Letitia and I recently returned from a whistle-stop tour of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, taking in historic sites and beautiful views, while indulging in plenty of delicious food. We landed in Inverness and enjoyed what has to be the quickest departure from plane to vehicle I've ever experienced - completely stress-free and done in less than an hour. We excitedly hit the Scottish road…
Our first stop was Culloden Battlefield, a moment in history which is frozen in time thanks to an extensive museum comprising a cinematic 360 degree reconstruction of the battle and the battlefield; this was the location of the final battle of the Jacobite Rising. The battle in 1745 lasted less than one hour but had catastrophic results: some 1,500 Jacobites were wounded or killed and, as we walked the fields, the emotional impact of this was ever present. Although a moving start to our trip, it helped us to understand the cultural and historical sensitivities in this region, especially as we would meet a Chief Clan a few days later. Not far from the battlefield is Clava Clarns: dating back 4,000 years, it's a pre-historic site that has been incredibly preserved and it's well worth taking half an hour to wander around to get a deeper understanding of the distant history of this country.
While heading south along Loch Ness, if there's one piece of advice we could pass on it's to make time for a dozen photo stops en route! The loch looks magnificent, especially early in the morning or at dusk. We can't promise a selfie with the monster but we can certainly help to make your Instagram followers jealous! After turning off at the base of Loch Ness, it's worth stopping at Eilean Donan Castle for a break. We enjoyed a tour of the castle, followed by a cup of coffee in the cafe and a photo opportunity of the castle from the mainland - after all, it is one of the most photographed castles in the UK.
Isle of Skye
When we say the Isle of Skye has it all, we're not lying: be it five-star dining in the evening or incredible hikes during the day. The Old Man of Storr is a two hour walk and we would highly recommend this - it makes that seven course tasting menu all the more worth it! Just before the ferry port is Torabhaig Distillery - a fairly new distillery which produces traditional malt whisky.
As we headed off the Isle of Skye and en route to Oban, we stopped briefly to see views of Castle Stalker, which is in the middle of the loch and makes for a good vehicle break. Oban is a harbour town and the ferry terminal for the Isle of Mull. The journey is quick and it's worth popping up to the top deck to see views of Eilean Musdile Lighthouse, as well as the upcoming peaks of Mull's mountain range. The Isle of Mull is quieter and much more remote than the Isle of Skye; it really is for those who want to be on their own on a beach, or see wildlife which requires silence from its viewer. It wasn't long until we came across a herd of Highland cows, flying kestrels and horned sheep that will only move off the road when they're good and ready! The adorable colourful town of Tobermory is the place to stay overnight, especially if you want to stumble from the only distillery on the island to a freshly-caught fish supper. As a special treat, we experienced a private tour of Duart Castle with the Chief Clan: his stories and tales of both his own childhood and his ancestors' eventful journeys were inspirational.
Once back on the mainland, we couldn't wait to see the views of Glencoe - the deep green valley and volcanic skyscape of the most famous glen in Scotland. Whether you're after a whole day's hike or just a stroll, you will be rewarded by jaw-dropping views. The moment had to end sometime and after a bit of mud and windswept hair, we continued on our journey back up to Inverness-shire.
Our final stop was Fort George, built following the Battle of Culloden, it was one of Europe's best fortifications and is still active today. There is so much to see here that we really would recommend at least two hours. From the Highlanders Museum to the garrison chapel, dog cemetery and the vast collection of weapons on display - there is so much to see.
It's safe to say that we miss Scotland already and want to return as quickly as possible!