GLENCOE TO SKYE VIA THE SKYE BRIDGE

This is a superlative drive pretty much all the way.

View to Ardgour from Ballachulish

Fort William has no great attractions in itself and is workaday at best. Park in the Morrisons’ supermarket car park to access the town centre via an underpass. The town is, however, surrounded by fine scenery and overlooked by the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Glen Nevis is nice with a good short walk 7 miles up at the end of the glen road – Steall Falls. The Ben Nevis Inn is atmospheric and does good pub food.

For more on climbing Ben Nevis, this was my experience:CLIMBING BEN NEVIS – THE MOUNTAIN WITH ITS HEAD IN THE CLOUDS

The Fort has some interesting shops on the High Street with an especially good bookshop (The Highland Bookshop) and various cafes of which the best by far to me is Rain. Fab baking – nice interior too.

The West Highland Museum is also worth a browse, very interesting.

Plenty of supermarkets in the town and on its outskirts too – Morrisons, Lidl, Aldi and Marks and Spencer.

Old Inverlochy Castle, an imposing ruin, is signposted heading out of town. Beside it, is the very good Highland Soap Company shop and cafe, a lovely place for buying scented things and it does decent light lunches and cakes. Easy parking too.

A short driving detour (along the A830 to Mallaig) takes you to Neptune’s Staircase, where a stroll along its flat path bordering the Caledonian gives, on a clear day, fantastic views of Ben Nevis. Easy parking.

Ben Nevis from Neptune's Staircase
Ben Nevis from Neptune’s Staircase

Nevis Range Ski Centre/Gondola

It’s always great fun to get up a mountain the easy way! The gondola operates all year round and takes you up to the ski station and cafe.A nice walk is to be had out to a viewpoint or just enjoy the high level views from the cafe terrace itself.

Commando Memorial

Situated above Spean Bridge, this imposing, impressive memorial is in honour of the Commando Forces who trained in the area during World War 2.The views to Ben Nevis and the Grey Corries mountain range is wonderful.

Loch Lochy to Cluanie/Glen Shiel

Loch Lochy

A fantastic section. One superb view follows another. The Glengarry Castle Hotel is well worth a stop for coffee or lunch (though pricey for lunch) and home made cakes in the gorgeous setting of a handsome Victorian shooting lodge . A wander down through the gardens brings you to beautiful Loch Oich. I love this place, a real gem. We stopped here one October and heard red deer stags roaring across the neighbouring hillsides. A very quiet, peaceful and relaxing hotel to stop at.

Glengarry Castle Hotel
Loch Oich in October

IF LOCH NESS IS A MUST THEN IT IS POSSIBLE AT INVERGARRY TO DETOUR TO PRETTY FORT AUGUSTUS ( about 15 mins) THE VILLAGE IS RIGHT ON THE LOCH. OR, FURTHER, CONTINUE TO URQUHART CASTLE ITSELF (another 30 mins.)THE CASTLE DOESN’T HAVE HUGE PARKING AND GETS VERY BUSY.I LIKE URQUHART BUT THEN, I LOVE CASTLES! IT IS LARGELY A RUIN.GREAT VIDEO INTRO TO IT BEFORE YOU TOUR THE SITE.CAN EASILY SPEND 2 HOURS HERE.

Urquhart Castle

It’s all about the views from Invergarry onwards…I love Loch Garry. The landscape on this stretch is emptier and the mountains rockier and I know I’m finally in the grand North West Highlands.

Don’t bother with the signposted Glengarry viewpoint as the once excellent vista is now hidden mostly by conifers. Carry on a short way to an small, rough, informal pull in on the left which gives great views towards Knoydart and the west.

near-glengarry-viewpoint
View from above Loch Garry

A similar wild view is to be had above Loch Loyne.

Cluanie reservoir is wonderful with grand mountain and loch views at various pull ins.

loch-cluanie
Cluanie

It’s possible to pull in on the left beside the Cluanie Inn and take a wander as far as you want to go along what is an old, overgrown road winding its way gently up to a high pass. Fantastic views all around.

Glen Shiel

The Whelk in Glen Shiel in winter

To me, this rivals Glencoe, a majestic glen of rugged, steep mountains. Look out for the pyramid of Faochag (well named The Whelk.)

The Saddle

There is an informal pull in on the right (though blink and you’ll miss it) which leads to a lovely short path giving superb views of The Saddle above the winding river. Most however simply admire from behind the wheel and rush through on route to Skye – which is not far off now.

Stags in Glen Shiel
looking-back-to-glen-shiel
Looking back towards Glen Shiel

Eilean Donan Castle

A wow! The interior isn’t worth seeing but the exterior and location is a dream. Well worth some time exploring the outside and the wonderful scenery all around. If clear, Skye is visible with the Bridge only a 10 min drive away.

The Skye Bridge

A modern structure but an elegant sweep giving great views of the Isle of Mist (Eilean a Cheo in Gaelic.)

It’s now around 45 mins to Portree, the main town. A must stop (though not necessarily today) is at Sligachan for iconic views of the Black Cuillin mountain range, rocky and grand as they rear over 3,000 feet out of the wild moorland.

The fine memorial here is an impressive sculpture of two of the most famous of all Cuillin mountaineers, men who gave their name to several peaks – the famed English climber and explorer Norman Collie and his guide, local man John Mackenzie. Both are buried next to each other in tiny Struan cemetery. Collie climbed all over the world – Norway, the Alps, the Himalaya, Canadian Rockies but it was the Scottish Highlands that he believed offered unparalleled beauty. He died on Skye, spending his final years living in the Sligachan Hotel, gazing out at the Cuillin and remembering his younger days.

More on enjoying the best of the island here: THE BEST OF SKYE

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