I just got back from a week-long road trip around some parts of Scotland. I enjoyed myself so much I wanted to share with you all the amazing places we stopped.
We started off in Manchester and after that here’s the route plan that we decided to take. We travelled first to Glasgow, then to Aviemore, Fort William, and lastly Edinburgh, with plenty of other small stops along the way.
This was a family road trip, and as my dad is from Glasgow, we made it our first stop of the trip. We stayed two nights here and spent a lot of time visiting family members and seeing the places where my dad grew up. We also walked around the city centre, shopping on Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street. Unfortunately, George Square was closed off due to an event, so we couldn’t visit there.
One of my favourite spots was the Cathkin Braes, which we visited as my dad used to play there as a kid. The Cathkin Braes is a large country park just outside of Glasgow. It has great views of the city and it’s a lovely place to take a walk – a lot of people were out walking their dogs there – and there are also mountain bike trails. Unfortunately, it started to rain while we were on our walk, but I still really enjoyed it.
After Glasgow, we headed to Aviemore. On the way we stopped for a rest break in a village called Blair Atholl, home to Blair Castle. We didn’t have time to visit the castle, but we did take a walk through the main street of the village. This was a great little place to stop along the way and if we’d had more time here I would have liked to see the castle up close.
Our next stop was Aviemore, which is a town in the Scottish Highlands, and part of the Cairngorms National Park. During the winter months, Aviemore is a ski town, but it’s a great spot to visit all year round. Driving through the town, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were driving through a town in Canada, not Scotland. We were originally only going to stay in Aviemore for one night, but we had family who were also there on holiday, so we stayed with them for two nights.
On our first full day here, we visited Cairngorm Mountain and went up to the top by the Cairngorm Funicular, which is the highest funicular in the UK. At the top of the track is a small museum, gift shop, restaurant, and then a viewing platform. The views that you can see from here are spectacular, and we spent quite a lot of time up here just admiring them. After our visit here, we drove to Loch Morlich. The large loch has its own beach and a water sports centre. There were plenty of people kayaking and windsurfing, among other activities.
On our last morning in Aviemore we visited the Highland Wildlife Park before leaving for the next stop. The wildlife park has a safari element where you can drive through parts of the park, past some of the animal enclosures, but you can also walk around the park. There are lots of animals to see, including tigers, snow leopards, wolves, Scottish wildcats and many more. There is also a pair of adult polar bears and their cub, called Hamish. The animals are kept in outdoor enclosures and seem to have a good amount of space to roam. They’re not overcrowded and, besides pack animals, most are kept in mating pairs. The area is also one of the only places where British red squirrels still roam, but unfortunately, they were all hiding in the trees and we couldn’t spot any.
After leaving the park, we headed for our next destination of Fort William. Not long after departing from Aviemore, we happened to drive past a spot in Newtonmore which is known for being the ‘Centre of Scotland’. This is a really picturesque spot and a great photo opportunity. We also stopped off at Spean Bridge to visit the Commando Memorial, dedicated to the British Commando Forces raised during WWII. The memorial is wonderful and set against a beautiful backdrop.
We next reached Fort William, known as the gateway to Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain. Our original plan had been to stay here for three nights, giving us a day to hike part of the way up Ben Nevis, but as we spent the extra day in Aviemore, we didn’t have time to fit this in. We arrived in Fort William in the late afternoon and took a walk into the town and along the small high street, which has a mixture of souvenir shops, restaurants and pubs.
The next morning, we were out early to drive to Glenfinnan to see the viaduct. Glenfinnan Viaduct is famous for appearing in the Harry Potter films, and the Jacobite, a heritage steam train which travels along the line, is depicted as the Hogwarts Express. The Jacobite only travels along the route twice a day, from Fort William to Mallaig in the morning, and back in the afternoon, meaning there is only a short window of time just twice a day to see the train on the viaduct. The best view of the train is when it is on its morning route. After we saw the train pass, we drove into Mallaig, a fishing village right on the coast. We were able to see the Jacobite up close at the train station and had fish and chips by the sea. On the way back to Fort William, we passed by the viaduct again and happened to catch the train on its afternoon journey. We also saw the Glenfinnan Monument, dedicated to the Jacobites. The monument is in a stunning location and is protected by the National Trust for Scotland.
The morning after, before we left for Edinburgh, we drove to Glen Nevis and the foot of Ben Nevis to get a good view of the mountain. We travelled through Glencoe Valley and stopped at An Torr, a walking and beauty spot. Further into the journey, we passed by The Kelpies at Falkirk, two 30-ft horse head sculptures based on the Scottish mythical creatures.
Kelpies image courtesy of Irn Bru
Again, we arrived in Edinburgh in the late afternoon. We headed into the city and went to Greyfriars Kirk, a church in the Old Town and one of the oldest buildings in the city. We walked through the gothic looking kirkyard (graveyard) which is now a popular tourist destination. This is largely associated with the story of Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye Terrier who, after his owner died, stayed by his grave day after day for fourteen years until he died himself. There is a grave and headstone for Bobby in the kirkyard, as well as a statue just outside which is dedicated to him. The kirkyard is also home to the grave of Thomas Riddell, where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration for the character of Lord Voldemort’s real name.
The next day we visited Edinburgh Castle. While this is an obvious spot for tourists, we had a special reason for visiting. My great uncle Hugh McIver’s Victoria Cross and other WWI medals are on display in the Royal Scots Museum, located within the castle walls. You can read his story below:
There’s so much to see in the castle and you can get some great views of the city.
After visiting the castle, we walked down the Royal Mile (the main drag through the Old Town leading up to the castle), which is full of shops selling souvenirs, whiskies and more, as well as bars and restaurants. We then headed to Princes Street, Edinburgh’s main shopping street, with the Princes Street Gardens on the other side. This was our last stop of the trip before heading back home.
Overall, I had a brilliant week. There was so much to see and do, and if we’d had more time, we’d definitely have done more. I’d love to go back and cover more of this beautiful country. It helped that, except for two days, we were blessed with glorious weather, and everyone we met along the way was so friendly. We clocked up countless hours and over a thousand miles of driving, and it was honestly one of the best parts of the trip as the scenery was so beautiful along the way.
If you’re looking for a country to road trip around, I’d definitely suggest Scotland, and you can spend much more than a week travelling around this amazing nation!
If you’re interested in what camera I use, it’s the Nikon D3200 DSLR. I mostly use the 18-55mm VR lens for standard shots and landscapes, and I use the 55-200mm VR lens for distance shots, like the ones from the wildlife park (it was also really good at focusing through the wire enclosures). Here’s some links to the camera and lenses on Amazon. Nikon doesn’t produce the D3200 anymore, as it has upgraded to the D3400, but you can still pick them up second hand, and the lenses are able to be used on both models.
I also took my Crosstour 4K Action Cam with me and shot some stunning videos!