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Here’s something crazy – did you know that there are castles to rent in Scotland? Well unfortunately we were not so priveleged this time around to rent our very own castle in Scotland, but we did have an amazing driving tour.
My parents came to join us for a week in Scotland so naturally we rented a car and I planned an ambitious driving itinerary for us.
Full of dramatic mountain and valley scenery, hills, fields and forest the best way to see as much of the country as possible is by driving and making stops along the way.
We started our tour in Glasgow, and head to the Highlands region first.
Day 1 – Luss, Fort William, Broadford
Our first stop was the small village of Luss. This wasn’t on the itinerary but it looked charming from the car window and so we decided to stop in for a quick stroll of the area. The village is right on the shores of Loch (the word for lake) Lomond and so we walked over to the pier and had a beautiful view of the water and the mountains in the distance. We stopped by a small gift shop, and picked up some Scottish translations:
before having a delicious bowl of soup at the Coach House Coffee Shop. Fed and jolly we got back in the car to drive on.
On our way to Fort William we passed by some incredible scenery.
The tree less mountains really look out of this world.
Seriously I couldn’t get enough of the views. I sat upright in my seat, window open, ready to snap a photo of a beautiful landscape at a moment’s notice.
After plenty of awing and aahing we eventually made it to Fort William, an impressive town, though our dinner meal more than made up for it. We stumbled upon the Crannog restaurant right on the water and upon noticing a Michelin star in the corner couldn’t help but wander in. Luckily we were there right as they were opening up for dinner so we were able to get a table without a reservation, under the condition we would only be there for an hour.
From there we drove on to Broadford, where we spent the night at the Hillview Bed and Breafast. I was looking for apartment rentals for our stay, but it seems like bed and breakfasts are the most common form of accommodation in the small towns and villages in Scotland. While I’m not a huge fan of the bed and breakfast model the places that we stayed were pretty nice and breakfast was always delicious.
Day 2: Portree, Old Man Storr, Kilt Rock and Waterfall, Quirang, Uig
We woke up to beautiful weather with clear skies and the sun shining and were to start our tour of the Isle of Skye, the largest and most northern of the Inner Hebrides region in western Scotland. I had seen pictures of the dreamy landscape on the Isle of Skye and knew we had to take a day to explore the island. If it were up to me we would have had a 16 hour day exploring the whole island, but with my parents we can rarely leave the house before 11am so we had to narrow down which area we wanted to explore. The Trotternish Penninsula sounded like it offered the best views for a 1 day drive.
We started with a tour of Portree, a small town with a pretty harbor where we enjoyed some street side fish and chips before driving on.
Driving down the winding one lands, and by one lane it is one lane for both sides of traffic to share we made our way further north.
We were heading to see the Old Man of Storr, a fascinating rock formation up on a hill with rewarding views from the top.
The walk up takes over an hour and 20 minutes in our group of 4 had turned to two (my mom and Dave gave up the upward battle and returned to the car park) while my dad and I trudged on, until the magical view unfolded before us.
We didn’t get all the way up to the Old Man of Storr, but close enough to get the idea.
Next up the Kilt Rock and Waterfall, a 200 foot high sea cliff with a striking rock formation that has been compared to the appearance of pleats in a kilt.
As we started the drive through there we were greeted by three furry friends.
Adorable right? Scotland is full of the cutest animals. From shaggy horses to Highland cows to tons and tons of sheep. I really discovered my love for farm animals in Scotland.
The drive through the Quirang was the best of the day. There weren’t any other cars in sights so it was just us moving along this supernatural path. Walking around the area I’m sure would be even more rewarding and amazing, but driving through it was great too.
Our last stop for the day was the small village of Uig where we had a quick bite to eat. We had planned on going to Fairy Glen afterwards, another one of those enchanting Scottish landscape spots, but somehow completely forgot about it and headed back to Broadford. Guess there’s always next time.
Day 3: Plockton, Dores
Day three we left the magical Isle of Skye and headed back to the mainland, stopping by the village of Plockton first. This little village right on the bay is perfectly charming and quaint.
We took a quick look around before making it just in time for a seal watching trip with Calum’s Seal Trips. Calum and his daughter run the business and guarantee that you’ll spot some seals or your money back. Sounds like a fair deal to me.
Calum continued cracking jokes the entire trip and luckily for him we did in fact get to see a bunch of seals. Quite possible that laziest looking creatures I’ve seen but cute and endearing nonetheless.
For lunch we stopped by the restaurant in town, Plockton Shores and had an amazing meal. Super fresh seafood and a good assortment of interesting soup and daily specials. Really a must visit!
From there we drove on to Dores, where we visited the famous Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most iconic images of Scotland. The castle is situated on a small island where three lakes meet and the views of the surrounding area are marvelous.
The area around the castle has been inhabited since the 6th century but the first castle was built in the 13th century. In became home to Mackenzie Clan and their allies, the Macrae Clan but unfortunately in 1719 the Mackenzie’s involvement with Jacobite rebellions led to the destruction of the castle by government ships.
In the early 1900s the castle was rebuilt by Lt. Col. John Macrae-Gilstrap and this is the castle that we see today. Inside the castle itself there are various interactive exhibits where you can learn about the castle’s history and recreations in the rooms upstairs.
From there we made our away to a different town of Dores, to our bed and breakfast for the night, right on the shores of Loch Ness. Our bed and breakfast here was beautiful, brand new, with really comfortable rooms with private bathrooms, balconies and a really nice breakfast. We had a few nice chats with the owners Fiona and John and really got a feeling that they truly care about people’s experience staying at their place and really like to chat with guests and make the stay as enjoyable as possible. Really nice breakfast too!
Day 4: Loch Ness and Inverness
After several active days it was time to slow down for a bit. On this day we didn’t do too much, hung around at the bed and breakfast for a while and got a late start to the day.
Our start was further delayed by the horses we saw across the road who we couldn’t help but fawn over and befriend.
How could you say no to these beauties?
From there we drove through Inverness, stopping in for a quick and easily forgettable lunch (guess not all meals can be fabulous) before hitting the highlight of the day – the Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Center.
The museum does a good job with a series of interactive exhibits detailing the history and craze surrounding the fictional (or maybe not?) Loch Ness monster.
That night we had another great meal which more than made up for the disappointing lunch, at the Dores Inn. Super chic and sophisticated with delicious and varies meal options.
Day 5: Pitlochry, St Andrews
This was the last day of our driving tour and we started with a visit to the small village of Pitlochry. Not much to see there but there are a handful of souvenir shops where you can buy a traditional Scottish blanket – as my parents did. Mission accomplished there.
For our last stop before Edinburgh we settled on the seaside village of St Andrews, a small city on the east coast of Scotland facing the North Sea. The city is known for being the home of golf and the center of Christian faith in Scotland. There’s plenty to see and do in the town but we were just there for the afternoon so simply took a walking tour of the area.
Must sees include the University of St Andrews (being founded in 1413 is the oldest one in Scotland), St Andrews Castle (built in 1400 and acted as a residence for the Bishops of St Andrews before the Reformation), the St Andrews Cathedral (the most important cathedral in Scotland) and the pier and harbor.
The town center itself is very nice and also worth a walk. The highlight of our visit there for me was our dinner meal. I was finally going to have some oysters! After a long time searching for The Seafood Restaurant, eventually thinking we would never find it, we finally did and we had a great meal there.
I do love oysters, that much I know for sure.
Overall we had a great 5 day driving tour through Scotland. I would have loved to turn this into a 10 or even 15 day tour but that will have to wait until next time.
If you’re heading to Scotland though I highly recommend renting a car and having the freedom to explore and hop out to snap a photo of the beautiful landscape at any time.