The Scottish Highlands is a nature lovers dream – you have the amazing coastline, mountains and lochs as well as castles and some of the most friendly people!
We spent 8 days exploring different parts of the Highlands, driving the North Coast 500 (NC 500) and doing a variety of hikes including Stac Pollaidh and Ben Nevis.
Day 1 : Glasgow – Inverness
We flew to Glasgow and drove 3.5 hours to Inverness. We checked into our bnb then drove down to Dores and went to The Dores Inn for dinner and drinks. It is right on Loch Ness and the views were lovely!
Day 2 : Inverness – Thurso
We went for a walk around Inverness in the morning, before heading north.
We started at Cawdor Castle. It costs £8 to get in but it was lovely to explore the castle and beautiful gardens.
We stopped by Chanonry Point which is known to be one of the best known places in the UK to see dolphins. We were able to see some dolphins which got me very excited!
Next, we headed to Tain, which is a royal burgh and parish, for a lunch stop. We went to Greens Restaurant and the food was great. We shared the mussels and I had the seabass with prawns as a main.
An ice cream stop is always needed so we stopped at Capaldis of Brora before heading to Dunrobin Castle. We didn’t go inside but saw it from the outside.
Next, we went to Castle Sinclair Girnigoe ruins.
Last stop of the day was John O Groats – the most northerly point of mainland Scotland/UK.
We checked into our bnb and tried to find a restaurant open for dinner. However, due to Covid-19 and being a Sunday, a lot of the restaurants were closed or were operating on a limited menu. We went to Northern Sands and I had the gammon roast which was mediocre.
In hindsight, I think I need to realise how lucky we are in London to have amazing food and the high food standards I’ve grown up with as well.
We covered approximately 350 km of driving and saw and did a lot today!
Day 3 : Thurso – Lochinver
We went to Dunnet Head, which we found out is actually the most northerly point of mainland UK.
We then drove along the north coast and stopped at Melvich Beach then Ceannabeinne Beach. All the beaches were stunning!
We also stopped by Smoo Cave. The sea cave is set into limestone cliffs and it was interesting to see.
Our last stop for the day was Sango Sands Durness and the view point had great views of the beach.
We stayed in Lochinver and went to Peet’s Harbourside for dinner. Most of the dishes we ordered were decent!
Day 4 : Lochinver – Ullapool
The weather wasn’t great today but in the morning, we drove from Lochinver to a few places like Achmelvich Beach and Ardvreck Castle.
We headed back to Lochinver as we had to stop by Lochinver Larder for their famous pies. I had the chicken, leek and mushroom one which was incredible and also shared the rhubarb one which I thought was okay but not amazing. I’d stick to the savoury ones!
We then drove to Ullapool and since it was raining, we went to The Arch Inn to get some shelter and go for a beer.
For dinner, we went to Ferry Boat Inn (FBI) and unfortunately they ran out of both oysters and langoustine! We shared the mussels and smoked salmon which were both great.
I had to get a lobster fix so we went to The Seafood Shack and got the pan fried half lobster with potatoes and salad. It was good!
Afterwards, we went to the Argyll Hotel for drinks. It was recommended by the locals but due to covid and using an app to order, the service ended up being really slow! We played card games and chilled before calling it a night.
Day 5 : Stac Pollaidh – Ullapool – Fort William
The next morning, we decided to do a hike called Stac Pollaidh. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great again which meant the visibility wasn’t good either. Usually, you would get stunning views from the top. Regardless, it was a good hike to do!
The hike loop is around 4.5km in total. We went in an anticlockwise direction to get to the top.
I didn’t feel good doing the hike (felt a bit nauseous) so going up wasn’t fun for me. It still only took us around 45 minutes up and about an hour down as it was super muddy.
From lower down, you can see these amazing views!
However, due to bad visibility, we weren’t able to see much from the top. It was windy so we took a few photos then made our way back down.
We stopped by at Ullapool Smokehouse for some of their fresh salmon and cheese, then made our way towards Fort William, with a few scenic stops on the way.
We went to Lime Tree for dinner. We shared the langoustines, fish, beef, vegetarian burritos and hazelnut Paris Brest.
Day 6 : Fort William – Ben Nevis – Glenfinnan
The next morning, we got up super early to be at the Ben Nevis car park by 6:30am.
Ben Nevis is UK’s highest peak sitting at 1,395m. It is a 16km round trip but as the hike starts at sea level, it is an incline most of the way up.
They say factor in 6-7 hours for the hike but it took us around 5 hours return (2.5 hours up, 1 hour rest at the top, 1.5 hours down).
Make sure you are fully prepared for the hike as it’s not an easy one and you don’t want to be caught out if the weather changes. We had perfect weather the day we hiked and it even got quite hot walking back down. This apparently only happens 10 days a year so we felt super lucky!
The scenery all the way up was beautiful. It changed from lush green to waterfalls and then to gravel pavements.
There was some ice/snow near the top but most of it had melted.
We reached the top in 2 hours and 30 mins. We hung out at the top for about an hour then made our way back down. By this point, it was super sunny and getting really warm!
It took me around 1 hour 30 mins to come down. There were hundreds of people coming up at this point so it wasn’t fun weaving my way down. This is always why I start my hikes early to avoid the crowds!
After the hike, I got a calippo to cool down then went to the Ben Nevis Inn for some celebratory beers. The salt and pepper squid with chips were also amazing!
We came back to our airbnb, had a well deserved shower and relaxed before heading back out to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This scene was made famous in Harry Potter and it was cool to see.
For dinner, we went to Garrison West and shared some langoustine and mussels for starters and I had the salmon for the main.
Day 7 : Fort William – Mallaig – Knoydart
After a slow morning and breakfast in the airbnb, we then headed to Mallaig, which was an hours drive from Fort William.
We went to The Steam Inn for some food and drinks before our ferry. It is a bit of an unassuming place with a beer garden out the back but the food was very good. We had oysters and the garlic, chilli prawns and had some prosecco to compliment it.
The weather turned pretty awful and we caught the ferry to Inverie (Knoydart) in the rain and wind. We went to The Old Forge, UK’s most remote pub, for some wines and to play card games (and to get shelter for a few hours).
We left the pub at around 5:30pm and then arrived at Sandaig and was warmly welcomed into Roland and Bettina’s bnb. The location is so remote and during normal circumstances, they can pick up from the ferry port but due covid, we walked the 7km to their accommodation. The views are stunning along the way!
It’s not included but they offer dinner which I highly recommend you take! They offered raclette with chicken, meat, salad and a take on haggis puff pastry which was amazing! The dessert was a carrot cake. We loved it SO much and we were stuffed at the end!
Day 8 : Sandaig – Mallaig – Oban – Glasgow
Breakfast is included and it was super hearty with home made breads (two kinds – one savoury and one sweet) and a cooked dishes including hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes and eggs – so delicious!
Sandaig also have the cutest dogs – Freddy and Yara. It was sad to leave as it was such a homely place to be and the serenity was something else. We also had some of the best hospitality here on our whole road trip!
We walked the 7km to the ferry port and it was really nice to enjoy the views!
From Mallaig, we drove to Oban. We stopped by the Seafood Hut which is known for their amazing seafood! As there is a massive queue, John the owner tries to make everyone happy by giving pots of mussels for free – something you’d never get anywhere else!
The wait is worth it though – we shared the oysters, scallops and then got the grand platter for 2 (but can easily be shared with 3-4 people). It was so delicious!
It took another 3.5 hours to drive back to Glasgow. We quickly went to our hotel in the West End and got ready to go to our dinner reservation.
We went to Ubiquitous Chip for dinner. The restaurant is light filled and had a good atmosphere, however the service was not very attentive. It may have been a bad day for them but we had the 7 course tasting menu, ordered multiple cocktails and wine but still felt forgotten in the corner. The food was very good though – the highlight being the venison haggis, the scallops and potatoes.
It was such a great 8 days in Scotland – the scenery is amazing and we had a really fun time!