Scottish Road Trip
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Our Scottish Road Trip
We started our Scottish Road Trip from Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. I had been to Scotland in the early 1980’s and admired it’s rugged beauty and thought it would be perfect time for Alan to retrace Scottish roots, his Grandparents coming from Scotland.
Arriving in Edinburgh came as quite a shock with the average temperature in the morning being around 6 Celsius when the average at home was around 20 Celsius, for us it was freezing, but we came prepared with coats that kept us warm and dry. I came to love the chill against my face, it made me feel alive.
We only had a few days in Edinburgh so we decided to take the Edinburgh Hop On, Hop Off bus which went to many places, such as Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Grassmarket, Scottish National Gallery and New Town. The tour started on Waverly Bridge which was around the corner of our Hotel.
The rest of our stay was spent strolling the streets, admiring the Georgian period architecture of New Town and the pretty little shops. While wandering we found the charming pubs of Rose Street, where we indulged in a pint and tried Haggis for the first time, delicious! We browsed the Scottish heritage shops along Princes Street looking for Murray, Anderson, MacLean and Sinclair family tartans and fell in love with a huge hairy cow that was standing at the entrance of one of the stores.
We stayed at the Mercure Edinburgh City Hotel 53 Princes Street Edinburgh. The Mercure was in a fabulous position, with views of Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens and close to the railway station making it easy to catch our train to Glasgow.
We took the train from Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen Street which took around an hour, our hotel Mercure Glasgow City Hotel on 201 Ingram Street was a short walk from the train station.
I found Glasgow had a different vibe to Edinburgh, and while I love both cities equally I would compare Edinburgh to a regal Queen in all her splendour and Glasgow to a hip rock Princess, both stately but one (Glasgow) having a little bit more edginess.
As we wandered streets of Glasgow, I found that the coal blackened buildings of the early 1980’s had made way for buildings scrubbed bright, making the city appear less dreary than I remembered it. We soon discovered Glasgow’s great shopping, and vibrant restaurant and pub scene. Too soon, it was time to pick up our hire car, get out of the city and hit the road.
Glasgow to Oban
We picked up out hire car from the Glasgow airport and headed up the A82, toward Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park to our final destination Oban
The day was cold, overcast and the weather fluctuated between rain and Scottish mist but nothing could take away from the beauty of each passing turn as we wound our way along the banks of Loch Lomond. We found a place to pull over and we went for a walk, as you can see, the scenery was stunning.
After returning to the car I discovered that I had a heated seat (who’d have thought!?), this was something I prized as it kept me comfy cosy throughout our trip.
The one thing that fascinated us, coming from Australia, was that everything in Scotland was so green, in Queensland were we come from, it doesn’t rain a lot, most of the year the grass will be a yellow brown colour. As we drove through the forested areas, trees covered the road and it was like driving through a green cathedral, the leaves taking on a luminous green shade that looked enchanting.
We pulled in for fuel and a bite to eat at the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum, this is something I would recommend as we didn’t see many filling stations along the way. We joined the A85 just after the Green Welly Stop. As we drove we spotted people hiking through the Glens, following rocky streams, and I felt quite envious since I’ve never been hiking before, and it looked like so much fun. On the A85 the road became narrower and there weren’t a lot of places to pull over and take photos.
Our drive took us past Saint Conan’s Kirk with its impressive view of Loch Awe. As we got closer to Oban we drove through the pretty village of Connel, with the majestic Connel Bridge, crossing over Loch Etive. We continued on until we came to the beautiful town of Oban.
We spent the afternoon strolling along the Esplanade which had a charming fishing village feel, we stumbled upon the Oban War & Peace Museum which we found to be very interesting and gave us some insight into Oban’s history.
McCaig’s Tower overlooks the town and could be mistaken for the Colosseum, it is about 10 minute walk uphill from the centre of the town but is worth it for spectacular views of Oban and neighbouring islands.
We went for a drive and spied castle ruins on a hill, after some investigation we found that it was Dunollie Castle which is the ancestral home of Clan MacDougall. We explored the grounds and then went for a woodland walk, which we found stunning because the flora and fauna was nothing like we have in Australia, it made me think of fairy tales, like Hansel and Gretel wandering into the forest.
Our Hotel in Oban was the Rowantree Hotel which we found to be clean and family friendly, it had a restaurant facing the street where we enjoyed a beer and cider after an afternoon of exploring. The Hotel was one street back from the Esplanade and within easy reach of the attractions, just be mindful that the Hotel doesn’t have a lift if you have mobility issues or heavy luggage.
Oban to Inverness
We really enjoyed Oban and were sad to be leave but we had a lot to see so the next day we left and made our way to Inverness.
We took the A828 and crossed the Connel Bridge and wound our way past pretty villages overlooking the Ardmucknish Bay.
By this time I had become accustomed to seeing place signs in English and Gaelic, it made me happy that the Scots were keeping their language alive and I had a lot of fun trying to pronounce the words, unfortunately I never did hear anyone speaking the language, I would have loved to hear what it sounded like.
We made our way northward, the countryside was fairly flat and we passed many farms. We continued on the A828 following the shoreline of Loch Linnhe until just after the Ballachulish Hotel we took the roundabout onto the A82 and crossed the bridge onward to Fort William.
After Fort William we made our way through the Great Glen and Fort Augustus where we got our first glimpses of Loch Ness, we spent a couple of hours taking in the beautiful scenery of Fort Augustus before heading northward along the Loch Ness shoreline to Drumnadrochit and the famous Urquart Castle, here we joined the crowd to take photos, before continuing onward past Loch Ness and the River Ness until we came to our final destination for the day, Inverness.
Arriving late in the afternoon without a hotel booked we “winged it”, and were extremely lucky to get a charming room at The Royal Highland Hotel. The Royal Highland Hotel first opened its doors in 1854 and while her age is showing, she is still a very elegant old lady. We had a wonderful room which was huge, the staff were amazing and the price very reasonable.
We walked the streets of this charming city, admiring the architecture of its grand buildings and quaint shops. Escaping the cold we found a local pub where we enjoyed a pint and meal of Scottish salmon, a great way to end the day.
Next morning we woke early to continue our drive toward Aberdeen. We were sad to leave Inverness and really felt we would have liked more time to enjoy all it had to offer.
Inverness to Aboyne (via Aberdeen)
We decided to take the coast road from Inverness to Aberdeen.
We left Inverness and drove on the A96 to Fochabers we then took the A98 along the coast to Fraserburgh where we turned onto the A90 and A952 to Aberdeen.
As we drove along the coast we went through the villages of Cullen, Portsoy, Banff, McDuff. The coastline was rugged and you could only imagine the hardship of these old fishing villages struggling with the extremes of weather. Though the weather at times may be cold and harsh you could still not overlook the beauty of the places, it was truly an inspiring drive.
The drive from Fraserburgh to Aberdeen took us through lush farming land which again reminded us of the extreme changes in landscape that Scotland has to offer.
We drove through the city of Aberdeen until we joined the A93 and continued on to the pretty village of Aboyne.
By now it was getting quite late in the afternoon so when we passed a handsome coaching inn called the Huntly Arms Hotel, we made a bet that if they had a room, we would stay. We found the room’s décor to be very tired but the public areas such as bar and dining room lovely.
We wandered through this picturesque village and got our first glimpses of the River Dee. Aboyne is in the heart of Royal Deeside, the location of many castles, such as Braemar, Crathes and of course Balmoral. An area is famed for its unspoilt beauty, Aboyne is midway between the sea at Aberdeen and the mountains of the Cairngorn National Park.
We decided to nip into The Tavern for a cider, something that we hadn’t really drunk before coming to Scotland, but found the spiciness was comforting in the cold weather. We chatted with some locals before having a light dinner, and enjoyable end to an extraordinary day.
Aboyne to Perth
We woke early the next morning and took the A93 to Braemar and continued on the A93 to Perth
We snaked our way along the A93 from Aboyne to Braemar, this stunning drive runs parallel with the River Dee. We stopped at Balmoral Castle which was screened from the road by a thick curtain of trees. We were hoping to do the tour but found we were 2 hours early after much discussion we decided to forgo the tour and continue on to Perth. Leaving, we passed the dark waters of the River Dee winding its way through the castle grounds, a picture perfect spot for the Queen to go salmon fishing.
We made our way to Braemar, and continued our journey through the Highlands. The weather became grey and rainy as we drove through these isolated areas, this only enhanced the grandeur of each passing vista. There were mountains with partially melted snow and rocky streams that coiled down there sides. We drove on, sometimes without seeing another car, occasionally passing a farmhouse in the mountains. The atmosphere was quite eerie and mystical, and I could only admire the courageous spirit of the locals living in such isolation, especially in the winter when they would be cut off from civilisation.
We continued our journey through this majesty until we arrived in Perth.
Perth and Stirling
We booked into The Station Hotel in Perth, again we had decided to “wing it” and found that we got a lovely room for great price. The rooms had been recently refurbished.
Our purpose for coming to Perth were twofold, one to visit Crieff, the town where Alan’s Grandmother was born and secondly to visit Scone Palace.
After checking into our hotel we drove through farmlands along the road to Crieff. We explored the town and on the way back to Perth we stopped at The Famous Grouse scotch whiskey distillery just outside of Crieff and took the tour. I don’t usually like the taste of whiskey but found it quite nice with a little water, it certainly warmed me up.
The next day we drove to Scone Palace which is owned by the 8th Earl of Mansfield, William David Murray, and seeing Alan’s Mother was a Murray we decided to check it out. We were not disappointed, the grounds and the house were stately and the splendour inside took our breath away. The volunteers stationed though out the Palace gave us insight into the life of the Palaces owners (past and present), and the collections they amassed.
A thoroughly enjoyable experience and as an added extra bonus, I got to get up close and personal with some real live hairy cows (they are so cute!).
The day was young so we decided to drive to Stirling. Taking the A9, we visited Stirling Castle where Alan’s Great Grandfather worked as a groundsman and the Bridge of Allan where he lived as a child.
We had a marvellous time at Stirling Castle, our tour guide was entertaining and had us either crying with laughter or shaking with fear as he told us the rich history of Stirling Castle.
While still in Stirling we visited the Wallace Monument before heading to the town of Bridge of Allan.
At Bridge of Allan we took in the sights and strolled the pretty streets, we imagined ourselves walking in the same footsteps as our Great Grandfather did over 100 years ago, and it gave us a lot of pleasure.
We continued our drive back to Perth.
Oban (Again) and the Isle of Mull
We had 3 days left in Scotland so we decided to take the A85 from Perth back to Oban.
We stayed 2 nights in the delightful Glenrigh Guest House, here we were spoilt for luxury, and the room was magnificent, roomy and beautiful decor. Our room had a spectacular view of the harbour and the breakfast was the best I had experienced in Scotland, served in a room that was bright and welcoming.
Arriving late in the evening we walked to a local pub for dinner before taking a leisurely stroll around the foreshore.
We woke early the next morning to a sunny day, a perfect day to take the 40 minute ferry across to the Isle of Mull.
Duart Castle on Isle of Mull is the home of the Chieftain of the Clan Maclean and being part of the Maclean Clan on Alan’s Grandfather’s side, it was a must to see. We enjoyed our time exploring the castle and learning more about the Clan MacLean. Mull was a treasure and would love to spend more time there.
After taking the ferry back to Oban we booked a boat tour to show us a seal colony and the wildlife of the area, it was an experience we will never forget, so much fun watching the seals bask on the rocks and at play.
Oban to Glasgow
It was time to leave Oban and drive back to Glasgow.
While driving we took the time to reflect on our trip to Scotland, and we agreed, that through its ever changing weather and landscape, Scotland’s rugged beauty always shone through.
Do We Love Scotland?
When we visit countries we always ask ourselves, “Could we live there?”, “Would we visit again?” The answer to both these questions is Yes!
I fell in love with Scotland on my first visit in the early 1980’s and after this trip, Scotland will live forever in my soul.