In a week’s time, Mr Fletche and I will be embarking on our first plane journey of 2018 in a break from prepping our house for selling up (you can find out more about that decision here). But we’re not heading off too far…
Mr Fletche took a solo trip to the Scottish Highlands last September, and whilst I was sunning myself in Spain, he was sending me photos of himself looking soggy in several beautiful locations along with captions like “I’m drowning”, “it’s raining…again” and “f*&%£!g rain…” But despite the weather, the area captured his heart and he was desperate to return – with me in tow this time, and hopefully with drier weather.
So we’re avidly watching the weather apps, and planning our packing lists (new walking boots are on the way…mine didn’t survive the great muddy trek at Easter…) but the following places are definitely on the itinerary:
Glencoe and Kinlochleven
Glencoe is a two hour drive from our base at Beauly, so it’ll be an early start and a long day but there are so many beautiful walks around there that it’s a definite for our itinerary. It’s an area that has a bloody history, well suited to a rugged and dramatic landscape. Spring is the best time to visit, with rivers running high with melted ice and mountain flowers making an appearance – but before the notorious midges hatch.
We’re planning on a couple of easy but rewarding walks of around 1.5-2 miles including the Glencoe Lochan circular trail and Signal Rock, a place of folklore and legend. If we want a little more of a challenge, we could do the short but steep 2.75 mile trail to the spectacular 60m Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall. We could even take a chairlift (yes, the lazy way to summit a mountain) ascending 2200ft in 12 minutes at Glencoe Mountain Resort. Not to be completely lazy, there is a second viewpoint which requires a 15-minute climb.
Of course, I’m always looking for where to eat and drink (all good walks should be rewarded) so I have my eye on Clachaig Inn near Signal Rock and Lochleven Seafood Cafe on the north bank of Loch Leven.
Loch Ness and Glen Affric
Whilst watching out for Nessie, there are a number of sights to see within a 30 minute drive of Beauly, and as we’re arriving early afternoon we hope to get out and about as soon as possible. We plan to head towards Drumnadrochit, a village with traditional cottages and cafes and the gateway to Loch Ness. There’s also Urquhart Castle nearby, it’s ruins standing sentinel over the waters of Loch Ness and Urquhart Bay. There’s also a village called Dores on the south bank which has magnificent views across the loch, with a 4 mile circular walk, handily starting and ending at the Dores Inn.
For more waterfall spotting, we’ll head to Glen Affric (or Ben Affleck, as I like to refer to the area). There’s the 3.75 mile trail at Dog Falls, through the Caledonian Pine Forest, and the 1.5 mile walk at Plodda Falls, through another forest, this time of Douglas Firs. If we’re feeling particularly energetic, there’s the Loch Affric circuit, which is around 12 miles and would probably take us much of a whole day to do.
Who’s old enough to remember this…
Isle of Skye
I’m guessing that one day really isn’t enough for the Isle of Skye but if the weather is kind to us we’ll get another early start for the drive to this popular island. If we take the A855 from Portee, the island’s capital, this road loops around the northernmost spur of the Trotternish peninsula, taking us past some of the iconic sights including the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock, the Quiraing and Duntulm Castle. There are loads of moderate walks to do around this area, but lack of time may mean that we have to limit ourselves to shorter walks such as Bioda Buidhe, just south of the more challenging Quiraing loop, or the Fairy Glen near Uig with it’s round-topped grassy hills, ponds and waterfalls. Hopefully we can throw in the Old Man of Storr hike if we have time.
(I found a useful tip which suggests doing the A855 loop clockwise as most tour buses take the counter-clockwise route, so I’ll let you know how that works out!)
Whilst we’re on the subject of fairy folk, one of Skye’s most popular attractions is undoubtedly the Fairy Pools at the foot of the Black Cuillins. There’s a bit of walking across the moors required to reach them, about 20 minutes or so, but it’s through pretty spectacular scenery, and the crystal blue pools and waterfalls are worth the walk. As we’re going on a Bank Holiday weekend we may well be unlucky with the crowds but it just gives us an excuse to come back and dedicate more time to the island itself.
I’m not sure three and a half days are going to be enough! Particularly if we end up doing “accidental hikes” like we normally do (where a 10 minute walk from the car park turns into a 6 hour jaunt around a loch…). Although this sounds a lot to cram in, we’re pretty flexible on the itinerary and we have an idea where we want to spend each day but appreciate that there’s no way we do everything. Which means we’ll have to plan to return soon…
Have you been to the Scottish Highlands? What shouldn’t we miss – given our tight schedule? And should we give haggis a go? Let me know in the comments!
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