Some highlights for a quick road trip of the Scottish Highlands

I was asked to suggest some things for someone to see on a quick trip to Scotland. I ended up putting this together; it may as well live on the website!

 

The key to enjoying the Scottish outdoors is to wait until the last moment, then travel to wherever the weather looks best - the essence of our weather is change. We have a lot of great weather, and a lot of awful weather; as the saying goes, "if you don't like the weather in Scotland, wait 15 minutes" (and this sometimes isn't an exaggeration, particularly in Spring).

As a rough guide, head the way the wind's blowing - as Scotland is hilly, the worst of the rain tends to be dumped on the side of the country it arrives at. The West coast tends to get the worst weather, as the dominant wind direction is South Westerly to Westerly. The driest weather tends to be in the North East and East. However, our best scenery is mostly in the West - particularly the Western Isles and the North West Highlands.

Wherever you head, try to have three plans - one for good weather, one for bad weather, and one for mixed weather.

We have a lot of very accessible yet scenic hills, and some stunning beaches. I would argue that some of our scenery is as good as can be seen anywhere in the world. However, from late May(ish) to early October(ish), beware of the dreaded midge. These can be horrific, and the only sure ways of avoiding them are to go outwith these months, to go out when it's fairly windy, or to use DEET-based repellants (which may not be very good for you).

For someone who has a car, has about a week to play with, and is prepared to walk a bit, here are some ideas for things to see. Again, where possible, aim to plan at the last moment, catch the weather forecast, and go where it looks best. To that end, I'll split these into areas ('corners', if you like!) I've also given an example itiniery, which could be great if the weather's agreeable, or more or less useless if the weather's against you.

I've unashamedly concentrated on the 'outdoors' attractions, as that's what I know best, and it's what I think is the best Scotland has to offer. Keep in mind that a week is a pretty short time, and it's unfortunately possible that you could have bad weather for your entire visit - in which case, a whisky tour might be a better plan!

A couple of useful weather forecast sites:

Met Office (reasonably accurate for two-to-three days ahead, though often get the timing wrong)

MWIS (probably the best 'mountain' forecasts, and also links to some handy webcams to see what it currently looks like)

 

A few example pictures of various areas:

South West Highlands and Isle of Arran

North West Highlands and Isle of Skye

Western Isles

East Highlands

 

A possible itinerary, if the weather's favourable. Heading for the North Wet Highlands; many variations are possible:

Day 1 - (South West Highlands) Drive up Loch Lomondside, via Tyndrum, to Glencoe. Do a walk in Glencoe (perhaps a visit to the Lost Valley) or Glen Etive; stay in the Kings House Hotel, or in Glencoe. If the weather's wet, continue on to Fort William, up to the head of Glen Nevis, and walk up the gorge to see Steall Falls.

 

Day 2 - Drive on up to Fort William, then West along the 'Road to the Isles' heading for Mallaig. Go to Camusdarach beach; stay in Arisaig or Mallaig. As an alternative to the beach, take a boat trip from Mallaig. As an alternative, if it isn't beach weather, drive North from Fort William through Kintail, then round and down West to Ratagan. Either have a look at the Glen Elg Brochs then take the Glen Elg ferry across to Skye, or drive across the Skye Bridge and get a day ahead on this schedule - an extra day on Skye or in Ullapool.

 

Day 3 - Get the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale on Skye. Visit the Storr and/or the Quiraing; stay on Skye, or in Kyle of Lochalsh or Plockton. Bad weather alternative - visit the Takisker distillery in Carbost on Skye. Adventurous alternative - a day's scrambling on the Black Cuillin hills of Skye, Scotland's most rugged hills.

 

Day 4 - Drive up round Lochcarron, then over the Bealach na Ba to Applecross. Eat in the Applecross Inn (or even stay there). From there, drive round to Torridon and stay there or at Kinlochewe.

 

Day 5 - Drive West from Kinlochewe along Loch Maree (a beautiful stretch of road), and take a trip to the beach at Red Point if the weather's good. Head North through Gairloch, Poolewe and Dundonnell, to Ullapool; stay there.

 

Day 6 - Visit Inverpolly and Achnahaird beach. Climb Stac Pollaidh if the weather's good; if it isn't, walk in to look at the Falls of Kirkaig or the Inchnadamph Bone Caves. Have pies in Lochinver at Lochinver Larder, then head back to Ullapool and stay there again. If you have a spare day in Ullapool, it's also well worth taking a boat cruise to the Summer Isles.

 

Day 7 - Much less scenically, head home via Inverness and the A9 South. Break the journey at Rogie Falls and at Aviemore if you wish.

 

Back to Photo guides and assorted stuff