If you missed part one of my little Scottish adventure, you can catch up over here. We set out after breakfast late on Sunday morning in our little red
Corvette rental car with the plan to explore the Highlands throughout the day and eventually arrive in Inverness. After a month in London I actually really missed driving, particularly the bit where you’re shielded from the elements which is rather important in a permanently cold, wet and windy country like Scotland. And I even got to pump petrol for the first time (I’m such a South African)!
Our first stop was the city of Stirling, not quite in the Highlands but home to the biggish Stirling Castle as well as the strangely-shaped William Wallace monument. We decided not to go into the castle but hiked up to it to take in the pretty views and browse the gift shops. I also decided to embrace the “never-mind the weather” attitude of the Scots and treated myself to a cone of Scottish ice-cream which was really very good and didn’t make me any colder- perhaps the same principle as the Arabs drinking tea in the desert to cool down?
We settled on Glencoe (this time in the actual Highlands) for a late lunch which was primarily soup-based because a person cannot subsist on ice-cream alone in apparent winter
We took a 40 minute detour to Argyll to see the famous Castle Stalker, which is actually the name of an island castle even though it sounds more like a person with a strange hobby somewhat akin to train spotting… It was rather underwhelming as there was nowhere to (legally) park and it was very grey and soggy and difficult to get anything resembling a decent photo, but here’s mine anyway coz 40 minutes of driving has to be worth something!
The highlight of the day for me was pulling into the coastal town of Fort William when the sun suddenly decided to make a guest appearance. I jumped out of the car and frolicked about without my jacket and took photos in the incredible soft light. We had a quick wander through the tiny town, goofed around in the gift shop and then hit the road for our final leg.
After another detour (this one involuntary due to roadworks) we finally arrived in Inverness, capital of the Scottish Highlands and home to nearly 50 000 people. Nestled in mountains with the river Ness running through it and a mixture of Victorian and gothic charm it really is spectacularly beautiful and I’m already planning to return in order to explore it more. After checking into our Airbnb for the night we strolled through suburbia at dusk where the houses were all so casual in their majesty, and down into town for a rather average meal at an joint Indian and Thai restaurant where the staff were as friendly as the decor was tacky (think bright red plastic tablecloths covered in white stars). We finished around 11 and exhaustion from a day of driving put an end to the day’s adventures.
The next morning saw us visiting the castle to see views of the town and then tracking down the very house where my great-grandmother grew up and getting a photo in front of it for my gran. I even got to chat to the owner a little- I’m pleased to report that the Scots in the Highlands are just as friendly as the Scots in Glasgow!
We drove to the nearby Dores Inn which is the best vantage point from which to visit the infamous Loch Ness. The lakefront is also the home of the “Nessie Hunter” a man who holds the Guinness World Record for the longest search for the Loch Ness Monster (spoiler alert, he hasn’t spotted her yet). We saw him briefly when he emerged from his colourful caravan. His story is displayed on a board in front, it’s really more about the lifestyle for him than a desperate need to find the mythical monster and he is happy with his unconventional existence, so more power to him.
We made just two stops on the way back as we had flights to catch, the first being Dalwhinnie so my friend could do her long-awaited whiskey tasting. I’m not really a fan of the malt, I prefer my whisky heavily disguised in a cocktail rather than laid bare on my tastebuds so I went for the “Driver’s Option” of a tot of liquid chocolate ganache. I did add a drop of one of the whiskys to the chocolate just to get into the spirit (no pun intended) and the whole situation was rich and tasty. We had lunch at the highly acclaimed Old Mill Inn in the tiny town of Pitlochry (pop. 2700) so were fully expecting some smalltown Scotch hospitality but ironically our waitress turned out to be from Johannesburg, which was exciting in its own way.
There’s so much to see and do in the Highlands and we really only scratched the surface but if you’re ever planning a trip to Scotland you should definitely schedule in at least 2 days of hilly, countryside exploring- just bring a thick coat!