Highland Road Trip: Days 1 & 2 – Glencoe, Spean Bridge Commando Memorial and Eilean Donan Castle
If you’ve been following my blog lately, you’ll probably already know that we spent Max’s October break visiting the Highlands of Scotland, which is a part of the country I’ll never, ever get tired of. You, on the other hand, quite possibly will, because although I’d planned to make this post a full 7-day itinerary, I ended up writing almost 1,000 words about just the first few days, so… whoops. It’s me. I’m the problem.
Anyway, I’m going to break this trip into a few separate posts, then round them all up at the end as a full itinerary, and because I know no one is even remotely interested in that dull housekeeping note, let’s just jump straight into it…
Our Highland Road Trip: Days 1 and 2
Day 1: Glencoe
It took us around 2.5 hours to drive to Glencoe from our home in the central belt, and it’s a stunning drive, which takes you along the banks of Loch Lomond, and across Rannoch Moor, before entering Glencoe itself. And what a sight it is:
Photos don’t really do justice to Glencoe. It has the kind of wild beauty that’s perfectly suited to the rain and gloomy weather – which is fortunate for it, really, because that’s the only kind of weather I’ve ever seen there. I mean, I’m sure it’s sometimes sunny in Glencoe, but my number one tip to you here is to assume that it won’t be and pack accordingly.
(My number 2 tip, meanwhile, is to never place anything on the roof of your car here, even temporarily. Don’t ask me how I know.)
Glencoe Visitor Centre
While a lot of visitors come here to climb the mountains that line the glen, traveling with a a 4-year-old pretty much ruled that out for us, so, instead, we stopped at the Glencoe Visitor Centre, for lunch, and an insight into the history of the area, and so that Max could have a mini-meltdown at the prospect of the toilets there being the kind that flush automatically when you stand up. (Thankfully they weren’t, so if your child also harbors a crippling fear of “automatic toilets”, you can rest easy.)
As well as the cafe and shop (Which is where my mum was persuaded to buy the little Highland cow toy shown at the top of this post for Max. He called it ‘Nitty’. No, we don’t know why…), the visitor centre also contains tons of information on the walks you can take through the Glen, plus an exhibition on the mountaineering history of the area, a short film on its history, and more.
You also get some amazing views of the Glen itself, making it the perfect place to stop for a coffee and some cake.
Day 2: Glencoe to Skye
The next morning we were up bright and early for breakfast in the hotel before our drive to the Isle of Skye.
The Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge
Our first stop was at the Lochaber Commando Memorial, which stands just outside the village of Spean Bridge, a few miles past Fort William:
This is one of the most moving WW2 memorials I’ve seen. It looks out onto the Nevis mountain range: on a clear day you’ll get a fantastic view of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain, but on a misty day, like the one we visited it on, it appears to almost float in the clouds, which is even more spectacular.
(My mum has photos of her and my uncle here as children, and was keen to recreate them with me and Max. Unfortunately I closed my eyes in most of the shots involving me, which is why I often have my back to the camera in photos: it’s just easier that way…)
Just next to the monument itself is a memorial garden honoring servicemen and women who’ve served in other wars: I can’t think of a more beautiful spot for it.
The next part of our journey took us through Glen Shiel. I think this is one of the most scenic drives in Scotland, but I’m afraid you’re just going to have to take my word for it, because it was raining so heavily we could barely see the mountains on each side of us:
It’s stunning when you can see it, though, seriously.
Thankfully, the weather had cleared up ever so slightly by the time we reached our next stop, so we were able to at least see Eilean Donan Castle through the mist…
Eilean Donan Castle
I once read that Eilean Donan Castle is the most photographed castle in Scotland, despite its somewhat remote location, and it’s easy to see why that could be true. I personally took at least 1,645 photos of it, for instance, and that’s not including the ones where Max was doing his “angry face” because I’d refused to buy him a freaking CLAYMORE in the gift shop:
Eilean Donan sits on a small tidal island just off the mainland, and is beautiful from all angles, even in the rain. The castle is reached by a stone bridge, which you have to pay to cross in order to visit the building itself. We’d actually done this the last time we were in this part of the world, so this time we settled for lunch in the visitor centre, where Max got his revenge for the whole “claymore” fiasco by stealing my camera and taking 900 selfies that all looked like this:
After that, it was back into the car for our journey across the Skye bridge and onto the island itself:
(The Skye bridge is not an especially picturesque bridge, tbh. I mean, it’s a perfectly nice bridge, don’t get me wrong, and it does a great job of conveying traffic from the mainland to Skye, which is the whole point of it really, but if you’re expecting something dramatic from it, you’ll likely be disappointed.)
(Don’t worry, though, the island itself will more than make up for it.)
As you can see from the photo above, it had started raining again at this point, and by the time we reached Skye it was pretty much torrential, so we drove straight to our hotel: Duisdale House, which I wrote about here.
We had dinner in the hotel too (also covered in my linked post), then headed back to our lodge to relax before the next day’s adventures… which I’ll be telling you all about in my next post, so stay tuned for more mountains, lochs, and me having to take a pee by the side of a road. OK, maybe not TOO much about that last bit…