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Driving to/from Inverness

Hi all - we'll be traveling to Scotland this week and will be renting a car to drive from Glasgow to Inverness on one day (with a stop in Glencoe and Urquhart along the way), and then from Inverness to Stirling to Edinburgh on another day. Any suggestions for stops along the way or things we shouldn't miss on either drive between the point-to-points? We plan on going to Culloden Battlefield while in Inverness, so we'll already have that crossed off the list.

Posted by
2802 posts

Your day from Glasgow to Inverness is already going to be a long one, but after you pass Urquhart Castle (which is very scenic and offers interesting guided walks a few times a day) you might consider a stop at the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition if you have time. (Not to be confused with Nessieland, which the RS guidebook describes as silly and unscientific.) It takes about 1 hour to go through the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition and you really do learn quite a bit about the history of "monster" sightings on the loch and related scientific research.

If you are a fan of castles, Cawdor Castle, with spectacular gardens and a herd of highland cattle as well as an indoor tour, is just a couple of miles from Culloden Battlefield. The latter has a spacious indoor visitor centre with a good cafeteria.

Driving south to Edinburgh, on your route will be Dalwhinnie distillery as well as Blair Castle. I can't speak for Stirling, but others may have recommendations there.

Posted by
2802 posts

P.S. Urquhart Castle is outdoors and standing right on the shore of Loch Ness it's pretty exposed to rain and wind. It's a ruin, albeit a well restored one, with informative signs. Come prepared for weather if you're planning on walking into and around the castle.

In contrast, at Cawdor Castle you can go inside and tour various rooms.

Culloden Battlefield, as mentioned, has an indoor visitor centre. However, most of what there is to see is outdoors.

Posted by
5574 posts

Hi Lisa, you need to be prepared for rain in Scotland, period. If you let rain stop you from doing things while you are there, then there is a good chance you'll miss a lot. Good rain coat / jacket (I recommend a hood so you don't have to always use an umbrella) and spray your boots/shoes with silicon. I actually bust the single pair of shoes "rule" for Scotland. Now, on to the route:

First of all, I agree that the trip from Glasgow to Inverness will be a long one. If you want to visit Urquhart Castle or the Nessie stop, then you need to be cognizant of you time. It's a good 2 hours to Glencoe, and a little under 2 hours to Drumnadrochit.

  1. As you drive north from Glasgow you will drive right past Loch Lomond. You could slip off the A82 at Luss and spend a few minutes admiring it.
  2. Just before Crianlarich the road turns west and goes up. At the top, on the left is a layby and it's worth pulling off for a quick look. There may be someone selling snacks.
  3. Enjoy the drive between Glencoe and Fort William. It's beautiful. Look across Loch Linhe at the wonder wild Ardnamurchan peninsula as you reach the end of Loch Leven.
  4. Commando Monument. This is just past Spean Bridge on the A82 on the left. The monument is quite moving and you have spectacular views of the landscape surround Ben Nevis and the mountain itself.
  5. Invergarry detour. If you decide that you can come back to Urquhart and Nessie the next day and just want some more gorgeous loch views, turn left at Invergarry and follow signs to Loch Garry. Take the wee side road that travels next to the Loch out a few kilometers before turning around and continuing on the A87. Bear north/east on the A887 and you'll join the A82 part way up Loch Ness.
  6. Urquhart Castle is on your right. I thought it has an excellent visitor center. The views of Loch Ness are wonderful and better than from the A82 which can have a lot of traffic.

I'll do the return trip separately.

Pam

Posted by
5574 posts

Here are some thoughts on the trip from Inverness to Edinburgh.

  1. Kingussie area--There are two possibilities here. First, there are the Ruthven Barracks. I have not been to them, but really want to sometime for the name alone--Ruthven. It looks like there are good views. And it is free. The second option is the Highland Folk Museum. I did visit the museum on a rather dull day and found it fascinating. If you've not seen a Black House, this is your chance. There are lots of other things to, so you can spend a lot or a little time here.
  2. Dalwhinnie--You could of course tour this, but the tours usually do end with a chance to sip, so I'm not sure this is the best time to visit a distillery. :(
  3. Blair Castle--I visited this castle a number of years ago and really enjoyed it. It's got extensive grounds and the tour is interesting. If you've not toured a highland castle, this is a good option. (It's bigger than Cawdor near Inverness, but I like Cawdor quite well, too. It has gorgeous gardens.)
  4. Killiecrankie--This is a pass and there was a big battle here early in the Jacobite uprisings. There is a visitor center and you can walk in the woods a bit. It's not a long stop.
  5. Queens View--This is well worth the time to pull off the road and drive up to the visitor center. Get a cup of tea and check out the stunning view of the classic Road to the Isles. (There are a series of lochs that take you west.)
  6. Scenic Detour 1--If you want to experience single track roads and get off the A9. This is one option. You head west to Kinloch Rannoch from Queen's View. You then take B roads over the hill to Aberfeldy and then east to the A9 and down. I have a little side trip to Fortingall to see the oldest yew in Great Britain.
  7. Dunkeld and Birnam--Stop off here to see a wee little Beatrice Potter garden in Birnam. Head over the bridge to Dunkeld to see the lovely square and the Cathedral. This was the home of the Church in Scotland at various points in history. If it is time to eat, try The Taybank. If you need to stretch your legs, check with the TI in the square for some options for short walks--you could walk in Birnam Wood.
  8. Scone Palace--This is where the kings of Scotland were crowned. Moot Hill is where fealty was sworn.

You are pretty much on the M90 from this point on and Edinburgh will truly be beckoning.

  1. Scenic Detour 2--see third posting.

Pam

Posted by
5574 posts

So, this is a longer detour that takes you away from the A9.

  1. Crannog Centre--this is fascinating stop.
  2. Head west--instead of going back to the A9, instead head west along the north shore of Loch Tay. It's a beautiful drive.
  3. Killin-lovely waterfalls.
  4. Balqhidder--Rob Roy MacGregor is buried here. Head west for a wee detour out the Glen. I had a lovely snack on the terrace of the Monachyle Mhor Hotel.
  5. The Trossachs--You'll be driving through this National Park, so enjoy.
  6. Doune Castle--Lovely castle where Monty Python filmed and more recently it is featured in Outlander.

Then on to Edinburgh past Stirling.

Pam

Posted by
285 posts

I loved Doune Castle. Very worthwhile IMO.

The commando memorial is very moving. It's also sad that the memorial area had to be "expanded" to accommodate memorials and tokens for soldiers killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, ec.

Posted by
49 posts

Thank you to everyone for your suggestions! We just got back, and even though those were both full days, we were able to incorporate some of your ideas. In addition to Urquhart (loved it!) and Glencoe (beautiful), we stopped to admire Loch Lomond in the rainy mist, at the Commando monument and the Loch Ness exhibition center (the good one, not the cheesy one), as well as a quick detour over to Glenfinnan to see the viaduct and Bonnie Prince Charles monument. On the southbound trip we started at Culloden and Clava Cairns and then were able to stop at the Dalwhinnie distillery (who offer tastings without having to go on the full tour - a lot of fun) before stopping at Stirling Castle late in the day. I really wish we'd had time to fit in Doune and/or Blair as well, but we spent too much time enjoying the other sites! Oh well, next time!

And we did indeed get rained on every day ("a fine Scottish mist" as one Scot told us), but luckily it always seemed to be while we were driving - whenever we stopped for an outdoor site, the skies would clear. ;-)