How many days should one take in the Scottish Highlands? Way more than the 36 hours I (solo trip this time) took. There is so much to take in with lochs, glens, views, and greenery - that I will definitely be making a trip back!
This place really feels other wordly - which isn't surprising - as guess what Scotland's national animal is? The UNICORN! Every twist and turn feels a bit mystical, waiting for more to be discovered.
Driving is a bit scary up here! With many twists, turns and one-way roads (while still be bi-directional) be ready to stay focused
If you go in the Summer the days are very long. This is an added plus, as I was able to see a ton with a full day of sunlight (started at 5am and ended at 10pm)
A phone camera doesn't do it justice. Everything I saw was 1000% more beautiful than the pictures I ended up taking
The ferry is your friend. I took the ferry at Fort William to avoid having to backtrack and add loads of time to my loop
Itinerary - As I basically had little more than a day, my itinerary was one big loop from Inverness -> Glencoe --> Isle of Skye -> Inverness, with a major focus on Isle of Skye. If I went again, I would hit up the northern part of the region and/or take the scenic highway.
Now for the real details!
Where to stay?
Inverness is a good home base as you can take a train from Edinburgh (which I did on my way up) and fly out of it as well (which I did when I departed)
If I stayed an extra night, I would have spent that night in Skye - with the main town (and most of the restaurants) being Portree
What to do?
I visited many places on my loop (Inverness --> Glencoe --> Skye --> Inverness), though am highlighting my favorites to help you narrow it down and plan!
Isle of Skye:
Neist Point Lighthouse - This was the most astonishing of the views AND the most treacherous of the drives. Parking is a bit limited so beware, but well worth it. My advice, no need to walk all the way to the lighthouse, the view from the top was pretty enough for me (and that comes from a hiking-lover, that had been in the car for many hours). There is a great viewpoint if you go uo the hill past the little house after you park
Fairy Glen (not to be mixed up with the Fairy Pools) - This is one of the ones that the pictures really didn't do it justice. Probably one of the more magical areas, it feels as if are in the presence of fairies. I'm not sure if that is actually what it is named after, but definitely made somewhat enchanted!
Quiraing - Drive from the Fairy Glen to the Quiraing - cool drive and beautiful views! I never actually found the Quiraing as I was in a time crunch - but the views were worth it either way
Dependent on how much time you have on Skye, there are a ton more places to stop along the way! A few other beautiful stops are: Dunvegan Castle, Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls, Fairy Pools and the Old Man of Storr.
Outside of Isle of Skye
Etive Mor Waterfall / Glencoe (this isn't on the Isle of Skye) - With beautiful mountains, waterfalls and photo opportunities, definitely make a stop here. My photo at the top of this post was from the waterfall, which is off the beaten path and can be found here. Other than that, I'd say just drive around and soak it all in!
Glenfinnan Viaduct View Point - Any Harry Potter fans out there? Well I am, so got excited about seeing where the Hogwarts Express train was filmed. If you are a super fan, you can time it so you can see the actual train pass by. Instead, I made a quick stop with a short hike up to see the viaduct, sans train. Still a cool sight to see to indulge my inner child
Eilean Doolan Castle - On the way out of (or into) Skye and another good, quick stop on your road trip
One last thing I didn't get to do, but would highly suggest based on reviews is driving the Bealach na Ba Road to Applecross Inn. A very, very curvy road that is supposed to be gorgeous throughout the whole drive
Where to eat / drink?
In Skye: Stein Inn. I didn't stop here either, but got many rave reviews and is the oldest inn on the Isle of Skye - likely worth it for a pint on your road trip. Otherwise, I think most of the food options are in Portree. I grabbed some delicious fish and chips from The Harbour Fish & Chips when I was there
In Glencoe: Stop at the Clachaig Inn, a charming Scottish pub with a gorgeous view. Stopping by there in the morning - I used this as a bathroom, coffee stop and photo op place
Since I'm sure you'll need it during your road trips, here is a list of the top coffee shops in the Highlands!
Would you recommend to your friend / family? Yes, and actually my parents just went with their friends. They spent a whole week in Scotland and loved it!
Would you return? Yes, definitely! I'd love to get some more hiking in and to check out the rest of the Highlands
Favorites to speak of:
Lodging: Meh sadly nothing remarkable to speak of. I did a last minute place, so nothing exciting to speak of. Though I'm sure there are loads of charming places
Activity: Driving around and seeing the sights. All the ones I listed were gorgeous, but I'd probably go with Neist Point Lighthouse as my top :)
Eating/Drinking: This was a bit of a whirlwind roadtrip for me, so I didn't get to stop much - but I'll definitely check out the Applecross Inn next time I'm there!