Seriously… Scotland is amazing! Around every bend in the road is something else I want to stop to take pictures of. Today I drove along the shores of Caribbean blue Loch Torridon and the Inner Sound, drove across the third highest road in Scotland, and visited one of the most photographed castles in the world.
I slept until 6:30 and then decided I would head out for a walk before breakfast. I walked along Loch Torridon over to the boathouse and back before enjoying eggs Benedict for breakfast. Then it was off to drive around the Applecross Peninsula.
I drove back through Shieldaig and then kept following the coastal road. In places, it hugged the coastline, but mostly it was precariously tucked higher up along the hillside. The road is single-track all the way to Applecross. There are passing places fairly often, but it’s a bit nerve-wracking to see another car coming straight at you and having to back up into one of the passing places. Also nerve-wracking is coming up a hill or around a corner and not being able to see if anyone’s coming. The water was a gorgeous shade of blue/green and frequently dotted with fishing boats. There were many tiny villages along the way (when I say tiny, I mean no more than a dozen houses) and I stopped at a few of them to take pictures.
Once I got to Applecross, it was on to the next adventure: driving across the Bealach na Bà. The Bealach na Bà (Pass of the Cattle) is the third highest road in Scotland and climbs to 2,054 feet at gradients close to 20%. The way down involved several hairpin turns (all single lane of course). But the views were incredible! From the top of the pass, you can climb a short way to views over the Inner Sound to the Isle of Skye and beyond. While I was admiring the view from the top, the clouds rolled in and soon the area was covered in fog. It was quite an experience!
I was planning to eat a scone at the cafe at Eilean Donan Castle, but I spotted the Carron Restaurant on the way, with a sign advertising homemade baked goods with a craft shop next door. How could I resist? Unfortunately, they only had butter for the scone (not cream), so that was a deal-breaker. (I know, I’ve become a scone snob!) Instead I had the apple crumble with custard. Delicious! Then it was on to Eilean Donan Castle. You’ve no doubt seen photos of this castle situated on a small tidal island and connected by a stone bridge. The castle dates back to the 13th century, and I took plenty of photos of the outside, but I decided against visiting the restored interior.
Then it was on to my home for the next four nights: the Isle of Skye. Skye has several iconic landmarks which I hope to visit over the next few days. I got settled in at the Cuillin Hills Hotel in Portree (complete with a room overlooking the harbor), and walked into town for dinner at No. 1 Bosville Terrace. I was up late last night, so I’m turning in early. I have two possible plans for tomorrow, and I’m going to decide in the morning which direction I will head in for the day.
Today’s the day. In a few short hours, I’ll be on my way across the pond again for a long-awaited two-week visit to northern Scotland. I wasn’t supposed to be going to Scotland this summer. I had long been planning on a trip to Germany and Austria for this year’s summer vacation. But upon the suggestion of a stranger on TripAdvisor last summer, I started looking at pictures of the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides online. It was one of those times where my heart made the decision before my mind had a chance to catch up. I knew without a doubt I would be heading to Scotland after seeing those pictures and reading about this remote part of the world. And I never doubted my decision. After waiting until I was reasonably sure we wouldn’t be having any more snow days, I booked the trip. Then, of course, we had two more snow days. Good thing I left myself a few days’ cushion after the end of the school year!
One thing you should know about me is that I am incredibly claustrophobic. I have gotten better over the years, but I still get myself pretty worked up when I am in a small space. (I used to avoid elevators like the plague!) So I was all set to book my flights through London on British Airways, and I decided to double-check to see if there were any other connecting flights to Inverness from Boston. Lo and behold, Aer Lingus had a flight through Dublin, transferring to a regional airline turboprop. The thought of stopping in Dublin appealed to me; the turboprop did not. After searching for pictures of the interior of the plane and sufficiently driving myself crazy, I decided (despite the significant savings) if I was that nervous just thinking about it, I should stick with my original plan. A layover in London it is!
So I’m off to Inverness, Scotland. Inverness is a small city/large town in north central Scotland. I considered flying into Edinburgh or Glasgow, but not being a city person, I decided I’d be much happier skipping them altogether. My flight lands in Inverness at 11:25 BST tomorrow morning, and I plan to pick up the rental car and hightail it out of the city. My first stop is Torridon, a small village on the Applecross Peninsula, for two nights. The whole area has a population of about 400 people. My kind of remote place! From there, I will head to the Isle of Skye for four nights, then ferry out to the Outer Hebrides, where I will spend six nights before heading back to Inverness and eventually back to Boston. I’m not a city person at all, and this trip is far enough off the beaten path that I expect to enjoy lots of solitude and relaxation. I’m looking forward to walking on beautiful white sand beaches, eating afternoon scones at quaint cafes, and hiking to iconic vistas. (I think it goes without saying that what I’m most looking forward to is drinking English cider!) Although I’m not a city person, I do like my creature comforts, so I’ll be staying in larger towns and villages so I can (hopefully) also enjoy some live music and pub culture in the evenings. If you click on the map above, you can see my route through the Scottish Highlands and Islands!