Being lovers of road trips, as seen in quite a few posts, we packed in our jobs in Derbyshire, filled our car to the brim of all our possessions and took our little Hyundai Getz North!
Little Getzy became the replacement for Jedi, after she died a terrible death (the alternator was 600 quid to replace and she needed new tyres, the new car was 400 quid!). We will always remember precious Jedi who saw us through some awesome places.
At first, we weren’t sure old little Getzy could make it. In UK standards, she is old (2004) and should be on her deathbed. But, after our massive adventure with her, she lived to see another less adventurous owner.
I am not really a fan of telling people what they absolutely must see in a country. I prefer to pass on ideas on what you could see. Everyone travels differently.
So if you find yourself hiring or buying a car in the UK, just know, that a road trip of Scotland is well worth the mileage and sore arse from driving.
We were fortunate enough to travel quite some distance for quite some time here. Out of all of these places, even if you see just one, you will be in awe of the sheer beauty of Scotland.
Though she comes with Midges (evil little flying bugs that like to bite) her sweeping landscapes, calm reflective lochs, white sand beaches, with an abundance of castles, Scotland is corner after corner, a beautiful place to see by car.
Any fan of Outlander (TV series) will be gagging to see the filming locations, so as one avid lover of the books and TV series, Outlander played a role in our road trip planning. Much to Jacob’s delight! Haha. You can find a good map here.
Scotland may look like a small country tacked on top of England, but she is much more than that. Serving some of the best scenery, vast landscapes, tall untouched peaks, small towns with nothing but a pub and a church and many islands dotted off the coastline.
Scotland is irrefutably beautiful.
We spent nearly a month driving as much of the country as the weather would allow us, wild camping the whole time (except for the odd night at a campsite), venturing into the mountains, finding waterfalls, enjoying the occasional sunshine and understandably getting soaked in the rain.
We entered Scotland from Gretna Green on the M6/A74, and stopped at many places on our way North. The forecast of neverending rain made us head east at Scourie and not continue north as planned. We then headed down the east coast to Edinburgh, back across the border at Gretna Green again and to the Lake District in England and another road trip, this time Wales and southern England… but that’s another story.
After driving over 2000 miles around Scotland, she rivals Ireland for our top favourite road trip. But really, neither is the winner, as they were both equally amazing and we would definitely recommend these two countries.
Our little Getzy car did us proud! A small car is much more economical and we ended up spending 215 GBP on fuel for the 25 days we spent in Scotland!
Whilst venturing into the highlands, you are most likely to drive through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. There are wild camping laws here, see our next post about wild camping.
Isle of Mull
Situated off the west coast of the Highlands lies the little Isle of Mull. One way roads dominated this small island with many roads going to a dead end. There are different ferry ports to get to the Isle of Mull, choose whichever is closest to you to avoid a lengthy drive. The ferries are inexpensive and rather short. Ours departed Lochaline to Fishnish, a short 15-minute journey. Before crossing to Mull, stockpile on some food for your stay. It is more expensive and limited on the Isle.
Why would you travel to the Isle of Mull? It is the best location (and cheapest) to get to Staffa.
Fingals Cave & the Isle of Staffa
The Scottish version of Irelands Giants Causeway on steroids! This place is beyond amazing. How the hell did nature create this! We visited using Staffa Tours. Good boat, good commentary on the island and its formation and a good amount of time to spend on the island.
We had planned our visit to the Isle of Mull around the weather. There are many ports from the mainland to the Isle of Mull (the best base to do a tour to Staffa), so we just drove around the Glen Coe/Glenfinnan area till the weather cleared.
We were very lucky that we didn’t have to wait long for sunshine to be forecast. This made our 30 pounds each for this tour very worthwhile.
Any Harry Potter fans will instantly recognise this from the movies. Yes, you can get on the steam train and cross the viaduct. It was far too pricey for us though. Instead, we parked up at the monument and walked through thick heather to watch the train and for the view. The trains steam was lackluster, but the view was still beautiful.
When you arrive into Glen Coe you can instantly see why it is a popular movie filming location. Braveheart, Rob Roy and James Bond – Skyfall to name a few, and of course, Outlander. The area is outstanding. Roads weave around the many mountains that dominate the landscape. The clouds just sit atop the mountains rolling around, the rivers are fresh and freezing coming directly down the many slopes. We camped just in front of the Three Sisters after walking in and out of the Hidden Valley. You are told to move on in the morning by a ranger, as your ghastly coloured tent ruins the countryside view, I certainly agree with this! Don’t stay past 8 am. You can camp in the hidden valley, but its one hell of a steep climb with all your gear.
Eilean Donan Castle
Yet another famous filming location. Eilean Donan Castle sits on Loch Duich near the Isle of Skye. Great to visit either on the way to Skye, or on the way back. Eilean Donan castle can be visited during the day. Or if you are on a tight budget, like us, visit at sunset or closing time. The gate on the bridge was not closed and you can go out on to the island and look at the outside of the castle. Sunset provides a nice view to photograph, if the weather behaves!
If you are visiting at sunset time, hang around and watch the castle be lit up. From across the road bridge, there is another viewing area to see the castle all lit up.
We stayed nearby at Reraig caravan site. Affordable and very clean and in a great location to visit the castle multiple times.
The Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye could do with its own post! This place may be small, but it is jam-packed with beauty to see. It is easy and rather quick to get around this island and there are many wild camping spots around. We also timed ourselves to get to the Isle of Skye for good weather (we waited out a storm on the mainland, before crossing by ferry). We were lucky to have two days of sunshine! A rarity in summer, apparently!
Although these are the most seen places on Skye, they are the most visited for a reason! The crowds only really pick up around lunch time, as usual, for best photos get there early, or for the sunset hours.
Our favourite places would have to be:
This walk can be as short or as long as you like. Originally, I intended us to go to the end of the lower loop track and walk back on the same track. But as the weather was quite good, we continued and climbed to the top of the Quairing. Not for the faint-hearted or the waterproof shoeless. Its quite steep and long and is 80% bog. How a bog forms on the side of a mountain, I do not know!
The Old Man Storr
Another obvious place to visit, we walked up on a Saturday in Summer, and yes, there were a lot of people, and we had to park far away, but wasn’t it worth it?
If you feel inclined, you can climb the mountains behind the Storr and look down on him and the view. We climbed for the view and a spot of lunch and didn’t continue, but you can turn this into a much longer walk.
The Fairy Pools
We actually camped at the base of the pools for the night, as the day we arrived it was raining and crowded. So we got up at 7 am to photograph and see the pools. Our little camping spot was on some great solid flat grassy ground and was a little island where the river split into three. Falling asleep to the sound of a running stream was very peaceful.
Lucky we were camped so close, as my tripod broke the first long exposure I took. Duct tape to the rescue!
There are many beautiful places in between these iconic Isle of Skye destinations. Don’t hesitate to drive down a random road, there might be a great camping spot and view.
Be warned, if you do decide to wild camp here, as amazing as the location is, the midges be fierce! This is where we woke up to what sounded like rain on our tent, but no, it was just midges flying into the tent wanting to eat us! They even broke through our defences and got into the tent! Many midges were squished that day.
Whilst waiting a few hours to pitch our tent at a more appropriate time, we spent the time reading about the castle. Unfortunately, it said there were two resident ghosts of the castle, one of which inhabited the beach we were about to pitch on…. Let’s just say, when I went toilet that night, it was the fastest I’ve ever been! Also, the midges biting my butt made me speed up. Yes, midges have no decency.
During our wait in the car (far too cold/wet to sit outside) we were graced with wild red deer coming down the hills to graze right above us. A few other cars full of people stopped and watched and a calm silence came over us all while we let these graceful animals do their thing.
Midges aside, we watched one beautiful sunset there. Yes, we may have been running around in between shots to stop the midges from landing and biting, but it was just some evening exercise! Jacobs timelapse of the sunset was rudely interupted by many midges and large black winged things wanting to be on camera. Bastards!
The capital of the Highlands. Being the only city in the highlands, it hosts pretty much all the shops you need. Especially after weeks of tiny supermarkets. But the charm of this quaint and old town has not been lost. We spent time enjoying a bagpiper playing many Scottish tunes on a corner and walking along the river and trying out my new tripod and Cokin filters.
Edinburgh is an obvious one that you need to see. We had housesat in nearby Dunfermline the previous November and had seen the castle then and the amazing Christmas lights show put on. But we wanted to revisit and see the part we had missed because of the cold last time.
If you are in Edinburgh in November or December, be sure to check out the Christmas lights and Christmas markets.
On certain nights leading up to Christmas, there are special lights played to Scottish music. The night we visited they were playing Blazing Fiddles. This particular song is Shetland night in London. It quickly became a favorite tune.
Use Parkopedia to find the cheapest place to park here. People say Edinburgh is hard to drive in, just prepare yourself for narrow and tight streets, cobblestone roads with many a hole and some really hard places to park. A large car is not recommended.
This is by no means the only places you should visit, more of a photographic exploration of some of the amazing sites we saw to help plan your own road trip through this amazing country.
Look out for our next post about wild camping in this amazing country!
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