Hi guys, welcome back for the second part of my travel blog, ‘Road trip around Scotland’ featuring Whisky, Mountains, Glens, Castles & Golf. The first part of my blog included Edinburgh to Loch Lomond, Glencoe and the Isle of Skye. Details here wp.me/p8JB3K-i3.
The next part of the travel guide around Scotland takes us from the Isle of Skye to Dornoch in Sutherland, Inverness, Perth and back to Edinburgh. Tasting some fabulous whisky, exploring the most beautiful castle in Scotland, (in my opinion) and touring the spectacular A896 in the Scottish Highlands.
The road from the Isle of Skye is the A87 which joins the A896. This is the same route that you would take to get to Applecross to attempt the famous Bealach na Ba Road. Weary of single track roads and keen to check in to our newly refurbished bedroom, we enjoyed the scenic road to the Torridon House Hotel.
Nestled at the foot of Loch Torridon, the Torridon House hotel has the most spectacular views. Looking over the mountain ranges of Beinn Alligin and Beinn Dearg in Achnasheen, Wester Ross beside the narrow sea Loch of Torridon.
We were staying overnight and it was definitely my favourite hotel on our road trip. The whisky and gin bar are the best I have seen yet. Comparable to Gleneagles and Turnberry but more intimate and unique. The food was excellent and the rooms have been recently refurbished. The hotel still retains many original features and provided a welcome break from driving.
We stayed here for one night and during the day we enjoyed watching other guests play archery as we wondered around the substantial herb gardens and enjoyed afternoon tea. I loved taking photographs of the Highland Cows in the field beside the hotel and the magical sea Loch. It is a very popular stop for hillwalkers and cyclists. Don’t forget your midge repellent in the summer months.
Refreshed and recharged we continued on our way through one of my favourite routes – Torridon to Kinlochewe. Like many scottish roads it is mostly single track and once again the driver has to continually look ahead for passing places. We were very lucky with the weather and this stretch of road was visually superb and we were more than happy to drive slowly and let other drivers overtake us when it was safe to do so.
We rejoined the A832, connected to the A835 to Dingwall and on the A9 to Dornoch. We are now in the Royal Burgh of Sutherland. Royal Dornoch is famous for its golf course and is on many a bucket list of golfers around the world. I have to say the beaches are magnificent and stretch for miles along the coastline with only the odd dog walker leaving footprints in the sand.
Dornoch is part of the NC500 which starts and finishes in Inverness and is a famous Scottish route of over 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery. We did not have enough time to do the full route but I would love to have travelled to Castle Mey in Caithness, which was restored to its former glory by the Queen Mother. It can be found on the A836 in the parish of Canisbay, about 15 miles east of Thurso.
Attractions in Dornoch include the Carnegie whisky cellars and the Dornoch Cathedral. Both worth a visit. We were staying at the Dornoch Castle Hotel and we were keen to try this famous whisky and gin bar. This award winning bar stocks many rare and vintage whiskies and can be found on the Scottish Whisky trail. You can book a whisky tasting session here which looks great fun.
There is a small free guest car park at the rear of this hotel. I found the bedroom difficult to access with lots of stairs and it had the smallest toilet I have ever seen my life, but I did love the 4 poster bed.
Nearby Attractions on part of the NC500.
The reason I have always wanted to visit Dornoch, well actually 20 mins up the road is the village of Golspie and the magnificent Dunrobin Castle. This Stately home is the family seat of the Earl of Sutherland and the Clan Sutherland. The original castle dates back to the early 1300’s and has been rebuilt and extended many times. The rear of the castle beside the car park gives no indication of the beauty and magnificence of this stately home. It is best viewed from the bottom of the ornamental gardens.
The Castle is said to be haunted by a young woman who was imprisoned in the 15th century by the Earl of Sutherland who planned to marry her. She tried to escape by climbing down a rope of sheets, but it is said that the enraged Earl caught her and cut the sheets with his sword. Sounds of her crying can still be heard coming from the seamstresses room. I did not encounter any ghostly apparitions but I loved touring this castle. There is only a limited section of rooms open to visitors but the staff were most helpful and very knowledgeable and I was allowed to take photographs.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING DUNROBIN CASTLE IN SCOTLAND
(1) The falconry display is really enjoyable, featuring golden eagles, peregrine falcons and other birds of prey. There is an opportunity to take pictures of the birds before the display starts. I would try and get down to the gardens 15 mins before the start. There are 2 displays a day during June/July & August. Display hours change in Sept. The castle is closed in the winter months.
(2) Carry a small cagoule and umbrella in your bag, the falconry display is outside with no cover.
(3) Check the cruise ship arrivals timetable at Invergordon before booking as the castle can be really busy.
(4) Some people may find the animal trophy heads disturbing, and will possibly not enjoy the Museum in the castle grounds. It is a private collection and optional to view.
(5) The castle is closed during the winter months and has reduced hours in April/May & October, check the website before driving.
Our next adventure included the whisky trail and two distilleries, The Balblair and the Glenmorangie. The Balblair distillery which is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland was founded in 1790 and rebuilt in 1895. It can be found at Edderton. You may think you have gone the wrong way as you travel down a single track road but just keep following the signs. You will eventually reach the Balblair Distillery. This is a great tour and the staff were very knowledgable. We loved the tasting session and did not come away empty handed.
You do not have to sample the whisky and you can ask to take it away for later if you are driving. Remember Scottish drinks laws are different from England. For details click here on my first blog post. Travel guide to Skye via Glencoe
Feeling slightly light headed after sampling some rather divine malt whisky made in a sherry cask I was planning on abstaining completely at Glenmorangie.. …the best laid plans.
Glenmorangie is a much larger distillery with a great gift shop but again no cafe on site or refreshments apart from whisky. Tip: have some bottled water with you or in your car or bus. We did not do the tour here and again it is advisable to prebook to avoid disappointment. We stayed at both distilleries for an hour and they are reasonably close to each other. I enjoyed both these distilleries but they are quite different.
Heading back to the car we were now en route to Inverness. We did not stop here as we wanted to drive through the Cairngorms National Park on the A9 to reach the House of Bruar, which is a popular driving break through the scottish Highlands before you hit the city of Perth.
The House of Bruar has some great shops, traditional scottish gifts, large indoor restaurant and is very close to Blair Castle, the ancestral home of the Clan Murray. Many people also stop here to do the famous Falls of Bruar walk, which has a series of waterfalls and inspired Robert Burns to write, “The Humble Petition of Bruar Water”
We stopped here for an hour, I love theses shops, especially the food court. For any fans of the Netflix series ‘The Crown’ you may wish to visit Blair Castle. This castle also featured on season two, episode seven of ITV’s Victoria, when Queen Victoria comes to Scotland for some respite from the pressures of London life.
Rested and recharged we were now on a mission to reach Edinburgh by early evening. If you have more time, many tourists stop at the picturesque village of Pitlochery, which has two distilleries and a salmon leap. It is a good size town with lots of quaint shops and cafe and bars etc. Try and get to Queens View for the most amazing views down Loch Tummel.
Now many visitors hiring a car may be worried about re-fuelling in the Highlands. Fear not. All the towns have fuel stops, the locals need to get around too.. ..We were running low on fuel and it was an easy detour off the motorway to Carrbridge. You will find that the nearest garage/refuelling points are well signed. However, rather than a 2 min stop down the road it may be a 4mile drive down the road. As I waited for my husband to refuel I stretched my legs and discovered this beautiful bridge right next to the garage and opposite the Carrbridge Hotel.
We did reach Edinburgh by early evening and I totally loved my road trip. It was amazing. There are plenty of place I would still love to see but that is for another post. Choose your roads wisely, you will need longer than you think on single track roads. Take your time, enjoy the journey, not the destination.
If you love my photographs they are available on my portfolio, click here Shutterstock.
I hope you enjoyed reading this road trip and I have given you some ideas for your next Scottish Adventure. Thanks for reading, I appreciate your time.
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