The Highlands of Scotland are absolutely incredible. It is impossible to fully describe how magical it is to drive through picturesque scenery of mountaintops and lakes for hours on end, barely passing another car. (I think it also helped that we had inspiring music from Lord of the Rings and Transformers playing throughout the drive, to set the scene of course.)
We had a full day in the Highlands, beginning in Inverness, going around the Isle of Skye, and ending in Fort William.
The morning began at sunrise in Inverness. Our hotel was just across the way from Inverness Castle, which treated us to an exotic array of colour in the sky. I was less than awake when we were lining up for the tour bus but I managed to focus enough to snap up a picture of the sunrise.
The drive from Inverness to the Isle of Skye took about 2 and a half hours during which we passed mountains and valleys and the occasional patch of snow. There isn’t much in the way of vegetation in the Highlands but what it lacks in tree lines it makes up for in a beautiful barren wilderness.
Before long we had arrived at the Isle of Skye. Of all the places we stopped my favourite spot and most recommended snapshot moment, was the Sligachan Old Bridge. By luck we were the only persons there at the time and so had the place to ourselves.
Located right near the Sligachan Hotel, the bridge is a highly popular stopping spot on the Isle of Skye. Besides the hotel there is no other sign of humanity around, leaving the area with a pristine and untouched feel. It was a tad windy when we were there but regardless, a highly enjoyable stopping spot and this was in winter!
It is also home to a legend, belonging to the waters beneath the bridge. Following the legend, the waters are a bridge to the faerie world and washing your face in the waters gifts the person with wisdom or beauty, though this is somewhat debated according to different variations of the legend I have heard. The legend is tied to a Scottish warrior woman Scáthach and her daugther who went to the faeries and cried for assistance to stop a fight that was due to happen between her mother and an Irish warrior, Cú Chulainn. Regardless of whether the legend is true or not, the water was super refreshing!
If you happen to go here one day the rules are pretty much the same if not the story: Dunk you head in the water for at least seven seconds and then let it dry naturally without touching your face. Simples!
The last stopping spot on the Isle of Skye was the town of Portree. Portree is the largest town belonging to the Isle of Skye and made a great stopping spot for lunch. The weather had begun to turn at that stage but the town is compact and easy to get around despite the weather. Iron Bru and Yum Yums (sort of like a doughnut but don’t call it one) in hand, we took on a quick wander of the town. My favourite spot was down by the waters edge, where there is a series of brightly coloured buildings. Most things were closed up for the winter but exploring along the street was good enough.
On our way back from Portree and after a wee bit of protest, our tour manager stopped in the rain for us all to go appreciate the highland cattle. The highland cow (heilan coo) is another popular and sought after creature in the Highlands, after Nessie of course. We managed to spot some up on the hill and take a few photos before the rain started to get too heavy. I have never seen such an excited cluster of adults going nuts over a cow before but it was cute to see the hype!
The next stopping spot back on the mainland was Eilean Donan castle. We didn’t get to go inside the castle as we only had time for a quick photo. It’s not surprising that Eilean Donan castle is one of the most photographed sites in Scotland, as well as a popular wedding venue option. Unfortunately the fog was starting to settle in quite fast by the afternoon but we still managed to see the full castle from a distance.
Our final stopping spot for the day was the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Yes, that bridge from Harry Potter. It wasn’t on our original itinerary and the weather was terrible when we got there but that didn’t deter our small cluster of die hard Harry Potter fans from climbing up the hill to spot the bridge. The best time to visit is of course in the summer months when the Jacobite steam train is running but the bridge, despite my hazy photos, is incredible and well worth the visit.
The Highlands and Isle of Skye are the most incredible places to visit. Though I loved everywhere I went in Scotland the Highlands were an absolute stand out for their rugged beauty and wonderful locals. I highly recommend a visit. Bring the Braveheart soundtrack with you for inspiration!
P.S. It can and will rain on you at least once and the weather changes by the second, regardless of the season. Welcome to Scotland.