A Journey Through Mountains & Moors – Scottish Highlands
This was not a trip I’d planned to do alone. In fact, the route we were taking was one our friends did for their honeymoon. Albeit, their trip was taken over a leisurely fortnight and ours would be just 5 days.
We were only settling into our hotel when Dan got the call for a job he had to be home for the following day. One night and a day on the beautiful Loch Lomond and we were returning to Glasgow airport.
He looked worried, standing on the side of the road, waiting for me to set off. After a couple of minutes of confusion I rolled down the window and shouted across to him,
“How do you turn the car on?”
Perhaps not the best omen for a solo trip through the remote Scottish Highlands.
Car finally in motion, he waved me off nervously as I bottled my disappointment at having a romantic trip around the Scottish Highlands turn into a solo trip. This is the downside of self-employment. You can’t afford to say no to work.
I returned the way I came, heading north out of Glasgow. It wasn’t long before I hit Loch Lomond again, the road narrowing and twisting, forest on either side. Cars crawled along the road, giving me the opportunity to enjoy views across the Loch. The forest floor was carpeted in bluebells and I spotted hikers along hidden forest trails.
In Tarbet, I watched as families unloaded picnics and children raced down to the lakeside pulling off their shoes and squealing at the freshness of the water on their little feet. They waved excitedly at the cruise boats bobbing out on the water.
Most of the traffic veered off towards Oban, a popular seaside town, but I stuck to the A82 heading into the Highlands. It didn’t take long before the landscape changed dramatically; the land opened up and in the distance mountains soared upwards, capped with snow, while the surrounding moorland was void of the lush forest I’d just seen around Loch Lomond.
I headed deeper into the Highlands, the mountains seemed to get bigger, the moorland vaster, and the roads quieter. Every few miles I’d spot deserted cars at the side of the road and my eyes scoured the mountains for the owners. Those of you who have visited the Scottish Highlands will realise how futile this was, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack. The vastness of the land swallows anything smaller than a hill.
The road weaved between the mountains and as I passed from one valley to another, I stopped to admire waterfalls, small lochs and the incredible beauty of the quiet highlands. I pushed on, moving west towards Glencoe, a pretty village tucked into what was recently voted Scotland’s most romantic glen. The village makes for a great base to explore the surrounding highlands, and Harry Potter lovers may recognise it as Hagrid’s home or Bond fans will recall the spot from Skyfall.
From here I crossed Loch Leven by bridge and caught my first glimpse of the coastline in what felt like days.
Suddenly, the landscape seemed softer, perhaps it was the shimmering water of the loch, the forested hills or the collection of white-washed houses. Either way, I didn’t feel so alone here. I stopped off for a drink and pottered about the market stalls that have set up outside the Onich Hotel. This would be another good place to stop-over, with breathtaking views across Loch Linnhe. It had taken me three hours to get this far and I didn’t feel like moving, but I wanted to reach my destination before darkness set in.
The A828 skirts Loch Linnhe as far as Fort William, a bustling town with one of the most dramatic and magnificent backdrop in the highlands – Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles. The mountain is more impressive closeup than in the photographs I’ve seen. It stands as part of the Grampian Mountains, which dominate the skyline for miles.
The road leading into Fort William is lined with B&B’s and the main street has more outdoor clothing shops than any ski resort I’ve visited. This is where outdoor enthusiasts congregate; rock climbers, hikers, ice-climbers, you name it, this is their playground. While I love to hike, I won’t be tackling the steep slopes of Ben Nevis this time.
Heading west of Fort William, Ben Nevis loomed behind me as I climbed into the mountains for the final part of my journey. I was rewarded with a vista of snowcapped mountains, vast lakes and no sign of civilisation for miles. As the sun began to begin its descent I spotted a bridge in the distance. The bridge, I knew, would take me onto the Isle of Skye.
Tomorrow morning at 9.05am I’ll be chatting about Loch Lomond and the Isle of Skye on Ireland AM, so tune in!