We planned our Scotland road trip in summer so we could enjoy the austere beauty of Scotland in all its glory without bundling up in heavy woollens and hiding indoors. Our friends Ravi and Shweta joined us all the way from the States to make this trip happen. After landing in Edinburgh, we set out to explore the fabled town that’s steeped in history. Instead of being enveloped by the warmth of sun, we were welcomed with a gush of chilly wind. Not what we were expecting!
Wearing a fit and flare dress on a windy day is definitely not advisable. I walked all the way up to the castle holding my dress. The castle looks majestic against the Edinburgh skyline; no words can describe this vastness. We strolled through the castle marvelling at the richness of history – The Prisons of War Museum is particularly captivating. From the crown jewels to the military artillery, the museum is full of stories of yore. It was a fascinating start to our weeklong journey.
We trudged upon a quaint Italian restaurant called Zizzi for lunch where we indulged ourselves in a rather large meal. Post the satisfying meal, we headed to our hotel MotelOne for a siesta. Since it was the Champions League finals between Barcelona and Juventus, we went to watch the match at a local pub. The raucous crowd and the overflowing beer served as the perfect antidote to Barcelona’s win. The best way to experience the true culture of any place is to watch a football match with the locals in a pub – the experience is metamorphic. Before we bid adieu to Edinburgh, Ravi and Shweta wanted to listen to Scottish folk music so they headed to Captain’s Bar. R and I were too exhausted so we had dinner at a Nepalese Restaurant and headed back to our hotel.
Next morning, the sun was out in full force. We kicked off our Scotland road trip by renting a Nissan Qashqai and drove towards Fort William. On the way we stopped at Stirling Castle – a historical castle surrounded by steep cliffs. The Great Kitchens and Stirling Heads Gallery are the only high point of this castle. After spending the better part of our day at the castle, we headed to Crown Hotel in Callander for lunch. Hungry and happy, we sat down to have the standard American fare. Except R being the fancy one had Salmon with Garden Vegetables
We drove towards the Three Sisters to bask in the magnificence of nature and also for a photo op. These forbidding mountains are considered to be the highest peaks in Argyll. Silhouetted against a saffron and azure sky, it was a breathtaking sight. Sigh! The beauty of countryside.
After a particularly unappetising breakfast, we decided to do the Gondola Ride at Nevis Range. The ride which offers a breathtaking view of Aonach Mor is a value-for-money experience. Since it was a last minute plan, I was dressed in the most inappropriate attire. I trekked all the way up to the vantage point in a tulip skirt and loafers. Fashionable choice? Yes. Sensible choice? Non. Post the trek; we headed to board the ferry to Isle of Skye. Handy Tip: Always book in advance, or you’ll have to wait for hours to board the next one. We were lucky that in spite of telling us they were full, they let us in because there were a few cancellations.
Isle of Skye
Our first stop on reaching Isle of Skye was Fairy Pools; by the time we got there it was cold and drizzling. We bundled up in all the clothes we had and hiked our way to the first pool. The vividly coloured pools are famed for having a bright turquoise-green hue to them. After spending an entire day amidst nature, we retired for the day in a cosy Bed & Breakfast called Grasmhor. Though the hosts weren’t very welcoming, it’s a lovely place to stay. Another Handy Tip: Stock up on food before you reach Portree because everything closes by six. We were tired and hungry and all the restaurants were closed. Thankfully we found a takeaway joint called Fat Panda that served us delicious semi-authentic Chinese food.
As the morning dawned bright, we drove towards the picturesque Old Man of Storr – a series of rocky pinnacles that look mighty and majestic. The unadulterated air and the hustling sound of the winds were like a balm to our souls. Next, we drove to Kilt Rock, a scenic beauty that’s a must-visit! The cliff formations are said to resemble the pattern on Scottish kilt, hence the name. The waterfalls, boats on the horizon and the mighty creations of nature are all a sight to behold. Magical! Before heading to Elgol, we stopped at a charming café in Staffin called Ellishadder Art Café – a quaint and rustic place with a very homemade vibe. After stuffing our faces with a little bit of everything on the menu, we set out on our next grand adventure. We rerouted to head to Elgol (when I say we, I mean Ravi – he drove while we snored.), which had vertiginously steep roads peppered with numerous blind turns.
After a backbreaking two-hour drive, we reached just in time to get onto the Misty Isle boat ride. The boat took us to Loch Coruisk, a secluded rocky island in the heart of the Cuillin Hills. We spent an hour exploring the island basking under the high altitude sun. On our way back, we made a short trip to the magnificent Eilean Donan castle, which sits right in between where the three lochs meet. Though the castle was closed, we admired its beauty from the outside.
Having eaten very little since morning, our stomachs were grumbling for some good food. We chose a Thai Restaurant in Inverness without looking it up on Tripadvisor (blasphemy), but we were proved that best things in life are those that are unplanned. Albeit a little expensive, the food was heavenly. Scrumptious Pad Thai, Chicken Red Thai Curry and Chicken & Cashew Stir Fry were gobbled up in seconds. No Thai meal is complete without Sticky Rice Pudding with Mango, so we rounded off our day with just that. We retired for the day at a castle-like place called Ballifeary – probably the only place in our entire trip where we had a good breakfast.
This was our last day in Scotland, with heavy hearts we vacated our rooms to head to Loch Ness. What a fail! We drove around in circles trying to find the viewpoint. We were running out of time, so we decided to skip it and head to Tomatin Distillery. The guided tour of the distillery is quite educative, they take you through every stage of the process. There’s a little tasting session after the tour where you get to taste different varieties and try to assess the flavour. Though we had to rush to the airport to board our plane it was one helluva trip which we will cherish forever.
PS: The next road trip is already being chalked out