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