we saw so many there.
The terrain is anything but flat, but with our e-bikes we found that quiet single-track roads make for excellent bike rides. Unfortunately my bike rides were curtailed for a while after a nasty trip on a pavement resulted in a bit of a bashed face, a chipped tooth and a fractured wrist. All fortunately mended now but I really wish I had had more than two drinks in the pub beforehand, then I might have bounced rather than crashing down onto the pavement!! Big thanks to Scottish Ambulance and Isle of Skye A&E who were both fantastic and fast!!
Whatever the weather we found the scenery was always beautiful. The hills and mountains often have a soft velvety look and when the waters of the lochs are still and reflect the mountains, the effect is just stunning. Some of the beaches and coastline in the Outer Hebrides along with the overall effect of its remoteness is beyond what words can describe.
Thank you Scotland, we love you, we will be back!