Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye, Scotland

September 2017

Driving down from Plock Viewpoint, we proceeded to cross the Skye Bridge. Since October 1995, ferry services from Kyle of Lochalsh (on the mainland) to Kyleakin (on the Isle) ceased. The Isle of Skye is then connected to the mainland by a road bridge. Traffic instead began to use the new Skye Bridge which forms part of the A87. The bridge is a faster and convenient way to cross the narrow strait. Ferry services to Skye are still available from Mallaig to Armadale and Glenelg to Kylerhea.

Kyleakin, Isle of Skye

Skye Bridge seen from Kyleakin.

After crossing the Skye Bridge, take the first left at the first roundabout to head to the village of Kyleakin for a quick drive through. It would not take you more than 10 minutes to do so. Kyleakin was once the gateway to Skye until the opening of the Skye Bridge. It has a small charming harbour overlooking Caisteal Maol, a ruined fortress. Not much is left of the fortress today as parts of the ruin collapsed in 1949 and then again in 1989. There are hotels, hostels and restaurants in Kyleakin.

Kyleakin, Isle of Skye

Caisteal Maol in the background standing protectively over the harbour.

Kyleakin, Isle of Skye

Resident’s dwelling across the harbour/town.

After a 25 mile, 40 minutes drive on the main road heading to Portree from Kyleakin, you’ll drive across the ‘new’ Sligachan bridge. You’ll be able to see the ‘old’ bridge besides it. Nothing historical about these two bridges, except photographing them is spectacular. On a good day like we’ve had, the Black Cullins hills will be clear to see in the background. There is a walking path from the old bridge running alongside River Sligachan.

Sligachan, Isle of Skye

Sligachan Old Bridge in the foreground with the new in the background.

Sligachan, Isle of Skye

Sligachan new bridge that’s currently in use.

Sligachan, Isle of Skye

River Sligachan with beautiful views of the Cullins hills. The walking path is on the other side of the river bank.

About 10 miles from the bridge, a slow 20 minutes drive, takes us to Grenitote B&B in Portree where we will be staying for two nights. Accommodations are difficult to get if you do not book in advance and are rather expansive in Portree town vicinity. Our B&B is a 2-storey semi-detached bungalow. Rooms are located on the first floor and are moderate in size. Free strong and stable wi-fi is provided. The town centre is a 10 minutes walk away and a co-op run grocery store will be the first you’ll encounter.

Grenitote B&B, Portree

Grenitote B&B, Portree. Located just off the town centre in a quiet residential area.

Grenitote B&B, Portree

The lobby of Grenitote.

Grenitote B&B, Portree

Our bedroom with a splash of pink motifs.

Grenitote B&B, Portree

Flat CTV and free wi-fi provided.

Grenitote B&B, Portree

The neighbourhood through the window. Large heater in the room.

Grenitote B&B, Portree

Small, cozy breakfast room. Will serve early if you notify in advance.

With an hour of daylight to spare, we headed to Portree Sailing Club for a view of Portree town. We are sure not many visitors ended up at this spot where you’ll see a different perspective to the town. Thereafter, we proceeded into town and spend sometime strolling around the harbour front and eventually up to Bosville Terrace for that classic shot of Portree town before heading back to our B&B for the night.

Portree, Isle of Skye

Portree harbour int he distance viewed from Portree Sailing Club.

Portree, Isle of Skye

The colorful buildings of Portree from a rarely photographed spot.

Portree, Isle of Skye

Hotels and restaurants lining up the habour front on Quay street.

Isle of Skye

Portree harbour looking upwards to Bosville Terrace.

Portree, Isle of Skye

That classic photo of  Portree harbour from Bosville Terrace.

For the start of a fresh day in Skye, we were greeted in the morning with low hanging dark clouds threatening to ruin our day out. Weather forecast rain only in the late afternoon. Having no choice, we set out to explore the island as we will be returning to Edinburgh the next day.

Isle of Skye

The sun breaking through the low overhanging dark clouds.

Our first stop is Old Man of Storr. It is a large pinnacle of rock that stands high on the Trotternish ridge and can be seen for miles around. Old Man of Storr is a favorite hiking destination. A car park is located at the foot of the ridge right by the main road 7 miles from Portree.

Old Man of Stor, Isle of Skye

Old Man of Storr in the distance. It’s that group of pinnacles to the right albeit it looks small in the distance.

Driving onward from Old Man of Storr for another 8 miles with an unexpected clearing of the weather, our next stop will be at Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls Viewpoint. You’ll find a large car park nearby the waterfall. The Kilt Rock is a 90 meter rock formation, which looks similar to a pleated kilt. The other point of interest is the Mealt waterfall, which is fed from the nearby freshwater lake, Mealt Loch, which then free-fall off the cliff for 55 metres into the Sound of Raasay below.

Isle of Skye

Spot along the route from Old Man of Storr to Mealt Fall viewpoint.

Isle of Skye

Another spot along the same route.

Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye

Kilt Rock, more distinguished  in the background & Mealt Falls with a rainbow formation at the bottom seen from the viewpoint.

Kilt Road & Mealt Waterfall.

Aerial view of the Mealt Waterfall falling off from the Kilt Rock. Credit : theskyeguide.com

Next on our list is a visit to Garrafad 3½ miles away. This is another location visitors rarely visits due to it being off the main road and isn’t promoted. In-fact, if you google for it, you are unlikely to get much information. However, the views of the beach is picture postcard and the cliffs at Garrafad is something to adore.

Garrafad, Isle of Skye

Garrafad beach, overlooking the Quiraing in the distance.

Garrafad, Isle of Syke.

The cliffs of Garrafad.

Garrafad, Isle of Skye

The rocky side of Garrafad beach. In the distance, you’ll be looking towards the Atlantic Ocean.

From the coast, we now start an uphill drive to the Quiraing mountains. This will be a short 3½ mile drive for which we consider has the best stunning views for all of Skye. There is a large parking area just after the end of your uphill drive. From this location, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the mountains as well as towards the sea. So beautiful are the scenery, we spend quite a while here before driving away with a heavy heart.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye

The start of the uphill drive towards Quiraing.

Quiraing

Mountain sheep by the roadside.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye

The road leading up to Quiraing. Not a difficult drive but the road tends to be narrow at some points.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye

The majestic mountains that surrounds and dwarfs you. It is an easy gradual walk for you to explore the mountain. Your sport shoes will suffice.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye

Tranquility of the Quiraing. Visitors roaming around the plateau.

Quiraing, Isle of Skye

Soaking in the tranquility of the environment.

The last attraction for the day is a visit to Fairy Glen in Uig. It is located in the hills above the town of Uig and is a lesser-known attraction on the Isle of Skye. The drive of 8½ miles from Quiraing entails driving from the East to the West side of the Isle of Skye. It will take about 30 minutes and most of the road is on single track just like the one going into Glen Etive, Glencoe. Here too, you’ll find plenty of passing places to allow overtaking or on-coming vehicle to pass or to take photographs. You will start your descend towards the town of Uig before proceeding to Fairy Glen.

Uig, Isle of Skye

View towards Uig town from uphill.

Please be aware the road leading to Fairy Glen prohibits buses from entering as it is narrow and winding on some parts. Thus, you will never have a chance to get to Fairy Glen except if you drive or get on a tour that uses smaller vehicle like a coaster. This off the beaten path spot stands out from the surrounding farmland. You can hike up the hill or just take photos of the beautiful surroundings.

Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

A pond nearby the hill.

Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

The cone-shaped hill where you can hike up following a walking trail.

Fairy Glen, Isle of Skye

A bench for you to relax and admire the beauty of Fairy Glen.

We completed our visit to all our list of attractions by early afternoon and headed back to our B&B. A while later, true to the weather forecast, it rained till late evening. What else better to do than to cuddle up in bed with the heater running. Tomorrow we’ll return to Edinburgh.

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Eilean Donan Castle

Scottish Highlands, Scotland

September 2017

Third day into our road trip of Scotland, we left Fort William as early as 8:00 a.m. for Glenfinnan. A 17 mile drive and a ½ hour later, we reached Glenfinnan Monument parking lot. It was drizzling lightly and we were able to park close-by to the visitor’s center. The parking fee is £2.

Glenfinnan

First itinerary for the day, Glenfinnan Viewpoint. A visitor’s centre is close by to the parking lot.

We are here to climb up the Glenfinnan Viewpoint which is just towards the back of the visitor’s centre. A 5-10 minutes walk up the gradual gravel footpath will take you to the viewpoint. From here you have a stunning scenery of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the Glenfinnan Monument as well as Loch Shiel.

Glenfinnan

Way up to the viewpoint is clearly signposted. Although walking boots is recommended, it’s probably not required during dry condition.

Glenfinnan

Towards the back of the visitor’s centre, you’ll find the footpath up to the viewpoint through this woods.

Glenfinnan

The vegetation changes half way up. The gravel footpath is gradual.

Once up at Glenfinnan Viewpoint, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking 360° view of the surrounding. You’ll get a fantastic view of the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct with it’s 21 arches. It spans 1,000 feet in length and is 100 feet above ground. From the viewpoint, it looks like it was built straight but in actuality it’s curved, almost semi-circle to align it’s tracks with the contour of the hills. The viaduct has become well-known through its appearances in various Harry Potter films.

The filming of ‘Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secret’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ took place in this area. The famous scenic railway with it’s Jacobite steam train runs to and from Fort William and Mallaig in the summer months. If you are lucky, you will be able to see the same train from the movies passing by. Be caution, up on the viewpoint there are midges that bites, even on your face.

Glenfinnan

The magnificent view towards the Glenfinnan Viaduct aka Harry Potter’s Bridge.

Turn yourself around and you’ll have the views towards the monument and Loch Shiel. The monument is situated at the head of Loch Shiel, an inland freshwater loch which stretches south for 17½ miles. The monument was erected, in 1815, in tribute to the Jacobite clansmen who fought and died in the cause of Prince Charles Edward Stuart.

Glenfinnan Monument

Up at the viewpoint, towards your back you’ll get a view of Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument.

Glenfinnan Monument

You cross the road in-front of the visitor’s centre to get to the monument.

Glenfinnan Monument

The visitor’s centre seen  from the monument. The Glenfinnan Viewpoint is only half way up the hill about where the pointed roof is. The parking lot is to the left.

Glenfinnan Monument

The Glenfinnan Monument.

Glenfinnan Monument

View of Loch Shiel behind the monument.

Glenfinnan Monument

House by the shore of Loch Shiel.

From Glenfinnan we backtracked to Fort William to check-out off Premier Inn. Continuing our drive, we will end the day at Portree, Isle of Skye. This will be a journey of more than 100 miles and would take almost 3 hours. Despite the early drizzle, the weather has turn out to been more brighter than the day before, however still cloudy in some areas. The drive to Isle of Skye is more stunning as you drive up the mountain and being able to see whats below compared to the drive on the previous day, that was mostly on flat plane.

Sheep grazing on the grassland off A82 about 6 miles after Fort William.

From the location of the grazing flock of sheep, you would need to drive towards the town of Spean Bridge. To head towards Isle of Skye, continue left to stay on A82 just after the bridge crossing River Spean. Soon you’ll be driving uphill and be rewarded with a beautiful views of the area below.

Spean Bridge

Looking downwards towards Spean Bridge and the mountain in the background.

A little further up, is the Commando Memorial just by the roadside to your left. If you miss this memorial, you’ve taken the wrong turn into Spean Bridge town. This area is dedicated to the fallen Commandos who gave their lives to the service of their country during the 1939-1945 war.

Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge

Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge.

Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge

Massive traffic build-up at the junction turning into Commando Memorial as police facilitated the journey of several wide load containers.

A further 7 miles from Commando Memorial on the A82, there is a large lay-by that ‘s difficult to miss. Here you’ll get a fantastic view of Loch Lochy.

Drive for about 14 miles from Loch Lochy and do make a point to stop at Glen Garry Viewpoint to see views of Loch Garry. At about ½ distance before Glen Garry Viewpoint, you’ll reach a ‘T’ junction at Invergarry. Turn left into A87 after crossing the bridge over River Garry. On reaching Glen Garry Viewpoint, If you hear sounds of bagpipe, chances there will be a lone bagpiper performing and he’ll be glad to take photos with you. Naturally, to show our support, we bought CDs he sells. It’s easy to miss this spot as it’s a little elevated from the road and hidden by overgrown bushes. When you search for this location in Google, type exactly this : Glen Garry Viewpoint

Glengarry

View of Loch Garry from Glen Garry Viewpoint off A87. You are no longer on A82.

Glengarry

A lone bagpiper earning a living at the Glen Garry Viewpoint.

A couple of miles from Glen Garry Viewpoint, we came across this charming view overlooking Loch Garry. The wooden fence (with a gate) leads to what seems to be a private land.

Picturesque view a little further ahead.

Same spot as above but looking uphill.

Yet a little further up, we came across these ‘Stone Balancing’ overlooking Loch Loyne. What a superb view.

Four miles ahead from the ‘Stone Balancing’ you’ll reach yet another ‘T’ junction. Turn left to continue on A87 toward Isle of Skye. Along the way, there are more beautiful scenery for you to soak in or photograph.

About 10 minutes drive from the last ‘T’ junction, you’ll reach this spot. About a mile before Cluanie Inn.

Mountain range in-front of Cluanie Inn.

From Cluanie Inn, it will be a 18½ mile, 30 minutes drive to Eilean Donan castle. This charming castle is just besides the A87. Ample free parking is available and do expect lots of visitors as it is a favorite tourist attraction. Castle admission is £7.50. Spend some time taking in the views and visit the visitor’s centre. Free toilet facilities are available whether in the centre or outside.

Eilean Donan Castle

The charming Eilean Donan Castle viewed from the parking lot.

Eilean Donan Castle

Front view (or is it the back) of the castle.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan visitor’s centre.

Eilean Donan Castle

As it says.

Another 9 miles or ¼ hour of driving, you’ll reach the Skye Bridge that will take you across to Isle of Skye. Before crossing the bridge, why not go up Plock Viewpoint to see the bridge from the mainland side. Plock Viewpoint is not marked on Google map although you can view it in street view. Search for Heathmount Pl, the end of that road that will lead you there.

Plock Viewpoint

At Plock Viewpoint, you get a hill view of the Syke Bridge from the mainland.

Skye Bridge

The Skye Bridge from Plock viewpoint. It is actually two bridges, which uses the island of Eilean Bàn as a stepping stone towards Isle of Skye.

Reaching Skye Bridge is ¾ of our drive to Isle of Skye and officially put us off the highlands grid. We will be putting up for 2 nights in a B&B at Portree before heading back to Edinburhg. The next posting will fully be on Isle of Skye.

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Glen Etive

Glen Etive, Scottish Highlands, Scotland

September 2017

From the junction leading into Black Rock Cottage, the turn-off to our next destination Glen Etive, is just 1.6 miles ahead. When you’re driving north on the A82, the distraction of the beautiful mountain scenery is so breathtaking that it’s easy to miss the next junction. It is marked by just a small signboard but you’ll have no problem finding it on Google map. This will be one of the most scenic detours in the North West Highlands and well worth the drive. The scenery is simply superb and as soon as the A82 is out of sight, a sense of calm sets in.

Glen Etive

Google street view of the small signboard alerting you of the junction off A82 ahead. It’s about a 2 minutes drive from the junction into Black Rock Cottage/Glencoe Mountain Resort.

Glen Etive is a narrow valley in the Highlands of Scotland. A single track road leads from highway A82 down south to Glen Etive. This road ls also known as the ‘road to nowhere’. It meanders for about 14 miles to a dead end at Loch Etive. There are numerous passing places where you can stop to take photos to record your memory. For most of the drive, the road is often close to river Etive that forms numerous pools and picturesque waterfalls as it courses down to the Loch and eventually towards the sea.

Glencoe, Scotland

Forget about what seems to be a long drive back to the entrance later. A non stop drive to the end of the road at Loch Etive is about 30 minutes. The road, for most of it’s length is generally in good condition.

Allow yourself plenty of time as you slow drive along the valley to absorb the superb scenery along the way. There’s absolutely stunning landscape throughout. This is our first experience where on both sides, we were flanked by huge majestic mountains that seems to squeeze you. Literally, you’ll be driving in a narrow strip of valley. If you are a James Bond fan, try to recreate a scene from the film “Skyfall” shot within the vicinity.

Glen Etive

A scene from ‘Skyfall’.

Glen Etive, Scotland

River Etive at the foot of the mountain.

Glen Etive, Scotland

Although the riverbed looks mucky, the water is crystal clear.

Glen Etive, Scotland

Waterfall from up the mountains joining river Etive.

Glen Etive, Scotland

One of the many small pools along the river.

Glen Etive, Scotland

A bridge crosses the river leading to a private property.

Glen Etive, Scotland

River Etive getting a little broader and deeper cutting through boulders.

Glen Etive, Scotland

River Etive flowing towards the Loch.

Glen Etive, Scotland

Opposite side of the river is another mountain range. You drive in a sort of narrow strip of valley between the two mountains.

Glen Etive, Scotland

Single track road all the way in from the A82 highway. Plenty of passing places to allow overtaking or on-coming vehicle to pass or to take photographs.

Glen Etive, Scotland

Horses on private property.

Glen Etive, Scotland

A short stop to soak in the views and to run away from the strong chilly winds.

Glen Etive, Scotland

Meeting of a stream with river Etive.

Glen Etive, Scotland

During melting of the snow, this stream would probably turn into a river.

Glen Etive, Scotland

Converging of streams now becomes river Etive flowing towards Loch Etive.

Glen Etive, Scotland

Majestic view of the mountains.

On your way back along the same road, soak in all of the amazing scenery completely from a different perspective. You will return from Glen Etive back to the A82 highway with a heavy heart and a sense of regret. Back to the busy world on A82, you feel being robbed of something so serene and tranquil.

About 4½ miles from exiting the junction heading toward the town of Glencoe is ‘The Meeting of the Three Waters’ waterfall just besides the A82. It’s not signposted and located after a series of bends after a bridge. Parking spot is available before the bridge and a keen eye will ensure you’ll not miss this spot. You can type in ‘Glencoe Waterfall’ into Google map to find it. The waterfall isn’t one that is spectacular falling off a high cliff but alas, it’s still beautiful to admire and photograph.

Glencoe, Scotland

The crystal clear waters of ‘The Meeting of the Three Waters’ or also called as ‘Glencoe Waterfall’  just off the A82.

Glencoe, Scotland

Love locks at the bottom railing. The top of the waterfall is a little higher than the A82.

Continuing our drive north, you’ll find the ‘Three Sisters’ mountain range. The ‘Three Sisters’ is in the Scottish Highlands residing off A82 about a mile from the ‘The Meeting of the Three Waters’ waterfall heading towards the town of Glencoe. This part of Scotland is filled with rolling hills and waterfalls as we have just seen earlier. You can pull your car over into one of the two parking areas and enjoy a few minutes of serenity before proceeding with your drive.

Glencoe, Scotland

‘Three Sisters’ Mountain range.

Glencoe, Scotland

Reading up a bit on the ‘Three Sisters’. Haah … that guy in blue T is already in kilts !

Glencoe, Scotland

Getting a closer view of one of the ‘Three Sisters’ from the car park.

Glencoe, Scotland

Ample and convenient parking along the A82.

We reached Fort William by mid afternoon and checked into Premier Inn. This is the first time we will be staying at Premier Inn which in our opinion is comparable to Travelodge. The deciding factor in choosing Premier Inn is it offers free parking. Check-in was super fast, room was spacious and best of all, is the free, fast & stable wi-fi. It’s located within a short walking distance to Morrisons, a hyper market and Fort William train station where you can board the Jacobite steam train. Will definitely recommend and stay again at Premier Inn.

Premier Inn, Fort William

Premier Inn, Fort William.

Premier Inn, Fort William

Spacious room. Notice the sort of extra bed at the corner.

Premier Inn, Fort William

Modern bathroom.

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