Scotland is a stunning destination, with lots of locations to explore and discover. Although it is a small country, there is a still plenty packed in. Here at Knockderry Country House Hotel we are the perfect place to begin your tour of Scotland from. Here are some of our suggestions on ways to navigate around this beautiful land, with a particular focus on the ancient road to the (Western) Isles.
Knockderry to Glencoe
Glencoe is one of the top places to have on your tour of Scotland. Steeped in history, this glen is also one of the most picturesque. With steep hills on either side of the glen, it is a stunning and atmospheric location to drive through. Glencoe Village is a lovely little village on the north side of the glen, with a variety of cafes, hotels and B&Bs. It is initially thought to have been a settlement of the MacDonald clan at the time of the Glencoe Massacre, when the Campbells massacred the MacDonalds as they slept (clan history always tends to be rather bloody).
Glencoe to Mallaig
From Glencoe it is only a short drive to Fort William, where the Road to the Isles begins. This is the road which connects Fort William to Mallaig. The Road to the Isles crosses the mountains and glens of the Rough Bounds, before reaching Arisaig on the coast, with stunning white beaches and beautiful views of the islands of Rum, Muck, Eigg and Skye. There are lots of places to visit along the Road to the Isles, with one of the most famous being the Glenfinnan Viaduct, made popular by the Harry Potter movie franchise.
It is also at Glenfinnan that Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard in front of his gathered army, in 1745, to signify the beginning of the doomed second Jacobite rising that would become known as the ’45’. There is a monument built in tribute to the Clansmen who fought and died for the Prince’s cause.
Once you reach Mallaig there are stunning views across to the south end of Skye and the Small Isles. Mallaig runs an extensive ferry service all year round, with ferries to the Small Isles and Skye, where you can then take a ferry onto the Outer Hebrides.
Mallaig to the Small Isles/Skye
The Small Isles are a group of four islands, part of the Inner Hebrides, which lie just off the south of Skye. Unlike many groups of islands, each island is very distinct and different in geography, agronomy, population and ownership. From Muck in the south, with a population of just 39, to Eigg with its tooth-like Sgurr, Rum, which is mountainous and mysterious in the clouds, and to Canna in the north, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland.
Skye is a gorgeous island, with plenty to offer. It deserves at least a few days for a good explore, with the island being so diverse and rich. The dark and looming Cuillins in the south are visible from nearly all corners of the island, creating a stunning backdrop. Rich in folklore and intrigue, with the Fairy Pools, the Fairy Glen, the Fairy Flag at Dunvegan Castle and the Old Man of Storr, there are things to discover in all corners of the island. There are also excellent food options on the island, with local food ranging from superb seafood shacks to Michelin starred restaurants. It has some of the most iconic and recognisable views in the country, and is a must on any Scotland tour.
Skye to Inverness
There are two possible routes to take between Skye and Inverness; one favoured by hardy locals who don’t mind the single track roads, and one favoured by the tourists who want to see the famous Scottish sights. When you leave Skye you’ll pass over the Skye Bridge, which connects Skye to the mainland. As you head towards Inverness you’ll pass Eilean Donan Castle, one of Scotland’s most recognisable castles. The perfect place to stop to take some breathtaking photographs.
Past the castle, on your way to Inverness, you might be lucky enough to spot some of the resident feral goats, but do be careful as they can be blocking the road. You’ll pass through beautiful glens and wooded areas before reaching the famous Loch Ness, with the famous tale of Nessie. On Loch Ness itself there are boat trips which run, giving visitors a serene experience of Loch Ness and allowing them to cruise the Loch at a leisurely pace. At the head of Loch Ness is the ruins of Urquhart Castle, which was once a stronghold of Robert the Bruce. Nowadays it is only ruins, but has a Visitor Centre and is open all year round, with visitors being able to explore the ruins. Just before Inverness there is a small village called Drumnadrochit, which is a lovely little place to stop for a cup of tea.
Inverness to Knockderry
Inverness is the capital of the Highlands, and an excellent place for exploring. Fort George is one of the most outstanding fortifications in Europe. It was built after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 to house King George II’s army if the Jacobite army rose up again. Full of history and information, it encloses the area the size of five football pitches – plenty to explore!
After driving along the shores of Loch Ness, right at the southern tip lies Fort Augustus, a very historic hamlet. It has stunning views of Loch Ness and some beautiful walks to enjoy, as well as boasting the Clansmen Centre, a very informative Centre about clans and 17th century weaponry.
Glencoe to Oban
Although only a short drive, this is a very scenic drive along the banks of Loch Linnhe. Along your way you’ll pass two of Scotland’s most impressive castles – Castle Stalker and Dunstaffnage Castle. Stalker Castle is thought to have been a small fortification for the MacDougall Clan when they were the Lords of Lorn in the 14th Century.
Dunstaffnage too was a castle of the MacDougall Clan, remaining in the clan until the 15th Century. It was once famously besieged by Robert the Bruce. One of Dunstaffnage’s most famous guests was Flora MacDonald, where she was held after her arrest for having aided Bonnie Prince Charlie in fleeing from the Redcoats. She was held there before being sent to the Tower of London.
Oban to Inner Hebrides
The Inner Hebrides is the name given to the islands which lie just off the coast of Scotland. Oban has one of the best connected ferry ports in Scotland, with various ferries with the Inner Hebrides. Daily ferries run to Mull, Lismore, Colonsay, Coll and Tiree, with each island being unique in their own way and having plenty to offer. Enjoy beautiful walks, some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery, golden sandy beaches and, ofcourse, some fine Scottish dining.
Inner Hebrides to Arduaine
After enjoying a hopefully smooth ferry journey back to Oban, why not take a stop at the Oban Whisky Distillery? Scotland has many distilleries, but Oban’s is one the oldest. It is a must on any trip to the sea side town, with any samples going down very easily.
Oban to Arduaine is only a very short drive, but, as with any trip in Scotland, doesn’t disappoint with the views. As the coast dips in and out of view, at the end you’ll be rewarded with the stunning views out from Arduaine. Visit the wonderful Arduaine coastal gardens and rest your head at the neighbouring Loch Melfort Hotel, where food and views combine for a very relaxing stay.
Arduaine to Knockderry
The final leg of the journey will take you full circle; back to Knockderry where it all began. Out of Arduaine, take a right towards Kilmartin Glen and Village. Kilmartin Glen is one of Scotland’s most prehistoric sites, full of archaeological artefacts and bursting with history. Some of the artefacts found in the Glen have had international significance, including some of the earliest pots discovered in Britain.
Inveraray Castle, the ancestral home to the Duke of Argyll, chief of the Campbell Clan, is a must-see. Built over time, with different parts added over decades and centuries, it is now one of Scotland’s most iconic and recognisable castles. Then it’s just a short drive back to us for some gorgeous food and a good night’s rest in comfort and luxury. The peaceful, tranquil atmosphere at Knockderry is ideal for some final moments of relaxation, with our staff on hand to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. The perfect place to begin your tour of Scotland, and the perfect place to finish.