Day 1 - Loch Lomond
We started our amazing road trip at Loch Lomond, staying at an AirBnB near Luss. Once we got to our accommodation, we went to explore the area.
Laura says: - this was our first experience of an AirBnB and it exceeded all of our expectations - 'The Wee Wing' is a self contained annexe at Amanda's lovely home. It was an ideal base for the first night of our trip - Amanda provided a delicious breakfast that we ate on the patio before we set off on our journey. I'd recommend this lovely little spot for a weekend away.... I'm sure I'd fit in your suitcase....
The sun was shining when we arrived at Luss (or should that be LUSH), and we had ice creams and walked along the pretty street. It's like a set from a movie with beautiful little cottages and shops all in a row. There were lots of people watching opportunities with people taking boat trips around the loch or just admiring the view from the pier.
We travelled up the other side of the loch to get some food in Balmaha. The Oak Tree Inn was recommended to us, and we would do the same without hesitation. The atmosphere in this old Inn was amazing, and the food and friendly service was great too.
Day 2 - To Fort William
The next day we travelled from Luss to Fort William, and ohhhh my word - it's the prettiest, most awe inspiring, jaw dropping stretch of road. It winds its way along the shore of Loch Lomond to the heights of Glen Coe. Google maps says this is a 2 hour journey but we spent the best part of the day stopping off at various points along the way! The first stop was "An Ceann Mòr" a wooden pyramid shaped viewpoint. It is a really photogenic structure, and I enjoyed taking lots of shots from different angles.
Bridge of Orchy was another stopping point - we initially drove through it but turned back when we realised how pretty it was...there's a bridge over the River Orchy (believe it or not), with beautiful views up and down stream.
Laura says: we had a cup of tea sitting outside the Bridge of Orchy Hotel - lovely china cups and saucers and a little piece of Scottish Tablet... it really felt like we were on holiday!
We continued along the A82, and we came to an area with lots of little towers built from pebbles. A bit of Googling established that these are called 'cairns' and are built by lovers or in memory of loved ones. We came across a few of these as we journeyed around Scotland - I thought they were really captivating.
We stopped off at the Glencoe Ski Resort for picnic supplies and a look at the chairlift, there wasn't much going on but I'm sure it's a totally different story in the Winter. We came across a single track road that drove through Glen Etive, following River Etive. The views along this single track were absolutely stunning. Those of you who like a movie fact, James Bond drove down here on his way to Skyfall. Whilst I can testify that Skyfall is not at the end of the road, you'll eventually arrive at Loch Etive and it is stunning!
We stayed outside Fort William in a place called Onich, at the Tom-na-Creige bed and breakfast.
Day 3 - To Skye
The drive from Fort William to Skye wasn't as picturesque as the journey from Loch Lomond to Fort William. However, you do drive past Eilean Donan Castle, and that is pretty epic! We didn't go into the castle, but took our time taking photographs of this iconic landmark from lots of different vantage points.
Before we got to the castle, we took a diversion to Glenelg. It's fascinating to see the true meaning of the word Community in places like this. We also pulled over at the Kintail Lodge Hotel to see the full length of Loch Duich. What a peaceful and serene place.
Laura Says: Way Out West cafe is run from the Glenelg Community Centre - it was absolutely beautiful - full of twinkly fairy lights and pretty cake stands displaying homemade cakes. We sat outside in the sun with a pot of tea and a piece of chocolate and pear cake and watched some ladies fasten blooming hanging baskets to the side of the building (which, incidentally, holds weekly ceilidhs on a Friday evening). This place was literally in the middle of nowhere, miles from any other civilisation and I absolutely loved the way these people were working so well in community.
Our accommodation was a couple of miles outside of Kyle of Lochalsh in a village called Drumbuie. We stayed in a self catering cottage, at it was ideally situated for our daily trips across the bridge to Skye. There was a beach a short stroll away and we managed to catch the sunset, before giving in to the midgies!
Day 4 - Fairy Pools
It was easy to decide what to do on our first day in Skye, and that was to go and see the Fairy Pools. For so long Laura and I have wanted to see them, and they did not disappoint! We left Dumbruie fairly early to get to the Fairy Pools before the masses arrived, but the tiny car park was almost full when we got there. In fact we took the last spot between two enormous camper vans .....
The water in the pools were so crisp and unbelievably clear. The absolute definition of a landscape photographers dream! It was also cloudy but warm, not what we had expected in Scotland. To be honest, even though the car park was full and there was cars parked on the side of the road, it wasn't that busy. It was a good walk to the end of the pools, and each one was unique in its own way, it was so exciting making our way from pool to pool to find out what was in store for us further up the valley.
Someone had built a tower of stones at one of the pools, which made for some lovely photos. Unfortunately, when we came back down towards the car, the tower had been knocked down.... maybe that just makes my photos even more special. By the time we were walking back, there were people swimming in the pools, it was tempting to join them as it was so warm!
Day 4 - Neist Point Lighthouse
Another place that I was desperate to visit was Neist Point. I love how the lighthouse juts out into the sea and the cliffs are so dramatic. So after a bit more exploring around the western part of Skye and passing the Talisker Distillery at Carbost we decided to drive to Neist Point. Skye doesn't go in for coffee shops so when you come across one it's a treat and you know you have to stop. There is one on the road to Neist - and it was lovely.
Laura Says: Cafe Lephin had a lovely atmosphere - it was just on the side of the main road with a couple of tables outside - some of the best brownie I've ever had. Another brilliant, independently run place....
I texted a photo I took of Neist Point to a friend whilst we were there, and her reply was "oh goodness me. That must surely be heaven on Earth." I can confirm, it must be pretty close - it was absolutely awe-inspiring! The sea was calm, the sun was out, and the cliffs were more dramatic than I could have hoped for! I spent what seemed like forever taking photographs of the coast line from the mainland. After a while, we decided to walk down the steps to the peninsula to take yet more photographs. We didn't venture to the lighthouse itself as it was too warm for that! Since our return, we've been reliably informed that it is further than it looks - so I'm glad we didn't try it. After successfully traversing the slope/steps back up to the mainland, there was a convenient little shop selling drinks, boy did we need one.
Even though we didn't stay for the sunset, it was just a beautiful evening. It was certainly warm, and no clouds in the sky either. We could have easily stayed at this magical place for hours
day 5 - Quiraing & Old man of storr
This was the day we explored the northern part of Skye. The scenery was just amazing! Again, it was on our bucket list of things to see in Skye, we spent a whole day up here. We went up the A87 to Uig to the Fairy Glen. I can say with confidence, I did not see any Fairies at the Glen. They must have either been away at the pools, or having a lie-in. Either way, I did not see any! Come to think of it, didn't see any at the pools either...it's an area of unusually shaped hills and peaks, which were formed in a landslip. The road twists and turns through these hills and between little ponds - it all feels very Lord of The Rings'y!
After the Fairy Glen, we took the A855 along the North of the island. We certainly got some house-envy whilst driving along this road - and around Skye in general! We eventually got to the Quiraing - an area of natural beauty, and another iconic area of Scotland, let alone Skye. The path is quite narrow, but the walk is amazing. We made it almost to the half way point, scrambling up scree slopes and across waterfalls - but we were ill prepared for the heat. So we had to give up and return to the carpark for drinks. However, whilst walking back to the car, we passed a guy on a bicycle on the narrow path...made us feel very inadequate.
From the Quiraing, we drove to Staffin Beach to get the stove on and for our picnic. There are fossilised dinosaur footprints here, which are best seen in winter at low-tide.... just another reason to go back another time!
After lunch, we drove to the Old Man of Storr. It is quite a trek from the car park to the actual Old Man, but we made it. We made sure we were prepared this time, and took some water with us!
Laura Says: 'made it' is a bit of an optimistic turn of phrase here - I complained every four steps and stopped every five steps. I slid down a gravel slope and ended up with a very dusty bum....not my favourite moment of the holiday!
day 6 - portree & Elgol
After all the excitement of the previous two days adventure, we decided it was time to take our foot off the gas and to have a nice relaxing day. Our first stop of the day was Elgol. To get to this little village, you have to drive through the stunning Red Cuillin mountain range, which emerge from the sea and just look so dramatic, they have to be seen to be believed. We arrived early and the boat trip operators were just setting up for the day, we enjoyed a bit of people watching from the jetty....
After the visit to Elgol, we travelled back to Portree. It was Skye's half marathon that morning - it starts and finishes at Portree and there were various road closures around the island. We'd planned our day to avoid the chaos and by the time we arrived in Portree there were just a few runners making their way back to their cars, medals proudly on display. There are a few pretty shops in Portree, but on the whole, we were not impressed. Laura had been envisioning all sorts of little gift shops, cafes and bakeries but aside from the row of brightly painted buildings at the harbour, it's quite a tired little town.
In the afternoon, we travelled to Armadale, on the Southern tip of the island. The ferry to Mallaig runs from Armadale and we could see the famous white sand on the mainland from the shore. We happened upon another beautiful community centre with a community run cafe and shop. The views from the outside seating area were absolutely amazing.
Laura says: Steven talks about these views... the only view I had was of my lemon and elderflower cake. Unreal......
We finished the day, and our stay on the North-West Coast with fish and chips in the harbour village of Plockton. It is a beautiful village, which is reportedly the prettiest village in Scotland - I'm not going to dispute that.
Day 7-8 - Inverness
After our time in Skye, it was time to move on to our penultimate stop which was Inverness. We were both sad to be leaving Skye and it felt like the holiday was already over... We travelled to Fort Augustus, which is such a pretty little town. There is a flight of canal locks and we arrived just in time to watch 6 boats traverse the flight.
From there we travelled to the Falls of Foyer - which should have been renamed 'Trickles of Foyer' for our visit - not very spectacular, visited Camerons Tea Room and then went to our B&B in Dores. We stayed at Balachladaich B&B, and it was stunning - overlooking Loch Ness, with its own private beach and fire pit.
We spent the next day pottering around the city of Inverness. Popped into Leakey's secondhand bookstore whilst we were there, and then walked to the Botanical Gardens through Ness Islands. Then ended the day with a picnic tea and roasting marshmallows on the fire pit.
Laura Says: Steven's ears pricked up at the mention of a fire pit - there was no way we'd have been missing that experience - he loved it!
day 9 - Pitlochry
Our last stop on our road trip was Pitlochry. We took our time, and took the scenic route via Grantown-on-Spey, Carrbridge, Crathie and Balmoral before heading to The Hayloft B&B. On the evening we went into Pitlochry for food, and then headed to Queens View to overlook Loch Tummel in the evening light. When we got back to our accommodation the light down the valley was outstanding. I spent a while taking photos of the lovely view in the warm evening light as the sun set.
Day 10 - Homeward bound
Laura Says: Breakfast at The Hayloft was my favourite of the holiday - a little hamper was brought to our room with warm croissants, bread for toasting, fruit and yogurt as well as cereal, fresh juice and tea. It all looked so pretty and tasted really good - I wish we'd had another night there just for the breakfast!
We spent the morning having a wander around Pitlochry. We had a wander round the pretty town and walked to the fish ladder. In the afternoon, we set off on our way home. We stopped off at South Queensferry for a little wander and a piece of cake from The Little Bakery. I love Queensferry - we always stop off there if we're passing - I love the way the little row of houses ends abruptly and opens out into the most beautiful view of the Forth Bridges. As we got back in the car, the first raindrops of the holiday hit the windscreen. Perfect timing.