ROAD TRIP AROUND SCOTLAND: DAY 2
This is day two of our road trip around Scotland: we travelled from Inverness to Nairn before heading down to Loch Ness and Fort August, following by Glenfinnan and Mallaig.
The tour started and ended in Glasgow, covering two national parks, numerous lochs, and plenty of charming towns and cosy villages along the way. This route took us through some of the country's most breath-taking scenery in the highlands to the northeast coast, in Inverness, and the west coast, in Mallaig. Click on the map above to see all the stops on the tour and here if you want to catch up on the first day of this trip.
DAY 2. DRIVING DISTANCE: 357km / 222mi
INVERNESS >> NAIRN >> FORT AUGUSTUS >> GLENFINNAN >> MALLAIG >> FOYERS
The second day of the trip started in Nairn, a cute seaside town about 30 min away from Inverness by car. With a cup of much-need coffee in one hand and a camera in the other, we went for a walk along the East beach. This sandy beach, set against the backdrop of the Moray Firth, is arguably Nairn's biggest asset even if the Scottish weather is a bit of gamble. You might even spot some dolphins here (we were not that lucky)!
Despite its size, Nairn is comprised of several different settlements. Following the the arrival of the Inverness and Nairn Railway in 1855, Nairn became a popular holiday destination whose waters reputedly had medical properties. Thousands flocked here settling in Victorian villas in the West End.
Long before the construction of the railway, Nairn had developed as a farming and market settlement next to a fishing port. The old village Fishertown, originally called Seatown, is a maze of narrow streets are lined with picturesque cottages down by the harbour. These houses are typical of fishing communities - low and with thatched roofs with their gable-ends facing the sea.
NAIRN >> FORT AUGUSTUS
From Nairn, we headed down to Fort Augustus. This drive takes you back to Inverness and then along Loch Ness and to its southern tip. The dark, deep, cold lake stretches for 37 km (23 mi), and you will have multiple photo opportunities on the way - make sure your camera is fully charged! Especially in case Nessie makes an appearance.
Our original itinerary also included a visit to Urquhart Castle on the shores of the lake, but we decided against it in the end because of the £9.00 admission fee to get to the ruins (you are never too far way from a castle in Scotland, we thought).
The drive from Inverness to Fort Augustus takes about an hour. This neat village, once a government garrison, is a good spot to stretch your legs, grab some food, and look at the locks forming part of the Caledonian Canal and stepping down to Loch Ness. If you have a bit more time, you can also take a cruise around the lake - multiple boats operate tours of different duration. There are also multiple walking trails and cycling paths around the area, the Great Glen Way being the most popular one.
We went for a walk around and spotted a couple taking their wedding photos at the tip on Canal Side. Interesting choice, we thought, considering it was barely +11 outside.
For lunch, we went to The Boathouse Lochside that serves a decent selection of Scottish and Mediterranean dishes, from pies to humus with pita bread. I ordered haggis & tatties - an appetiser version of the famous Scottish dish. Traditionally, it contains a savoury pudding served with two sides, 'neeps and tatties' (swedes with mash potatoes). The pudding is made of sheep's pluck (heart, liver, and lungs), minced with beef or mutton suet, oatmeal, onion, spices, and then mixed with stock and encased in the animal's stomach to simmer. Nowadays, artificial casings are often used instead. I thought it tasted pretty similar to black pudding (which I like), but it was difficult to convince myself to try the 'cover' even though I was not sure whether it was a real sheep's stomach or not. Overall, it was pretty nice. If you are not ready for a full-on haggis experience, this is the way to try it.
FORT AUGUSTUS >> GLENFINNAN
As we left Fort Augustus, the weather got progressively worse . Thick, heavy clouds building up above Loch Lochy covering up the mountains around, rain showering on and off - in other words, a typical day in Scotland.
About an hour later we got to one of the most anticipated stops on this trip - Glenfinnan. As an avid Harry Potter fan, I was looking forward to seeing the iconic viaduct set amid awe-inspiring scenery more than anything. The 21-arch viaduct, constructed in 1901, is 380 m (415 yd) long and crosses the River Finnan at a height of 30 m (100 ft). It overlooks the waters of Loch Schiel and the Glenfinnan Monument that commemorates the Jacobite clansmen who fought and died in the cause of Prince Charles Edward Stuart. No matter the weather, the landscape looks hauntingly stunning.
The railway is traversed by regular trains all year long and by the heritage Jacobite Steam Train (aka the Hogwarts Express) from Fort William and Mallaig in summer months. This scenic journey takes about two hours and costs £35.00 per adult day return ticket (£30.00 adult single). If you want to stay at Glenfinnan a bit longer, you can even stay in one of the restored carriages overnight!
GLENFINNAN >> MALLAIG
From Glenfinnan, we headed to Mallaig following the A830, also known as the Road to the Isles. We passed another beautiful viaduct on the way that we wanted to take pictures of so badly that we parked the car on the side of the road and ran down the dual carriageway in the pouring rain. I think it was worth it.
Finally, we made it to Mallaig. Situated on the north west coast, this bustling ferry and fishing port is a getaway to the Isle of Skye and smaller isles such as Rum, Eigg, Muck, and Canna. While it can get pretty busy with tourists, the village maintains the atmosphere of a remote fishing community. Mallaig is compact and makes for a cosy overnight stop: take the Mallaig Circuit walk overlooking the harbour or relax in one of the handful restaurants, cafes, and pubs around.
After Mallaig, we turned back onto the A830 making our way to Foyers on the eastern shore of Loch Ness, where we were staying the night.
We stayed at Foyers Roost, a small family-run guesthouse overlooking Loch Ness. Foyers is a small village located 30 min away from Inverness and Fort Augustus by car and feels like a secluded escape. The hotel's terrace is the highest viewpoint in the Great Glen and offers stunning views across the lake and mountains - now that's a dinner to remember!
This guesthouse only has double rooms, all identical and depending on what side your window faces, you either get a view of the loch or the back garden. The facilities are shared, with separate toilet and shower right outside of the rooms. The room was small but very cosy, and had all the necessities - a sink, a kettle, a small TV, a blowdryer. It is also worth mentioning how comfortable that bed was, which is something you really appreciate after a long day of driving.
The restaurant/bar downstairs boasts an impressive collection of 100 malt whiskies, as well as some local brews. The food is up to par - my hearty ale pie and chunky chips were delicious! My only complaint is that if you pay at the restaurant by card, there is a £5 service charge for bills under £50.
However, If you are to do this roadtrip, I would recommend spending a bit more time at Loch Ness in the afternoon and staying overnight somewhere closer to Mallaig (driving all the way from Mallaig to Foyers was not that brilliant an idea).
>> Fancy a voucher to save a bit on your next adventure? Get €15 off on Booking.com or €35/$40 off when you book a place on Airbnb.
>> How to get to here: Inverness Airport is the closet airport to the Scottish Highlands. It operates routes within the UK and to/from Dublin and Amsterdam. Otherwise, fly into Glasgow or Edinburgh and make your way by car, bus or train.
Have you been to the Highlands or Scotland? Share in the comments below!
Happy travels! x
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