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Travelling, walks, places to visit


Based on a journey across Scotland, 1.-14. September 1997,
devoted to all  travelers hungry for any piece of information
for their next trip.


Click to enlarge the map of our routeOur journey started in Prague, then Calais, late evening ferry to Dover, and overnight ride across England to Glasgow, upwards along Loch Lomond to Bonave Furnace at Loch Etive.
The morning sky was blue, air was fresh and crispy, the overall weather was far from what we'd expected...

  Filled up with information from guides and internet pages, we decided to go across the western part of Scotland, including Skye island.  Our plan was to look at hills around Glencoe, then to go further northwards up to Point of Stoer, descend back along the western coast,  cross the bridge to Skye, make some walks there and finally return along Edinburgh back to England. The whole journey is shown on the map above.

is small, pleasant town, the very first one we visited in Scotland. Unfortunately, our vigilance was quite low after the overnight drive across whole England, so I have only few notes: It is easy to find a place for car parking along the steep streets above the harbor, which is actually part of the town  center. Don´t miss to visit Coliseum-like wall above the town. It´s called McCaig´s Tower. McCaig was wealthy banker at the end of the 19th century and he let build this tower in 1897.OBAN - look through the harbour to the town centre Official reason was to generate jobs for Oban workers, but the main one was probably to erect eternal monument carrying his name. But as a matter of fact, the tower offers the best views of the town and its surroundings and it´s worth climbing the hill even if you are tired. Right in the center, there is also one of the six Classic Malts distilleries - Oban distillery. It is open to public and, believe me, once you pass through three or four distilleries, you´ll become an expert on whisky production.
The way up from Oban along Loch Linhe is full of nice views with the panorama of Morvern hills.

LOCH LEVEN and surroundings
Leven is a narrow loch, hidden between steep Munros above Glencoe and (also steep) hills of Mamore Forest. We found pleasant spot for building tents at the rest near the camp. Generally, places for tents are everywhere. We usually built them not far from the road and, since we used narrow, quiet ones, we were never disturbed by any cars. Also water was not big issue. There is plenty of water everywhere in Scotland and it is clear and potable (well, clear also means brown peaty color, but don't worry, local people drink it too).  Soon after building tents we encountered less pleasant feature of Scottish land - midges. We had heard about them before. Awful stories. But we had never imagined how horrible they are. Unlike other "normal" insects, midges are  almost invisible, you  can´t hear them fly, and the only thing you feel is their bites. And there are zillions of them everywhere. Forget about repellents, they don´t work at all. There are only three ways how to keep them at bay

1) Special hood made of tiny net (they sell them in every drugstore)
2) Rapid walk. Midges don´t fly fast. Please don´t stop!
3) Reasonable wind. To feel the wind on the face there is like God´s blessing. You will understand what I´m talking about.

Well, good start for selecting one of many possible walks around the loch is to Loch Leven during the duskvisit Walking Center in Kinlochleven - village at the end of Loch Leven. We decided to climb on Mam na Gualainn, the hill 796m tall, situated just above the northern bank of the loch. The simple map is here but you can get a hardcopy and the description of the trip in the Walking Center. Start there and follow the main road leading through Kinlochleven to Fort Williams. Turn right to the footpath behind the school yards (you'll pass the school on the left hand). This path is known as West Highland way and goes On the top - view towards Glencoefrom Stirling to Fort Williams. From school it climbs up the wooded hill and finally it merges with Old Military Road (land rover track). Continue along the track for approx. 30min, you must pass two brooks, and then you'll find narrow path turning left from the West Highland Way which goes down towards the Allt Nathrach river. You'll cross the river over the old partially broken bridge and then climb the Beinn na Caillich along the zig-zag footpath. If you go up all the time, you can't miss the top, there is no other hill in sight.  The same path goes on to  Mam na Gualainn. From the top of both hills you could see the whole loch, hills above Glencoe and to the north the highest Scottish mountain Ben Nevis (1344m) and the hills around. The whole walk was about 6 hours long with return.

Famous name, dark, terribly cold water, flat hills around, not particularly stunning landscape. However, swimming in the morning loch with the mist hovering above water is kind of breathtaking (caused by both magical place and icy water). We arrived to the loch in Sunset behid the Loch Ness hillsthe evening and it welcomed us with beautiful sunset over its dark waters.
We found Urquhart castle quite interesting. It is very ancient ruins. Originally, it was the fortress of old Picts, then the whole line of owners and conquerors replaced each other and, eventually, the castle was burned out and let alone in 18th century.

Here we are approaching Assynt, one of the wildest and most remote Rough landsapes of Sutherlandscenery in the United Kingdom. Located in the far north west highlands of Scotland the area is dominated by spectacular mountain scenery. Isolated sandstone mountains rise up from an undulating landscape of hummocks and lochs that is itself formed of Lewisian Gneiss, one of the oldest rock types in the world. 
We left Inverness, passed Ullapool and The light house at the Point of Stoercontinued along A894 road almost to   Kylestrome. Before we'd reached Loch Glencoul we turned left to B869 leading to Drumbeg and west coast. We found suitable spot near Drumbeg, just next to the road. We woke up into howling wind, tents lying on us as if they had no sticks. Today  we wanted to take a walk around Point of Stoer.
The starting point is the light house. Walking northwards along the western coast of the cape, you´ll see an interesting, tall, slim rock raising straight from the sea - Old Man of Stoer. The rock represents a challenge for most climbers thanks to both water and strong winds. Take the walk around the whole cape and return back to the light house over the hilltop above the cape. The top is the magnificent viewpoint, where you can see the whole panorama of Assynt, and its dominants like Quinag, Ben More Assynt, Canisp, Suillven, Cul Mor, Cul Beag and Stac Pollaidh.

We hesitated between a walk to Suillven and to Stac Pollaidh. The walk to Suillven was over 13 miles long and we didn't manage to wake up early enough, spoll2_sm.jpg (18314 bytes)so we chose to climb up to the rocky top of volcano like mountain Stac Pollaidh. The path up starts at the car park next to the road B869, few miles bellow Inverkirkaig. There is only one way up and it is well visible because this hill very popular. It takes approx. one hour to get to the top. Walking across the top requires little climbing technique but you don't have to be freestyle boulderer to find some good places where you can enjoy fantastic views of most of Assynt.

Glen Torridon is one of the most beautiful glens we met, although we didn't make any trip there. But we slept there overnight and I have to tell you. Imagine peaceful valley with quiet small river where you can see real eels, huge pines and our tents under them, no wind, briefly fairy tale.
Remember midges? They found us. Not few of them, Sunset in Glen Torridonzillions. The fairy tale soon turned to comic horror. Why comic? Our dinner may serve as example - imagine four people with hoods over the head, gloves on hands (though it was warm evening) walking fast in circles around the the pot placed in the middle of the road, occasionally stopping there to grab the mouthful and immediately moving on to escape from attacking insects. Those few people, passing along in the cars, even didn't hide their amusement. I will better not describe the process of peeing in the night. It was pure horror, not comedy.

Before we got to Skye we dropped in Plockton, picturesque village situated on the cape where you can look across Loch Carron, Loch Kishorn to the wideCottages in Plockton Inner Sound, channel dividing the mainland from the isle. Plockton has its own charm with the cottage gardens down to the bay and even palm trees! No wonder that it is considered to be the one of the most interesting coastal villages.

There is a bridge to the Isle of Skye from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin. The toll costs 5 pounds. We built tents not far from Portree, nice town hidden in the bay of Sound of Raasay. I´d like to stress here, that if you want to use tents outside of camp sites, they should have good waterproof bottom, otherwise you will be soaking wet in the morning. Peaty ground and frequent rains keep Scottish soil permanently wet and spongy. The good side of it is that the ground is never hard and sleeping is usually quite pleasant.
One of many waterfalls in the area, Old Man of Storr on the horizon. The picture was taken not far from the place we had tentsSo far good weather changed and we had to face drizzling and mists. However, it did not prevent us from walking to The Storr, or better to the enigmatic basalt finger under the hilltop which is called Old Man of Storr (It looks like that every Scottish rock above 10 meters of height is Old Man). Start from a carpark on the left, 12km from Portree on the road A855, few miles above Portree. There is a well-defined path around the clump of woodland toward the cliffs and a steep climb up the grassy slope towards the pinnacle which towers 165ft tall. Allow 3-4 hours return. The simple map is here.

The weather was better in the afternoon and we decided to take another walk, this time at Quirang. This part of Skye offers perhaps the best of classic views of the Scottish landscape. We turned left at Staffin Bay from A855 to an unclassified road. As we approached the top, we found a carpark on the left, and some people in the distance on the footpath which connects the carparkThe view from the carpark towards the Table, Needle, and the Prison and the amazing massive rock formations of a towering, contorted ridge. Solified lava heaved and eroded into fantastic pinnacles with names like Table, Needle and Prison (see the picture). Start from the carpark is easy. At the first saddle, take the second scree slope to the Table, rather than the first. When you get to the Needle, the path to the right between two giant pinnacles is the easiest of the three options. From the top you can see the Hebrides and the views across the Staffin Bay to Wester Ross are also breathtaking.

Our next goal was the Neist Point, the most western spot of our tour. On the way there we stopped at Dunvegan Castle. I think that there are more beautiful or more mysterious castles in Scotland. However, Dunvegan is still inhabited by the clan of MacLeods. Loch Dunvegan is the place where you can find the seals if you are patient. We tried to get to them as close as possible and, despite that they are very curious, they are also very shy and keep you at certain distance. I recommend to take good binoculars so that you can fully enjoy their presence.
Walk to the Neist Point is short and easy. Follow High cliffs above the Neist Point light housethe B 884 road from Dunvegan castle to its very end  at Moonen Bay. There is a carpark above the high cliffs and well maintained path leads to the light house. If it's dark day as we had, the whole place is pretty mysterious. First you'll pass old cemetery where are buried all former inhabitants of the light house, then, closer to the shore, is number of tumuli and barrows built of small stones found at the shore. Rocky, carved shore gives the feeling that this is the end of the world. If the air is clear enough, you'll see the Western Isles of Hebrides - South and North Uist, Isles of Harris and Lewis.

Talisker is the only distillery on Skye. From Sligachan-Dunvegan road (A863) take B8009 for Carbost and Glen BrittleBarrels at Talisker distillery along the southern side of Loch Harport for 5 km. Since 1830 they have been making the classic island after-dinner malt from barley and the burn that runs off Hawkhill behind the buildings. At the entrance you'll get your dram before the tour, which takes approx. 30 minutes. The distillery is open Apr-Mar 9am-4.30pm. Later, we visited another distillery - Glenkinchie, few miles below Edinburgh. I must admit that the latter tour was much better, because we were alone there with beautiful guide lady and we had more time to understand how whisky is made. We also got good hint: although the whisky at the distillery is much cheaper than in regular shops, if you use boat ferry, buy it there, it is even much cheaper than that in the distillery and they have wide range of single malts there.

We wanted to do some walk in The Cuillins, the highest mountains on Skye and perhaps the hardest to walk in Scotland. Unfortunately, heavy rain and low mist discouraged us from our intention. So at least few words from the guide: "Much scrambling and, if you want it, serious climbing over these famously unforgiving peaks. The Red ones are easier and many walks start at the Sligachan hotel on the main Portree-Broadford road. Glamaig, the conical one which overlooks the hotel, has been climbed in 37 minutes. Most of the Black Cuillins incl. the highest, Sgurr Alasdair (993m), and Sgurr Dearg, 'the inaccessible pinnacle' (978m), can be attacked from the campsite or the youth hostel in Glen Brittle. A good guide is Introductory Scrambles from Glen Brittle by Charles Rhodes, available locally, but you will need something."

Skye was the final place where we did walks and then we aimed to Edinburgh and then on to Dover. We made just few stops along the way, some worthwhile Eileen Donan Castleremark. Eileen Donan Castle, on A87, 13km from Kyle of Lochalsh, a calendar favorite, often depicted, illuminated, also filmed in a movie Highlander. Mystical place with very decent slice of history inside.
Deep Sea World, North Queensferry, Edinburgh, is the massively successful aquarium in a quarry. It contains five 'habitats' viewed from a conveyor-belt where you can stare goggle-eyed at  the goggle-eyed fish teeming around and above you.
Farne Islands. Although they are not in Scotland I would like to include them here, because it was wonderful stop. They are roughly in the middleDustanburgh Castle near Seahouses, our last night in the U.K. between Edinburgh and Newcastle. Turn left  from A1 road at Belford to B1340 rd and go along to Seahouses. Small boats start almost every hour from there for the tour around the Farne Islands. They serve as the bird reservation, during summer time you'll see lovely puffins there, and also many curious seals usually accompany the boats.

Walking in Scotland - Bev's Favourite Walks
Peter Irvine - Scotland The Best (The One True Guide 1996)
Map Michelin 401 - Scotland

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Last updated: 23.11.1998