Scottish Highlands: Driving Glen Torridon, Applecross, & Bealach Na Ba

April 8, 2019
applecross scotland,bealach na ba

Figuring out where to *start* a roadtrip is sometimes the hardest part.

And so figuring out where to start our epic 10-day Scottish “Highlands and Islands” trip was extra difficult.  I’d already determined some of the islands that were a “must visit”, and narrowed down a short list of top experiences (like the amazing Loch Coruisk boat trip).  But I’ll admit that for a while, our destination on Day 1 had me a bit stumped.

Driving the Scottish Highlands

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

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Until I stumbled across the one-two punch of charming Applecross and the dramatic Bealach na Ba drive, that is.  When I saw how close these two were, I realized that we had a winner—we’d head up into the Glen Torridon area and then make our way over to Skye.

And it ended up being a perfect introduction to the rugged northern Scotland areas, kind of easing us into our trip!

What to do in the Highlands near Loch Maree, Glen Torridon, Bealach na Ba, & Applecross Scotland

Here’s info on our ENTIRE Scotland road trip!

A 10-Day Scotland Roadtrip Itinerary:  Highlands & Islands

A Day on Scotland’s Mystical Isle of Harris & Lewis

How to Spend 2 Stunning Days on the Isle of Skye

Views for Days:  Hiking the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye

Soaking in Serenity:  Scotland’s Tiny Isle of Iona

A Day on the Magical Island of Staffa

Skye’s Moody Loch Coruisk & the Black Cuillins

A First-Timer’s Guide to 24 Hours in Edinburgh

How To See Scotland’s Glenfinnan Viaduct & Jacobite Train (Yes, The Hogwarts Express!)

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

Stick with me here, because the first part is super chill and pretty (I can hear some of you saying “boring”…) but once we hit Applecross and Bealach na Ba, things really ramp up.  In all fairness, we did just get off an overnight flight…

Heading toward Glen Torridon & Shieldaig

We arrived in Edinburgh early in the morning and got our rental car right away.  We were on the road shortly thereafter, and after a coffee and pastry stop (CRITICAL!), we headed toward Inverness.  It’s about a three-hour drive from the airport, all on easy highways.

We got in for a late lunch, scarfed some fish and chips and took the opportunity to stretch our legs.  Because we needed to get back on the road, we didn’t get to explore Inverness at all but it looked SO cute!  Definitely spend a couple hours wandering around if you have the time.

Inverness Scotland

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

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The drive itself (like most in Scotland) was gorgeous regardless of our final destination.  The little pops of purple flowers (heather??) made me so happy!

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

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A couple of hours later, we made it to our destination for the day—the Glen Torridon area.

Before heading toward our B&B, we made a detour to nearby Loch Maree, which is just really peaceful and lovely.  We wound through various quiet roads and towering hills and stopped alongside the lake (loch) to walk around a bit and take tons of beautiful pics.

One might call it bucolic…

Loch Maree, Scotland

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

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Finally we rolled into Sheildaig for the night.  We’d booked a small B&B, but the owner had to leave town unexpectedly.  Her friend let us into the house instead, which was nice and really spoke to the trust and community there, but still felt a bit odd and wasn’t quite the warm welcome we’d hoped for on our first night.

The town itself is so cute, though!

Shieldaig, Scotland in the Highlands

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

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Exploring Applecross and Bealach na Ba

We headed out bright and early the next morning, enjoying a run-in with these shaggy Highland cows.  That guy’s face really says it all…

Scottish cows in the Highlands

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

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I very much enjoyed this honors system one-stop-shop roadside stand…

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

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Where the first part of our drive that morning was rugged Scottish Highland beauty, as we neared Applecross it was much more gentle, pastoral loveliness.

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

Applecross Scotland

Adorable Applecross, Scotland

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We had a delightful little lunch stop at a cute place called The Potting Shed (and now The Walled Garden)…it’s like a magical fairy garden, and the food was delicious!!!

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

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Bellies full and caffeinated, we finally undertook the famous Bealach na Ba (meaning “pass of the cattle”), a famous road full of steep switchbacks and hairpin curves.

Though we didn’t have any troubles with it despite the crummy weather (at least that I remember at all), this drive is definitely not for the faint of heart or drivers who aren’t confident.

Bealach na Ba, an intense drive in the Scottish Highlands

Bealach na Ba, a must-do drive in Scotland

Bealach na Ba, the crazy mountain drive in Scotland

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Thankfully the rain held off for most of our trip (honestly, I think we would have turned back early on), but fog was sadly rolling in, and by the time we got to Bealach na Ba’s summit it was pure pea soup.  Imagine, if you will, a gorgeous view out over a massive valley…

Yeah, or just fog.  Oh well, the drive itself was gorgeous regardless!

The summit of Bealach na Ba

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

From here we headed on toward the Isle of Skye for an amazing couple of days, with a stop on the way to view the beautiful Eilean Donan castle.  The tide was out so it wasn’t quite the Pinterest bait that I had hoped for, but it’s a super cool view nonetheless!

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

applecross scotland,bealach na ba

This was a really chill way to jump into the Scottish Highlands, really more about the journey than the destination.  If you’re undecided on whether a “Highlands and Islands” Scottish itinerary is for you, hopefully I can convince you.  It’s so rewarding getting out of Edinburgh and into the more remote areas!

Are you considering visiting the Glen Torridon and Applecross area, or thinking about driving Bealach na Ba??  Hit me up in the comments with thoughts and questions!

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Scotland's Beautiful Highlands: Exploring Glen Torridon, Applecross, & Bealach na Ba

Comments (4)

  • Laurie Jaeger

    July 19, 2020 at 10:40 am

    Thanks so much for the articles and tips for Scotland travel. I’m in my 60’s, retired, and now a widow with a dream of living in Scotland for a few months. I don’t know if it will truely happen, but I’m doing some research and advace planning. Your tips and photos are very helpful. I can see myself there. My fear is the roads and driving on the opposite side of the road that I’m used to. Did you find the driving challanging? I’m looking for a quaint “old” walkable village with all the necessities (pubs, restaurants, taxi, and market) so that I can rent a car and drive only occasionally to do some exploring to nearby castles. Castles are my thing. Did you come across a village and think, “wow, I could live here”? As a Harry Potter fan, did you visit Tom Riddle’s grave? Poor guy, I don’t know who he really is, but he gets a lot of visiters. Thanks again. People like you who get out and travel ae so inspiring.

    1. Jessica

      July 20, 2020 at 9:04 pm

      Hi Laurie! That would be so amazing…I’ve always wanted to move abroad! I didn’t find driving on the left or the roads in Scotland to be particularly intimidating…overall I thought the roads out in the boonies were better-kept and easier to drive on than similar ones in Ireland. I actually like driving on the left personally, just takes some practice and I avoid big cities. Feels like out in a more quaint village you might want a car but I’m not positive. I didn’t visit Tom Riddle’s grave, didn’t even know where it was!! Where is it?? I hope you make your dream a reality!

  • Travis Marshall

    February 6, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    I am actually planning on following your complete itinerary with a few additions and was wondering if you share your list of hotel/B&B stops along the way. Also, places you might have stayed had you known about them before planning your trip. My group will be a party of four in April if that helps, thanks. Travis

    1. Jessica

      February 8, 2020 at 9:18 pm

      Oh you guys are going to have the BEST time! I sadly don’t have a list of where I *would* have stayed if I’d known about them, but I talk about all the places we stayed at each stop on my full 10-day itinerary post ( The first place we stayed was odd and I don’t recommend, but besides that I enjoyed all of them–and loved most of them! Let me know if you have any questions as you dig into it…we were a party of four as well, and it’s often difficult to find good housing, though you can go either rental or 2 hotel rooms.

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