No matter what it is that you’re looking for, Scotland will deliver. It is a place filled with mysterious lochs, historic castles and endless ranges of mountains.
It’s this reason that we chose Scotland as our main adventure of 2019. With so much to see, there was only one thing to do… Road trip! In June, we packed up the car and set off on a 1,055 mile round trip.
Setting off from York, our road trip took us through the surreal Cairngorms National Park to rugged mountain landscapes and the bustling Scottish capital, Edinburgh.
The eight-day trip had us drive over 1,000 miles, buy a new tent, wild camp and one of us may have even fallen into a stream… This is our Scotland Road Trip.
The First Drive
Day one. With a six-hour drive ahead of us, we’d planned to take advantage of it and see a couple of places on the way. We set off from York nice and early on Saturday morning with our first stop scheduled after two-hours at Gretna Green.
The services just south of the Scottish border offered a good place for us to have a comfort break and grab some breakfast. However, I wouldn’t recommend Starbucks if you are on a budget. Two hot chocolates and sausage sandwiches soon add up and it ate into our food budget.
Balloch Castle Country Park
A short stop at Gretna Green and we’re back on our way. Another two-hour drive and we’re at stop number two. The much more scenic Balloch Castle Country Park.
On the shores of Loch Lomond, just north of Glasgow, this was a beautiful place to have a picnic. We’d packed some food ready for the week, so when we arrived at the car park, we made up some sandwiches to take with us.
Balloch Castle is less of a castle and more of a country home. Built in the early 1800s, it now lies derelict, overlooking the loch and Alexandria Gardens. We took a stroll down to the loch to stretch our legs and through the gardens to have our picnic.
As lovely as this was, we knew we still had our third and final two-hour drive to take us to our first campsite of the week. After around an hour enjoying the view, it was back to the car. Not long to go now!
First Campsite – Glencoe
The first campsite we were staying in was called Caolasnacon Caravan & Camping Park. At £13 a night for our small tent and the two of us, it was a great deal. We booked in here for two nights.
They don’t take advance bookings, so after checking they had space and paying, we drove round to the campsite. We were told to pick our own spot. There were plenty of spaces to choose from as it was outside of the school holidays.
The views from the campsite were simply incredible. We set up our tent just above the shore of Loch Leven, overlooking a mountain range to the northeast. That was a view we were looking forward to waking up to!
All that driving and setting up the tent was hungry work. Despite the fairly gusty breeze, we set up our BBQ down on the pebble shore of Loch Leven and cooked up a couple of delicious burgers. With big plans for the coming days, it was an early night for us.
Glen Nevis, Fort William
Day two brought us our first hike of the road trip. Our campsite was about a half an hour drive from Fort William, the town at the base of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s (and the UK’s) largest mountain.
Whilst we would have loved to climb Ben Nevis, we didn’t feel like we’d prepared for it enough, so we settled for doing a walk around its smaller brother, Glen Nevis.
We followed a route from Walking Highlands that took us along Glen Nevis to Polldubh Falls. A fairly flat walk for the most part. Ease from the lack of climbing is compensated for by some small streams to cross, rocky paths and in places, muddy and waterlogged grass.
During the walk, we didn’t notice the streams were getting bigger. It wasn’t until Megan had to jump across a rather rocky stream and landed face-first in the water that we realised they’d gotten a bit more difficult to cross. After getting Megan back on her feet, we finally had a good laugh about it.
Shortly after this, we had found a perfect spot to take a break and enjoy our surroundings. We got the picnic bag out, settled down, and tucked into our feast.
Continuing on with the walk, we passed a rather vocal sheep. It almost sounded like it was screaming ‘hey!’ at us from the other side of the river bank. So as we jokingly shouted ‘hey!’ at the sheep, it proceeded to retaliate back. It kept us amused for way too long.
After we finally reached Polldubh Falls, we had time to rest, catch our breath and appreciate the great 10m drop beneath us. The sound of the waterfall was incredible.
From here, it wasn’t too far back to the visitor centre where we had started this journey. Our 3-hour walk came to an end as we reached the car park.
Back to the campsite. Not a bad start to our Scotland road trip.
Our next morning started off with a rookie mistake. We didn’t bring any bowls with us. So as you can see here, we ate our cereal out of a pan…
We were extremely gutted to be leaving as we had only booked the two nights at this site. As soon as we had packed up, we wished we had stayed at this site for longer. The view we had woken up to was surreal.
After a steady 66-mile journey, we arrived at Inverness. We planned on using this day to explore the city and pick up anything else we may need for the rest of the week. Funnily enough, we still never bought any bowls.
One thing we didn’t exactly plan on buying was a tent. A 5-birth tent. But we did anyway. The thing with our previous tent was that it was so easy to put up, it took 10 seconds if that. But it was so tiny. We could only just fit a double airbed in it, that was it. The thing we craved at this point was somewhere decent to sit down and hang out properly.
So after leaving Go Outdoors with a new tent, a set of new pegs, a mallet and two new camping chairs, we arrived at our campsite and began the struggle of setting up our new spacious tent.
The campsite we stayed at was Loch Ness Bay Camping. Priced at £21 per pitch per night, it came to £63 for 3 nights. This was much more expensive than the first site. The location is very handy, and there’s a lovely 20-minute walk to the local village. But it didn’t quite have the same charm as the previous campsite.
Fairy Glen Falls
We woke up on day four ready for another adventure. From the campsite, we drove up to Fortrose to explore some more. We had found a fairly simple walk which would lead us to two beautiful waterfalls at Fairy Glen. This walk only takes an hour and the terrain is easy enough for children too (and clumsy Megans).
As it was only a Tuesday, the forest was completely empty. We had passed only one other walking group and that was it. As we walked through the forest, we started to hear the falls.
It doesn’t take long before you reach the second waterfall, 10 minutes in fact. Here, the path takes you across the waterfall and back up to the main road. We didn’t want to walk back on the road though, so we stayed here for a little while and then retraced our steps back through the forest.
After taking (too) many photos of the waterfalls, we headed into the village of Fortrose for some fish and chips. we ate those on the 45-minute walk along a track leading to the end of the shore, known as Chanonry Point. We came here for a very specific reason. Dolphins!
Chanonry Point is well-known for the frequent visit of bottlenose dolphins. We found out that this is due to the influence of tidal conditions. If you research tidal times, you’re almost certain to see them. It’s best to visit 1-hour after low tide, this is when the fish are drawn to the coast. Shortly followed by hungry dolphins.
It was cold, and very windy on the shore, but it was definitely all worth it.
Dog Falls Forest, Beauly
Wednesday. Over half-way through our trip now. We had a very busy day planned. We drove to Dog Falls Forest in Glen Affric, a beautiful, secluded place with a few walking groups already preparing for their day.
There was a sign at the start point that explained the three walks you can do. These were all marked with different coloured signposts throughout the forest – white, yellow and red. It is possible to take in a route that includes all three routes. The white signpost was for the Viewpoint Trail. This takes just under an hour so we started here.
After climbing through the forest, we ended up above Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhain and saw some pretty amazing views. We set up the camera to take some pictures of us and then set off again onto the next track.
We then took the yellow trail to Coire Loch. This walk takes you through the patchwork forest of ancient pines and birchwood. During this walk, we came across several whimsical notice boards that shed insight on the wildlife past and present – including hawks, deer and wolves.
This route eventually brought us along the secluded loch. This is where we decided to stop and have our picnic.
After we had lunch, we followed the red trail to Dog Falls. The path differs dramatically, from firm soil to steep slopes and rocky paths. We reached the very top of the waterfall drop, but we couldn’t quite see it properly. There was a huge boulder stopping us from seeing the waterfall.
Alan climbed across with his camera to snap some pictures from on top of the boulder. It seemed to work pretty well actually and we ended up capturing the falls from a different perspective.
The views went on forever, we truly were amazed. There was so much to take in, and the surrounding sounds were terrific. We must’ve taken hundreds of photos here.
After walking and trekking around for over 3 hours, we headed back to our campsite via Loch Ness. Whilst we were here, we decided we really wanted to take a boat trip on the Loch. The views surrounding Loch Ness were incredible, so what’s better than soaking up the views whilst in the middle of the loch.
We paid £15 each for an hour on the Jacobite cruises of Loch Ness. Which wasn’t too bad considering we turned up to the tour operator 10 minutes before the boat set off.
It was a great experience, but it would be nice to do something a little different next time, such as kayak around the loch instead.
Falls of Foyers
As our week began to draw to an end, we found ourselves hunting down yet another waterfall. This was the last one on our list, and one of the most impressive ones at that.
This natural wonder happened to be pretty close to our campsite. So we packed up our tent from our final campsite and made our way to the Falls of Foyers.
This experience was incredible, and it’s a great day out for the family too. You can quite literally just visit the waterfall and then make your way back up to the local cafe. It’s only a few minutes to the two viewing areas. But we decided to do a full walk of the woods as well.
We came across so much wildlife, we even saw bunnies hopping around near an old boat. It was so cute.
We wrote an in-depth blog post about our experience at Falls of Foyers, as there was so much to talk about! We recommend that you check it out, as it makes for a wonderful day out.
Foss Wild Camp Spot
After our day out at the Falls, we grabbed some late lunch at Waterfall Cafe, the cafe a few minutes walk from the falls, and then headed back to the car.
For our final night camping, we weren’t staying at a campsite. We were going to give wild camping a go. We’d researched wild-camping spots in the area, as Scotland is well-known for allowing wild-camping.
We found a spot that looked perfect. It was called Foss Wild Camp Spot. We wrote about our experience wild camping, so you can check that out if you like.
Arriving in Edinburgh
After sleeping on sticks and stones all night, we scoffed down a nutri-grain breakfast bar and set off on our 45-minute walk back to the car. To our delight, it was still there.
We had one night left in Scotland, a night in a hotel with a nice, warm shower. We couldn’t wait to get to Edinburgh. One quick stop at McDonald’s for breakfast, we made our way down to the capital.
It wasn’t too long before we found our hotel just outside Edinburgh city centre. However, we couldn’t check-in for a few hours. So we left the car there and decided to go and explore the city for a little while.
The first place we came across was the National Museum of Scotland. If you’re in the city, we would definitely recommend this attraction. It is free, but donations are welcome.
The museum is filled with so much culture and innovation. We spent ages in this building. We actually spent that long, we had to rush towards the end of the museum and head back to the hotel.
After we checked in, we had our first proper shower of the trip. It was amazing. We both then napped for an hour and it was well deserved. As soon as we both woke up, we got ready and went out for date night.
Saturday. Our final day in Scotland. We were pretty gutted that our week was over, but it felt like a lifetime. It was wonderful. During our last day, we decided to have a casual day in the city. We checked out the local shops, walked down the Royal Mile and admired the surrounding architecture.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions was on our to-do list in Edinburgh. It was the last part of our trip. Our experience started with the Great Telescope. In the observatory, also known as The Outlook Tower, we had a show/demonstration of the telescope. Our group learned about the interesting history behind the telescope and how to maneuver it.
It was pretty strange. We could see people on the street just going about their daily business. It felt quite intruding to watch them, but it was really fascinating the way the telescope operated.
After the show was over, we were free to roam about the World of Illusions. We had a lot of fun here. There are five floors of baffling yet creative interactions and attractions. Another great experience for anyone passing by in the city.
Our Scotland Road Trip
As you can imagine, we had the most memorable time during our Scotland road trip. It was the first of many and we can’t wait to share them all with you.
Whether you travel solo, with your partner, or with friends, travelling is an amazing way to reconnect with yourself/others and escape your usual routine.
In Scotland, we learned that you can never be completely prepared for anything, no matter how much planning you do. But that’s okay.
It’s very important to take some time out of your life to experience something completely new. Something you aren’t used to. At the end of the day, memories are one of the most important things to keep.
What was your favourite road trip you ever took, and what is your favourite memory of it? We would love to hear from you.
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