Scotland: A Journey

Touring Scotland - 900 km, 12 days

A distant view of Ulva from MullSCOTLAND - Popularly known for being home to Haggis-eating, Bagpipe-playing, Kilt-wearing and Whisky-drinking folk, Scotland is this and much more. Her islands and highlands have been staging grounds for her adventurous and challenging history.

TRAVEL - Our journey will take us to remote islands, ancient castles and forts. We will explore Neolithic sites, taste Haggis, hear the skirl of bagpipes, and visit sites of historic significance..

OUR CHOSEN ROUTE was about 900km long and we hired a car. In the UK a smaller car rather than larger is preferable due to higher petrol costs.

The magnificent castle of DunrobinHISTORY: Scotland has been subjected to influences from the Romans, Irish invaders, Vikings, French activity and English territorial ambitions. Scotland’s misty prehistory has left outstanding monuments, particularly on her outer islands.
THE ROMANS: gave the name Caledonia to the land north of their province of Britannia, beyond the frontier of the empire. The military presence of Rome lasted for little more than 40 years for most of Scotland. At no time was even half of Scotland's land mass under Roman control.
THE SCOTS 500AD: Increased migration of Scoti or Scots from Ireland to Scotland leads to the establishment of the kingdom of Dalriada in what is now Argyll.
VIKINGS:After the arrival of the Vikings in the late 700s, Scandinavian rulers established colonies along coastal sections and on the islands. LORD OF THE ISLES, BRAVEHEART, ROBERT THE BRUCE, KING JAMES VI - Scottish history does get quite complex!

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT SCOTLAND:The Scots have their own pound notes, which are on par with England's, but not readily accepted in England. The landscape will amaze you, so try to get out and do some walking. Visit the historic sites, and give thanks for a day without rain..

Touring Route of ScotlandSOME HIGHLIGHTS: Scotland accounts for 1/3 of Britain’s surface area, but 80% of its coastline and 10% of its population. We will be touring and exploring the islands that make up this coastline and meeting some of the people that make this great nation.

Our journey will take us to remote islands, ancient castles and forts. We will explore Neolithic sites, taste Haggis, hear the skirl of bagpipes, and visit sites of historic significance.

ROUTE PLANNER: There's so much to see in Scotland - depends on how much time you have. Lonely Planet has a number of suggestions - one week, two weeks, etc. Our journey was through the islands, but by no means a peripheral journey, as much of Scotland's history is intertwined with its islands - Inner Hebrides, Western Isles and the Orkneys.

YOUR SCOTTISH ACCOMMODATION: This is usually in B&Bs or inns and can be booked in advance. We found that in some cases we could ring a day ahead for a night's accommodation.

FOOD: Mostly good quality traditional Scottish food is served up at B&Bs and village inns and there are wide choices in their menu. Most B&B owners can cater for vegetarians or people with other food preferences if given sufficient notice. Many establishments serve HAGGIS.

WHEN TO GO: The northern Spring or Autumn seasons are recommended as accommodation is easier to obtain and the tourist numbers are lower.

WALKING GEAR: Scotland is a marvellous place to explore on foot. Good walking boots and socks are critical. Your shoes should have been worn in. Also important is what rain gear to take. Make sure it’s made from a breathable material.

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ITINERARY for Scotland - 900 km

The following is an outline of the 12-day journey we took driving around Scotland.

  • Where to Start: Oban, Scotland.
  • How to get there: Rail or drive from London, or Glasgow.
Driving itinerary: 12 days
  • Day 1. Travel to OBAN. An t-Òban in Scottish Gaelic meaning The Little Bay is a resort town. The modern town of Oban grew up around the distillery which was founded there in 1794, and the town was raised to a burgh of barony in 1811 by royal charter.
  • Day 2. Ferry to MULL and then another to the holy Isle of IONA. Visit the Abbey of St. Columba. The Abbey has been here for 1400 years. It is difficult to believe today that this stood as a crumbling ruin from the late 1500s until the 8th Duke of Argyll started preservation work in the years from 1874. In 1899 he transferred ownership to the Iona Cathedral Trust.
    Today's visitors to Iona Abbey can only marvel at the quality of the workmanship that went into transforming a
    ruin back into a living, breathing place of worship.
  • Day 3. We leave Iona and drive to Gruline to visit LACHLAN MACQUARIE'S MAUSOLEUM. Then to TOBERMORY. Legend has it that the wreck of a Spanish galleon, laden with gold, lies somewhere in the mud at the bottom of Tobermory Bay. By some accounts, the Florencia, a member of the defeated Spanish Armada fleeing the English fleet in 1588, anchored in Tobermory to take on provisions. The treasure has not been found.
  • Day 4. Off to explore the ISLE OF SKYE. And to learn about one of Scotland's enduring heroes - Bonnie Prince Charlie and his escape with Flora Macdonald - Over the sea to Skye.
  • Day 5. On Skye we walk in that area of the QUIRAING, as well as exploring PORTREE.
  • Day 6. Ferry from UIG to TARBET on HARRIS. We drive past AMHAINNSUIDHE CASTLE, an old hunting lodge, now an upmarket accommodation.
  • Day 7. Drive to LEWIS. Visit the CALLANISH STANDING STONES. Then to look at a BLACKHOUSE. Stay overnight in STORNOWAY.
  • Day 8. Ferry to ULLAPOOL and drive to LOCHINVER.
  • Day 9. LOCHINVER to THURSO and GILL'S BAY. Ferry to ST. MARGARET'S HOPE on the ORKNEYS.
  • Day 10. Explore the Orkneys.
  • Day 11. Ferry to GILL'S BAY and drive to JOHN O'GROATS. Then to CASTLE OF MEY. Drive to DUNROBIN CASTLE and overnight at GOLSPIE.
  • Day 12. Bypass INVERNESS to visit CAWDOR CASTLE and CULLODEN BATTLEFIELD. Overnight in PITLOCHRY.
  • From Pitlochry we drove south to London: stopping off at various spots for occasional rest breaks..
Our Take:
This is a marvelous 900 km journey around the periphery of Scotland. Take time to visit the historic sites and castles. You will get a sense of how the crofting communities lived when you visit the Blackhouses. Be prepared for rain and the changeable weather. We learnt that a good day in Scotland is a day without rain! Try HAGGIS and enjoy the many sounds of bagpipes throughout Scotland.
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