“The storm is coming”, the words spoken by the Bond himself while trying to save M from the menacing Silva perfectly captures the essence of Scottish Highlands. The towering mountains, gloomy weather and the narrow, winding roads of Glen Etive sets a perfect background for that particular scene’s mood. The panoramic shot of Bond’s Aston Martin with the backdrop of ominous looking mountains and intriguing music would compel any Bond fan to visit Scotland. We always wanted to visit this picturesque country for a very long time and our dream came true in October 2017. Somehow we chose the right season to visit as we both love fall colours. Let us show you the itinerary for an ultimate road trip in Scotland Highlands..
The Ultimate Road Trip in Scotland Highlands – Our Itinerary
Scotland is not a big country but the best way to explore is by drive. We did a road trip from South to North and back and covered close to 600 miles. Our drive was extremely beautiful, filled with gorgeous lochs and glens and this probably made Scotland our favourite destination for 2017. Even though we had just 4 days to spare, we managed to cover the main attractions described below.
This is a picturesque lake on the way to the Isle of Skye. It’s a quiet spot for a nice picnic, weather permitting of course. Stop here to admire the lovely lake, setup a nice picnic and enjoy your lunch. We saw a few people kayaking and swimming in that cold weather and freezing water. Scottish people are really adventurous!
From Lake Lomond, we drove to Glen Etive. As you drive on the Scottish Highlands, the landscape changes dramatically and Glen Etive boasts of some spectacular landscape. We did enough research to find out Skyfall filming locations in Scotland and found the exact location in Glen Etive. The below directions will help you…
Once you cross the bridge of Orchy, continue driving on A82 admiring the amazing landscape. After around 12 miles, you will see King’s house hotel to the right. Continue driving and in half a mile, you will see directions to Glen Etive on your left. Take the left and keep driving on the narrow road where there is space only for a single vehicle and you will need to pull in (there are passing areas throughout the stretch) to allow oncoming vehicles to pass. This road will definitely test your driving skills. The road is built along the river Etive to the left and the whole scenery is just spectacular. We didn’t exactly note down where the Bond’s spot is but if you are a true Bond fan, you would figure it out.
Glen Coe is a much bigger area than Glen Etive. The roads are much broader and extremely windy. Especially on spots between the mountains, expect to be literally blown away by the wind. Play the skyfall song as you drive through this region and you will get an adrenaline rush like never before. We must have played the song probably a hundred times. You can plan to do hike around the Three Sisters, if you have plenty of time in hand. There is a visitor centre but not much to do over there.
Isle of Skye
A trip to Scotland must include this beautiful island. From Glen Coe, we drove on the Skye Bridge to reach Portree and used it as a base location to explore the Isle of Skye. Portree is a small village with minimal amenities but a good enough base. Old man of Storr is a must do hike while in Isle of Skye. The ‘Old Man‘ is a large pinnacle of rock that stands high and can be seen for miles around. The whole landscape is extremely photographic and make sure to wear the right type of clothing and shoes while hiking the Storr as it can rain any time and the slush would make the walk slippery. Allow at least 4 hours for the whole trek.
Drive onwards towards the north of the Isle towards the ruins of Duntulm Castle. It’s not a must visit but the breathtaking landscape with the high mountains, the Ocean would definitely call for a pit stop. The whole route along the coast is a feast to the eyes.
Crazy drive views and pit stops make for beautiful memories! . . Even though we enjoyed our drive in Isle of Skye a lot, we struggled a bit with the food. We spent almost the entire day on a small packet of crisps. Cafes were scanty and mostly closed.. The one which was open didn’t have anything vegetarian. So, if you are vegetarian like us, we would suggest you to have a heavy breakfast and pack some lunch from Portree, the biggest town in Isle of Skye.
Continue driving and after crossing the village of Totscore, take a sharp left towards the majestic Quiraing mountain. Again the roads are narrow and yielding to oncoming traffic is a must. There can be road closures during winter months so take caution if you are visiting during winter. The parking lot of Quiraing also hosts a small cafe on the wheels for some quick refreshments (no restrooms). Park the car, hike up the mountain and take in the amazing view of the mountain range. Mother nature has been extremely kind towards Scotland.
Eilean Donan Castle
On the way back to Edinburgh, visit the beautiful Eilean Donan castle built in the 13th century, situated at the point where three lakes meet. This castle has featured in many Hollywood and Indian movies. There is a cafe available in the visitor centre for refreshments. Try to visit the castle also at night for some stunning photographs from the outside.
Not much here, its one of the bigger lakes in the area. You can even skip this. The hype must have been probably because of the Loch Ness monster movie. You can plan to visit the Urquhart Castle which is one of the main attractions there.
We spent only half a day here but staying overnight would give more time to slowly take in this picturesque capital city of Scotland. We will be dedicating a blog for this very soon.
Planning the trip to Scotland and where to stay
We planned our trip in such a way that we spend three days on the road and half day exploring Edinburgh. First day, we drove from the Edinburgh airport till Isle of Skye. We spent two nights in Portree, and stayed in a very cosy Airbnb and paid around 100 euros per night. The second day we explore Isle of Skye. On the the day we drove back from Portree to a small town called Boreland, which is about an hour drive from Edinburg airport. We booked a small Lodge in Boreland via Booking.com with the purpose of only sleeping for the night and spent about 50 euros for our accommodation. On the fourth day, we retuned out car at the airport, dropped our luggage at airport left luggage and took the airport shuttle to the city.
You can use our Airbnb referral code to get 35euros travel credit on your first trip!
Renting a car in Scotland
We rented Audi A3 from Avis Prestige and it was an absolute pleasure to drive! The rental was total 250 euros for 3 days and we used our Indian driving license. We highly recommend Avis Prestige as they allowed an additional driver for free and the rental cost was less compared to other companies. In Scotland you are allowed to use your international driving license till the time it is in English.
What to wear in Scotland
Quick advice of what to wear or carry with us-
- A good pair of hiking shoes. Your regular running / sports shoes are no good here as there are chances that they will get wet on the mushy paths.
- Waterproof and windproof jacket. The weather in Scotland is in general on the cooler side and being such open area, it gets extremely windy. A good jacket will go a long way here.
- Beanie and gloves, as it will help protect you from the wind.
- Base layers to keep you warm
It’s a good idea to carry some snacks with you while on the road as you will find most of the road cafes closed. Especially in Isle of Skye we faced a bit of issue as we couldn’t find any open cafe and the only one we found had no vegetarian food. It would be a good idea to pack something from Portree before leaving for the trip.