You’ll recall from my first post on My Great British Adventure that you last saw me on the train leaving Edinburgh on the way to Glasgow. For the next two days, Mike and I planned to visit good friends of my parents before we set off on our road trip through the Highlands.
My parents’ friends, Frank and Stella, live in East Kilbride which is just outside of Glasgow. When we left Edinburgh, Frank and Stella arranged to meet us at the Glasgow train station to bring us back to their house for the weekend. Our weekend with them was a great chance to catch up and enjoy being with friends. They took us to an amazing Indian restaurant where we ordered a variety of different appetizers, curries and naan, and left feeling so stuffed, but so satisfied. The day before we set off on our road trip, they took us to Loch Lomond, a beautiful town about 45 minutes from their home, for dinner at The Duck Bay Hotel, a restaurant that overlooks the water and serves delicious Scottish food. Frank and Stella’s daughter, Sharon met us there with her husband and three daughters. Once again, it was like no time had passed at all. As the sun was setting over the loch, it was time to say goodbye and get ready for the next part of our journey.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early to pick up our rental car. Driving in Scotland is very different from driving in Canada. Not only do you drive on the opposite side of the road and the opposite side of the car, but the speed limit is posted in miles instead of kilometres, the passing lane is on the right instead of the left, the roads are narrower and you drive through a roundabout once every couple of minutes! Admittedly, we both were a little nervous to start; we had to remind ourselves to drive on the left side and roundabouts were definitely a team effort, but it was all part of the fun.
We didn’t have a definite plan for our road trip which meant we were free to make it up as we went along. Our first stop along the way was The Drovers Inn, an eerie, decrepit hotel and pub perfect for lunch. What we thought was a regular, run-of-the-mill pub turned out to be a 300 year old hotel complete with ghost stories and a taxidermy bear to greet you on your way in. In true Scotland fashion, it was a misty, rainy day. The lush, green hills behind the Inn were surrounded by fog and misty clouds which made eating lunch by candlelight feel that much more mystical.
Our drive to the Highlands continued, stopping occasionally to take in the amazing scenery. The roads twisted and curved, narrowed and widened all the way to Fort William. We detoured to drive to Skyfall, a location from the famous 007 film in Glen Etive, that is simply beyond description. As we turned down the road, we found ourselves wedged between two giant mountains, so close we could practically touch them. There were streams along one side, waterfalls on the other and foggy clouds all around us. As we drove down the single lane road, we caught sight of yet another amazing view, each time from a different angle and perspective. The only way I can describe that little detour is pure perfection.
We reached our Bed and Breakfast around 5:00 p.m. to meet Ross and Nadia, our hosts for the next few days. We found their listing on Airbnb and scooped it up while it was still available. They are located about 15 minutes from Fort William atop a hill surrounded by grassy mountains, sheep tended fields and dynamic views. When we got there, they greeted us warmly and invited us in for tea, coffee and freshly baked scones. As soon as we walked in, it was like stepping into a scene from The Holiday. This adorable house with magnificent views was going to be our home base while we explored the Highlands. Ross and Nadia had tons of recommendations for restaurants, pubs and sights to see while we were there. We took one of their dinner suggestions that night for fish and chips and were not disappointed.
After a stop for lunch in Fort William we headed off on our next adventure – Loch Ness. Once again, the beauty of Scotland didn’t fail to disappoint as we continued our journey north. Loch Ness, being the largest Loch in Scotland, is serene and gorgeous and dripping in mystery. I know it’s all folklore and urban legends, but you get the impression in this sleepy town that there are untold secrets waiting to be discovered. Urquhart castle, a gloomy castle left to ruin, sits on the edge of the water for all to see. We didn’t find Nessy, but we did manage to make friends with a few sheep we met along a detour up a steep mountain on a single lane dirt road up a steep mountain. When we thought we had made it to the top, the road kept going. It was one of those perfect detours that didn’t result in much, but to us it was exactly what we were hoping to experience.
Later that night we went to another one of Ross and Nadia’s restaurant recommendations: The Ben Nevis Inn and Bunkhouse, a small pub located quite literally at the foot of Ben Nevis, the largest mountain in Britain. When we drove there, we didn’t realize we were going to be dining basically IN the mountain. The road wound its way around the mountain until it ended at a small, stone building surrounded by grassy hills. After a few pints and delicious burgers, we headed back for a relaxing evening in the lounge at our B&B.
Our last day in the Highlands was spent hiking in Glen Nevis, a gorgeous valley that winds its way around the base of Ben Nevis. If you ever make it to this area of Scotland, this is a must-see place. There are tons of trails for all fitness levels and the views are the most breath-taking I have ever seen. The route that we took was to Steall Falls. The path was uphill and down, over running streams and around rocky cliffs. The trees arched over the path most of the way until finally, the gorge opened up to reveal a beautiful rocky creek, giant boulders and open plains. If I hadn’t been there myself, I would have sworn it wasn’t real. Once again, the sun was shining upon us and the hike had us working up a sweat. I climbed on top of one of the boulders, shed a few layers of clothing and soaked up the Vitamin D while Mike played around with his drone. We spent a couple of hours walking the paths around the gorge trying to burn the images into our memories. Before long, the clouds started to roll in, and with them came the rain just in time for us to get on the road back to Glasgow.
Our drive out of the Highlands was just as scenic as it was a few days earlier. Those days we spent in the fresh air, surrounded by nature and away from all the distractions of the modern world really helped me to reconnect with my inner voice. I left feeling grateful, content and perfectly at peace knowing that in those mountains, I found my bliss.