A route which includes fine castles and some nice small villages/towns and a shopping fix.Despite not really being much of a shopper, I can’t resist the House of Bruar’s siren call and so the A9 route to Skye from Glasgow (or Edinburgh) it has to be! 345km or 207 miles but takes 4.5 hrs to the Skye Bridge due to faster roads.
I would say that the FIRST TWO hours of this 4.5 hour drive to the Skye Bridge are not hugely scenic.BUT, other attractions are on offer which are well worth seeing , as well as the small shopping emporium itself. Sometimes it’s not just about the scenery! And the FINAL 2.5 hours are very scenic indeed especially when the route joins up with My No 1 Route at Spean Bridge.
This option takes the same time as routes 1&2 (the West Coast routes) mainly because the A9 to Dalwhinnie is such a fast road. Heading for Skye from Edinburgh via the A9 is also the quickest route also from the capital, though going via Stirling is a bit of a detour as you would normally join the A9 at Perth.
Great stops to consider on this route:
A bit of a detour certainly but worth considering if you can spare the time.I’m rarely a fan of urban sculpture but this is something special.The largest equine sculptures in the world (apparently) at 30m high and made of steel. They really do look as if they are whinnying and almost alive – an incredible achievement by Andy Scott who based them on the Clydesdale and Shire horses which once worked on the nearby canal.Set within the new Helix Park so plenty of space for kids to run around too.
Wonderful sight/site – as good as, many say better than, Edinburgh Castle.I couldn’t choose between them. Military might, sitting on its crag high above the small town.The cobbled streets of Stirling’s old town are very attractive on the approach to the castle.Don’t miss the Stirling Heads, the replica carved wooden and painted heads which adorn the ceiling of the castle’s main hall.One of our great art treasures.
The originals are in a small Museum adjacent.Henry 8th , Mary of Guise and countless other famous faces from history, look down on us, the hoi polloi, as we saunter through their fine abode.
Some of the renewed stencilling on the Kings and Queen’s rooms doesn’t seem, to me, very well done and I always think that the rulers of old may be turning in their graves at the quality, compared to what the original decoration must have looked like.The replica unicorn tapestry however, is outstanding – the original is in the Metropolitan in New York(what isn’t?)
Robert the bruce’s fine statue looks out over all and the Wallace Monument is in the background.Worth a visit too for all things ‘Braveheart.’
If you can time your visit to coincide with one of the excellent free tours of the castle, even better.They are very well done and you do learn and appreciate so much more about the whole history.
The castle ticket also gives entry, when open, to Argyll’s Lodging next door, Scotland’s most complete example of a 17th century townhouse.
A 15 min (each way) detour from the A9 beyond Stirling.Used in Outlander, though famous long before that when it was the setting for the brilliant ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’ A very impressive and interesting ruin with a nice walk to be had along the banks of the River Tay afterwards. Doune village is an attractive wee place (good map/bookshop).
Occasionally we stop at this world famous Golf Resort, with its superb hotel, oozing real stern Scottish grandeur. A study in grey! Have stayed twice and dined a couple of times at Andrew Fairlie’s 2 Michelin star restaurant which is top notch. Gorgeous restaurant in terms of decor, one of loveliest I’ve been in. I was thrilled to see the great man himself in his pristine chef’s whites strolling around before the restaurant opened one evening. Inside, the hotel is a bit of an Art Deco gem. And very welcoming, even to non-residents.Nothing snooty about it so it’s quite a place for a VERY upmarket and pricey coffee or tea and a stroll through the lawns and gardens.Well worth it. The golf courses – the King’s, Queen’s etc – await (and there are Rights of Way through these too…but beware stray golf balls which might knock you flat or worse.)
Gloagburn Farm and Coffee Shop
If Gleneagles is just a bit too much,or you’re feeling a bit too scruffy, then this place, 5 mins winding drive off the A9 before Perth (watch for the signs) is well worth a stop for lunch or coffee.A mini House of Bruar in terms food and fresh farm produce.Absolutely superb menu and everything home-made.Top notch.Can be lunchtime queues – a chance to meet Perthshire locals and a well-to-do lot they are too!
An attractive village with a fine cathedral (partly ruined) sitting on the banks of the silvery Tay, the famous salmon river.The cluster of whitewashed 17th century houses around The Cross are run by the National Trust. Very pretty. There are some nice delis and cafes and a pleasant walk is to be had along the riverbank in wooded grounds.
I’m very much a wildlife fan so if of interest, 4 winding miles drive away in a pretty location, is the Loch of the Lowes and the chance to observe the ospreys which nest here every year. Look out for them hunting on the River Tay itself.One flew over our car as we drove up the A9 several years ago.What a sight!
A bustling, always busy wee Victorian town of pretty grey stone houses, many with roses round the doors in summer. I like Pitlochry and despite the tourist crowds, it’s a handsome and enjoyable place set in soft countryside.Amidst the usual cafes and tourist tat shops, there are some very nice outdoor shops, a kilt/traditional clothing shop (like something out of early last century), good fruit shops, small supermarket, delis – all in, it’s a perfect place to stock up a bit.There is a salmon ladder but I’ve never been lucky yet in seeing any fighting their way up river. The Moulin Inn is a well regarded lunch spot and a pretty whisky distillery sits above town – Edradour.
Higher above town again, is the excellent hill walk to Ben Vrackie though parking can be an issue.Even if you don’t go all the way to the top and there is a good path throughout , with lovely heather moorland to pass through and a nice small lochan with a seat from which to enjoy the soft , rich countryside of Perthshire.Heather is usually in full flower, August and September.
It’s also possible to walk easily to Loch Faskally on a signposted track (walking maps are available in the Tourist Office) and do a circular tour back to the town.Children will enjoy feeding the ducks at the loch, where in season there is a cafe.
A fairy tale, white washed and turreted castle, easily seen from the A9 and well worth a visit (5 min detour off the A9 at Bruar village). The garden grounds are not quite up to usual castle standards but inside is a fascinating collection of memorabilia, ancient finds by the Duke himself and many attractive and grand rooms in this, the home of the Dukes of Atholl for the last 700 years.The entrance hall is very impressive , lined with weaponry and including a Targe ( wooden shield) used on Culloden battlefield.I was fascinated by the sight of it.
A piper pipes his way across the front of the castle at certain times.
There is a deer park adjacent and quite extensive wooded grounds to wander.Great for kids.
The cafe unfortunately is nothing great but House of Bruar, just 5 mins away, will satisfy any hunger cravings.
House of Bruar
The Harrods of the Highlands, a superb shopping emporium dedicated to fine foods and pricey clothing (the sort you are expected to wear when the invite arrives to spend the weekend at a Highland Shooting Lodge.Mine must keep getting lost in the post.) So – tweeds, tweed skirts, yellow corduroy trousers, small – checked shirts, silk neck scarves, flat shoes and posh wellies.Everything ordinary people mostly DON’T wear but Royalty and others do while enjoying time here, in wild Scotland.And if you forget your rifle – well, it’s easily done isn’t it? – that can be bought too.
Chris always buys me a box of Charbonnel and Walker Milk Champagne Truffles at Bruar ( oh, the calories). I usually pick up an onion loaf and some of their own venison sausages.I defy anyone not to leave with some purchase, needed or not! You’ll pay top dollar but…..once in a while it’s ok.
The restaurant is a bit cafeteria-ish but the overall quality is fairly good.Unfortunately, the cakes are commerically made but the scones are decent as is the soup.
There is a pleasant short walk up to a waterfall behind the complex.
If only all shopping complexes were as civilised as this!
Drumochter Pass/Slochd Summit
The road now climbs up to the Slochd summit at 1,300 feet or 405m and the landscape is now rounded, heather covered hills, very attractive.Lonely country and a nice part of the drive.(Whoever decided giant pylons should also march their way down this glen should have been taken out and shot at dawn!)
This is where the route heads west, through this tiny unremarkable little village but much enhanced by it’s attractive Whisky Distillery. From now on, the scenery is lovely though the road is winding.
The Pottery Bunkhouse – great snack or lunch stop
A great boon on this route is the chance to stop off at this small, simple tea-room and shop (clothes, soaps, candles etc) with first class home baking, great homemade soup and…..the best scones. It serves my husband’s favourite cheese scones (I have the sweet tooth in the family, Chris usually goes for savoury stuff.) They sell some unusual clothes, scarves and pricey but interesting and good quality woollen jumpers too.Set in lovely countryside within the Cairngorm National Park, I love stopping here. The homemade gingerbread, almost black in colour, is the best I’ve ever tasted. I was given the owner’s recipe for it, handwritten on the spot, but only after I bought her small cook book (which didn’t include the gingerbread recipe.)
Ardverickie Castle and Estate is privately owned but the castle is a fine sight on the other side of this quiet loch though stopping on this road to see it is difficult . If it’s a nice day, it’s worth walking through the Estate (public right of way) and onto the extensive sands which border the loch at its eastern end amidst Scots Pines and overlooked by the mountains.Parking is possible – just – opposite the Gatehouse entrance to the Estate.
Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve
A short distance further on from the Estate entrance, is the parking area for this beautiful area, dominated by a famous mountain, Creag Meagaidh (pronounced Craig Meggy).There are three lower level walking trails if the big hill itself isn’t your thing.It’s on my ‘to do ‘ list of walks for this year.
The route finally joins my No 1 Route at this small village which has cafes , a woollen/gift shop, Highland Soaps outlet and small restaurant.
You are now less than 2 hours away from the Skye Bridge.For the remainder of this route from Spean Bridge, see : TOP DRIVING ROUTES: TO SKYE (1)