Following our two nights in the Eastern Highlands, we crossed to the other coast to explore the Western Highlands. This was our favorite part of the trip. The landscapes were incredible. The picturesque views we expected did not disappoint. This area solidified our love of Scotland.
We took the scenic route from Aviemore to arrive in Ballachulish, the site of our lodging. We drove through the Northern coast city of Inverness then South around the Western edge of Loch Ness. We made a stop at Urquhart Castle on the Western portion of the Loch.
Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness. Above, a view of Loch Ness from the castle ruins
The castle ruins date from the 13th to 16th century and offer scenic views of the infamous Loch Ness. After our tour of the castle, we drove on to Fort William. It was very rainy during the drive so our views of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Scotland located outside town, were restricted. We enjoyed a modern pub lunch with extensive vegetarian and vegan choices at Tavern Cafe Bar. We then drove along the water South to Ballachulish.
I hope the citizens of this excellent Fort William dining establishment do not judge our nation harshly when they unsuspectingly order our “No. 1” beer…
The are several lovely well-rated B and B properties in the Glencoe area. Since those were already booked during our visit, we decided to do something more original and stay in a wee cabin. Essentially, it was a stationary Class B motor home in size and design. At the Riverbeds property in Ballachulish they have eight cabins set up along a river. We had our own hot tub on our deck. The views of Loch Linnhe and surrounding highlands made for an idyllic setting. There were multiple trails leading up into the hills that started at the property. M enjoyed AM runs along these routes. So as long as you don’t mind showering in your toilet stall, this place is great for fans of simplicity. For us, it was the perfect secluded spot following time at a large family resort in Aviemore.
I do have to give one additional caution- there are lots of midges. Midges are tiny, swarming, biting insects that are prevalent in certain highland areas in the summer. They tend to be more common around water, so the location along the river probably adds to their prevalence. Big spray was provided with the rental.
The beauty of the highlands is described in songs and stories for a reason. We found ourselves stopping frequently to sit and stare at the surrounding landscapes. The area around Glencoe is particularly picturesque.
M enjoyed daily runs around our resort property. He encountered the ruins of an abandoned train station and lots of natural beauty (as well as a midge or two). The best part of Scotland is the expansive lands that have hiking trails and little else to disrupt the beauty. We found ourselves happily walking around often.
We did a river excursion in Glencoe called funyakking with a group called Vertical Descents. We were the only people on the tour so our guide modified it based on our preferences. We began by rock and bridge jumping into the river. [M note: my sincerest apologies to whoever got my wetsuit on the subsequent excursion…the scottish rivers were shockingly cold and the jump from a 30 foot bridge into a running river seriously scary for a first time bridge jumper]. Next we practiced some kayaking in the river prior to attempting some grade 3 rapids. At the end we bodysurfed a rapid on a foam board. We managed to flip our boat at one point but still had a fantastic time. The same excursion company also offers canyoneering in local waterfalls.
We drove into the seaside town of Oban and sampled a scotch flight at the Oban distillery. Had we had more time, it would have been nice to take a ferry to the Isle of Mull or one of the other nearby isles.
The Scottish Sea Life sanctuary made for a fun stop along the drive from Oban back to Ballachulish. It had a wide variety of sea life in its rehabilitation center and scenic views of Loch Creran. The grounds had several playgrounds that would have been ideal if we had brought the kids.
The town we stayed in Ballachulish, was built based on mining slate.
The town center featured a delicious restaurant led by a Michelin starred chef, the Laroch. A short walk away was a scenic path around a quarry that featured informative plaques about the slate trade.
Our one Scottish regret is not going sea kayaking. Because it is not yet saturated with tourists, not all activities are bookable each day. We were unable to reserve a boat or tour the days we were in the area. Luckily, I think we’ll be going back and can plan ahead better.
It rained every day during our visit, often most of the day. We aren’t bothered by rain, but I would recommend packing rain gear to maximize enjoyment of the outdoors.
-walking the Highland paths
-kayaking or sea kayaking
-scotch tasting at a highland distillery
-enjoying the highland Loch view in Glencoe