I have always wanted to go to the Scottish Highlands, and with our son basking in the Spanish sun with grandparents, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to go on a really long journey, the kind that would be tricky for a 3 year old to cope with.
It’s far…the Highlands of Scotland are monumentally far, especially for a southerner. Have you every driven it in one day? Well we have, it took us 9 hours! At least on the way up we had the sense to stop off at the Lake District for 2 days, and what a stopover that was, wow! We did actually consider flying, and found some good flights prices with Easyjet (though all the little add-ons were annoying, bumping up the price), we found really good car parking at Gatwick Airport for less than £40 which I thought was a bargain, but the problem was getting from the airport. Unfortunately the closest airport to Fort William was Inverness, which is a 2 hour drive away, and that would have involved renting a car, so in the end we decided on a ROAD-TRIP!!
We drove from Milton Keynes to the Lakes and then after 2 perfect days in the Lakes, we drove from Windemere to Fort William, which was to be our base for 4 nights. It is a 5 hour drive from Windemere to Fort William (quite an easy drive though as it was mostly motorways).
On the way up we stopped for a quick bite and a short stroll around Loch Lomond, what a sight that was, our first taste of Scotland, not only was the loch gorgeous, especially with the sun beating down, but we were lucky to witness a sea-plane landing on the loch! My husband is a huge plane enthusiast, so you can only imagine his excitement. I even managed to catch a pic before it got too far away.
Next we continued on, snapping photos at every opportunity, and even almost stopping traffic as my husband slowed down to allow me some good shots (very naughty) and then we noticed all of the millions of points on the road where you can pull over to take pictures. Just as well really, otherwise we would have either a) crashed the car, blinded by natural beauty or b) taken to a scottish prison for reckless driving. Of course I am exaggerating, we drove perfectly fine, but it was terribly distracting all the peaks, mountains and lochs that only improved as we continued our ascent.
Speaking of driving conditions, we were worried by the strange and continuous road signs and warnings in Scotland, here are some of the examples that caused us to comment:
- Are your eyes fit for driving? (Erm, I don’t know, are yours? And what do you mean by fit? Also, what if I decide they are not, there’s not much I can do about it on the middle of the motorway)
- Check your tire pressure (What now? Surely leaning out of my window would be more dangerous)
- Fasten seat belts front and back (Well we still haven’t found any seatbelts on the backs of our seats) side note: I hear Ross (from Friends) screaming “FRONT AND BACK!” when I see that sign!
- Drive safely (I am, why do you need to tell me that!)
I don’t mean to be flippant, I do understand how important road safety is, it’s just that, well down south we don’t really have road warnings like these, and if we do, they are very rare and not so often, and not quite so bossy. It seems strange that people need to be reminded of these things. I am intrigued as to whether they work.
Back to the matter at hand, we drove from Loch Lomond and through the valley of Glen Coe, I didn’t know at the time that it would be my favourite place, but it is possibly the most beautiful place I have ever encountered!
The valley of Glen Coe is the result of and the remnants of a supervolcano that erupted 420 million years ago. Glen Coe is a very popular area for walkers, hikers, rock-climbers and for skiing. It was also the best part of our road trip, it is easy to drive through, a spectacularly scenic route for driving with a tremendous amount of laybys strategically placed for taking pictures and stopping for a ramble.
We arrived in Fort William (not the prettiest of town centres) and stayed in a gorgeous bed and breakfast in Banavie called Treetops. It was the perfect location, close enough to the centre of Fort William (5 minute drive) to pop in for some food, but just outside in a prettier area, on the top of a hill, next to the railway where the Steam Train whistled passed us twice a day on its famous journey to Mallaig. More importantly we had spectacular views of the mountains and a view of Ben Nevis from our balcony. We never tired of that spectacular view! Every morning, I sprang out of bed, opened the curtains and glanced out.
Some days there were interesting cloud or fog formations, and some days perfect sunshine. But it was stunning in all kinds of weather.
I can’t imagine trying to keep a 3 year old entertained for 9 hours, but for us, it was perfectly do-able, especially if you stop for frequent breaks. Perhaps we will hire a camper van and take our son next time…and yes there will definitely be a next time! Stay poised for a review of Treetops Bed and Breakfast, examples of Gentle Walks in the Highlands and things to do in the Highlands.
Have you ever taken a road-trip? Hopefully not a drunken, I lost my tooth, there is a tiger in the bathroom affair!