Many of you might be wondering where I decided to take my summer travels. You also might be wondering why anyone would go to a cold and rainy climate during the warm summer months. Well, there are many reasons, and I will share a handful of them to convince you that Scotland will always be one of the best travel destinations.
I am from California. First off we only get green grass maybe 4 months of out the year. So, all those lush green hills and cute stone fences are a beautiful sight for us to see. I have been to Scotland 3 times now, and every time I go I like it even more. It might be because I can venture out into the countryside and the Highlands to explore Scotland is its pure form. Yes, this summer we did just that!
So here is my adventure. I hope that you will be equally compelled to visit this beautiful country during the summer. Explore all the wonders that even includes the unexpected rain showers that drive across the hills without much warning… But, for a California girl that is the best part.
Let’s dive into the beginning of our travels. I went with a few friends to work on a film project in Ireland which also took us to Scotland. I had been to Glasgow and Edinburgh twice before, but both times in winter. So, you can imagine it was cold and slightly snowy. This summer I was excited to only need a light rain jacket and to be able to march across the green fields hopefully without falling into the mud. We have friends from outside of Glasgow who kindly offered to take us on a road trip adventure to see the highlands. Of course, how can anyone say no to that! So we headed off in the packed car, aiming to visit the whole North Coast 500 within two days… a bit of a crazy idea, but still probably one of the best ones!
Our first stop was at Helmsdale. This is a cute town that sits on the base of the east coastline and the highlands on your way up to Inverness. If you are looking for a quick little snack stop then pop by Helmsdale, stretch your legs and grab an ice cream before heading on the road. The small highway road that leads you up to Inverness is filled with seaside farms, sheep, and tiny cottages.
Once you get to Inverness you realize you are quite far from the big cities. Although this city has all you could need, shops, cafes, and everything in between it still sits a good 3 hours north of Edinburgh. We stopped at The Rendezvous Cafe, which can I say had amazing sandwiches plates for only $5. It is tasty and vintage themed. It made some of us laugh because here we are some 5 thousand miles from California and here we are sitting in a Hollywood themed cafe in Scotland. We all had a good laugh while we enjoyed our lunch.
From Inverness we moved up the coast heading for John O’Grotes before dark. That was a long stretch of driving but surrounded by beautiful coastline one can’t complain much. I did not know that from John O’Groats ( which is at the northeast corner of the country ) you are able to see a tiny bit of the Orkney and Shetland Islands. It is basically as far as you can go on the mainland by car before needing a boat. I recommend stopping there for some pictures and to enjoy the view. If it’s not raining you can see all the northern islands and far out into the ocean for miles!
We hoppeed back into the car and found ourselves on the road for another two hours to find our lodging near Durness, It was in the smallest town I have ever seen.
On our drive to Durness we stumbled upon the most beautiful beach I think I have ever seen. It reminded me of the ones you see on Pinterest, with blue water and an amazing landscape, of course, you see the location tagged as Scotland and think ” that couldn’t be right ” well folks.. it is!
Let me introduce you to Portskerra beach ( which I actually think is also called the Rob Dunn trail ) It’s hard to find on the map, but if you are driving along the highway you couldn’t miss that view. We took numerous pictures, polaroids, videos.. you name it. The guys went swimming while we chilled out on the hills watching the gentle waves roll in. I have to say this was the best beach ever and if I ever go back to the North Coast I will spend more time there!
Crossing some hills that turn into mountains and you find yourself on the road filled with sheep and nothing in sight for a while. This is a beautiful drive and the best part was coming down into the town of Tounge (yes it is a weird name) where the ocean meets the land, an old castle on the hill and the only pub for miles. Talk about Scotland! It is the perfect place to stop for a nice evening meal, a warm fire and to look out into the hills across the water at the old castle ruins.
I would recommend Tounge as a good stopping point for the night. You can make it to here in one day from Glasgow without too many stops. It is a lovely place to be and has a cute little town too. Although we kept on going for about another hour or so to our destination just outside of Durness.
Sheep graze freely during the nighttime on the little roads. Be careful you might just find yourself in what seems like a scene from an old movie where you are blocked by a herd of sheep crossing the road. This was a fun adventure! Continuing on the drive you twist and wind up and down some hills, past lochs, and every once and a while you pass a house, it always amazes me how the Scots live out there so remotely. But, I guess they love it.
After a good night’s rest, we got an early head start on the charming road again. Our first stop of the day was the coastal caves near Durness. Wow! that was pretty epic. It was also one of the best photo locations for that classic scottish coastal shot. This place was amazing and all the sights started to appear. With the rain about to come in, we headed back on the road for some more exploring. I don’t remember names of these places nor did they have signs, it was just a morning full of ” Oh wow look at that beach ” or mostly ” That is an amazing view ” It is hard to explain this in words, it is something you have to experience for yourself at that moment. After more stops on the coast we found a magnificent spot. Windy and slightly cold we ran out of the car for the view and took some pictures. It is fascinating to see the old rocks that are mostly covered in moss and tiny highland flowers that grow in the wild climate. I think we called this our National Geographic spot. And yes it was beautiful!
I would say the picturesque Highlands, the ones you imagine with the sweeping mountains, an overload of green and waterfalls probably start somewhere along the A894 around Achlyness and continue down into Glencoe. We all sat there enjoying the breathtaking views of the mountains ahead of us. Then there were more castle ruins just completing the landscape of what we call the Scottish Highlands.
For those of you familiar with the Highlands you would have heard of Glencoe before. Tour buses swarm the highways, it’s a popular destination for weekend travelers. I feel the beauty of Glencoe is unmatched in most parts of the world. If you get the chance you should visit. There are many places to hike and walk about even if you are not a big nature fan there is still something for everyone. I think if I could have spent more time there I would have. It was the perfect end of our memorable visit to the highlands on our drive back home. Those mountains are so smooth and lush… you’ll know what I mean if you ever go there with the sheep still grazing in the foreground and waterfalls everywhere.
As we headed back to Glasgow we stopped at Loch Ness for a quick peek. Why not see what all the fuss is about. A Loch is a lake, and what a beautiful loch it is. When you pass through the town of Inveraray take a stop and enjoy the small village. Why not go past Loch Lomond? Stop for a late coffee in Luss. This drive back is the best, full of things to do and places to see.
Now that you have made it through my novel of a blog post, I hope I convinced you that Scotland is the place to visit on your next holiday. Go and take a trip on the wild side but, bring a rain jacket!