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Two Great Routes to Take on a Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Usually the modes of transportation we take to get from one place to another are simply that – the thing that connects us from point A to B, home to somewhere new. Those planes, trains, cars, and boats (I’m still waiting on you, private jet!) are part of the journey, but when compared to what we experience at our destination, they tend to not be as memorable. Unless your journey is driving through the Scottish Highlands on a road trip with four of your favorite people, then it’s pretty darn memorable.

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Scottish Highlands Road Trip: Driving the Upper Route

Our destination in Scotland was the Isle of Skye, but since we flew into Inverness, we still had about a 3-hour drive to reach Portree. Cue the Scottish Highlands road trip! There are a few different routes you can take to get to the Isle of Skye from Inverness, so we picked two that looked scenic on the map and chose the “Upper Route” for the drive there. (See map at the bottom.) Due to a strike by air traffic controllers in France (bloody French!), our plane out of Gatwick was three hours late taking off, but we still ended up having plenty of daylight to carry us into Portree.

And so we drove, stopped, drove, stopped, and drove through the Scottish Highlands for the next 3+ hours. Me riding shotgun because no one wants to ride in the back with the girl who gets carsick. (For the record, I haven’t been carsick in years, but that excuse has earned me a seat in the front for so long that I can’t give it up, and who really wants to take a chance like that, anyway?!) I tried to take most of my photos through the car window, but I still estimate we stopped over a dozen times before we crossed the bridge to Skye.

The Upper Route took us through lots of open land and rolling hills with lakes lochs at their base. We could only see the mountains from a distance, but, man, were they beautiful! I did not expect Scotland, even in the Highlands, to be this mountainous! The very best view came just after we had crossed the bridge to Skye where we were warmly welcomed to the island with a gorgeous sunset over the water. I see quite a few sunrises and sunsets, but it had been awhile since I’d seen one that postcard-worthy.

Things You’ll Pass: Loch Gowan, Loch Scaven, Achnashellach Forest, Ashaig

(These are only the places pictured above. There are countless stop-off points on this route for photo ops!)

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Scottish Highlands Road Trip: Driving the Lower Route

After three can’t-believe-we’re-getting-to-see-this days, it was time for us to head back to Inverness. This time we drove the “Lower Route”, and instead of seeing the mountains at a distance, we were driving straight through them. It had snowed the night before we left, so the Cuillins on Skye and the mountains throughout the rest of the Scottish Highlands had a fresh coating of snow covering them, reaching all the way down to where we hiked the day before, even! (Very glad the snow held off because none of us would have been prepared to hike through that!)

On this route, there is one place you absolutely need to stop at and one place you could really skip, but you’ll probably still stop at anyway. The first of these is Eilean Donan Castle. If you’re a photographer or you just like to take pictures, this is a must. The castle is located on a small island where three lochs meet, and with the snow-capped mountains in the background, it’s just about the most fairy tale-perfect castle I can think of. (At the moment, the only one I know that could beat it is Neuschwanstein in Germany.)

Now onto that place you could probably skip. It was what I was looking forward to the most on this route and it ultimately ended up being pretty underwhelming. Loch Ness is, well, just not all that interesting. About the only way I think this lake could make a pretty picture would be if you happened to be there in the wee hours of the morning, on a completely windless day, when hopefully there’s a layer of fog resting on the water. Then maybe you’d be able to capture the “mystery” that surrounds the fabled home of Nessie. For us, though, on a perfectly sunny day, Loch Ness was just a giant lake, and not a particularly noteworthy one at that. However, I did get one of my favorite pictures ever from it when I asked Cory to pretend he was searching for Nessie.

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Things You’ll Pass: Kyle of Lochalsh, Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle

(Again, just a few of the places you’ll probably stop. This route is just as scenic as the northern one!)

After we arrived in Inverness, we got settled in at the Glenrossie Guest House and then spent a couple hours exploring the town and getting an early dinner. Our plane back to London in the morning required a 4:30am wake-up call. A fan of early mornings, I am not. But the rest of our Scottish Highlands trip? Pretty freakin’ awesome.

Also, bonus points for me. I managed to go on a family trip with my parents and not once revert back to my obnoxious teenage self. The last time we all traveled together (ahem, only three years ago), there may have been an incident where I had a full-on adult hissy fit, foot stomping included. Don’t you judge me. I’ve come a long way from throwing anything not nailed into the ground. Where I come from, we call this progress.

Stay tuned next week for a post about hiking on the Isle of Skye. It’s Cory’s favorite place we’ve been yet. As for me, I’m still sticking with Ireland. That one won’t be easily beat, but I’ll admit the Isle of Skye comes pretty close.

Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Google Maps Driving Directions: Two Great Routes from Inverness, Scotland to Portree, Isle of Skye

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Two Great Routes To Take On A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

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  • rorybore
    May 18, 2015 at 4:26 AM

    oh, it got so much better. *sigh*

  • Emmymom
    May 13, 2015 at 8:30 PM

    Oh that bridge out to the castle! It is magical! So did Cory find Nessie? ;)

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    May 13, 2015 at 10:43 AM

    Just so beautiful!! I agree that Loch Ness really is not much to look at. We were there on a rainy day, which didn’t help! But hey, we can say we’ve been! ;) It reminded me so much of Alaska. Loved seeing the mountains!! So glad you had a good time and a fun family road trip! Making memories!!

  • Anna
    May 8, 2015 at 7:53 PM

    Love road tripping! It must be one of my favourite ways to see a place. I’ve definitely not seen enough of Scotland, which is a shame as it’s right there. Such pretty pictures. Love the Loch Ness photo ;)

  • Anna
    May 8, 2015 at 6:17 PM

    Road trips are just the best thing!!

  • Kristin | Eat. Fly. Love.
    May 8, 2015 at 5:46 AM

    Absolutely gorgeous! I’m in love with that shot of the castle on the water. And I’m totally on board with the “carsick” trick. I haven’t been sick in forever, but I still get green enough to be convincing!

  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave)
    May 8, 2015 at 7:40 AM

    I threw an adult hissy fit too just a couple of years ago on a family holiday! Glad it’s not just me! I’ve never actually been on a road trip. I was thinking of doing California as the first but looking at these stunning pics, I’ll happily pick Scotland instead! The castle and sunset look especially magical ☺

  • Frontier
    May 7, 2015 at 11:15 PM

    Wow the photos are amazing! It looks like you had an amazing trip!

  • Stacie Stamper
    May 7, 2015 at 6:40 PM

    I love your pics and stories…that one of Cory is pretty funny. And you said ” bloody French,” are you picking up the slang from England?

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 9, 2015 at 11:02 AM

      Haha! NO! It was a tongue in cheek comment. I definitely do not talk like that in real life. It wouldn’t feel natural at all!

  • Sara
    May 7, 2015 at 9:29 PM

    Gorgeous photos! Love love love Scotland

  • Amy @ the tide that left
    May 7, 2015 at 12:50 PM

    These photos are stunning. That sunset will be unforgettable, I imagine.

    I have friends in Scotland so have been to Glasgow and Edinburgh loads, but I’ve never been to the Highlands and really think I should. Now all I need is a group of friends to rent a castle with and we’ll be just grand!

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 9, 2015 at 11:01 AM

      Now THAT sounds like a good idea. I’ve got a friend doing that in Wales for the bank holiday. Wish I could have jumped in on that, but $$$$! The next time I go to Scotland, I’m definitely seeing Edinburgh. I can’t leave the UK without doing that!

  • Amy | Waves + Roots
    May 7, 2015 at 12:35 PM

    Gorgeous photos, Sarah! Looks like an amazing road trip- the Scottish Highlands have always been close to the top of my “Must See” list. That picture of your husband is hilarious, and that “carsick” trick? My older sister, who’s name happens to be SARA by the way, has been pulling that one my entire life! Yet, I’ve never seen her actually get sick… EVER. Oh well, it’s much easier to annoy her from the backseat anyways lol! Oh, and no judging from me on those hissy-fits… My husband’s developed a pretty decent reflex for quickly removing anything “throwable” from my reach when I start to get a little aggravated. Sooo many broken remotes…

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 9, 2015 at 11:00 AM

      I just busted out laughing at your comment! :) It sounds like we both get a little…passionate…when we’re angry. ;) Also good to know that there’s another Sara(h) out there who knows how to win at road trips. I don’t even have to bother calling out Shotgun anymore.

  • Katrin
    May 7, 2015 at 3:22 PM

    Oh wow, I think my next trip must be either to Scotland or Ireland. The pictures are breathtaking. And the Loch Ness one made me laugh. :) Glad you had a great trip without any fights! Thank you for always sharing such beautiful pictures!

  • Melanie Fontaine
    May 7, 2015 at 9:32 AM

    Such beautiful pictures – Scotland doesn’t even look real!! ;) I love going on road trips, but unfortunately my boyfriend and me both don’t really like driving ourselves, which isn’t exactly ideal. I have yet to see Eilean Donan Castle, but if you ever end up going to Loch Ness again, I would definitely recommend a visit to Urquhart Castle – it makes the lake a whole lot less underwhelming! ;)

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 9, 2015 at 10:57 AM

      We did see Urquhart Castle! Well, from the outside. I’m not much for going INSIDE castles, I just like photographing them from outside. :) That’s all we did at Eilean Donan, too!

      Kind of stinks about the driving thing for you guys. Neither of us mind driving, but neither Cory or I grew up driving on the left, so that’s been a challenge…for him. I will NOT be trying that unless there are literally no cars on the road at all besides mine. :)

  • Mary Elisabeth
    May 7, 2015 at 9:41 AM

    Such stunning pictures! I’ve been living in Scotland for almost three years now and I’m DYING to do a trip to Skye. It’s been on my list since before I moved here! This looks like such a fantastic trip and I’m so jealous!

  • Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    May 7, 2015 at 8:02 AM

    Just breathtaking (and I need to borrow your shotgun trick Missy!)

    • Sarah Shumate
      May 9, 2015 at 11:00 AM

      Thank you!! I think it’s awesome that we were both in the same area ALMOST at the same time! Great minds…