The Highlands, Scotland
Imagine a world where green comes in fifty different shades, mountains rise up in an assortment of shapes, lakes are deep, dark, and mystical, and mists cover your feet. If you can imagine all that, then you have been transported into the magical word of the Scottish Highlands.
Leaving Edinburgh, we drove via Stirling of Braveheart fame, left St Andrews for another time, drove through Cairngorms National Park, before arriving at our first Highands stop of Inverness. The original plan was to visit Clava Cairns, a sacred cemetery from 2000 BC, and Culloden Battlefield, where the 1745 Jacobite uprising was defeated the following year, but alas, we skipped both due to time constraints.
Arriving in Inverness at sunset we were greeted by the site of its “pink” castle sitting just above the city centre. Leaving our car behind, we set out to discover the “Gateway to the Highlands” on foot. Closing shops displayed tartans, whiskies, and other Scottish souvenirs, a street musician continued to play despite thinning crowds, and eager tourists lined up outside restaurants and bars close to the river. After dinner we headed over the bridge to our accommodation in Munlochy on the Black Isle.
The following day we were lucky enough to fit in a few sites on the Black Isle. Clootie Well was our first stop. This small well, situated among trees with cloths and clothes strung on branches and around the trunks, is believed to have healing properties to those who follow the ritual of circling it three times, splashing water on the ground, offering up a pray and a cloth. Following a coffee stop in Fortrose we continued on to Chanonry Point as we went in search of Bottlenose dolphins. Although there weren’t any to be seen that day it’s a pretty spot – and we got to experience driving through a golf course to get there! It’s also where Scotlands’ own Nicodemus, the Brahan Seer, was likely executed for witchery.
From Inverness we travelled along the A82 which snuggles the infamous lake Loch Ness. The drive is so beautiful that we ended up stopping a few times for photos. Our main stops were Fort Augustus and the Eilean Donan Castle (A87), the latter being incredibly picturesque.
The following two nights we spent in Kyle of Lochalsh, directly across from the Isle of Skye. We had anticipated staying on the island but at the time of booking accommodation, places were either fully booked or ridiculously overpriced. It turned out to be one of the best chance experiences on our whole trip. On our first night our host suggested we dine in a neighbouring village Plockton. The drive, the town, the food, the service – it was all so perfect! When I get the chance to return, this is an area I’ll be exploring for sure.
Being overambitious I planned the following for the Isle of Skye: Quiraing, Kilt Rock, The Storr, Neist Point, Dunvegan Castle, Portree, and the Fairy Pools. Of course what we could really fit in were three walks/hikes (Quiraing, The Storr, Neist Point), catching glimpses of Dunvegan Castle whilst driving, and dinner at Portree. Although everything was beautiful, it was the Quiraing that captivated me the most. I wish words could describe its beauty. The way the light captures the peaks and valleys of the green. The views downhill of sea, lakes, and winding roads. The constant battle between the sun and rain. My memories tell me that this is a place without duplication.
Continuing our loop around Scotland, we headed to Glasgow via Glencoe with a Glenfinnian detour. Glenfinnian is a popular spot due to the Jacobite steam train (or Harry Potter train) passing over the viaduct. This is also the spot where the Jacobite uprising of 1745 began. But it was driving through the Glencoe area that had me wishing for more time.
When visiting the Scottish Highland’s, come prepared with rain gear, comfortable shoes for hiking, a camera, and most importantly time because no matter how long you plan to visit you’ll always wish for more time.